What Fitness Trainers and Instructors Do
Fitness trainers and instructors lead, instruct, and motivate individuals or groups in exercise activities.
Fitness trainers and instructors work in facilities such as health clubs, fitness or recreation centers, gyms, and yoga and Pilates studios. They may work nights, weekends, or holidays.
How to Become a Fitness Trainer or Instructor
The education and training required for fitness trainers and instructors varies by type of specialty, and employers prefer to hire those with certification.
The median annual wage for fitness trainers and instructors was $40,390 in May 2019.
Employment of fitness trainers and instructors is projected to grow 15 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. As businesses, government, and insurance organizations continue to recognize the benefits of health and fitness programs for their employees, incentives to join gyms or other types of health clubs are expected to increase the need for fitness trainers and instructors.
Fitness trainers and instructors lead, instruct, and motivate individuals or groups in exercise activities, including cardiovascular exercises (exercises for the heart and blood circulation), strength training, and stretching. They work with people of all ages and skill levels.
Fitness trainers and instructors typically do the following:
- Demonstrate or explain how to perform various exercises and routines to minimize injuries and improve fitness
- Watch clients do exercises to ensure that they are using the correct techniques
- Provide alternative exercises during workouts or classes for different levels of fitness and skill
- Monitor clients’ progress and adapt programs as needed
- Explain and enforce safety rules and regulations on sports, recreational activities, and the use of exercise equipment
- Give clients information or resources about nutrition, weight control, and lifestyle issues
- Give emergency first aid if needed
Both group fitness instructors and specialized fitness instructors plan or choreograph their own classes. Classes may include cardiovascular exercises, such as aerobics or dance; strength training, such as lifting weights; or both. Instructors choose music that is appropriate for their exercise class and create a routine or a set of moves for participants to follow. Some may teach prechoreographed routines that were originally created by fitness companies or other organizations.
Personal fitness trainers design and carry out workout routines specific to the needs of their clients. They may work with individual clients or teach group classes. In larger facilities, personal trainers often sell their training sessions to gym members. They start by evaluating their clients’ current fitness level, personal goals, and skills. Then, they develop personalized training programs for their clients to follow, and they monitor the clients’ progress.
Fitness trainers and instructors in smaller facilities often do a variety of tasks in addition to their fitness duties, such as tending the front desk, signing up new members, giving tours of the facility, or supervising the weight-training and cardiovascular equipment areas. Fitness trainers and instructors also may promote their facilities and instruction by various means, such as through social media, by writing newsletters or blog articles, or by creating posters and flyers.
Gyms and other types of health clubs offer many different activities for clients. However, trainers and instructors frequently specialize in only a few areas. The following are examples of types of fitness trainers and instructors:
Personal fitness trainers work with an individual client or a small group. They may train in a gym or in clients’ homes. Personal fitness trainers assess the client’s level of physical fitness and help them set and reach their fitness goals.
Group fitness instructors organize and lead group exercise classes, which can include aerobic exercises, stretching, or muscle conditioning. Some classes are set to music. In these classes, instructors may select the music and choreograph an exercise sequence. They may lead classes that use specific exercise equipment, such as stationary bicycles.
Specialized fitness instructors teach popular conditioning methods, such as Pilates or yoga. In these classes, instructors show the different moves and positions of the particular method. They also watch students and correct those who are doing the exercises improperly.
Fitness directors oversee the fitness-related aspects of a gym or other type of health club. They often handle administrative duties, such as scheduling personal training sessions for clients and creating workout incentive programs. They may select and order fitness equipment for their facility.
Fitness trainers and instructors held about 373,700 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of fitness trainers and instructors were as follows:
|Fitness and recreational sports centers||58%|
|Civic and social organizations||10|
|Educational services; state, local, and private||7|
Fitness trainers and instructors may work in standalone fitness centers or centers maintained by other types of establishments for their employees or for members of civic and social organizations. Some work in clients’ homes.
Fitness trainers and instructors may work nights, weekends, or holidays. Some travel to different gyms or to clients’ homes to teach classes or conduct personal training sessions. Some group fitness instructors and personal fitness trainers hold full-time jobs in other fields and teach fitness classes or conduct personal training sessions during evenings or weekends.
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of fitness trainers and instructors.
|Occupation||Job Duties||Entry-Level Education||Median Annual Pay, May 2019|
Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides
Physical therapist assistants and aides are supervised by physical therapists to help patients regain movement and manage pain after injuries and illnesses.
|See How to Become One||$48,990|
Physical therapists help injured or ill people improve movement and manage pain.
|Doctoral or professional degree||$89,440|
Recreation workers design and lead activities to help people stay active, improve fitness, and have fun.
|High school diploma or equivalent||$26,350|
Recreational therapists plan, direct, and coordinate recreation-based treatment programs for people with disabilities, injuries, or illnesses.
For more information about fitness careers and about health and fitness programs in universities and other institutions, visit
For information about certifications for personal trainers and group fitness instructors, visit
For information about health clubs and sports clubs, visit
For information about yoga teacher certification and a list of registered schools, visit
For a career video on fitness trainers and aerobics instructors, visit
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Fitness Trainers and Instructors,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/fitness-trainers-and-instructors.htm (visited ).