How to Become a Personal Trainer – The Ultimate Guide

Do you love exercise? Do you love working out and getting your heart rate pumping? Do you value fitness? Is it your passion to maintain a healthy lifestyle? Would you like to help others achieve fitness in their own lives? If so, you are the perfect fit for a new and exciting career path as a Personal Trainer. With our modern and sedentary lifestyles, the demand for qualified Personal Trainers has gone through the roof in the UK area. Going into a new career always raises a tonne of questions, but the following article explains the basic things that you need to know about being a Personal Trainer.

What really is a personal training about?

A PT (a.k.a. Personal Trainer) is a trained professional who works with clients on a personal basis, rather than teaching a class. The main duty of the Personal Trainer is to provide a safe environment in which the client can achieve desired fitness level without harming themselves by pushing too hard or harming their progress by not pushing enough. A Personal Trainer must know how to create effective exercise routines, which are catered to the client’s needs. The Personal Trainer must be able to base a healthy work-out schedule around their client’s lifestyle, eating habits, age, and physiology. A trainer must be able to create an effective workout, instill it in their client whenever they see necessary, and they must watch over the client to ensure their safety. A trainer must be educated in the proper way to use exercise equipment, the proper way to breathe during activities, and the proper way to warm the body up for serious physical activity. Lastly, and the most importantly, the personal trainer must be able to motivate and communicate. As a personal trainer, one must work alongside their clients to provide all the guidance that they need.

What qualifications will I need?

Most of the providers tend to call their courses Personal Trainer Diplomas or Certificates. What it really means it’s a Level2 Gym Instructor and Level 3 Personal Trainer qualification sold in the package.

You need Level 2 Gym and Level 3 PT qualifications to become a fully certified Personal Trainer. It is usually cheaper to do them both in one package rather than separately.

Please be aware that there are different Level 2 and Level 3 qualifications on the market (for example Exercise to Music is a Level 2 course) but you need to specifically complete Level 2 Gym Instructor and Level 3 Personal Trainer courses otherwise you won’t be considered a fully qualified Personal Trainer and won’t be recognised as a PT by any of awarding bodies.

Level 2 Gym Instructor qualification

The Level 2 Gym Instructor Qualification is usually the first step that one takes after diving into the world of fitness careers in the UK. Taking the course allows you to work as an instructor in a gym or health club, but it only covers those entry level positions.

Level 2 Gym Instructor qualification is also known as the Fitness Instructor one – these two terms describe the same course and are commonly used by employers.

The course takes about 2 weeks to finish when studying part-time, but it takes only 8 days when it is studied full-time.

On its own Level 2 course entitles you to work within a gym environment. Most of the time you will be responsible for inductions, maintaining gym equipment, writing simple exercise plans and instructing people on the gym. If you have additional qualifications often you will be able to run group exercise sessions (like kettlebells).

To pass Level 2 you will need to complete a set of exams: theory and practice. Theory exam consists of multiple choice test with questions around anatomy & physiology. You must successfully answer 70% of them to pass.

Practical part represents the lesser challenge for the majority of students. Any previous gym experience is a great asset. On the course you will familiarise yourself with a proper use of resistance machines, free weights, cardiovascular machines and you will have to demonstrate your ability to train someone on these them. You must be able to correctly spot your clients as well as safely pass the barbell (with correct deadlift form).

Level 3 Personal Trainer qualification

Level 3 Personal Trainer qualification is way more difficult than Level 2. In principle, it covers similar content but goes into more depth.

To complete your coursework you will have to design the personal training programme and prepare the nutritional case study. The course covers everything from Anatomy & Physiology to maintaining safety in a fitness environment. You will learn how to create healthy and productive exercise routines for a variety of clients, and how to effectively communicate with them. You will learn about the importance of a healthy diet and the basic principles of nutrition.

First Aid Certificate

This work qualification is required in almost every career in the fitness industry. Despite this fact, putting the First-Aid qualification on your resume can greatly influence your chances at getting hired. It is a temporary certificate, so you must update it every three years, but it is well worth the time that it requires. The first-aid course teaches trainers how to perform basic medical care in case of injury. However, this qualification does not certify you to diagnose or medication major medical issues. This certification covers minor injuries only (a.k.a. anything can be fixed with the contents of a first aid kit).

CPD courses

Your PT education doesn’t have to finish here. The more skills that you put on your resume, the more hireable you are. Not only do more skills often mean higher pay, they also represent your dedication towards your career.

As a PT, you will be required to continue education so that you stay informed on recent discoveries in the physiological community, so take that chance to make yourself more and more valuable to your clients. The more categories that your skill-base falls under, the more likely you are to be hired.

Personal Trainer Insurance

Although Personal Trainer Insurance is not a legal requirement in the UK, it is in your best interest to get PT Insurance before you interact with you first client. If you work for one of the health club chains most likely you will be covered by their insurance and won’t need to bother with getting your own.

We’re only human and accidents happen, but that doesn’t mean that this is something to be taken lightly. It is very important that you have Personal Trainer insurance so that it will protect you from overpaying for the mistakes that have made. If you have not invested in insurance and something happens to go wrong with your client, you will be responsible for the costs of their injury. If your client sustains an injury during a workout that leaves them unable to work, you will be required to pay your client’s salary for however long they are disabled. Do not make this mistake and get Personal Trainer Insurance immediately.

If you decide to have your own clients (and frankly this is what your end goal should be) then you will need to insure yourself. I guess most of your clients won’t ask you if you are insured but you will need it in case something goes wrong (severe injuries, accidents, injuries caused by your poor advice).

Where can I do my course?

Institutions all over the UK offer PT courses. You have quite a large pool to fish from, but make sure to find an institution that has the specific certification that you’re looking for, otherwise, you won’t be able to use your qualifications in a professional environment. There are many different types of learning environments when it comes to learning how to become a PT.

You can’t be a Personal Trainer in the UK without completing your personal trainer course. Any reputable gym or health club will ask to provide a valid PT certificate or diploma and won’t employ you if you can’t produce one.

There is an incredible number of fitness course providers on the market and at least half of them label themselves as UK’s number one.

How can you really tell if provider delivers solid qualifications? Here are few things to consider:

  • Awarding body – are the qualifications provided recognised by awarding bodies? Your course needs to be accredited – without accreditation, it’s a piece of paper with virtually no value. Two biggest awarding bodies in the UK are Active IQ and YMCA Awards. Accreditation of any of them is a guarantee of a certain quality. Both are recognised by REPS and allow you to work in the majority of countries of Europe, Australia and some Middle East countries.
  • Location – is the course run by a provider of your choice near to your place?
  • Course format: full-time, part-time or online – it is important that you chose the course format which really suits your lifestyle and learning style. Full-time courses usually take 5-6 weeks to complete and are
  • The cost of the course – the total cost of doing your course will be usually bigger than just course fees. You will need to consider course fees, a cost of travelling and/or accommodation plus any additional costs like exam retakes or cost of manuals. Make sure you ask your future provider these questions or you may encounter unwelcome costs after signing up
  • Refunds policy – does your training centre have clear refunds policy? You need to be careful and read terms of service before you actually sign up for the course
  • Guaranteed interviews/jobs – while it is not necessarily a requirement you may look favourably at training centres which help you to set up the interview

where to do the course cover photo

Getting a PT job

Having PT Diploma itself won’t make you a Personal Trainer just yet. You need to put your knowledge into test – actually, start training people. For that, you have to find clients or land a personal trainer job.

You really have three options when it comes to getting a job:

  • Self-employment
  • Working for a gym/health club
  • Mix of both

Each of these options has their pros and cons. Self-employment is really where the real money in fitness are. Depending on your experience and clientele you can charge anything from £25 – £50. Even £100 is not something unheard of. The difficulty is, of course, getting clients, especially at the beginning where you can’t count of referrals. You really need to learn how to market yourself and work on your people skills.

Working for gym or health club gives you an access to their client base. Very often you will have to work on self-employment basis or pay so-called rent (or both). However, if you are clever and know how to get customers from a gym floor you will do fine. This kind of work is not for everyone and you will have a rather hard time getting customers without solid people skills. In short – you need to make yourself likeable.

The last option to explore and perhaps the best one is the mix of self-employment and working for a heal club. Mixing both will most likely mean working unsociable, long hours. However, this won’t last forever and once you build your own solid client base you will be living the life you always wanted.

How is the work environment?

Personal trainers usually work in a variety of different locations. Of course, most Personal Trainers work in a fitness-driven environment like clubs, recreation centres, and gyms, but they can also be found in resorts, country clubs, universities, hospitals, and sometimes even in the client’s home. Sometimes the trainer stays at one or two locations, receiving clients by appointment in a gym setting, and sometimes the trainer visits their clientele at home. A physical trainer’s location is very influential because the available equipment differs from place to place. These separate facilities will not have the same type of fitness equipment. Sometimes the locations that you visit do not have any equipment at all, so a good PT must be able to think on their toes.

What are the hours?

The hours that you spend on the job varies with circumstances. Some Personal Trainers create their own schedules while some are created for them. Some Personal Trainers work for hours on end while some only work for a few sessions. It’s all due to your preferences. Some PT’s shove a lot of clients in one day, sometimes driving to multiple locations in one day. Some PT’s take it slow by staying in one location and only working with a few clients a day. Personal Trainers usually schedule on days that their clients are off of work, which is usually on weekends and holidays. Certain times of the year, especially after the holidays that involve a feast, a PT will find that their schedule will be greatly affected. Your work schedule and several clients will most likely increase around the holidays that involve feasts, so believe it or not, your business will be severely affected by the seasons. Sometimes your week will be a breeze and sometimes it’ll be a hectic race. You must keep your schedule flexible for when business picks up.


How long does it take to become a personal trainer?

It depends on the course format – online, part-time and full-time has different completion times. In the UK the typical completion time for a full-time course is 5-6 weeks. Some of the fitness course providers call it a fast-track qualification.

Part-time course is usually based around weekends and takes few months to complete. Total duration depends on attendance day frequency.

When completing online qualifications you are not obliged by set exam or attendance dates. Course providers offer different completion time but usually, it is between 12 to 24 months. The pace of study depends entirely on you and it is possible to complete this course faster than the part-time course.

What is the fastest way to become a personal trainer?

The fastest way to become a personal trainer in the UK is to complete on of the full-time PT Diploma courses.

What is the cheapest way to become a personal trainer?

The cheapest way to complete your qualifications is to book your course with the provider offering promotional price on PT course or special early bird discounts. Online courses are usually the cheapest.

If you are looking for courses which you can enter without making the payment you need to look into Advanced Government Loans also known as 19+ loans.

Do You Have What It Takes To Become a PT?

Here’s a short quiz helping to judge your PT potential. It is based on the research of the characteristics of the successful personal trainers. So, do you have what it takes? (67% participants get below 12 points)