How to Become a Personal Trainer

How to Become a Personal Trainer: Career Path Guide

If you want to become a personal trainer, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for you. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for a career as a personal trainer:


Those who become personal trainers have a genuine interest in health and fitness. They must have excellent observation and communication skills, and must be comfortable working closely with people from all walks of life.


Those who become personal trainers are excellent motivators, and they have the patience to instruct people of all levels of skill and ability.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a personal trainer. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Educational Requirements for Becoming a Personal Trainer

The educational requirements for becoming a personal trainer may vary by region or by employer, however you typically only need a high school diploma to become a personal trainer.


Some employers however, may require personal training candidates to have post-secondary education in a field closely related to personal training.


Theses programs may include a university undergraduate or graduate degree in a field such as kinesiology, exercise science or exercise physiology, or a college diploma or certificate in personal training or fitness coaching.


Success Tip: If you are serious about pursuing a career as a personal trainer, it is recommended that you pursue post-secondary education in a field related to personal training, as it will qualify you for more jobs, may entitle you to a higher salary, and it will inspire confidence in your clients because it shows you have advanced knowledge in the field. 




Personal Trainer Job Description

Personal trainers are responsible for meeting with clients on a regular basis in order to teach them about and train them in aerobic, flexibility and resistance training exercises to help them achieve their fitness goals. Personal trainers may work for a gym, may be hired as a consultant, or may own their own specialty training centre, such as for elite athletes or seniors.



Personal Trainer Job Duties

• Assess the fitness abilities, needs and goals of clients

• Measure the body composition, fitness levels, strength, flexibility and endurance of clients

• Develop a personalized fitness plan for clients

• Demonstrate correct exercise techniques and the proper use of equipment

• Raise the difficulty level of exercises regularly to ensure clients are continuously progressing

• Provide nutritional advice and may refer client to a nutritionist

• Monitor client progress and adapt their program as needed

• Build client base by marketing and promoting personal training services



Who Hires Personal Trainers? Where Do They Work?

Personal trainers are hired by organizations that develop and implement personal fitness plans for members of the general public, or for particular client groups, such as those with medical conditions. Organizations that hire personal trainers include:


• Fitness facilities and gyms

• Public leisure and recreation centres

• Resorts and hotels

• Amateur and professional sports teams and organizations

• Self-employment



Certification Needed to Become a Personal Trainer

Although certification may not be required to work as a personal trainer in Canada or the United States, employers typically prefer to hire candidates that are certified. 


Some employers may hire personal training candidates and allow them to shadow other trainers while they earn their certification, although they may be required to obtain certification prior to training clients on their own. Many organizations that hire personal trainers offer certification in-house.


Requirements for becoming certified vary by certifying body, although almost all require aspiring personal trainers to have a high school diploma, and certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).



Become a Personal Trainer in Canada: Certifying Bodies 

In Canada, becoming certified as a personal trainer is largely voluntary, although many health clubs and organizations will not hire you unless you are certified. In Canada, the main certifying bodies for personal trainers are:


• Canadian Fitness Education Services (CFES)

• Canadian Fitness Professionals (CanFit Pro)

• Certified Personal Trainers Network (CPTN)

• Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology (CSEP)


CSEP is the only certification body in Canada for personal trainers that requires candidates to have a diploma or degree in the exercise field; most of the other certifying bodies require experience and/or workshop attendance.



Become a Personal Trainer in the United States: Certifying Bodies

In the United States, becoming certified as a personal trainer is largely voluntary, although many health clubs and organizations will not hire you unless you are certified by an organization that is accredited by the National Commission of Certifying Agencies (NCCA). In the United States, the main accredited certifying bodies for personal trainers are:


• American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)

• American Council on Exercise (ACE)

• National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)




Skills Needed to Become a Personal Trainer

Sales and Marketing Abilities

An often-overlooked aspect of personal training is the ability to generate sales. You could be the best trainer in the world, but without sales and marketing abilities you would have very few clients, if any. Whether working as an in-house employee of a gym, or as a self-employed personal trainer, you will be required to promote and market your services in order to build up a client base. Some gyms may provide you with a small client base as a result of internal sales efforts, but they will likely expect you to reach a certain sales quota of your own in order to remain employed there.


Successful personal trainers know how to sell his or her skills to prospective clients, and convince them that having a personal trainer will help them reach their fitness goals. After all, personal training is not a hard field to get into, but it is a hard field to stay in because you need a sustained client base.


Knowledge of the Human Body and Exercise Programming

In order to become effective in a career as a personal trainer, you need a thorough understanding of how the human body moves and functions. This means you must have knowledge in the areas of human anatomy, kinesiology, exercise physiology, biomechanics and nutrition. You must also be able to combine your knowledge of the human body with your abilities to create personalized exercise programs.


Communication and Motivation

In order to help clients make the most out of their fitness plans, and help them reach their goals, personal trainers must be able to effectively communicate with their clients.


Personal trainers must be able to listen to their clients in order to gain a thorough understanding of their goals. They must also be able to apply their communication skills to provide clients with instructions on how to perform certain exercises, as well as provide them with information regarding their fitness plan in general. 


Personal trainers must also be able to use their communication skills to build trust with their clients, and make them feel at ease. They must also be able to motivate clients, and ensure they are keeping on track towards reaching their goals. 



Personal Traits Needed to Become a Personal Trainer

In order to become an effective and successful personal trainer, you need to have certain personality traits. These traits will ensure you have a positive attitude towards your work, and that you are able to enjoy the highs and endure the lows of a career as a personal trainer.


• A natural passion and aptitude for health and fitness

• High level of physical fitness

• Patience when instructing others

• Excellent organizational skills

• Must be interested in having a flexible schedule

• Must be able to hold others accountable for their performance

• Must enjoy dealing with people in a one-on-one setting

• Excellent oral communication and observation skills



Career Advancement for Personal Trainers

With enough experience, or relevant education, personal trainers may earn the opportunity to become supervisors or managers, or they may become self-employed and develop their own client base.


Career advancement for personal trainers that are self-employed involves developing a larger client base. Having a larger client base, and possibly hiring other personal trainers and business administration staff requires personal trainers to have entrepreneurial and business management skills.



Working Conditions for Personal Trainers

Work Setting: Personal trainers often work in a gym setting, and their work may also involve being in outdoor settings such as a public park, a running or biking trail, a swimming pool, or a running track. Personal trainers typically spend a great deal of time in a home office or other office setting in order to create fitness plans for clients, and to analyze data in order to evaluate the progress of their clients.


Work Environment: The work of personal trainers is typically physically and mentally demanding. They must ensure that they create and implement a fitness plan for their clients that will help them reach their goals, and they must also ensure that their clients perform exercises correctly in order to prevent injury. Personal trainers must also frequently demonstrate and assist with exercises, which can be physically demanding over the course of they workday.


Work Schedule: The work schedule of personal trainers can vary considerably. Their working hours typically reflect the hours of the facility they work out of, or they reflect the schedule of their clientele, which often includes evenings and weekends. For example, some personal trainers may meet with a client at 6 o’clock in the morning, and then have to return to the gym to meet a different client at 9 o’clock in the evening.



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Personal Trainer Salary

The salary level of personal trainers can vary considerably based on factors such as their level of experience, their level of education, whether or not they are self-employed, where they work, the size of their client base, and many others.


Some personal trainers may earn a base salary plus commissions and bonuses, while other personal trainers may earn an hourly rate with no extra incentives. Other personal trainers may be self-employed, making their earnings dependent on the rate they charge for their services and the size of their client base.


Personal Trainer Salary Alberta: According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Program Leaders and Instructors in Recreation, Sport and Fitness occupational group earn an average wage of between $14.53 and $21.07 per hour.


Personal Trainer Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage of workers in the Fitness Trainers and Instructors occupational group is $31,090 (2010 figures). The lowest 10 percent of salary figures in this group are less than $17,070, and the top 10 percent are more than $63,400 per year.



Careers Similar to Personal Trainer

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Personal Trainer, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Athletic Therapist



Massage Therapist




References: How to Become a Personal Trainer

Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a personal trainer.


Occupations in Alberta:Personal Trainer.” (March 19, 2016). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 7, 2020.

Personal Care & Service:Fitness Trainers and Instructors.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved January 7, 2020.

Training:How To Become A Personal Trainer.” Alex Silver-Fagan (July 23, 2018). website. Retrieved January 7, 2020.



Scholarships for Becoming a Personal Trainer

Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming a Personal Trainer can be found on our Exercise Science Scholarships and Kinesiology Scholarships pages.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Becoming a Personal Trainer: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a personal trainer. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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