A personal trainer helps clients achieve their health goals, including enhanced physical and cardiovascular fitness, weight loss, creating nutrition plans, building muscle, developing core strength, and even improving their mental health. They provide clients with a holistic health and exercise regime tailored to their body and mind requirements as well as their personal objectives.
If you are a personal trainer or are looking to get a job as one, and are also looking to create a new or updated resume, we’ve created an excellent guide for you below.
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Job duties of a personal trainer
A personal trainer works in gyms, fitness clubs, recreational sports centers, private spaces, or sometimes in their own home through streaming video platforms. They help monitor exercise routines and play a vital role in the successful functioning of fitness centers around the country. These centers are also where most personal trainers start their business, developing personal relationships that become significant client bases. A personal trainer has to be fit, mentally consistent, and well-rounded in their approach to providing their clients with the best fitness experience, including keeping clients motivated and ensuring their safety.
The following are the primary duties of a personal trainer:
Conducting client interviews to assess client goals and skill levels before beginning their fitness journey.
Developing workout programs specific to clients’ requirements, such as weight training, cardiovascular fitness, muscle building, core strengthening, stretching, and improving their physical and mental health.
Setting up equipment, assisting in training programs, monitoring, and supervising clients during exercises to ensure correct techniques that avoid permanent injury.
Educating clients on nutrition trends, preventive care processes, body mechanism models, and stress management techniques.
Developing material for clients to replicate techniques outside the gym.
Maintaining client files, tracking their progress, creating upward mobility plans to help them overcome plateaus, and using entertainment such as music or films to keep their client engaged and motivated.
Conducting upbeat workshops and training sessions at different difficulty levels from people of all age groups.
Providing emergency first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
Being flexible with long working hours, ensuring availability 24/7 and on different streaming platforms, even on holidays, and traveling to client homes.
Assisting in membership retention, fitness packages, and business-to-business tactics to increase the client base.
Marketing yourself through social networks.
Knowing sales tactics to find more clients online or in-person.
Developing a positive and trusting connection with clients.
Personal trainer median salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a personal fitness trainer earns a median salary of $40,390. Pay for fitness instructors or personal trainers is expected to rise due to the recognition of the importance of health and fitness programs by local, state and federal governments, public and private companies (leading to more corporate training work), and the general growing acceptance in the culture about the positive outcomes of working with personal trainers, including optimizing work performance.
Top skills for personal trainers
A personal trainer serves as a role model to clients, keeping them enthused with a well-balanced and individual fitness regime. If you want to dive into this career, we have a checklist of the necessary skills required for you to be great at it.
- Physical fitness: Most trainers train people using heavy weights and heavy-duty equipment, so they must display high levels of physical fitness, emotional alertness, agility and dexterity. They also must work for long hours, including arriving early in the morning and working late into the evenings.
- Clear, experienced training communication: Trainers must clearly demonstrate and effectively explain all exercises clients perform. That’s why it sometimes takes years to become an excellent trainer: Certain types of people react to instructions in different ways. Keeping your language clear and to the point is always important, but even your tone of voice could inspire or scare people. So you have to know what type of communication works best and how.
- Operating and maintaining exercise equipment: Operating, maintaining, and training with exercise equipment like pull-up bars, cardio and conditioning equipment, free weights, and resistance bands is critical. Critically, they must ensure that clients know how to use equipment safely. They must also be proficient in equipment debugging and ensure the smooth running of all apparatuses. If you’re interested in this career, you can start by taking classes in gym and fitness equipment at your local university.
- Strength and conditioning: Strength and conditioning knowledge, in addition to a personal training certificate, can boost your skill set. Personal trainers apply this knowledge to train athletes with the goal of improving their athletic performance. They conduct sport-specific testing sessions, design safe and effective strength training and conditioning programs, create injury prevention modules, and research the best nutrition guides to help clients gain and keep strength. They are also adept in bioenergetics studies, metabolism research, the latest in neuroendocrine physiology, sports psychology, specific physiological adaptations, and athletes’ biomechanical differences.
- Specialized training: Getting certified in additional skills can improve job prospects, and if you’re a hard worker and interested in the development of the body, you can gain one or several certificates in many disciplines. There is the ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist (CES) certificate, you can learn how to be a group fitness instructor, a tactical strength and conditioning facilitator, a certified group exercise instructor (through the NETA-CGEI group), a
PMA-certified Pilates teacher, and an ACSM-registered clinical exercise physiologist. All of these options can add significant weight to your resume and help you stand out.
- First aid, CPR, and injury management expertise: All personal trainers are required to have certification and a proven record of safety standards and emergency assistance. In a place where risk related to high-intensity activities is high, personal trainers are the first in line to take action to ensure their client’s survival and provide them with the necessary first aid. They must also be able to provide physiotherapy and rehabilitate the client towards healing and full strength in injury.
Every trainer needs a certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillators (AED) before applying for physical fitness certification.
- Kinesiology, nutrition and form knowledge: You have to know about body anatomy, ergonomics, kinesiology and nutrition to be a good trainer. A trainer must also learn how to demonstrate exercise forms correctly, spot deviations, provide examples of proper execution, and provide safety guidelines using biomechanical knowledge.
- Technological skills, especially the latest training software: Sales and invoicing, session planning, group management, and record-keeping are all digital and you must know how to use the latest tools. They may also be required to conduct classes online through web and video conferencing applications like Zoom, Google Meet, Slack video, Facebook video and Skype. If you work for a gym, especially a big one like Equinox, 24 Hour Fitness, Bally’s and L.A. Fitness, the parent company will have their own IT personnel applications that you must learn how to use so that you can teach clients how to use them as well.
