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  • How to Start Your Career as a Personal Trainer
  • From the right certifications to gyms and freelance sites that will boost your career to liability insurance, to social networks and groups that will bring you opportunities, we have it all tracked down for you. Read on know how to start your career and boost your personal training business.


    Personal Training is among the most
    lucrative jobs in the US today

    USA alone generated approx. 279,100 jobs in 2014. Here’s why you should take up a career as a Personal Trainer:

    • Median Pay in 2016 for Personal Trainers in US was about $38,160 per year
    • Flexible schedule is among the top reasons people choose to become a personal trainer
    • The number of personal trainer jobs in the US is rising consistently every year

    How to become a Personal Trainer

    But how do you become a personal trainer? What when you become one? Is it really that easy to get clients? Well, we have it all for you so you do not have to struggle and knock doors to find the right information.

    Start with the Right Certification

    There are plenty of organizations offering personal training certifications in the US. It is entirely up to you which certification you go ahead with, but we will make it easier for you to make a decision by listing out the top 10 personal trainer certifications recognized in the US:

    • ACE (American Council on Exercise) – It is generally the most sought-after associations offering personal trainer certifications in America. You can choose from a variety of programs to suit your needs. They offer both online courses and manual ebooks to facilitate quick progress.
    • NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) – Though it may sound like an association training sports coaches, there’s more it. NASM is widely popular among individuals looking to coach both athletes and non-athletes. Its CPT certification is geared to enhance human performance and prevent injuries. So, yes, while it focuses more on developing personal trainers looking to make a foray in the field of sports and nutrition, military and specialty fields, it is not limited to them. We mean, look around. Who is not into golf, running, cycling or looking for military training these days!
    • ISSA (International Sports Sciences Association) – ISSA was the first to be accredited by Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). It has certifications for senior fitness as well and is widely recognized by gyms across the US.
    • ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) – Offers clinical certification as well as general CPT certifications apart from some specialty certifications such as cancer exercise trainer and tactical strength and conditional facilitator certifications. It is highly recommended for individuals looking to work in clinical settings.
    • NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association) – NSCA is generally recommended for individuals who plan to work as a strength coach for a sports team. It is also considered to have the lowest fee.
    • NESTA (National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association) – NESTA has a progressive model designed for training. It has plenty of specialty certifications, such as MMA Conditioning, Triathlon Coach, Heart Rate Performance Specialist, Biomechanics Specialist among others.

    The list of personal trainer certifications in the USA does not end here. There are others which are considered good.


    All of these programs are good, and it really comes down your individual preferences which certification you would like to go with. However, if you have a certain fitness facility or a gym in mind, you might want to find what certification it accepts and then proceed with the right one for you. Having said that, a NCCA (National Commission for Certifying Agencies) accredited personal training certification is recommended. Most of these require you to re-certify every 2 years.

    The Next Step: Choosing a Specialty

    Once you have made your mind to go ahead with any of the personal trainer certifications, choose a specialty. Whether you would like to work with a group or one-on-one with a client is your personal choice, so which specialty you choose is entirely up to you.

    Both are equally rewarding. A group instructor works with several clients at once but the pay per client is usually lower than what a personal trainer would get out of a single client. But then it all evens out as the group instructor trains in batches. You see the difference, right?

    Besides, you can always certify in the other after you have finished one. Become both a certified personal trainer and a certified group fitness instructor and reap benefits from both the fitness certifications!

    Ways to Start Your Career as a Personal Trainer

    Now comes the real part. You have studied, practiced and qualified your personal trainer certification exam. Here’s the big deal – getting clients is not easy if you are completely new to the business. You will need to build your reputation and get familiar with people in the business to make an impression. How do you go about achieving that?

    • Start your own gym, or
    • Enroll in a gym as a personal trainer, or
    • Franchise a gym

    Starting your own gym requires a lot of capital. It has its own rewards. Good if you that amount of money, otherwise apply with a gym or a fitness studio near you in the USA.

    Enrolling with a Gym as a Trainer

    Hands down, this is a great way to begin your career as a personal trainer. Working with a fitness gym or a studio with an established setup, clients, name, and a working methodology, will not only familiarize you with the business processes but also give you hands-on fitness training experience. With time, you will gain exposure, have a secure income, and will have learned a lot from others in your team of personal trainers. Include your fitness certifications in your resume and share it with the established gyms and fitness clubs around you. Successful fitness chains like Equinox, LA Fitness, David Barton Gym, Life Time Fitness, Crunch, The Bay Club, StudioMix, Live Fit Gym and Fitness SF seek the best personal trainers in the San Francisco Bay Area.

