Physical Fitness Education and Career Information
Physical fitness encompasses many careers, including personal training and teaching. Educational requirements vary depending on an individual's career path, but most physical fitness jobs require at least a bachelor's degree.
Physical Education Teacher
Physical education (P.E.) teachers typically work in schools and teach physical fitness to children. They are responsible for teaching children about health, sports and personal fitness.
Physical education teachers at public schools must be certified by their state; the minimum requirement in most states is a bachelor's degree in education with an emphasis in physical education. P.E. teachers in private schools may not have to be certified. Some aspiring P.E. teachers earn dual majors in education and a fitness area like kinesiology. After completing a degree program, aspiring P.E. teachers must complete a period of student teaching under the supervision of an experienced teacher.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many teachers are expected to retire in the coming years. However, the BLS also noted that employment of teachers is greatly dependent on local and state budgets. With that in mind, the BLS projected that from 2010-2020, kindergarten, elementary and middle school teachers could see 17% growth, which was about as fast as average, while high school teachers could face growth of just 7% (www.bls.gov).
As of May 2012, median annual earnings were $53,400 for kindergarten and elementary school teachers, $53,430 for middle school teachers and $55,050 for high school teachers. Most school districts use salary ladders, meaning teachers earn progressively more each year. Attaining a master's degree can increase earning potential. Also, many P.E. teachers coach school sports teams, which could draw them a salary supplement.
Personal trainers help individuals or small groups improve their physical fitness by guiding them through aerobic and strength-building workouts. Trainers might work in gyms or in clients' homes.
Personal trainers are expected to have a strong understanding of physical fitness techniques. They might have a bachelor's degree in kinesiology, exercise science or physical education. Additionally, many aspiring trainers seek professional certification. There are several nationally recognized certifying agencies, including the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, the American Council on Exercise and the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Certifying bodies require applicants to have AED and CPR certifications and pass exams.
Many personal trainers work for gyms or health clubs; others start their own businesses and work independently. Personal trainers are usually paid by the hour, but some jobs are salaried positions. According to Salary.com, the median annual salary of personal trainers in 2013 was $53,803. Employment of personal trainers and other fitness workers was expected to grow by about 24% in 2010-2020, according to the BLS. The BLS stated that eight percent of fitness workers were self-employed in 2010 and that self-employed workers often earned much more than average.
Fitness workers lead exercise classes at gyms and fitness centers. They might specialize in an area of physical fitness like aerobics, strength building, Pilates or yoga.
Some employers require fitness workers to have postsecondary education in physical education, exercise science or kinesiology. Gyms typically require fitness workers to earn specialty certifications or complete training in a specific area. For example, yoga instructors are often expected to have completed an educational program that is approved by the Yoga Alliance; this program must include at least 200 training hours. Certifications for group fitness workers are available as well.
In 2010, there were approximately 251,400 fitness trainers and instructors in the U.S., according to the BLS. It's expected that these workers will see 24% employment growth between 2010 and 2020. Fitness trainers and instructors earned a median annual salary of $31,720 in May 2012, based on BLS figures. However, many fitness workers only worked part-time.
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