Guide to Becoming a Personal Trainer


personal trainer

Fitness will always be in style. No matter where you are, no matter where you go, there will always be people looking to get in shape. Whether they want to get in shape and stay there, or they’re just looking to burn through some weight before a big upcoming event, fitness is something that isn’t going away any time soon. And with fitness comes the need for help.

Sure, you might be able to go to the gym and get everything done you need to, but there are others that need help. They want to know the best workouts for their specific goals. They will also want to know what kind of food they should be eating and how often they should be working out.

Yes, there’s some basic information available online, but it isn’t tailored to them. And with all the information (and misinformation) out there, it’s difficult to know who or what to listen to. This is where a personal trainer comes in.

As long as fitness is in style there will be a need for personal trainers. If you love fitness and have a passion for sharing this information with others you may want to discover how to become a personal trainer. There are a handful of ways to go about doing this. Here is what you need to know.

Personal Trainer Paths

Side Hustle Or Full-Time Job

side hustle or full time job

Before you begin, consider whether you want your personal trainer gig to be a side hustle or if you want it to be a full-time job.

This will impact how much time and education you put into becoming a personal trainer.

More education will open additional doors for you and make it possible to not only work in your local gym but to work in some larger athletic agencies and even with some semi-pro and pro sports teams.

If you’re not interested in making it a full-time career (at least not yet), that is okay. There are certification programs you can consider. While these certifications will not elevate you to the stature of some degrees, being a certified personal trainer will make it possible to work in a number of gyms around the country. It also lends some credence to your ability to work with individuals.

There are all kinds of “fitness” personalities on YouTube and Instagram.

However, if you’re paying attention to what they say and know even a small amount about fitness, you’ll be able to pick out who has an educational and certified background, and who just looks good and is sharing what works with them (for example, you’ll hear people on YouTube workout videos tell you all the time that ab routines will help melt belly fat when that is absolutely not the case.

You can’t target areas of the body to burn fat, and anyone with a health degree or personal trainer certification will know this).

Once you know what kind of dedication you want to put into your potential personal trainer career you will be able to move forward with the educational and certification portions of your job.

What Does A Personal Trainer Earn?

Personal Trainer Earn

This will depend on a number of factors. If you have a degree over a certificate you will make more. If you live in an area with a high cost of living you’ll increase how much you can change.

If you are a retired athlete or were a college athlete you may be able to charge more, especially if you are a known athlete in the area (locals will be far more willing to pay higher rates if they watched you play college basketball or if you took home major track and field awards).

On average, according to ZipRecruiter, a personal trainer will make anywhere between $13 and $36 an hour. These numbers are slightly different according to, which averages out a potential salary between $15 and $43 (Salary, 2020).

Higher Education

Higher Education

If you’re interested in personal training becoming your full-time career, it is highly recommended to enroll in college and take up one of the many degree tracks for this.

While a certificate does bring benefits, it will never trump having a degree by your name.

Additionally, after your degree, you can always obtain additional certifications to bolster your chance at landing a specific job. Additionally, completing a college program will connect you with internship opportunities and your college may even set you up with certain companies, gyms, sports teams, and other local institutions that are in need of a personal trainer.

With all of this in mind, it does take longer to obtain our college degree. A bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology, nutrition, exercise physiology, or something similar, will all put in on the track to become a personal trainer. These kinds of programs not only give you the kind of education to better understand the human body and how to improve its performance but also how to work with someone recovering from an injury.

Certification programs generally do not cover this, so if you’d like a job in a more clinical setting, this kind of degree program is best for you. If you need insurance as a personal trainer check this out!

Personal Training Degrees

A bachelor’s degree in one of these fields will likely take you around four years to accomplish, although there are some accelerated programs out there that, if you take summer classes, you might be able to finish in two to three years. Make sure to consult your college of choice to find out what options they have. You might also want to consider taking some core classes at the local community college to cut down on expenses (Study, 2019).

Something else to consider is what kind of degrees or certifications individuals in your area currently hold.

If you live in an area where a large percentage of trainers hold bachelor’s degrees you will find it more difficult to land a job as a personal trainer when holding only certificates.

On the flip side though, if you live in an area where most personal trainers are certificate holders only you instantly make yourself more attractive by having the degree by your name. Again, it is all up to you regarding whether you should go for a degree or certificate.



There are all kinds of certification programs out there. You just need to make sure you go after the right ones. Some will do little more than take your money and not offer you the kind of job access you’re looking for. If there is a specific location you’d like to work at you may want to stop in and ask about what sort of certifications they look for when hiring on personal trainers.

Some of the most recognized certifications include the American Council on Exercise, the International Sports Sciences Association, the National Academy of Sports Medicine, or the American College of Sports Medicine. There are a handful of others, but these are the ones you should begin with.

In order to enroll in a personal trainer certification program, there are a handful of specifics you need first. For the National Academy of Sports Medicine, you need to have a high school diploma (or a GED), have a CPR certification, and have an automated external defibrillator certification (AED). You can take a CPR and AED class likely at your local community college.

If not, there are other areas near where you live that will provide these kinds of certification courses, so if you don’t have one it shouldn’t be difficult to obtain it.

Many of the personal trainer certification programs allow you to enroll in the course prior to having the CPR or AED certifications, you just need to become certified before taking the personal trainer certification exam (NASM). You may also want to look into your local Red Cross location for courses.

If you want to make the personal trainer a full-time career it isn’t a bad idea to obtain certification while you’re enrolled in your college courses. This way you can work as a personal trainer with the certifications as you work on the college material. This way, by the time you’ve graduated, you would have already had some professional personal trainer under your belt, which will make you that much more attractive for higher-level work.

You Have Your Certification, Now What?

personal training certification

So you have your certification. Now what?

Well, you need to find a place where you can offer your skills. As a newly minted personal trainer, you’ll want to seek out a gym that hires on these trainers. Because you don’t have a client base yet some of the jobs will be limited.

The top-tier gyms will often like personal trainers to already have a client base (because that means the clients will sign up with the gym). It shouldn’t be too difficult to find a gym that is hiring on personal trainers though.

Once you’ve joined the gym you can start offering your services and work on building client relationships. Establishing these client relationships is key because should you ever leave that gym you will still be able to provide help and classes to your clients. And as your reputation builds, you can start to move away from working in specific gyms and offer your own classes or work in a number of gyms to better fit the needs of your clients.

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In Conclusion

Becoming a personal trainer is an excellent way to share your physical fitness knowledge with the world while also making money off of it. Like any other business, it can take some time to build up a client base, but as long as you start out with solid fundamentals, obtain the necessary education, and remain visible to those in need, you will have everything you need to grow and develop your personal trainer business.

So what are you waiting for?

Now is the perfect time to begin your personal trainer career.

-Terry Asher

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Terry Asher

Owner & Founder at Gym Junkies LLC
After changing his best friend’s life by helping him lose over 70lbs, dropping him down to an amazing 7% body fat, Terry was inspired to be a full-time internet trainer knowing he could do the same for many more. In 2010, Terry published his own diet and fitness e-book that can be purchased on this website. Let Terry help you change your body for the better!
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Guide to Becoming a Personal Trainer
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Guide to Becoming a Personal Trainer
If you love fitness and have a passion for sharing this information with others you may want to discover how to become a personal trainer.
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