For a fitness studio and gym, your fitness instructors are at the core of your business. They attract, motivate, inspire, and educate your members daily. Often, powerhouse instructors are a marketing tool in themselves. While your fitness facilities may attract members in the first place, instructors can be the reason why customers stick around every month.
Charming and motivational instructors can help members to achieve results and they represent your brand to a high level. How you pay your fitness instructors will have a big impact on your business. Not only will it affect your overall finances, but it will impact who you can attract to your business to work for you.
In this article, we try to understand the key elements you need to think about when figuring out your fitness instructor pay.
Skip ahead to:
- Fitness instructor statistics in the United States
- What is the average salary for a fitness instructor?
- What makes a great fitness instructor?
- 8 things to consider for your fitness instructor payment model
Fitness instructor statistics in the United States
The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the employment of fitness trainers and instructors will grow 39% from 2020 to 2030. This is much faster than the average for many other occupations. While the fitness industry has taken a hit throughout the pandemic, employment opportunities continue to look bright. Here are some standout fitness instructor statistics to keep in mind:
- The top highest-paid fitness instructors earn $58,000 or more.
- A large chunk of fitness instructors are based in New York and Chicago.
- Over 92,610 instructors are employed in the US.
A fitness instructor engages members and guides them through fitness classes and exercise routines. They can deliver a range of training to help members improve their fitness. There are different types of fitness instructors, including:
- Personal trainer – these types of trainers often teach on a one-to-one basis for training clients in both general fitness and specific disciplines.
- Group fitness instructor – these instructors lead groups in class workouts at the same time.
- Specialty instructor – this would be an instructor who specializes in a specific skill. They could have a discipline such as yoga or Pilates.
As we continue to live alongside the coronavirus and move into 2022, studio owners face an ongoing struggle of finding fitness instructor talent. One survey found that instructors want to be paid more for less work. Despite the demand for high-quality instructors, some fitness studios are still reluctant to raise pay. The level of compensation you can provide, and the quality of the working environment will be crucial for attracting and retaining the best talent.
What is the average salary for a fitness instructor?
On average, fitness instructors earn an annual salary of $40,520 or $19.48 per hour. As a personal trainer, the national average salary ranges between $44,663 and $76,050. The amount a fitness instructor can earn depends on a few different factors like:
- Type of role
- Qualifications and skills required
- Part-time or full time
An individual who is an expert personal trainer with a specialty in demand would have a higher salary than say an entry-level fitness professional where you provide on-the-job training and career path opportunities. If you’re new to the industry, naturally, the salary is lower than someone who has been around for ten or more years.
Fitness instructor salaries can vary massively, so it’s important to take into consideration the kind of compensation your competitors are offering. Your pay needs to be competitive enough to attract the type of employees you want to represent your brand. Some of the top-paying brands include Crunch Fitness, LA Fitness, and Equinox. The bottom line is that if you don’t have a competitive package, then you’ll struggle to retain top-tier fitness instructors.
It may come as no surprise that the state with the highest-paying personal trainer salary is New York. In addition, New York has one of the highest employment rates for fitness professionals. With an abundance of fitness studios and health clubs to consider in New York alone and not to mention virtual training, there’s a lot of opportunities in the fitness industry.
What makes a great fitness instructor?
Whether you’re hiring a personal trainer or fitness instructor, it takes a specific kind of person to lead and inspire a fitness class or training session. Naturally, a good instructor has the knowledge and skills to guide members safely through exercise. They can offer adjustments and advice to help members achieve results without injuring themselves. In addition to qualifications, bachelor’s degrees, and trainer certifications in fitness, they also have the personality to be a fitness instructor which is a tad more difficult to learn.
The best instructors are passionate and knowledgeable about fitness. Not only are they self-motivated but they know how to motivate someone else. They have the power to figure out what their class needs to stay motivated and work out even when they want to quit. Member motivation is crucial to your overall member retention strategy. If you can find a way to motivate someone to work out, then you can encourage them to be consistent, and ultimately, see results from all their hard work. Other must-have skills your trainers need include:
- Positive attitude
- Proactive problem-solver
- Fantastic communication skills
Nowadays, it’s crucial to think about how your fitness instructors will deliver an enticing online experience. Motivating through a screen is tough, you don’t have in-person energy to bounce off of. Instead, you had to deliver adjustments and advice that suit a range of viewers and this is a challenge in itself.
