Love fitness and exercise but wondering what a personal trainer career is like?
As I was a pt for around ten years, so I can give you a pretty decent account of what your career will really be like.
I’m going to be answering some of the main questions that define what makes personal training careers so great, which should help you to decide for yourself if this sounds like the career for you.
Personal training can be a rich and fulfilling career, but it’s not suited to everyone. It’s a very active role with little rest through the day and salaries can be low. However, it’s an excellent step into the industry where a great deal can be learned and progress into other roles is very likely.
I really, really don’t want to begin this article with the phrase “It depends”, as to whether personal training as a career is a good choice, because I know that’s exactly what you don’t want to hear as an answer.
It’s ok though, because instead, I’m going to say “it varies from person to person”, and this is actually true, because your idea of a good career may vary wildly from someone else’s.
For example, one person might think that what makes a career good is that it enables them to have a great deal of cash coming in, to another it may mean getting enough spare time to spend with their families and to another, it may mean leaving work each day having learned something new.
That’s why It’s really impossible for me to tell you whether or not it is a good career.
Hang on though!
Don’t click away, I can still help you.
I’ve gathered up all the questions people ask to decide if a career can be considered “good” or not and I’ve listed them out below.
Ok, time for me to shut up and get on with it!
Q&A For “Is being a personal trainer a good career?”
- Will you love your work?
- Can you show your talents?
- Are you always learning and developing?
- Can you earn enough to support yourself & family?
- Are you achieving your goals?
- Are there opportunities to move into other fields?
- Can you become an expert in your field?
- Are you being challenged and stimulated?
- Do you wake up excited to go to work?
- Is there a good work/life balance?
- Do you feel pride in your role?
- Are you happy?
- Is there job security?
- Do you feel respected?
- Do you have a good relationship with your colleagues?
- How do fitness instructors make a living?
1. Will you love your work?
Not everyone has the opportunity to move into a job role that they can honestly say they love. Most people just get any job they can so they can pay their bills and put food on the table.
Fitness, however, gives you the chance to get paid for what you are actually passionate about. I usually get frustrated when I hear people talking about needing to be passionate about their career, but if you are trying to get into fitness, then chances are you probably already are passionate about it.
The cool thing about fitness is that you get to help people every day, if you are a people person and love helping, there is no way you can not love your work each and every day.
Did I love my job?
Absolutely, I used to get terrible Sunday night blues every week without fail whilst I was working in other roles, but working as a personal trainer changed all that. I actually looked forward to getting up and going to work each day.
It didn’t really even feel like work, there are no computers to sit down at and no paperwork to push around, it’s all classes and inductions and speaking to people all day, it’s great.
2. Can you show your talents?
A career in fitness lets you show the whole world (well a few hundred gym members at least) what you can really do.
If you are a world-class public speaker, then you will love belting out commands to a full gym floor class at lunchtimes, and if your talents lie more towards compassion and understanding, then you will excel at the gym inductions where you really get to understand why a person is training and why their goals mean so much to them.
Don’t be put off the idea if you are not 100% full of confidence, most people aren’t, and it doesn’t matter anyway, as you will easily learn this on the job.
Do I think it lets you showcase your talents?
It does as much as you want them to!
If you are one of those people that couldn’t wait to enter every talent show so you could be in front of an audience, then fitness is perfect for you. You are basically in front of people your entire shift.
Again though, don’t worry if this doesn’t sound like you, if you are more reserved and prefer to keep things a little more casual, there’s still an option for that in fitness.
You can show your skills in other ways by providing an excellent eye for detail around the gym, being personable, building strong rapport (super important in the fitness industry), or anything else that you consider to be a unique skill set to you.
Personal training allows you to really showcase your personality and character, so if you’ve got some skills, go ahead and let everyone see them!
3. Are you always learning and developing?
Development is really important if you want to stay in the same industry for the long term.
Continual self-development will help keep you motivated and enthusiastic in your career, and by having the ability to improve yourself as a personal trainer, and your skill-sets, you can work on your weaknesses and become more and more confident, which is important for any role.
The great thing about a role in fitness is that your employer will almost certainly insist on your improvement by sending you on courses and training days, which is great because you come back from those days knowing that you have genuinely improved.
Do I feel that I was constantly learning as a trainer?
I learned tons when I became a PT, from lifesaving first-aid skills to biomechanics, how to stand up of and teach a room full of people a 45 min gym class (which I would NEVER have done voluntarily).
And I learned a lot about myself. I really struggled with my confidence before getting into the industry, and being forced into situations that may initially make you feel uncomfortable can really help you break out of any confidence ruts you might be in.
