What qualifications do you need to be a fitness instructor?

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Fitness instructors help people learn how to exercise and lead healthier lives. You can work for a gym, club or on your own as a personal trainer. If you are in good shape and love fitness or exercise, and have the right qualifications, this might be a good career option for you.

Passion for Fitness

Fitness instructors must be passionate about exercise. The knowledge you share with clients helps them to become healthier people; therefore, you should deliver that knowledge with a passion that inspires clients to follow your instruction. You should also be physically fit, and exercise regularly outside of work to fuel your passion and maintain your own fitness. Clients might be hesitant to take your instruction seriously if you are clearly out of shape and not following your own advice.

Education and Training

Education requirements for fitness instructors vary; some gyms or employers require certain degrees, others do not. However, if you wish to pursue a career as a fitness instructor, it is helpful to earn a bachelor's degree in exercise science, physical education, sports medicine, exercise physiology, kinesiology or a related field. These degrees will help you understand how exercise affects the human body, how to gauge the level of exercise different people can withstand and an advanced understanding of nutrition and health in general. You should also gain experience and training working in a gym alongside other certified and experienced fitness instructors. Sit in on training sessions or fitness classes to get a hands on feel for what your job as a fitness instructor entails.


It is also a good idea to get certified through an organisation like the International Sports Sciences Association, the American College of Sports Medicine, the National Strength and Conditioning Association, the American Council on Exercise or the American Fitness Professionals and Associates. These organisations and certification programs give you the credibility you need to obtain a job as a fitness instructor. Lastly, you should be certified in CPR.

Communication and Personality

You must be able to clearly communicate ideas or exercises to your clients, and must also be able to listen to or anticipate their needs. If you are pushing them too hard and they are clearly struggling, you must be able to recognise that, either through verbal or body language communication, and adjust the workout as needed. You should also have an outgoing personality that attracts people to you. If your clients like you, that is good for business, as it will keep them coming back to you. From the client's perspective, it is hard to get motivated to see someone they do not like.


Fitness instructors should also be energetic. As a fitness instructor, you spend many hours each day in the gym or training room. You will be on your feet most of the time, demonstrating different exercises and monitoring your clients when they work out. If you teach exercise classes, you perform the exercises along with the students in your class. To be motivational, you must have a high energy level consistently throughout the day.

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