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Want to get paid to go to the gym? Become a personal trainer

(BPT) - One upside to the burgeoning obesity epidemic is that it's fueling the growth of jobs in the fitness industry. Whether you're one of those people in need of...

(BPT) - One upside to the burgeoning obesity epidemic is that it's fueling the growth of jobs in the fitness industry.

Whether you're one of those people in need of a personal trainer or you're looking for work in a dismal job market, the bureau of labor statistics reports 'employment of fitness trainers and instructors is expected to grow by 24 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations.'

According to Jeff Rosga, director of education at Life Time Academy, the training and certification organization for Life Time - The Healthy Way of Life Company, weight loss is a primary driver for people who seek out a personal trainer. 'There is a very large population of boomers with the economic means to hire a personal trainer,' he adds. 'Their requirements are substantial; they want a high-quality experience in training as well as in-depth knowledge. Some are injured, have functional issues, or simply want to be more physically active, and need assistance in learning how to overcome their challenges.'

Demand for personal training is also getting a boost as businesses and insurance companies see the relationship between healthier employees and lower health care costs by persuading employees and members - by virtue of various incentives - to get fit.

Phyllis Soltis, 59, from Lakeville, Minn., has worked in administration and was even a police officer at one time. She was drawn to personal training while a member of Life Time Fitness, where she lost 70 pounds. 'All the jobs I've had involved working with people,' Soltis says. Exercise, too, had always been a part of her life, and as she considered what sort of job change she could make at her age, she turned to personal training and applied to Life Time Academy.

Choosing the right certification program matters. 'When you earn a certification you are directly linked to the certification body,' says David Van Daff, vice-president of business development and public affairs with the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). 'The reputation of the certification, both positive and negative, will impact how you are perceived as a fitness professional.'

Choosing the right personal training certification can be confusing says Van Daff, who recommended the following considerations when choosing a program:

1. Industry standards: Earning a certification that is not accepted by respected employers is a waste of time and money. Contact local fitness centers and ask what certifications they accept. If a certification is not universally accepted, don't buy it.

2. Curriculum/faculty: What you study and learn in a certification program should have practical application. In addition, research the credentials and reputation of the faculty. Evaluate their background, accomplishments, testimonials and contributions to the industry.

3. Advanced specializations: Most successful personal trainers specialize in a particular area. Investigate what specialty credentials and certifications are offered by the certification organizations you are considering.

4. References: Ask a manager at a fitness facility which certifications best prepare new personal trainers. Having managed personal trainers with varying certifications and education backgrounds, they can provide insight into the value of various certification programs.

A 2012 NASM study found that certified personal trainers who were not previously employed in the fitness industry, on average found employment in less than one month. That was true for Soltis, who graduated from Life Time Academy in December and was immediately employed at Life Time Fitness in Eagan, Minn. Soltis says one of the benefits at Life Time Academy were the weekly in-club labs, something not offered by many other programs. The 120 hours of hands-on experience allowed her the confidence to go from student to trainer seamlessly.

'I have specialty certifications through the Academy's partnership with NASM in corrective exercise and performance enhancement,' Soltis says. Other partners include Yoga Alliance, American Council on Exercise, and Peak Pilates. She said she plans to use her knowledge in power lifting training and competitions to attract a clientele of 'women of a certain age' who want to strength train. 'Weight loss is a big one too, because of my own experience. I understand it from a personal perspective,' she adds.

Pay for noncertified personal trainers range from $18,000-$31,000. As a graduate of Life Time Academy Soltis knows she can expect to eventually earn more than $40,000 a year and the possibility to make more than she has in other jobs. 'I see the potential to make more because there are no limits. It's like being in business for yourself, but not by yourself.'

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