T Nation

How much do personal trainers make?

I’m curious as to what your average personal trainer makes these days. I know a lot depends on where you are located in the US, but some generalization is fine. Is a beginning trainer lucky to get minimum wage or a bit more? I’m curious because I’m considering getting some sort of certification and pursuing it, at least on a part time basis. I’ve learned a great deal on training and nutrition in the past couple years, so much that I’m the resident guru amongst friends and family. Whenever there are questions or someone wants to start a diet they always look to me. I’ve made positive changes in a lot of people with my knowledge as well. So why not do it and get paid for it eh?

At any rate I’m curious as to possible wages based on people who’s credentials are only certification programs. I’m also planning on taking some classes at the local Junior College and possibly getting a degree in the future which seems a better way as far as pay goes.

Also one last thing. What type of hours do most personal trainers get and what is a typical day on the job? Is it a 40 hour a week job or do most only do part time? Do you basically give the obligatory tours to new members and then mindlessly walk them through exercises? Do you give them basic nutritional guidelines or are you even obligated to do that.

Like I said I’ve got a current full time good paying job, though I’d like a career change. If I could get into personal training on the side part time, see if I like it, then as times change I could switch to it full time. I’d like to hear from any personal trainers that may be lurking this board.

There’s 2 ways of doing it…

  1. Go to work for someone else.
  2. Go to work for yourself.

Those people who want to become personal fitness trainers and automatically think they’ll be bringing in 50-$100 an hour are dead wrong. To make that much money you have to be in business for yourself, building up your own clientele, advertising, selling yourself etc. If you choose to go to work for a gym or whatever expect to start from 10-$15/hour. One of the advantages of doing it this way is you’ll have steady consistent income because the gym will provide your clients. The disadvantage is the gym is probably charging $50/hour for the training session so you’re not even getting 50% of that. Go to work for yourself and expect to make from $35-$100 an hour. The advantage is the money, the disadvantage is the fact that if you don’t have a client in front of you, then you’re not gonna get paid.

I think almost every one who goes through the personal education goes through this phase. I sure did. I even went as far as to get a part time job as a trainer as a mainstream club. Here’s what my experience was, and maybe you can glean some knowledge from it. As to what the trainers at the club I worked at made, it varied according to how many hours of “training” the person did (not just floor time or desk consultations), certified vs not, etc. Floor time was $6.50 an hour. That time could be used to talk with potential clients, do new member orientations, walk the floor and help people out when you see something going wrong (but be careful about butting in on some one’s workout) or whatever. The hourly rate for the trainer went to $12, $15, or $18 an hour when you did less than 10 hours of training time, 10-18 hours, and over 18 hours, respectively each week. Considering the club got about $50 an hour for the training contracts, you know they were making a killing. Your hours are really up to you, but treat it like a 40 hour a week job if you want to make it a career (you can always cut back if the financial end warrants it). You also get a commission based on selling training contracts, supplements, or bringing in new members. The big thing here is being able to market and sell yourself. There were people who didn’t know jack about training, but did well financially because they could market themselves well (remember the saying “you don’t have to be right, you just have to be sure”). On the other side of that, you could be the most knowledgeable guy there, but get crap for pay if you don’t market yourself well. The people who do membership sales are the ones who get paid the most. What does that tell you about the club emphasis? If this is something you REALLY want to get into as a career, get into a college curriculum of physical therapy or such, and use the club training to build a clientelle for when you finish. Get a few certifications along the way, and observe what the best in the business do to market themselves.

And if you do work for yourself, don’t forget about liability insurance. It’s not all that expensive and is a “must” in our litigation-loving society. Trainers who work for themselves in my area charge 35 - 40 per hour.

Adding to what Kelly said, if you decide to go the self-employment route, don’t expect to have a life. You need to be available when your clients want to see you. That means anywhere from 5:00 am to 10:00 pm. Of course you can set your hours but your poketbook will be hurt. I would start off at a gym and see if you have the affinity for that type of work. To hit the real top in that profession, you need a bachelors degree at least and a masters degree would be helpful.

Thanks for the responses so far. I knew going on your own would be the best way to make money though the clients would be the hard part. I’m sure if you had some good clients working at a gym you could probably take their business with you if you decided to strike out on your own. Next question is how does one go about doing business on their own? Do you simply ensure that your clients have a membership at your gym? Do you get memberships at multiple gyms to accomodate your clients? Or do you work out some special deals with gyms so that you can follow clients around? I’m sure having your own personal gym at home would be the ultimate answer as you could charge more for your clients not needing a membership, but that’s a big investment.

I’m positive I can market myself well, I’ve always been a good salesman, and an honest one at that(honest salesman… there’s an oxymoron). I’ve ran commercial websites in the past and am devising a plan to integrate my services with a website that will give clients more for their money by providing them constant access to nutritional, training and other information instead of having to ask me everything. Possibly even writing software that I can tailor specifically for each client to track their diet and exercise regimen.

At any rate I’m probably having delusions of grandier which is why I’m trying to get an honest view of the profession.

when i was a trainer, i worked for a club and made $8.00/hr when not with clients and $20/hr when training. you can make much more if you work independently.

I’m currently a trainer at Gold’s Gym in Palm Desert, CA and over here we’re just independent contractors. By this I mean we all are our won bosses to an extent. We follow certain rules that he gym sets up, but it’s more for common sense and courtesy with the other trainers. We can’t talk about each other in a negative way and don’t steal each others clients. We pay a rent fee of $250 a month and each new contract with a client we pay an extra $75 for the 1st month, then we don’t have to pay for them anymore.

