Considering Becoming a Fitness Instructor – Things You Need to Consider

When embarking on a career journey as a fitness instructor there are numerous considerations one must take into account to make sure they have the best chance of success.

Personal Attributes to be a Fitness Instructor

First of all, a fitness instructor job requires certain personal attributes such as an outgoing, friendly personality, a willingness to help, and a passion for helping others. It involves a great deal of patience, responsibility and care to make sure that people are exercising safely and effectively. So, there are lots of personal attributes which are very important for a fitness instructor role.

Fitness Instructor Qualifications

It is obviously very important as well that the instructor has the correct qualification. To be a fitness instructor the minimum qualification needed is Level 2 Gym Instructing. Many gyms however, even for fitness instructor roles, do look for Level 3 Personal Training as an acceptable qualification. This means that even if you are working as a fitness instructor it is always advantageous to have Level 3 Personal Training as well. In terms of professional membership, once qualified a fitness instructor can join CIMPSPA to get the recognition of their skill as a gym instructor practitioner. This could be beneficial as it shows that the instructor has registered with the only professional body for the fitness sector.

Fitness Instructor Working Role

In terms of working hours and conditions, it is important that a fitness instructor understands what they will be doing. A fitness instructor is a different job for a personal trainer. Whilst a personal trainer trains clients one-to-one, a fitness instructor is responsible for showing people how to use equipment safely and effectively, and then being the go-to person in the gym if anyone has any problems or needs any help. It is not about working with clients for sustained periods of time on a one-to-one basis like a personal trainer, but being able to advise, help, and demonstrate equipment accordingly to make sure that everyone in the gym is exercising safely and effectively. A fitness instructor’s job is very much based in a gym, so it is very much a gym-based role that could be inside a sports centre, leisure centre etc.

Working Hours of a Fitness Instructor

In terms of working hours, a fitness instructor’s working hours may not be suitable for everyone so they definitely need to be considered. A fitness instructor essentially will have to cover hours that the gym is open. Usually, a fitness instructor will work in shifts - there is normally a morning shift which could be for example starting at 6:30am and finishing in the early afternoon, and then there is often an evening shift where a fitness instructor might start in the afternoon and then finish at say 10pm at night. There are different working patterns in gyms and that is because gyms are open for sustained periods of time throughout the day. Obviously, all gyms are different, and you may find some gyms which have fixed opening hours such as a Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm basis, however this is rare and most gyms do operate on a much longer timescale with many gyms opening early in the morning and closing late at night. Fitness instructors therefore have to work shifts around these particular patterns. That’s not to say that it would be the only way that shifts are constructed, it would be up to you and your gym manager to agree what your shift is. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an early start or a late finish, it could be hours around that such as part-time hours, and all of that is for negotiation between yourself and your manager once qualified.

Considerations for Becoming a Fitness Instructor – In Conclusion

Above all, being a fitness instructor gives you the opportunity to work with people, make a difference on their life, show them how to use equipment, make sure they understand how to get on in the gym and how to keep themselves fit and healthy using the gym-based equipment. If you feel you have the right attributes for this role and the role is something that you feel would fit in with your lifestyle then the qualification to go for would be the Level 2 Gym Instructor qualification and possibly the Level 3 Personal Training qualification. Remember, many personal trainers start out as fitness instructors so often it is a very useful first step to embark on a future career as a personal trainer. I hope this has been a useful article and I wish you the best of luck in making your career choices.

Editors notes - Considering Becoming a Fitness Instructor

When someone asks how to become a Fitness Instructor or what qualifications to be a Fitness Instructor are best, I often encourage people to research how to become a Fitness Instructor from reputable organisations such as CIMSPA. Becoming a Fitness Instructor is not just about completing any old Fitness Instructor course. Firstly there are many different Fitness Instructor roles to consider., for example are you looking to become a group trainer or are you interested in becoming a Gym Instructor – both are different Fitness Instructor roles, so the skills of a Fitness Instructor will differ depending on which Fitness Instructor role is pursued.

So what qualifications do you need to become a Fitness Instructor I hear you say, and once qualified you may then ask how do I become a fitness instructor? These are good questions as the qualifications needed to be a Fitness Instructor will vary (as described above) depending on the Fitness Instructor role pursued. For example the Fitness Instructor qualification needed to work in a gym is the Level 2 Gym Instructing qualification which will cover gym instructing skills. The Gym Instructor qualification needed to work in a gym should be CIMSPA endorsed.

