Personal Trainer/Fitness Instructor
Kaiwhakangungu Tinana/Kaiwhakaako Whakapakari
Personal trainers/fitness instructors help people improve their general fitness or train for special events through individual programmes or classes.
Fitness instructors usually earn
$21-$25 per hour
Personal trainers usually earn
$25-$35 per hour
Source: Exercise Association of NZ, 2018.
Pay for personal trainers/fitness instructors varies depending on experience, the type of work they do, and if they are self-employed.
- Fitness instructors usually earn between minimum wage and $25 an hour.
- Group fitness instructors can earn between $30 and $50 an hour.
- Personal trainers usually earn between $25 and $35 an hour.
- Self-employed personal trainers can earn between $50 and $100 an hour, but their total income depends on the success of their business.
Source: Exercise Association of New Zealand, 2018.
- PAYE.net.nz website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Employment New Zealand website - information about minimum wage rates
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Personal trainers/fitness instructors may do some or all the following:
- assess clients' fitness and body types and design fitness programmes for them
- explain and demonstrate exercises, weight training or class routines
- give advice on nutrition and preventing or recovering from injuries
- help out at the gym, which can involve cleaning and reception duties.
Personal trainers may also:
- market and promote their services
- discuss lifestyle and fitness goals with clients
- take clients for personal training sessions
- make bookings and keep accounts.
Skills and knowledge
Personal trainers/fitness instructors need to have:
- skill in physical education, personal training and testing people's fitness
- an understanding of anatomy and physiology
- knowledge of first aid
- knowledge of gym equipment and how to operate it correctly
- an understanding of how to prescribe and demonstrate safe and effective exercises
- knowledge of basic nutrition principles.
Personal trainers are often self-employed, so they need to have:
- sales skills
- the ability to develop and maintain their own client base
- business administration skills.
Group fitness instructors also need to have knowledge of choreography and how to lead exercise classes.
Personal trainers/fitness instructors:
- usually work shifts, including early mornings, evenings and weekends
- usually work in gyms, recreation centres and fitness centres
- may need to travel to meet clients.
What's the job really like?
Gyms used to scare Libby Searle. Now she works as a personal trainer and runs weightlifting classes for women.
Overcoming fear leads to new career
"I was a really unfit kid and teenager, and always hated fitness. All through high school I never did PE – just hated it," Libby says.
When a friend suggested they train for a half-marathon, Libby started going to a gym but found the experience intimidating. This all changed after she discovered she had hip dysplasia, which needed surgery and physiotherapy, and brought her back to the gym.
"I really found a love for it. I wanted to help people feel not so scared in the gym."
Running her own business
A big step for Libby was moving from working in a commercial gym to running her own personal trainer business in Christchurch.
"I always knew it would be a good idea to work in a commercial space to learn from other trainers. They offer mentoring and you can bounce ideas of them. It's a little scary going out on your own. I don't recommend it for anyone straight off."
Now Libby runs her own business specialising in weightlifting classes for women and has been a winner at the Exercise Industry Awards.
"In two years I've gone from running two classes a week to 13."
Bryn talks about what it's like to be a fitness manager – 2.36 mins. (Video courtesy of Skills Active Aotearoa)
My name is Bryn Morgans.
So basically I work here at City Fitness Newmarket as a fitness manager and a personal trainer on the side. So basically, my role is to get personal trainers up and running and to get them moving on as quickly as possible. As a personal trainer there is only so many people you can help so now as fitness manager the more people I can help that are gonna help other people means I’m having a benefit on everyone’s lifestyle, so it’s great.
How did I fit my study in?
So, like anything it does come down to time management and one thing I’ve learned being a personal trainer and fitness manager is that it’s all about making sure you set aside time for everything rather than leaving everything to the last minute – what I used to do at school and, you know, have to cram for an exam or something like that which isn’t going to give you the best result possible.
By going through Skills Active and doing courses it’s allowed me to have a better understanding of everything and when I went and did my course down in Dunedin that was really good but that was three plus years ago so it’s been good and allowed me to refresh my memory and now set some new goals and be a bit more determined and focused on where I’m planning on being over the next three to five years.
Over the next couple months I plan on becoming a regional manager so that I can oversee a few more clubs which allows me to have rather than twenty trainers, I’m now looking at over fifty and then from there I plan to become the Director of Fitness. Obviously there’s a few people in the line, but, you know, that’s my next progression and that means, you know, twenty to thirty clubs by then if not more. With those amount of PTs helping those amount of people is just something I can’t wait to achieve, so yeah.
There are no specific requirements to become a personal trainer/fitness instructor.
However, many employers prefer to hire personal trainers/fitness instructors who have, or are working towards, a qualification. A range of personal trainer/fitness instructor qualifications are available from polytechnics, universities and private training establishments.
You can also complete a personal trainer/fitness instructor apprenticeship and gain a New Zealand Certificate in Fitness (Level 3 or Level 4). Industry training organisation Skills Active Aotearoa oversees personal trainer/fitness instructor training and apprenticeships.
Most employers require you to be registered with the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs).
- Skills Active website - information about personal trainer/fitness instructor qualifications
- Register of Exercise Professionals website - list of personal trainer/fitness instructor training providers by region
No specific secondary education is required for this job, but biology, health education and physical education to at least NCEA Level 2 are useful.
Personal trainers/fitness instructors need to be:
- patient, friendly, supportive and professional
- able to lead and motivate others
- organised and adaptable
- good at problem solving
- good communicators.
You have to be motivated to do stuff that’s not so much fun – like tax, social media, advertising. It’s hard work, but if you have the right support you can really make a go of it.
Useful experience for personal trainers/fitness instructors includes:
- sports training or coaching
- dance tuition
- work in areas such as nutrition, physiotherapy or physical education
- customer service work.
Personal trainers/fitness instructors need to have excellent fitness and health, and must be strong.
Most employers require personal trainers/fitness instructors to be registered with the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs).
- Register of Exercise Professionals website - information on personal trainer/fitness instructor registration
Find out more about training
- Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs)
- 0800 55 44 99 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.reps.org.nz
- Skills Active Aotearoa
- 0508 475 4557 - email@example.com - www.skillsactive.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Health benefits of exercise drive demand
Demand for personal trainers and fitness instructors is expected to continue to grow as exercise is increasingly viewed as essential to good health.
Online training and wearable devices such as fitness watches are also expected to increase the demand for personal trainers and fitness instructors.
According to the Census, 4,146 fitness instructors worked in New Zealand in 2018.
Small range of employers for fitness instructors
Fitness instructors can work for:
- large gym chains
- fitness centres
- fitness clubs.
Self-employment common among personal trainers
Many personal trainers are self-employed.
Personal trainers can:
- work for fitness centres or gyms as an employee
- hire a space at a community hall, fitness centre or gym, and work independently
- set up a business in their own premises
- become franchise holders.
- Beddie, R, chief executive, Exercise Association of New Zealand, careers.govt.nz interview, January 2018.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'Detailed Occupation Data Table', accessed February 2018, (www.mbie.govt.nz).
- NZ Herald, 'Workout Industry Bulks Up: Gym Business Worth $494 Million', February 2017, (nzherald.co.nz).
- Register of Exercise Professionals website, accessed January 2022, (www.reps.org.nz).
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
- Watkins, T, 'How Covid changed the Way We Think About Fitness', 12 September 2021, (www.stuff.co.nz).
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Personal trainers/fitness instructors may progress to set up their own fitness or personal training business.
They may specialise in areas such as:
Last updated 1 April 2022