How much does a personal trainer make? If you are aspiring to change lives through fitness and confidence-building, personal training can be a lucrative and fulfilling career.
Estimating how much you will realistically make as a personal trainer requires research and planning, since your earning potential is based on many factors.
A quick look on ZipRecruiter will tell you that the average personal trainer salary in the United States is anywhere from $37,577 to $53,444 per year depending on your location, while the average base pay currently lands at around $45,000 per year.
So, how do you take this confusing range and estimate what a new trainer can truly earn?
Measuring the salary potential for personal trainers is dependent on factors such as where you work, what type of gym you work in if you choose to go that route, and how you leverage your experience level and additional services to ask for higher rates over time. Let’s break down each important factor so you can plan your best estimate for your future rates as a personal trainer.
If you are someone who likes to calculate your earning potential based on hourly pay, there are a few things you need to know before factoring your training sessions to measure this.
Hourly rates for personal trainers depend highly on your level of experience, caseload, and payment structure in a gym. According to PayScale, this can be broken down further:
- The lowest percentile of trainers earn an hourly wage of $10.60.
- The average personal trainer earns an hourly wage of $19.02.
- The highest percentile of trainers earn an hourly wage of $50.09.
Keep in mind that if you work for a gym, some salary or hourly pay rates are complicated beyond the general pay structure of a gym. Many gyms also use a tier system to incentivize trainers to train or sell to more clients, impacting their pay. Others use commission incentives and treat trainers as their salespeople as well.
For example, you may earn a 5% salary raise for achieving your sales goal for a gym, even though your “job” is to achieve fitness results for your clients. The process may seem complicated on the outside, but these are questions you can ask up front in any gym interview.
Another factor you can use to estimate your personal trainer salary is location. According to figures published by Glassdoor, a strategic move can improve your projected salary range by over $10,000 in some cases, so check these regions out as you plan:
- New York: $46,343
- London: $23,107
- Los Angeles: $43,401
- Canada: $29,269
- Australia: $43,388
- Mexico: $13,860
Of course, salaries in different locations tend to mirror the cost of living, so if you move to a new location to earn more, you’ll probably end up spending more to live there, as well. The key is to make a strategic move to a more lucrative location without incurring all the added costs of living there. Then you’ve got the best of both worlds.
Which Gyms Pay the Most?
Many new personal trainers begin their careers working for established gyms. Not only do popular gyms attract plenty of potential clients, they offer stability in payment that can be a great start if you are trying to break into the field and practice selling yourself. Making the decision to join a gym as a new personal trainer is easier after you’ve narrowed down the best gyms to work in.
New personal trainers can expect similar ranges from popular gyms, but employee review and salary searches can break down how rates differ.
Glassdoor reports that Equinox offers a base pay of around $45,000 per year for new trainers. Planet Fitness employees report an average of $25,000 per year, and Gold’s Gym offers a range of $41,000-$47,000 per year. Crossfit coaches can earn between $31,000-$47,000, and their responsibilities include additional accountability coaching and group training sessions. At YMCA, personal trainers earn an average of $40,000 per year.
Before you interview and negotiate your salary expectations with a gym, get familiar with the factors that will impact your rates.
Gym Payment Structure
You will feel more confident navigating the interview process as a new trainer if you are well-versed in how gym payment structures work. To break these down, consider how trainers are expected to source or interact with clients at each step of the way.
Commercial Gym Pay Structure
Similar to the sales world, trainers who develop the businesses they work for and drive new clients are the ones who are paid the most. In a commercial gym pay structure, you not only take on the role of a trainer to achieve fitness results, you take on the role of a salesperson and “work” the gym floor or your own network to drive new training clients to your gym. In this model, pay generally increases as your client base grows, but you are paid close to minimum wage during times where you are sourcing clients on the gym floor.
Independent Trainer Gym Pay Structure
If you would rather enjoy the freedom of owning your own business while benefiting from the stability of access to a gym for training and prospecting clients, this payment structure is for you. Independent trainers are free to use multiple gyms, as they are technically self-employed. In this sense, you’d be a different kind of member for the gym. You can charge your own client rates, but the gym takes a cut as payment for using their equipment. This also helps the gym attract members, so the relationship is mutually beneficial if you are up for the task of managing your own business logistics.
1099 Gym Payment Structure
Your last option is to negotiate employment through a gym on a contractual basis. As an independent contractor, you are employed by the gym, but are not categorized as a full-time employee for tax or benefit purposes. One benefit of this structure is that the gym will likely enroll your clients for you and hire you for stable hours on a consistent basis. If you are not as strong in the sales part of training, 1099 contracting can be a great fit. Of course, not qualifying for full-time salary or benefits is a consideration, but terms can always be negotiated once you build a strong relationship with a gym.