As for how much we make, we all agreed we couldn’t underbid each other, so the bottom limit is $40 per session, but you can charge as much as you want with in reason. If you’re caught underselling (we do find out) then your kicked out, because we don’t need people like that as trainers. I make about $50 an hour, but to make more sometimes i’ll double up on clients and charge each $35-$40. It helps every once in a while. I used to work for World Gym in the are, but they would rip you off as a trainer. They charged $60/hr and only gave 1/2 to you, but made you jump thru so many hoops it wasn’t worth it. I left and it was hard at first building new clients and moving my old ones to Gold’s.

The hardest part about being a trainer is starting out. You’re your own billboard, and popularity with the members helps. Sometimes i’ll help friends for free to get people to see me training others and it unfortunately doesn’t hurt to have fit clients that you train. I’ve been lucky in getting the athletic clients and everyone starts to think you got them in that shape, lucky for me T-Mag is here and I get training info so I can improve past where they are right now. That’s probably one of the biggest problems in the gym’s nowadays. At least I know I can help people no matter their past and present condition. I’m getting more popular now and getting more clients, but it still sucks to be up at the gym at 5:30am and in and out all day till 7:00pm at night.

Just make the best of your time in the gym, and try and talk to a lot of people. The more you know, and they know that you know good training info then the better off you are when you start. Good luck.

I was a trainer for 2 years. The key was, I was working at the gym at the front desk and teaching an ab class for a year before that and all the members liked me. So when I got certified, I got clients pretty easily. Starting blindly in a strange gym would’ve been a nightmare. I charged $35 an hour. I saw $18 of that - the rest went to the gym and my boss. It was a good gig, but I had no life and got no sleep, since everybody wanted to see me either early morning before work or in the late evening after work. I got out of it as soon as I finished my masters. It was fun for awhile, though!

Lou: Great info! I had a couple of questions. How often do you have to “bite your lip” and give the client what they want? In other words, there are a LOT of people swayed more by what they read in “Good Housekeeping”, “Fit” and in Bill’s “Body For Life” book than from “Testosterone”. They usually start with “…I read that…” 2) Is it a myth, or somewhat true, that per capita, Californians are a little bit more knowledgeble about fitness, giving you a tougher group to work with? Just curious…

As for biting your lips or not, I explain in the 1st few words with potential new clients a little about my philosophy for working out AFTER I’ve listened to what their goals are in the gym and what past experiences they’ve had. I’m running into more people that are trying to follow Body For Life and i tell them that’s good and everything, but it will only work for a short time and it’s too general.

Basically I tell them the truth about working out. Most of the time it’s fun, but you also have to work hard to get results, and just not only some of the time or when you feel like it. I then educate them a little on the importance on nutrition and body composition but tell them I don’t do nutrition because i’m not nutrition certified. I know my limits. I’m spending enough time and money trying to improve my self education on becoming a strength coach (self learned for tight now). Most people appreciate the truth, becuase it shows you care and are not trying to rip them off. If they can’t agree with some of your ideas then sometimes they’re not the right clients for you and I pass them off to other trainers.

At first you might need to take on just about anyone as long as you know you can help them, and later you can try to broaden the ideas about weight training if you’re trying to make ends meet. I had to do that for a while at World Gym, but then when I got a few good clients that would work hard, I started to build a rep as a strict but effective trainer. That helped to weed out some of the less serious trainees. I don’t try to train too many older clients (60+) because I learned the hard way it drained my energy/emotions being in high gear to train them with out them hurting themselves. I save the hard working clients for the afternoons because I don’t have to motivate them, just make them do what I need them to do for the workout and then get out and rest.

Try and talk to a few of the trainers in your gym, to get a feel for the types of clients you have, and like I said, help a few friends out to build your rep and get experience teaching and showing new ideas for future clients. I know without the info on T-Mag, I would have never stumbled on Ian King and the rest of the gang here, which would have made my learning/teaching curve a lot slower. Hope this helps.

As for biting your lips or not, I explain in the 1st few words with potential new clients a little about my philosophy for working out AFTER I’ve listened to what their goals are in the gym and what past experiences they’ve had. I’m running into more people that are trying to follow Body For Life and i tell them that’s good and everything, but it will only work for a short time and it’s too general.

Basically I tell them the truth about working out. Most of the time it’s fun, but you also have to work hard to get results, and just not only some of the time or when you feel like it. I then educate them a little on the importance on nutrition and body composition but tell them I don’t do nutrition because i’m not nutrition certified. I know my limits. I’m spending enough time and money trying to improve my self education on becoming a strength coach (self learned for tight now). Most people appreciate the truth, becuase it shows you care and are not trying to rip them off. If they can’t agree with some of your ideas then sometimes they’re not the right clients for you and I pass them off to other trainers.

At first you might need to take on just about anyone as long as you know you can help them, and later you can try to broaden the ideas about weight training if you’re trying to make ends meet. I had to do that for a while at World Gym, but then when I got a few good clients that would work hard, I started to build a rep as a strict but effective trainer. That helped to weed out some of the less serious trainees. I don’t try to train too many older clients (60+) because I learned the hard way it drained my energy/emotions being in high gear to train them with out them hurting themselves. I save the hard working clients for the afternoons because I don’t have to motivate them, just make them do what I need them to do for the workout and then get out and rest.

Try and talk to a few of the trainers in your gym, to get a feel for the types of clients you have, and like I said, help a few friends out to build your rep and get experience teaching and showing new ideas for future clients. I know without the info on T-Mag, I would have never stumbled on Ian King and the rest of the gang here, which would have made my learning/teaching curve a lot slower. Hope this helps.