If you’re obsessed with fitness, are seriously motivated to help people meet their goals – plus have an entrepreneurial streak – then you’d probably make an excellent personal trainer. But is a personal trainer career the right move for you?
In this guide we take an in-depth look at:
- The skills and characteristics you need for personal trainer jobs.
- The typical fitness trainer salary.
- How to become a personal trainer.
What does a personal trainer do?
Personal trainers help people meet their health and fitness goals. They’re qualified fitness professionals who work with a range of different people (referred to as their ‘clients’).
The everyday tasks required in personal trainer jobs might include:
- Talking to clients about their health and fitness levels.
- Working with clients come up with short and long-term goals for their fitness.
- Planning fitness programmes to help clients meet these goals.
- Giving advice about fitness, and also about nutrition and lifestyle.
- Motivating and coaching clients so they can do their workout programmes safely and effectively.
- Checking clients’ progress, measuring their heart rates and body fat.
Some personal trainers work full-time as gym instructors and do personal training outside their normal hours. Personal trainer jobs are competitive; it’s also physically demanding. It’s important to look after yourself as well as your clients. Depending on whether you run your own business or work for a gym, your income can sometimes be unstable or unpredictable.
What’s the fitness trainer salary?
The fitness trainer salary varies between £25,000 - £60,000 per year. This depends on the hourly rate they charge and the number of hours they work each week.
Personal trainers are usually paid by the hour for each session with a client. This can range from between £25 and £50 per hour (top trainers can earn up to £100 per hour!).
The personal trainers that earn the most money are often boot camp instructors, weight loss experts or online personal trainers.
What skills are required for a personal trainer career?
There’s physical fitness and a desire to help people, of course. But there are a lot more skills and qualities involved in being a personal trainer than you might think. Here’s an overview of the attributes you’ll need to develop. See if you're a match…
- Communication: you need to be great at speaking with people both on a one-to-one basis as well as in groups if you have to teach a fitness class. You need to be clear and persuasive, as well as good at motivating people.
- People skills: you need to be excellent at working with people, being sensitive and empathetic, especially if your client has body image issues. You need to know how to challenge people when it’s appropriate, but also know when to praise and encourage them. There might be disruptive people in a fitness class, so you need to be assertive in dealing with any problems. Staying patient at all times is really important.
- Passion for learning: giving people advice about their fitness means you have to stay on top of all the latest trends and developments in fitness and nutrition – so you need to have a desire to keep learning throughout your personal trainer career.
- Motivated: a personal trainer without motivation or passion for what they do wouldn’t be a very successful one. You need a real enthusiasm for helping people meet their goals and know how to motivate them when they want to give up on their workouts. Every client needs to get the same amount of energy from you no matter how tired you are – which is a skill in itself!
- Business savvy: many personal trainers work for themselves, which means running your own business. So you’ll need to be keen to learn how to promote your business, attract new clients and overseeing your finances. You need to be good at presenting yourself to people and convincing them that you have the right skills to help them meet their goals.
- Flexible: you need to know when to change up a workout programme if it’s not working for your client. They might need encouragement and support, or they might need some tough love! Adaptability skills are important for this. You also need to be flexible in your approach to the job, as it’s not usually a 9 to 5 role.
- And a few more characteristics that will come in handy... friendly, charismatic, outgoing, chatty, integrity, commitment, energetic.
How to become a personal trainer
In order to become a personal trainer in the UK, you usually need to be an experienced fitness instructor first with a recognised qualification. This could be:
- Level 2 Certificate in Fitness Instructing – Gym
- Level 2 Diploma in Health, Fitness, and Exercise Instruction
- Level 2 Diploma in Instructing Exercise and Fitness.
You can study for these qualifications by doing an apprenticeship, meaning you’ll earn a salary at the same time. We’ve got detailed guidance on doing a fitness instructor apprenticeship here.
The Level 2 course will let you work as a gym instructor in a gym or health club. It’s the same level as a GCSE, and it can take 6 weeks if you study part time or eight days if you study full time.
Then you can take further qualifications specific to being a personal trainer. These include:
- Level 3 Diploma in Fitness Instructing and Personal Training
- Level 3 Diploma in Personal Training.
The Level 3 qualification lets you work as a self-employed personal trainer, and is the same level as an A-level or BTEC National Diploma. Part-time it can take around five months, or three weeks if you study full-time.
The entry requirements for a Level 2 course are two or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3; and for a Level 3 course you’ll need four or five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4. You may not need the Level 2 qualification in order to take the Level 3: check with the training provider.
Fitness instructor and personal trainer courses are widely available through colleges and private training providers.
You can then join a professional qualifications like the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs) or National Register of Personal Trainers (NRPT). That shows employers and clients that you’ve got the skills and know-how needed.
To work as a personal trainer you also need to have public liability insurance and a first aid award. This must include a cardio-pulmonary resuscitation certificate (CPR).