If you have a passion for working out and the fitness industry, you might be wondering, “how much do personal trainers make?” – and whether a personal training career is right for you.
Personal training salaries vary, and while the personal training industry can be tough to break into, it’s a great choice if you want to have a positive impact on the lives of others.
In this guide, we’ll discuss the career of being a personal trainer. We’ll look into what personal trainers do, different certifications, and – of course – how much personal trainers make. Let’s get started!
What Does a Personal Trainer Do?
As a personal trainer, your day-to-day tasks will likely vary. You’ll play a huge role in the fitness industry, helping to create safe and effective exercise programs for people looking to improve their fitness and overall health.
These fitness professionals may help individuals lose weight, increase their physical strength, build muscle tone, and complete other personal training tasks related to overall fitness.
You can work with clients one-on-one or in a group setting. You’ll complete tasks like:
- Assessing a client’s physical fitness levels
- Discussing fitness goals
- Creating personalized workout routines and demonstrating exercises
- Assisting clients in exercises to ensure proper form
- Tracking progress and modifying plans as needed
How Much Do Personal Trainers Make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average personal trainer salary in 2020 was $40,510. About half of all earners brought in more than this amount and half earned less. The lowest 10% of earners brought in less than $21,640 while the top 10% earned more than $76,550.
There are all kinds of factors that can influence the salary of a personal trainer. Below, we will look at these factors and how they make a difference when it comes to how much personal trainers make.
For one, where do you work?
According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, there are three types of personal trainers, the salary for which varies depending on the setting:
- Private personal trainer – average salary of $78,000
- Independent personal trainer – average salary of $62,000
- Gym-employed personal trainer – averages salary of $34,000
While most personal trainer jobs are at gyms or fitness centers – about 59% – that’s not always the case. You could also find a job at a social or civic organization, an educational facility, a governmental organization, or even for yourself (many personal trainers are self-employed).
If you work for a gym, you’ll benefit from a more formalized work environment. You’ll likely need to be a certified personal trainer (more on this below) but you may be able to tap into benefits like a retirement plan, health insurance, and more. Plus, the gym will do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to finding clients for you to train.
However, the gym will take a serious cut of your earnings – most charge at least $50 per session while the average personal trainer will earn only around $25 for their work. Some gyms even ask you to find your own clients, eliminating that benefit entirely! That said, some fitness professionals are able to earn sales commissions for finding new clients or meeting sales goals.
You can maximize your income as a personal trainer by working as an independent contractor. You can choose your own hourly rate, your schedule, and where you do your work. Plus, personal trainer salaries for workers who are independent contractors can be up to 10 times higher than those who work for someone else!
As an independent personal trainer, you can rent a space at a nearby gym, but the facility is still taking a cut of your fees. Instead, you will want to own your own small business and specialize in treating clients in your own home.
The city you live in may play a role in the area personal trainer salary, too.
If you live in a major city, you will likely find that personal trainer salaries here are higher, particularly in cities where the fitness industry is a valued part of the city’s cultural make-up.
Fitness trainers in places like San Francisco, for instance, make around $61,820, while those in Los Angeles, another major city, only make around $56,560 per year, according to data from Indeed.
Fitness trainers generally need a high school diploma to enter the occupation, but many employers prefer to hire certified personal trainers who have associate’s or bachelor’s degrees along with certification through organizations like the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.
As you gain more experience, you’ll learn how to retain personal training clients so that you can maintain a steady stream of income. You’ll also be able to complete more specialty-based focus areas.
For example, if you enjoy doing yoga, you can complete the Yoga Alliance program to become a credentialed instructor. It requires up to 500 hours of training but can help you increase your salary while doing something you genuinely love.
A great way to earn more money as a personal trainer is to become a certified personal trainer. When you do this, you could work for yourself, running your own business or working as an independent contractor.
To become a certified personal trainer, you will need to have a high school degree and pursue accreditation through organizations like the American Council on Exercise or the American Fitness Professional and Associates organization. You must hold CPR and AED certifications as well.
