How Much Do Personal Trainers Make A Year?

How Much Do Personal Trainers Make A Year?

How Much Do Personal Trainers Make A Year?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average personal trainer earned $39,820 in 2018 which breaks down to just over $19/hour. 

According to the website Payscale, most large chain Fitness Gyms such as LA Fitness, Lifetime, and the YMCA pay their personal trainers between $12 – $15/hour.

The better question though is what “should” you expect to make depending on the type of personal trainer job and compensation structure you sign up for. That is what we’ll explore in this article. The layout of the article is:

  • What types of personal trainer jobs are there?
  • Are you an employee or a contractor if you’re a personal trainer?
  • Will you receive benefits as a personal trainer?
  • What are the types of pay structures that you might be offered as a personal trainer?
  • What you’ll likely make as a personal trainer?
  • Bonus section – How can you earn more money as a personal trainer?

If you invest in reading this whole article, you should have a much stronger ability to set yourself up for earlier and longer-term success in the fitness trainer field. Make no mistake, though, you must tangibly help your company make more revenue – and profit – for you to make more money over time.

Wondering if a personal trainer is a good career? Read our previous blog breaking down if personal trainer is a good career here.

What Will You Make As A Personal Trainer

In this section, I’m going to make some predictions as to what you’ll likely see as starting offers in some pretty common fitness trainer roles.

The prevailing personal trainer pay structure for most globo gyms is based on a few things:

  • What tier trainer are you – Many gyms such as Equinox have tiered trainers now. All that means is that as you increase your credentials, you have the ability to increase your tier. What it really means is that the client will also be paying more for your training sessions, so the gym can and should pay you more.
  • How many sessions you do – A number of gyms have an incentive for the personal trainer to do over a certain number of sessions. If you eclipse that number, you’d earn more per session.

Starting Pay

Generally a per session commission of approximately $13-$20 per hourly session.

To make more than that up front, you often will need to go to a more boutique studio where you’ll most likely have to “eat what you kill” meaning you’ll need to bring in more clients who aren’t already in the gym training on their own. You may earn $20-$30 per hourly session, but make no mistake that you’ll most likely need to work to acquire those clients. 

Ongoing Pay

If you increase your credentials and if you increase your clients’ willingness to pay, you can earn $25-$65 per hourly session, but please know that this is all based on your client’s willingness to pay.

Optimizing Pay

Please note that this section is my opinions on how I’d give myself the best shot at making the most money in the role. I am not prioritizing lack of work, I am prioritizing making more money; if you don’t want to do the work, you’ll stay at the lower end of the ranges. Take it with a grain of salt, look at what will work for you, and let’s continue the discussion

  • Work to get a percentage of each client dollar vs a fixed session rate – sure, the per-session rate may be the same dollar amount, but I find that the session rate ascends more slowly than would a percentage of revenue
  • Increase your client’s willingness to pay by getting them better results, highlighting their stories in the gym and online, and by earning more credentials and knowledge
  • Build in a sales incentive to refer more clients in
  • Build in a retention bonus where if you keep a client for “X” years, you get a little bonus

All of these optimization tools still help the gym earn money too which is critical. 

What Will You Make As A Group Fitness Instructor?

Note that I’ll include all group structures in this as I believe they are all similarly principled ideas on what the pay looks like and how you can optimize it

To be fair, the pay for group fitness instructors appears to be all across the board, but from my research online as well as by speaking to a number of trainers, The pay structure is very often a per class commission structure, and many group fitness instructors sign up as part-time instructors in hopes of building enough classes with one or multiple gyms to make ends meet.

Starting Pay

Generally a per class commission in the $15-$25 per hourly class range. 

Some small group boutique gyms are advertising that they pay a bit more, but similar to personal trainers, you will likely need to recruit members in harder than you would in a globo gym.

Ongoing Pay

As you might suspect, there is a large range. In my research, I saw Orange Theory advertising upwards of $60 per hour to instruct their classes. One thing that does seem consistent for many gyms is that group fitness instructors often either do different roles within the gym or they go part-time in that gym + part-time in 1 to a few other gyms to make ends meet.

