When I started out in college majoring in Kinesiology, I had no idea the different opportunities that the realm of fitness even had. I genuinely thought it’s either a personal trainer or gym teacher. Little did I know that there were so many other lanes you could go in. The best part about that is helping you find your niche for your journey. We all get so worried that we need to FIND OUR PASSION right away. More often than not you just have to choose the general trajectory, and then try different jobs within that realm to see where your skills shine the most. Let’s go over some of the specialities.
This is usually the most sought after lane of training. At least for the guys. We all want to work exclusively with athletes, on the pro level, making millions of dollars. That sounds great and all but you have to understand what comes with it. Strength coaches were 12 hour days, for not a lot of pay (even at the NCAA Division I level). It’s also a very very small community, so there aren’t as many top tier jobs as you think. Your best best is interning at a college, or under a somewhat recognized independent coach you follow online, and learn everything there is through that. The huge advantage of this is you’ll learn more in that year practically speaking, than you would all four years of a masters program. You’ll also have the added benefit of hopefully having your mentor refer you out to a really good job after.
National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA) or National Academy of Sports Medicine’s Performance Enhancement Specialist (NASM-PES) are your best bets in terms of certification required to enter this field.
This is a great route if you love working with more than one person at a time. Group instructors have the ability to make their workouts a little more fun because of the atmosphere. Clients will bring their friends and family, usually music is playing, etc. You can host it on the beach, or in the gym.
Again you can find your niche even within this realm. You could do spin classes, yoga, aerobics, Orange Theory, CrossFit, SoulCycle, you name it.
The best certifications to have for a group instructor are ISSA Specialist in group fitness, ACE group instructor and ACSM Group Exercise Instructor.
Online (Bodybuilding Prep, Weight Loss)
The most popular option right now is doing everything online. With the rise of social media and Instagram, came fitness influencers with their Youtube channels. Now you can post video tutorials, Zoom training calls, and send pdf plans through email. Regular training, and even group training limits you by the hours in the day. You can only see so many people. Online, you can increase your reach depending on how involved you want to get.
Any certification will work, just please make sure you have one. There are a lot of popular influencers who have never actually TRAINED a client in person, nor have a certification, yet are training hundreds of people. I highly recommend anyone getting into online training to first, have the experience of in person training. You have to know how to gauge proper form, drawbacks and whatnot that happen throughout the course of working with a client.
General Population/ Running a Gym
The most common approach is at your regular gym. You are working one on one, with clients aged 20-90 years old. Some trainers like the huge variance, others not so much. Again, even within this realm you can find yourself specializing towards one population over another. In some gym’s the fitness managers end up directing a certain clientele towards certain trainers who have established this niche. When I was working in a chain gym I worked mostly with fat loss clients in their 30’s and 40’s, but we had another guy who exclusively wanted the older population to do corrective exercise work. You can even climb up the chain if you realize you enjoy managing other trainers or running a gym.
ACE, NASM, ISSA, are all great certifications to have if you want to be a trainer.
This is still kind of the same as above, but again more nuanced. You could go the gym teacher route. You could also have boot camps for kids, for after school or during the summer. Some coaches LOVE working with kids (I’ve always been really good with kids for example), and can keep up with the energy the kids have, while being creative with the workouts so the children stay engaged.
Kids are getting more and more obese every year. There is definitely a nice little niche to carve out here if you love working with kids and I highly recommend it if you are.
I touched on it earlier, but another example of coaches who want to specifically work with corrective exercise clients would be physical therapy aides. You could work under a physical therapist, helping implement their prescribed rehab protocols. If you are looking to become a Physical Therapist, or love figuring out the biomechanics of the body, and how all the pieces work together, I highly recommend this one.
Hopefully this article gave you a better idea of what to expect when entering the training field. As you can see it doesn’t just have to be a trainer working in a chain (like I thought it was). If helping people improve their health is an interest of yours, then dive in and I bet you will end up finding your own niche to carve out over the long run.