    Starting Your Own Gym

    If you have the cash and resources needed to open your own gym, you will need to do the required marketing to bring clients to your door. You will need to invest a lot of effort, time and capital, but it is always rewarding if your gym catches up. You can seek help from good angel investors in the US to get investment for your gym and realize your dream. There are plenty of great angel investors happy to help personal trainers start off. You just need to pitch your plan right.

    Franchise a Gym

    Franchising a fitness gym or a studio can be a very rewarding way to start your career. Join hands with a reputed fitness gym to open a franchise and you can have great assistance in terms of support, branding and customer footfalls. You won’t have to worry about bringing customers to your business. You have the certifications needed to work as a personal trainer. Start your career right away and keep monthly royalty fee so you get the best of both worlds.

    Insurance Liability

    You must be wondering why personal trainers need liability insurance. Well, it has more to do with starting your own business, and it has its own perks and risks. If you are setting up your own fitness gym or studio in the US, you must buy liability insurance. It would protect you from any the possible claims made by clients. These could be claims for a loss or an injury that clients incur. There is no way you won’t ever face such a situation if you are consistently training offering personal training sessions. Injuries happen and clients happen to file lawsuits sometimes. It is always better to be in a safer position before you start working with a client requesting personal training sessions. If you seek more cover, you can go for an A-rated Professional Liability Insurance or a Malpractice Insurance.

    Interact on Popular Fitness Blogs

    Do some research and find some good health and fitness blogs. Share your expertise with the authors of these blogs. Interact and make yourself known. Often you will be able to link with them and add value to your own website or blog. That’s one way of getting good traffic to your website. Add a link to their blog on your website and give them due credits. They will welcome that.

    Personal Trainer Online Networks and Groups

    Networking is imperative to building a successful business foundation. This holds true even if you are working as a freelance personal trainer. There are plenty of online groups for personal trainers. Join them. Be the part of an active community. Make contributions in forums. Often when other personal trainers have their schedule full, they look out for someone who can offer sessions. If you have built a good rapport with other personal trainers and fitness instructors online in a closed group or a community, you stand great chances of leads landing your way.

    Freelancing Sites for Personal Trainers

    It is not entirely on you to do the legwork, discuss on fitness-related topics in forums and build rapport in personal trainer forums and groups. The web has some really good freelancing websites for personal trainers and fitness professionals which bring them clients at a little to no fee at all. Since these businesses (or freelancing sites) do all the marketing and promotion to bring clients for personal trainers, they may keep a certain percentage of the price. That’s a great source for getting a consistent flow of clients looking for fitness sessions from expert personal trainers in the USA.

    Maintain Your Personal Trainer Certifications

    All said and done, it is important that you maintain your personal trainer certifications. Most of them require you to re-certify every two years. So, keep your personal trainer certifications up-to-date; a lot depends on them.

    You will soon start getting clients. The key to success is meeting the right people, joining the right freelancing websites for personal trainers, and the persistence to succeed.


    Maintain Your Personal Trainer Certifications

    All said and done, it is important that you maintain your personal trainer certifications. Most of them require you to re-certify every two years. So, keep your personal trainer certifications up-to-date; a lot depends on them.

    You will soon start getting clients. The key to success is meeting the right people, joining the right freelancing websites for personal trainers, and the persistence to succeed.

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My name is SJ Kim and I help provide tips, tricks, and helpful suggestions to improve your skill and activities. If you have any questions or need any advice, feel free to reach out at any time!


  1. Good advice, but there’s one *key* component that was left out.

    A practicum/internship period.

    Think of coaching and personal training like working your way up to being a chef. First, you start out working doing prep work for a kitchen, and you work your way up the ladder, line cook, sous chef, chef.

    Most personal trainers try and start out as a chef, they take some exercises that worked for them or some stuff they read in a book and experiment on their clients with it. Fine tuning the “programs” praying that they don’t hurt anyone.

    Instead, follow a recipe. Use someone else’s work, learn from it, study it, and after a year of doing them exactly to the T, then you can start messing with them. Trading this for that, because now you have an understanding of how the system works.

    Maybe after 5-10 years you’ll be ready to write your own programs.

    Take it slow and really learn your craft

    1. Hi, Kian! Great advice for aspiring personal trainers out there! Time and persistence are important. With practice comes knowledge and the ability to fine-tune programs to each client’s needs.

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