The field of exercise science has grown and changed significantly over the last 50 years. Most colleges and universities now offer undergraduate degrees in exercise science, exercise physiology, kinesiology or physical education, and career opportunities for exercise specialists have expanded greatly. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, starting salaries vary widely based on education, experience, field of choice and organization, but you can probably expect to start out between $25,000 and $35,000. As you gain additional experience and certifications, you can expect your opportunities for financial compensation to grow.
Independent Personal Trainer
Most personal trainers are paid on commission, by the hour. It takes a lot of hard work to drum up clients, but once you've developed a solid reputation, it's easier to maintain a client base. According to the American Council on Exercise, full-time personal trainers with bachelor's degrees can expect to make $24.42 an hour, or roughly $50,000 a year. In most cases, trainers work for a gym or fitness center that takes 50 percent or more of the actual training hour cost. So if the fitness center charges $50 per hour, the trainer may receive $20 to $25 of that fee. If you have developed your client base to the extent that you feel comfortable breaking away from a gym and offering your services independently, you'll have more control over your hourly rates, comfortably charging, and pocketing, $30 to $75 per hour, or even more.
The title "fitness director" can mean different things at different types of facilities. Some fitness directors may control the types of group exercise classes available, or they might manage the care and maintenance of fitness equipment. In other cases, the fitness director manages personal trainers and develops sales techniques. Sometimes the fitness director manages the whole kit and caboodle. Depending on the responsibilities, the pay structure may change significantly. Directors in charge of personal trainers may receive a base salary, plus a portion of personal training commissions. Other directors receive a salary and benefits, but no cut in commissions. According to the American Council on Exercise, the average fitness director can expect to make $42,000 a year. Read job descriptions carefully; the right position could pay out significantly higher dividends.
Whether you own your own club, or you rise up the ranks to manage a club as the executive director, you can expect to pull in between $60,000 and $90,000 each year. According to Recreation Management's annual salary survey, most survey participants were upper-level management or executive directors, and the average salary at private clubs and recreation centers was around $60,000. Executives at golf clubs earned even higher average salaries, at around $90,000. According to the American Council on Exercise, most club owners make around $80,000 each year. It takes a lot of hard work to achieve a high-level position, and it takes even more work to maintain a high-level position, but it does pay off financially.