Thinking of becoming a personal trainer?
If you can’t get enough of that endorphin rush following a workout, or you’ve just completed yet another marathon, have you ever thought about using your passion to help others achieve their fitness goals?
Perhaps you’ve been managing your own fitness regime for a while now, setting yourself training plans to tackle triathlons, marathons, and even iron mans. Or maybe you follow your plan to stay fit, strong and healthy; why not put those talents to good use and build a career for yourself as a personal trainer?
In this guide, we’re going to run through everything you need to know about how to become a personal trainer.
What is a personal trainer?
A personal trainer, also known as a PT, works either with groups of people or one-on-one to help clients achieve personal health and fitness goals. After an initial consultation, a PT will create a personalised plan focusing on exercise and nutrition for their clients to follow. They then meet periodically with their clients to guide them through exercise sessions, monitor their progress and help them stick to their guns to hit their goals.
Where does a personal trainer work?
Depending on the environment you want to work in, there are a few options for a PT:
1) Work directly for a gym
This is the ideal option for anyone who needs a consistent salary, set hours and loves working with different people every day.
2) Work freelance for a gym
Most big-name gyms hire freelancers rather than salaried workers to work in their establishments. While there are some downsides to this (for instance, you won’t get sick or holiday pay), it affords more freedom on both sides of the relationship. While gym owners aren’t obligated to give you a certain number of hours when business is slow, conversely, there’s the potential for you to cash in on busy periods, like the January rush.
3) Working as an independent PT
This is probably the toughest route, as you’ll really need to know how to market yourself, especially to begin with when you’re unable to rely on word-of-mouth.
However, once you’re established, this is arguably the route that will afford you the greatest freedom: you can pick and choose your clients and enjoy greater flexibility over your schedule.
4) Working abroad on a cruise liner
This is probably the least common pathway people take; however, boarding a holiday ship is a fantastic option if you want to see the world on someone else's pound.
While this means you won’t see the long-term benefits of your health and fitness plans or know if your clients are keeping up with them (unless you offer online sessions), it’s definitely a fun way to work.
Although some personal trainers work for gyms or fitness centres, the majority, around 80%, are self-employed. Whilst working for yourself certainly has some downsides – like invoicing and accounts – it also offers more freedom, as you’ll be able to pick your own clients and hours.
What exactly does a personal trainer do?
One of the best things about working as a personal trainer is that you’ll enjoy a varied working day.
And you won’t just spend all of your days doing laps or press-ups, either. Of course, physical fitness is a big part of the role, but so too is communicating with your clients about their goals and limitations. Here are some typical tasks you might find yourself doing daily as a PT.
Roles and responsibilities of a personal trainer:
- Creating personalised diet and fitness plans.
- Recording your client stats and achievements during a workout.
- Demonstrating specific exercise routines for your clients.
- Modifying any routines to match client fitness levels.
- Providing motivation, as well as feedback on performance.
- Working with clients on their own, and with small groups.
- Developing client retention strategies.
- If you’re freelance, marketing yourself to expand your client base.
- Establishing and maintaining an online presence through blogs, social media, and other means.
- Creating and upholding positive relationships with clients.
- Delivering emergency first aid if needed.
It’s worth noting, as well, that while there’s a lot of freedom in a career as a PT, in that you can pick and choose your hours, you’ll often be working outside of the standard 9-5, including weekends and evenings to accommodate your clients' schedules.
What are the qualities of a personal trainer?
Personal training is a highly competitive industry, so clients will often base their decisions around who they feel they have good chemistry with. Bearing this in mind, let's take a look at some of the key attributes all PTs need to keep turning a profit:
- Great interpersonal skills - sure, you might not be your client’s favourite person to begin with, but as most personal trainers will tell you, visits from you will become the favourite part of their week in no time. In fact, you’ll likely find that you and your clients end up becoming fast friends.
- Empathy (and patience) - you might be fit as a fiddle right now, but it probably wasn’t always that way. Remember how tough things were at the start of your fitness journey, and show your clients you understand that struggle.
- Motivational, enthusiastic and inspirational - your clients will need to push themselves harder physically and mentally than they likely ever have before. Making sure they stick with it rather than throw in the towel is key to your long-term success, so this attribute is especially important.
- Excellent listening skills - when your clients first come to you, they’ll tell you what they’re looking to achieve during your time together, whether that’s shaving an inch or two off their waistline or getting in top shape for a triathlon. Whatever they tell you, you must be able to prepare a plan that indicates you’ve paid attention to their goals, as well as their limitations.
- A passion for health and fitness - it’s an obvious one, for sure, but it needs to be said. If you don’t love fitness enough to be out there every day, come rain or shine, your new career won’t last long.
- Organised and timely - you’ll be working on a timed-session schedule, so you must be able to manage your calendar and create workouts that fit within these sessions.
What qualifications do personal trainers need?
Whether you're planning to become a freelance personal trainer, work in a gym or some other setting, you'll be required to undertake and pass a personal training qualification at a minimum of level 3.
Here’s a couple of options to help you qualify and become a PT:
Essential PT qualifications
There are additional training courses you can take to help you provide the best service, give your clients more confidence in your abilities and even increase your fees:
Additional PT qualifications
You don't need to undergo a degree to become a personal trainer. Still, if you are interested in higher education, one of these courses may help you look more enticing to universities, as it will show your eagerness to learn.
How much do personal trainers make?
Again, this depends on how you work, whether directly for a gym or on a freelance basis.
If you opt for direct employment at a gym, an entry-level PT can expect to start at £16,000 per year. Within a year or two, you might see this rising to £20,000.
Salaries for freelance personal trainers vary enormously depending on location, hours, popularity, and specialisms. You could typically charge a minimum of £40 per hour, meaning that if you manage to see two clients per day, your earnings will yet again work out to around £20,000 per year. However, more experienced trainers will charge around £60, which could see your annual wage rise to around £30,000 per year.
The great thing about working as an independent PT, though, is that there's no cap to your earnings. If you establish an excellent reputation in your local area, market yourself well, and are prepared to put in the hours of hard work, there's no reason that personal training can't be a very profitable career indeed.
How much does a Personal Trainer earn?
What is the career path for a personal trainer?
Contrary to what you may think, personal trainers have some progression opportunities.
If you opt to work in a gym, you could work your way up to a management position.
As a freelancer, you could open up a training firm and employ others trainers to work under you.
Another option is to become a PT trainer and teach people the skills and lessons you've learned over the years to help them become the best trainers possible.
Ready to become a PT?
Working as a personal trainer is a hugely rewarding career. Why? Because not only do you get to work with a wide variety of people from all walks of life, you know you’re teaching them valuable life skills that will help them live longer, feel happier, and look better.
Whether you're looking for a full-time career or a side business to help you feel fulfilled, becoming a PT gives you plenty of options to choose from. And when you study an online PT course with us, you have access to exceptional learning materials, a personal tutor and a learning platform you can access anytime and anywhere.
So, are you ready to take the first step on your journey towards being a PT?