American Council on Exercise by American Council on Exercise
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While the fitness industry is always evolving, the demand for personal trainers continues to grow. Delivery methods—where and how personal trainers connect with clients—are constantly changing and you may be surprised to learn that opportunities for personal trainers extend well beyond the four walls of the training studio or large gym. Yes, more and more people are hiring personal trainers to guide them to better health, fitness and wellness, but what is the best way for personal trainers to connect with these potential clients?

Opportunities for finding employment as a personal trainer can be loosely organized into the following broad categories.

Commercial Clubs

Commercial clubs, often referred to as multipurpose health clubs, have numerous amenities, such as a cardio area, weight room, functional training area, several group fitness studios, childcare and pools, with fees varying according to the number of amenities available. In your area, you might find locally owned, single-location clubs, national chains (e.g., 24 Hour Fitness and Life Time Fitness) and/or franchised facilities (e.g., Anytime Fitness, Snap Fitness and Gold's Gym).

Commercial clubs are a common employer of personal trainers. Large clubs generally have a wide variety of equipment and many clubs have areas designated solely for personal training. These clubs typically have large membership bases, which can serve as a steady source of potential clients for personal trainers who work in these facilities. Many large clubs also have programs such as small-group training, sport-specific training (e.g., 5K training, biking events and triathlons) or specialty programs (e.g., summer boot camps and body transformation challenges) that can increase the opportunity for personal trainers.

Personal-training Studios/Gyms

A personal training studio or gym is a stand-alone facility that is used for training clients either individually or in small groups. These studios, which can vary in size, may sell individual sessions or packages of sessions, or offer a monthly fee for a certain number of sessions. Clients may be trained by the staff based on the session day and time they choose (i.e., not by a specific personal trainer) or directly with a specific personal trainer based on mutual availability. In your area, you may find studios that are independently owned and operated, licensed or franchised. Depending on the type of studio, you may have autonomy to create your own programming, while others may require you to deliver programming created by others and/or complete a specific certification to lead their branded sessions.

Community Recreation Centers

A community recreation center is similar to a commercial club in terms of fitness amenities. Rec centers typically have a robust children's focus (e.g., childcare, activities and sports) and are more affordable than most commercial clubs. A municipal government agency administers the facility.

Though experience requirements will differ based on the specific center, rec centers are known for hiring personal trainers with less experience and can be a great place to get a career started! Beyond hiring trainers, these facilities often hire “floor staff,” which may be an opportunity for newly certified personal trainers to get their foot in the door; the role involves monitoring equipment, helping members get set up and answering member questions. Rec centers attract a wide variety of members, which would gives personal trainers exposure to potential clients of different ages and with varying goals and abilities.

College Recreation Centers

Many colleges offer various recreation programs through an on-campus fitness center. Beyond the multiple sports and recreation activities they provide, college rec centers sometimes offer cardio areas, a weight room, functional training areas, group fitness studios and pools, depending on the institution's size and funding.

If the college has an exercise science program or related major, they may also assist aspiring personal trainers in becoming certified through coursework, preparation for the exam and even discounts on the certification exam. Though college recreation centers often employ students, there may be opportunities for non-students as well. Depending on requirements, some college recreation centers allow personal trainers to work with faculty and students while working toward earning their certification.

Non-profit Fitness Centers

Non-profit fitness centers are similar to community recreation centers but operate independently of municipalities. The most common are the YMCA and Jewish Community Centers (JCCs). The amenities are similar to a commercial health club and typically mirror the robust children's focus of a community rec center. The price point is usually similar to community rec centers, as well.

Much like community recreation centers, personal training at a YMCA or JCC is a great way to gain experience as a personal trainer. These facilities often attract a wide variety of clientele, which may help personal trainers find their niche as they gain experience working with clients with varying needs, desires and goals. Also, like community rec centers, YMCAs and JCCs often hire floor staff.

Hotels/Spas/Resorts

Though you might assume that hotels, spas and resorts focus on providing equipment for visitors to use on their own, some also offer access to personal trainers or other exercise professionals, as well. Some resorts and wellness-focused spas (e.g., Canyon Ranch, Miraval and Rancho La Puerta) have robust wellness programs that offer personal training, small-group training, a wide variety of group fitness classes and “floor staff.” A personal trainer might be hired to fill one or more of these roles. Other hotels may hire personal trainers to work with travelers only on an on-call basis.

Corporate Wellness

With many companies having on-site fitness facilities, corporate wellness is another opportunity for personal trainers, who can be hired by either the company itself or a corporate wellness company that provides staffing and programming. Working in corporate wellness is a bit different than working in commercial clubs, rec centers or other facilities, as the training hours often coincide with standard corporate hours, so personal trainers are often not seeing clients early in the morning, in the evening or on the weekend.

A Note about Specialization

It’s important to note that personal trainers may choose to specialize in working with a particular population or training clients with specific goals, which would broaden the opportunities beyond what is presented above. For example, personal trainers can take specialty training courses in working with older adults, youth or pregnant women, or they can choose to specialize in sport-specific training or working with clients with diabetes, obesity or other chronic conditions. Countless options exist to help personal trainers find their niche within the fitness industry.