Most students go through an internship type experience in a college program. But what about those who have never had the opportunity to intern somewhere before going out into the world? It’s not too late! You can always participate in a fitness or personal training internship outside of a formal school program.

Whether you have one in your future or want one, here is how to make your time (and theirs) worthwhile.

What’s the value of interning?


Internships, although largely unpaid, are an experience that add value to your pre-professional “edge”. I encourage all my students to research and secure a quality internship and/or job shadow experience before making final decisions about the area of fitness they wish to work within.

I encourage this for two reasons:

#1 An internship is the perfect “warm-up” to a fitness career. It’s a chance to get a taste of the day-to-day responsibilities a professional in the field holds.

#2 An internship provides an excellent foundation for a future professional network and job opportunities. In other words, an internship – the right internship – can be a jump start to a profitable and successful career in fitness.

How do you get started?



The first important step to take is to write an objective or set of objectives or goals for your experience. Ask yourself the following questions.

  • What do I want to get out of this experience?
  • What do I want to learn more about?
  • What remaining questions do I have?


After you think about the basics, write out your objectives and make sure they address what you plan to achieve, how you intend to accomplish that, how you will know when the goal is completed, and identify what the timeline for completion is going to be. These goals are not only valuable for you as a means of tracking progress, but you will need to communicate your desired goals to your internship site supervisors or points of contact.


Next, evaluate what the potentials are and what sites might be available and willing to work with interns or new professionals. Start by examining the organizations’ website, mission, vision, and services. Identify which organizations align with the goals and objectives you wish to achieve through the experience. Choose the top three and move forward.

If you live in a geographically isolated area, you can also use search engines like Indeed,, Career Shift, and Student Freelance (paid opportunities here if internships aren’t your jam).

Make A Plan

Next, make a plan to contact the supervisor or general manager. Even if an organization or entity doesn’t openly advertise internship spots, it doesn’t hurt to call and ask the question. However, requesting a face to face conversation is best. In preparing for the meeting, have your resume or CV in hand, along with a typed version of your objectives, and the available hours you could intern.

Treat it Like a Job

If you happen to land an internship that doesn’t pay, treat it as if it is a paid position. You may not capitalize on monetary benefits, but you will reap the rewards in other ways through networking opportunities, experience, references, and potential first job opportunities. That’s something money cannot buy.

So, live by the motto “rise and grind”. Arrive early, be organized and prepared with questions to ask and thoughts to contribute. Take notes from your mentors and evaluate what skills you already have and what skills you need to develop. We all have room to grow, so never stop learning.

Say Thank You

At the end of the experience, formally thank those who provided the “job”. A written letter expressing your feelings of appreciation and gratitude will go a long way. It isn’t just the polite action to take; it’s the professional action you must take.

You have the power to make an internship experience as valuable as it can be if you approach it strategically, thoughtfully, and with a growth mindset. You may find you don’t want to work in an organization similar to the one you interned at or you may learn you are in the exact right spot. Either way, you learn. You can’t put a price on that.

Talk to us about your internship experiences! What did you learn, what do you wish you would have learned?

[info type=”facebook”]If you’re NFPT certified, join the Facebook Community Group, it’s where trainers like you get connected and share thoughts. If you’re not certified with NFPT, come chat with us here![/info]

Erin Nitschke

Dr. Erin Nitschke, NFPT-CPT, NSCA-CPT, ACE Health Coach, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Therapeutic Exercise Specialist, and Pn1 is a health and human performance college professor, fitness blogger, mother, and passionate fitness professional. She has over 15 years of experience in the fitness industry and college instruction. Erin believes in the power of a holistic approach to healthy living. She loves encouraging her clients and students to develop body harmony by teaching focused skill development and lifestyle balance. Erin is also the Director of Educational Partnerships & Programs for the NFPT. Erin is an editorial author for ACE, IDEA, The Sheridan Press, and the Casper Star Tribune. Visit her personal blog at