Ex-Military Fitness Jobs

Feb 22, 2023

Physical fitness is a key component of a military lifestyle, so ex-military members are well-positioned to pursue a civilian career in the fitness industry. Learn about a few potential fitness-related career options and how being in the military can prepare you to excel in this area.

Career Comparison

Job Title Median Salary (2021)* Job Growth (2021-2031)* Applicable Military Skills/Traits
Exercise Physiologist $47,940 9% (faster than average) Caring for others, communication, physical rehabilitation
Fitness Trainer $40,700 19% (much faster than average) Physical fitness, organizational skills, attention to detail
Coach $38,970 20% (much faster than average) Leadership, discipline and analytical skills
Physical Therapist Assistant $61,180 26% (much faster than average) Caring for others, communication, physical rehabilitation
Recreation Worker $29,680 10% (faster than average) Leadership, communication, first aid

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Relevance to Military Background

Members of every branch of the military are required to incorporate ongoing physical fitness training into their careers and lifestyles. There are some military careers, particularly combat careers like Army Cavalry Scout, that require top physical performance over and above typical requirements. Either way, those looking for a civilian career after leaving the military have the physical fitness background to succeed in any of the careers described below. Read on for more information about these careers, including what other military traits or backgrounds may be helpful.

Exercise Physiologist

As part of their basic training, military members receive fitness and nutrition training, which promotes a healthy lifestyle and is important for a successful military career. There are also specific military jobs similar to an exercise physiologist, such as an Army physical therapy specialist. This involves direct patient care, working with other medical personnel, and a background or interest in science and biology, all of which can be transferred to a civilian exercise physiologist career. Exercise physiologists work with patients to help them recover from chronic diseases and improve their physical functioning by developing fitness plans for them. The goal is to improve overall patient health, and many exercise physiologists work with a physician, who may prescribe exercise or health education. This job requires a bachelor's degree in a field like an exercise physiology or exercise science.

Fitness Trainer

Those in the military are used to group physical fitness training under the instruction of a leader. Some may have even been that leader themselves, making the transition to civilian fitness trainer a logical one. Fitness trainers motivate and instruct clients in exercise to help them gain strength or cardiovascular ability, improve their health, or train for other athletic activities. Trainers could work as a personal coach for individuals, or teach group classes. They might specialize in one type of fitness like yoga, spinning or weight lifting. It might also benefit fitness trainers to have experience or certification in first aid, planning or management, or advising on other lifestyle issues like nutrition, many of which can be gained from a military career. A high school diploma is the minimum requirement for this job, though employers prefer those who hold an associate's or bachelor's degree and certification.


Military personnel are particularly accustomed to the discipline and dedication required to be a successful athlete, and the leadership skills needed to coach. And, as with fitness training, coaching is a good career choice for an ex-military member because of the physical training ingrained into any military career. Those who held a strategic or analytical position in the military might be particularly well-suited. Sports coaches teach athletes how to be good at their sport. It requires knowledge of the sport, particularly at more advanced, competitive levels, but it also involves plenty of planning, organizing, motivating and analyzing play. Coaches need to ensure players work hard and achieve personal and team goals. Aspiring coaches need to hold a bachelor's degree, though it can be in any field of study.

Physical Therapist Assistant

Physical therapy professionals are employed in the military as well as the civilian world. Those who worked as a physical therapy specialist in the Army are likely to find a position outside the military due to the much faster-than-average growth expected in this field. However, this might be a good career choice for other ex-military members as well, because it involves excellent communication skills, caring for others, and working as one member of the healthcare team. Physical therapist assistants work directly with physical therapists to help patients who are recovering from illness or injury. This involves observing patients and helping them do exercises or use devices like crutches, and educating patients and their families about the recovery process. To become a physical therapist assistant, you'll need an associate's degree and licensure.

Recreation Worker

Recreation workers lead others in activities to improve physical fitness and have fun. Military members with leadership experience who are used to being in charge of and directing people might enjoy employing these skills in a fun, relaxed environment. Recreation workers are often required to be first aid certified and spend lots of time outdoors, both of which come standard with many military careers. They can do any number of specific recreational jobs, from running camps for children to organizing team-building activities. They may also lead recreation facilities or specialize in one particular activity, like horseback riding. For all of these, typical tasks might include planning, organizing and leading activities, explaining and enforcing rules, and maintaining equipment used in the activities. This job requires a high school diploma or GED at minimum, though a few positions may require a bachelor's degree.

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