How Hard Is It To Become A Personal Trainer?

How Hard Is It To Become A Personal Trainer?

the three big questions about becoming a personal trainer

Short answer – It is extremely easy to become a personal trainer because there are no barriers to entry in many countries around the world. To become a personal trainer in many countries, you simply say “I am a personal trainer.”

However, to answer this question more thoroughly, we need to open the context of the question more. In this article, we’re going to look at a few more specific questions:

Three Big Questions About Becoming A Personal Trainer

  1. What education do I need to get a job as a personal trainer?
  2. How hard is it to get a job in an existing gym as a personal trainer?
  3. How hard is it to be successful as a personal trainer?

In that same light, we are going to remain more surface level with these answers, but we’ll provide you with helpful links to deeper articles surrounding the economics of personal training and fitness coaching as well as some of the trainer certifications that are out there for personal trainers.

Let’s dig in.

1) What education do I need to get a job as a personal trainer?

This is a really appropriate question because most personal trainers have seen that most larger gyms such as Lifetime Fitness, Equinox, YMCA, and Gold’s Gym almost always require trainer certification(s) in order to be considered for a personal trainer role. So, to answer this question, we’ll ask two more:

  • What certification(s) will you likely need to get a job as a personal trainer?
  • What knowledge do you need to be a successful trainer from day one?

What certification(s) will you likely need to get a job as a personal trainer?

The reality is that if you go work for a large globo gym – think Lifetime Fitness – you will almost assuredly need a nationally recognized trainer certification to get through the door. The reason that gyms do this is because it reduces their risk of liability, it lowers their insurance vs if their trainers didn’t have certification(s), and it “should” increase the likelihood of their trainers doing a better job training their members. 

Depending on which globo gym you go to, one of these certifications generally works to get you started:

**If you want a lot more info about those particular certifications, check this out

The purpose of this article isn’t to go deeply into these certifications; it’s merely to list them and make you aware that you’ll likely need one of those certifications to work in the United States big-box chain gyms. 

What about if you work in a more micro gym or boutique fitness studio? Do you need a certification to work in a micro gym or boutique fitness studio?

This is where, in the United States, things get very open-ended. There are many gyms that do not require any certifications, and there are a large number of micro gym owners who opened their gyms to bypass all of the red tape that having to pony up to the certifying bodies leads to. The above list would still be the list that would generally prepare a coach to work in a smaller studio unless that studio had their own certification. An example of this would be CrossFit. I know countless numbers of CrossFit coaches who do personal training without a nationally recognized certification. Are those coaches better or worse based on not having the certification? To be frank, I don’t see any piece of paper making a coach better without them practicing all of the principles inside of the course, and I also don’t see it as beneficial unless the coach has support as they grow in their coaching practice. 

(Resource: Get an introduction to our coaching principles and begin separating yourself from the masses of personal trainers here.) 

Do You Need A Fitness Certification Outside of the United States?

This depends on which country you’re speaking about. In the United States and Australia, for example, there are actually pretty rigorous certifying bodies that personal trainers must go through. In other countries, it’s more like the United States where the country doesn’t mandate those bodies but because of the relationships that the big gyms have to the certifying bodies, trainers are often forced to get the certifications in order to get their foot in the door. And then there are some smaller countries where there is virtually no certifying body of any kind. We’ll just call that the Wild West.

What knowledge do you need to be a successful trainer your first day on the job?

Trainers need to do two things really well with their clients:

  • Get them results
  • Build a relationship that their client enjoys and appreciates

If we begin there, the knowledge a trainer needs must support those two endeavors. 

What Knowledge Do Personal Trainers Need To Help Their Clients Get Results?

For a very large percentage of most personal trainer’s client, the fitness results they want are to look and feel better. Generally looking better, in terms of what the trainer can control, is losing weight or building muscle. That means that the personal trainer needs to understand the principles of losing weight and building muscle.

This is where many clients reading this would say “but I don’t want to get ‘big.’” This one always makes me laugh. The amount of work that somebody would need to do, and the amount of food that they need to eat is substantial to put on a good amount of lean body mass (muscle). There are many women who don’t want to be “ripped,” which I understand, but the reality is that it takes a dedicated focus to training, food, recovery, and lifestyle to achieve that. Most “normal” clients will not get to the point of being ripped if they don’t want to be, and should that client start getting “too close” to that look, you can always change their training program.