In most cases, you’ll have to pass a series of challenging tests in order to pursue a certified personal training career. However, having your certification means you know all the fundamentals of fitness., exercise science, coaching, training, nutrition, and movement.
With this certification, you can work anywhere – and not just in a gym.
One certification that almost all certified personal trainer programs include is the NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist License. You’ll have to have a bachelor’s degree to pursue this certification, but it can dramatically boost the average personal trainer salary you receive.
The more personal trainer certification options you can add on to your resume, the better!
How to Maximize Earnings as a Personal Trainer
There are a few ways you can maximize your earnings as a personal trainer. The most obvious is to go out on your own and work as an independent contractor (after earning your personal trainer certification, of course).
Below are some other ways to help you make bank.
1. Become an Online Personal Trainer
The pandemic elucidated the many benefits of working out from home – so if you want to be able to make the most amount of money and attract the largest audience of clients all without having to maintain a physical training location, consider offering your personal training services online.
It’s not as complicated as it might seem, either – set up a website and maintain a quality social media accounts, and the rest should fall into place.
2. Establish Auto-Payment Methods
If you’re a self-employed personal trainer, make sure there are ways your clients can easily pay you. An auto-debit or electronic funds transfer program is one of the best ways to make sure you get paid on time.
3. Get Additional Certifications
Possessing a professional certification can dramatically increase your earning potential and set you apart.
Look at organizations such as these to enhance your opportunities and potential earnings:
- National Strength and Conditioning Association
- American College of Sports Medicine
- National Academy of Sports Medicine
- American Council on Exercise
4. Offer Group Training Sessions
Group training sessions can make hiring a personal trainer more affordable for many people – especially if your rates are on the higher side. It can increase our overall income by charging multiple individuals for one training session, yet without having to charge more of individual clients.
5. Budget Accordingly
If you decide to go it on your own, you need to become a master of your own budget. Your paycheck will likely vary from week to week, and you need to make plans to deal with that. Consider making a plan or using a budgeting app, like YNAB or Mvelopes, to help set yourself up for success.
6. Have a Rock Solid Marketing Plan
You might be thinking, “But I’m a personal trainer – not a marketer.” It doesn’t matter. When you own your own business, you need to be a jack of all trades.
Ask clients for referrals, make business cards, market via social media, and do anything else that it takes to be successful as a personal trainer.
7. Find Ways to Retain Your Clients
Poor client retention is the biggest pitfall that inexperienced personal trainers find themselves in. Make sure your clients are getting the results they want and encourage your client to be honest. This is the best way to help a client meet his goals – and to ensure that they stick with you for the long run.
8. Never Stop Learning
Most importantly, take the time to invest in yourself. Continuing education is not a burden – it’s an investment. Take classes, formal or not, to help you learn more about your career and how to be more effective (and profitable) at doing what you love.
Is Being a Personal Trainer Worth it?
There are countless benefits to being a personal trainer – aside from the salary.
For one, you’ll be able to make a real and positive difference in someone else’s life. If you enjoy being fit and exercising, you’ll be able to do what you enjoy each and every day of the week.
As an independent contractor, you’ll have total control over the path and scope of your career. You can earn as much or work as little as you’d like and choose unique career paths, becoming a yoga instructor, weight management consultant, online trainer, or anything else that suits your fancy!
Don’t forget the health benefits, either! If you don’t want to be stuck behind a desk, becoming a personal trainer is the way to go.
FAQ: Personal Trainer Salary
Can personal trainers make 100K?
Yes, but it can be challenging. If you want to optimize your salary potential, consider going into private personal training. Private and online trainers make much more than those who work for big box gyms.
You’ll need to have great time management and budgeting skills to succeed and earn the highest possible private personal trainer salary – but offering personal training services as an independent contractor is a good way to maximize our earnings and break six figures.
How much do top personal trainers make?
Top personal trainers make $76,550 or more, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics, but these kinds of wages are rare even for the best certified personal trainers. However, if you’re able to work for yourself and have at least one personal training certification, you can increase the odds of earning one of these higher wages.