Ministry of Business and Innovation - Occupation Outlook

Occupation Outlook | Main MBIE Site

Sports and Fitness Professionals

Job Prospects

Job Prospects... At a glance

The fitness industry has expanded as more New Zealanders pursue the health benefits of an active lifestyle. The growth in exercise and lifestyle goals as treatment has also led to an increase in the work for personal trainers.

There has been an increase in employment for fitness instructors during the last year. This job appeals to many young people, but it has relatively low entry-level earnings. To achieve high earnings it is usually necessary to set up your own business as a personal trainer.

Job prospects for most outdoor adventure guides are average, except for snowsport instructors and skydiving instructors, who are in high demand. Work as an outdoor adventure guide can be seasonal, and finding full-time work is challenging.

For other kinds of sports professionals such as coaches, umpires, and sportspeople, job prospects are average or below average. It is usually very hard for people in these roles to find employment that pays enough to be their only job. However, the very small number of coaches and sportspeople who enjoy international success in a major sport such as golf, tennis, football or rugby can earn a very high income.

How to become a sports and fitness professional  

What they do

Fitness instructors help people to improve their general fitness or train for special events through individual programmes or classes. Typical roles include personal trainers, gym instructors, group exercise instructors, and fitness managers.

Outdoor adventure guides instruct and guide their customers through outdoor recreational activities. In this area, there are jobs such as bungy jump master, fishing guide, or mountain guide.

Sports coaches, sports officials and sportspeople all participate in competitive sports. Sportspeople are the actual contestants, the officials oversee the contest, and coaches are responsible for preparing the sportspeople, mentally and physically, to be able to perform at their highest level.

Their tasks may include:

  • consulting with various Health Professionals to develop and design fitness programs
  • designing individual fitness programs based on assessment of the client's age, level of fitness, goals and abilities
  • delivering group exercise classes and personal tuition in a variety of fitness activities in a safe and creative manner
  • demonstrating and teaching body movements and skills used in fitness routines
  • setting up and monitoring fitness equipment and ensuring that equipment is safe, clean and in working condition
  • teaching and advising on the use of fitness equipment
  • ensuring clients are aware of and adhere to safety and injury prevention procedures
  • reporting accidents and preparing accident reports
  • maintaining a working knowledge of current health and safety standards and ensuring working practices and procedures conform to current legislation
  • maintaining current first aid certificates.

Qualifications needed

People working in the fitness industry have a mix of qualifications and skills learnt on the job.

A minimum of NCEA Level 2 biology, science and physical education is recommended for those wanting to become a fitness instructor. Currently there are no mandatory post-school qualification requirements, but you usually need to have a certificate, diploma or degree in exercise science, leadership, or physical education.

At least one year of relevant experience may substitute for one of these qualifications. In some instances relevant experience may be required in addition to the formal qualification.

Some employers now require new staff to register with the New Zealand Register of Exercise Professionals.

For outdoor adventure guides, having experience and skill in the activity they work in is the most important thing. Qualifications are available through the New Zealand Outdoor Instructors Association (NZOIA) and Skills Active. Several polytechnics and private training establishments also offer qualifications in Adventure Tourism and Outdoor Education.  Some roles do require a qualification in addition to experience, for example mountain guides, ski field patrollers, and rafting guides.

Becoming a sports coach usually requires previous experience as a sportsperson and extensive knowledge of the sport. Sport New Zealand has more information on becoming a coach.

Becoming a professional sportsperson requires years and years of practice and hard work. Very few get good enough to be able to make a living off their sport.

NZ Register of Fitness Professionals:
NZ Outdoor Instructors Association:
Skills Active, Outdoor Qualifications:
Sport NZ, becoming a coach:

Cost of study

Bachelor of Sports ScienceLevel 5 certificate or diploma courses
$21,800 over three years $6,000 over one to two years


Average costs in 2018 for a domestic student. Costs vary between institutions. First time students may be eligible for fees-free
tertiary education for their first year of study, which will reduce the total cost. For more information about fees-free eligibility, go to Some polytechnics may have a zero-fees scheme. Further costs include materials, textbooks, and accommodation.

Rents vary from place to place. Estimated market rents by region, city and suburb are available on the Tenancy Services website.

The StudyLink website provides general budget advice for students, and the Sorted website provides help with detailed budget planning.

Tenancy Services:

Where to study

People can study throughout the country, at universities, polytechnics, private institutes, or Skills Active Aotearoa (New Zealand’s Industry Training Organisation for the recreation, sports, and fitness industries). The Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs) has a guide for those who wish to work in the fitness/exercise industry.

Some of the skills needed to become certain types of outdoor adventure guides or sportspeople can only be gained in appropriate locations. For example, in order to develop skills as a skiing instructor, you need to spend time in areas that get snow, and in order to become a rower, you need to be located near a body of water suitable for practice.

