Do you have a passion for health, wellness, nutrition, and exercise? Are you interested in working one-on-one with clients to develop and implement a workout routine that helps them build muscle, lose weight, and improve both their mental and physical health? If so, a career as a personal trainer might be perfect for you. It’s one of the few occupations that lets you practice self care while also making a positive impact on the life of others. But like most professions, you need to invest both time and money in order to get started. So, how much can you earn and how much does it cost to become a personal trainer? Let’s crunch some numbers.

How much can personal trainers earn?

Many people wrongly assume that the criteria for becoming a personal trainer starts and ends with being physically fit, a gym rat, and socially adept. However, there’s much more to personal training than you might think. As a result, salaries for fitness trainers can vary significantly, ranging from below the national average to far above it. Earning potential depends largely on:

  • Clientele
  • Specialization
  • Credentials
  • Educational background and continuing education
  • Location
  • Place of employment

While it depends upon the state, if you want to call yourself a fitness professional and earn top dollar, there are several tasks you must first complete. Thus, how much do you have to pay to complete these tasks?


As with other specialist fields, education paves the foundation that you build your career upon. It’s vital that personal trainers have intimate knowledge on biology, nutrition, and sports science. Because of this, many certification programs require that you have the proper educational training and background. Now, there are some certification programs that allow you to get away with simply having a high school degree, but if you want to charge a premium rate, your scholastic laurels do matter. These days, even a Bachelor’s degree may not be enough, since many top trainers go on to pursue post-graduate degrees. That said, valuable degrees include:

  • Kinesiology
  • Exercise science
  • Biology
  • Sport science

Naturally, the cost of college is contingent upon where you go. Online courses can be completed for just a few thousand dollars, whereas a top university might cost $65,000 per year.

Fitness certifications

To practice as a physical trainer, you must complete at least one fitness certification course (many trainers acquire multiple certs). These classes can be done online or in the classroom, depending upon which one you choose. Regardless, taking this step proves that you have the proper training and education to safely teach others. Failure to do so can expose you to serious liability issues. For this step, choose a program that’s been accredited by the NCCA (National Commission for Certifying Agencies). Most certification courses that are NCCA approved aren’t too expensive. According to the National Foundation of Professional Trainers, they include1:

National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT)

  • Costs between $199-$449
  • Renewal: $85 per cycle

American Council on Exercise (ACE)

  • Cost ranges from $549-$899
  • Renewal $329 every two years

Coopers Institute

  • Costs approximately $595 – $899
  • Renewal: $49 every three years

National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)

  • Costs between $629-$1999
  • Renewal: $474 once every two years

National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF)

  • Costs range from $485-$535
  • $50 renewal once every two years.

National Exercise and Sports Trainer Association (NESTA)

  • Costs $449
  • Renewal: $149 once every four years

National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)

  • Costs approximately $355-$950
  • Renewal: $50 once every three years

In addition to the cost of materials, courses, and tests, there are time investments to consider. The aforementioned courses can take anywhere from 6 months to a year to complete.

Note: In most states, personal trainers are required to be CPR/AED certified prior to taking their certification exams. A CPR course will likely cost an additional $50-$100.

Additional costs

In addition to the major costs discussed above, there are some other expenses to keep in mind. These include:

Gym fees – If you don’t plan on building your own gym, you will likely have to pay an established gym either a portion of the session fee or a flat monthly cost. This number is difficult to quantify since it largely depends on your gym and negotiation skills.

Marketing – You want clients, right? Then you’re going to have to let them know that you exist and are ready to start training. Marketing costs will vary based on your budget, but can include:

  • Your website
  • Social media
  • GoogleAds
  • Traditional advertising

Taxes – How could we forget? The taxman comes every year. But your taxes will largely hinge upon your income, business type, area you live in, and other factors. Speak to a CPA to better understand your expected costs.

Business insurance – If you plan on working as an independent contractor or as a self-employed small business owner, you need to obtain business insurance for personal trainers. Even if you work for a gym or training company, it’s smart to have your own insurance policy since you simply don’t know what your employer’s insurance covers—it may protect the personal training business but not you.

Business insurance

General liability and professional liability insurance are small upfront investments that could save you much much more down the road. They protect you from various types of inherent risk, including third-party claims of:

  • Bodily injury
  • Property damage
  • Legal fees
  • Advertising errors
  • Professional negligence

If a client gets injured or claims you gave them bad advice, you could be held liable (regardless of fault). So, when all it takes is a single liability claim to derail your path to being a personal trainer, you need to make sure that you’re protected. An issue many personal trainers run into is that they’re gig workers—their hours aren’t normal. Thus, a business insurance policy that is year-round can be expensive and wasteful. However, there’s now a better way with Thimble’s Fitness Insurance. Thimble provides affordable, on-demand insurance for trainers that can be purchased by the hour, day, or month. It’s insurance that works when you do. Just click “Get a Quote” or download the Thimble app, fly through a couple questions, and we’ll generate an instant quote. From there, you can click to purchase. All of this can be done in less than 60 seconds.

Sweat equity

The final cost will be the emotional, mental, and physical investment you make in building a business. It’s an exciting undertaking, but can be extremely draining as well. Therefore, it’s important that you take this into consideration and remember that success (like getting in shape) doesn’t happen overnight. Our word of advice to you is this—be steadfast. Prepare for both the highs and the lows just like you prepare for the expected costs. With determination, grit, and a mindful attitude about your budget, you’ll be positioned to succeed.