T Nation

Become a Personal Trainer or Strength Coach


I apologize if this isn't the right place to post this but I couldn't find a place that sounded more appropriate. Anyways I'm a senior in high school and I'm really considering a job in the fitness industry like a personal trainer or a strength coach. If there's anyone that has any good reads for me or any advice preferably by those who have such jobs like these, I'd love to hear it. Anyways thanks guys.


I'm not trying to trick you or anything this is a honest question.

WHY do you want to be a PT or Strength Coach?


Honestly it is something I'm really into. I enjoy working out myself of course and I'm constantly reading stuff about training and everything. I could see that it is a job that I would really enjoy and like I said it's something that interests me a ton.


Cool, I understand. You should talk to as many trainers and people in the field as you can. (the technical part and education the other guys can help you with) Its one thing to love to train another to be a trainer. If you want to make it a living the hard part is translating all that love and knowledge you will have to the little old lady who just wants to be mobile. And that will put bread on the table.

Some of the best trainers are good with people not just love to train. You might have both which is rare and will make you GREAT at your job. Good luck.


Thanks man. Means a lot to me.


If you want to be a trainer, get a job as soon as possible in a gym and start training as soon as you can. You want to see what it is really like now rather than later - you don't want to plan on being a trainer in a few years or worse yet go to school for it and find out you despise it. A lot of people like training themselves, but training people is as fun as you might think, especially come your 8th+ session of the day.

If you want to be a strength coach for a college you will either need to play D1 sports or plan on going to graduate school and being an assistant (which still isn't easy to land the gig). Big schools prefer former players to come into the strength and conditioning department when possible.

This is important because big schools are the only ones have the $$ to pay graduate assistants' tuition and perhaps give you a small stipend. Most other graduate students get aid by being teacher's assistants or helping out in the lab.. but if you are going to be an assistant strength coach / graduate aid you are not going to have time to do something like that.

Smaller schools don't have the budget to pay assistants, so you will have to volunteer while in graduate school while simultaneously paying for graduate school at most universities (i.e. ones not nationally known for having great sports teams). This means you will not only work your ass off to go to school and be a grad assistant, but you will also be going into serious debt at the same time.

Of course, you could always start your own business and try to train athletes in the off-season, but that is a LOT easier said than done.


Is this a side gig?

What's the avg PT income?


OMG This x100000000!!! The worst part about being a trainer is having the love yourself only to realize that MOST trainees won't have that same love. Most will be the opposite, they hired you to go through the motions and expect results because they walked into the gym. There are a few shining stars but if you can't handle the other 98% you might not be cut out for the gig.
Personally I went to school, got NSCA certified, started training, realized people are generally lazy. I gave away training sessions to get people in the door they half assed most things and once the free sessions were over most would bail. I soon realized I hate people, that's just me.
Give it a try but save your money on schools until you are sure it's something you can do. Best of luck.


Agreed with the above poster. I like to train and am interested in strength and reading up all the articles, trying new things blah blah but when I got in the gym and had to train people with no interest in fitness it wasn't much fun. The gym I'm at wants me to train using "functional" training similar to crossfit, zumba, and other flavor of the month fitness things, which is also irratating.

Also not sure what background your coming from but depending on where have worked and how you've been raised some rules and regulations at the company could be pretty strict. For some people this might not be a big deal but I find it very confining and constricting. You have to fit into the cooky cutter model. Put on your nice clothes, paint your smile on and be prepared to kiss alot of ass. It's alot different than I thought it'd be. In alot of ways I much prefered my factory job. One thing I noticed is alot of the corporate people really consider the "working class" as trash.


As was mentioned above, most people here enjoy reading and living the fitness lifestyle (its what lured us here in the first place) but training people usually sucks more than it's fun and rewarding. Most people who will hire you as a trainer do so because they loathe working out and figure the only way they can make themselves do it is if they hire someone like you to make them feel responsible/pressured to go to the gym.

Most will train 2 days per week with you, still eat like shit and/or they won't do anything on the days they are not with you and then other people see this and think, why is that guy not getting any results with that trainer?

If you are really interested in doing it, get a certification, grab a job at at a gym and decide if you like it before going after the 4 year degree. If you work in a commercial gym, expect to have all the mentioned problems above with extremely shitty pay. They'll charge people $60+ dollars per session and give you less than half if you're lucky. A few friends were making less than $15 per hour when the clients themselves were paying close to $75. Basically, you'll want to go out on your own if you want to make any reasonable income from training.


Liking to workout is not a great reason to get into the fitness industry. A lot of times, making the environment that you really love a work environment is a BAD idea that will make you hate the scene all together. I cannot tell you how many trainers I have known that neglect their own workouts because after work, they dont even want to stay in the facility anymore. Really, really feel this out.

I can only speak my own experience. I got an undergrad degree in Athletic training and nutritional sciences. The whole time I was an undergrad, I worked for pretty crappy wages as a trainer. You can be a trainer in as little as one weekend and 250 bucks or something ridiculous. However, there was a lot of good that came with that gig. I learned that it actually WAS the environment for me. I immediately went to grad school and got a M.S. in Exercise Physiology. During this time I worked FOR FREE at the university in the athletics department that I was getting my degree in and did research like it was no one's business. Let me make sure this is clear: I spent anywhere from 20-40 hours a week working FOR FREE with the university. This wasnt glamorous: I taped ankles, cleaned floors, did minor repairs to equiptment, stocked the nutrition fridge, etc. I had no life outside of that (and class) and I had no money. I kept some clients at a local gym if I could. I wound up getting a hospital job in research for nine months until I landed a S&C job at the college I interned at/attended.

Personal training: weird hours, lower wages, sales based, training clients that do well make it rewarding.

SC coach: long hours, salary based usually, sometimes lacks athlete appreciation.

pick your poison


Lots of good info so far. And I agree, loving to workout yourself isn't the best foundation for a successful and/or long-term career as a trainer. That'd be a bit like, "I like taking vitamins and being healthy, so I'll become a doctor."

Some good reading about the profession, from Alwyn Cosgrove:

And here's what I, quite biasedly, consider one of the single best threads on this forum. :wink:
Lots on info tossed in there over the years.