Personal Trainer Levels – The Ultimate Certification Guide

If you’re looking to become a personal trainer in the UK, understanding the different steps to get to your dream career can be difficult. Especially when you need to decide between several personal trainer levels and qualifications to get you there.

For those looking to take their first steps as a fitness professional, questions like What are the different personal trainer levels? and What is the difference between a level 1 personal trainer and a level 3 personal trainer? are extremely common.

This article will break down the different personal trainer levels, what personal trainer at these levels can do, and how to qualify as a fitness instructor or personal trainer using these qualifications.

We’ll also answer many of the frequently asked questions by those looking to become a personal trainer in the UK.

Personal Trainer Levels

What is the purpose of a Personal Trainer Qualification?

For those looking to offer fitness advice, provide training programmes to clients, and turn this into a new career, having a personal trainer qualification is essential. Accredited personal trainer qualifications educate students to learn the practical skills required to guide others and understand the underpinning theoretical knowledge needed to train, guide and support another person to work towards health and fitness goals.

A qualified personal trainer in the fitness industry is qualified to:

  • Give gym instruction, like general inductions and on the floor gym support.
  • Run individual personal training sessions.
  • Run group personal training sessions.
  • Offer some group exercise classes (this may require some additional specific qualifications, like Level 2 Spin, Level 2 Instructing Kettlebells or TRX).
  • Provide clients with the nutritional advice to supplement their workouts (however not full bespoke meals plans).
  • Create tailored and specific exercise programmes for individuals and their particular needs.

The most important outcome of getting a personal trainer qualification is gaining the skills and confidence to work with clients, either in a one to one basis or in a group and the knowledge the support these clients with lifestyle and nutritional guidance out of the gym.

The Level 3 personal training qualification extends on the knowledge and practical skills gained within a Level 2 Gym or Fitness Instructor Qualification. Therefore with an accredited personal trainer qualification, individuals can provide a higher level of support, which in turn, creates increased value for customers who will pay for personal training services. 

Why are personal training levels important?

Like any other form of accredited education in the UK, provided your qualification is appropriately accredited, then it will be underpinned by mapped standards and it will appear on the Ofqual Regulatory Framework. 

Level 3 Personal Training Qualifications that appear on the Ofqual Regulatory Framework are mapped to a National Diploma standard and as such when you study one of these qualifications you can be certain that it meets a Level 3 standard, at a minimum.

The content within a Level 3 Personal Training Qualification can vary from training provider to training provider along with factors like, the level of support, the post graduation support and even how much fun it is to study! We all know that you learn much faster when you are studying with brilliant, industry leading support that keeps you engaged in the topic.

Furthermore, Ofqual recognition ensure that all awarding bodies stick to strict teaching frameworks so that standards across the fitness industry remain consistent, but an Ofqual regulated personal trainer course will also improve your employability. Like our own Ofqual accredited gym instructor courses at The Fitness Group, Ofqual recognition is highly valued and recognised internationally.

Therefore you should always look for a qualification that is both underpinned by an Awarding Body, like Active IQ, who award our qualifications and that it is Ofqual regulated.

What are the different personal trainer levels?

For many people, becoming a personal trainer can be life-changing. And gaining a personal trainer qualification is a great first step. When it comes to differentiating between the various personal trainer levels, they can be broken down into four levels:

Personal Trainer LevelsQualification TitleCareer ProspectsHow Much Can I Earn?
Level 1 Personal TrainerLevel 1 Award in Fitness and Physical ActivityIntroductory Qualification OnlyCan not earn with this qualification specifically
Level 2 Personal TrainerLevel 2 Gym Instructor or Level 2 Fitness Instruct or Level 2 Group FitnessGym Instructor in gym or health club. Group Exercise InstructorAverage salary ranges from £11ph - £18ph
Level 3 Personal TrainerLevel 3 Personal Training Diploma or Level 3 Gym and Personal Training DiplomaBecome a Personal Trainer. Open your own Personal Training Business or secure a Personal Training Employed JobUnlimited Earning Potential
Level 4 Personal TrainerLevel 4 Personal Training or Level 4 Strength and ConditioningSpecialise in a specific area / with a specific client group as a Level 4 Personal TrainerUnlimited Earning Potential
Level 5 Personal TrainerThere is no Level 5 QualificationThere is no Level 5 QualificationThere is no Level 5 Qualification

 

Gaining these qualifications will put you on the right track to becoming qualified to work as a personal trainer, gym instructor, or similar fitness professional in any UK gym.

