Personal Trainer Salaries

personal trainer salary

Personal Trainer Salaries – The Lows, Highs, and Outstanding Averages


Embarking into the field as a personal trainer will soon have you scratching your head wondering about all the claims you hear about personal trainers salaries.

You will hear some people telling you it is the worst possible career to enter because wages are unbelievably low.

The next person talks about a friend who is making an income that makes your eyes grow big.

What is the truth about salaries when you enter a personal trainer career?

The Horror Stories of Personal Trainer Incomes

As you start asking people in the industry about an average personal trainer salary you are going to run into some horror stories of unbelievably bad wages.  You will uncover trainers making under $10/hour for their intensive efforts with clients.  Even in national studies you will find numbers like follows:

  • $9.41/Hour – Study
  • $12.58/Hour – Study

These numbers are not something most people embarking on a course to become a certified personal trainer wish to hear.  You are probably hoping for a much higher salary.

Personal Trainer Salaries

One factor involved in both of these numbers are the facts not all of the trainers are certified and many work in fitness clubs working as aerobics instructors or other class environments, not only as a personal trainer.

The Heroes of Personal Trainer Salaries

The other side of the salary story, when compared with an average sports medicine salary, is the upper tier personal trainers who work with professional athletes, celebrities, and corporate executives.  It is not uncommon to find these trainers making salaries well above $100,000/year.

These trainers have usually paid their dues through years of personal training education with clients slowly acquiring higher-end clientele and establishing themselves as authorities.  These salary levels do not happen overnight.

On a more common scale you will see higher end personal trainer salaries as follows:

  • $34.39/Hour – Study
  • $36.51/Hour – Study

As you can now see, the same two studies giving us the extremely low personal trainer salaries also report very high salaries at the upper end.

The figures represent the upper and lower 10 percentile marks in their study.

How Much Does a Personal Trainer Make on Average Across the USA?
Personal Trainer Salaries
This question may be a little more helpful to you.  The median for personal trainers salaries across the USA as reported by is $52,869.

Now this number looks very good but does have on very critical problem.

The figure includes many respondents for general sports medicine salary and careers, also.   This may be skewing the number slightly higher than what you should expect.

The best way to narrow down the reality of personal trainer salaries is to look at figures reported by several of the major accreditation councils for Certified Personal Trainers.

  • American Council of Exercise Certified Personal Trainer – $53,323/Year (25.64/hour)
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer – $44,000/year (21.15/hour)

These numbers are reported on each of the respective certification board’s websites.  These salary figures should give you a good basis to set your expectations within the field, but there is one other option to improve your income dramatically.

Going Out On Your Own for the Highest Income Potential

The highest paid personal trainers in the country are almost always independently employed.  They have built up a clientele of followers who pay them per session.  By having their own business they set their own income potential.

The challenge with going out on your own is building up your list of clientele and maintaining it as clients come and go.  Here are some figures for you to think about if you are considering going out on your own:

  • 30 client sessions per week at $35/session – $54,600/Year
  • 30 client sessions per week at $55/session – $85,800/Year
  • 30 client sessions per week at $75/session – $117,000/Year

These figures are based upon working 52 weeks per year.  Remember to adjust according to your desires for time off.

Working on your own presents an offsetting challenge, you will be responsible for all of the scheduling, taxes, accounting, and insurance costs.  The potential is much greater but so are the responsibilities.  Consider all of the factors before choosing the right path for you.

Personal Trainer Expenses

The Real Magic behind Personal Trainer Salaries

There are three factors which determine the level of personal trainer salaries above all other factors.  Your drive, motivation, and ability to communicate effectively are the 3 factors which can multiply your income to the stars.

If you can motivate people to take action and change through your leadership your value increases rapidly.  Clients will be happy to pay higher rates for your expertise, enthusiasm, and drive.  You are the real magic behind setting your own upper limits as a personal trainer.

