Fitness Instructor

    If you are wondering how to become a fitness instructor, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning careers in this field, as well as sport and leisure job prospects in the UK.

    The Job Description
    As a fitness instructor you would help people to improve their health and fitness by leading and organising group and individual exercise programmes. You would either instruct a range of activities or specialise in a particular area such as keep fit, aquacise (exercise in water), weight training, yoga or Pilates.

    Your work could include:

    carrying out fitness assessments, consultations and inductions with new clients
    demonstrating routines for clients to follow
    showing clients how to use exercise machines and free weights properly
    supervising clients to make sure that they are exercising safely and effectively
    leading group exercise classes such as circuit training, aerobics or spinning
    designing personal exercise programmes.
    You may also give advice on healthy eating and lifestyle. In smaller clubs you may carry out routine duties, such as reception, health and safety checks and pool operations.

    You could work with specialist groups of people, such as older adults, children, people with disabilities or clients referred by doctors.

    Person Specification
    The key personal attributes of good fitness trainers include:

    good communication skills
    an outgoing and approachable personality
    diplomacy and tact
    the ability to motivate and enthuse people from a wide range of backgrounds
    a responsible attitude to health and safety
    knowledge of nutrition and healthy diet.

    How to become a fitness instructor
    To qualify as a fitness instructor you could either complete a nationally-recognised qualification or start as an assistant instructor and complete work-based qualifications.

    Nationally-recognised qualifications
    The following two qualifications are approved by the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs) and are the preferred industry standard:

    Level 2 Certificate in Fitness Instructing awarded by City & Guilds, Active IQ, VTCT and CYQ
    OCR Level 2 Certificate in Teaching Exercise and Fitness.
    With both qualifications you can choose to focus on gym, group exercises or water-based exercise. Both qualifications will allow you to gain level 2 entry on the REPs, (also known as the ‘Exercise Register’), which will show employers that you are competent and qualified to do your job.

    Before you can work you will also need public liability insurance and a first aid certificate, which includes a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certificate. You might need lifeguard qualifications for some jobs (see the Lifeguard profile for more details).

    If you intend to work with children or other vulnerable groups you will need a CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) clearance.

    Work-based qualifications
    You may be able to start as an assistant instructor and complete qualifications whilst working under the supervision of a qualified instructor. As an assistant fitness instructor you could work towards NVQ Level 2 in Instructing Exercise and Fitness, which is awarded by City & Guilds, CYQ, Active IQ and Edexcel.

    When you have completed the NVQ you would be eligible for level 2 entry on the REPS.

    You may be able to get into this job through an Apprenticeship scheme. The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers.

    Training and Development
    Once you have a level 2 qualification you can go on to qualify as a Level 3 Advanced Instructor by completing one of the following qualifications:

    Level 3 Certificate in Advanced Fitness Instructing (Gym or Group Exercise) awarded by CYP and Active IQ
    Level 3 Certificate in Advanced Fitness Instructing (Gym) awarded by OCR, City & Guilds and VTCT
    Level 3 Certificate in Personal Training awarded by CYP and Active IQ
    an industry recognised award offered by some employers and universities – see the REPs website for details
    NVQ Level 3 in Instructing Physical Activity and Exercise awarded by OCR, City & Guilds, CYP and Active IQ.
    When you have completed the main qualification you can join the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs) at level 3. You can also do further units in working with children, older people, pre- and post-natal, people with disabilities and GP referrals.

    The new Level 4 Specialist Exercise Instructor qualification is available from the end of 2007. This will include units on designing and adapting physical activity programmes for the following areas:

    coronary heart disease
    mental health
    frail older adults/falls prevention
    after-stroke care
    back pain.
    You would need to be qualified and experienced as an advanced instructor before beginning the level 4 qualification.

    The Pay (a rough guide)
    Starting salaries can be around £10,000 to £12,000 a year.
    This can rise to from around £14,000 to over £20,000.
    Freelance instructors can earn £10 to £20 an hour.

    Job Prospects
    There has been growth in the number of leisure facilities in recent years, leading to an increased demand for instructors. However, competition for jobs is still strong.

    With experience and higher qualifications, you may be able to progress to senior instructor, then to management. Other options could be to move into training other instructors or coaching a sport. You could also start your own fitness club.

    Useful leisure or sport resources:
    Premier Training International
    Premier House
    Willowside Park
    Canal Rd
    BA14 8RH
    Tel: 01225 353 535

    This page is for fitness instructor careers advice and training opportunities.

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