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Qualifications Needed to Become a Fitness Instructor

author image Holly Case
Holly Case has written professionally since 2000. She is a former contributing editor for "ePregnancy" magazine and a current editor for a natural food magazine. She has extensive experience writing about nutrition, pregnancy, infertility, alternative medicine, children's health and women's health issues. Case holds a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and professional writing from Saginaw Valley State University.
Qualifications Needed to Become a Fitness Instructor
People are in a dance class. Photo Credit: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images

Getting in shape can be difficult to do on your own. Fitness instructors can help you learn the right things to do to lose weight, tone your muscles and develop better health. However, special training and certifications are required for fitness instructors. Training and certification give the instructor more credibility, which may attract more clients.

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Job Outlook

The job outlook for fitness workers is expected to be stronger than average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of fitness positions is expected to increase by 29 percent by 2018. The obesity epidemic and an aging population both contribute to continued demand for fitness instructor services. Many fitness instructors work part-time in health clubs or hospitals and supplement their income by coaching private clients. In May 2008, the median salary of a fitness instructor was $29,210.

College Education

Many fitness centers require instructors to have a college education in exercise, nutrition or wellness, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. College majors may include exercise science, physical education or kinesiology, which is the study of human motion. Fitness instructors should also have training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, either in college or through the Red Cross.


Many fitness instructors pursue certification from various agencies, which may depend on the exercise programs they choose to teach. Clients feel more confident if their trainers are certified. As an example, Balanced Body University offers certification programs for Pilates trainers. Certification programs also exist for aerobics instructors through organizations such as the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America. American Fitness Professionals and Associates also offers several certification programs, including specialization in sports nutrition, children's fitness and prenatal exercise.

Personality Traits

Fitness instructors must have motivational skills to effectively lead clients. Motivation is most often a personality trait rather than a skill that can be learned in school, but positive attitudes can be cultivated. Instructors should be confident, enthusiastic and able to motivate clients to maintain an exercise routine--important for the client as well as for business. Many fitness centers require instructors to audition before being approved to teach classes.

Client Expectations

Personal trainers and fitness instructors should be at a healthy weight and able to engage in the same exercises they ask of their clients. People are less likely to be motivated by fitness instructors who do not appear to follow their own advice. Instructors should be in good shape so that they can be positive role models. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reports that clients expect more emphasis on overall wellness from instructors in addition to exercise training.

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