Fitness Pay: Who Earns What?

by Jan Schroeder, PhD on Sep 27, 2013

It’s a great time to be in the fitness industry—or is it?

According to recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, jobs within our ranks are expected to grow at the “faster than average” rate of 24% between 2010 and 2020 (U.S. Department of Labor 2013b). While this is terrific overall, it means increased competition for the best jobs, promotions and benefits from a growing pool of workers. It’s a simple supply-and-demand equation that gives employers and consumers the upper hand over fitness professionals’ wages and benefits. How will you use your education and experience to differentiate yourself and command more compensation?

Prospects are looking up as we pull slowly out of the depths of recession and get the economy’s head above water for the first time in many years. Since the 2010 survey (published in January 2011), the national unemployment rate has decreased from 9.5% (July 2010) to 7.5% (April 2013) (U.S Department of Labor 2013a).

In addition to indicating positive job prospects, this report shows that industry pay rates are above the national average ($20.06 per hour, April 2013) for all nonsupervisory positions surveyed except for the position of fitness floor staff, which averages $10.75 per hour (U.S. Department of Labor 2013c). Despite these bright spots, some industry positions (personal trainers, fitness floor staff, and Pilates or yoga instructors) have experienced a decline in hourly pay since our previous survey.

The 2013 IDEA Fitness Industry Compensation Trends Report not only provides information on current wages in the industry; it also gives details on benefits and on hiring and promotion criteria. The survey data can be used to position yourself or your company competitively within our growing industry.

Industry Position Overview

Seven fitness industry positions were examined in the 2013 survey. These results are reported from individuals classified as having a managerial assignment.

  • The majority of program directors and/or coordinators teach classes in addition to having management responsibilities (83%), but only about half are paid separately for these classes or sessions (48%).
  • Compensation for managers (17%), personal trainers (51%), group exercise instructors (17%) and Pilates or yoga instructors (24%) is directly related to income produced.

Some highlights of our findings are offered below.

1. Fitness/Program Director

Fitness/Program director hires and supervises staff; manages equipment; schedules or oversees scheduling of classes, lectures/clinics and training; prepares budgets.

  • Of the facilities surveyed, 61% employ a fitness/program director, with 90% of directors listed as employees.
  • The majority of fitness/program directors are salaried employees, averaging a 40-hour workweek.
  • The 2013 survey shows about a $4,000 decline in salary ($46,723) compared with 2010 ($50,639).
  • This year, a lower percentage of directors (69%) are eligible for benefits than in 2010 (75%), but the current percentage is still higher than in 2008 (68%) and 2006 (57%).

2. Personal Training/PFT Director

Personal training director hires, supervises and schedules trainers; plans department services; prepares budgets.

  • Of the facilities surveyed, 24% employ a personal training director.
  • Personal training directors average more hours per week when they are salaried (35 hours) than when they are paid an hourly wage (28 hours).
  • Most personal training directors in this survey are classified as employees (90%), while 6% are independent contractors.
  • This position shows an increase in annual salary to $43,164 compared with 2010, when the salary was $42,364 ($45,176.21 when adjusted for inflation).
  • The opportunity for PFT directors to receive benefits has remained stable at 76%, the same as in 2010. For perspective, just 64% reported receiving benefits in 2008.
  • The percentage of PFT directors with access to an education fund has decreased dramatically (57%); 74% had access in 2010, and 67% in 2008.
  • A slightly higher percentage of PFT directors can earn cash incentives this year (38%) than could in 2010 (33%).

For data on other job categories and a regional comparison of compensation, please see “2013 IDEA Fitness Industry Compensation Trends Report” in the online IDEA Library or in the September 2013 issue of IDEA Fitness Journal.

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About the Author

Jan Schroeder, PhD

Jan Schroeder, PhD IDEA Author/Presenter

Jan Schroeder, PhD, is a professor of kinesiology, specializing in fitness, at California State University, Long Beach. Dr. Schroeder has authored over 40 research and applied science articles in the area of exercise physiology and fitness and presents regularly at national and international conferences. In addition, Jan is a certified group exercise instructor and teaches in the private and academic sector. Certifications: AFAA