One of the biggest decisions for newly qualified trainers is which Personal Trainer Job will suit them best. In this post we will look at the different options so you can make an informed choice.

There are 3 main models within the industry..

Employed – Employed (sessional) – Self Employed

So let’s deal with each one individually looking at the pros and cons.


This is the model that most people will be the most familiar with – it is not really any different to the ‘real world’ of employment. It is also the most rare in terms of Personal Training roles.

You are employed by a gym, you work set hours and you get paid a salary for those hours. The gym then sorts out your tax, pension, holiday pay and sick pay.

In the world of Personal Trainer job models it is the most reliable income but that comes with a trade off in terms of face value earnings.

A lot of the time, once you do the maths on all of the various models, you will find that there is not a lot of difference overall unless you are at the very top or bottom end of the scale.

In our Personal Trainer Career Success Plan one task you start off with is figuring out potential earnings. Most of our delegates are surprised to find out that there is a lot of balance across the industry.


  • Set Hours
  • Set Salary
  • Sick Pay
  • Holiday Pay
  • Pension
  • No trainer overcrowding

Con –

  • Lower Earnings
  • Less freedom in hours
  • A ‘boss’ to answer to
  • Less client exposure
  • Employment red tape

Employed (sessional)….

This is another ‘employed model’ but is more common within the industry.

We say employed because you will be included on the club/gym payroll and will therefore get the benefits of holiday/sick pay, pension, done for you tax etc.

Where we differ in this model is that you only get paid for the PT sessions that you deliver, so there is a little more risk than employed (if you don’t deliver any sessions then you don’t get paid).

The gym will take a portion of each session delivered and you will get paid the rest.

Usually this is on a sliding scale whereby as you deliver more sessions the gym takes less of a cut. Making it more worthwhile to deliver more sessions 🙂

A lot of trainers look down on this model unjustly.

Think of it this way – if both you and the gym get paid when you deliver a session then it is in their best interests to have successful trainers.

This means that trainer ratios are usually lower and as a trainer you will get lots of coaching and development to help you become a success. You will also get some awesome training.

I know that at present both David Lloyd and Virgin Active are giving their trainers FREE courses with Premier Global/NASM – for more info on these courses click HERE

This is the model I started in and I am convinced that is why I am still in the industry.


  • Lots of support
  • Less chance of trainer overcrowding
  • No tax/holiday/sick worries
  • Pension
  • Usually free/subsidised courses

Con –

  • Earning potential can be limited
  • Targets to meet
  • Pressure to be a general rather than a specialist trainer
Personal trainer motivates an elderly man to perform push-ups at the gym.

Self Employed….

The final model we will look at.

The clue here is in the title, you are your own boss!

You may be based in a club where you pay rent or trade off time spent doing gym duties. Or you may be out there in the big wide world fending for yourself.

We are dealing primarily with club based training roles in this post so that is what we will focus on.

In terms of ‘potential’ earnings, this role is where it’s at, all the big money trainers are self employed, I personally know a lot of trainers earning over £60k a year in this model.


It is a huge risk (as in every walk of life risk=reward).

In most setups you will be expected to pay rent ranging from £500-£1,500 per month, depending on where in the country you are. This is due whether you have any clients or not!

The other setups will require you to do 5-10 hours in the gym floor for free each week, this is a better option for most but bear in mind that these hours are likely to be at peak times.

The other issue is that because the gym gets their cash/hours no matter whether you are busy or not. It is in their interest to have LOTS of trainers.

Therefore competition for clients is huge in these set ups – meaning you need to be super confident, super focussed and on your A game in every area.

Don’t get me wrong, I have worked in the self employed model and enjoyed all of the rewards that cone with it.

Just be aware that if you are newly qualified it can be a big shock to the system.

As a side note, as with all self employed roles, tax, pension, holiday, sick etc are all your responsibility.

Pro –

  • Money money money
  • Absolute freedom to run your business as you see fit
  • No limitations to time off for events etc
  • Challenge

Con –

  • Risk, no clients no food
  • Competition is fierce in gyms with this model
  • Lack of development (no free opportunities)
  • Tax/Sick/Holiday/Pension all your responsibility

Which Is The Best Choice?

The most truthful answer is that it really depends on you, if you are confident, organised, good at selling and not easily intimidated then probably self employed.

If you are a little unsure and want some really good guidance to develop and experience in the floor then sessional employed.

If you are in need of total job security with minimal risk then employed is for you.

The only thing I will say is this, I have had 16 really successful years in the industry. Here is how….

3 years in sessional employed

2 years fitness management

11 years self employed

I learned the basics in the more supportive role, developed my coaching skills through management then let rip in the self employed model.

If you want to get laser focussed on where your skills lie, which model will help you the most and how to get an interview every tine you apply then check out my FREE career starter course by clicking the button below .

Thanks for reading


Michael Dempster
Michael Dempster

For Michael's full biography please follow this link...

    1 Response to "The 3 Biggest Job Roles For Personal Trainers"

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.