Changing careers to become a personal Trainer! UK Fitness Certification explained

With 2017 now upon us, it is not just the time of the year to start picking those weights back up or hitting the treadmill, but it is also the time of the year where you may evaluate what we are doing with your career and where you want to be come the end of 2017.

The fitness sector is no different, more and more people enrol onto a personal training diploma in January than any other time of the year as the festive fun closes and New years resolutions kicks in. If you are dreading going back to work, fed up of working the mundane 9-5 and want a career that yields your passion for fitness, then becoming a personal trainer could be just what the doctor ordered. Before jumping head first, you need to know what you are actually looking for and to fully comprehend how fitness qualifications work in the UK, so you can find the right course for you.

Our guest Blogger this week is Luke Hughes, the Managing Director at Origym who will help you navigate your way to a new career. Visit for more info.



One of the most commonly typed in phrases in Google each month is “how to become a personal trainer”? Often companies’ websites are loaded with marketing jargon, inaccuracies and frequently there are terms that mean effectively the same thing, which causes confusion on what you actually need to get personal training qualified and what the best route to take is.

Well, this is where I am going to simplify things and show you what is needed to become a personal trainer and what fitness accreditation and level of certification that is required to start your career the right way.

There are two fitness certificates you need, your level 2 gym instructing qualification and your level 3 personal training award. This is the minimum requirement needed to be able to qualify as a personal trainer, whether you want to start applying for jobs, set up your own online personal training service or run freelance circuits classes, you need these two certificates to bring your aspirations to life.

You might be wondering though, where is the level 1 fitness qualification? Well, there is such thing as a level 1 course in physical activity, however you do not need this qualification to progress onto your level 2 gym instructing course also known as level 2 fitness instructing. Once you have achieved level 2 gym instructing you need to progress in chronological order up through the tiers of certificates on offer e.g. you can’t skip from level 2 gym instructing to completing a level 4 course in lower back pain management for example.



Firstly and most importantly, you need to know the accreditation you actually need in the UK to be able to get yourself insured and be in the knowledge that you are fully certified and can start legally conducting one to one personal training sessions.

There are four major awarding organisations within the United Kingdom, Active IQ, YMCA Awards, City & Guilds and OCR, there are a few other awarding organisations that provide fitness certificates, but these are the most common for the fitness sector. The awarding organization is the company that is actually being printed on your certificate, not the company you actually purchase your personal training course from. The company you actually purchase your personal trainer course from is an approved test centre of one of those awarding bodies, called training providers, who deliver the training in correspondence to the guidelines set by the awarding organization. To maintain the approval of the governing body they have to undergo vigorous checks, sampling of work and regular visits to make sure they are delivering the fitness courses the right way. Always, always, always check the website of the training provider to see which governing body is stamped on their website as this is what qualification you will receive. The UK has a standardized the fitness qualifications about 10 years ago to ensure every personal trainer has covered the exact same core modules irrespective of which awarding organization or training provider of those awarding organisations you elect to do your course via.

Most fitness education companies tend to use Active IQ or YMCA awards as they are the most well known for fitness certification and are very industry specific governing bodies. This being said, this does not mean that City & Guilds, OCR or any of the smaller awarding organisations are not equally as valid or recognised by prospective employers and you will have no trouble gaining employment from certificates from those governing bodies.



You may have heard or someone has mentioned the name REPs (Register of Exercise Professionals) to you as an awarding organization. This is a very common mistake, REPs are not a an awarding organization, REPs provides a system of regulation for instructors and trainers to ensure that they meet the health and fitness industry’s agreed National Occupational Standards.

REPs is owned by SkillsActive, which is the Sector Skills Council for Active Leisure and Learning. It has been established by Employers in Sport and Recreation, Health and Fitness to sustain quality in training and qualifications in the UK. When you hear the term “REPs recognised courses”, this means that training providers that have had their courses regulated from REPs and SkillsActive get a stamp of approval and with every major gym chain in the UK partnering with REPs you need to pick a “REPs recognised course”, otherwise when going for employment you will be turned away, regardless of the level of qualification you present.

If you ever need to check if a course provider delivers REPs recognised courses, you can contact REPs themselves or view SkillsActive’s list of approved centres and also a list of centres claiming to be approved. Spending some time doing your due diligence may save you a lot of heartbreak in the long run.



If personal training qualifications are standardized then why is there such a difference in price from one company to the next? Firstly, although the core modules are exactly the same within every personal trainer course, this does not mean that add on courses and extra modules are not included, which can influence the price you pay.

Secondly the service you receive from the training provider varies vastly, in terms of quality of tutoring, level of help and support, speed of support, quality of learning resources, if they have an aftercare program such as helping with interviews with gyms, the list goes on to what is going to determine the value that course provider concludes their service is worth to how much you are going to pay for that service. Think of it this way, if a Ferrari is the same price as a fiesta, you would buy the Ferrari every time, right? Why is that, they do the same job, get you from point A to point B. The reality as we know is very different and a Ferrari is about hundred times the price yet people still pay it. This is because of the quality it provides and the intrinsic value it generates and fitness qualifications are no different. Although the fitness qualification you come out with can be the same, the experience and quality of service you receive can be completely different from one provider to the next. As a general rule of thumb the more expensive the provider normally the more qualifications and higher levels of service you will receive. This being said, like any walk of life you can find personal trainer courses vastly over priced at one end of the spectrum or completely undervalued at the other end.

The third and most important reason that determines cost of personal training qualifications is the actual study method you choose to learn via. You can’t contrast the price of one provider that only offers full time personal trainer courses with an online personal trainer course. Full time courses will always cost more regardless of service or anything else for that matter, the provider would need to supply a tutor everyday and a venue everyday; therefore they cost significantly more. With online personal trainer courses, apart from paying for certification and registration to the awarding body, the overheads for a provider are minimal, hence why the course is normally less than half the price of a full time personal trainer course.

Finally you will find “personal trainer courses” on the web that have no accreditation, no stamps from any authority organisations and are not regulated by any governing body. These ”qualifications” unfortunately are not worth the paper they are written on and no employer or insurance company will legally back you.


Author Bio

Luke Hughes

Managing Director


Luke is the Managing Director of fitness education course provider Origym. He is passionate about everything education and fitness. As a cycling enthusiast he can often be found cycling up and down the hills in the lake district.