Have you ever considered a job as a yoga instructor, spinning coach, or as host of a Zumba class? If so, you may be interested in a career as a group fitness instructor.
Group fitness is a booming industry. Just check out some of these metrics:
- Over 22 million people workout in group settings each year
- 85% of group fitness members return to their classes twice a week
- Two of every five gym members are in group fitness
What the above stats mean for you is a job with great stability and a trend that is not expected to dwindle anytime soon.
Now that you are convinced this is a potentially great job move for you, let’s take a look at how to get started in this exciting industry.
Step 1: Knock Out Your Prerequisites
Group fitness instructors will need a certification before they are eligible for jobs at most places of work. But before you can sit for an exam, you’ll need the following prerequisites:
- Age 18 or older
- Hold a high school diploma (or equivalent)
- Maintain a current CPR/AED certification
- Have a driver’s license or other government ID
The CPR/AED certification is a fairly simple certification and the Amercian Red Cross often holds classes in towns all across the country. There are other options, but it is by far the most popular. Do a quick Google search for “CPR/AED certifications near me” and you’ll likely find some upcoming classes that you’ll be able to enroll in for a nominal cost.
One thing worth noting is that you don’t need to have all of the above prerequisites in place to begin studying for a group fitness exam, you just need them in place when you are ready to sit for the exam. So if you are 17, are going to be graduating from high school soon, or have not yet obtained your CPR/AED, you can still start the process of becoming a group fitness instructor as long as you have the above criteria met before your actual exam date.
But before sitting for an exam and studying comes the actual selection of a group fitness certification.
Step 2: Choose a Personal Training or Group Fitness Certification
There is a fairly unknown caveat in the group fitness industry that you should be aware of:
Now, this caveat usually only applies to jobs within corporate settings like gyms. However, for some trainers it may behoove them to get a personal training certification so they can teach individuals and groups if need be.
That said, a lot of the below group fitness certifications also offer personal training certifications. The costs and associated study times for personal trainer certifications and group fitness certifications are usually about the same from certification body to certification body, so if you can kill two birds with one stone you may want to consider getting the cert that allows you multiple career opportunities rather than just one.
Take a look at the websites of some of the most popular group fitness certification bodies and decide what the best route for you is:
- ACE Certified Group Fitness Instructor
- ACSM Certified Group Exercise Instructor
- AFAA Certified Group Fitness Instructor
- ISSA Specialist in Group Fitness Certification
- NCCPT Group Exercise Instructor Certification
- NESTA Certified Group Exercise Instructor
- NETA Group Exercise Certification
Step 3: Study and Pass Your Exam
The most important step after deciding on which certification you want is passing your final exam so you can get your certification. Some exams are harder than others, some are more expensive than others, and some hold more prestige than others. Regardless, do your research to determine which cert is the best for you and be prepared to study.
Each certification body has different requirements on how much time you can take from when you purchase study materials to when you must take the exam. They do this so that students have a psychological deadline in mind and take the process of registering and taking the exam seriously.
For example, ACE requires you to have registered for the final exam within six months of purchasing the study materials. NESTA gives you as long as you need but requires test takers to take the exam within 90 days of requesting an exam voucher. Others, like AFAA, are a bit stricter and give you 180 days to take the exam.
Point is, understand the rules set forth by the certification body you go with and be realistic about your study habits, how much time you need, and the difficulty of the exams so you don’t have to retake the exam again and again. A good rule of thumb is that you should be passing the practice exams with an 80% or above on a consistent basis before you are ready for the final.
Expect a fee to be associated if you fail the exam the first time. This potential expense should add to the seriousness and financial consequence of not preparing for the exam the first time around.
In addition to the study materials available through the certification bodies, you may find third-party study materials are more helpful. For example, there are apps, guides, and other third-party study guides with audio lectures, practice tests, and more to help students be prepared for their exam.
The exams are a mixture of anatomy, physiology, law, and other sciences so the best exam taker will understand his or her capabilities and prepare accordingly.
Step 4: Get a Group Fitness Job
The most exciting step has finally arrived — your new position as a group fitness instructor!
The most traditional location to get a group fitness job is at a gym. If you are interested in this route, stop by your local gym and see if they are hiring. You can also check out the websites of gyms near you to determine if they have some group fitness openings.
These positions come and go and group fitness instructors can often find work at multiple places, allowing for flexibility in their schedules and the opportunity to make a decent salary.
Of course, gyms are not the only place to work as a group fitness instructor. Check out yoga studios, country clubs, spin studios and others to see if you can get your foot in the door. Maybe the place you workout now has some group fitness instructor positions you can inquire about?
Just understand that the group fitness certification does not fully qualify you to work anywhere. Like a college degree, it allows you to showcase you have the qualifications to excel at a job. Once hired, there will likely be additional training or specific certifications required.
Group fitness trainers tend to get paid based on their ability to get more students to enroll in their classes. Many gyms or fitness organizations will provide some kind of profit sharing payment structure based on the number of classes given as well as the number of students that are enrolled. The job can therefore be part fitness coach and part sales as you’ll want to continually shoot for a full class load for all of your sessions.
Another aspect of group training that is tied to your income is experience. The more experienced an instructor you are (as measured by total hours of sessions or years as an instructor) the more you can make.
If you are just deciding on the group fitness route and a have a specific workplace in mind, it doesn’t hurt to reach out to a potential employer and see what they require so you can plan accordingly.