The Vocational Path: Do You Need A Master’s Degree?

After three years as a Personal Trainer, I wasn’t making much money.

In fact, I was working as a treadmill salesman all day. That’s how I made most of my income. At 5pm, I’d bar the door, and walk into the back parking lot. An athlete would usually be waiting there, and we’d pull some equipment out of my truck together. Then they would start warming up while I set up a barbell, a sled and a few cones–my entire toolkit.
I’d train athletes in the parking lot until dark, then start my workout. At 9pm, I’d finally make it home; eat; shower; and then usually crash. I’d fall asleep wondering how I’d ever make time for a girlfriend, or start coaching people fulltime.

My career was going nowhere.

So I thought about getting a Master’s Degree.

To my mind at the time, a Master’s Degree was the ticket to charging more for my service. Maybe I could get a job training athletes at a college, or maybe even get a job teaching fitness to other students!

Even though college professorships paid $27,000 to $40,000 per year, that was more than I was making on my own, and I could stop hustling. Right?

So I called up a college professor and asked him how I could get that sweet “M” on my business card.

I was really asking, “How much money do I have to spend to buy myself a decent job in fitness?”

John was a friend and neighbor. He had a Master’s degree. He had a job teaching at a college. He liked expensive whiskey and competed in axe-throwing contests.

And he asked me, “Why do you want a Master’s degree?”

I said, “So I can make more money.”

He said, “Why don’t you just charge more for your training, or get more clients?”

I said, “I can’t.”

He said, “I bet you can.”

He said, “How much does your assistant charge?”

He was asking about my buddy Shawn. Shawn sold treadmills with me. Shawn was also a magician (sorry, Shawn–an “illusionist”.) Shawn did birthday parties and charged around $300 for a half-hour’s work. He also sold more treadmills than I did. But he wouldn’t be selling treadmills for long.

I asked Shawn, “How do you charge so much?”

Shawn said, “You’re reading the wrong books.” He pointed to my pile of exercise science books that I kept in my locker at the treadmill shop.

“Read this instead”, he said. He handed me a dog-eared copy of “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”

That became my Masters-level course in providing value for people.

Ultimately, what you earn in fitness depends on the value you create – not the degrees you hold.

If you’re a personal trainer, start with this:

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