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January 13
PART II: Exercise Trainer's Experience and Beliefs toward Fitness Career Income, Employment Opportunities and Various Business Models

​by Richard Cotton, MA, ACSM-CEP
National Director of Certification, American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)

Read last's month's CREP blog to gain insight into the objectives of the following survey results. 

International Movement

The international sample showed that nearly a third (33%) of respondents moved from the country of their birth, but did not move specifically to take a job in the fitness field, but rather moved for other reasons.

1st image.pngEducation

When asked to select the highest level of education completed in any field, as well as the highest level of education for preparation to work as an exercise professional from this list:

International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED)

  • Less than Level 3
  • Level 3 Upper secondary education (high school equivalent)
  • Level 4 Post-secondary non-tertiary (i.e., non-specialty) education
  • Level 5 Short-cycle tertiary education (community college equivalent)
  • Level 6 Bachelor's or equivalent
  • Level 7 Master's or equivalent
  • Level 8 Doctoral or equivalent
     
    All data:
  • Not fitness education - 71% are level 6, 7, 8
  • Fitness education – 81% are level 6, 7, 8
  • Not fitness education - 28% are level 5 or lower
  • Fitness education - 19% are level 5 or lower

International data:

  • Not fitness education - 63% are 6, 7, 8
  • Fitness education – 67% are 6, 7, 8
  • Not fitness education - 37% are level 5 or lower
  • Fitness education - 32% are level 5 or lower

Regardless of the source, we are an educated lot of professionals!

Hours per Week Directly Training Clients

When asked "How many hours per week do you spend directly training clients or patients?" The results were somewhat similar.

All data:

  • Currently 18% of trainers, train clients over 30 hours per week.
  • Currently 46% of trainers, train clients less than 15 hours per week.

International data:

  • Currently 24% of trainers, train clients over 30 hours per week.
  • Currently 40% of trainers, train clients less than 15 hours per week.
     
    The data was consistent when comparing the primarily U.S. based participants to the international participants. Less than 25% in both groups train client for over 30 hours per week and 40% or more work less than 15 hours per week directly training clients. This is a question that needs more investigation. Why are trainers not working on a more full-time basis? Is it more of a sideline for most? How many would take on more work if it was available?

    Some Perceptions of the Reality of the Income Earned as a Trainer

    To get a sense of what trainers felt about the sustainability of the lifelong income from personal training, participants were asked to what extent did they agree or disagree with the following statements:
  • My work as a personal trainer can be my primary source of income for the rest of my working career.
  • In addition to providing trainer services, I will need to have other sources of income to sustain a comfortable income for the rest of my career.
  • To sustain a comfortable income over the course of my career, I will need to take other positions within the fitness field (e.g., manager, director, continuing education provider, trainer of trainers).
  • To sustain a comfortable income over the course of my career, I will likely need to change careers and take another position or positions outside of the fitness field. 
  • To sustain a comfortable income over the course of my career, I will likely need to change careers and take another position or positions outside of the fitness field.

 2nd image.png

Observations

  • Trainers, for the most part felt that they would need other sources of fitness industry related income to sustain a comfortable income throughout their career.
  • To sustain a comfortable income over the course of their career, they felt the need to need to take other positions within the fitness field (e.g., manager, director, continuing education provider, trainer of trainers).
  • They did not feel the need to leave the field to sustain a comfortable income throughout their career.

     Possibilities to Provide Services to More Moderate Income Clients

    Finally, we were interested in knowing more about how trainers increasing the size of their market by extending their services to clients of more moderate income.
      
    3rd image.png
  • Small group training was the leading choice (i.e., 1.52) for a business service to enhance a trainer's ability to provide services to more clients of moderate income.
  • The other three business services were rated as "some potential."
  • At the time the comments were reviewed, there was no additional models proposed to enhance a trainer's ability to provide services to more clients of moderate income

Ideas for Providing Services to Those of More Moderate Income

  • The only hope for financial security going forward is for medical insurance to cover exercise as preventative and rehabilitative.
  • I believe that small group training is one of the best ways to provide training to those who might not be in a financial position to receive one on one training.  I have had multiple college students sign up with me in small groups because it is more affordable than one on one.
  • Short duration but highly instructional "classes" in a small group, like Women on Weights, but then a long but less frequent follow-up pattern. Clients get the information up front and keep the support, guidance, and accountability with a once or twice per month check-up appointment to stay on track.
  • The small group training concept for special populations (i.e. seniors, youth, obese or diabetic individuals) might be the next boom of our industry due to the current worldwide top fitness trends and current financial status at global level.
    With awareness of the importance of physical activity, some private or public funding for small group classes would help offset the cost for participants and increase the pay for instructors. For example, I offered a 2x/week staff class for 8 weeks and charged $25 and didn't have anyone sign up, but when I charged $10, 12 people signed up. I work for a non-profit, so most staff is lower income.

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