Updated April 2017
About salary statistics
Whenever we’re talking about statistics, we need to be aware of their limitations, as well as who is giving us those stats.
Trustworthy sources, including reputable training course providers, give balanced information. Beware any unsupported claims that sound too good to be true – they may well be!
At Personal Trainers London, our aim is to give the best information to support your career. There’s nothing wrong with making money honestly, and if we do ever recommend products or enter into partnerships, our affiliation will be crystal-clear. As it happens, none of the links in this article are affiliate links.
Another thing to consider: many personal trainers are simply too busy running around looking for clients to fill in the employee surveys on which the big jobs websites base their calculations.
So for example, sometimes “hard” statistics like this, from the reputable and very large jobs site reed.co.uk, need a second look:
Why such a ridiculously high figure (sorry to break it to you, you won’t be earning 90 grand as a PT)? Mainly, they can only use the data that comes through their site, most of which appear to be adverts for training courses (no doubt with inflated earning potential) disguised as actual job offers.
There is more accurate data out there, but this serves to shows that it’s good to try and interpret any numbers that you find, or you risk being “blinded by science”. In this case, we’d be better off asking a couple of blokes down the pub. But as it’s only late afternoon, let’s continue..
Yes really – being a personal trainer is special. It isn’t like other careers, with a well-defined job role and salary band.
Your specialism and skillset can be very varied. The number of hours you work can fluctuate wildly with the seasons. The price you can charge depends on a lot of factors (we’ll get into just what those factors are a bit later).
But even so, can we get an idea of an average personal trainer salary?
Yes, we can. The huge jobs website monster.co.uk uses payscale.com as their data provider for salaries, which means we can trust them too. And payscale.com actually has hundreds of data points for personal trainers, which makes it meaningful.
UK data for PT salary
Payscale says that for personal trainers in the UK, the average salary is £19,346 a year.
Note that they no longer list the mean salary and only quote the median salary. The maximum earnings according to the national salary data is £62,927, which includes not only salary but all kinds of earnings related to the job. So this means that there are some relatively high earnings and they are comparatively rare.
In other words, lots of trainers are paid less than the average, and a few earn a lot more. This will make sense when we talk about career progression.
(See live chart at payscale.com)
The “hourly rate” is £6.78 – £40.50, but this standard industry metric doesn’t fit very well for PTs. How did they factor in the hours hanging round the gym talking to prospects? Or spent on marketing freelance services?
And how does this compare to nurses, nightwatchmen, and everyone else?
According to the Office for National Statistics, the average salary in the UK for all jobs is £28,028 yearly.
London data for PT salary
We’d expect Londoners to earn more than those in the rest of the country – after all, everything is more expensive here, from beer to barbells!
And this is true. According to PayScale, the average salary for personal trainers in London is £20,426 yearly. This is about 4% higher than what PTs earn in the UK.
(See live chart at payscale.com)
Bear in mind that the UK stats include London. And London has a disproportionately high population. This means that the disparity between London-only and UK-excluding-London is actually larger than these figures show.
From the Office of National Statistics, the average salary in London for all jobs is £34,892 yearly. The average salary of a personal trainer in London is just 59% of this. Maybe it’s the oligarchs and bankers skewing the top end of the results?
So now we know some figures. But is the concept of an “average salary” even that meaningful here?
After all, the “average” yearly rent for a 1-bedroom flat in London is £21,840 (averaged across all boroughs; data from Rent Barometer. So that gives the average London PT renting the average 1-bed flat approximately -£2k a year to live on.
You could always live outside Zone 6 and commute in…
This is the danger and absurdity of quoting averages.
Of course, if your only motivation is to get rich, personal training is unlikely to be your best bet. It’s a competitive market and not exactly get-rich-quick. You want to help people to develop themselves. And to make a decent living at the same time. So let’s rephrase the question a little:
What can personal trainers earn?
Let’s look at both ends of the spectrum.
You can earn a lot..
By far the most common advertised price, from our own online survey of personal trainers in London, was £50 per session. Some established trainers, especially in wealthy areas of London, do regularly charge prices upwards of £80 for a one-on-one session.
It’s easy to see that you wouldn’t need too many sessions to start making some serious scratch.
“The bottom line is you’ve got to train until you want to throw up and you have to eat until you want to throw up.” – celebrity trainee Hugh Jackman
And of course there are celebrity personal trainers. There are the trainers who are hired by TV and film stars to keep them in the tip-top condition demanded by their industry.
Such high-flier trainers have to produce the corresponding results.
But the fees they charge their star clients can be astronomical. And the “halo effect” – of ordinary folks being able to say “I have the same personal trainer as so-and-so” – means that their prices go up for everyone.