Skills Active Aotearoa:
Register of Exercise Professionals:


Completion of an appropriate qualification at a registered education provider, along with the payment of an annual fee, allows you to join the Register of Exercise Professionals. Many employers in the fitness industry only employ registered fitness instructors.

The New Zealand Outdoor Instructors Association (NZOIA) is a registration board for outdoor guides and instructors.

NZ Register of Exercise Professionals:

Completed qualifications

Until 2015, diploma-level qualifications was the most popular in sports and recreation. However, increasing numbers have completed qualifications at level 5, and that was the most popular in 2015.

Qualification completions chart


Source: Ministry of Education

Income and employment prospects


In 2015, the average income per hour for fitness instructors was estimated to be $21.90, with many operating on a part-time basis. Fitness instructors who go on to become personal trainers can expect to earn between $25 and $35 per hour if employed, and $50-70 if self-employed (most personal trainers in NZ are self-employed).

In 2019, the average annual income for sports and fitness professionals was estimated to be around $31,800. This reflects the fact that income is low for many of these roles, and that part-time and seasonal work is common, although data from REPs shows that around 15% of personal trainers earn nore than $60,000 per year. 

Estimated Average Income

Source: MBIE estimates based on Statistics NZ Census and Labour Cost Index

Employment and skill shortages

Sports and fitness professionals’ employment

HistoricProjected Growth
2006 2013 2023 2028
2,457 3,384 4,210 4,760
  4.7% 3.7% 2.1%

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections. Percentages are compound annual growth rates.
*Growth projections are for the category “Sports and Fitness Workers”.

The number of sports and fitness professionals grew very quickly between 2006 and 2013. Growth is expected to continue at 3.7% until 2023, and 2.1% until 2028.

There are about 3,000 fitness instructors on the Register of Exercise Professionals. Half of these are personal trainers, most of whom are operating their own businesses.

Many sports and fitness professionals do not typically work a standard 9am-5pm day. Instead they usually work during mornings, evenings (split shifts are common) and weekends, when their clients are available.

Employment chart


Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections

The specific occupations of Skydive Tandem Master (Auckland/Upper North Island, Central North Island, Canterbury/ Upper South Island, Otago/Southland), Snowsport Instructor (Central North Island, Canterbury/ Upper South Island, Otago/Southland) and Jockey (Waikato/Bay of Plenty, Central North Island, Canterbury/ Upper South Island, Otago/Southland) appear on Immigration New Zealand’s immediate skill shortage list. If an occupation appears on the list, it indicates that the government is actively encouraging skilled workers in those occupations to work in New Zealand. A full list is available on the Immigration New Zealand website.

Immigration NZ, skill shortage list:

Where to find job vacancies

Since 2013, the number of online job advertisements for fitness instructors has increased at about the same rate as the average for all vacancies.

Jobs advertised chart


Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment

Some sports and fitness professional vacancies are advertised through public media such as the Trade Me Jobs, Seek and FitNZ websites, but many vacancies are not advertised. Many in this industry are self-employed and many positions are filled through contacts or direct approaches. Professional sports coaches and sportspeople are usually hired on the basis of previous success.

Trade Me Jobs:
FitNZ (Fitness and exercise jobs only) –

Career path

Personal trainers are likely to start out as gym instructors, employed at a fitness facility. Over time they can look to specialise in a particular type of activity (for example, weightlifting) and move into running intensive health and fitness programmes for individual clients.

Personal trainers can either continue to be employees of a fitness facility or look to set up their own businesses.

Entrants into the group exercise occupation can start working straight after becoming qualified. Many large employers require instructors to complete further in-house training before they are allowed to lead fitness classes.

Outdoors adventure guides can set up their own businesses, depending on the specific role they do. They can also progress to a variety of roles such as senior instructor, operations manager and health and safety technical expert.

For sports coaches and sportspeople, advancing their career will involve trying to achieve better results and to successfully compete at higher levels.

Related occupations

The following occupations are related roles or alternative titles. Some of the roles may require a higher level of skill than entry-level sports and fitness professionals.

  • Outdoor Adventure Guide
  • Outdoor Recreation Guide/Instructor
  • Personal Trainer/Fitness Instructor
  • Professional Sportsperson
  • Sports Coach/Official
  • Umpire

Other information


More information on fitness instructors is available on the Careers New Zealand website.

Careers New Zealand:

The Exercise Association of New Zealand (Exercise NZ) is the industry association for the health and fitness industry. Their website has useful information for those wanting to work in the industry.

Exercise New Zealand:

The New Zealand Register of Exercise Professionals also publishes a guide to starting out as an exercise professional.

NZ Register of Exercise Professionals, starting out guide:

Just the Job video clip: A Career in Leisure Centre Management
Just the Job video clip: A Career as a Personal Fitness Trainer
Just the Job video clip: A Career in Outdoor Recreation


The Australian New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) is the official classification of occupations in New Zealand.

The occupation of sports and fitness professionals has been coded to the following ANZSCO code for the purpose of this report:

452 – Sports and Fitness Workers