Each year we get asked “how do I become a fitness coach?” thousands of times. Thankfully, it’s simpler than you might think and you can have a new career in an industry you love in as little as six months. Here is how to become a fitness coach and what the career path looks like.
The first step to become a fitness coach is to get education. There are two main ways you can get this education–the traditional route through University and the new alternative route through 3rd party education providers.
This is the traditional way to become a fitness coach. It entails going to university and studying exercise science, physiology, sports science, or something related to the field. The positives of this route include having a university degree and being well educated on specific topics. The negatives include the time spent, the potential debt, the lack of a well-rounded education and practical experience needed for the real world, and no guaranteed employment.
The alternative route refers to education offered by other institutions like trade schools. These education options are highly specific and teach what you need to be successful in the industry. Examples of courses like this include the OPEX Coaching Certificate Program (CCP) and Precision Nutrition’s Level 1 Course. The positives of this route include a lower cost, trade-specific education, a smaller time investment, more practical experience, and more up-to-date education. The negatives include no guaranteed employment and no university degree.
It can be tough to decide which route of education to pursue. A way to make this decision easier is to think about what you will need to be a successful fitness coach. In our more than 20 years of educating thousands of coaches worldwide, we can confidently say it’s not as complex as you might think. To be a successful fitness coach you need to understand how to build relationships with clients, run a small business, how to assess a client’s abilities, and how to design an individualized progressive exercise program for a client. (Start learning how to do just that today and sign up for our free Coach’s Toolkit.) When you compare the two education offerings to the skills you need as a fitness coach, it’s clear that alternative education courses are vastly superior to start you on your career.
Once you have been educated on how to become a fitness coach, the next step in the career path is to build your technical skills. This step begins with your education and typically lasts 5-7 years. This stage of the career path is focused on gaining more knowledge and experience through working with clients in a gym setting. During these years you will build your relationship skills, start to understand how to build and run a profitable business, and witness exercise progression first hand.
A coach that ideally embodies this stage is referred to as a technician. They are hungry for further education and want to experience as much of the industry as possible. Sound like you? Explore our wide variety of additional education here.
After adequately building your technical skills, the next stage in the career path is to refine your craft. Coaches in this stage have 5-7 years of experience and remain in this stage for another 5-7. During this time, you will begin to understand what audience you work well with, you will build your own system specific to how you coach best, and take your business skills to the next level.
Coaches in this stage are referred to as craftspeople. They understand which area of the industry they work well in and are specifically refining it. In this stage, it can be helpful to pursue further education in the area in which you are interested.
The final stage in the fitness coach career path is the master. In this stage, you are known as the fitness coach in your community. While you will still directly work with some clients, the goal of this stage is to work on the industry as a whole. This includes mentoring other coaches and setting future standards for the industry. It takes time to reach this stage and it cannot be rushed. A master coach has 14 or more years in the industry.
OPEX Fitness and the education we offer is an example of what a master coach can achieve. Our founder, James FitzGerald, has more than 25 years of experience in the industry and now sets his sights on changing it as a whole. He educates and mentors coaches through the OPEX Coaching Certificate Program (CCP) and strives to set new standards for functional fitness through work with the International Functional Fitness Federation (IF3). He is the embodiment of the master coach stage.
If you’re interested in a career as a fitness coach there has never been a better time to join the industry. With quality education offered at a fraction of the price it once was, coaches today can forge a career in the industry in as little as six months. Sign up for our free Coach’s Toolkit today and take the first step towards your new career.