What Is a Fitness Trainer (and How Do I Become One)?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

If you enjoy being physically active and helping other people live their best lives, a career as a fitness trainer could be a good match. Learn more about this growing field.

[Featured image] A fitness trainer instructs a client on how to properly perform an exercise with dumbbells.

Fitness trainers coach individuals or groups in exercises and other fitness-related activities. This might include cardiovascular training, strength training, or stretching and mobility exercises. If you're self-directed and enjoy working with people, a career as a fitness trainer could be a good fit.

According to the Government of Canada Job Bank, the job prospects for fitness trainers in most provinces and territories are moderate to good over the next few years.  Learn about this growing field and the required skills and experience to become a fitness trainer. 

What does a fitness trainer do?

A fitness trainer leads and instructs individuals or groups on proper exercise techniques, form, and routines, monitoring progress and offering motivation and resources when needed. Fitness trainers demonstrate various movements and safe alternatives to minimize the risk of injury while helping people reach fitness and health goals. Fitness trainers may also teach group fitness classes, coordinate routines, and develop exercises. As a fitness trainer, you should be able to perform emergency first aid if needed. 

Fitness trainer salary

According to the Government of Canada Job Bank, fitness trainers made a median wage of $18.00 per hour in 2023 [1]. Trainers tend to work in the following places:

  • Community centres

  • Sports and fitness clubs

  • Outdoor centres

  • Resorts

  • Recreational facilities

  • Health care facilities

  • Retirement homes

  • Correctional institutions

  • Government departments

  • Private businesses

  • Tourism associations

What skills do fitness trainers need?

The skills of fitness trainers are centred around achieving health and fitness goals and understanding the impact of exercise on the body. In some cases, fitness trainers will offer nutrition and lifestyle guidance. Fitness trainers should be able to provide their clients with support, guidance, and advice to safely perform exercises that may include cardio, strength training, stretches, or other forms of movement. 

If you're interested in pursuing a career as a fitness trainer, here are some key skills to focus on:

Knowledge of health and fitness

To be an effective fitness trainer, you'll need to understand how exercise and nutrition work together. This will likely include knowledge of anatomy, kinesiology, biomechanics, and exercise physiology. People will seek your expertise to help them reach goals that may include weight loss, muscle gain, or improving cardiovascular health. 


Fitness trainers often lead group exercise routines or classes. Leading a group may require an energetic presence, a positive and encouraging attitude, and empathy for others. Your goal in a group fitness setting is to create a team mentality and supportive environment where people want to work hard and enjoy the exercise.

Relationship management

It's important to have good communication skills and be able to tailor workout routines or programs based on individual needs. It's crucial to maintain an encouraging attitude and listen to client feedback. 


Create an environment that helps people meet their goals. Fitness trainers should have the skills to inspire and motivate their clients, including creating targeted fitness programs that are engaging and fun. 

Business skills

Having essential business skills and an understanding of customer service can be very beneficial in this career. Some trainers start their own businesses after building a loyal client base while working for a gym or fitness centre. Some trainers start by creating an online presence and grow their business from there. Some essential business skills include:

  • Taxes for freelancers or business owners 

  • Methods for managing and accepting payments

  • Scheduling and time management 

  • Creating legally binding contracts

  • Marketing and brand building 

How to become a fitness trainer

If you're interested in a career in fitness, here are some steps you can take to get started:

Learn about the fitness industry.

As a fitness trainer, it's essential to stay updated on the latest fitness trends to stay relevant in the industry and grow as a professional. It's your job to keep on top of trends and learn ways to meet your clients' needs and goals. 

Consider a specialization.

Many fitness trainers have a specialization. Depending on the type of exercise and role that interests you most, you might work specifically as an aerobics instructor, a personal trainer, a gymnastics teacher, a ski instructor, or a recreational program leader. 

Get certified in CPR/AED.

Employers may require CPR/AED certification for their fitness trainers. Keeping your clients safe and healthy should be a top priority, even if you're working independently. You may also be required to learn first aid or other emergency medical care.

Earn a certification.

You may be required to become certified in your specific area of interest. For example, if you want to become a personal trainer, you can become certified through Canadian Fitness Professionals (Canfitpro), the Certified Professional Trainers Network (CPTN), or the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP). While certification isn't always necessary for fitness training jobs in Canada, you usually need a fitness appraiser certification if you want to become a fitness appraiser. 

Do I need a degree to become a fitness trainer?

You will typically need a secondary school diploma to become a fitness trainer. While completing a college program in recreation or physical education can be helpful, it is often optional. Several years of experience in a sports or recreation program may be suitable for the job you want.  


Get started. 

As a fitness trainer, you can help people improve their lives through exercise and a healthy lifestyle. Explore whether fitness may be a good career path for you with a course like Hacking Exercise for Health: The Surprising New Science of Fitness from McMaster University or Designing Your Personal Weight Loss Plan by Case Western Reserve University.

Article sources

  1. Government of Canada Job Bank. "Personal Trainer in Canada, https://www.jobbank.gc.ca/marketreport/wages-occupation/24578/ca." Accessed April 23, 2024.

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