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Do You Want To Be A Personal Traininer/Strength Coach?

Student and Parent FAQ’s

By Brett Klika C.S.C.S.

One of the great things about working with youngsters is that I get to see them grow up.  Many of the athletes we work with at Fitness Quest 10 are with us through middle school, high school, and college.  As many parents lament at how “time flies” with their kids, it’s always a reminder when one of the kids I work with wants to sit down and talk about choosing a major in college.  “What grade are you in now?” I always ask.  “Coach Klika, I’m a senior in high school,  I just agreed to a scholarship at Berkley, remember?”

While I get excited to hear about all of our youngsters’ “next level” academic pursuits, I can’t help but get extra-giddy when I hear they want to go into the field of health and wellness.   I have had the pleasure of seeing many of my youngsters become colleagues of mine in the field of personal training and sports performance.  Prior to them entering the field, I get quite a few questions and concerns from them and their parents.  Below are my answers to some common questions about entering the field of personal training and sports performance:

1. How do I pick a school?

Being a good coach or personal trainer comes down to your experience.  Look for health science programs that have a large degree of practical application in the population you aim to work with.  If you want to work with pro athletes, see if the university has any ties with a local professional team.  Find out what the opportunities are for local internships.  Find out which department’s primary area of research is, and if they have any practical programs for application that undergrads can become involved in.  Just because a school is a great research school doesn’t mean they have practical opportunities for undergrads.

2. What should I major in to be a personal trainer or strength coach?

Students from a variety of majors go on to become coaches and trainers.  However, majoring in the specific sciences of the moving body lays a valuable foundation.  Make sure the university has majors in kinesiology, physiology, biomechanics, human performance, etc.  Additionally, I recommend a minor or double degree in psychology, marketing, or business.  Most trainers’ limiting factor is their knowledge and abilities in the business world.

3. How do I begin to gain experience?

First and foremost, to be successful in this profession it must be an extension of your life.  Exercise, nutrition, and wellness should be a way of life.  If you want to work with athletes, participating in sports at the highest level possible is an advantage.  Your personal passion and experience with health and wellness will lay the foundation for your career.

In school, it’s important to not be shy in class.  Get to know your professors and volunteer and observe the populations as early as you can in your academic career. This will not only aid in growing your knowledge and application, but as well as gaining valuable contacts.  If you want to work with athletes, start volunteering with the strength and conditioning program as early as they will allow.  During summers or time away from school, look for opportunities to work around the population you are most interested in.  Summer internships are some of the most valuable experiences you can attain.  It’s never too early to get experience and connections.

Yes, wherever you start, you must be willing to start at the bottom.  I made Gatorade for the football team for 3 months in college before I was on the floor to even observe.  Experts maintain it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill.  If you wait until after graduation to get experience, it’s a long road.  I don’t care if you got straight A’s from the “top exercise science school in the nation” (whatever that means), I will not hire you unless you have a significant amount of experience.

4. What kinds of jobs are available with a degree in a health science field?

Personal training and athletic performance are some of the most popular jobs with an undergraduate degree.  Physical therapy assistants and various other medical and clinical assistant positions are also available.  With a graduate degree, you can pursue athletic training, physical therapy, collegiate strength and conditioning coach, nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant, and various research and teaching positions.  Attaining a master’s degree definitely increases earning potential, particularly in the allied health care professions such as physical therapy, nurse practitioner, and physician’s assistant.  If you aim to be a personal trainer, your income has more to do with your entrepreneurial ability than your academic accolades.  Knowledge is king, but if you have no one to share it with, you’ll be a very poor genius.

5. Can personal trainers or sports coaches make a living?

The answer to that question has quite a few variables.  The first one is what you consider a “living?”  No, personal trainers do not necessarily receive 6 figure salaries with mountains of benefits and a clearly defined cooperate ladder in which to climb.  The hours are long and often unpredictable and the profession can be very economy-dependant.  If you want to exit college, show up to work at 9 and leave at 5 Monday through Friday, with the weekends available to frolic on the beach, you’re probably looking at an income in the $30,000-$40,000 range.  If that’s what you’re looking for, that’s what you get.

Notice I said above that personal trainers don’t necessarily receive six-figure salaries.  They can earn them however.  This involves a passion and complete commitment to being the best.  It involves not only being a personal trainer/athletic performance coach but being a motivator, educator, and businessperson.  It may mean 80 hour work weeks, getting up early, going to bed late, working on weekends, and doing whatever it takes to get to the next level.  If you can be a highly sought-after coach in addition to writing, creating products, speaking, and other industry pursuits, there is no limit to the income you can attain.  While the process of achieving financial success in the field is relentless, it is a true blessing to live and work with your passion.

The health sciences are a very rewarding field for those who are educated, passionate, and committed to creating greatness in themselves and others.  Hopefully the answer to the questions above provides some insight as to what it takes to be successful in the field.  Remember, the most important aspect of any profession in the health science field, is that you are able to motivate, educate, and inspire those who you work with!

Coach Brett Klika is the Director of Athletic Performance at Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego, CA. He specializes in youth fitness and athletic performance, overseeing a staff of 8 strength coaches developing programs for over 300 youth per week, both athletes and non-athletes. He presents around the world to both trainers and corporations with Todd Durkin Enterprises on a variety of health, wellness, and athletic performance topics. Brett contributes monthly to the award-winning “TD Times” newsletter.  If you would like to sign up, you can do so by visiting or

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