CANOE Network

The Toronto Sun CareerConnection


Turn fitness into a career

By David Chilton
Special to the Toronto Sun

Personal fitness trainers, like a personal chef, are usually considered the province of the wealthy.

They're not. Elaine Craig, coordinator of the full-time fitness and health promotion program at Humber College in Toronto says when she was working privately her clients were usually stay-at-home moms.
Demand for personal trainers continues to grow with three colleges in Toronto offering programs that can be completed either full or part time

But it's not just women at home who want to work out; it couldn't be, because demand for personal trainers continues to grow with three colleges in Toronto offering programs either full or part-time.

Humber, for example, accepted 105 students into its two-year full-time program this year and intends to accept another 35 in January, a first for the school.

At George Brown College, 96 students were enrolled this year, says John Griffin, program coordinator.


At Seneca College, which offers personal training instruction part-time, teacher Jo Ann Rutledge says there are three intakes a year with about 25 students in each.

The majority of the students who enrol in the full-time programs come straight from high school.

"We always have 60% coming from high school, but our average age is 22 or 23 as opposed to 18 to 19, and we always have a handful of 40-something career changers," Griffin says.The rest of the students who make up classes at George Brown and Humber tend to be older, hence the higher average age.

The gender split at both schools is essentially 50-50, although Rutledge says at Seneca 75% of the students are female. The average age at Seneca is different, too, at about 30.

In the full-time programs students will study anatomy, physiology, fitness assessment, leadership and motivation, among other subjects. They must also complete work placement terms -- when they do it, where and for how long varies -- and pass a CPR certification course. At Seneca, Rutledge says there are eight different subjects her night school students must take, with each course lasting three hours a week for 14 weeks. Each subject at Seneca costs $200. Tuition at George Brown and Humber is about $2,200 a semester.

Craig says the most common reason for students to enrol in her course is a passion for fitness for themselves and a desire to find out why and how the body adapts to training. Griffin also says helping others to be healthier is key for his students.

Doug Meyer, 19, a second year student at George Brown, enrolled in the program from high school. He says he's always enjoyed physical fitness, and wants a career helping others. But Meyer cautions the three-year program isn't a breeze.

"The academics are very detailed," he says. "They are more difficult than high school."

Rutledge says the same thing: "Some of them (the students) don't realize the work involved."

And once they graduate, there is still certification to consider. Although certification through either Can-Fit Pro or the Certified Professional Trainer Network is voluntary, an official OK from either of those bodies -- there are others -- brings greater recognition and makes insurance easier.

Market looks good

The market for personal fitness trainers looks good. Craig and Griffin say the jobs are found in four areas. The first is public recreation centres and the like. The second is the corporate world where trainers work with staff. Next come private gyms, and last, but emphatically not least, is working independently.

Pay for each of the first three sectors is all over the place. Salaries for some jobs start in the $24,000 to $30,000 range, Griffin says. For the independents, however, compensation can rise sharply for the established, experienced trainer. Lower rates begin at $50 an hour or so and can climb to double that. That's hardly a sum only the Hollywood crowd can afford.

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