Earning Potential: Hired vs. Self-Employed?
If you are motivated by the hustle of landing new clients, selling your skills and results, and developing business ideas, you’re the ideal candidate for self-employment. Personal trainers who run their own businesses enjoy the flexibility of setting their own hours, rates, and systems of coaching. Creating your own fitness plans and workout developments can be a fulfilling part of your role as a trainer.
While practicing your sales pitch and organizing business logistics is difficult in the beginning, many trainers love the freedom of creating what your schedule looks like.
Remember, working for a gym in the beginning can give you the confidence and rhythm you need to break into the field of personal training, and you have the option to transition into self-employment when you establish credibility and some higher-end clients. This is a common path for many trainers, so experiment with both types of work as you decide what works best for you.
Experience and Salary
As with any profession, your results determine your worth. Personal training is no different, especially since results are so quantifiable, with before-and-after pictures and health metrics available to help you measure your clients’ success.
One of the reasons the range for personal trainer salaries is so varied is that experienced and well-known trainers can charge premium rates for high-end clients, whereas a new trainer working for a gym can run over 20 sessions per week for slightly more than minimum wage. On the other hand, a trainer with a strong reputation, proven results, and years of experience can work with 25 high-end clients a year and comfortably make six figures.
According to Glassdoor, the average national base salary for personal trainers are as follows:
- 0-1 years of experience: $23,000
- 2-5 years of experience: $47,000
- 5+ years of experience: $50,000 and up
Again, the years of experience you bring are not nearly as important as the results you can prove, the payment structure of gyms you work with, and the increase of your rates as you leverage your client base and sales tactics.
Beyond Personal Training
Expanding your service offering as a new personal trainer can provide you with creative solutions to supplement your income as you break into the field. One of the benefits of becoming a personal trainer is that your options for making a living and helping others can go beyond time spent in the gym. Here are some examples of ways to leverage your knowledge of fitness and coaching skill set:
Health coaching is a powerful tool for any personal trainer as it complements your fitness knowledge perfectly. As a personal trainer, you can easily leverage your knowledge of health and eating well to better inform your clients’ results. There are plenty of online health coaching certifications available if you are looking for ways to expand your knowledge of the psychology of eating and habit change. With this path, you can sell hybrid fitness and health coaching programs that will help your clients navigate their food choices in addition to their workouts. Like with training, you set your own rates and can collaborate with gyms and other companies.
If you are tech-savvy, you can thrive as an online personal trainer by creating eBooks or online training programs that allow people to purchase and follow your trainings wherever they are. Not only does this expand your client base, reputation, and earning potential, it gives you a way to scale your business and earn passive income if you choose to sell online. With social media as an online sales tool, all you need is a public fitness account and a website to get started.
Speaking and Consulting
If you love interacting with groups of people or pitching your passion to organizations, paid speaking opportunities are an exciting way to boost your presence in the field and expand your network. Paid speaking fees can begin at $500 per event, and are easy to raise after you have some practice and testimonials. Personal trainers can often speak on topics such as motivation, exercise and physiology, and the ever-changing world of fitness trends.
Similarly to creating online fitness plans, referrals and affiliate income streams are extremely beneficial to personal trainers. As an “influencer” for healthy living and motivation for a lifestyle of fitness, people will naturally look to you for advice and recommendations. Leveraging a great social media following or website is a powerful way to utilize your reach to make passive income. All you need to do is connect with some brands who are in line with your fitness philosophy, and collaborate after you pitch your influence to their team. Referrals can look like anything from partnering with a local smoothie bar for client discounts, to posting a fitness tutorial on social media wearing an outfit as a paid sponsorship.
Expanding your creativity as a trainer can help you look beyond the day-to-day requirements of your work and build multiple streams of income that will help you grow your business.
Personal training is a dynamic field with countless possibilities for you to create your own working structure while also building your salary over time. Proven results, client testimonials, and overall sales skills can increase your earning potential if you bring a strong work ethic to the table.
Understanding the landscape of personal training and the nuances of different payment structures in advance will help you feel confident and prepared to navigate the early stages of your career. Don’t be afraid to ask about each of these factors up front, and use your results to land higher-end clients over time. If you are willing to put yourself out there and get creative as you build your reputation, becoming a personal trainer will prove to be an exceptionally rewarding career, both professionally and personally.