Personal Training Education

personal training degree

Personal Training Education – Finding the Right School and Certification for You

Personal training education is a study in diversity. You will discover this one career choice which offers more educational, training, and certification paths than almost any other career.

There are numerous certifying organizations and study courses ranging from home study to on-campus programs in universities.

Currently most universities do not offer a degree program for a personal trainer career.  They offer courses with titles like:

  • Applied Exercise and Health
  • Athletic Training
  • Kinesiology
  • Nutrition, Fitness, and Health
  • Sports Medicine and Fitness Technology

The problem with the undergraduate programs is you are not certified as a personal trainer upon graduation.  The programs are all offered by most sports medicine colleges.  Universities offering courses on personal training are most commonly providing a non-degree based program to aid in certifying with one of the following accreditation councils:

  • American Council on Exercise – ACE
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine – NASM
  • National Council on Strength and Fitness – NCSF
  • National Exercise and Sport Trainer Association – NESTA

This is four of the most common personal training education certification groups but it is important to note there are many additional accreditation associations for personal trainers.

Personal Training Education

To give yourself the highest potential as a personal trainer may require acquiring a college degree as listed above and then completing your certification on your own.  This can open the door to becoming a personal trainer in major corporations.  This dual preparation prepares you for a variety of sports medicine career opportunities.

Personal Training Education Programs

Since most universities are not directly involved in the certification process how can you find personal training programs or a personal training school?

The easiest place to start is by visiting the websites of a variety of accreditation associations.  They will guide you into locating personal training programs to prepare you for their certification exams.   Most of the programs offer an alternative of home-study programs, also.  Let us look at examples from one of the top options.

ACE Personal Training Education Programs

The American Council on Exercise offers one of the biggest varieties of training programs to help you become a certified personal trainer.  They have partnered with numerous 2-year and 4-year colleges to offer these courses.  You can find courses in almost every state on a campus near you.   As examples, the ACE Personal Trainer Education course is offered at these Universities:

  • Northern Arizona University – Flagstaff, AZ
  • Pepperdine University – Malibu, CA
  • University of West Florida – Pensacola, FL
  • Binghamtom University – Binghamtom, NY
  • East Stroudsburg University, East Stroudsburg, PA
  • Alvin Community College, Alvin, TX
  • South Puget Sound Community College, Puget Sound, WA

This is just a tiny sample of the over 100 locations on colleges campuses offering the ACE training programs.

Personal Training Education by ACE

In addition to these opportunities offered by universities and community colleges ACE offers their courses through vocational schools and outreach programs in high schools around the country.  As you can see finding a personal training school is very easy.

Staying Home for Your Personal Training Education Programs

Almost every one of the certifying bodies offers a home-study, or self-study program, to become a certified personal trainer.  While this may be the easiest course of action, it may not be the best.  It is important you understand your career as a personal trainer is a very interactive profession.  You will be working one-on-one with your clients.  In-class training helps you develop your personal communication skills.

If you feel you are already very competent in interpersonal skills then the home-study courses are a great alternative to save time, money, and travel expenses.  Let us look at an example of what is included in a home study course.  For this example we will use the National Council on Strength and Fitness program.  They include the following items in their advanced home study course:

  • Advanced Concepts of Personal Training Textbook
  • Advanced Concepts of Personal Training Study Guide
  • Advanced Concepts of Personal Training Lab Book
  • Step-by-Step Lesson Plan
  • NCSF Personal Training CD-ROM
  • Personal Training and Assessment DVD

Personal TrainingThis is not an overnight course like many people wish for.

This is an intensive program to guarantee you have the skill necessary to fulfill the demands of your new career. Check out the median sports medicine salary in the USA and find out more information about personal trainer salaries.

The materials provided for home-study are very similar to what you would use in a classroom setting with the addition of items to assist you in your personal study.

The real test of your skills comes when you sit down to take your certification exam.  Only after successfully passing the exam will you become a certified personal trainer.

In every form of Personal Training Education it is important to remember the study is in preparation for an exam.

