Personal Trainer Job Description: What You'll Do

Here's what you can expect on the job as a personal trainer.

personal trainer working with client

Today's new generation of personal athletic trainers are taking a holistic approach to fitness; they know that fitness isn't just about going through the motions of a workout, it's about having a healthy lifestyle and attitude. A great athletic trainer should be able to encourage and motivate clients to look at fitness as a positive element in a healthy life. 

Personal athletic trainers can focus on specific areas of fitness, or take a broad approach to encompassing all elements of being fit. Whatever your specific fitness specialization is, you'll be instrumental in promoting health to your clients.

What does a personal trainer do?

Many athletic trainers work in fitness centers, but some others work for educational services or hospitals, depending on their specialty. Where you work will determine your daily responsibilities, but typical duties for a personal athletic trainer include:

  • Demonstrating exercises and routines to clients
  • Assisting clients in exercises to minimize injury and promote fitness
  • Modify exercises according to clients' fitness levels
  • Monitoring client progress
  • Providing information or resources on general fitness and health issues
  • Providing emergency first aid if necessary

In any place of work as a personal fitness trainer, it's important to remember that in addition to helping clients get into shape, you'll also be responsible for their safety during your workouts together, and for fostering positivity.

What education or certification will I need to be an athletic trainer?

You can become a personal athletic trainer with a certificate, a two-year associate's degree or four-year bachelor's degree in health and fitness. Both a certification and an associate's degree provide you with sufficient training to have a career as a fitness trainer; the advantage to having a bachelor's degree is that it can raise your chances of advancing to management positions.

The degree you choose to earn will depend on your goals and interests for your long-term career path. Once you've earned your degree, you can obtain personal training certifications from a number of organizations, including: 

  • American Council on Exercise (ACE)
  • American Fitness Training of Athletics (AFTA)
  • National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)

After you're certified through a nationally recognized organization, you're eligible to begin working as a personal athletic trainer. It's important to know, however, that you will be expected to regularly complete training and education that will keep you up-to-date on shifting health and safety regulations. Learn more about what you'll study.

What career paths can I take as a personal athletic trainer?

As a certified personal athletic trainer, your workplace options will vary depending on what your interests as a trainer are. Possible workplaces include:

  • Fitness and recreational centers: Many fitness centers offer complimentary fitness trainers, or customers can pay for training sessions. Your job will involve creating training plans, overseeing workouts, and monitoring progress for multiple clients.
     
  • Civic and social organizations: In these kinds of organizations, you will likely be providing the same fitness guidance you would in a fitness center or gym, but clients will typically be lower-income. Organizations like the YMCA/YWCA employ trainers who have a passion for fitness and also a desire to provide useful health information to this demographic.
     
  • Hospitals: For patients who are recovering from injuries, many hospitals will employ in-house personal trainers to work with rehabilitating patients. You will assess what the patient can and cannot do, and then provide a fitness regimen to help them regain mobility and full function. Often, trainers at hospitals will focus on helping recovering patients regain lost muscle.
     
  • Self-employment: For trainers who are also comfortable marketing and promoting themselves, self-employment can be a great career option. Running your own personal training business will be tough, since you will need to advertise yourself and build a client base, but if you can pull it off, benefits include dictating your own hours and keeping all of your profits.

Learn about pay and salary projections for personal athletic trainers. 

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