Optimizing Pay

  • Become a social influencer – this is both in-person and online. The bigger your profile is, the easier you can scale new client acquisition and “community.” Of course, being more influential helps a personal trainer too, but I didn’t list it there because I believe it’s more potent here due to scaling mechanisms
  • Earn a percentage of your class revenue – because you can increase the number of clients in the class and their price point, you can really maximize dollars here
  • Structure your pay so that you can work in 1 gym or studio – You can scale your influence as well as your work if you are building it within one place vs multiple. 

What Will You Make As A Personalized Fitness Coach?

Note that I’ll include the personalized fitness coach + incentives into this layout because they are foundationally the same.

Most gyms are paying these coaches a percentage of client revenue + floor hours on a monthly basis. 

Starting Pay

Generally, it looks like approximately 40% of client revenue + $10 per hour for the floor hours you coach.

Ongoing Pay

Generally, this looks like a percentage that can move into the 42.5% range as the coach tiers up their price point + a move to $15-$20 per hour on the floor.

Optimizing Pay

  • Sign on with a starting draw – The key for the personalized fitness coach is to get out of the gates “cleanly.” No matter how aggressive you are, if you get client percentage of revenue, that means that initially, you’ll make $0 per month prior to floor hours – for 0 clients coached of course haha. If you can setup a draw to help pay bills initially, you can still build fast, but you will be in a stronger starting position
  • Optimize your client’s willingness to pay – similar to the influencer discussion, the bigger you can build your profile, the better you can highlight other client’s results, the more credentials you have, and the better the results and retention of all clients, the more you’ll make
  • Become more efficient with your client program designs

What Will You Make As An Online Fitness Coach?

Generally, it looks like approximately 40% of client revenue.

Starting Pay

Again, generally, it looks like approximately 40% of client revenue.

Ongoing Pay

Generally, this looks like a percentage that can move into the 42.5% range as the coach tiers up their price point.

Optimizing Pay – additionally to the personalized fitness example

  • Become a digital influencer – easy to do?  Not at all haha. Helpful to work toward, though? Absolutely. It makes both client acquisition and increasing willingness to pay far easier.

What Will You Make Programming An Online Training Template?

In reality, this will be very small. Why?  Because there isn’t a ton of value in it unless you’re also building a big profile or interacting with the clients of the templates. Most times the owner of the training template programs this or a coach who is taking on clients 1 to 1 programs this. 

In the examples of somebody programming these templates who isn’t an owner or taking on clients elsewhere, you have to ask yourself the question what are they doing?  It may take 30-60 minutes a week to design that program – remember that the program isn’t customized so it’s general principles. With their other time, are they selling shirts or something?  Tough to say.

Starting Pay

$250-$1,000 per month to write the training template.

Ongoing Pay

$500-$2,500 per month to write the training template.

Optimizing Pay

  • Build a big profile digitally with clients outside of the template who are winning big with you as a coach and then sell people into the template to get similar results at a fraction of the price. Is it grey to advertise that way?  Yep, but people who take the template prioritize lower cost and community
  • Engage a bunch with the community – This is often why coaches who program templates are either the owner or they make additional cash by coaching people outside of the template

What Will You Make Teaching Large Group Online Classes Such As Peloton?

This may hurt your soul, but you are almost assuredly not going to score a Peloton gig as a brand new trainer. They want to get known trainer brands onto their platform. They will choose people who have already become influencers, who already have a large following, who already have “proven” their model. You need to work your way into this.

What Will You Make As A Strength And Conditioning Specialist To Athletes?

The two big areas we’ll touch are universities and professional teams.

University S&C Specialist

Starting Pay

Generally, you’ll intern first as you are going through your collegiate education. When you sign on, often it looks like approximately $30,000 per year salary

Ongoing Pay

This range often will go from $30,000 to $40-70,000 in the first 10-15 years, but if you crush it and move up the political hierarchy as well to a role such as a major college football head of S&C, it could move into the hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

Professional S&C Specialist

Similarly to the Peloton example where many fitness trainers won’t be hired into a big role like leading a professional sports team’s S&C department, there are plenty of lower-level roles out there if you’re credentialed with experience in the weight room in your college experience as well as if you know the right people.

Starting Pay

Generally, this looks like approximately $40,000 per year salary, but most starting salaries may be higher but not looking at brand new trainers to fill the roles.