And now there are even personal trainers who are celebrities in their own right. You’ve probably heard of the fellow who charges £1,000 per hour, not to mention any number of reality TV and soap stars.
..but probably not in the beginning
Turning again to payscale.com, we see that the middle 10th to 90th percentile of UK personal trainers makes £12,414 – £30,216 in salary yearly.
What does this mean? It means discounting the very lowest – who are maybe part-time, still trainees, or just terrible at attracting clients – and the very highest performers, the bulk of trainers earn a relatively ordinary wage.
In London, the story is almost exactly the same. The middle 10th to 90th percentile makes £13,493 – £30,270 in salary yearly.
But it’s worth remembering at this point that personal training has a very large drop-out rate. A lot of people start with expectations that don’t match the reality of being a personal trainer, and find it too hard for not enough money – and quit.
Think about it: this means that these relatively low-earning statistics are largely composed of people who are just starting out and probably won’t last.
You need to push through this period, get experience, and – assuming that being a fitness professional is right for you – break on through to the other side, establish yourself, and increase your income.
And what do we mean by the other side?
Who a trainer works for defines what they earn
Being a PT is highly competitive. You will likely start out being a freelancer at a gym.
You don’t have a client list of your own, you don’t have a reputation yet, and you don’t have your marketing machine working for you. So you have to rely on other people’s clients – in this case, the gym’s.
According to discovery.uk.com, a freelancer at a club is likely to make just £14 to £18K a year in the first 12-18 months. Those in reputable clubs can make £40 to £60K a year.
Arrangements can differ. You’ll usually pay rent to the gym – anything up to £1,000/month, depending on the gym. So be sure to factor that in to your costs.
And the gym may or may not give you leads from their members.
Note that the clubs also have a vested interest in exaggerating how much you’re likely to earn as a freelancer with them. You’re taking all the risk, and they don’t really take very much.
If there aren’t enough clients per trainer, you don’t make any money
Most people start off here and get discouraged because they’re working hard and not getting the salary they expected.
It’s important to see this phase of your career as the experience-building phase. You are also building connections that will help you later on: with clients and with other fitness professionals.
Working for a gym
This is actually the least common option. It’s usually easier for the gyms to have lots of freelancers rather than take the extra hassle that comes with actually employing you.
However, if you have extra skills such as sports massage, this can help to get you employed as a permanent fixture.
A personal trainer on the staff at a club is paid a salary, which can be about £24-28K a year.
According to Glassdoor, an anonymous salary reporting website, the average reported salary for hourly contractors in London for Virgin Active, a large chain gym, was £15.66/hr.
There were 526 jobs for “personal trainer” and 341 for “fitness instructor” in the London area listed on Glassdoor at the time of writing, but this doesn’t reflect the actual prospects for personal trainers. Most of these, again, were cunningly disguised adverts for training courses and not actual jobs.
Being a self-employed personal trainer
This is the holy grail for many of us – complete self-determination; running our own profitable business.
There is essentially no upper limit to what you can earn. If you get more clients than you are able to or have the desire to train, you can hire other trainers and expand that way.
The most successful self-employed trainers can earn more than £100K.
Note that these guys don’t really show up on the traditional salary measures. They usually have their own limited company for tax reasons, and so will get paid in dividends or through their director’s account or some other way that is unlikely to make it into the usual “salary” statistics.
But if you work for yourself, you run the most risk. If you get it wrong, you can lose money or go out of business entirely.
As well as keeping all the profits, you’re liable for all the costs, including insurance and equipment.
How to increase your income
As well as the general strategy of working your way through the employment options given above, there are other ways to increase your income. This is perhaps a subject for an article in itself, but just briefly: specialise!
If you specialise in something, you can charge more.
It’s good to keep an eye on what the trends are in fitness. A couple of years ago, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and Zumba were the absolute hot things, and now not so much.
People will always pay for a weight loss transformation!
Weight loss is one specialism that is likely never to go out of style! Tim Ferriss, bestselling author of “The Four Hour Body”, wrote that the main problems of the modern man were too much belly fat and too much email.
Probably you’re not going to do much about your client’s email overload (although, pro tip: Inbox for Gmail), but you can address their concerns about body composition.
Pre- and post-natal care is another area to think about. Having kids isn’t going to become less popular anytime soon.
And there are many more: just check out what your fellow trainers are offering.
If you’re thinking of becoming a personal trainer, do know going in that you won’t make as much money as you might hope, at least at first.
But if it’s the career for you, it will be very satisfying in many other ways.
And if you survive and do well, the sky is really the limit.
If you have any questions that you’d like us to write about, do let us know. And if you have any input on the topic of personal trainer salaries, please leave a comment below.
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The following references were helpful in the creation of this article. Inclusion is not an endorsement of one company over another.