How To Become A Personal Trainer In California

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With California’s fitness industry booming, the Golden State offers a playground full of opportunities for aspiring personal trainers. Whether you’re wanting to lead high-energy classes or provide tailored one-on-one training sessions, California’s active lifestyle and health-conscious culture offer the perfect backdrop to launch and grow a successful career in personal training. Get ready to ride the wave of fitness in one of the most dynamic markets in the country!

In California, personal trainers enjoy a strong job market with an average salary of approximately $45,000 as of 2022. The state projects a 14% growth in employment for fitness trainers and instructors from 2022 to 2032,¹ which is much faster than the average for all occupations. This growth shows an increasing demand for fitness professionals, driven by a popular interest in health and wellness.

With institutions like the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NAS), and the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) providing personal trainer certification programs, trainers have different paths to choose from to get their certification. Here’s a rundown of how to become a personal trainer in California.

What are the steps to becoming a personal trainer in California?

Step 1: Meet Basic Requirements:

To become a fitness trainer in California, the basic requirements include:

  • Being at least 18 years old
  • Holding a high school diploma or equivalent
  • Having an adult CPR/AED certification

Step 2: Pursue Education:

When it comes to personal training certifications, the more, the merrier. Beyond just a basic certified personal trainer (CPT) credential, consider choosing a niche. Whether it’s sports medicine, exercise physiology, or weight management, choosing a niche that best suits your interest is important. 

These extra certifications set you apart and offer your clients more value. California offers a variety of reputable programs for those looking to become certified personal trainers. Here are some of the top programs available:

  1. National Personal Training Institute of California (NPTI): Offers a comprehensive Personal Training Program that includes 300 hours of classroom instruction and 200 hours of supervised hands-on gym time. This program is designed to give you the skills to become a successful personal trainer.
  2. National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM): Known for its Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) program, NASM provides an evidence-based training model to help trainers enhance their careers. NASM’s program is highly respected and widely recognized in the fitness industry.
  3. American Council on Exercise (ACE): Offers a variety of certification programs, including Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor, Health Coach, and Medical Exercise Specialist. ACE certifications are among the most recognized in the fitness industry.
  4. Southern California Health Institute (SOCHi): Provides a Personal Fitness Trainer Program in North Hollywood, Los Angeles. This comprehensive program spans 9 months and covers all aspects of personal training and fitness instruction.
  5. California State University, San Marcos (CSUSM): Offers an ACE Personal Trainer program. This course prepares students for the American Council on Exercise Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) certification exam and provides additional resources to train and design exercise programs.

These programs not only offer certifications but also equip you with the necessary skills to effectively train and support your clients.


Step 3 Get Certified:

Passing a certification exam is non-negotiable to become a certified personal trainer in California. These exams assess your knowledge on different topics, from exercise programs to health-related exercise programs and education on physical fitness. Many personal trainers choose to prepare through practice exams offered by different certifying agencies. This step is important for prospective trainers and those looking to launch their own personal training business.

What Certifications Do I Need To Be A Personal Trainer in California?

In California, while certification isn’t mandated by law, it boosts your employment options. Employers are likely to look for trainers with Personal Trainer Certifications from organizations accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). Some popular certifications include;

  • American Council on Exercise (ACE),
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
  • National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)

Advanced Personal Training Certifications

  • Advanced certifications like NSCA’s Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) require a 4-year degree. These benefit those looking to specialize in their fitness goals and careers.

Recent Trending Personal Training Certifications

  • Certifications in niche areas like sports fitness, aquatic fitness, and Pilates are trending, catering to specific client needs and interests.

How Much Does A Personal Trainer Certification Cost in California?

  • The cost ranges between $200 and $300 for the certification exam. This does not include required course materials, which can vary widely in price.

