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ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Master Trainer vs Personal Trainer: What’s the Difference?

Master Trainer vs Personal Trainer: What’s the Difference?

Reading Time: 5 minutes 32 seconds


DATE: 2023-03-04

As a fitness professional, you can have any number of titles. Two within the training realm are personal trainer and master trainer. Here we examine the difference between these two roles. We also discuss why you might want to become a master trainer and the steps you would need to take.

Master Trainer vs Personal Trainer: Examining the Differences

Both a personal trainer and master trainer help clients improve their fitness. They each develop cardio and resistance training programs. They know how to help a client achieve a specific fitness goal. But there are some distinct differences between these two fitness instructors.

Level of Knowledge or Expertise

A personal trainer must have a basic level of fitness knowledge. They need to understand exercise physiology and nutrition. They have to know how to devise a safe, effective exercise program.

A master trainer has this level of knowledge and more. In addition to personal training basics, they may hold certification in glute strength and exercise recovery, for instance. Or they might have advanced training in weight management or group fitness.

Perhaps it helps to compare these two roles with medical doctors. A personal trainer is like a general practitioner. They have a general knowledge of fitness. This knowledge can be applied to help a broad range of clients. A master trainer is more like a specialist. They have more advanced knowledge in certain areas. This helps them dive into some more specific or complex fitness issues.

Education and Training

How does a master trainer develop increased knowledge? Most often, it is through taking education or training courses. It’s similar to how someone with a master's degree has more schooling than someone with a bachelor's.

In some cases, this training is in the form of certification programs. To work as a certified personal trainer, you need just one certification: personal training. A master personal trainer often holds many certifications. Each certification highlights an area where they have additional knowledge and training.

A higher level of education can also be achieved through a college degree. You could earn a personal training degree in exercise science, for instance. If you want to work with injured athletes, you might seek a degree in sports medicine.

Some master trainers claim this title through a higher level of experience. With this experience comes a higher level of knowledge. Although this doesn’t supply certification, a trainer who has been in the field for years (or decades) could easily develop expertise in certain areas. This expertise could raise them to master trainer status.

Why Become a Master Trainer?

Since a master trainer typically has a higher level of training, you may be wondering: Is it worth the extra work? There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. To determine the right answer for you, it might help to know the benefits of becoming a master trainer.

Increased Salary Potential

One benefit is increased salary potential. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for a fitness trainer is $40,700 per year. For comparison purposes, ZipRecruiter reports that the average master trainer salary is $71,310 per year. This is a $30,610 per year difference.

If you’re in your 20s, you could easily train clients for 30 years before retiring. Earn the median as a personal trainer, and your total income would be just over $1.2 million. Work as a master trainer during this time and the total is over $2 million. That’s a pretty measurable difference.

Even if you only plan to provide personal fitness training for ten years, the difference between the two medians is $306,100. Depending on where you live, this could be the cost of a house. At a minimum, increased pay provides more wiggle room in your budget. This reduces financial stress. It also enables you to live a more comfortable life.

Master trainers can charge more per training session for their higher level of knowledge. Advanced knowledge in several areas also broadens the client pool for exercise professionals.

The Ability to Specialize in Certain Training Areas

Another reason to become a master trainer is being able to specialize in certain areas of fitness. Want to help athletes improve their performance? You can become a performance enhancement specialist. Want to work specifically with bodybuilders? You can earn your bodybuilding certification.

Specialization isn’t just about working with a certain clientele either. It’s also about passion. Maybe you have a passion for yoga and all the benefits it provides. As a master trainer, you could pursue training in this area. This enables you to pass what you’ve learned on to others.

Elevated Credibility

You can certainly have credibility as a personal trainer. Certification is one way to establish your authority in this fitness role. The results you’ve provided past clients boost credibility too. Holding the title of master personal trainer can kick this credibility up a notch. It says that you’ve put in the time and training to secure an advanced personal training position.

Credibility helps secure new clients’ trust. If you’re not credible, they’re not likely to hire you. They want a fitness coach that knows how to help them reach their goals. In some cases, these goals are very specific. If you have more expertise in that area, it becomes easier to get their attention.

Steps to Becoming a Master Personal Trainer

There are a few different routes to becoming a master trainer. One is to become a personal trainer, work for a while, then pursue additional training over time. As you gain expertise and experience in different areas, you will eventually reach master trainer status.

Another option is to fast-track this career path. Secure your personal training certification and other certifications at the same time. For instance, International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) offers a Master Trainer Certification program. This program includes personal trainer certification. You also earn your certification in nutrition and four other areas of your choosing.

The benefit of this route is that it can save you some money. You can get each one at a lower rate by bundling the individual specializations. This keeps more cash in your pocket while boosting your fitness expertise.

What to Look for In a Master Trainer Certification Program

Ready to become an advanced personal fitness trainer? When choosing a master trainer certification program, look for:

  • An organization with a recognized and trusted name. The last thing you want is to get training from an organization with a bad reputation (or no reputation at all). Search online for “top personal trainer certification providers.” (FitnessTrainer.com offers a few to consider.) Learn which certifying agencies are reputable and credible. If you want to work for a specific fitness facility, it may dictate where you get certified. Others, like Planet Fitness, simply require a nationally certified training certificate.

  • A program that is delivered the way you want. Do you want to attend in-person classes to grow your expertise? Or maybe you want the convenience of learning online? This will help narrow your choices. It also helps you choose the best program for your desired learning style.

  • An organization that offers a variety of specialization options. A higher number of options enables you to select the fitness areas you’re most interested in. Look over your fitness specialization options within the program. How many are there? Do you see several that you like? Maybe you want to specialize in strength and conditioning. Does it offer this option? Or you’d like to provide services as a DNA-based fitness coach. Does it offer this type of training?

  • An organization that provides access to continuing education courses. Personal trainers must stay current in their field. Certifying organizations assist with this through continuing education. These courses teach the latest in fitness research. They also help you learn more in different areas. Maybe you want to learn more about nutrition or supplements. Or you want to know more about a specific type of exercise. You can do this with continuing education courses. They’re good options for instructors who want to know more about a fitness topic but don’t want to specialize in it.

ISSA’s Master Trainer Certification program includes all of these. Check it out today and fast-track your career in the fitness industry.

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Occupational Outlook Handbook, Fitness Trainers and Instructors. (8 September 2022). Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Retrieved 16 February 2023, from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/fitness-trainers-and-instructors.htm.

Master Trainer Salary. ZipRecruiter. (8 February 2023). Retrieved 16 February 2023, from https://www.ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/Master-Trainer-Salary.

The 5 Best Personal Trainer Certifications w/ Prices & Reviews. Fitnesstrainer.com. Retrieved 16 February 2023, from https://fitnesstrainer.com/fitness-blog/the-5-best-personal-trainer-certifications.

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