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The Question:

I have been training now since I was 14 and through that time I realized my talents and skills. No, not being future Mr Olympia, but being a personal trainer or something within the fitness field. I knew I wanted to help people achieve what I have been achieving-good health and a great outlook on life. I know for a fact this is what I want to do and it is the only thing I can ever see myself doing as a career. There is no obstacle that will stop me from doing my dreams...but where do I begin. I know it will take a lot of time to break into the career and work your way up the fitness career ladder, but what I need to know is what to do first?

I have been planning on college which I am willing to do if it will help very much. I also was looking into certifications..what do you suggest I start out doing? How did you do it?

The Answer:

I responded to a very similar question such as yours. It was asked by a slightly older person but my response will help you also. You definately need to go to college to be seen as a professional in the field. Remember, some day you will be paying your own bills or you might want to have a family. These things take money and a college degree opens a lot of doors! But, I was just like you when I was your age. A lot of hard work and continual education and the gathering of knowledge is what got me where I am today! Here is my response!

The fitness profession can be a very fulfilling career. It is, however, just like any career in that it is very competitive and starting pay is fairly minimal. I would recommend that you check out some basic certifications like the ACE certification and try some moonlighting as a trainer. Don't give up your paying job just yet. Remember, what we do as a hobbie can become "just like work" once it's our job.

A nutrition degree is an excellent degree to carry over into the fitness profession. However, you would have to have some pretty major experience, luck , charisma, knowledge, and contacts to make it work as a paying job in the fitness field. Many nutritionists work in a school district, or a retirement home and are establishing meals that meet the USRDA guidelines. Nutrition degree but not a "fitness field" job. A degree in exercise and sports science or physiology are also great degrees to have if you want to make it in the fitness profession. But, the same things apply for attaining a job.

Health clubs are for-profit organizations that run a tight ship and sailing the ship also means having a great deal of experience in sales. Yes, selling memberships in a health club is what keeps it going! You can be a fitness director for a club or a corporate fitness center and not have to do as much sales but in a way, the better your programs are the more memberships the salespeople will sell and so everything is based on sales again. But, you would be in a position that would utilize your knowledge and experience in the fitness rhelm.

Fitness directors will usually make between $20,000 and $30,000 per year. But remember, you can't be a director until you have been drop-dead successful as a trainer first. So, you have to put in your time! Being a strength and conditioning coach (like me!) is the best job I can imagine. But, it is ridiculously hard to break into! Only division 1 programs have strength coaches and there are only 150 or so Div 1 programs in the country, so you can imagine those odds. Smaller colleges have strength coaches also but they are generally teachers and coaches. Or they coach football and do strength training together. So, you have to have a ton of experience as a coach or have a Master's Degree to get those jobs.

It sounds pretty bleak, I know. You could go down to Metro Fitness or Bally's this afternoon and have a 75% chance to land a job as a fitness technician (floor trainer that does tours of the club and sells memberships). You will make about 5 bucks an hour but it will be an opportunity to refine your training skills, move up the ladder and eventually become a manager or fitness director. That's how it works. If you really want to do it. I would say do it! It can be very enjoyable as long as you know that it's not overlly glamorous, takes long hours, doesn't pay very well and can take a few years to move into a top position! Once you make it though, it's awesome!!

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