When many people think of personal trainers, they envision celebrities,
fabulous wages and luxurious perks. In reality, personal trainers work mostly
for people with disabilities, the elderly and people recovering from surgery
"Ten years ago, only the rich and famous had personal trainers," says Janice
Hutton. She works for a company that offers training and certification for
"Now the average [person] can afford and should hire a personal trainer
to make the most of their exercise time."
Hutton says clients often hire a personal trainer for a short time to refine
a workout routine. But clients also work with personal trainers to reach
"We pay $50 an hour for a haircut from a specialist. Personal training
is no different if the client feels there is value in the experience and the
education. More people need to improve their lifestyle, exercise habits and
overall health and hiring a personal trainer is a great way to make this priority
There are other factors contributing to opportunities for personal trainers.
"The economy continues to improve, which allows for more disposable income
and increasing personal trainers' earnings," says Mark Occhipinti. He's president
of American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA).
"In the U.S., the most common certification is the American Council on
Exercise or ACE-certified personal trainers," says Hutton.
"A trainer is more employable if they have additional qualifications beyond
a base certification, like a kinesiology degree, a fitness diploma, specialty
training to work with older adults, pre- and post-natal women and sports conditioning
Hutton says that potential trainers often train themselves before seeking
certification and employment. "Many personal trainers also begin by hiring
a personal trainer to train them so that they can find out more about the
business before they choose to make it a career. Your personal trainer can
become your mentor."
Exercise physiologist and certified trainer Debi Lander says that the most
essential part of a personal trainer's job is to understand the client's needs
and motivate them to reach their goal.
"It's important to get specific and find what makes a person tick. Then
we can find appropriate activities," she says.
"Personal trainers provide professional guidance, support, motivation,
and hold people accountable. Physicians don't have time to instruct patients
that need activity."
Developments in equipment, nutrition science, fitness knowledge and even
computer technology have all allowed personal trainers to deliver better results.
Based in Florida, Lander has found that technology allows her to offer
the kind of interactivity trainers and clients require -- even from a distance.
"Technology allows me to reach more people," says Lander. "Some of my
clients are too intimidated to go to the gym. I also work with people who
travel and have trouble connecting with trainers in person."
Giving clients a little bit extra is one strategy for success, according
to Lander. Clipping out articles, sending a birthday card or any other personal
"Word of mouth is probably the biggest testimonial," says Lander. "Give
more than expected and people will talk about it."
Lander says personal trainers love helping people and are very passionate
about exercise and health. "People skills are really important because training
is all about building relationships," she says.
"Ideally, anyone interested in fitness training should study exercise science
in college. Enroll in a school that has both book and hands-on learning."
Lander adds that further specialization helps kick-start a personal trainer's
career. "Pick a niche market and jump in and learn everything you can. Become
an expert in your area of personal training."
Ian Campbell is president of a company that offers certification to personal
trainers. "This isn't the job most people think it is," he warns.
"Sometimes you start at 5 a.m. and work into the evening. You have to
be on all the time. You are your own boss in most cases and you can work
on your own.
"Larger clubs are a good place to start, but you're on your own for a client
base. Of five trainers, one or two make it past their first year. Treat
it like a business and market yourself."
Campbell says there are over 200 newer, minor certifications. But some
of the most widely recognized major certification sources in North America
are the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the National Academy of Sports
Medicine (NASM) and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).
"Required certification depends on where you live and what company you
work for," he says. "There is no law requiring specific personal trainer
certification anywhere in North America."
Occhipinti adds that nutrition training and subspecialties such as children's
fitness and pre- or post-natal care are assets.
As more people see the benefits of healthy living and the actual possibility
of achieving their goals, personal trainers will continue to find work.
American Council on Exercise
It accredits personal trainers
American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA)
Check out the health, fitness, nutrition, sports certifications
and education programs
Find certification and professional support for personal trainers