Coming Home: How do I Find a Job?

10/24/2013  |  Angie Pattengale

Have you ever wondered, as a U.S. military serviceman or woman, “what’s waiting for me when I come home to stay”?  Many active duty service members struggle with this question, often times as it relates to employment. The biggest blessing awaiting your return may be the greetings of loved ones and missed comforts; but if long range career goals haven’t been thought through, this could turn into a stressful time.

 So thinking through your plan ahead of time is the best thing that you can do for yourself and those you love. Take the time to ask yourself these questions:

•  What do I enjoy doing?

•  If I had my choice, what would my field of work be?

•  What kind of special training have I received while in the armed services?

•  How can my special training assist me in the private sector?

•  What kind of training can I pursue, while still active duty, that would help my career goals?

Have you thought about the fitness industry as an opportunity for your career goals? If so, then you’re in a good spot for a growing market with consumer trends that never go out of style, and tend to stay on the rise despite economic conditions. I’m not saying that there aren’t many other options for career goals that you could consider; but I am saying that fitness training is among the fastest growing service industry in the U.S. You can even see this without all the stats (but I’ll give you some anyway). Pay attention to the number of health clubs, new and old, that are in your hometown or nearby big city. There seems to be fairly consistent grand openings for new health club chains, “mom and pop” gyms, private training studios or niche workout complexes – and most all of them need personal fitness trainers! The thing about these fitness facilities, that make them very similar on a basic level, is that they generally hire entry level trainers to start with. This makes perfect sense for many reasons. One reason is that there’s some hope on the employer’s part that these trainers will learn, grow and stick around after they’ve become polished and “popular” with the clientele. Turnover’s high, no doubt, but that tends to be because the trainer decides to move on to something bigger and better in the training field (like the startup of their own studio); or the trainer knew all along that this was an in-between job or a job that they took on to supplement income or gain relevant experience. And then there’s the people who just can’t hack being a trainer – it’s not an easy job, but there is much reward for those who stick with it and have a passion for it.

I Never Thought of That!

Today, there is an average of 215,000 service members leaving the armed forces each year. Many of those are between the ages of 18-24; and, in that age range, approximately 20% are currently unemployed! Fitness trainers, starting out, are most commonly in their early 20’s, so start thinking ahead while you have the opportunity to plan. Have you considered that your experience and service in the U.S. military could set you apart when pursuing employment in a fitness facility? Have you considered that you can actually make a living doing something that you enjoy? It is possible!

Great Personal Trainer Qualities that are Enhanced by Your Military Experience:

-       Discipline

-       Physical Fitness

-       Dedication

-       Leadership

-       Timeliness

-       Ability to Adapt

The fitness industry is booming due in part of businesses and insurance companies recognizing the benefits of health and fitness programs for their employees. By having healthier employees they are able to save money in the long run. In fact, some bigger companies tie incentives to physical activity and healthy habits. This may contribute somewhat to the rise in gym memberships over the years; today, there are roughly 51.4 million health club members in the U.S.! Considering that over 80% of profitable health clubs look to personal training as the “bread and butter” of their business, then that says huge opportunity! You have a built in partner when you start working in a gym; they want, as badly as you do, to convert members into paying fitness training clients. All of this equates to a market that is wide open for employment. No longer is a job in a gym “just a job”, it is the start to a great career with many opportunities to grow. Working your way up the club ladder or starting your own business are both viable and realistic options. And how about this…not only is there an increase in the number of available trainer jobs, the market has also seen an increase in personal trainer salaries! Since 2005, the average salary has increased 19%! Annual salary ranges can vary, anywhere from $25,000 - $60,000, and sometimes much more depending on where you live and the market conditions in your area; like, seasonal and demographic demand curves (if any) and how much competition.

Where Do I Sign Up?

First, think about it…you want to ask yourself if this really is for you. If you don’t know the answer to that, then you could invest a lot of time and money and then be frustrated by the lack of return. In this line of work, you have to have a passion for fitness along with a desire to learn, and to teach, continuously. Personal training isn’t a plug and play career, it’s a process that you keep tweaking. Whether from the professional relationship side of things or the education side of things, you will find that there is always room to grow and develop your skill. 

So, if you feel it in you, that you “got the goods” for this kind of work, then the next step is making it official. Don’t forget, your military experience and fitness training put you ahead of the curve. The next step is learning how to become certified, and choosing a certification course that meets your needs. Certification won’t make you a great trainer, you’ll do that on your own, but it will qualify you for employment. I suggest choosing a certification course that is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), because this is the “gold standard” in the fitness trainer certification industry (and is often times what clubs look for before considering to hire).

Currently, there are 11 NCCA accredited certification programs available to you, I would recommend finding one that considers military service men and women for discounts or is at least approved for GI Bill reimbursement. I am aware of a handful of providers that do offer a military discount and are approved for a GI Bill reimbursement:

ACE: American College on Exercise

NCSF: National Council on Strength and Fitness

NESTA: National Exercise and Sports Trainer Association

NFPT: National Federation of Professional Trainers

After choosing the right certification for you, the next step is to evaluate the job market in your area. Get a lay of the land – know the clubs, gyms and private studios in your area. There are so many options for employment in this field, but the most utilized for newcomers is generally the big name club – and for good reason, you can get started without having the pressures of your own business.

The future looks bright for the fitness industry, and a career in this fast growing market is a great, almost natural, fit for military service members. Capitalize on your military experience – you can use those qualities to your advantage in the job market!

Angie Pattengale has worked with National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT) since 1994. Currently serving as the Director of Certification, Angie oversees the heart of the NFPT program – the coordination of legally defensible test development and delivery, and accessible certification maintenance. She leads with the belief that NFPT is obligated to protect personal trainers by abiding by the strict regulatory guidelines that accompany any credible certification program.

Angie strives to maintain and promote the NFPT Certification mission as it relates to health, public safety and authority. She also serves to promote NFPT certified professionals for the work they do as hardworking personal trainers who garner respect from their fitness industry peers.



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