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Personal Trainer/​Exercise Professional

Kaiwhakangungu Tinana/​Kaiwhakaako Whakapakari

Alternative titles for this job

Personal trainers/exercise professionals provide expertise, knowledge and structured support to improve and maintain health and wellness through physical activity.

Pay

Exercise professionals usually earn

$21-$70 per hour

Personal trainers usually earn

$45-$90 per hour

Source: NZ REPs, 2022.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a personal trainer/exercise professional are good due to increasing demand for their services.

Pay

Pay for personal trainers/exercise professionals varies depending on experience, the type of work they do, and if they are self-employed.

  • Exercise professionals usually earn between minimum wage and $28 an hour.
  • Group exercise professionals usually earn between $35 and $70 an hour.
  • Yoga teachers usually earn between $22 and $70 an hour.
  • Personal trainers usually earn between $45 and $90 an hour.
  • Self-employed personal trainers can earn between $50 and $120 an hour, but their income depends on the success of their business.

Source: NZ Register of Exercise Professionals, 2022.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Personal trainers/exercise professionals may do some or all the following:

  • assess clients' health and wellness and design exercise programmes for them
  • explain and demonstrate safe exercises, weight training and class routines
  • give advice on nutrition as well as injury recovery and prevention
  • help out at the exercise facility, which can involve cleaning and reception duties.

Personal trainers may also:

  • market and promote their services
  • discuss lifestyle and exercise goals with clients
  • take clients for personal training sessions
  • make bookings and keep accounts.

Skills and knowledge

Personal trainers/exercise professionals need to have:

  • skill in exercise prescription, nutrition and wellness
  • an understanding of how to prescribe and demonstrate safe and effective exercises
  • an understanding of anatomy and physiology
  • knowledge of first aid
  • knowledge of exercise equipment and how to operate it correctly.

Personal trainers are often self-employed, so they need to have:

  • sales and marketing skills
  • the ability to develop and maintain their own client base
  • business administration skills.

Group exercise professionals also need to have knowledge of choreography and how to lead exercise classes.

Working conditions

Personal trainers/exercise professionals:

  • usually work shifts, including early mornings, evenings and weekends
  • usually work in exercise facilities, recreation centres and community settings
  • may need to travel to meet clients.

What's the job really like?

Libby Searle

Libby Searle

Personal Trainer

Gyms used to scare Libby Searle. Now she works as a personal trainer and runs weightlifting classes for women.

Overcoming fear leads to new career

"I was a really unfit kid and teenager, and always hated fitness. All through high school I never did PE – just hated it," Libby says.

When a friend suggested they train for a half-marathon, Libby started going to a gym but found the experience intimidating. This all changed after she discovered she had hip dysplasia, which needed surgery and physiotherapy, and brought her back to the gym.

"I really found a love for it. I wanted to help people feel not so scared in the gym."

Running her own business

A big step for Libby was moving from working in a commercial gym to running her own personal trainer business in Christchurch.

"I always knew it would be a good idea to work in a commercial space to learn from other trainers. They offer mentoring and you can bounce ideas of them. It's a little scary going out on your own. I don't recommend it for anyone straight off."

Now Libby runs her own business specialising in weightlifting classes for women and has been a winner at the Exercise Industry Awards.

"In two years I've gone from running two classes a week to 13."

Fitness manager video

Bryn talks about what it's like to be a fitness manager – 2.36 mins. (Video courtesy of Skills Active Aotearoa)

Bryn: When I was leaving school I was slightly overweight and I wasn’t too happy about myself, so basically when I went overseas I took a gap year and I spent three months and really worked on myself with losing weight. So, doing a lot of running and a lot of gym work, and over that time I lost over 20 kilos, so I felt pretty good about myself. And, basically using a personal trainer I obviously felt pretty good, and I was like - well if I’m feeling this good then I wanted everyone else to feel the same and I got a good buzz out of training people and helping people achieve their goals.

My name is Bryn Morgans.

So basically I work here at City Fitness Newmarket as a fitness manager and a personal trainer on the side. So basically, my role is to get personal trainers up and running and to get them moving on as quickly as possible. As a personal trainer there is only so many people you can help so now as fitness manager the more people I can help that are gonna help other people means I’m having a benefit on everyone’s lifestyle, so it’s great.

