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Are you considering a career in fitness training, helping others to become the healthiest versions of themselves?

If so, you probably already have done some research on how to become a personal trainer. In today’s guide, we’ll quickly review the prerequisites for becoming a trainer and provide you with some tips for landing your first job.

By the end of this post, you’ll know exactly what you need to do if you are pursuing a career in personal training and the next steps to take to get a job in the various sectors of personal training.

Steps to Get a Personal Training Certification

The personal training industry as a whole can often operate a little bit like the Wild West. Here’s why.

You don’t technically need a certification to call yourself a personal trainer. Anyone with a little bit of health and fitness knowledge can show up at the gym, charge you some money, and tell you what to do.

But you’ll probably agree with me when I say that when you are considering your overall health and wellness, you don’t want someone with a “little bit of knowledge,” you want someone with a lot.

That is the difference between a self-proclaimed personal trainer versus one that has gone through an accredited personal trainer program and has learned about physiology, human movement, biology, kinesiology, and other topics. Personal trainers who go the accredited route understand how to design workout plans and work with the specific goals of their clients.

That said, let’s take a look at some of the requirements to become a personal trainer for some of the most popular certification bodies: 

  1. 18 years or older
  2. High school diploma or GED
  3. CPR/AED certification

Once you meet these criteria, you just have to choose the best certified personal trainer course that meets your goals.

The “best personal trainer course” is subjective, and you have a variety of study options, including:

  • Self-study with an accredited company
  • Vocational college
  • University program
  • Gym program

While the decision is ultimately yours, I suggest an accredited company such as NASM, ACE, NSCA, NESTA, or NCSF. This will provide you with the education and certification to land a job at your pick of the litter.

Landing Your First Job as a Personal Trainer

One of the most important things to consider when trying to get your first job as a personal trainer is where you want to work and what requirements that the facility has. For example, many corporate gyms will take any major certification for their trainers while others require you to take an internal course.

This is why it is essential to contact the potential place of work to determine if they have any requirements for the types of certifications they prefer that their trainers have.

For gyms specifically, one of the most popular places trainers seeks employment, you may find that they have their own internal personal training programs in place. While you may be able to bypass the independent certification bodies, starting with a gym-specific certification limit you to one place of employment.

Of course, gyms are not the only places to get a job. You may also find opportunities at other locations such as:

  • Country clubs
  • Alongside physical therapists
  • Within higher-end hotels
  • On cruise ships

There is also the option to travel to your client’s home or meet them at their local gym. These last two options are more of the entrepreneurial route and don’t involve finding a job as much as they create creating a business around yourself.

Where to Look for Jobs

Job Boards

One of the best places to look for personal trainer jobs is on job boards like Indeed or CareerBuilder.  You can search by keyword or specialization and even look for jobs that are part-time or temporary.

Local Schools

Local schools may also be good places to look for your first personal training job. Sports teams in high schools, athletic departments at colleges, and after-school programs frequently get posted on the local school websites’ careers sections.

Personal Trainer Directories

Personal trainer directory websites such as Ideafit are high traffic websites that many people use to find trainers based on location, specialization, and price. Get yourself listed on as many of these sites as possible and you’ll open yourself up to more opportunities.

Tips for Employment at Popular Fitness Organizations


As mentioned, the gym is the most common place trainers go to get their first jobs. When you try to get a job at a gym, they’ll want to see if you are already certified or are in the process of getting certified. Meet with the gym’s manager to see what kind of employees they are interested in and if they have any available slots open.

If you learn a little bit about the programs they offer, how they structure their prices, and how they market their trainers, you’ll sound like you know what you are talking about and may have a better chance of getting an offer.

cope with stress-Personal Trainer

Group Fitness Boxes

A popular location for many trainers is to work in a group fitness box or something like a Crossfit style facility. The best way to get your foot in the door at one of these locations is to be a customer first.

Once you develop a rapport with the owner or manager, you’ll show that not only are you familiar with their business and workouts, but you are interested in helping them succeed as a customer.

After a few months of workouts, you can approach the owner about getting a job or perhaps doing some shadowing (for free if needed) to gain some experience and show that you have the dedication to the craft.

Private Studios

Private studios will allow personal trainers to rent their space if they want to bring in their clients. They may also pay their trainers per session, but only about 50-70% of the session’s total cost.

For a new trainer, this can be an excellent way to gain experience, and it can also help you build your book of business if you are permitted to bring in your clients as you have a working facility to use.

As an Entrepreneur

Creating your brand is no doubt one of the most challenging ways to start your training profession. Nonetheless, it can be done.

I recommend you start by giving free sessions to friends and family so that you get experience and they get to see if they like the results you are providing. If you gain their trust and they see that you offer real value to them, you may be able to convert them into paying customers.

At a Country Club

Getting a job as a trainer at the local country club may a bit more challenging than at the local gym. Depending on the prestige of the country club, they may want someone with some long-term experience. Then again, if you can operate as a contractor and use the country club as your home base, you may be able to work something out with them that sees you using the above recommendations to kick start your career.

If this is an option, see about posting an ad in the community newsletter or on the bulletin board at the clubhouse.

Get Started Today!

Whether you are just beginning your search for personal training as a potential career and need to know the prerequisites, or are certified and are needed to get that first job, you should now have the info you need to get started.

There are many different career paths for personal trainers to choose from beyond the gym and exploring them may help you find the best fit for you and your career in fitness.


Written By
Eddie Lester is a personal trainer from Los Angeles and the Founder and CEO of Fitness Mentors. With over 10 years experience and 8 different certifications and specializations, as well as multiple years teaching training at a vocational college, Lester loves sharing his knowledge of practical training experience as well as how to study for PT exams. Lester is the author of Business and Sales: The Guide to Success as a Personal Trainer.

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