When individuals need the motivation and information to help them get into top shape, they turn to the expertise of physical trainers. These fitness professionals earn their pay by pushing their clients toward healthy physical movement. They should not be confused with athletic trainers, health professionals who prevent and treat sports injuries.
Physical trainers, also known as fitness instructors and personal trainers, lead and instruct individuals and groups in exercises that include strength training, endurance building and stretching. They observe clients to ensure proper form and enforce safety rules. They may document client progress and offer advice on diet, weight maintenance and lifestyle changes. They earned a mean $17.38 per hour or $36,150 per year, as of May 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But salaries went as low as $8.33 per hour or $17,340 per year, and as high as $31.34 per hour or $65,180 per year.
The qualifications to become a physical trainer vary by employer and specialty. But most employers prefer those who have certification in specific exercises such as aerobics or weight training or in lifestyle matters such as nutrition or weight management. Many trainers start out by taking classes for certification and then auditioning for training positions. Many also have certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Nearly all these professionals have at least a high school diploma as a minimum qualification. Many facilities now require applicants to have an associate or bachelor’s degree in exercise science, kinesiology, physical education or a related field.
Physical trainers may work on their own, traveling to clients' homes or offering classes in their own studios. Others are found in large facilities, especially if they prefer working with groups. They may work nights, weekends or holidays, because these times are more convenient for working adults. The biggest employers of physical trainers in 2011 were other amusement and recreation industries, which included fitness and recreational centers. Mean pay here ran $17.89 per hour or $37,220 per year. The highest wages were in business, professional, labor, political and similar organizations. The average salaries in these areas were $25.03 per hour or $52,050 per year.
Because the population is growing and the increasing numbers of elderly and middle-aged people are recognizing the benefits of exercise, physical trainers can look forward to job increases of 24 percent from 2010 to 2020, according to the BLS. This rate is far faster than the average 14 percent growth expected for all jobs. Many businesses and insurance companies are now aware of how healthy individuals need less medical treatment, which is becoming more expensive. They thus offer incentives for workers to keep fit, which requires the services of trainers. The best job opportunities will be for trainers who have professional certification or formal education.