Working as a fitness consultant can span any number of job descriptions, from humble fitness attendant in a gym to training consultant for the stars. Although fitness consulting isn't always as glamorous as it might seem, it does offer a number of intangible perks and benefits to go along with literal job benefits.
No matter what sort of fitness consulting you do, your primary duties will revolve around familiarity with exercise science and exercise technique. More importantly, you must be able to effectively distill that knowledge for others; teaching requires much greater mastery than simply performing what you know. You might be called upon to instruct or design an exercise program for people with special needs like pregnancy, obesity, injuries and chronic conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure. You might also be required to conduct group orientations or to speak in public about fitness and wellness.
A low-level fitness consultant, such as a fitness attendant in the gym, must have experience with the fitness equipment around her. As job responsibilities increase, you will also need a relevant certification, a college degree in a relevant field like exercise physiology, or both. College degrees don't need to be renewed, but many certifications do. The prudent fitness consultant will make it a point to stay on top of the ever-developing field of exercise science. Depending on your specific job duties, you might also have to demonstrate competence with a computer system, confidence in public speaking situations and the ability to manage or supervise subordinate employees.
Just as a fitness consultant's responsibilities vary widely between companies, so does the salary. According to Payscale.com, a fitness consultant in the United States stands to make between $8.67 and $17.69 per hour, or a total yearly salary of $21,765 to $41,876 as of 2010. Salary.com estimates a personal trainer's average base salary at $52,864 per year, and a high-level fitness consultant or star trainer working with big businesses can earn $200,000 or more.
Fitness training and consulting might be glamorous. In a sense, you're being paid to be fit and healthy -- an important part of establishing your credibility as a fitness expert. Although helping others work toward a healthy lifestyle can be extremely rewarding, it might also involve working early-morning and after-work hours when most people are free to exercise. High-level, problem-solving consultants might be required to travel, and the nature of a problem-solving job means that you will sometimes land in difficult, contentious or poorly managed situations.
Contractor vs. Employee
You can work as a fitness consultant in a contractor or employee capacity, although the term "consultant" often implies an independent contractor position. If you work as an employee, your employer pays a portion of your taxes but can also dictate when, where and how often you work. You often receive paid sick leave and vacation time. As a contractor, you enjoy greater independence and freedom to negotiate your own duties but no paid time off. You're responsible for your entire tax load and, depending on the contract terms, overhead expenses like private office space, liability insurance and any equipment you need to perform your job duties.