How to Become a Personal Trainer: Career Advice & Information

Overview & Salaries


Personal trainers help people meet their health and fitness goals by designing exercise routines, and suggesting changes to diet and lifestyle. Working both with groups and one-on-one with individual clients, personal trainers demonstrate exercises and check clients are doing them right—and they’re always on hand to encourage clients to do five more. To be a personal trainer you need to be an expert in exercise technique, you need to know what your clients can and can’t handle, and above all you need a contagious enthusiasm for getting fit.


Annual salaries for personal trainers will vary depending on your experience, education level, and expertise. In 2013, the average annual salary for personal trainers working in the U.S. was $37,790 per year.

For more information on what parts of the country have the most opportunity for personal trainers, click through to our Best Places to Work tab for information on the number of people employed and the average salary in each state.

Discover the Best Cities and States to Work as a Personal Trainer

California leads the nation in employment for personal trainers and instructors, with 26,040 earning an average yearly salary of $49,290. Illinois is second in the United States, with 16,580 personal trainers and instructors making an average salary of $32,260.

The metro areas employing the most personal trainers are:

  • New York-White Plains (9,490)
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach (5,870)
  • Washington D.C.-Arlington-Alexandria (5,620)

The metro areas employing the highest concentration of personal trainers are:

  • Danbury, CT (4.64 jobs per thousand)
  • Idaho Falls, ID (4.60 jobs per thousand)

The metro areas employing the best-paid personal trainers are:

  • San Francisco (average annual salary $67,280)
  • Barnstable Town, MA (average annual salary $66,410)

Employment and Salary Information for Personal Trainers

Use our interactive map below to find out which areas of the United States are currently experiencing the greatest amount of growth and job availability for graduates looking for a career as a personal trainer. The associated information has been gathered from Bureau of Labor statistics, representing data collected in 2012.

Why Become A Personal Trainer?

If you have the right personality, and you’re fit enough, personal training can be extremely rewarding. Here’s why:

  • Help people achieve their goals. Meeting personal fitness goals can make people healthier and happier, improving their quality of life and self-esteem. As a personal trainer you help to make that happen.
  • Steady job growth. Between 2012 and 2022 the number of personal training jobs is projected to grow by 13%, at least as fast as the average U.S. job.
  • Stay fit. You can sneak out of the office to hit the gym. Or you can just work in the gym.
  • Work with people. Your job revolves around people, and if you’re successful you’ll be constantly meeting new clients.
  • Be your own boss. One in ten personal trainers was self-employed in 2012.
  • People pay you to tell them what to do. Trust us when we say there are not many jobs like that.

Personal Trainer: What You Need To Know

Personal trainers shape fitness routines that reflect their clients’ abilities and goals: routines need to be challenging, but things that clients can do safely. And they need to be able to motivate their clients. A working knowledge of these skill sets will help to set you apart from other candidates.

  • High Personal Fitness
  • Knowledge of Exercise Technique
  • Designing Exercise Routines
  • Enthusiasm for Fitness
  • Nutrition / Lifestyle Knowledge
  • Safety

Feel like you’ve got a lot to learn? Get more information about personal trainer careers, degrees, and applicable courses from one of the schools below.

Degree Options for Personal Trainer Careers


Usually, personal trainers will have some form of certification, and at least a high school diploma or equivalent (unless you have a strong background in sports, weight training, or nutrition from previous positions). Classes for a certification will involve working alongside a more experienced trainer, and passing a written and practical exam.

Associate’s degree

Many employers now require an associate’s degree, which might teach subjects such as kinesiology, exercise science, or physical education. Community colleges and trade and vocational schools offer associate’s degrees suitable for personal trainers.

Bachelor’s degree

Some employers go further and require personal trainers to hold a bachelor’s degree in a health-related field.