Level 1 Personal Trainer Qualification

When it comes to personal trainer levels, a level 1 personal trainer course doesn’t qualify you to work as a gym instructor or a personal trainer, so its not a qualification that we would recommend however if its something you want to explore as a taster then we do offer this course and we can support you.

A level 1 personal trainer course will introduce you to the principles of fitness and exercise, the importance of healthy eating, and also the gym industry as a whole. 

At level 1, a personal trainer qualification is equivalent to Key Stage 4, GCSE grades D-G, or NVQ level 1. 

Level 2 Gym Instructor Qualification

Most fitness professionals start their personal training career with a level 2 gym instructor certificate, either studying this as a standalone qualification or choosing to study level 2 and level 3 together in one diploma qualification. The combination gym and personal training diploma is actually our mos popular qualification, when you choose this course you will study Level 2 Gym Instructing and then seamlessly move on to study Level 3 Personal Training.

The Personal Training Level 2 (otherwise known as Level 2 Gym or Level 2 Fitness Instructing) is the basic requirement to be able to work in UK health clubs and fitness facilities.

Completing our accredited, industry leading, Level 2 Gym Instructor course will help you learn the foundations of fitness, specifically scientific theory and practical skills. The topics covered in a level 2 gym instructor course include:

  • Anatomy & Physiology
  • Professionalism and Customer Care for Fitness Instructors
  • Health and Safety in the Fitness Environment
  • Client Consultations to Support Positive Behaviour Change
  • Planning and Instructing Gym-Based Exercise

On the personal trainer levels framework the level 2 gym instructor course is equivalent to GCSE grades A-C or NVQ level 2.

It’s important to note a level 2 gym instructor certificate is sometimes referred to as a level 2 personal trainer certification. However, to work in a UK gym as a qualified personal trainer, you need a Level 3 Diploma. 

You do not need to complete the personal trainer level 1 course before studying Level 2 – the Level 2 gym instructor course begins at entry level.

Level 2 Gym Instructor Course

What can you do with a Level 2 Gym Instructor Qualification?

While a level 2 gym instructor qualification won’t qualify to deliver personal training sessions to clients, it does qualify you to help gym members in other ways. With a level 2 qualification, fitness professionals can work on the gym floor and prepare training inductions for any new members. 

How can you qualify as a Level 2 Gym Instructor?

It’s possible to gain a level 2 gym instructor qualification in two weeks if you study one of our face to face, full time fitness courses. By studying full-time, you can attend specific venues hosted by one of our expert tutors. You will complete all theory and practical work together with other students at your chosen venue. 

The full time level 2 gym instructor course usually runs from 0930-1630 Monday – Thursday for two weeks with some additional directed study time on Friday and in the evenings out with the classroom.

You can also qualify as a level 2 gym instructor online. This option gives you complete flexibility to study on your terms, on your timescale and complete the relevant coursework online. Not all level 2 gym instructor courses offer flexibility and uncapped tutor support, however, when you study with The Fitness Group you will always receive our industry leading, uncapped 5 star support!

Level 3 Personal Trainer Qualification

As per UK government guidelines, and the standards set by CIMSPA and REPS, you need a level 3 personal trainer qualification to work professionally as a personal trainer. On the personal trainer levels, this Level 3 qualification is the gateway to begin training clients individually, in groups and operate as a personal trainer.

A level 3 personal trainer course builds on the foundational knowledge from level 2, it also covers the following topics:

  • Applied anatomy and physiology for exercise, health and fitness
  • The principles of nutrition and their application to exercise.
  • Understanding lifestyle, wellbeing and common medical conditions
  • Encouraging positive health and fitness behaviours in clients
  • Programme design and delivery for personal training
  • Professionalism and business acumen for personal trainers.

A suitably accredited Level 3 Personal Trainer Qualification is equivalent to A-levels or NVQ level 3 and is equivalent a national diploma standard.

What can a Level 3 Personal Trainer do?

With a level 3 personal trainer qualification you can train clients on a one-to-one basis or in groups.

You can be an online personal trainer, train clients in person, or both!

When you become a personal trainer you can follow many different career paths, you can choose to start your own business and operate independently or you could seek out an employed personal trainer job. You could expect to earn anywhere from £35 per hour to £50 an hour as a personal trainer, the average will depend on your location, your services and how you market your business.