Step 4 Gain Experience:

Gaining experience to become a successful personal trainer in California can be approached through several effective methods:

  • Internships and Mentorships: Many gyms and fitness centers offer internship programs that let you learn the ins and outs of the fitness industry.
  • Work in Related Fields: Starting in roles such as a gym assistant, receptionist at a fitness center, or as group class instructor provide valuable exposure to the fitness environment and help you build relationships within the industry.
  • Volunteering: Offering your services for free at community centers, schools, or local sports clubs is a great way to gain experience while building a positive reputation in the community.
  • Education and Certification: Enrolling in educational programs in exercise science, kinesiology, or related fields are helpful for gaining experience. 
  • Networking: Attending fitness industry conferences, seminars, and workshops help you meet potential mentors and peers who can provide insights and opportunities to gain experience. 
  • Start Training: With basic credentials in place, you can start training clients on a small scale. Starting with friends and family or offering sessions at ‘mate’s rates’ to gain experience and build a clientele.

By combining these approaches, you can gain the much needed experience to become a skilled personal trainer in California. Each step increases your practical skills and your understanding of client needs, workout design, and effective communication.

Step 5 Build a Client Base:

Building a client base as a personal trainer in California involves a combination of marketing, networking, and consistently delivering quality service. Here are some strategies to help you establish and expand your client base:

  • Take Advantage of Social Media: Use platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to advertise your service. Share client success stories, and post educational content about fitness and health. This helps you build credibility and attracts followers who can convert into clients.
  • Develop a Strong Online Presence: Create a professional website that highlights your services, qualifications, client testimonials, and contact information. Offer valuable content such as blogs, videos, and fitness tips to engage browsers.
  • Offer Free Workshops or Classes: Organize free fitness classes or workshops in local parks, community centers, or online to attract potential clients. This provides an opportunity for people to experience your training style and get their foot in the door.
  • Network with Other Professionals: Build relationships with other fitness professionals such as nutritionists, physical therapists, and doctors. They can refer clients who need specific fitness assistance or injury recovery.
  • Use Referral Programs: Encourage your existing clients to refer new clients by offering incentives such as discounted sessions or free merchandise. Word-of-mouth is a powerful tool in the fitness industry.
  • Partner with Local Businesses: Collaborate with local businesses related to health and wellness to cross-promote services. For example, a local health food store might allow you to leave business cards or flyers in exchange for promoting their products to your clients.
  • Target Specific Niches: Specialize in certain types of training such as yoga, pilates, senior fitness, or athletic training. This will help you stand out in a crowded market and attract clients looking for specific expertise.
  • Maintain High Standards of Service: Make sure that your training sessions are professional, effective, and personalized to individual client needs. Satisfied clients will stay longer and recommend your services to others.
  • Stay Educated and Certified: Keeping up with the latest fitness trends and certifications improves your training programs and boosts your credibility and value as a trainer.
  • Participate in Local Events: Get out into your community by attending events, health fairs, and fitness expos. This gives you a chance to network and introduce your services to a larger audience.

By using these strategies, you can build a strong client base in California, preparing you for a sustainable and successful personal training career.

Do you need a license to be a personal trainer in California?

In California, there’s no state requirement for personal trainers to obtain a license to practice. Getting a certification from a recognized fitness organization is highly recommended. Personal training certification increases your credibility and raises your employment prospects. 

Certifications are important because they mean that personal trainers have met specific standards and follow industry-recognized practices for health and fitness. Most gyms and fitness centers require these certifications as a minimum qualification for hiring.

Staying certified usually requires ongoing education, so certified trainers are more likely to be up-to-date with the latest fitness trends, techniques, and health guidelines. The desire to continue learning and stay current on industry trends and the latest scientific knowledge associated is a clear indicator of a dedicated professional.

Which Are The Best Personal Trainer Schools in California?

