If you love to workout, knowing how to make a career in fitness will turn your passion into profit. There’s more than one way to make money in the fitness and nutrition space. However, most people end up reaping the rewards of having a personal training business. But how did they get there? And, where else can they go? Of course, all personal trainers need an exercise science degree or personal training certification (preferably both). And, there are plenty of other fitness career opportunities beyond personal training. Here, we’ll explore how to enter the nutrition and fitness industry, regardless of your experience level. You might work the front desk at a health club. Or maybe you gain experience training family and friends. Then we’ll discuss common jobs people pursue after becoming a fitness trainer. For example, some become a physical therapist, exercise physiologist, or athletic trainer just to name a few. 

Everyone’s fitness career journey can be different. So, knowing where to start and where you can go helps to paint the lifelong career waiting for anyone interested in exercise and nutrition.

If you know already, you want to get started, learn more about why Lionel University has the best exercise science degree programs here. Or, contact our advisors to learn how you can start working as a trainer before finishing your program.

Ways To Get Into A Fitness Career

Since most people want to make a living as a personal trainer, we’ll use this as an example for getting the best personal training jobs. There are several ways to get your foot in the door. Each of these listed here assume you are in the process of becoming a certified personal trainer. This means you can start working in fitness before you finish your degree and certification.

Entry Level Positions At A Gym

One of the best ways to get into personal training is by accepting an entry level position at a health club. Perhaps you work the front desk or assist members on the workout floor. These positions don’t pay much, but they are an excellent way to become a successful personal trainer. When you work at an entry level position in a gym, you get to know the members and how the personal training department functions. Surprisingly, these are extremely valuable once you make the transition to becoming a personal trainer. 

If you’re working at the front desk, you’ll get to know every member walking through the door during your shift. And, what’s great is, you’re not even trying to sell them a personal training package. So, they won’t have their defenses up when coming to the gym and talking to you. They’ll get to know, like, and trust you. These are three things a new personal trainer has to have from prospects before they become paying clients. So, while at an entry level gym position, you’ll develop relationships with people who will eventually hire you as their professional fitness trainer.

Almost as important as developing member relationships is learning how the personal training department works. It’s common for each fitness facility to have specific protocols for onboarding new clients, comprehensive fitness assessments, creating fitness packages, and more. So, an entry level position gets you acclimated to this. And, it’s common for the personal training department to become invested in your success, especially if you’re already working there. They know the valuable member relationships you build. So, they’ll likely mentor you or provide guidance throughout your study programs.

Assuming you plan to take an entry level position at a gym, do your research. Learn about the options available and choose a location that’s a good fit for the people you want to train, the environment you want to be in, and the overall culture. 

Group Fitness Instructor

Being a fitness instructor might not be your long term career goal. But, it can help you get ahead in the fitness industry, especially as a personal trainer. A fitness instructor, like an entry level gym role, builds valuable relationships with the members. They provide an entertaining way for others to achieve fitness goals. And, they also do so without adding pressure to the fitness sales process. As a fitness instructor, you already have a captive audience that trusts you. Additionally, it’s common for a fitness instructor to teach at a variety of locations including large gym chains, small boutique fitness facilities, spas and resorts, and more. This means, you’ll get exposure to different types of personal training prospects. This is especially great if you want to start a personal training business.

To be a fitness instructor, you’ll likely need a group fitness certification. But, a degree won’t be a requirement. This means you can start teaching group sessions quickly. And, it’s common for a gym to hire instructors for their sub list. This means you can fill in for other instructors when they’re out. It grows your experience and exposure (and often gets you a free gym membership).

Building Fitness Experience Without The Job

Some personal trainers come to the fitness industry from a completely different occupation. For example, an accountant might want a career more rewarding than crunching numbers. In fact, it’s common for personal trainers to be former desk job workers. The office environment can be stifling, with little room for growth or personal life. If you’re one of these people, it won’t be realistic to quit your 100k job and work the front desk at a gym. But, as you get your personal training education, you’ll also want to build your experience helping others reach their fitness goals. 

In these cases, you can start by training family and friends. And, you can do it without charging for it. The goal is to build your confidence as a fitness trainer. Just as important, you can use before and after pictures of these people when applying to personal training jobs. The reality is, a health club isn’t just looking for a certified personal trainer. They want someone who can get clients real results. That is, in fact, what members pay for. So, by working with friends and family members, you’re able to grow your training experience in a low stakes environment. But, it will be in a way that builds your fitness and nutrition resume. Check out our sample resume for people who don’t have personal training experience. 

Things You Can Do After Personal Training Jobs

It’s realistic to assume that you don’t know if you want to be a personal trainer for another 40 years or so. That’s a pretty big commitment. The good news for you is that there are plenty of fitness jobs to go around beyond personal training. And, people make rewarding careers in fitness by starting as a personal trainer. An exercise science degree opens more doors than just personal training. Therefore, it makes getting this type of degree a good choice. Here are just a few things you can do with a degree in fitness.

  • Occupational Therapist: These individuals help people who are recovering or disabled function better in their everyday life. Most of the courses you take in your exercise science program transfer to what you’ll need to be an occupational therapist.
  • Physical Therapist: A physical therapist helps people move and function pain free who are suffering from chronic pain (or illness) or injury. Again, the coursework in a degree program transfers to what you’ll need as a licensed physical therapist. 
  • Physical Education Teacher: You might find that working with children is more enjoyable, and it gives you an opportunity to make fitness fun. Being a personal trainer first or having an exercise science degree prepares you for this role.
  • Massage Therapist: A popular specialization in personal training is corrective exercise. If you find you love this topic, being a massage therapist could be a great fit for you. Since you already have so much knowledge around anatomy, physiology, and how the body responds to pressure and lengthening, your learning curve will be quick. And, what you know as a trainer goes hand in hand with the massage therapy role.
  • Athletic Trainer: Don’t confuse this role with that of a personal trainer. But a personal trainer and athletic trainer are quite different. Athletic trainers work on sports teams and help with the treatment of sport related injuries.

Regardless of where you’re starting or where you want to go, a career in fitness starts with your passion and is fueled with your education. A personal training certification teaches you what you need to know as a fitness trainer. And an exercise science degree gives you a range of career options. At Lionel University, you can get both in the same program! This means, you don’t have to invest additional money on expensive certifications. Regardless of whether you’re pursuing an associates degree, bachelor’s degree, or master’s degree, at Lionel you earn multiple certifications and specializations along the way. This means you can start working on getting that dream job before graduation day. And, with the help of financial aid, earning your exercise science degree is even more of a possibility. Check out our programs and contact Lionel today!