How To Get The Best Personal Trainer Course

Level 3 Diploma in Fitness Instructing and Personal Training

There’s a lot involved when it comes to getting the best personal trainer course and qualification.

There are plenty of options out there… some good and some very bad.

In this post, I’ll explain the main considerations you need to make, to ensure you get the best personal trainer course.


What qualifications are required to qualify as a Personal Trainer?

Ok, first things first… To work legally in the UK, you need the ‘Level 2 Fitness Instructing’ qualification and the ‘Level 3 Personal Training’ qualification.

Level 2 (Fitness Instructor) is the entry-level, you can’t start the Level 3 Personal Trainer qualification without first completing the Level 2 Fitness Instructing qualification.

Some students choose to study the qualifications separately but it is much more common nowadays, for students to instead study the joint qualification… The ‘Level 3 Diploma in Fitness Instructing and Personal Training‘ qualification.

This qualification is essentially two qualifications in one, it includes the level 2 Fitness Instructing qualification and the Level 3 Personal Training qualification.

Most students come into the industry with aspirations to become a Personal Trainer, therefore it makes sense to make a start with the Level 3 Diploma in Fitness Instructing and Personal Training.

What is an Awarding Body?

An awarding body is an examination board which sets examinations and awards qualifications, within the United Kingdoms ‘National Qualifications Frameworks’.

Awarding bodies are regulated by Ofqual, a government department that regulates qualifications.

Why are we talking about this?

Well, it’s important that you complete a Personal Training course that gives you an official qualification, that is recognised countrywide.

The last thing you want is to spend time and effort completing a Personal Training course, only to find out that the certificate is not worth the price of the paper it’s written on.

Sadly, there are lots of examples of super cheap Personal Training courses out there, but don’t be fooled.

I often speak to people who tell me they have completed a Personal Training course, but gym managers won’t hire them as their course is not official or accredited.

Trusted awarding bodies include Innovate Awarding (Educate Fitness’ awarding body), ActiveIQ, NCFE and YMCA Awards.


What is accreditation and how it affects your Personal Training qualification?

Not only does your course need to be regulated by an awarding body, but your course must be recognised by either CIMSPA (The Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity).

REPs have been around much longer than CIMSPA and are the organisation that Educate Fitness chooses, but CIMSPA recognised courses are sufficient too.

Ultimately, gym managers (and insurance companies) will want to know that your Personal Training qualification is recognised by either REPs or CIMSPA.

In early 2020, an agreement was reached to combine REPs with the CIMSPA Exercise and Fitness Directory, creating a single directory for all exercise and fitness professionals.

REPs no longer accept new memberships and aren’t renewing members, CIMSPA are the important body going forward.

How do Training Providers get recognised/accredited?

Well, it’s quite a long process.

Training providers have to provide course materials and evidence that they are a trustworthy course provider, and that they are following a specific curriculum from an awarding body.

CIMSPA will review all of the materials and evidence and once they are happy, they will officially recognise the training providers courses.

Training companies pay an annual fee for this privilege… it doesn’t come cheap.

How long does it take to become a Personal Trainer?

Well, it really depends on the type of course you want to do, a face to face course or a distance learning course.

Face to face courses normally run over a period of 8 weeks, where you will need to attend 2 days per week.

There is an expectation during the course for some homework and practice in the gym.

If you are looking to complete an online/distance learning course, you will be given 2 years in which to complete the course.

However, you can complete it quicker.

We’ve had students complete in only 2 months, whilst some students take a full 12 months.

It really does depend on how much time you can commit to it, along with your current experience/knowledge level.

What type of personal training course should you choose?

Good question.

I suppose it’s down to how much time you can spare and what is the best method for you to learn, let’s go through what you can expect of each.

Face to Face courses

Face to face Personal Trainer courses demand that you attend a physical class, but this means that there is more interaction with a tutor and practice time in the gym.

With a face to face course, you know the schedule… therefore you have an indication of how long it can take.

Also face to face courses can be great for building your network, you’ll be around like-minded students who have a passion for health and fitness.

You will be given physical copies of all course materials, that includes the manuals and workbooks… some people prefer to study from something you can hold (but some don’t).

Online/Distance Learning courses

As I mentioned earlier, you get 2 years in which to complete your online Personal Trainer course (but you can complete it quicker).

When you enrol to an Educate Fitness online course, you are given access to the online eLearning system.

The eLearning system really is cutting edge, allowing you to study all the course materials online.

The course is split into lessons and topics, giving you a clear road map of how, what and when to study.

Each lesson has videos and presentations to help you understand the information.

Below each video you will find the course materials, giving you the chance to read about what you’ve just learned in the videos.

As an online Personal Trainer student, you will be allocated a personal tutor who is there to help you through the course… whether that be video calls, telephone calls, WhatsApp messages, etc (whatever works best for you).

If you are struggling with anything, touch base with your tutor and they will be able to help you out and guide you in the right direction.

Online Personal Trainer students also get the benefit of weekly (1 hour long) live webinars, held by qualified and experienced tutors.