4. Can you earn enough to support yourself & family?
Whether or not you can support yourself and your family is a really big part of deciding on whether or not to embark on a certain career path.
Of course, you need to enjoy what you do and feel that you are growing as a person, but the financial aspects are equally important.
The starting salary for a personal trainer is usually not particularly high, as you are going to need some time to build up your client base.
However, as we will see later on, this shouldn’t be anything to worry about, as there is a lot of potential to massively increase your salary once you have built up your confidence and experience.
Do I think you can earn enough to support your family on a personal trainers wages?
I’m going to be totally honest here and say, in the beginning, it’s pretty tough!
For example, when I was working in the middle of central London, my salary was the equivalent of £13,000 a year, which after I took out travel expenses left me with about £600 ($830.56) take home each month.
This of course increased as I built up my client base, but that did take around 6 months or so of pretty relentless gym floor walking and consultation sessions.
However, once you do build up a decent number of clients that are training with you on a regular basis, you can absolutely live off your wages. The key to being able to live comfortably on those wages is to make sure that your clients are paying you consistently.
Make use of monthly direct debit sessions so you can predict how much money you will be receiving each month, and you’ll feel a lot less stressed about how much is coming in each month.
5. Are you achieving your goals?
If you are giving considerable thought to starting a career in fitness, you really should have an action plan. These should include progression goals and self-development goals.
Without knowing where you are going, you can’t know if you are making progress and bettering yourself. This is important as without feeling like you are moving forward, you can quickly being to feel stagnant in your role and can lose interest.
Did I feel like goals can be attained easily?
Not easily, but they are attainable.
As a PT, it’s pretty important that you set yourself goals that you can work towards. These can be the number of clients you have or sessions per week you conduct. Or you may be set on becoming a fitness coach or elite level PT.
Either way, as long as you stick to a plan and don’t give up at the first hurdle, these goals can be achieved.
You’ll need to be setting yourself goals, as there isn’t the standard career path you may see in an office (executive to team leader to manager etc).
6. Are there opportunities to move into other fields?
It’s so important to make sure that you are progressing in any career, and fitness is no different. You need to make sure that before you get into this role you have scouted out the other roles that are available to you once you have outgrown personal training.
For reference, here are some of the possible progressions you can expect from starting work in a gym as a fitness instructor, all the way up to being a regional manager.
Do I think it’s possible to make easy career progress?
Yes, I found that if you decided to want to move from personal training into a fitness manager (for example), there were plenty of opportunities to do so. Emails would be sent around letting people know of managerial vacancies etc, so if you wanted to move into a different area, this was always an option.
This is actually an important point, as when you work as a personal trainer, it gives you time to build up a rapport with the other staff and trainers in the gym. This makes moving into any role much easier, as you aren’t coming in as an outsider that people are nervous of, they already know you and hopefully already like you too!
7. Can you become an expert in your field?
Not only can you become an expert in your field, but I can’t think of a single better way to do it.
You will constantly be giving exercise advice to members of the gym that have different goals, medical issues, and exercise preferences in mind. You may also be teaching different types of fitness classes.
Because of the sheer volume of time, you will be spending on these tasks you can’t help but learn a ton about the industry.
It, of course, is always up to the individual as to how much of an expert they can become in their field, however, if you want to be the very best and most knowledgeable pt around, it is very easy to do so.
Don’t forget that you are also going to be around some fantastic people with a great deal of knowledge that (in my experience anyway) will be very happy to answer any questions you might have.
Did I become an expert?
Well, I don’t want to blow my own trumpet here, but I can certainly say that I learned more in my first year than I had in my entire training course, to the point that I would say that in certain areas I can honestly say that I would consider myself an expert.
I was lucky that one of the first gyms I was employed in had a great personal training manager that I became good friends with, he was always happy to answer my questions, recommend books and videos to me and explain what I would need to do to become an excellent personal trainer.
This really helped me to learn the best ways to gain the information I needed to start the next step of my journey, and it also helped increase my passion for fitness and learning as much as I could about it.
8. Are you being challenged and stimulated?
Being bored in your job is one of the best ways to cut short what could have otherwise been an excellent career.
You need to make sure that you are being stimulated and facing new challenges often to keep your interest up. And if you find yourself getting bored in fitness, it’s likely that it’s just time to up your game a bit and try out a few new things to liven up your day.
Don’t get me wrong, no one is going to expect you to get excited by waiting for hours for clients that don’t show or walking the gym floor for hours to pick up clients, but setting yourself challenges and goal setting can really help to keep you enjoy your time as a PT.
Did I find it challenging?
