The Qualifications to Work at a Gym

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The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports in its 2012 edition of the Occupational Outlook Handbook that jobs in health clubs, fitness facilities and other settings are expected to increase by 19 percent from 2012 to 2022. Fitness specialists, exercise instructors and facility directors will be in demand with rising obesity rates and health care costs resulting from negative lifestyle behaviors. To work in a gym, seek education, certification and professional development opportunities.

Fitness Specialists/Trainers

Fitness specialists and personal trainers may be full-time, part-time or hourly employees. As a fitness specialist, your job duties may include fitness testing, exercise prescription, and equipment demonstration and supervision. You should have a bachelor's degree in exercise science or a related field. As for personal trainers, most gyms require a current personal trainer certification from a recognized organization, such as the American College of Sports Medicine, American Council on Exercise, National Strength and Conditioning Association or International Sports Sciences Association.

Exercise Instructors

Exercise instructors are certified to teach general fitness classes but may have a specialty area, such as yoga, pilates, weight training, martial arts or other expertise. They are usually paid per class. If you enjoy exercising in group settings and are an enthusiastic leader, look into training and certification programs offered by credible organizations, such as ACSM, ACE, the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America and American Fitness Professionals and Associates. Some gyms may require you to audition or have a specific certification.


As a director or club manager, you oversee daily operations and employees of the gym. An undergraduate or graduate degree in a fitness or recreation-related field is usually required. Experience working in a similar setting and a background in financial or business management is helpful. Practice administrative and organizational duties at work or school to develop your management and leadership abilities. Obtain fitness specialist, personal trainer or instructor certifications for versatility on the job.

Professional Development

Fitness professionals are required to complete continuing education credits to maintain their certifications. Seek a variety of professional development opportunities to stay current in the field. If you don't have a degree, look into community colleges or four-year institutions that offer courses in exercise science, fitness, recreation management or wellness programming. Join local business or professional organization and certification networks to meet people, ask questions and market yourself for advancement in the health club industry.