Personal Trainer Career

personal training career

Personal Trainer Career – A Challenging and Rewarding Opportunity


A Personal Trainer career is not like many other career opportunities you will ever find.  A personal training career offers options for having your own business or working for a larger organization.

A personal trainer has the amazing opportunity to touch and change lives.

Let us take a further look at two important questions to help you determine if a personal trainer career is right for you.

What is a Personal Trainer?

Many people hear the phrase personal trainer and envision a teacher in an aerobics class.  A personal training job is a little different.  The emphasis is on the word personal.  A personal trainer rarely works with more than 3 clients at one time and most commonly with a single client per session.

This level of personal focus creates a high level of confidence and bonding between the trainer and the client.

What is a personal trainer career

A personal trainer is not just someone who understands exercise but a highly trained and certified professional.  Your personal training education will give you a deep understanding of the following:

  • Exercise Mechanics
  • Nutrition
  • Personal Relations
  • Motivational Techniques
  • Assessment Skills
  • Planning

Your career in personal training will be focused on helping individuals improve their lives through exercise and personal change.

How Do You Go About Becoming a Personal Trainer?

The starting point of becoming a personal trainer is getting certified.  There are numerous certifying organizations for personal trainers in the USA.  The list includes:

  • America Council on Exercise – ACE
  • National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association – NESTA
  • American Fitness Professionals & Associates – AFPA
  • Aerobics and Fitness Association of America – AFAA
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine – NASM
  • National Council on Strength and Fitness  – NCSF
  • National Federation of Professional Trainers – NFPT
  • National Strength and Conditioning Association – NSCA

Personal Trainer CareerThis list in incomplete but gives you an idea of the diversity of certification options you have.  If you are choosing to specialize in a particular personal training career like Yoga, Pilates, or Kick Boxing you will need to work through a more specialized certification program.

The above certifications are designed to prove competency in overall skills.

Which Certification Should You Pursue?

It can be very difficult to decide on the proper certification with so many choices.  The programs which are the most recognized in the profession are the ACE and the NCSF certifications.

These two programs are comprehensive in coverage and will require thorough preparation to pass the exam.

Both the American Council on Exercise and the National Council on Strength and Fitness offer workshops, home study courses, and exam preparation guides.  No matter how much self-study you have done on your own in a fitness center learning exercise mechanics and nutrition do not attempt these exams without checking into their materials.  The exams are designed to ensure clients receive the highest benefit from a certified personal trainer.

Both ACE and NCSF programs are offered in a variety of colleges and universities across the USA.

What are the Salaries for a Personal Trainer Career?

When you start exploring a personal trainer or sport medicine salary you are going to be shocked at the wide range.  A personal training career can start as a very low paying career but has the potential to be one of the highest paid careers in the nation.

Recent surveys of personal trainers report the following salary statistics:

  • Median Personal Trainer Salary in USA – $52,869
  • Lowest Reported Annual Salary – $19,520
  • Highest Reported Annual Salary – $71,197

The above salaries were done across a cross section of personal trainers with a variety of backgrounds and certifications.

As another example of personal trainer salaries we can look at statistic from a 2010 study done by the American Council on Education.

In this study they only reviewed salaries of ACE Certified Personal Trainers.  The results are as follows:

  • ACE Certified Average Annual Salary – $53,323
  • ACE Advanced Certifications – $55,771

As you can see the ACE Certified Personal Trainers ran slightly higher than the median range across all certifications.

Is a Personal Trainer Career Right For You?

Becoming a Personal TrainerA personal career trainer requires a special individual.

The trainer must have the following skills to be successful in this career:

  • Personal Drive
  • Organization
  • An Outgoing Personality
  • Desire to Serve Others
  • Focus on Personal Excellence

You must stay physically and mentally sharp to lead by example.  Are you ready to start on the journey to becoming personal trainer?

If you have these traits you can excel as a personal trainer.  A personal trainer career does not require only keeping your clients at their peak, but yourself, also.