Ongoing Pay

Just like the university scene, the range is wide, but this seems to be in the same $50-$80,000 range as you reach the middle to top of the heap. The S&C leaders may make into the hundreds of thousands.

I hope that you noticed just how wide-ranging these estimates were. That is simply reality. It’s impossible to know exactly where you’ll be until you dig into the company, role, and structure that you’re trying to get hired into. Once you’re into your initial role, it’s all about adding real value and building your results and profile with your existing and prospective clients in order to make long-term “real” money.

How Can You Make More Money As A Fitness Trainer?

To effectively think about making more money, let’s look at making more money in 3 buckets:

  • Making more money prior to getting the job 
  • Making more money once you’ve gotten the job
  • Deciding if you’re a coach or an owner

How Do You Make More Money Before You Get Hired As A Fitness Trainer?

As I’ve discussed, your dollar value is often based on how much tangible benefit you bring to the company. If you have a job that thousands of others can do, if you do a job that can be completely automated, if you don’t bring in any revenue or profit to the gym, you have to know that you will not be offered a lot of money. Like it or not, this is the way the world works. Even the companies and gyms that care about their people, the economics of those roles simply demand the pay to go down when the company is making the hire.

So, how do you change that narrative in your favor?  There are a few key ways that you can make more money as you’re being hired as a fitness trainer, but please note that this is not likely going to be the difference between $15 per hour and $100,000 per year; this is built on reality:

  • Strengthen your credentials – The more known education you have, the stronger you look as an applicant and the less risk you are to the company. Less risk is accompanied by a company’s ability to pay more all things equal. Start strengthening your education for free here.
  • Build your knowledge – I place this here as opposed to credentials because they are truly two different things. Building your credentials is about letters behind your name. Some people who have credentials are brilliant while others are duds. Knowledge, on the other hand, is your understanding of your job, their company, their/your clients, and how you’ll do your job better than others. You should always be improving this. 
  • Build your experience – Even if you are in the hiring process, coach more clients, instruct more classes, shadow more high-level trainers. The more experience you have, the more you can get paid.
  • Stand out – Now, this is not a black and white statement. Depending on who you are interviewing with, you’ll want to stand out in a way that “speaks” to their target audience in a stronger way.
  • Sharpen your resume – Number 1, if you don’t have a resume, you deserve to make a low wage. Take the time, google how, and build a quality resume. Even if you are young, if you put together a unique and quality-made resume, you will set yourself apart.
  • Always include a cover letter when you apply – The resume is more like your stats whereas your cover letter – which should be personalized to the company you’re applying to – is your emotional connection. 
  • Nail the interview – You need to practice doing interviews. A fitness trainer’s interview questions are not typically unknowns. You need to effectively communicate how you’ll take care of clients, how you’ll be mindful of schedules, how you’ll represent their brand etc. Practice with your colleagues so that you are crisp when you interview.
  • Prove value – Throughout your interview process, to include everybody you interview with, your goal is to connect to them so that they know, like, and trust you. Within that, you must prove to them how you will add tangible value, better yet higher revenue value, to their gym. If they know, like, and trust you, and if they see how you’ll add value, you’ll be at the top of the list.
  • Don’t assume that the offer on the table is a final offer – Now, I must preface that you must use your best judgment as to when there is an opening to push on this or not. Sometimes you won’t have any leverage which is ok. However, sometimes if you’re being offered $15 per hour, if you’ve nailed the interview and built great rapport, there is often an opening to ask for $17 per hour for example. If you do it respectfully, very often it will be considered, and sometimes it will be agreed to
  • Know that you can make trades in certain situations – Again, this doesn’t always work, so use your judgment, but nothing says that you can’t trade a few vacation days for higher dollars per hour or month. Think through what your highest priorities are in the deal and work to achieve those priorities. You never know, perhaps they always prioritize you working more days and are happy to pay you a bit more for that. 

Something I see often is the difference between how fitness trainers prepare for and execute on getting a new job vs “the wall street kids.” All things being equal, in my experience somebody who is trying to become an investment banker for Goldman Sachs will put in way more effort in this process as compared to a fitness trainer. We won’t go into the differences in resources that the wall street kid likely has, although they are often very real. You simply need to know that you must take this process of getting a job seriously, and in all of the roles I’ve ever worked in, those people who come in highly prepared and qualified have an infinitely better chance not only of getting the job but also making more money out of the gates.

