How to Become a Personal Trainer - A Beginner's Guide

When one wishes to pursue the career of personal trainer it is very important to obtain the necessary qualifications which will then allow you to obtain the relevant credentials, memberships, and insurance to operate as a personal trainer in the UK. This blog will take you through how to choose the right course and key things to note on your journey to becoming a personal trainer.

Choosing Your Training Course Provider

The first step is to find an appropriate personal trainer course provider. The key thing to look for here is CIMPSPA approval. CIMPSPA stands for Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity and is the main professional body for fitness in the UK. The only way to find out who is a CIMPSPA approved provider is to go onto the CIMPSPA website ( and click on directories, then click on partner directories and search for the name of the provider that you are looking at. This directory will tell you whether it is in fact a genuine CIMPSPA approved provider or not.

Checking the Awarding Body

Once you have found your CIMPSPA approved provider, it is important to next look at the awarding body that the provider is working with. An awarding body is like an exam board, and it is the awarding body that awards the qualification. Remember that a training provider does not award qualifications, they just deliver the training. A training provider must therefore partner with an awarding body as it this body that will award the qualification to the student. It is similar to how a school will partner with an exam board for GCSEs. The school will teach the GCSE and the exam body will award the certificate. The same principle applies in the fitness industry with a training provider working in partnership with an awarding body. The largest recognised awarding body in the UK is Active IQ. Active IQ provide a suite of health and fitness qualifications, and they also provide fantastic resources that go along with them. Active IQ is a very recognisable brand, and it is important to note that if one chooses an Active IQ approved centre that their personal training diploma will be Active IQ branded. This carries weight within the industry. There are other legitimate awarding bodies, however Active IQ is arguably the most recognisable in the UK and this is something to consider when becoming a personal trainer.

Study Methods

Once you are happy with the awarding body that your CIMPSPA approved training provider is partnering with, you then need to consider how you wish to study the course to become a personal trainer. There will be some courses that are fully attendance based, such as a college course, some which make use of technology and virtual learning, whilst others are a mixture of the two. It is important to decide what works best for you. It is useful however to make sure that at least some practical face-to-face is available to you. Even if you are studying a course using online learning, having that option to obtain real face-to-face practical tuition and assessment from a tutor is a very important aspect to becoming a competent personal trainer.

Choosing the Correct Course

Within the personal trainer course that you choose you may see that there are different options available. Fundamentally all that you require is a Level 2 Gym Instructor qualification and Level 3 Personal Training qualification. These will be sufficient to qualify you as a personal trainer, as well as a gym instructor, and enable you to pursue your career as a personal trainer. It is worth noting that there is no need to purchase a separate Nutrition course. Level 3 Nutrition is embedded within the Level 3 Personal Training, and this is all a personal trainer will need to give nutrition advice based on established government guidance. There is no need to purchase a separate Nutrition course - everything you need is automatically embedded within.

Adding Other Qualifications to Your Studies

There are other qualifications that can be added to a personal training course package. It should however be noted that these are optional and not mandatory. One of these could be a qualification called Exercise Referral, which has been rebranded and is now titled as Supporting Clients with Long-term Conditions. This is a very useful qualification to have as it will enable a personal trainer to work with clients with certain medical conditions. It will not mean a GP refers clients or patients to them, that simply does not happen, but it does mean a personal trainer could work with someone with a medical condition. It’s a useful qualification to have to extend the type of clients you can work with, but it is not an essential one if your aim is to be personal training healthy adults.

Level 4 Advanced Personal Training

Another qualification that can be added is a Level 4 in Advanced Personal Training. There is no need to include this when someone is qualifying as a personal trainer as obtaining a Level 3 is sufficient within the industry. However, Level 4 is the bells and whistles on top and some people prefer to have that higher status. Although it should be noted that having a Level 4 Advanced Personal Training qualification does not necessarily increase ones earning power. It is very much an optional add-on, and the industry will always look for the requirement of a Level 3 Personal Training qualification.

CPD Bundles

You may find that there are additional courses bundled in with personal trainer qualifications called CPD. This stands for Continued Professional Development. These are not qualifications, and they are not qualifying you to do anything, they are merely evidencing knowledge in certain topics. For example, there may be a CPD in kettlebell training. This is not qualifying you in kettlebells, it is purely giving you some information and proving you’ve done some learning within this particular topic. The CPDs are useful but not the main item of value when selecting a course. They would just be something that could be considered along the line.

Guaranteed Interview

Another factor to consider is the guaranteed interview that may be offered along with the course. It is always important to note that a guaranteed interview is very useful but do remember that a personal trainer is always self-employed, never employed. This means that when one gets a guaranteed interview it is not a job interview, it would be more about a personal trainer renting space from a gym and operating from there. This could be useful but there could also be other ways that you may want to start your personal trainer business, such as training clients outside, taking portable equipment to their homes or even online training.

In Conclusion

Whichever way you wish to go as a personal trainer it is always important to get the fundamental qualifications in place. Once you have these in place you can then join professional bodies such as CIMPSPA – you can join as a personal trainer practitioner which gives you the kudos and credentials that you are a qualified professional. You can then also purchase the necessary insurance which is an imperative thing to have in place when operating as a personal trainer. A personal trainer needs the correct qualifications in order obtain the correct memberships and insurances, and it is the Level 2 and Level 3 qualifications that a personal trainer fundamentally needs to operate in this area. I hope this blog has been useful, and I hope this gives you some inspiration and ideas about how to become a personal trainer.

For information on our Personal Trainer courses please click here 

Editors Notes

What is a Personal Trainer?

A common question a gym novice may ask is “what is a Personal Trainer?” To answer this a Personal Trainer is an exercise professional who works with clients on a one-to-one basis. A Personal Trainer writes long-term, bespoke exercise plans for clients and help them safely and effectively put these plans into action. However it is necessary to differentiate yourself from the competition so finding a Personal Training niche is important.

Find your Personal Training niche

Many Personal Trainers have their own speciality or find their Personal Training niche. This could be for example specialising in elite training, sports conditioning, nutrition, weight loss or behaviour change. Many Personal Trainers also create a Personal Training niche by utilising Personal Trainer software and technology. Above all finding a Personal Trainer niche can be a great way of offering something different.

Pros & cons of being a Personal Trainer

Like any professional, there are pros and cons to becoming a Personal Trainer. It is important to consider these pros and cons before of being  Personal Trainer deciding to become a Personal Trainer. Weighing up the pros and cons of becoming a Personal Trainer will help you to decide if a career as a Personal Trainer is for you.

What are the Pros of being a Personal Trainer?

The pros of being a Personal Trainer are that you will essentially be earning a living from helping people exercise in a fitness environment – so the gym is your office so to speak! This is appealing to many and is a great example of a pro of being a Personal Trainer. Other pros of being a Personal Trainer include flexibility of work, in that you will have a greater say on when you work (if freelance). This means you can fit your working hours as a Personal Trainer around your personal commitments. Another pro of being a Personal Trainer is that, if freelance, a Personal Trainer will usually charge more per hour than they would be paid in an employed position.

What are the cons of being a Personal Trainer

The cons of being a Personal Trainer are mostly to do with unsociable hours which you will need to make yourself available for. Remember, clients will likely be working during week days so you may have to make yourself available early mornings, evenings or weekends. Another con of being a Personal Trainer is that it can be a saturated market so you will have to work hard to find (and keep!) clients. This may mean developing a Personal Training niche to differentiate yourself.

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