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How Much Do Personal Trainers Make?


There is always someone who wants to get fit and live a healthier lifestyle, and you’ve decided that you are going to make a career out of helping them get what they want. And what you typically want—along with the satisfaction of having a positive impact on someone—is to make as much money as you can working as a certified personal trainer.

There’s an approach for that.

Like fitness itself, it starts with establishing a goal. Once you know what you want to achieve in your career, you can follow the path that you think will best help you get there. And certified personal trainers truly have options when it comes to career paths.

Personal Trainer Salaries

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for personal trainers in 2017 was $39,210, which means half earned more than that amount and half earned less. The low 10 percent of those personal trainers earned less than $19,640 while the top 10 percent earned more than $74,520.

The majority of the jobs (59 percent) were at fitness centers, but not all job in the fitness industry reside in gyms. Civic and social organizations, self-employed workers, educational services, and the government were other sources of employment.

It’s common for newly certified personal trainers to work at a gym or health club early in their careers to gain experience and build relationships with clientele before considering branching out on their own. The typical nationally recognized gym has a staff of certified personal trainers that earns a percentage of the fee the client pays for a training session.

Most gyms charge in the area of $50 per session, and the certified personal trainer can expect to be paid anywhere from $6 to $25 per session. A typical session lasts from 30 minutes to an hour.

Some gyms ask their trainers to find their own clients while others have a sales staff that signs up and assigns clients. Personal trainers who find their own clients usually earn a sales commission for each new person they sign up.

There also are bonuses for meeting sales goals and for getting clients to extend their training sessions when an agreement reaches its end.

Maximizing Income as a Certified Personal Trainer

There certainly is money to be made working for a large fitness company, but owning your own business or working as an independent contractor is the way for certified personal trainers to make the most money. Experienced trainers working for themselves can expect to earn between $50 and $100 per session, depending on geographic location.

Independent contractors and business owners have total control of their work schedule, the hourly rate they elect to charge, and where they do their work. And ISSA studies have shown that salaries for personal trainers who are independent contractors can be up to 10 times more than those of fitness professionals who work for someone else.

One way to work as an independent contractor is to “rent” space at a nearby gym to train clients. In this instance, the gym receives in the area of 10 percent of the personal trainer’s fee for use of the facility. But these types of arrangements are becoming less common.

Few of the larger gyms allow independent contractors because they can make more money by bringing on their own personal trainers. Trainers looking for this type of arrangement should concentrate on smaller, locally based gyms.

The best way to gain independence—and maximize income—is to own a small business. As daunting as that might sound to some, it doesn’t necessarily take a major financial commitment to create a successful business.

For example, certified personal trainers can specialize in training clients in their own home. All that is needed are dumbbells, a weight bench, an exercise ball and strength bands, and a vehicle to get where you need to go. Those who think bigger and have the financial means can rent space for a gym and rent the equipment to fill it.

Some trainers have elected to set up gyms in their own homes and have the clients come to them. Again, there are upfront costs, but there is room for a big return on the investment.

Regardless of the direction one goes, maximizing earning potential involves spending a little money up front in order to get a bigger return. Independent contractors should be prepared to purchase business cards and to invest in various forms of marketing and advertising.

Flyers promoting your business can be printed at minimal cost and can be distributed at such places as grocery stores, senior living facilities, and shopping centers. Taking out a small ad in the local newspaper can also bring in new business.

Social media also can play a major role in maximizing income. More and more fitness professionals are posting video and workout demonstrations on the likes of YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook to increase their exposure and reach potential clients.

Similarly, more and more personal trainers who reach a certain level of success strictly offer their services online. Rather than scheduling individual, in-person training sessions they make workouts available online for a prescribed fee.

Advanced Education Benefits Personal Trainers

Like most professional fields, those who serve as specialists in the fitness industry can expect to be compensated accordingly. There are people who proclaim that nothing but the best will do, and they are willing to pay for it. There are avenues for certified personal trainers to help gain the distinction of being among the best in their field.

ISSA’s master trainer certificate program first requires a personal trainer certificate, certification as a nutrition specialist, and certification in four of the nine specialist categories that are offered. Those who achieve master status typically charge approximately $100 per session.

ISSA also offers an elite trainer certificate program that guarantees job placement on completion of the course. Graduates of the course will be certified as a personal trainer and as a fitness nutrition coach. For the job placement guarantee to apply, the course graduate must apply for three jobs in the U.S. within 90 days of completing the course. ISSA will aide in the job search process and refund the money paid for the course if a job offer isn’t made.

The reality is that there remains a growing need for certified personal trainers. Opportunity and financial success are there for those who commit to learning the practical and scientific methods that lead to good health and proper fitness.