For example a personal trainer in London could charge anywhere between £50-£150 per session on average, where a personal trainer in Glasgow may average between £35-£75. This however is just an average of how much it costs to hire a personal trainer.

London Personal Trainer costs

Can you lead group exercise classes with a Level 3 Personal Trainer Qualification?

After gaining a level 3 personal trainer certificate, you might be asked by the gym you work at to lead a group exercise class or deliver a small group personal training session. This is very common globally, as gyms seek personal trainers to lead their group exercise classes in exchange for a ‘free rental personal trainer package.’

However on the personal trainer levels, this is actually something you can lead after gaining your Level 2 qualification. 

You should check with your personal training business insurance that you are covered to conduct the group exercise classes and you should investigate whether a specialist CPD course is required, not only to satisfy requirements but also to ensure you are competent to deliver the group class!

If you are asked by your gym to lead a group exercise class, then we believe you should have some experience in the class you’ll deliver – both personally and professionally through gaining the accredited qualification that underpins the class.

For example, Spin is still the nations most popular group exercise class, a great way to engage and meet new clients. However, if you have never participated in a indoor cycle class and you haven’t yet gained the qualification then we strongly advise that you come to us and first gain your official Level 2 Spin Qualification.

Can you train clients that are pregnant with a Level 3 Personal Trainer Qualification?

Yes however, only after you have gained your accredited pre and post natal qualification. While a level 3 personal trainer qualification means you’re qualified to train clients on a a one to one basis, or in a group it doesn’t qualify you to train clients that are pregnant or are looking to return to exercise after pregnancy in the post natal period

Our Level 3 Pre and Post Natal Course is one of our most popular CPD courses, and is fully accredited and awarded by Active IQ. A pre and post natal course sits at Level 3 on the personal trainer levels and it is a brilliant investment for your personal trainer career.

When you study to become a specialist pre and post natal personal trainer you open up new potential client markets and you increase your knowledge and skillset.

How can you qualify as a Level 3 Personal Trainer?

You can choose to study online or in person to qualify as a Level 3 Personal Trainer. How long it takes to gain your Personal Trainer Level 3 qualification depends on whether you are studying from entry level and choosing to study our combined Level 3 Gym and Personal Training Diploma (includes Level 2 and Level 3) or you if you have previously studied and qualified in Level 2 Gym Instructing.

If you already hold a suitably accredited Level 2 Fitness Instructor Qualification then you can study to become a personal trainer in 4 weeks by attending our in person courses. Similar to the Level 2 Gym Instructor course you will attend from 0930-1630 Monday – Thursday and have additional study to complete Friday, which is a directed study and revision day.

With the in person, full time personal trainer course you will study alongside other learners at one of our UK venues, guided by our expert tutors.

Alternatively, you can study via our online study option. 98% of students now take this study option, with the advanced of technology over the past few years and our package which brings unrivalled support to our learners this is an option which will allow you study at your own pace, on your terms with complete guidance and support.

With this online study option you can complete the theory work online, sit your theory exams online and be assessed from your local gym via video. We are one of the only accredited training providers who are trusted to offer this assessment option.

Level 3 Personal Trainer with client

Level 4 Personal Training Qualification

Gaining a Level 4 Personal Trainer Qualification allows personal trainers to further their personal training career by specialising in specific areas. A level 4 certificate in personal training is a great step for those that want to diversify their career paths and tap into new avenues.

Our Level 4 personal training qualification focuses on Level 4 Strength and Conditioning. This qualification can be studied online, again aided by uncapped tutor support and in person.

The in person study option for our Level 4 Strength and Conditioning course allows you to combine all the benefits of online study with in person, expert workshops.

On the personal trainer levels the Level 4 Personal Trainer Qualification is one that will give you a competitive advantage over other trainers who only hold their Level 3. Similar to he Level 3 Pre and Post Natal qualification, gaining additional qualifications will open new career options and increase your marketing potential in your personal training business.

Its not a ‘box ticking’ exercise of gaining additional qualifications on paper that adds the value, it’s the additional knowledge and skills you will learn whilst studying that adds real value to your business.

What can you do with a level 4 personal trainer qualification?

The reason why many fitness professionals work to obtain a level 4 personal trainer certificate is so they can specialise in a specific training niche. This specialisation helps them become more employable and means they can also take on a variety of new clients who require these particular services.

