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How Much Are Fitness Professionals Paid?

by Jan Schroeder, PhD on Feb 17, 2011

Since the IDEA Fitness Industry Compensation Trends Report survey was last published in January 2009, the national unemployment rate has increased from 6.1% (August 2008) to 9.0% (January 2011), which equates to about 13.9 million unemployed individuals in the United States (U.S. Department of Labor 2010a). Last summer the rate stood at 9.6%. However, the silver lining for fitness professionals is that even though the national job market has declined, our industry is still expected to see better-than-average growth (29%) in positions over the next decade (2008–2018) (U.S. Department of Labor 2010b).

The 2010 IDEA Fitness Industry Compensation Trends Report not only provides information regarding 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 your company competitively within our growing industry.

Industry Position Overview

Eight fitness industry positions were examined in the 2010 IDEA survey. Highlights of our findings are offered below. Detailed results appear in the original article, “2010 IDEA Fitness Industry Compensation Trends Report.”

Fitness/Program Directors work an average of 43 hours a week when they are salaried, but only 26 hours per week when their jobs are compensated hourly. The 2010 survey reflects an increase in average salary ($50,639). According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s inflation calculator, which factors in the average Consumer Price Index for a given year, this is well above the 2008 average of $46,920—even after adjustment for inflation ($47,547)—and far above the 2006 average salary of $36,468 (or $39,467 when adjusted for inflation). In addition, about 74% of directors and coordinators teach classes, for which 40% are paid extra, which can push total income somewhat higher.

Personal Training, or PFT, Directors also average more hours per week when they are salaried (42 hours) than when they are paid an hourly wage (27 hours). Salaries may be augmented by teaching classes and perhaps through individual training sessions. The 2010 study shows that the average annual salary of personal training directors has increased to $42,364, compared with $39,074 in 2008 ($39,596 when adjusted for inflation).

Group Exercise Coordinators have managerial duties, but they may also teach classes on a regular basis. We continue to see a decline in salaried employees in this category (50% in 2006, 47% in 2008 and 44% in 2010), while the rest are compensated by hourly wages (35%) or on the basis of classes or sessions offered (22%). Salaried coordinators work more hours per week (37 hours), on average, than those paid otherwise (25 hours). The hours worked by both salaried group exercise coordinators and those who are compensated otherwise have increased since the 2008 survey (31 hours and 20 hours, respectively). The average salary has risen once again in 2010; it is now $37,538, compared with $33,364 in 2008 ($33,810 when adjusted for inflation) and $29,124 in 2006 ($31,519 when adjusted for inflation).

Personal Trainers report they are working more as employees (49%) than as independent contractors (38%), with an average of six trainers per facility. Few personal trainers report being salaried (8%); their average salary was $39,182. The majority of the trainers are being paid an hourly rate, with 47% earning a percentage of the client’s fees, and the fee split remaining at about 60/40, similar to findings since 2004. The average hourly rate of $34 reflects a decline from $34.75 in 2008. When the 2008 hourly rate is adjusted for inflation ($35.21), we see an even greater decline in pay.

Fitness Floor Staff positions are typically entry level, and responsibilities include monitoring equipment, supplies and people in the facility. Floor staff average 19.5 work hours per week, earning an average of $11.75 per hour. From 2006 to 2008, their hourly rate increased by just $0.25; from 2008 to 2010, there was a more significant increase of $1.50 per hour.

Group Fitness Instructors teach general classes set to music, such as step and mixed-impact, while specialty instructors teach classes requiring specialized training (e.g., indoor cycling or martial arts). Group fitness instructors teach an average of 6 hours per week (same as in 2008), while specialty instructors teach an average of 8 hours per week (up from 6 hours per week in 2008). Hourly rates have declined for both types of instructors, compared with past data. Instructors report earning an average of $24.50, down from $25.75 in 2008 and only slightly higher than in 2006 ($23.75). Specialty instructors are earning an average of $27.75 per hour, compared with $31.50 in 2008 and $28.50 in 2006.

Pilates and Yoga Instructors average 8 hours per week, an hour more than in 2008. The average hourly pay for this group is the highest of all the instructors ($33.00), and a comparison with the 2008 rate ($32.25) indicates that wages have kept up with inflation ($32.68).

For more detailed information and a complete list of references, please see “2010 IDEA Fitness Industry Compensation Trends Report” in the online IDEA Library or in the January 2011 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 an associate professor of kinesiology, specializing in fitness, at California State University, Long Beach. Dr. Schroeder has authored over 25 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 and NASM