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Creating Internships for Personal Trainers

Internship programs provide supervised practical experience for people wanting to gain hands-on knowledge in a specific area of the health and fitness industry. Designing and running your own internship program can be a rewarding experience for both you and your students. It can also become an additional revenue stream for your business and increase awareness of your name as a leader in the personal training industry.

Types of Internship Programs

An unpaid internship program is designed to allow recent graduates from university or personal training certification courses to observe the practical skills they will need to work successfully with clients in the future. In these situations, interns are permitted to observe the teacher conducting an array of training sessions in exchange for cleaning, maintenance and/or basic office and administrative work.
A paid internship program, on the other hand, consists of more stringent responsibilities for both the teacher and the students. In this type of program, attendees pay a program fee in exchange for in-depth, hands-on experience and education in a very specific topic area.

How to Set Up a Program

The first thing to do is settle on a topic for your internship course that is relevant to your area of expertise and that you feel competent to teach. Keep the subject matter as specific as possible so you can advertise to niche markets who know what they want and will pay accordingly for specialized information and individual attention.

Once you have chosen the topic area for your program, decide on its duration. Your internship can last half a day, a day or a weekend, or you can spread the course over a series of dates throughout the year. The subject matter, the level of commitment required by you and the interns, and the financial commitment your attendees are willing to make will help you establish how long the program should last. Determining this information will also enable you to design a program outline for marketing purposes.

Along with content and duration, your ability as a teacher and the number of people you enroll in each program will factor into pricing. If you are a seasoned professional accustomed to teaching other trainers and you limit the number of interns per course, then you can charge more. However, if you are new to the teaching arena, consider allowing more people into each course to keep the price point down while still providing a solid, hands-on experience for the interns.

Program Costs, Options and Considerations

Here are some important elements to consider if you want to maximize your potential for profit and success:

Advertising. A good option is to advertise in health and fitness trade publications or at industry events; however, this may be too costly for most first-time internship entrepreneurs. Less expensive are mass mailings and/or e-mail campaigns. The least expensive option is to let people know about the internship program in person.

Educational Materials. To help interns get the most out of your program, you may want to assign them homework to do before attending the internship. You can recommend educational products such as DVDs, articles, books and/or any reference materials you think may be helpful. If you supply items you have produced yourself (such as manuals or workbooks), you will decrease your costs while increasing the perceived value of the program. If you have no educational materials of your own, you can still recommend homework, but ask your attendees to purchase the suggested items themselves.

Administration Costs. Be sure to factor in the administration costs of running your program. Once people have signed up, you will need to send them confirmation of their registration, a receipt and a welcome kit. You should include a list of FAQs, plus directions to the program location and a list of accommodation and travel options for out-of-town attendees.

Your Time. The most often overlooked and underestimated cost of creating an internship program is your personal time. Interns are willing to pay a premium because they are getting individualized attention—so make sure you factor in enough time to provide reasonable follow-up for your attendees.

The most important factor for ensuring success is to keep the experience personal and provide lots of hands-on training that attendees cannot get elsewhere. Hands-on experience is the missing component in most personal trainers’ education and is invaluable in making sure they have a successful career.

For more tips on establishing an internship program, please refer to the full article, “Creating a Successful Internship Program,” in the online IDEA Library or in November 2009 IDEA Fitness Journal.

Justin Price, MA

Justin Price is the creator of The BioMechanics Method® Corrective Exercise Specialist (TBMM-CES) program, the fitness industry’s highest-rated specialty certification. There are trained TBMM specialists in over 70 countries helping people alleviate pain and reach their performance goals. He is also the author of several books including the esteemed academic textbook The BioMechanics Method for Corrective Exercise. Justin is a former IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, founding author of PTA Global, and a subject matter expert for The American Council on Exercise, PTontheNET, TRX, BOSU, Arthritis Today, BBC, Discovery Health, Los Angeles Times, Men's Health, MSNBC, New York Times, Newsweek, Time, Wall Street Journal, WebMD and Tennis Magazine. Learn more about The BioMechanics Method®

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