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Group fitness instructors help keep people motivated as they work through fitness routines, providing instruction and encouragement along the way. While many group fitness instructors feel personally rewarded by watching students become healthier and stronger, knowing the monetary rewards can help you decide if this career choice is for you.
Group fitness instructors work in a variety of locations, including gyms, healthcare facilities, senior residential living homes and corporate offices. Some fitness instructors specialize in certain types of exercise class, such as Pilates or spinning. Other group fitness instructors may teach numerous classes including cardio kickboxing, yoga, weight training or Zumba. Becoming a group fitness instructor involves professional training; most health and fitness facilities want to hire someone who has completed required instruction and training hours to teach exercise classes. You may also be expected to obtain CPR and first aid certification as well as purchase a liability insurance policy.
In 2009, group fitness instructors earned a median average salary of $29,210, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics, with a range of $16,121 to $60,760 or more. Those instructors in the middle 50 percent earned between $19,610 and $44,420. The American Council on Fitness reports that for 2011, part-time certified group fitness instructors earned $12,451 annually on average, and full-time certified group fitness instructors earned $47,659 annually on average. Those salaries translate to $24.49 per hour on average for part-time workers and $23.50 per hour on average for full-time workers.
Group fitness instructors may be paid in different ways. Some salaries are based on hourly pay; for example, a gym aerobics teacher might earn $24.50 per hour. They may also be paid on a per-class basis; for example, a yoga instructor might be paid $30 per class whether it’s a 60-minute or 75-minute yoga class. Other facilities may charge group fitness instructors a flat rental rate for use of their fitness room, allowing instructors to determine class cost per student so that students pay their teacher directly.
It’s possible to increase your group fitness instructor salary by earning bonuses in some situations. Some facilities may pay instructors an agreed-upon rate for a specified number of students, paying an additional $1 per hour for every student above the predetermined class size. For example, a cardio kickboxing instructor might be paid $20 per class of 10 students, but then $1 extra for each additional student beyond that. This motivates instructors to market and promote their fitness classes.
Because many group fitness instructors work part-time, most don’t receive benefits such as health insurance or retirement fund contributions. However, some companies permit group fitness instructors free access to their fitness facilities; in some cases this privilege may be expanded to include spouses and children. Some facilities may also help defray additional training costs for current group fitness instructors when adding new class types to the schedule, especially when there’s high demand for the new offering.
Morgan Rush is a California journalist specializing in news, business writing, fitness and travel. He's written for numerous publications at the national, state and local level, including newspapers, magazines and websites. Rush holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, San Diego.