Exercise specialists, also known as fitness trainers or fitness instructors, train individuals and groups in cardiovascular health regimens, strength training exercises and joint flexibility techniques. They work at health clubs, hotels, gyms, hospitals, Pilates and yoga studios, vacation resorts and in the residences of clients. Exercise specialists also must perform non-training tasks such as sales and marketing. A customer-service focus, excellent physical conditioning, teaching ability and listening skills are key traits of exercise specialists.
Exercise specialists evaluate the needs of new clients, create choreographed exercise programs for them and monitor their weekly progress. They instruct individuals and groups how to execute cardiovascular exercises efficiently, use weight lifting equipment safely and provide advice about nutrition and weight control issues. Exercise specialists employed by small and large health clubs must also perform sales duties, staff the front desk, conduct new client tours, write marketing materials and supervise less-experienced colleagues.
Exercise specialists must have a high school diploma or a GED. Employers want exercise specialists to hold an associate's or bachelor's degree with a major in kinesiology, which is the study of movement, exercise science or physical education. Courses in basic nutrition, CPR, exercise techniques and group fitness are beneficial. Specific educational requirements vary by exercise specialty. For example, 200 hours of study is necessary to become a yoga instructor, according to the Yoga Alliance.
A popular exercise specialist and fitness trainer certification credential is offered by the Academy of Applied Personal Training Education. Applicants must have a high school diploma or its equivalent, must have successfully completed a course in human anatomy or hold an active status personal training certification -- and a valid photo identification. The Academy recommends formal study in the following subjects: anatomy, exercise program design, health and fitness assessment, kinesiology and nutrition. It's also important to have a basic understanding of medical terminology.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics combines its salary data for fitness trainers and aerobics instructors. Fitness trainers earned a mean hourly wage of $17.38 and a mean yearly salary of $36,150, as of May 2011. Entry-level fitness trainers, or the lowest 10 percent of earners, had annual wages of $17,340. The highest 10 percent of earners had yearly salaries of $65,180, according to the Bureau.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected number of jobs for fitness trainers is estimated to increase by 311,800, or 24 percent, from 2010 to 2020. This projection compares with an average 14 percent growth rate in all other U.S. occupations tracked by the Bureau. Baby boomers who want to stay in shape and businesses that promote employee wellness will fuel the demand for exercise specialists.