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Become a Personal Trainer: Guidance to the self-starter


The UK fitness industry is currently worth over £4.7 billion, with in excess of 6,700 sites and 97 million members, so now is certainly a good time to be looking to start a career as a Gym Instructor or Personal Trainer.

This guide aims to explore your options when choosing a Gym Instructor and/or Personal Trainer course provider. It will provide an overview of key considerations to look out for and give an overview so you can compare different personal trainer course options to help you select the best personal training course in the UK for you.

Please read on to find out more and If you ever have any questions, please contact us and we’ll be happy to help. 

Want to become a Fitness Instructor or a PT?

There are many different routes to getting a career in the fitness industry. Many PT’s often choose to study Level 2 Fitness Instructor and Level 3 Personal Trainer courses together as one whilst other may prefer to qualify as a Fitness Instructor first then training to become a qualified with Personal Trainer certification further down the line. There are big differences between being qualified as a Fitness Instructor and a Personal Trainer. Here is a good summary of the top differences between the two professions below:  

1. Fitness Instructor (Level 2 REPs Qualification) 

  • If you want to become qualified as a fitness instructor you will need a ‘Level 2 Certificate in Fitness Instructing (Gym)’
  • A level 2 qualification will provide entry onto the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs) at level 2 – which is desirable to be employed as a fitness instructor
  • A Fitness Instructor typically gives gym inductions, write basic programmes, and if competent, takes exercises classes.

2. Personal Trainer (Level 3 REPs Qualification) 

  • How to become a personal trainer in the UK and start a career in Personal Training? You will need a ‘Level 3 Qualification in Personal Training’
  • This provides you entry onto the REPs at a Level 3 Standard
  • A Personal Trainer writes advanced training programmes for clients, delivers advanced training techniques on a one to one basis and gives nutrition advice (based on established guidelines).

Tip: Picking a PT course

It is a popular option to combine level 2 and level 3 together into one big course – this can be better value and much more time efficient than doing them separately.

Whilst contents of Personal Trainer qualifications are largely universal across different providers, there are differences in how these courses are offered, what’s included as “extras” in the package and of course how much it costs. Please see the grid below for a comparison of some of the UK’s leading REPs & CIMSPA recognised Personal Trainer course providers. All of the below are based on a L2 Gym and L3 PT combined package. Please note we have refrained form listing "100% online" courses due to REPs no longer accepting these.

Pick the Personal Trainer course best for you

Step by step considerations:

To decide what is the best personal training course for you, you will need to know about the factors you need to consider when picking a personal training course.

1. Format of the course:  There are lots of types of courses, some offer lots of attendance days so most of the studying is done on site (generally these courses are more expensive).

Others offer a blended approach where some learning is done online and some learning is in the classroom/gym. The percentage of online study vs attendance varies for different blended learning providers. This percentage of learning methods does not mean there is any difference in quality, its more about what suits you as an individual.  If you are new to fitness it may be that you look for more attendance. If you are already quite gym savvy you may look at less attendance days, especially if you are fitting your study around other commitments. Typically course costs are higher for courses with higher numbers of attendance days. 

On option that we have deliberately not mentioned here is 100% online courses or online only courses. The Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs) have made it clear that they will not accept courses that are completed 100% online as there needs to be a minimum of a practical workshop and face to face assessment per course. (This is as per guidance on the REPs website)

In some circumstances there may however be some scope to study online, this could be for example if you are a Sport Science University Graduate, an existing Exercise Professional or if you already work in a gym, but this will usually be dependant on demonstrating competence and ongoing experience of working (not just working out!) in the industry. Please contact us for details of this approach.

2. Content of Course: It is worth noting that all PT providers, who offer a properly accredited course, are all delivering a set syllabus, so the content on which the course is based are going the be pretty much the same across the board. Currently all L3 PT courses will include units in, for example A&P, Nutrition, Programme Design, Delivering PT sessions etc, it is not going to be a case of different providers having totally different content. What is different however is how the course is delivered and what resources are used, especially for a blended learning course. To access a demo of some reputable and up to date learning resources please click  here 

3. Location of the course: In light of modern day technologies such as online learning and Skype, many operators operate nationwide but you will still need to factor in travel to their centres for workshops and assessments.

It may not always be best to base your decision purely on location, its more important finding the course that suits you. An extra couple of hours traveling could pay dividends if the course is the one that you feel suits you the best! Also its worth noting how many times you will be required to come in as if its just a few times then distance may be less of an issue. 

