How To Start A Career In Fitness

Handsome personal trainer with girl with dumbbells

Considering a career change is both exciting and terrifying at the same time. It’s important to pursue something that excites you and that you do something you truly enjoy. You love exercise and living a healthy lifestyle and you want to turn that passion into a career. Maybe now is the time to consider a career in the fitness industry.

Too many individuals are unfulfilled and stuck in dead-end jobs. They are simply “going through the motions” because it pays the bills. Is that any way to live? Heading to a so-so job day in and day out just because it’s convenient? Heck no!

“Follow your passion”
“Chase happiness”

These are great quotes and sound great on paper, however, it is important to not just quit your current job, head to the local fitness facility, and expect to get the manager position as soon as you walk in the door. It’s extremely important to game-plan strategically.

Where To Begin?

The fitness industry encompasses a wide range of occupations and opportunity. Step one in your quest is to determine what the job you desire looks like. Do you enjoy interacting with people? Do you like to lead groups? Do you prefer a desk job? Once decided, you can better determine the best course of action to take.

A short list of options includes:

  • School environment (PE teacher, coach)
  • Rehab field (PTA, PT)
  • Nutrition (RD)
  • Corporate wellness
  • Gym management (Fitness manager, facility owner)
  • Gym floor (Personal trainer, group exercise teacher/leader)

Next Steps

You’ve identified your interests and narrowed down your career preferences. Now it’s time to take action. These suggestions will guide you along the way and help to get your foot in the door.

1. Mentors

Seek out individuals in the field who are doing what you want to do. Learn from them. See if they would be willing to meet with you or set up a call so you can ask questions and learn more about the day-to-day operations of their job.

2. Get “in the trenches” & volunteer, intern, shadow

You must be willing to put the time in. Many of the top industry leaders reflect on the countless hours they put in on the floor before they made their move up the ranks. Many still work with clients and members on a weekly basis. Whatever the desired position is, getting actual hands-on experience will be one of the most invaluable things you can do in helping you make a decision.

3. Education

In the fitness field, you are dealing with people and, more importantly, affecting the health of people. Because of this, it’s crucial to educate yourself and always be interested in learning the current research and trends. Obtaining education can come in a variety of ways.

  • Attend live events – workshops, conferences
  • At-home training – DVDs, webinars, books
  • Other – podcasts, websites, newsletters
  • Certifications – (see below)

Certifications – There are so many out there that it can be overwhelming. A fitness certification, much like a college degree, can give you some clout and look great on a resume. Your specific job may dictate what type of certification to consider…

Solid “foundational” certification – ACE, NASM, NSCA, ACSM
Equipment-specific certification – Total Gym

Important note on certifications – While there is certainly tremendous value in obtaining a certification (in fact, it may be required in many facilities), understand that most of your prospective customers and clients won’t understand the “alphabet soup” of letters after your name. Many don’t care what organization you are certified through. They are most concerned with your ability to help them reach their goals. This is not to take anything away from the valuable education that can be learned from certifications, just realize that the ability to connect with people is vital in this field. If you are able to connect with someone and develop a positive and healthy relationship, then you are on your way to becoming successful in the fitness industry.

Doug Balzarini, CSCS, MMA-CC, is a trainer, coach, presenter, and the founder of DB Strength. He is the co-owner of a fitness facility outside of Boston called, “Iron Village Strength & Conditioning”. He was the head strength and conditioning coach for the Alliance Training Center where he worked with many top professional MMA athletes. Visit or for more information.

Doug Balzarini

Doug Balzarini, CSCS, MMA-CC, is a personal trainer, strength coach, international presenter, and the founder of DB Strength. He also owns a fitness facility outside of Boston called, “Iron Village Strength & Conditioning”. He was the head strength and conditioning coach for the Alliance MMA Training Center where he worked with many top professional MMA athletes. He has also worked at Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego and, most recently, spent a year in Saudi Arabia where he designed and created programming for a new state-of-the-art facility. Visit or for more information.

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