So you want to turn your passion for fitness into a career? Love people? Would like nothing better than to see people make changes in their life for the better? Would you enjoy being a big part of this positive change?
If so, then maybe fitness is more than a profession for you, maybe it’s your calling. But like many passions, it may be great for you in an abundance of ways, but it may not be good for you as a living. Let’s explore the good and the bad of working in the world of fitness, and if it is a fit for you, how to get a job as a personal trainer.
When people say they want to work in the fitness industry, what do they mean? Do they want to work in physical therapy? How about as a trainer or strength coach? Maybe they mean working as an independent private fitness trainer. But likely, they want to gain experience in a gym or fitness center setting.
It’s important to understand that even local gyms are businesses first and fitness second. Like any for-profit organization, the name of the game is generating revenue- no free sessions allowed. So even though you likely have a zeal for fitness and love working out, you must understand that management is looking for more than just these traits. It’s important that beyond that foundation, you can work with clients well, keep people happy and interested and increase sales.
Large gyms or small, the differences are the types of positions available. Let’s explore the general types of trainer jobs and training programs available and what it would take to be a great candidate for them.
Generally, these positions fall into business administration and overall management. Degrees and experience in business management, accounting, bookkeeping, marketing, etc. are the orders of the day. No matter what, the gym’s business must be attended.
Your goal is to have business experience and education. Come to any interview in your best business attire. Prepare a resume that highlights your background in business with a light touch on your interest in fitness.
Gym Management and Sales
These positions usually include the people that control the actual gym on a daily basis. Managing shifts, scheduling employees, setting sales goals, working with gym administration on things like marketing and client experience.
Again, these roles usually don’t require fitness related degrees, certificate programs, or experience. They do, however, often require experience in working at a gym on some level that would expose an individual to how a gym operated and how the organization acquired and maintained members.
To put yourself in a position to land any of these roles, it’s important to have experience in things like people management, scheduling, belly-to-belly sales or marketing. Focus your resume on your experience in the above skills and touch on your passion for fitness in your cover letter. For any interview, business or at least business casual attire.
Group Fitness Instructor
While many people interested in a fitness job think of personal trainer or fitness manager roles, don’t ignore the steady demand for group exercise instructor roles. These workout classes represent a steady source of revenue for a gym owner and add value to a gym membership or health club offering. Plus lots of physical activity.
Offering to teach a group class or serve as a receptionist is a great way to become a gym employee at a fitness facility. This gives you access to fitness professionals and perspective on how a commercial gym operates. Staff members usually have easier path towards taking broader responsibilities such as a personal trainer job (where you need to find clients) or working towards gym manager or fitness director.
This is a very hands on business. Sometimes the easiest interview process is doing well in your regular job. These lower level roles allow you to demonstrate your interpersonal skills and get in a training session or two for a higher level gym job.
Personal Training or Coaching
Most often, when people talk about working in the fitness industry, they are really thinking about becoming a certified personal trainer or coach. In these roles, they can best use their experience and enthusiasm regarding fitness as a way of making a fun and rewarding career.
One thing to note is that having a degree in a fitness related field is not required for this type of job; continuing education likely won’t put a person in better position to be hired than a high school diploma. It’s unfortunate, but most managers don’t seem to differentiate between a degree in exercise physiology and a general fitness certification. For a gym position, it just isn’t needed.
What is needed is to have a fitness certification. There are many certifying organizations to choose from, but to be best prepared for a job as a personal trainer or coach, a certification from the National Strength and Conditioning Association is the way to go. This is the most generally accepted certification in the training industry. While some gyms will pay to get an employee certified, it is preferred that the applicant already has the certification (or one like it) to be strongly considered for the position.
Of course, show up for the interview in good shape. Make sure that management knows that beyond exercise you have deep knowledge about nutrition. Show you have that NSCA certification. And maybe most importantly, that you understand there is a strong sales element in this position that requires great people skills for potential clients. Show you are great in these areas, as well.
After learning all this, do you still want to work in the health and fitness industry? If you do, prepare yourself in the right way and land that job. Making a positive impact on people’s lives can be an incredibly rewarding way of making a living. Live your bliss, work at something you love.
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