A personal trainer with a level 4 qualification can also do everything someone with a level 3 personal trainer qualification can, support clients individually or in a group and you can extend on this with your specialist knowledge. For example, you can start to attract sports teams or professional athletes when you study and graduate with our Level 4 Strength and Conditioning qualification.

How to qualify as a Level 4 Personal Trainer

If you are already qualified as a level 3 personal trainer, you can start to study to gain your level 4 certificate.

This can be done through face-to-face workshops or online learning. To qualify as a level 4 personal trainer, you will have to complete an exam, practical assessment, coursework, or a combination of these.  Take a look at our Level 4 Personal Trainer study options here.

Level 4 Personal Training Courses

What is a Level 5 Personal Trainer?

in he UK there is no accredited Level 5 Personal Training Qualification and the highest level of personal training qualification is level 4. That means if you see a training provider offering a level 5 qualification for fitness instructors, it won’t be Ofqual accredited. It will most likely be a combination of qualifications that they have labelled as ‘Level 5.’

FAQs

What is the highest Personal Training Level?

The highest of personal trainer levels is a level 4 personal trainer qualification. This qualification lets personal trainers expand on their Level 3 qualification and specialise in a specific training niche.

Does a Level 5 Personal Trainer Qualification exist?

No, a level 5 personal trainer qualification isn’t a recognised Personal Trainer Level with REPS or CIMSPA. The highest level of personal training qualification is level 4. That means if you see a training provider offering a level 5 personal training qualification, it won’t be Ofqual accredited.

Can you be a personal trainer with a Level 2 Gym Instructor Qualification?

No, you cannot become a certified personal trainer with only a level 2 gym instructor certificate. To work as a fitness instructor in any UK gym, you need to obtain a level 2 qualification however to offer personal training services specifically you must graduate with a Level 3 Personal Training Qualification. Fitness instructors that hold a Level 2 Gym Instructor Qualification are only qualified to work on the gym floor and carry out activities like prepare training inductions for any new members and provide general guidance.

How to choose which personal trainer level is right for you?

This guide on personal trainer levels should now mean you have clear understanding of the different qualification requirements. A Level 1 Personal Trainer is not a qualification that you need to explore and instead you should focus on the Level 2 and Level 3 qualifications.

A good way to decide whether you want to study Level 2, or both Level 2 and Level 3 is to consider what sort of fitness career you want in the future. For example;

  • If you want to work as a fitness instructor in your Local health club or gym then the right qualification for you is our Level 2 Gym Instructor Course
  • If you want to start a career as a personal trainer, with unlimited earning potential, open your own business and support individuals and groups with your services then our Level 3 Personal Training Courses is the right option for you
  • You should also consider specialist CPD courses like our Level 3 Pre and Post Natal course or our TRX Courses to add to your skillset – importantly decide what specialist CPD courses align with your personal training business vision.
  • Our Level 4 Personal Training Courses will allow you to specialise in Strength and Conditioning and open up different career or business options – like supporting specialist athletes and sports teams.

You can get in touch with us and chat about the career options and what personal trainer level is right for you to study. Booking a discovery call with our team comes with no obligation and will always be focused on whats best for you.

Summary

Obtaining a personal trainer qualification is essential for those looking to become a fitness instructor or a personal trainer. 

A Level 1 personal trainer course won’t qualify you to work as either a gym instructor or a personal trainer, so we recommend starting with a Level 2 qualification at a minimum.

A level 2 gym instructor qualification is the basic requirement to be able to work in UK health clubs and fitness facilities. However, this level only qualifies you to work on the gym floor and prepare training inductions for any new members. You may be asked to carry out other activities when working as a gym instructor like cleaning, supporting reception and leading exercise classes.

To be able to train clients as a personal trainer, you need a Level 3 Personal Trainer qualification. This certificate also allows you to lead a small group personal training sessions, train clients individually and online. If you want to further your personal training career by specialising in a specific area, a level 4 personal training qualification allows you to do that.

Getting a Personal Training Qualification with The Fitness Group Education

At The Fitness Group, we offer aspiring fitness instructors the chance to gain an Ofqual accredited personal training qualification. All of our personal training courses are certified by Active IQ, the UK’s leading awarding body, and are internationally recognised qualifications that meet CIMSPA & REPs standards.

The launch of our recent level 4 personal training course means that fitness instructors can now take their personal trainer qualifications even further. With our level 4 course, we help instructors specialise in a particular niche by providing quality and industry-leading educational materials, and second-to-none tutor support. 

Get in touch, we would love to chat to you and support you with your new career!

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