California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors in California

May also be called: Personal Trainers; Trainers; Fitness Instructors; Group Exercise Instructors; Group Fitness Instructors; Fitness Directors; Fitness Technicians; Fitness Coordinators; and Private Trainers

What Would I Do?

Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors educate and motivate individuals or groups in exercise. They demonstrate techniques and methods in cardiovascular exercise, weight and strength training, and stretching. They observe clients and show them ways to improve their skills.

Fitness Trainers teach clients how to properly and safely use all of the equipment at the center. Equipment includes free weights, universal gyms, treadmills, stationary bicycles, and elliptical machines.

Fitness Trainers who work one-on-one with clients in a gym, exercise facility, or in the client’s home are known as Personal Trainers. They draw up a plan for each client and help them determine goals that relate to strength, endurance, and weight.

The job of Group Instructor is as varied as the exercise or discipline they lead. In addition to aerobics and step aerobics, Group Instructors lead sessions in yoga, Pilates, square dancing, spinning, hip hop, Tai Bo, kick boxing, and water aerobics. Most develop their own routines and select and mix music to help with the movements. Many of the movements and exercises in these classes are further adapted for senior citizens or those with physical limitations.

Both Fitness Trainers and Group Instructors teach clients how to properly breathe during exercise and weight training sessions to get the maximum benefit from their workouts.

This guide does not describe athletic trainers, who work with competitive and professional athletes to help them achieve goals related to their sport.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Explain and enforce safety rules and regulations governing sports, recreational activities, and the use of exercise equipment.Speaking
Offer alternatives during classes to accommodate different levels of fitness.Monitoring
Plan routines, choose appropriate music, and choose different movements for each set of muscles, depending on participants' capabilities and limitations.Learning Strategies
Teach proper breathing techniques used during physical exertion.Instructing
Instruct participants in maintaining exertion levels to maximize benefits from exercise routines.Stamina
Teach and demonstrate use of gymnastic and training equipment such as trampolines and weights.Coordination
Maintain fitness equipment.Problem Sensitivity
Provide clients with information and resources regarding nutrition, weight control, and lifestyle issues.Service Orientation
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors work for the most part indoors at fitness centers and health clubs. The work can be strenuous and involves certain hazards if proper safety precautions are not followed. These include the possibility of tearing muscles and pulling tendons while lifting weights, performing calisthenics, or leading aerobic exercises.

Fitness centers can be 24-hour operations; however, Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors often work early mornings, evenings, and weekends when fitness centers are the most crowded. Those who want to work a 40-hour week sometimes must divide their time between two or more facilities.

At this time, there is little or no union membership involved with this occupation.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors will appeal to people who have a social and realistic nature. Those who enjoy physical activity and who like working one-on-one with people in the role of advisor or teacher might like this work. In addition, the aspect of creating and carrying out training programs for clients, and helping people achieve their fitness goals will appeal to those who enjoy starting up and carrying out projects, leading people, and making decisions.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

In addition to hourly earnings, many Personal Trainers in fitness centers earn commissions for signing clients to personalized programs or specialized sessions. These private sessions are typically charged above the monthly or annual membership costs.


The median wage in 2022 for Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors in California is $52,557 annually, or $25.27 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2022Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2022 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas


Nationally, about half of all health clubs offer health or dental insurance, life insurance, vacation pay, or pension or profit-sharing plans. Many part-time Trainers and Instructors do not enjoy the same benefits, other than the benefit of using the fitness facilities at no cost.

What is the Job Outlook?

Employment prospects are expected to be good because of rapid growth in the fitness industry. An increasing number of people spend more time and money on fitness, and more businesses are recognizing the benefits of health and fitness programs and other services such as wellness programs for their employees.
Aging baby boomers are concerned with staying healthy, physically fit, and independent. They have become the largest demographic group of health club members. The reduction of physical education programs in schools, combined with parents’ growing concern about childhood obesity, has resulted in rapid increases in children’s health club membership. Health club membership among young adults also has grown steadily, driven by concern with physical fitness and by rising incomes.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors is expected to grow much faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors are expected to increase by 14.9 percent, or 7,000 jobs between 2018 and 2028.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Total Job
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

As a minimum, employers require Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors to have a high school diploma, be certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and have experience leading groups in physical activity.

In addition, employers almost always require at least a certificate from a recognized certifying organization. Training programs range from a few days to more than two years and are found in adult education sites, private schools, and community colleges. The courses cover anatomy, kinesiology, physiology, nutrition, weight training, and first aid. The most recognized programs are those accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.

An increasing number of employers require Personal Trainers to have bachelor degrees in fields such as physical education, kinesiology, or exercise science. Previous sales experience is also often required.

Because of today’s high demand for Pilates and yoga teachers in fitness centers, employers sometimes do not require certification at the time of hire. However, they are strongly urged to complete their specialized training and earn a certificate within the first year of employment.

The Pilates Method Alliance has established training standards that recommend at least 200 hours of training and maintains a list of training schools that meet the requirements.

Training requirements for yoga Instructors are similar to those for Pilates Instructors. Training programs range from a few days to more than two years.

Early Career Planning

High school students interested in this type of work should participate in more than one sport or exercise discipline during their years in school and fully participate in the required physical education classes. Biology, public speaking, and any nutrition courses offered will also be helpful. Many people get their start as Group Instructors by taking yoga, Pilates, step aerobics, or other specialty discipline for an extended period. Eventually, their teachers may consider them suited to assist or to substitute teach.

Continuing Education

Fitness Trainers and Aerobic Instructors improve their skills by taking training courses or attending fitness conventions. Some certificates must be renewed every two years and require additional training to keep current in methods and equipment.


Becoming certified is increasingly important, especially for Personal Trainers. One way to ensure that a certifying organization is reputable is to see whether it is accredited or seeking accreditation by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.

Most certifying entities require a high school diploma, and certification in CPR. All certification exams have a written component, and some also have a practical component that measure knowledge of human physiology, proper exercise techniques, assessment of client fitness levels, and development of appropriate exercise programs.

For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors work primarily in fitness and recreational sports centers. The largest industries employing Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Other Amusement & Recreation Industries73.6%
Civic and Social Organizations4.8%
Other Schools and Instruction3.9%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Most Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors work in recreation-related industries. Newspaper classifieds provide a helpful resource for local job openings.  Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors.

  • Aerobics
  • Classes & Instruction
  • Health Clubs & Gyms
  • Personal Trainers
  • Pilates
  • Spas
  • Weight Training Centers
  • Yoga

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

It is possible for Personal Trainers to promote to head trainer. Head trainers are responsible for the hiring and overseeing of Personal Trainer staff and for increasing clientele for the business. Group Fitness Instructors can promote to group exercise director, with responsibility for hiring instructors and coordinating exercise classes.

Another step up in the promotion ladder could be Fitness Director. Fitness Directors manage the budget for fitness programs and manage staff. For management positions at fitness centers, a bachelor’s degree in exercise science, physical education, kinesiology, or a related area, along with sales experience, is usually required. Some Personal Trainers go into business for themselves, working independently or opening their own fitness center.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors with links to more information.

Athletic TrainersProfile
Coaches and ScoutsProfile
Recreation WorkersGuide
Self-Enrichment Education TeachersProfile

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification39-9031
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors39-9031.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)SRE
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Health and Physical Education, General 310501
   Sport and Fitness Administration/Management 310504
   Physical Fitness Technician 310507
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Physical Education083500
   Physical Fitness and Body Movement083510
   Fitness Trainer083520
   Intercollegiate Athletics083550
   Health Education083700