How Much Is a Personal Trainer Salary?

Curious about the earning potential for certified personal trainers? Here’s what you need to know about your future personal trainer salary.

Personal Trainer Salary

According to CNN Money, the median personal trainer salary comes out to $56,000 per year. The higher end is $128,000 per year. However, there is a ten-year job projection of 24% growth. Which makes it an in-demand profession.

A personal trainer is someone who helps people in single and/or group sessions accomplish their fitness goals. The trainer serves as their exercise coach, as she ensures they maintain proper techniques.

She may also serve as an amateur therapist (as one article points out). Clients may need an ear to vent their worries and fears behind their fitness goals.

That being said, anyone can enter this profession—which makes it both a pro and a con.

The pro being you don’t technically “need” any post-secondary education or certificates. The con is, the pool is competitive. So, in that respect, you kind of do.

Not to mention, there are a number of factors that dictates a personal trainer salary.

To find out what those factors are, read on!

But before you do…

Why do you want to be a personal trainer?

Is it the potential to make a lot of money that’s a driving factor?

What about the level of flexibility?

Do you enjoy working out and helping others achieve their fitness goals?

Would you be (physically and mentally) ok working on your feet for a majority of the time?

Would you be ok barely making ends meet for some time if you do decide to go solo?

These are the questions you need to ask yourself before you truly commit to becoming a personal trainer.

That way, you’re rest assured knowing you’re 100% fully invested in this career.

Experience matters

How long have you been a personal trainer? 1 year? 5 years 10 years? Your personal trainer salary is in some ways dependent on your experience.

This matters…to an extent. (We’ll discuss the extent part later.)

You see, like any profession, you learn more while you’re on the job.

And this includes things related and unrelated to fitness and health. Such as taking care of your clients (i.e. really listening to what fitness goal he or she wants to accomplish…) and what exercise-nutrition combination yields the best results (remember endomorph, mesomorph, and ectomorph?).

This experience will help your client retention. (Because you’ve already gone through the trial and error phase. You know what works.)

Plus, clients are more likely to pay more for someone with twenty plus years in the industry. Versus someone who’s just starting out.

Now comes the extent part

This is where experience becomes tricky. Because let’s say a personal trainer has three years under the belt but doesn’t have a certificate or post-secondary degree.

Another personal trainer has only one year of experience. But he has a bachelor’s in kinesiology and a certificate from a certificate program (i.e. DETC, NCAA, or ACSM).

Who’s the better trainer to go to?

This gets complicated.

Perhaps the trainer with more experience has more real world fitness knowledge to offer the client.

But the other trainer understands the why and how muscles function the way they do.

In this example, it may be best to go with the less experienced (though more educated) personal trainer.

Since the client would have faith that he knows the proper techniques.

However, if the first trainer had several years more experience, perhaps it would be a different story?

What this shows is that there’s more that factors into a personal trainer salary than experience.

Read on to know what other factors play a part…

While we’re on the topic of education…

While you technically don’t need any education to become a personal trainer, it definitely helps. Gain clients, secure a better-paying salary, you name it.


Know that the personal training industry doesn’t have regulated certificate programs at the moment.

So there’s no set of standards that every program must adhere to in order to be legitimate.

Nonetheless, certificate programs still are a viable option. Just know that some are better than others.

To get you started here’s a list of some popular certificate programs. Take your time to research these:

  • National Council for Curriculum Assessment (NCAA)
  • Distance Education and Training Council (DETC)
  • National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
  • American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
  • American Council on Exercise Certification (ACE)

On top of that, understand that certificate programs, including the ones mentioned above, will have different focuses.

As this article states, the NSCA is based more on reactive training sports performance. While the ACSM focuses on corrective exercise training.

As there are many programs, it may be best to know what you want to specialize in. We’ll talk about specialties later.

What can be said is getting a certificate from a reputable program should boost your personal trainer salary.

Consider getting a bachelor’s degree

While four to five years may seem like a lot, it’s not…. at least when it comes to your career.

A bachelor’s degree in a health field communicates to clients that you take your profession seriously. How so?

Because you went through all that trouble—four to five years of trouble to be exact—to learn an extensive amount about your field.

So, in that sense, your clients aren’t just paying you for your practical advice, but the knowledge that’s been built upon over the years.

Plus, many clients will have college degrees too. They’ll personally know about how much effort you underwent to get your degree. Since they did it themselves.

And, salary-wise, you have the potential to make even more money than a personal trainer with only a certification.

Because you have more education.

Not to mention, a degree is great to market, especially since the personal training field can get competitive. With your bachelor’s, you can stand out.

Some majors to consider getting a bachelor’s in:

  • Kinesiology
  • Biology
  • Nutrition
  • Biochemistry
  • Physical Education
  • Sport and Exercise Psychology

Do you want to specialize?

While being a jack of all exercise trades may sound like a good idea at first. The reality is, clients may view your practice as too broad.

Generally, clients seek out a personal trainer because they have a specific goal in mind that they want to accomplish. Whether that’s losing weight, improving performance, or getting back in shape after having a baby.

Choosing a specialty also affects your personal trainer salary…in a good way.

Specialists tend to make more money than generalists. Why? Because clients want the expert to help them achieve their fitness goal. Not someone who dabbles.

Some specialties to consider:

  • Weight Loss
  • Pre- and Postnatal
  • Performance Enhancement
  • Health
  • Restorative

Know that certain certificate programs can be bent towards one specialty. Do your research wisely.

Do you want to work full-time or part-time?

Of course, the more hours you work, the more money you make. So, decide if you want this to be a full-time career or not.

Some people have a couple clients on the side, while their main income comes from a different source.

In some cases, you might have to start out as part-time. This could be for a number of reasons. You just started your personal training career. Given your lack of experience, you could only secure a job at a gym. And, again given your lack of experience, a part-time job was only offered to you.

Or you’re starting your own personal training business but don’t have the revenue flowing in to make the full transition.

Nonetheless, some simply like personal training as a profitable hobby. In which case a personal trainer salary will be around the $20,000 mark.

Types of clients matter

Your clientele will be different if you live in an urban city versus the countryside. Since the cost of living tends to be higher in cities, you can expect your clientele to be more affluent.

Business Type and Clientele

Also, the type of business you run or work for will determine your clientele and personal trainer salary.

While you don’t have to pay for rent, equipment, and marketing, a gym will take a large percentage from the personal training session.

Yes, you may not have to pay a private studio a percentage of the training session. But you may have to pay for space and equipment.

And, running your own business gives you the highest personal training salary out of the three. But you’re going to have to be brave to make ends meet.

Plus, you may see different clients depending on the business type.

For instance, you may get to help a young adult lose weight and gain confidence in a gym setting. Because this is the most affordable option.

While you may be helping elderly clients with restorative exercises in the comfort of their own home. This would be most convenient if you had your own business.

Marketing affects personal trainer salary

How you market yourself will determine your personal trainer salary. So, leverage social media, especially YouTube.

Not to mention, write fitness content for popular online fitness magazines and blogs. Stay active on forums and in Facebook groups.

The more you market, the greater potential of your salary increasing.

For more personal trainer salary information, contact us.

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