4. Contact time: Remember you are going to need support! No matter how the course is delivered there needs to be sufficient contact time built in. This should include lots of support via telephone, skype or in person. Whilst email support is useful, in addition to this there needs to be actual interaction with a  tutor throughout, whether this is face to face or via telephone / skype. Always check this with a provider and look at reviews  to see what support a provider gives. Also remember, there needs to be practical workshops and face to face assessments built in as REPs will not accept the qualification if it is delivered 100% online (as per guidance on the REPs website).

5. Endorsement: Look for a PT course whose award is a proper qualification recognised by Ofqual. This means checking that the qualification is awarded by a reputable awarding organisation. Perhaps the two most well known awarding organisations for fitness are Active IQ and YMCA but this is not an exhaustive list. It is also important that any PT qualification is recognised by both the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs) and the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport & Physical Activity (CIMSPA). Any course not recognised by REPs and CIMSPA is not going to be recognised in the industry.

CIMSPA have recently started to inspect course providers to ensure quality standards are met. They also regularly publish “post-inspection” articles on its providers to showcase positive inspection experiences. An example of such of such an article can be found here.

6. Course price: There is obviously a huge variation in prices. You can usually expect to pay around £1-3k, depending on the provider you choose.  Just because a course is more expensive doesn’t mean its better and likewise if a course is more cost effective it does not mean that its inferior. Its about getting the best value for money from the course you want. There is little point choosing a course purely on price, its about getting the right course at the right price. Look at the best deals and offers for the type of course that is right for you. Typically courses with more attendance have higher price tags, whilst blended learner providers are usually more cost effective. It is important that you make sure that the price you pay is all inclusive and includes workshops, assessments, etc. For example you could find a course at a low price, only to find that you need to pay extra to attend workshops (remember you need workshops as part of your course as 100% online or distance courses are not accepted by REPs). For transparency, all courses listed we have listed on the comparison table include workshops and assessments in the price.

7. Course bundles: Some providers may give you a CPD  (continued professional development) courses in addition to the Gym & PT qualification. 

For example, to become a gym instructor you need a level 2 Certificate in Fitness Instructing, whereas additional areas, not traditionally included within the qualification,  such as Kettlebells and Suspension Training may be learned via CPD units.  

CPD is not the same as qualifications, they don’t usually have exams and can be completed quite quickly, however they are still really useful additions if these are included in your PT course package, so its worth checking out what CPD is on offer as part of any package.

8. Nutrition: It is worthy of noting that all current CIMSPA recognised Level 3 PT courses automatically include a Level 3 module in Nutrition which once completed enables the dissemination of nutrition advice based on established government guidelines. This Level 3 Nutrition unit can be taken separately as a stand alone qualification so it is like a "course within a course". Therefore to provide clients with established nutritional advice there is no need for a separate Level 3 Nutrition course to be studied, as the PT qualification itself should cover this. It is worth noting that with any Level 3 (or indeed Level 4) Nutrition course, you will only be able to give advice based established Government guidelines. To go any further and be able to offer bespoke prescriptive advice you would need a University Degree in Dietetics.

9. Tutors: Research who will be teaching you and whether they are worth your investment to learn. Always look at the staff profile page of the provider to see who will be teaching you and what experience and qualifications they have. Its also good if you actually get to speak with a tutor on the phone before enrolling rather than a sales person or administrator who would not be involved in teaching the course.

10. Level 4: There is no need to have a Level 4 qualification to start work as a Gym Instructor or Personal Trainer. Level 4 qualifications are specialist qualifications that often specialise in medical areas such as Low Back Pain or Obesity & Diabetes. Exercise professionals will often get some experience in the industry first before choosing to specialise in a Level 4 area. As this guide is all about getting started as a PT we have chosen not to expand on Level 4 qualifications on this site but if you would like to find out more please contact us. 

Financing options for your Personal Trainer Course

Can I finance a Personal Training Course?

Some providers will offer you the chance to spread the cost of your course into repayments. 

Some may use credit agreements which may well attract significant interest whilst others may offer interest free options with no credit checks.

It is worth researching this to make sure you choose an affordable option, that is going to work for you.

The best personal training courses in the UK

Click to see an in-depth guide to these leading PT course providers:


If you have any questions about choosing a course and want to ask which course is best for you, please contact us 



 This chart acts as a useful tool to making the best Personal Trainer course decision for you. With a quick comparison of the features and qualities, each PT course can be compared alongside similar other courses. 

 Please note all providers listed are reputable providers and we have not published any 100% online course due to these not being accepted by REPs.

If you do have any questions, please contact us

Free Advice on getting started

We are offering FREE advice on getting started as a Personal Trainer. This advice and information comes directly from Study Active, a leading course provider in the UK.

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