How did I fit my study in?

So, like anything it does come down to time management and one thing I’ve learned being a personal trainer and fitness manager is that it’s all about making sure you set aside time for everything rather than leaving everything to the last minute – what I used to do at school and, you know, have to cram for an exam or something like that which isn’t going to give you the best result possible.

By going through Skills Active and doing courses it’s allowed me to have a better understanding of everything and when I went and did my course down in Dunedin that was really good but that was three plus years ago so it’s been good and allowed me to refresh my memory and now set some new goals and be a bit more determined and focused on where I’m planning on being over the next three to five years.

Over the next couple months I plan on becoming a regional manager so that I can oversee a few more clubs which allows me to have rather than twenty trainers, I’m now looking at over fifty and then from there I plan to become the Director of Fitness. Obviously there’s a few people in the line, but, you know, that’s my next progression and that means, you know, twenty to thirty clubs by then if not more. With those amount of PTs helping those amount of people is just something I can’t wait to achieve, so yeah.

Entry requirements

There are no specific requirements to become a personal trainer/exercise professional.

However, many employers prefer to hire personal trainers/exercise professionals who have, or are working towards, a qualification. A range of personal trainer/exercise professional qualifications are available from polytechnics, universities and private training establishments.

You can also complete a personal trainer/exercise professional apprenticeship and gain a New Zealand Certificate in Fitness (Level 3 or Level 4). Industry training organisation Skills Active Aotearoa oversees personal trainer/exercise professional training and apprenticeships.

Most employers require you to be registered with the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs).

Secondary education

No specific secondary education is required for this job, but biology, health education and physical education to at least NCEA Level 2 are useful.

Personal requirements

Personal trainers/exercise professionals need to be:

  • patient, friendly, supportive and professional
  • able to lead and motivate others
  • organised and adaptable
  • good at problem solving
  • good communicators.

You have to be motivated to do stuff that’s not so much fun – like tax, social media, advertising. It’s hard work, but if you have the right support you can really make a go of it.


Photo: Libby Searle

Libby Searle

Personal Trainer

Useful experience

Useful experience for personal trainers/exercise professionals includes:

  • communicating in group settings 
  • work in areas such as nutrition, physiotherapy or physical education
  • public speaking
  • customer service work.

Physical requirements

Personal trainers/exercise professionals need to have good general health.

Registration

Most employers require personal trainers/exercise professionals to be registered with the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs).

Find out more about training

Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs)
0800 55 44 99 - info@reps.org.nz - www.reps.org.nz
Skills Active Aotearoa
0508 475 4557 - info@skillsactive.org.nz - www.skillsactive.org.nz
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Health benefits of exercise drive demand

Demand for personal trainers and exercise professionals is expected to continue to grow as exercise is increasingly viewed as essential to good health.

Online exercise training and wearable devices such as fitness watches are also expected to increase the demand for personal trainers and exercise professionals. 

According to the Census, 4,146 fitness instructors worked in New Zealand in 2018.

Small range of employers for exercise professionals

Exercise professionals can work for:

  • large gym chains
  • exercise centres
  • fitness clubs.

Self-employment common among personal trainers

Many personal trainers are self-employed.

Personal trainers can:

  • work for exercise centres or gyms as an employee
  • hire a space at a community hall, exercise centre or gym, and work independently
  • set up a business in their own premises
  • become franchise holders.

Sources

  • Beddie, R, chief executive, Exercise Association of New Zealand, careers.govt.nz interview, January 2018.
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'Detailed Occupation Data Table', accessed February 2018, (www.mbie.govt.nz).
  • NZ Herald, 'Workout Industry Bulks Up: Gym Business Worth $494 Million', February 2017, (nzherald.co.nz).
  • Register of Exercise Professionals website, accessed January 2022, (www.reps.org.nz).
  • Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
  • Watkins, T, 'How Covid changed the Way We Think About Fitness', 12 September 2021, (www.stuff.co.nz).

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Personal trainers/exercise professionals may progress to set up their own fitness or personal training business.

They may specialise in areas such as:

  • Zumba
  • Pilates
  • yoga
  • weightlifting.
Personal trainer Libby Searle helping a client lift a weight

Personal trainers work with clients to help them improve their fitness

Last updated 5 August 2022