Barry Ennis and Shay Kostabi, hosts of the Fitness Career Mastery Podcast, talk about the fundamentals of a great online class experience in more detail. They discuss everything you need to know about coaching on-screen and offer some great tips on integrating your online classes into your greater business strategy.
8 things to consider for your fitness instructor payment model
When thinking about your fitness instructor pay and how you intend to compensate your employees, there are various factors you need to consider. Your type of business, size, location, and role that you’re recruiting will all play a role in the final payment model. In general, there are a few different options to consider and what works best comes down to you and your employees.
1. Payment structure
When it comes to your fitness instructor pay structure, you have some options for your fitness instructors. In general, you have either a flat rate or per head payment. A flat rate is a set amount that you agree with the instructor. This could be a flat rate hourly wage or per class. Typically, you would pay an employee a flat hourly rate and then per class for an independent contractor, freelancer, or self-employed individual. A flat rate helps to simplify your finances; however, it doesn’t always encourage instructors to attract more customers. On the other hand, a pay-per-head model can incentivize instructors to bring in new members but cap their earnings. Somewhere between the two models creates balance for both employees and independent contractors. Individuals should always feel like they are being paid for their time, so factor in arriving early and staying after class as part of their wages.
2. Know your numbers
When hiring anyone in your business, naturally, one of the first things to consider is your finances. A deep understanding of your finances will put you in the best position to make a decision around what you can or can’t pay instructors. When making any salary decisions, your business costs will no doubt play a role. Although you need instructors to elevate your business and serve members, it also needs to make financial sense for your company. Think about costs like your mortgage or lease, insurance, bills, marketing budget, and existing employee wages and salaries. Take a top-level view of your overall business costs so you can figure out how you can stay competitive while also making it work for your business.
3. Employment contract type
The main types of employment contracts are either salaried or independent contractor or freelancer. With the freelance lifestyle growing, it’s entirely normal to have freelance personal training professionals, yoga instructors, and Zumba teachers. They teach classes around their schedule and usually work for multiple brands and even their own business. On the other hand, salaried employees are exclusive to your brand. You have an agreed-upon contract with an exclusive employee for a specific salary. You decide if an employee works full or part-time, and set the rate. There are pros and cons to each type of contract. The best option depends on your budget and what you’re looking to achieve.
4. Competitive compensation
When searching for a new job, the compensation will be one of the top things that instructors look at. The reality is that how much you pay instructors is essential for attracting, recruiting, and retaining high-quality employees. The fitness instructor pay should be competitive for the industry, location, and type of role. Research local competitors to find out the industry standard for the job. This is a good starting position. Whether it’s an entry-level or expert position will massively influence the compensation needed to fulfill the role.
5. Flexible payment methods
How you pay instructors will depend on the contract type and the role. Offering flexible payment options that are relevant in today’s economy is crucial. Naturally, the most obvious payment method is a direct debit. In some cases, you may still use checks, but this can become a hassle as you have more paperwork to manage. While it’s obvious that salaried employees get paid monthly into their bank account. Think about how you can pay your freelancers and independent contractors. They may want to receive payment bi-weekly, weekly, or monthly.
6. Employee benefits
While your employee benefits are not necessarily part of the fitness instructor pay, they may factor into your pricing. Providing healthcare and wellness benefits and perks is important, especially for salaried employees. A business that provides healthcare benefits and perks with a slightly lower base salary may be more attractive than a business with no healthcare benefits whatsoever. Your benefits package is entirely down to you. You may already have an employee package in place, but it’s definitely something worth including to attract incredible talent.
7. Job type
The job title, responsibilities, class size, and entry requirements will influence your final fitness instructor pay decision. If you’re providing on-the-job training and opportunities to obtain qualifications as you go, you can factor this into the final cost. The value of training and growth is important, especially in an entry-level position. If you’re looking for a certified personal trainer with years of experience and a specific discipline, then your compensation should align with your requirements.
The location of your business and job position is another important consideration when determining your payment model. If you live in a notoriously expensive city, your starting fitness instructor salary will automatically be higher. Whereas a more rural area with a lower cost of living can be less while remaining competitive. Fitness instructors can even work remotely and stream from their own home studio. Freelance yoga instructors or Pilates professionals may stream a class from their home rather than be located in your city. These are all elements that factor into your final decision.
In a customer-centric business like a fitness studio, your employees and people are everything to do with your success. How you pay your fitness instructors, and their level of compensation are crucial in securing and retaining the best fitness talent. Whether you’re looking for a personal trainer or group exercise instructor, all these elements will factor into your final pay decision.