The demand for personal trainers and fitness instructors has never been higher in the U.S., and that demand is only going to keep growing. Strangely enough, however, the number of personal training professionals in the industry isn’t increasing at the same rate.
“According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of personal training jobs is slated to grow about 10 percent until 2026, faster than the average for all occupations,” said Daniel DeBaun, public relations specialist at Life Time. “As businesses and organizations recognize the benefits of fitness programs for employees, incentives to join health clubs is expected to increase the need for trainers. Despite this, less than 20 percent who apply for a job in fitness are able to make it a successful career.”
So why are so few people turning to personal training as a viable career, when the demand for such professionals is reaching an all-time high?
According to Jeff Rosga, the senior director of Life Time Academy, the answer lies in how the requirements and expectations of the job are conveyed to prospective personal trainers as they’re getting their certifications.
“If any of us wanted to be a physical therapist or lawyer, it would typically require multiple years of school and practical, hands-on work beyond the academic and theory application,” said Rosga. “You’ve put in time and sweat equity, as well as economic resources. There’s not that rigor in the personal training field.”
What’s required for personal trainers to build successful careers is far more rigorous than the education they receive during certification. “People get into it with all the right intentions and passions, but they don’t understand all the other elements it takes to be successful in this space,” said Rosga. “The knowledge skills, abilities and attitudes a prospective trainer needs to be successful are not always very clearly communicated.”
And when the “business” pressures of being a personal trainer become too overwhelming, many individuals walk away — a startling high number of individuals.
“The turnover rate can be 80 to 90 percent among personal trainers,” said Rosga. “It’s because there isn’t a lot of what I like to term, ‘trainers understanding the business of training.’”
It’s not hard to believe the vast majority of personal trainers enter the industry with little more than a passion for fitness. They know the ins and outs of working out and nutrition, and they get along well with people, but that’s where their qualifications sometimes end.
According to Rosga, this is the core of the issue. And to combat the 80 to 90 percent turnover rate among trainers, prospective trainers need to receive more comprehensive business education in addition to their training certifications.
That’s how they’ll increase their odds of making personal training a viable — maybe even successful — career. “The business of training is about professionalism, branding, communication and sales — all the other elements that exist outside what passionately drew them to be a personal trainer, which was the exercise sciences, program design and wanting to help others make changes in their lives,” said Rosga.
Life Time is doing its part to create more sustainable opportunities for personal trainers, creating a career school called the Life Time Academy.
“Our whole intention when we opened the doors in 2011 was to help individuals learn and apply the soft skills to become qualified in all aspects of being a successful personal trainer,” said Rosga. “We’re helping individuals not only get the application and coaching around effective program design and assessment, but also soft skills like communication.”
And following the same principle as law school or PT school, the Life Time Academy emphasizes practical, on-job learning. “We also give people experience in the space from hands-on, live learning in a Life Time facility,” said Rosga. “They can practice their skills with fellow students, so they can get feedback and develop themselves.”
As the industry continues to grow and the demand for personal trainers increases, Life Time hopes to equip a greater percentage of prospective trainers for success.
“Because of the growth of the industry and the demand for quality personal trainers, organizations are always hiring,” said Rosga. “If prospective trainers take hold of all these skills and understand them going into the profession, personal training can be a very rewarding field.”