- Customer service soft skills: The trainer is expected to push clients hard to help them accomplish their fitness goals and discipline them to stick to routines. Since personal trainers work one-on-one with clients, they must be emotionally intelligent, empathetic, friendly and outgoing to cater to a range of individuals from different backgrounds and mindsets. As a part of the work, trainers are also expected to hold workshops and educational sessions for groups.
Educational requirements for personal trainers
Personal trainers need specialized knowledge to have a promising career. The following are educational qualifications to consider:
DegreeMost personal trainers must have at least a high school diploma but are now required by many employers to have a two-year associate or four-year bachelor’s degree in a health-related field, like physical education, kinesiology, or exercise science. Such programs cover nutrition, anatomy, biology, sport science, exercise techniques, health law, and safety regulations.
There are many exciting specialties a personal trainer can gain in school. Some, like the BSc. in Health Sciences from Rutgers University, Northeastern University, California State University, University Of Central Florida, and Stockton University, are set up to get you a job out of college and even offer internal training opportunities, such as with the school sports teams. Most colleges also encourage taking internships outside of school settings to ensure well-balanced learning.
Some of the best institutes offering education alongside training research opportunities in health sciences are the University of Southern California, Ohio State University and Boston State University.
CertificationsAll personal trainers need to be certified before working. To gain a deeper understanding of their subject, personal trainers attend certification courses accredited by The National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), a part of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence. It is also necessary that trainers are certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillators (AED) before applying for physical fitness certificates.
What are the other types of certifications available to prospective trainers? Read on.
- Member associations: Organizations like the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), the National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association (NESTA), and the National Council on Strength and Fitness offer various primary, advanced, and specialized courses and certifications. Their curriculum boasts high academic standards to ensure graduates’ employment at leading health clubs and gyms worldwide.
- The NSCA has a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist® (CSCS®) option, an NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer® (NSCA-CPT®) course, Tactical Strength and a Conditioning Facilitator® (TSAC-F®) certificate that can add value to those looking for strength and training positions.
- There are even more organizations. You can look up the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), the National Federation of Personal Trainers (NFPT), the Athletics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA), and the International Fitness Professionals Association (IFPA) — they all offer industry-recognized certifications to bring out the best in students by working with them closely and training them for in-person and online clients using their digital learning platform. Students also have the option to choose from self-study and premium courses.
- For-profit educational companies: While you likely focus on the nonprofit or board-certified certifications, there are many for-profits digital companies that offer courses where you can start learning about becoming a personal trainer. Coursera, EdX, and the International Career Institute all have good courses available online.
- Nonprofit or voluntary organizations: Various nonprofit organizations such as the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), the National Exercise Trainer Association (NETA), the National Council for Certified Personal Trainers (NCCPT), and the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing are all credentialing bodies that seek to improve health education and provide certifications to interested individuals at affordable certification prices.
LicensureThere is no national or state licensing board test required to work as a personal trainer. As noted, all personal trainers need to be certified by accredited institutions to gain employment in the fitness industry, the gold standard being The National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).
Personal trainer resume-writing tips
The world of healthcare and fitness programs continues to grow with the support of public and private health and business companies encouraging employers and citizens to join health clubs, gyms, or to generally improve their health and nutrition. With more people to train, one can expect this field to grow in terms of the number of eligible good workers.
Use the following tips to make sure you have a resume that can beat the competition:
- Highlight your dynamic skills: A good personal trainer has a wide range of skills that fit into any environment. While it is essential to have excellent communication and interpersonal skills, focus on the specific ones that matter to the job you will do.
If you are a strength trainer, add in your knowledge of suspension training, like planking, anti-rotation pressing, and single-leg RDL, as well as speed, endurance, and explosive movement.
If you’re going to work in rehabilitation, describe how long you have trained clients using yoga to treat acute, subacute, and chronic injuries. Or how your hundreds of hours of pilates and aerobics training can help people improve muscle imbalances and build core strength. You can even become an expert helping people with postnatal exercises.
This will all enable you to stand out.
- Focus on individual accomplishments: Always spotlight personal achievements at your previous job. This could vary from bringing in more customers, learning from specific customer feedback, developing new training programs, or even learning how to improve your record-keeping.
- Let numbers do the talking: In an industry based on results, ensure you put in all the relevant numbers that have made you a good trainer. This can be the total number of clients you have trained and worked with, their appropriate progress, new admissions based on client and business expectations, or the number of high-impact classes and workshops you managed.
- Balance your skills and work experience: Adding weight to your resume with an extensive and varied work background. It shows your employer you have the right balance of patience, determination, and integrity needed to stick with organizations and bring value to them.
What career paths can be taken as a personal trainer?
Projected to grow by 15% according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, personal trainers can expect to work at gyms, fitness centers, and health clinics as a part of the nonprofit, government, and private sectors. They can choose to diversify or specialize in many skills based on their interest. They can also open their businesses after working in the fitness industry for a few years and establishing a good client base. Others can choose to go into the educational sector by working for certifying bodies and train other personal trainers.
How do I decide between certifications?
With numerous options and certifications to choose from, one can decide based on their specialization and budget. Organizations like NETA, ACE, NASM have a recertification period of two years. In contrast, ACSM and NSCA have a recertification period of three years to keep their students up-to-date with the current techniques and industry-specific scientific knowledge. The member and non-member certification fee also varies between organizations. Some have continuing education credits as well, which are required for recertification. More information on this can be found on the NCCA website.
Do I need a degree to be a personal trainer?
No. Being certified from reputed training institutions is sufficient to begin one’s career. If one eventually wants to advance to management and research positions, a bachelor’s degree in physical education, health science, or a related subject would be required. Specific organizations may also need a master’s degree for higher positions.