Persona training is in no way an easy job. You will constantly be teaching, learning about new medical conditions you need to work around and the latest in exercise prescription.
There were very few days as a trainer that I didn’t learn something new from another trainer, and whenever I was asked a question by a member I didn’t know how to answer, It gave me something to look up and learn for the future.
There is also the fact that no single day in a gym is the same, you will always come up against different challenges each and every day which is a fantastic way to learn.
9. Do you wake up excited to go to work?
Few people can honestly say that they wake up full of beans and excited to get into work each and every day, but fitness is different.
You don’t have to worry about board meetings, handing in reports, or end-of-financial-year panic that brings a lot of stress to most people’s lives, who work “ordinary” jobs.
That’s not to say it isn’t a stressful job, but I would say it is more exciting than stressful.
Because of this, you won’t have those dreaded Sunday blues or working on a presentation late into the night, you can wake up each morning knowing you have a completely new day with new challenges, different conversations, and the opportunity to learn.
The lack of concerns that most jobs give you makes personal training a really fun and exciting career that should allow you to wake up each day excited to see what you can learn and what new experiences you will encounter.
Was I excited each day?
Pretty much, yeah.
As I said, I didn’t have the stress and concerns I had come up against in previous roles, and once I had built my confidence up in my classes and my knowledge, I knew I could walk into my sessions ready to give people fantastic classes and workout programs whilst getting to have conversations with really interesting people.
I also had great teams of people around me that I had a lot of fun with, from the receptionists, the group-ex teachers, and the fitness instructors. These people really make the role what it is, and their support and the fun they can bring are what make this job seriously fun at times.
This made me look forward to each and every day as I knew each day would be different. Sure, not every day was fantastic, but that’s not a realistic hope for any role, but the vast majority of days were great!
10. Is there a good work/life balance?
Did I think there was a good work/life balance?
No, I didn’t.
I used to wake up at 4 am to travel to London so that I could get to the gym at 6am in time for my first session, and on busy days I wouldn’t get home until around 10 pm.
I deliberately made sure that I worked in the city so that I didn’t have to give up my weekends, but the hours were still really difficult to work around even just for social reasons.
If I had been old enough to have had a family at the time, I would really have struggled with being able to spend quality time with my family.
Don’t forget that working in fitness is very tiring, so even if you did get home at a reasonable hour, you would really just want to relax, which makes even being sociable pretty difficult.
I would say because of this that personal training does not have a particularly good work/life balance, at least in the beginning it does, later on in your carer you may be able to be a little pickier about what times you will and won’t work, but that’s just not feasible when you first start to build your business.
11. Do you feel pride in your role?
A lack of pride in your job will end up with you being bored, if you don’t feel pride, it’s because you don’t care, and if you don’t care, you will probably end up leaving the profession.
You should be able to find plenty of opportunities to be proud of yourself whilst working in fitness.
All you need to do is see how happy your classes make people, the achievement members make when you give them a great workout plan, or being able to bring people out of their shells and start exercising when they have been too shy to in the past.
There are very few professions where you can feel the level of pride that you can get from helping people reach their fitness and health-related goals, I mean, you can actually help people live longer and gain confidence, that’s pretty impressive for any career, and it’s really hard not to feel proud of yourself if you can be doing this on a daily basis.
Did I feel proud to be a personal trainer?
A resounding yes!
I loved seeing how exhausted and happy my clients were at the end of each session, and seeing the queues for my classes growing and growing each week made me feel immensely proud.
Seeing someone truly appreciate the time you take to listen to their story and prescribe workouts specifically for them and no one else feels amazing.
A career in fitness will let you feel proud of each and every day, so, yes, I can say that I felt very proud of myself and what I could help others achieve in this role.
12. Are you happy?
Like any job, you are going to have good days and bad days, that’s just normal. I am pretty certain that there is no job in the world that would be great every single day, except maybe looking after chameleons at the zoo, wouldn’t that be great?
Exercise by definition makes you feel good, and seeing the joy that it brings people that you are teaching is a sure-fire way to feel good about yourself.
Most jobs give you tasks that can feel thankless, after all, in a large company you rarely get to see the direct impact that your work is doing, which can make you feel like what you are doing is worthless.
By contrast, you directly see the good that you can bring to people’s lives, and a lot of the time, they will actually tell you about it, either by saying how good your class was or by showing their appreciation for an excellent workout program you gave them.
Was I happy?
Personal training and fitness instruction were some of the happiest days of my life.
Being able to get to know the people you are helping, building up rapport and relationships, and working with a great team of other trainers is seriously fun.