California is home to several top institutions offering programs for aspiring personal trainers, each providing unique opportunities for hands-on learning and professional preparation. Here are the top five institutions:

  1. Los Angeles Trade Technical College (LATTC) – This college offers an Associate of Arts for Transfer (AA-T) in Kinesiology. The program is well-suited for students looking to transfer to a four-year university and focuses on both theoretical and practical aspects of physical education, preparing students for careers in fitness, coaching, and wellness.
  2. Los Angeles City College – Offering an Associate in Arts in Kinesiology, this program prepares students for a variety of roles in the fitness industry. The curriculum includes courses in exercise science, sports nutrition, and injury prevention, providing a solid foundation for students interested in becoming personal trainers.
  3. San Diego State University (SDSU) – Known for its Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Fitness, Health, and Nutrition, SDSU provides a more in-depth study into human physical activities. This program is ideal for those looking to delve deeper into exercise science and personal training.
  4. University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) – UCLA offers a highly competitive Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology. This program emphasizes the scientific foundations of human movement, including biomechanics, sports medicine, and motor behavior, making it a top choice for students aiming for a comprehensive understanding of physical fitness and training.
  5. California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) – CSULB offers a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology with options in Fitness, which prepares students for various roles in the health and fitness industry. The program covers a wide range of topics from biomechanics and physiology to wellness promotion and fitness assessments.

Each of these institutions provides robust educational pathways for those looking to pursue careers as personal trainers, offering foundational knowledge and specialized training necessary to excel in the field.

How Much Do Personal Trainers Make in California?

In California, personal trainers can expect a respectable median salary, showing the state’s strong fitness culture and demand for health and wellness services. As of May 2022, the median annual wage for fitness trainers and instructors hit $45,380. This figure puts California on the map as a great spot for fitness pros looking to advance their careers.

What Are The Best Personal Trainer Jobs for New Trainers in California?

As a new personal trainer in California, there are a variety of job opportunities across different settings that can help you gain experience and build your client base. Here’s a look at some of the best options:

Commercial Gyms: Large fitness chains such as LA Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness, and Planet Fitness are ideal for new trainers. These gyms often offer a steady flow of new clients, allowing you to gain experience with different fitness levels and goals.

  • Working at a gym like 24 Hour Fitness, you might start as a floor trainer, giving you the opportunity to interact with members, provide spot training advice, and eventually lead personal training sessions or group classes.

Local Health Clubs: Smaller, community-focused health clubs often offer a more personal setting. This environment is great for trainers looking to develop close relationships with their clients and personalize programs to the community’s needs.

  • At a club like Bay Club, you could engage in more customized training sessions and even get involved in special health and wellness programs offered to particular age groups like seniors or teenagers.

Specialty Studios: Studios focusing on specific types of workouts like Pilates, yoga, or spinning is great for trainers with particular skills or interests. Working in a niche market allows you to broaden your expertise and attract clients interested in those specific activities.

  • If you specialize in Pilates, working at a studio like Club Pilates provides the opportunity to lead classes and provide one-on-one coaching to clients who are serious about Pilates.

Corporate Fitness Centers: Many corporations have their own fitness centers to promote employee wellness. These centers need trainers to lead classes, design employee wellness programs, and provide personal training.

  • Training at a corporate wellness center like those found at Google or Apple campuses allows you to work closely with employees on their fitness goals, with the potential to impact their health and productivity.

Wellness Retreats and Resorts: California’s many wellness retreats and resorts offer temporary but intensive opportunities to work with clients who are motivated to improve their fitness in a holistic environment.

  • At a place like The Ranch Malibu, you could lead multiple daily fitness sessions and provide holistic wellness coaching in a luxury setting, making big strides in short periods.

Online Personal Training: With the growth of digital platforms, offering online personal training services is a flexible option that allows you to reach clients globally. You can start your own online training business or partner with platforms that connect trainers to clients.

  • Using a platform like Trainerize, you can build and sell personalized workout and nutrition plans to clients anywhere in the world, conducting training sessions via video calls.

