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Heartening Statistics on Fitness Industry Compensation

Despite the economic downturn, the U.S. Department of Labor reports that the fitness industry is still growing and job opportunities are solid. Employment in the industry is expected to increase by 27% through 2016, a figure that’s greater than the average for all professions, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The department attributes this projected expansion of the industry to public concern for staying healthy and becoming physically fit, as well as people’s willingness to spend more money and time on personal and family fitness.

Industry Position Overview

So how much can fitness professionals in different types of positions make in today’s market? To help you understand what your time is worth in different years, IDEA conducts biennial compensation surveys. Eight fitness industry positions were examined in the 2008 IDEA Fitness Industry Compensation Survey. Three of our findings are offered below.

Personal Training Directors average more hours per week when they are salaried (36 hours) than when they are paid an hourly wage (29 hours). The percent of directors in this category who are paid salaries increased from 56% in our 2006 survey to 65% in 2008. Salaries may also have been augmented by teaching classes and perhaps conducting individual sessions. While the 2008 study shows an increase in annual salary over 2006 ($37,878 to $39,074), adjusting the 2006 figure for inflation ($41,328) suggests a slight decline. Personal training directors’ eligibility for benefits has remained relatively stable: 61% in 2006 vs. 64% in 2008. About two-thirds of these directors (67%) also receive an education fund, and 43% may earn cash incentives.

Group Fitness Instructors teach classes such as step and mixed impact. Specialty Instructors teach classes requiring specialized training (e.g., indoor cycling or martial arts). Both types of instructors teach an average of 6 hours per week, up from 5.5 hours (group fitness instructor) and 4.5 hours (specialty instructor) in our 2006 survey.

Few of these individuals are salaried (3%), though a large percent are considered to be employees (41%-58%). Based on the last four surveys (2002, 2004, 2006, 2008), the latest findings mark the first time that the percent who are considered employees has declined. For group fitness instructors, the rate increased from 49% in 2002 to 59% in 2006 and then demonstrated a slight decline (58%) in 2008. For specialty instructors the rate rose from 44% in 2002 to 57% in 2006 and then experienced a sharp decline in 2008 (41%).

Hourly rates have once again increased for these instructors, by $2.00 for group fitness instructors ($25.75) and by $3.00 for specialty instructors ($31.50). While specialty instructors are currently ahead of their 2006 inflation-adjusted rate by $1.49, group fitness instructors are slightly behind inflation ($0.16). Benefits have also increased over the past 2 years for group exercise and specialty instructors (21% and 16%, respectively). These categories are sometimes offered cash incentives (19% and 18%) and educational funds (35% and 31%) as well.

Complete, detailed results of all eight industry positions, along with geographic cross-analysis, multiyear comparisons and much more, are available to members in IDEA’s Health and Fitness Article Library and in the January 2009 issue of IDEA Fitness Journal, under the title “2008 IDEA Fitness Industry Compensation Survey.” If you would like to obtain all the facts and figures but are not an IDEA member, please contact IDEA member services at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7, to find out more about membership and its benefits.


Concerned about your place in the new fitness industry? We have 40 years of experience supporting pros just like you! Let’s create a new wellness paradigm together—IDEAfit+ is the extra edge you need. Once you team up with IDEA, be sure to take full advantage of all the benefits of membership.

Jan Schroeder, PhD

Jan Schroeder, PhD, is a professor and past chair of the department of kinesiology at Long Beach State University. She coordinates and teaches in the fitness and integrated training undergraduate program and has written 60+ articles on exercise physiology/fitness. She is also a certified group exercise instructor who teaches weekly in the private sector. Schroeder is the recipient of the 2021 IDEA Fitness Leader of the Year Award.

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