I was also lucky that I have worked in some gyms with excellent teams of trainers that I got on really well with. We had great nights out and really supportive managers who made the role even better.
13. Is there job security?
So can you get fired easily, will you lose all your clients or will your gym go bust is what we are asking here?
It’s pretty difficult for any company to fire a member of staff, they’d have to have a really good reason to do so, and even then it’s still pretty tricky for them.
The only way that I think you could get fired is if you were found to be negligent to a dangerous degree that ended up in someone getting hurt.
As long as you remember your training and don’t try to give advice or train someone in a way that you are unqualified for, you should be fine.
The other factor you have is that most gyms are fairly big companies, so the chances of them going under and making staff redundant is also very small.
Did I feel like I had job security?
I did yes, like I said, as long as you don’t try to do something that you are unqualified to do, you should be fine. I had a few people that came to me for advice, and if it was something that I knew I couldn’t answer, rather than trying to blag it and see how it went, I would direct them to a more experienced trainer who could help them.
There’s no shame in referring someone to another trainer if you feel you can’t properly help them, doctors do it all the time.
Can you lose all your clients?
I suppose it could happen if you only train people from one particular company that makes a lot of redundancies, but it’s still pretty unlikely. You will have clients leave you, that’s part of the business, but you shouldn’t be concerned about everything going terribly.
14. Do you feel respected?
Respect, it’s important in life in general, and at work it is vital. Not feeling respected whilst you’re at work can slowly grind you down every day until you feel like you can’t take it anymore and need to leave.
This is something you need to take into careful consideration when assessing any role you are considering.
You can never really tell if you are going to be respected before you go into a role, it’s something you will learn once you start working in the position, but if we are talking about whether or not personal trainers are respected generally? I can tell you they are.
PTs help people make life-changing transformations, of not only the body but also the mind too. They are a shoulder to cry on, a confidant, and most importantly, a friend. Pt’s are very well respected by their clients and by members of the staff, I never felt it to be any other way.
15. Do you have a good relationship with your colleagues?
It’s not essential to have friends in a gym that you’re working in, but working with people you get on with makes every day a lot easier.
You can work in the best-suited role for you, but you can get seriously deflated by not feeling like you have anyone you can talk to or turn to if you need some help or advice.
I actually read a statistic recently that said that having a best friend at work makes you seven times more likely to stay engaged in your role. I’m not really sure how they get a stat like that, but it’s pretty positive so we will go with it.
Having people around you that you get on with makes it much easier for you to progress in your role, as it makes it easier to brainstorm ideas and work together as a team which can help you reach targets.
Did I have good relationships with my colleagues?
In all but one of the gyms I worked in I had a great time with all my colleagues and got on with them all really well. We used to go for nights out and I am still in touch with some of them now years later.
The gym where I didn’t get on with everyone was completely awful, it was a pain to go to work all day and know that I was going to be stuck hanging around with people I didn’t like and didn’t like me.
I can vouch for the importance of having good relationships with your colleagues, and I want to make it very clear that gym staff are usually very easy to get on with.
You will have similar interests (fitness) and there are usually so many people that work in gyms that even if there are one or two people you don’t get on with, there will be plenty of others you’ll want to hang out with on a daily basis.
How do personal trainers make a living?
Ok, so all the above sounds pretty positive, but unfortunately, you do need to make money in this life too, so how do personal trainers make a living from what they do?
Well, the good news is that they can actually make a pretty good living fairly quickly into their careers.
When you’re a PT, you can make as much or as little money as you want, so if you want to give yourself a pay rise, pick up some more clients, it’s as easy as that.
Of course, there are more options open to you, you can train people online, sell ebooks about training techniques or write up training programs you can sell on sites like Fiver.
Of course, the main staple is training clients in the gym, so making sure that you have a reliable client base is of the utmost importance if you want to work as a PT in the long term.
A career as a personal trainer may mean working long hours, but there are also a ton of perks to it. You literally get the opportunity to change people’s lives for the better and you get to see it in front of your eyes.
No day is the same, you will always come up against different tasks and meet interesting people. It really is a fun role.
In terms of career progression, the sky is the limit. If you want to stay as a PT, that’s cool, want to become the manager of the gym? Also completely cool.
To answer the question in a short and sweet way, yes, being a personal trainer is a great career, just make sure you can support yourself financially and put your full effort into it.
In no time at all, you will have a fantastic career, meet some great people, and start having a hell of a lot of fun at work, which is something a lot of people can’t say they do.
Good luck in whatever role you decide to take and hopefully it’ll be one in fitness, you’ll love it!
Go get ’em!
If you enjoyed this article and feel it might help others, please feel free to share it or link back to it.