How to become a fitness instructor

Updated 21 November 2023

If you are passionate about fitness and interested in exercise and sports as hobbies, becoming a fitness instructor may represent the right job for you. The fitness industry is dynamic and rewarding, offering many opportunities as you grow and develop your career and relevant qualifications. This career enables you to help others improve their health and reach their desired fitness goals. In this article, we discuss this profession and its requirements, along with providing steps you can take to become a fitness instructor.

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What is a fitness instructor?

Fitness instructors lead and train their clients on exercise techniques, often to help them reach fitness goals. They may teach them to use specific exercise equipment or develop workout routines. These professionals work with various clients, including individuals of varying ages and skill levels. As a result, fitness instructors must understand how to customise their instruction and fitness plans to meet individual clients' needs and abilities. Clients' goals can also vary, whether they're recovering from an injury or hoping to build strength. Some fitness instructors specialise in a particular exercise type, such as pilates, yoga or cycling.

What does a fitness instructor do?

As with any other job, a fitness instructor has duties and responsibilities. You need to perform these with competence and finesse to be successful. Based on the following duties, you can determine if this is the right job for you:

  • Creating, leading and instructing workout programmes for groups or individual clients

  • Creating and planning personalised training schedules and diets

  • Demonstrating how to perform exercises or use equipment

  • Instructing safe exercise methods, including proper body posture, to reduce strain or risk of injury

  • Providing modifications to workout routines to support clients' unique needs or abilities

  • Monitoring clients' progress and providing assessments and feedback

  • Motivating and encouraging clients to help them reach their fitness goals

  • Maintaining a clean, safe and organised fitness centre or studio

  • Referring clients to professionals, such as physical therapists, exercise physiologists and health professionals, when necessary

  • Adhering to operating procedures and regulations of fitness facilities

Related: What does a personal trainer do? (with steps)

How to become a fitness instructor

You can use the following steps as guidance for becoming a fitness instructor:

1. Consider your education

A career as a fitness instructor typically doesn't have specific degree requirements. However, gaining entry into certification programmes or apprenticeships may involve some educational requirements. For example, apprenticeships may require that you have particular GCSEs and grades. To prepare for this career path, you can research openings for jobs or apprenticeships to understand the typical educational expectations and requirements of employers.

2. Get certifications

To be a fitness instructor, you need a Level 2 certificate in fitness instructing or a similar subject. You must be at least 16 years old to enrol in such programmes. Level 2, also known as the entry-level, equips you with all the basic information and knowledge to begin a career in the fitness industry. When seeking certification programmes, look for courses accredited by the Register of Exercise Professionals or Chartered Institute for the Management of Sports and Physical Activity.

The coursework in certification programmes provides you with specialised knowledge and skills to develop and deliver exercise programmes professionally. By investing in such programmes, you can increase your knowledge of both fitness and instruction techniques. Any voluntary certifications you pursue can help set you apart from other candidates and showcase your commitment and interest in the field. You also need proof of certification if you get fitness instructor insurance.

3. Pursue an apprenticeship

You can also gain relevant experience and knowledge by seeking apprenticeship opportunities. These paid positions enable you to combine work and education while under the supervision of a fitness professional. In these programmes, you can learn entry-level skills and gain qualifications to prepare for a full-time career as a fitness instructor. You can research fitness clubs or hospitality organisations to identify potential apprenticeship opportunities in the fitness industry. The requirements for these programmes may vary, but typically require particular GCSEs.

Related: How To Become an Apprentice in 3 Simple Steps

4. Consider additional certifications

Gaining additional certifications beyond your level 2 certification can help prove your expertise as a fitness instructor. You can pursue level 3 and level 4 certificates to gain specialised skills and knowledge related to health fitness. For example, you may seek a level 3 diploma in personal training or a level 4 lower back pain management course. Specialising in a fitness niche can help differentiate your services from other instructors and boost demand.

When researching job openings, identify any common certifications sought by employers. These details can help guide your certification pathway. For example, fitness clubs may prefer candidates who have first aid certification to help ensure the safety of their clients. As you develop this career, you may join professional organisations such as the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sports and Physical Activity (CIMSPA) or National Register of Personal Trainers (NRPT). These organisations can connect you to valuable resources to help advance your career, along with introducing you to fellow industry professionals.

Related: Personal Trainer Skills: Definition and Examples

5. Apply for full-time jobs

After gaining sufficient experience and certification, you can begin applying for full-time fitness instructor positions. You can use online job boards, social media websites or fitness facilities' websites to identify potential opportunities. Make sure to read job postings thoroughly to ensure you understand and can meet the employers' expectations. As you review the job description, identify any keywords or phrases related to qualifications and incorporate them into your CV and other application materials. Including these details in your application materials helps prove that you have all the skills and experiences needed to perform this role successfully.

Related: How to write a fitness instructor CV with steps

What is the average salary for fitness instructors?

The average salary for a fitness instructor in the United Kingdom is £15.45 per hour. This salary varies depending on several factors, including your geographic location, level of experience or services provided. Working for an employer or as a freelancer can also affect your salary.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organisation‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate’s‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌ ‌and‌ ‌location.‌

What is the work environment for fitness instructors?

Fitness instructors can often find employment at gyms, health clubs or leisure centres. These professionals typically work full-time, about 40 hours per week, often on a shift or rotation basis. Depending on the job, their schedule can vary and may include early mornings, evenings or weekends. Some may even own their own fitness studios or rent spaces in schools or community centres to provide classes. Working as a self-employed instructor may provide more flexibility in developing their work schedule.

Related: What it takes to be a leisure assistant (with skills)

What skills do fitness instructors need?

Being a fitness instructor isn't just about your certifications. To become a successful fitness instructor, you need to possess certain soft skills. As your work focuses on interactions with other people, mastery of several of these skills can help you succeed as a fitness instructor:

Communication skills

Fitness instructors interact with clients every day to discuss their fitness needs and provide instruction and guidance. These professionals need effective verbal communication and active listening skills to ensure they understand their clients and can help them accordingly. Because they may work with a diverse array of individuals, they need to know how to speak clearly and concisely to ensure anyone can understand their instructions.

Interpersonal skills

Beyond verbal communication, fitness instructors use interpersonal skills to develop effective collaborations with their clients and provide excellent customer service. Interpersonal skills such as leadership and motivation help these professionals encourage their clients to make progress on their fitness goals, even when they encounter challenges. By employing patience and empathy, they also develop more trusting relationships with their clients and a deeper understanding of their needs.

Read more: Interpersonal Skills: Definitions and Examples

Organisational skills

Fitness instructors may need to manage multiple fitnesses classes or clients within a day. Organisational skills, like time management, allow them to track and plan their schedules and activities effectively. For example, when working with individual clients, they need to ensure they fully use the allotted time to provide a high-quality workout while avoiding taking time away from their next client. Taking and saving notes on lessons can also help instructors keep track of each client and their progress to ensure they provide the proper training according to their needs.

Read more: What Are Organisational Skills? (Types and Examples)

Problem-solving skills

As mentioned, fitness instructors often help clients pursue their health and fitness goals. Whether working in one-on-one or group settings, these professionals can use problem-solving skills to assess clients' fitness abilities and develop routines or programmes that align with them. For example, they may develop a personalised workout routine or diet for a client looking to lose weight. When providing group instructions, the instructor can help an individual make modifications to a yoga pose, for example, to help them feel more comfortable.

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

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