By exploring these diverse settings, you can find the environment that best suits your training style and career goals, helping you to grow and succeed as a personal fitness trainer in California.

What are the best cities in California to be a personal trainer?

Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego are considered the best cities in California for personal trainers for several reasons:

  • High Demand for Fitness Services
  • Competitive Salaries
  • Diverse Fitness Centers and Gyms
  • Networking and Growth Opportunities
  • Health and Wellness Culture

In these environments, personal trainers have the opportunity to thrive by using the cities’ resources, huge client bases, and supporting industries related to health and fitness. This creates the perfect environment for building a rewarding career in personal training.

Resources for Personal Trainers in California

As a personal trainer in California, there are many resources that help with your career development as well as networking opportunities. Here’s a list of helpful resources for personal trainers offered in California:

  1. Join Fitness Organizations: Get involved with groups like the California Association for Health, International Sports Sciences Association, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (CAHPERD) or the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) to access:
  • Latest industry research
  • Continuing education courses
  • Certification updates
  1. Attend Workshops and Conferences: These events are important for:
  • Staying updated on fitness trends
  • Networking with peers and industry leaders
  • Finding collaboration and client referral opportunities

A good example is attending the IDEA World Fitness Convention, one of the largest fitness events in the world, often held in California cities like Anaheim or San Diego. This convention attracts thousands of fitness professionals from across the globe and features a diverse range of sessions led by top industry experts.

  1. Stay Informed and Connected: Tapping into these resources helps keep you sharp and ahead of the game, preparing you to always deliver the best service to your clients by:
  • Learning new training techniques
  • Understanding business aspects of personal training

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) offers resources for personal trainers in California, including webinars and workshops on the latest training techniques and business practices. Engaging with ACSM helps trainers stay informed on industry trends, improve their business operations, and connect with a network of fitness professionals and industry leaders. 

Should I Get Personal Trainer Liability Insurance?

Getting personal trainer liability insurance is a smart move. As a personal trainer, you’re guiding clients through physical activities that carry a risk of injury. Liability insurance protects you if a client were to get hurt during a session or if there’s any damage to property during your training. It’s not just about handling potential claims; it’s also about peace of mind. 

Knowing you’re covered means you can focus fully on your clients’ workouts and progress without the worry of possible legal issues. Liability insurance builds trust with your clients and shows that you take your professional responsibilities seriously.


With a strategic approach to certifications and education, you can establish a foundation in the competitive fitness industry. Building a strong professional network will unlock more opportunities and help with career advancement. 

Whether you want to specialize in specific training disciplines or cater to a large client base, the California fitness industry provides an environment where dedicated trainers can thrive and make positive changes to the health and wellness of their communities. 

By staying committed to ongoing learning and adapting to industry trends, you can make sure your role as a personal trainer is fulfilling and lucrative.

Do I need a degree to become a personal trainer in California?

No, but a degree in a related field will improve your job prospects.

How long does it take to become certified?

It typically takes a few months to over a year to become certified as a personal trainer, depending on your prior knowledge and experience level. This process generally involves completing a study program and passing the certification exam.

Can I specialize in certain types of fitness training?

Yes, obtaining certifications in areas like Pilates, aquatic fitness, or sports conditioning will help you pinpoint a certain clientele.

What’s the job outlook for personal trainers in California?

The outlook is positive, with a growing demand for certified personal trainers across the state, especially in major metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego, due to the thriving fitness culture and emphasis on health and wellness.

  1. Fitness Trainers and Instructors,

Meet The Author:

Parker Franklin

Parker, IFG’s Brand Manager since 2022, began his wellness journey in 2020, leading to a significant personal transformation. He holds a journalism degree from Murray State University and started his career as an award-winning journalist in western Kentucky before transitioning into marketing and PR. At IFG, Parker is responsible for writing content, managing The Fit newsletter, and overseeing promotions and collaborations with affiliate fitness organizations.