So how do you become a Fitness Instructor once qualified? Well the answer here is to hone your Gym Instructor skills by getting gym experience as a Fitness Instructor, Fitness Trainer or Gym Instructor (these terms are often all referring to the role of a Gym Instructor). Remember your Fitness Instructor qualification (if a gym route is pursued) will give you the Gym Instructor skills needed to work in a gym, which is why its imperative to have the correct qualifications to be a Fitness Instructor.

Becoming a Fitness Instructor is not easy. In fact training to be a Fitness Instructor can be quite challenging. I remember when I made the decision to train as a Fitness Instructor, I was wowed by how much theory went into Fitness Instructor training. So when someone says that they are training to be a Fitness Instructor I can certainly relate to what they are having to do to train to be a fFitness Instructor. Once Fitness Instructor training is completed whether that be via a Group Training or Gym Instructor qualification, the graduate can then call themselves a bona fide fitness professional which is something to be proud of.


Qualifications needed to be a Fitness Instructor

Fitness Instructor Pathway

Fitness Instructor Qualifications required

Gym-based exercise

Level 2 Gym Instructing

Group based Exercise

Level 2 Group Based Training or Level 2 Exercise to Music


Fitness Instructor Specialisms

A Fitness Instructor can be an eclectic role with different Fitness Instructor qualifications needed for certain specialisms. So what other Fitness Instructor specialisms are there and how can a fitness professional pursue these roles? Lets take a look. Firstly a Gym Instructor qualification allows someone to become a Fitness Instructor working in a gym. If someone wants to take classes such as HITT training, then they should have a Group Training fitness qualification.

Some Fitness Instructors will work with older adults and as such an Exercise for Older Adults  qualification should be pursued. You may find some Gym Instructors wanting to work in sports performance. For this I would always first recommend that they qualify as a Personal Trainer to get an advanced grasp of fitness. Then an advanced Personal Training or Strength & Conditioning qualification could follow. For those looking to work with elite performers often University study is a serious option, for example there are some good Strength & Conditioning degree programmes. This is a good option for someone wanting to work in elite sport performance.

Sometimes when someone is training to be a Fitness Instructor they ask how they can work with pregnant ladies. The answer to this is that they would need a Level 3 Pre & Post Natal Exercise qualification – however this can only be pursued after their Fitness Instructor training is completed. A similar question gets asked in that how do you train to be a Fitness Instructor who works with clients with medical conditions? The answer to this is that a GP Referral qualification (such as Exercise Referral or Supporting Clients with Long-term Conditions) should be pursued, once they have completed their training to become a Fitness Instructor of course.

Different Fitness Instructor Specialisms

  • Gym Instructor – instructs gym-based exercise
  • Exercise to Music Instructor – leads group fitness classes to music
  • Group Training Instructor (e.g. HITT Instructor) - instructs group exercise
  • Older Adult Exercise Instructor – designs and delivers senior fitness exercise
  • Pre & Post Natal Exercise Instructor – instructs exercise to pre and post-natal clients
  • GP Referral Exercise Instructor – instructs clients referred by a GP
  • Sports Performance Specialist Fitness Coach - works to improve sports performance

Please note all of the above roles require the correct fitness certification. You will also need to consider insurance and professional membership. Any work with special populations such as Pre & Post Natal, GP Referral or Older Adults, requires GP consent and thorough screening. If in doubt consult a  qualified medial professional.

Of course most Fitness Instructors will undoubtably at least consider continuing their fitness training to become a Personal Trainer. The pre requisite to Level 3 Personal Training is in fact Level 2 Gym Instructor so it is a natural progression for a Gym Instructor to become a Personal Trainer.

Summary of key points about becoming a Fitness Instructor

  • The terms Fitness Trainer, Fitness Instructor and Gym Instructor are often used interchangeably – much of the time all refer to those working within a gym
  • Fitness Instructor qualifications can be gym-based or group based
  • Qualifications to become a Fitness Instructor should be CIMSPA endorsed
  • Becoming a Fitness Instructor takes hard work and dedication
  • Training to be a Fitness Instructor is needed to make you a fitness professional
  • Gym Instructor qualifications will give you specific gym instructor skills
  • There are Fitness Instructor specialisms such as HITT, sports performance and senior fitness
  • Any Fitness Instructor Training should always be with a reputable CIMSPA endorsed training provider such as Study Active

If you would like to train to be a Fitness Instructor please see our webpage for this course



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