Futureproof Your Career: How to Become a Personal Trainer

Nov 6, 2018

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For the last fifty years or so, the jobs market has been relatively static. Yes, new markets have arisen as old industries have slipped away but, for the most part, a handful of careers have always been considered failsafe options.

Until now.

These so-called ‘safe jobs’ have been placed under threat by the growth of a few key factors: technological advancement, artificial intelligence and automation.

In fact, a 2017 study by the McKinsey Global Institute suggests that as many as 800 million jobs could be lost worldwide to automation. And while that technology will also create new jobs, it’s up to us to futureproof our careers.

That’s where personal training comes in.

The fitness sector is one of the fastest growing industries in the UK and a great deal of that success is down to personal training. With more and more of us looking to get up and active, personal training could offer a futureproof career option.

But how do you become a personal trainer? And what qualifications and experience can you gain along the way? Let’s take a look.

What is a Personal Trainer?

Personal trainers help people achieve their personal fitness goals. Whether you’re looking to lose a few pounds or run a double marathon, PTs help people of any age and fitness level improve their health.

They do this by setting short and long term fitness goals, planning effective programmes, leading workouts and giving advice on health and nutrition. But crucially, it’s a personal trainer’s job to make sure their clients stay educated and motivated.

They tend to operate in three key environments:

In-house

Most gyms and fitness clubs will hire a group of personal trainers to their full-time staff to lead classes with pre-existing clients. However, it’s estimated that only 10% of personal trainers work in this capacity.  

In-house freelancer

A good deal of entry level personal trainers work as in-house freelancers. They’re self-employed but use the facilities of a gym or fitness club for private clients in exchange for rental fees. 

Self-employed

Many personal trainers ultimately look to go solo. This means running private sessions and/or one-to-one classes. As they have to cover the costs of their own equipment, the expenses are high but so are the rewards.

How much do personal trainers make?

On that note, let’s take a look at the numbers.

Personal trainer salaries vary depending on location, experience and exposure. But in general, those willing to work hard will be rewarded.

In-house

Depending on the establishment, in house personal trainers can expect to earn between £24k and £28k a year. High-end fitness centres may well pay more.

In-house freelancer

While in house freelancers can charge more for their sessions, rental costs can add up. Entry level salaries tend to start around £15k but can rise to over £50k with a good reputation. 

Self-employed

Working freelance unlocks strong earning potential. And though the risks are higher, the best personal trainers can command six-figure salaries.

Are Personal Trainers Futureproof?

The wellness and fitness segment in the UK has grown steadily over the last decade. In fact, it’s estimated it will be worth nearly £23 billion by 2020.

It gets better.

The personal training share of that market is worth over £630 million. And it’s only expected to grow. Here are a few reasons why.

National health issues

In the UK, obesity rose sharply from the mid-1990s to 2010. Since then, national incentives and high profile campaigns have seen more people acknowledge the need for active lifestyles. By offering a tailor-made service, personal trainers can capitalise on the fitness wave.   

Growth of social media

The social media boom has presented personal trainers with a whole new revenue stream. Brand sponsorships and advertising opportunities have made personal training one of the most lucrative businesses on the internet. What’s more, it shows no sign of slowing down.

Human touch

Many jobs which are threatened by the rise of technology are in danger because large parts of them can be automated and performed more quickly and efficiently by machines. Personal training, however, inherently requires human intelligence and insight: computers are not yet ready to provide the blend of motivation and in-person instruction that PTs can!

Becoming a Personal Trainer

You might be wondering:

How can I become a personal trainer?

Well, unlike some careers, there is no set path into the industry. But while a passion for fitness is important, certain personal training qualifications are absolutely necessary.

Become a certified personal trainer

In personal training, experience is key. And these recognised qualifications, available from colleges and private training providers, can set you on the right path:

Level 2 Certificate in Fitness Instructing – Gym

Level 2 Diploma in Health, Fitness, and Exercise Instruction

Level 2 Diploma in Instructing Exercise and Fitness

However, most personal training jobs will demand a level 3 qualification. These include:

Level 3 Diploma in Fitness Instructing and Personal Training

Level 3 Diploma in Personal Training

Become a personal trainer online

Certain types of personal training qualifications are available on the internet. But while these online personal training courses may be more convenient, some employers will insist upon formal face-to-face qualifications.

You can also study personal training at university. BAs and BScs are usually paired with other sports science disciplines like fitness or nutrition, although there are some dedicated solely to personal training.   

How Long Does it Take to Become a Personal Trainer?

How long it takes to become a personal trainer depends on the level of training you undertake. Some courses claim to have you qualified in a matter of weeks while some take months or even years.

But here’s the thing:

The more specialised education you have, the more likely you are to secure contracts and clients.

That’s why personal trainers are always looking to educate themselves, whether that means brushing up on the latest fitness trends or doing additional qualifications like becoming a certified boxing coach.

The more tools you have at your disposal, the more likely you are to succeed.

How to Get Personal Training Experience

There are personal training courses and apprenticeships that require no prior relevant experience. However, as personal training is such a practical career, many employers and prospective clients will expect relevant, active experience in the fitness sector. 

But that experience can come in many forms. You could visit your local gym or fitness centre and enquire about job shadowing. Or better yet, enrol in a class to see how the pros do it.

Or why not offer your friends a free training session to hone your craft (and get some honest feedback).

You could even set up a free outdoors fitness session for locals or post your workout regimes online. Any practical experience helps.

Remember…

When it comes to personal training, you are selling your personality as much as your product. That’s why a large chunk of a PT’s time is spent building their brand. So if you’re looking to branch into the industry, think about what makes you unique.

With the personal training industry growing year on year, it’s up to you to standout. 

For more careers advice, visit our insights page.

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