How to become a gym instructor (With qualifications)

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Updated 30 September 2023

Gym instructors help people improve their fitness levels. They use their skills gained from obtaining relevant qualifications to demonstrate how to use gym equipment, discuss fitness programmes and help clients achieve their goals. If you're passionate about physical exercise and enjoy working with people, a job as a gym instructor may be a good fit for you. 

In this article, we discuss gym instructor qualifications, how to find work in a gym, the difference between a gym instructor and a personal trainer and tips for succeeding in this career.

What are the different types of gym instructor qualifications?

Studying for gym instructor qualifications can allow you to apply for a job as an instructor at a sports club, leisure centre or private gym. Here are the qualifications you might pursue to work in this role:

Level 2 Certificate in Gym Instructing

This entry-level qualification is the first step to becoming a gym-based fitness instructor and enables you to work as a gym instructor in a health club, private gym or public leisure centre. Studying for this qualification is possible via a blend of home study, online tutorials and practical workshops through a college or online learning provider. The Level 2 Certificate in Gym Instructing gives you the skills and knowledge to plan effective and safe fitness programmes in a gym environment.

There are no entry requirements to take this Level 2 Gym Instructing certificate, but the minimum age is 16 years. It teaches prospective gym instructors about physiology and anatomy and qualifies you to plan and deliver gym-based exercise instruction and fitness programmes. A properly recognised Level 2 Gym Instructor qualification enables you to apply for membership with the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport & Physical Activity (CIMSPA), the sector’s professional body, which gives you the professional accreditation to work in the fitness industry.

Level 3 Diploma in Personal Training

This course is the next stage for qualified gym instructors who wish to become a personal trainer. You can take the course part-time and complete the certificate in a few months at college or study for the qualification online through a private training provider. Students must pass the Level 2 Certificate in Gym Instructing before taking the Level 3 Diploma in Personal Training.

The Level 3 Personal Training qualification develops your skills and provides study units on the physiology &anatomy of exercising and health. You also study nutrition principles, fitness business skills and how to set up a personal training programme. The course teaches you how to support gym users to work out safely and effectively on a one-to-one basis.

When choosing a training provider for Level 2 Gym Instructing and/or Level 3 Personal Training, it is imperative that you choose a CIMSPA-endorsed training provider. To check this, you’ll need to go to the CIMSPA online directory and ensure that any provider you are considering carries CIMSPA Training Provider Partner status.

Related: Health and fitness careers (Plus duties and skills)

What does a gym instructor do?

A gym instructor works at a gym or health centre and helps people to improve their fitness. Part of their role is to show new members around the gym during their induction and offer advice about gym equipment and fitness programmes. They assess a client's current fitness and answer any questions. Qualified gym instructors will demonstrate how to use exercise machines, weights, treadmills and other cardiovascular and resistance equipment safely and effectively.

They discuss personal fitness goals and offer advice on healthy lifestyle changes. Qualified gym instructors may also lead group fitness classes, such as aerobics, spinning and circuit training. However, additional group-based qualifications are required to do this.

Find gym instructor jobs

Related: How to become a part-time personal trainer in 7 easy steps

What's the difference between a gym instructor and a personal trainer?

A gym instructor is often the first person you meet when you join a gym. They show you around the gym, teach you how to use the equipment and may prepare a basic exercise programme. Gym instructors may also teach exercise classes in a group if they have the appropriate qualifications.

A gym instructor can only work as a personal trainer if they have an additional Level 3 Personal Trainer qualification. Many people start as gym instructors and then progress to become personal trainers who work with individuals and deliver one-to-one fitness programmes. Personal trainers are also qualified to offer advice about nutrition and diet, while gym instructors are only qualified to provide nutrition advice if they hold an additional qualification in nutrition.

Related: Personal trainer certification: types and requirements

Why study for gym instructor qualifications?

The health and fitness industry is growing quickly, and opportunities are expanding. Working as a gym instructor can be a fulfilling job for the following reasons:

  • It offers the chance to make a difference. Gym instructors help people get fitter, stronger and healthier. You can help people to feel happier about themselves, assisting them in achieving their goals of losing weight, building muscle or just enhancing their fitness level.

  • Working in the fitness industry can be motivating. Showing people how to use resistance machines or effectively do a specific type of exercise, such as squats, can help them build their strength and motivate them (and you!) to work out more.

  • You can enjoy flexible working hours. Since gyms are open in the evenings and at weekends, you may be able to choose your hours to fit around childcare and other commitments.

  • You can start work soon after qualifying. The Level 2 Certificate in Gym Instructing enables you to work as a fitness instructor in a gym once qualified.

Related: How to become a yoga teacher: a 7-step comprehensive guide

Tips for finding a job as a gym instructor

If you enjoy exercise and want to help others to become physically fit, working as a gym instructor can be very fulfilling. Here are some tips to help you build your career:

Build up experience with different clients

Once you've gained your Level 2 Gym Instructor qualification, look for practical experience in a gym environment. If you have contact with the manager of your local gym, they may be able to offer you some work experience, which may then lead to paid employment. Either way, helping gym users with their fitness goals is a great way to develop your professional experience.

Related: How to create a personal trainer CV (with example)

Consider obtaining a first aid certificate

Although holding a first aid certificate isn't compulsory for finding a job as a gym instructor, it may give you an advantage when applying for positions. The Level 2 Certificate in Gym Instructing provides some health and safety training; however, a first aid certificate is a separate qualification. Keeping customers safe is a vital part of working in a gym.

Consider applying for public and professional liability insurance

Public and professional liability insurance protects you from a potential accusation of injury. For example, if a customer claims that your advice has caused them to injure themselves, the insurance may cover the legal costs. If you are a self-employed personal trainer, then you will need to apply for your own insurance. But, if you’re employed as an employee (i.e., not as a freelancer) in a gym, then the employer should arrange this. 

What makes a good gym instructor?

A love of physical activity can help you to succeed when applying for jobs in the fitness industry. The following skills will also help you to prosper in this career:

A passion for helping others

Working as a gym instructor involves helping people achieve their exercise goals. Being passionate about fitness is essential. The desire to share your knowledge with others is another crucial skill.

Being friendly and approachable

A gym instructor is often the first person someone sees when they walk into a gym for the first time. A friendly manner helps you to put people at ease. Being approachable enables you to develop good client relationships and encourages gym members to return.

Good communication skills

Good speaking and listening skills help you to demonstrate equipment confidently. Being an effective communicator is helpful when showing new gym members how to get the most out of their sessions. Giving clear instructions can help clients confidently use fitness equipment and exercise.

Related: How to improve your communication skills (With steps)

The ability to motivate others

Working as a gym or fitness instructor requires a basic level of fitness and the skill to motivate others. You may show people how to use gym equipment and demonstrate how to work out throughout your shift. Staying motivated and helping others to feel enthusiastic are thus important skills in this career.

Organisational skills

Being organised and punctual are helpful in a fitness-based role. At busy gyms, you may work with numerous clients throughout the week, including weekends, in the early morning and evenings. Maintaining progress records and monitoring exercise programmes are usually essential parts of the job.

Related: What are organisational skills? (Types and examples)


Being a gym instructor means working with people from many different backgrounds. Not everyone learns how to use the equipment at the same rate. Some people may want to give up on their exercise routine, but being patient helps you work with them and support them to develop at their own pace.

Related: How to become a spin instructor in the UK: a guide

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.


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