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Becoming a Personal Trainer in California

For personal trainers, it is hard to top California as a destination to start or continue a career. According to Men’s Fitness magazine, California is home to six of the fifteen fittest cities in the United States. U-Jam, Spinning and Piloxing also got their start in California. An undeniable attraction of working as a personal trainer in California is the opportunity to work with clients that have a wide variety of athletic interests. As a personal fitness trainer, you will be called upon to help athletes improve their strength, stamina and flexibility to keep them in top form.

If fitness and performance nutrition are more your interest, California is still the place to be. Robb Wolf, who is a top workout and paleo diet expert, is based out of California. Wolf has attained great success as an author, podcast host, and a California State Powerlifting Champion. With hard work and luck, perhaps you can achieve similar success!

Penn Foster Career School's Online Personal Trainer Programs

Take the first step towards preparing for your career in the fields of personal fitness and nutrition through Penn Foster Career School's online programs:

Personal Trainer Career Diploma

A major draw that California holds for many personal trainers is the highly competitive starting salary. According to US BLS surveys, personal trainers in California average around $48,000 per year and climbing. Keep in mind that self-employed trainers and studio owners were not included in arriving at that number, and their earning level is often considerably higher.

Becoming a Personal Trainer in California

Because fitness is and always has been a trend that never goes out of style in sunny California, the competition for positions as a personal trainer are fierce. Employers pursue the best educated and most motivated candidates with national certification to fill their job openings.

Education and Formal Training

The candidates that have the best odds of landing jobs as personal trainers have a degree in sports medicine, exercise science, or a closely related field of study. With this type of educational background, you will be ready to enter the workforce with a knowledge of coaching, fitness, and nutrition that will help set you apart from other applicants - along with some real live experience from shadowing a trainer that looks great on your resume.

Students pursuing careers in personal training typically enroll in degree programs with one of the following majors:

Two-year associate’s degree in:

  • Fitness and Health

  • Exercise Science

Four-year bachelor’s degree in:

  • Kinesiology (including courses in Leading Group Fitness Activities, Psycho/Social Aspects of Physical Activity and Managing Kinesiology Programs)

  • Exercise Physiology (including courses in Exercise Testing and Prescription, Sports Epidemiology and Nutrition and Physical Fitness)

  • Exercise Science (including courses in Applied Biomechanics, Statistics in Human Movement Science and Cardiopulmonary Aspects of Health-Related Exercise Programs)

  • Physical Education or Coaching

  • Nutrition

  • Biology or Human Physiology

  • Sports Medicine

Core courses in any of these degree programs will typically cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Strength and conditioning

  • Theories of exercise

  • Analysis of health and fitness

  • Human anatomy

  • Weight management

  • Nutrition for sports and fitness

  • Biomechanics

These courses will give you a strong baseline of knowledge in health and wellness that will help you to effectively assess the needs of clients and create workout plans to help them reach their goals. This will allow you to fit the needs of a number of clubs, gyms and facilities in need of personal trainers. Another benefit of these training programs is that they help students develop the kind of interpersonal skills necessary to effectively communicate with everyone from novice to advanced clients. With all of the skills, you will be a prime candidate on the lists of anyone hiring personal trainers.

Personal Training Certification

Obtaining at least one national certification from a national agency is a near necessity for any form of employment as a personal trainer. Some national certifying agencies will require CPR certification and an undergraduate degree in order to become a member in good standing. .

The following are ten major personal training certification agencies accepted by employers in California:

  • National Strength and Conditioning Association’s Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (NSCA-CSCS) - requires a 4-year degree

  • National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT) - must have at least two years of fitness experience

  • National Endurance and Sports Trainers Association (NESTA)

  • International Fitness Professionals Association (IFPA)

  • The Cooper Institute

  • The American Council on Exercise (ACE)

  • The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)

  • The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)

  • National Strength and Conditioning Association’s Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT)

  • American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA)

If you decide to go down a more specialized route, you will need additional training and certification. This will be true of pursuing work with specific age groups or style of fitness. One example of this is if you plan to teach classes involving pool work, you will need water safety and lifeguard certification.

The following are examples of some additional certifications that you might consider available through the certifying organizations named above:

  • Sports Fitness Certification

  • Certified Pilates Fitness Instructor

  • Aquatic Fitness Professional

  • Flexibility Coach

  • Certified Health Fitness Specialist - requires a 4-year degree

Starting your Career as a Personal Trainer in California

We have included some ads that showcase what employers in California are looking for in personal trainers so that you can develop an idea of what kind of skills will make you an in-demand candidate for top positions. Although these listing may not reflect exactly what you are looking for, they are a good place to begin forming ideas of what is available.

Renaissance Fitness requires that candidates hold national certification and prefers those with experience in Exercise Physiology, Exercise Science, Physical Education, Sports Medicine, Nutrition or related disciplines. As a member of their team, you’ll be expected to design customized, safe workout programs for clients in one-on-one sessions and monitor their progress.

Equinox in Glendale and Pasadena requires prospective trainers to hold national certification and prefers those with previous fitness experience. Their personal trainers enjoy an earning potential of up to $100,000 and more than 160 hours of paid education with the potential to become a Master Instructor or in-club Manager.

Beach Fitness/CrossFit in Seal Beach require trainers at their club to have previous personal training experience or a degree in a fitness-related field. You’ll also need to be certified, and able to comfortably guide clients individually and in small groups.

Another thing to keep in mind while looking at studios you may want to work for is what kind of classes they offer and what type of certifications they require for those who lead them. This ensures that both you and your employer are the best fit for each other. Certifications that are always in demand in California include Pilates, yoga and SurfSet.

The following rotation of classes at California Family Fitness in Sacramento provides a great example of what classes you might be called on to teach:

  • Zumba: the popular dance workout choreographed to Latin music

  • Step: participants step up and down to boost heart rate and tone muscles

  • Dance Step: a step workout paired to music with dance moves for added fun

  • Step Interval: a step workout combined with interval training to tone muscles

  • Cardio Dance: a classic cardio class that incorporates the latest dance moves to boost heart rate and increase endurance

  • Turbo Kick: a blend of cardio intervals and strength/endurance training

  • 20/20/20: a workout sampler featuring 20 minutes of floor aerobics, 20 minutes of step and 20 minutes of strength training

If you follow the proper education and work experience plan outlined above, you should have no trouble obtaining a national certification as a personal trainer capable of leading large classes or one-on-one consultations.

15% off Personal Trainer Courses for California Professionals - Click Here