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Fitness Specialist: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Fitness specialists lead and teach exercise routines, in addition to offering training advice and motivation. Prospective fitness specialists earn professional credentials, educational certificates or associate's and bachelor's degrees in physical fitness or exercise science.

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Fitness Specialist Job Duties

Fitness specialists typically work for organizations, such as universities, health clubs, professional gymnasiums, resorts, country clubs and hospitals. They work with small or large groups to help improve clients' fitness levels or to rehabilitate injuries. Some fitness specialists may hold personal training sessions at a gym or in clients' homes, in which they help clients reach personal fitness goals.

Before performing an exercise regiment with a class or client, fitness specialists assess the physical condition of the participants. They lead warm-up activities, like stretching, and run through an entire exercise program. A fitness specialist may assist or offer suggestions to individuals who are having difficulty. In addition to exercise duties, a fitness specialist also performs administrative work, which may include leading tours of fitness facilities, registering new members, monitoring the front desk, writing articles or supervising exercise rooms.

Fitness Specialist Educational and Training Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the training necessary for a fitness specialist career varies greatly by employer (www.bls.gov). Most fitness specialists must acquire a high school diploma or a GED and pursue education at the college level. Technical schools and community colleges frequently offer certificate or associate's degree programs in physical fitness. Some employers prefer a fitness specialist with a bachelor's degree in exercise physiology, kinesiology, or health and fitness.

Other requirements for this position include maintaining a positive mental outlook and remaining physically fit. Fitness specialists lead exercise classes and demonstrate workouts, so being able to perform these activities is important. Additionally, because interacting with clients is a major component of the job, fitness specialists must have effective, friendly communication skills.

Professional Certification

Employers usually look for fitness specialists with professional certifications from organizations that are officially accredited. Certification may verify expertise in a specific type of exercise, like pilates or yoga, as well as a type of training, such as group fitness or personal training.

The American Council on Exercise offers several certifications, including the Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist credential, which requires the highest level of training (www.acefitness.org). This designation requires fitness specialists to hold AED and CPR certification, along with ACE Personal Trainer or equivalent certification, though a bachelor's degree in exercise science fulfills this requirement. Additionally, candidates must complete at least 300 hours of professional work experience and an exam.

Fitness Specialist Career Outlook

The BLS reported that fitness training and instruction positions were predicted to grow 13% from 2012-2022, which was about as fast as average compared to all occupations. Employment opportunities were best for candidates with postsecondary education in health and fitness. Fitness trainers and aerobics instructors took in a mean annual wage of $37,790 in May 2013.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics