Online Personal Trainer Courses – Are They a Waste of Money?

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Online personal trainer courses become very popular in recent years. Pioneered by Discovery Learning courses are available with the majority of UK providers. Online PT courses are usually inexpensive especially compared to their full-time and part-time counterparts.


Before we even start diving deeper into online PT courses I must debunk some myths – especially regarding the qualifications you get. It is one of the major concerns of students signing up for an online version of this ever-popular fitness course. Will my PT certificate be recognised? And if it is recognised will there be any difference between it and full-time or part-time certificates? The answer is – no! Your certificate won’t be different. It is the same qualification – the only difference is the course delivery.

If the fitness courses provider runs courses recognised by one of the major awarding bodies such as YMCA Awards, Active IQ or City Guilds (for more details please check this article) your certificate will be internationally recognised. You will be able to enter fitness market without any disadvantages.

Who is the online course for?

Online fitness courses have been created to help people who are limited with time, mainly people working irregular shifts (without a chance of attending a part-time course), people with serious family commitments, from abroad or distant locations.

You need to know that the online learning requires a lot of independent studies. Very often your course will have no attendance day. For that reason, you should fit a profile of self-motivated, disciplined student. If you had a hard time with no structured activities or independent learning you should think twice before signing up for this course. In many occasions your course will lack any structure – even the dates of your exams will be something you will have to set up yourself.

If you choose not to join the course attendance days or your courses don’t provide any, make sure you have a plenty gym experience under your belt. It needs to be said – online PT course is not for gym newbies. They are NOT for someone who just started their adventure with fitness. Most likely you won’t be shown any exercises. You’d better have experience using both resistance machines and free weights. You should know your basic cardio machines and stretches. Yes, there will be a lot of slides and video to learn form but there is a massive difference between seeing something and practising it.

Course delivery

Course delivery differs from provider to provider. Some providers see this course as a completely online course – some present it as a blended learning (leaning more towards part-time format).

In many cases, the provider will offer some attendance days. These are the day you would see your tutor face to face. In practice, it means you join full-time or part-time students on their course day. You have the opportunity to ask questions but it is not the same as a one-to-one session. The most useful part of an attendance day would be a demonstration of exercises on the gym.  While you may cover a lot of theory studying independently at home it would be hard to get a good grasp of exercises (such as a correct form) without seeing things in action and trying them out.


One of the common questions is – how will I pass my exams. You have four exams to pass before you get you PT diploma: Level 2 Gym Instructor (practical and theory) and Level 3 Personal Trainer (practical and theory).

The theory part is rather straightforward. You can sit your exam in front of your computer and do the online test. Of course, providers use rather sophisticated software which prevents cheating so be aware of this especially if you think you can manipulate exam results doing them online.

Some providers give you an option of joining part-time or full-time students on their exam day. Please be aware that there may be some additional costs.

The practical part of your exam is somehow confusing at time and it is important to clarify how you are going to do your practical bit before you sign up for the course.

Most of the time you will have two options:

  • Easy one – you join part-time or full-time students and do your exam with them. Again, like with a theory part, you may be charged extra for doing your exams with other students.
  • Confusing one – you video your session and then send it to a dedicated person for check up.

I strongly advise you to go for an easy option. Yes, it may cost you more but it is simpler. Videoing your session require some extra hassle. First of all, you need to find a gym which will allow you to use its equipment – this itself may be difficult. Gym needs to meet certain exam standards such as consist of resistance and cardio machines as well as free weights. Your video needs to be taken in one go – this adds some technical difficulties not to mention challenges if you shoot your video on the commercial gym.


Online course prices may vary. There are few factors which determine the final price:

  • Level of student support (some providers offer mentoring, other only basic student support)
  • Attendance days (some providers include them in course price – some require additional payments)
  • Exams fees (again – some providers have exam fees included – some charge separately, especially for attendance exams)

You should expect anything between £800 to £1500. In some cases, the price of online course will be very comparable with part-time or even full-time course. In this case, if time and life commitments allow you, I would suggest signing up for one of the mentioned formats. When choosing your personal trainer course it is important not to base your choice solely on price. Here is the helpful guide.

Expert opinion

I have asked few experts from reputable training centres what do they think about online personal trainer courses. Here are some interesting opinions.

Luke Hughes at Origym said:

“Online personal trainer courses certainly have their place as a learning method as advancements in technology really do allow the essence of a classroom setting to be brought to the learners home. Through webinars, videos, podcasts and virtual reality in some instances, teaching can be performed as effectively from a distant based setting, whilst allowing them the student to sustain their current income and social life to ascertain their fitness qualifications. Many people assume that since the job role is heavily practically orientated that it should be taught / learned on the gym floor, however personal training courses are theory dominated as if you do not know your anatomy or principles of exercise, you, therefore, can’t write an effective personalised plan and the delivery aspect is mainly the formality of actually conducting a well thought out plan, hence why online fitness courses exist.

This being said I personally believe that there should always be some form of face to face contact and no personal trainer courses should be exclusively online. Through offering practical based sessions leaners get to engage with other students, get the crucial feedback that they require on their delivery and rapport building techniques. I personally am very sceptical on companies that allow students to perform their theory assessments online as there is no real way of moderating it to ensure the quality control required by the governing body. In addition, when it comes to learners submitting practical assessments via video, there are frequently errors within the videos itself, thus enforcing the learner to perform a re-sit often due to the fact that they have not set-up the camera correctly. Good quality companies will pay for the venue, invigilate the assessments in person and give immediate feedback to the student on their assessments. ”


Do You Have What It Takes To Become a PT?

Here’s a little quiz 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?


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