So, how do you help your clients lose weight and build lean muscle?  

  • Weight training 
  • Easy aerobic work
  • A quality and sensible diet
  • Sleep
  • Lower stress

Notice I am not talking about specific goal results or specific bodybuilding results. I am talking about your sweet spot of a target market of clients: weight loss and lean body mass gain. If you learn the principles of those five bullets above, you will help a substantial number of your clients for a very long period of time. 

Where can you learn how to do weight training, easy aerobic work, simple nourishment, simple sleep strategies, and lower stress?

Selfishly, I would say OPEX. Our OPEX CCP Program teaches OPEX’s method for personalized fitness, and we teach you how to implement very intelligent strategies to help your clients see tangible results. You can get a free introduction to our system of coaching here. Sign up now and learn to get your clients the results they want with The Free 7-Day OPEX Coaching Course.

What Knowledge Do Personal Trainers Need To Build Quality Relationships With Their Clients?

Something important for personal trainers to remember is that you are the fitness arm of your client’s overall health strategy. You are not a psychologist, nor do you want to be. 

To build great relationships with your clients, you need to ask them great questions to help them figure out their priorities and values, you need to learn some basics of human behavior so that you can better detect why they are or aren’t being compliant, you need to understand some basics of stress and lifestyle factors, and you need to spend time talking to your clients in a caring and empathetic way.

Where can you learn how to build better relationships with your clients?

Again, this is what we do at OPEX. Our CCP Program is designed to be the place to help you learn and implement the knowledge that you need to help your clients for decades. Get an introduction to the same coaching principles taught in CCP by signing up for the Free Coach’s Toolkit.

With some firepower behind you in terms of what certifications may help you in the bigger box gyms and what education will tangibly help you help your initial clients, let’s move on to how hard it is to get a job in the industry.

2) How Hard Is It To Get A Job As A Personal Trainer?

In the research we’ve done with numerous coaches and personal trainers, we rarely come across a personal trainer who can’t find a job. Because there are so many gyms in the world – and that number is growing – and because those gyms often have personal training departments that want to grow the total number of clients who do personal training – because it increases those client’s lifetime value – gyms are very often hiring personal trainers. 

If you want to get a job as a personal trainer, you’ll need to do a few things well:

  • Do research on where you want to work – You’ll need to know what that company is looking for in their personal trainers, what type of person – and style – that company is looking for, what credentials you’ll need to get your foot in the door, and how you’ll need to go about applying and interviewing. If you do that research, you’ll inform yourself on how you’ll need to set everything else up (below).
  • Setup your “profile” – A profile, nowadays, should be your resume, your cover letter, your references, your LinkedIn Profile (yes, before Instagram), your Instagram handle, and your Facebook handle. Companies today will want as full of a picture of you as they can get; they will look at what you hand to them – resume, cover letter, references – and then they will dig in further by looking at your public profiles to “see who you are” more clearly. A great profile looks professional, is consistent across all platforms, and lacks red flags that may lead them to think you are unreliable, unprofessional, or simply a bad fit for their company.
  • Apply – In today’s world, there are many ways that this can happen. If you know where you want to work, I still believe that you can achieve a lot if you walk into the gym and ask to apply in person. If you go in looking like a million bucks, with a resume, cover letter, and references in hand, and show initiative, those companies will be far more likely to hire you because they got a taste of the best of you. It also sets you apart because you gave them a first impression live which is far stronger than via a hiring site such as If you can’t apply in person, then you’ll want to go through the hiring sites or get a recruiter to help you get your foot in the door.
  • Take your time on the application – Most initial personal trainer jobs still include an application (yes I still believe you should send in a resume, cover letter, and references along with the application). Too many people make spelling errors or give nonsense answers on their applications. Be better than that.
  • Respond quickly – If and when they reach out to you to and schedule an interview, get back to them fast. Don’t miss their call and then wait days or weeks to respond. That is bush league!
  • Ace the interview – You need to show them why you are such a great fit for them. Because you’ve done your research, you should have a great idea of what type of personal trainer they are looking for. Tailor your experience and education conversation with them around the style they are looking for. Give them great details as to how you’ll make their company better. Don’t wait for them to have all of the ideas. They want people who are go-getters and great with their clients; prove that to them in the interview.
  • Make sure the hiring terms work for you – If you need to ask for slightly more money per hour or session – within reason! – or if you need to ask them a question on the contract, don’t be afraid to do it. Just make sure that you do it with class and tact so that they see somebody who is respectfully asking good questions and looking out for both their interests and the interests of the company
  • Deliver – The most annoying thing I see is when somebody is outstanding in the interview and then they are a dud on the gym floor. If you are going to go after a great job, make sure you’re a good fit and can deliver because once you’re hired, the job is just beginning!