How Do You Make More Money As A Fitness Trainer?

You’ll notice a similarity here. The more value you bring to the business, the more likely you’ll be to make more money in your role. Frankly, everything that I laid out to do prior to even getting the job applies to while you’re in your existing fitness trainer role. You need to build credentials, knowledge, experience, etc, and you really need to be prepared when you ask for more. 

Notice what I said there, you must create value and you must then be willing to properly ask for value in return. I have always preferred to add value first and ask for value on the back end, but I do understand why other people say to “go get yours” even if you haven’t added value yet. I believe that proving your value all of the way through your career makes asking for more money with each successive role easier and easier, so play the long game and earn it. Once you’ve earned it, ask for the reward.

Here are some really important factors for earning more money while you’re a fitness trainer:

  • Earn more – If you have no ability to bring in new clients or members if you can’t retain your existing members, and if you have no ability to make their brand look good publicly, you have less value, period. Bring in more clients, keep those clients longer, and make the brand look sterling and you’ll be positioned to earn more money
  • Fly the flag – If you highlight the company, if you speak highly of it publicly, if you point new partners, clients, and communities to it, you will become a spokesman of sorts and that will have to be rewarded in the medium to long-term. 
  • Earn more revenue from each client – While I mentioned retaining clients for longer periods of time above, this is more about building those clients willingness to pay you more as their fitness trainer. If you increase 100 client’s willingness to pay by $20 per month, that’s $24,000 of incremental (more) revenue for the year. No reason says you shouldn’t partake in say $5-$8k of that incremental revenue.
  • Make the business better – Don’t just give the business a million ideas. That’s not helpful. Help them with ideation and execution of those ideas and you’ll make yourself more valuable. It’s the outcomes of your work that make you valuable or not. Ideas are a dime a dozen.
  • Ask for more money when you deserve it – I will ultimately mention this point 3 times in this section. Do you think I think it’s important?  You bet I do. If you are building more and more value for the company, you are in a stronger and stronger position to deserve more money. Don’t get angry at the company for not recognizing that right away, although they should in the medium to long term if you really are helping them build. You will have to be prepared to prove the value that you have built and will continue to build and then attach a dollar value back to you so that you and the company are in a win-win situation when they pay you more.

We could get very granular, but my goal is to show you that you must add real value to the business if you want to earn more in your fitness trainer role. 

Do Gym Owners Make More Money Than Fitness Trainers? Should I Become A Gym Owner?

I have been a multi-gym owner. I have coached remotely and I have coached in gyms not as an owner. I’ve done countless personal training sessions, countless group fitness classes, countless bootcamp classes, and I’ve worked with a myriad of kids and adults. 

I know this fitness game, and one of the biggest issues that I see is when a fitness trainer assumes that they should own a gym or fitness business. Many fitness trainers come to this conclusion from the wrong places:

  • I’m not making enough money; I should open a gym to make more money
  • I don’t have enough freedom; I should open a gym to be free
  • I don’t like my boss; I should open a gym so that I don’t have to answer to anybody
  • I don’t like my gym; I should open a gym so that my brand is exactly what I want it to be

Do you see how these reasons have nothing to do with the fitness trainer having the desire or skill set to actually open, grow, and successfully run or exit this gym?

You should not try to open a gym unless you do your homework on what will be involved, how much work it will take to open it and then build it, how much money you’re realistically likely to make depending on your gym model, and how you won’t often feel “in charge” when you have other coaches and clients that you must take care of daily.

(Resource: Learn how you can open your own gym under our business principles here.)

Can you make more money as a gym owner?  Absolutely. However, a lot of your daily work will be outside of training people. You’ll be working on spreadsheets, in Quickbooks, with vendors and landlords, and you will be the one who is always on the hook – the risk “buck” stops with you. If you don’t like those aspects of it, I believe you will earn more money and carry less stress on your shoulders if you put yourself into a growable fitness trainer position that pays you strong commissions, percentages, and or incentives. 

More Education = More Pay

Want to get paid more?

Well, you need to offer a strong service in a profitable business model.

Sign up for our free Professional Coaching Blueprint today and learn the skills you need to get paid more. 


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