You may need to go through this process a few times to find the best fit, so prepare yourself for that now. You’ll need to have a thick skin in case you’re told you’re a poor fit. Nothing to worry about, onto the next and better fit.

In the fitness landscape, there are many personal trainer jobs available, but many of them will then require a number of years of great results and continued education for you to earn more money and status within the company. Prepare for that and look for the companies who will help you learn and grow the best and fastest and you’ll be in a great position.

3) How Hard Is It To Be Successful As A Personal Trainer?

If you spent the time to get the job that you wanted in the gym you’re excited for, now it’s time to deliver the goods. You need to do three things well as a personal trainer once you’ve been hired

  • Get your clients results – like above
  • Build quality relationships – like above
  • Drive-in new personal training clients

We must include the fact that you’ll need to be a bit entrepreneurial as a personal trainer – truth be told, you may need to be very entrepreneurial because you’ll get paid on the number of people you train – because you will need to be “in demand.” The personal training game is built on referrals. The better you build your profile and success stories of your clients, the more in demand you’ll be. As you build that demand, you must also build your ability to sell. This isn’t an article teaching you how to sell (we do that in our OPEX CCP Program), but you must know that you need to be able to connect well with people, explain who you are, what you do, and why you have status, ask great questions to help steer the conversation, and then you must be able to elegantly offer them the opportunity to train with you so that they can achieve what they’ve just explained to you is their problem that you have just explained to them how you’ll solve it.

If you take actions to improve your client results, build quality relationships, and drive in new clients to the gym and to your personal training business within the gym, your outcomes will be:

  • More clients in the gym
  • Longer retention of clients
  • Higher revenue to the gym which will translate into more money for you
  • Bigger stronger status and profile for yourself as a trainer which helps you today and into the future as you continue to grow your business

To be successful in all three areas of personal training, you must build trust, and trust is built as you show :

  • Competency
  • Consistency
  • Care

To earn more and more success as a personal trainer, you must always be elevating those three C’s. Some of the best ways to maintain your ascent in those areas are:

  • Ongoing coaching experience with mindfulness – don’t just be on the gym floor training people like you’re a zombie. Be present (get off of your phone!), be interested in your clients, learn what works and doesn’t principly, and grow from those experiences.
  • Continue your coaching education – go learn from smart people and groups in those topics that you’re really interested in. We’re in a new golden age of education where you can learn all over the world whether you go to an in-person course or remain digital. Take advantage of that.
  • Ask a lot of questions – to keep evolving you have to keep asking bigger and bigger questions because those questions lead you to learning and experiencing new things which help you evolve.
  • Align with talent and great gyms/companies – You may find that who you started working for is a wonderful fit whom you’d like to work for 30 years. If so, that is outstanding. Unfortunately, it’s not the norm. Don’t be afraid to look for great talent to work next to (or you could build a gym and bring in the talent as the facility’s owner); The stronger people you work with, the farther you’ll send your career
  • Remember why you play the game in the first place – It’s easy to blink your eyes and be a year older. We must be proactive vs reactive, and part of being proactive is to remember why you’re so inspired to train people in the first place. That inspiration will help you continue your ascent for a very long time.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these thoughts. In reality, it’s not very hard to get a personal training job, but it’s more challenging to get the right personal training job and then grow in it for decades. Spend some time strategizing how you’ll do this and then throw your hat in the ring. There is no better way to begin a journey than by taking the right first step


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