The tutors take a topic from the course and run through a presentation, taking questions from students during and at the end of the webinar (Q&A time).

We highly advise students to attend these, as the tutor really breaks down the course materials into manageable and easy to understand language.

Don’t worry if you can’t attend a live webinar, because all webinars are recorded and put on the eLearning system to watch later.

The real beauty of the online course is the flexibility it offers, you can fit it in around your work and family commitments.

It also allows you to study from anywhere, as long as you can get an internet connection!

Here’s an example of the Educate Fitness eLearning system

How are qualifications assessed?

Whether you are on a face to face or online personal trainer course, both qualifications are assessed in exactly the same way.

You will be assessed based on the theory side of things and also the practical side of things.

In terms of the theory, some courses will have a final written exam.

Here you will need to attend an exam centre and take the test, under exam conditions.

A word of warning here, most providers will charge you an extra fee to retake the exam if you fail… be careful!

An alternative method of assessing the course theory (and one used at Educate Fitness), is to use coursework to assess (instead of a final written exam).

I prefer this method for two reasons.

First, many students don’t like the idea of taking exams.

They get themselves all stressed out, which obviously affects their final results… normally resulting in a fail and a retake.

With coursework, your tutor will mark your work and inform you if it has passed or if more information is required.

If more information is required and you need to update/improve your answer, you simply have the opportunity to work on your answers until the tutor can sign your coursework off as complete (at no extra cost!).

Second, the coursework method allows us to find any development areas that students may have.

Because look, we don’t want to just give you a certificate… Instead, we want to give you a certificate, as well as providing you will all of the knowledge and skills to do the best job when you are qualified.

Therefore if your tutor finds any areas requiring further attention whilst marking your coursework, they can then arrange time with you to give further training to get you to the required level.

It’s a no brainer!

When it comes to practical assessments… If you are a face to face student, your practical assessments will be completed during your course.

If you are an online student, you can either attend a face to face practical day or you can complete your assessment in your own gym.

If you choose to do in your own gym, you ideally need two people to help… one person to act as your client, one person to record the session.

Your assessment can then be sent to your tutor for marking.

Once your theory assessments and practical assessments are completed and passed, you’re a fully qualified personal trainer!

How much do Personal Trainer courses cost?

Before I answer this question, I just want to get something out of the way… especially concerning online courses.

If a provider is selling an online Personal Trainer course for £200/300, I guarantee that it won’t be accredited.

As I mentioned earlier… if a Personal Trainer course isn’t accredited, it’s worthless.

Accredited Personal Trainer courses range between:

How do I know I’m getting value for money?

Sadly, there is a lot of cheap talk in this industry… salespeople will say anything to get you to buy.

The prices don’t always reflect quality either.

My advice would be to use the independent review website Trustpilot, to see what people say about the course providers.

Don’t just look at the recent ratings, instead click to see the 1 and 2-star ratings… this will ensure you can see what people haven’t been happy about.

Look out for any examples of false promises that haven’t been delivered upon.

You will also see how the provider has responded to negative reviews.

If the provider responds negatively or defensively, my advice is to take a wide birth and find another provider.

If you find a provider that has a very good overall rating and very little 1-2 star reviews, go with that provider!

How do I pay for my Personal Trainer course?

There are normally two options to pay for your Personal Trainer course, lumpsum payment or finance plan.

Lumpsum payments normally come with a discount, therefore try to use this method where possible.

That said, finance plans give you the option of spreading payments to manageable monthly instalments.

What about free Personal Trainer courses?

You should know by now, that a free Personal Trainer course will be a waste of time.

It won’t be accredited, therefore you’ll never get a job in the industry (or insurance to work on a self-employed basis).

If anything seems too good to be true… It’s too good to be true.

Do you’re homework and get an accredited Personal Trainer course/qualification.

Do Personal Trainer course providers help me get a job?

A Personal Trainer course provider should be able to help you get interviews with gyms in your area.

Being honest though, getting interviews in this industry isn’t difficult… There is a shortage of good qualified Personal Trainers.

A good provider will be able to give you interview tips and CV writing help, they will also be able to give you a reference.

What should I be careful of when buying a Personal Training course?

There’s a whole host of sales techniques that some training providers use to get your money, here’s the main ones to watch out for…

Discount if you buy today

Some providers will tell you that you can get a discount if you buy now, or before the end of the day.

Don’t fall for it, they’re just trying to make you think that you could miss out.

Truth is, if you call the next day, they’ll still give you the discounted price.

If someone is trying to rush through a sale, start worrying.

Salespeople that push too much on price, normally have something to hide… normally bad service.

There is a flip side to this though…

If a provider says they have a discount that expires in more than 3-5 days, then it probably is a legit discount.

They’re not pushing you to make an immediate decision, instead simply letting you know that you have time to make the decision before the deal runs out.

Our Personal Training qualification/awarding body is better

This seems to be a new one.

Some providers will tell you that their awarding body is the best, the one that gym managers want.

They’ll tell you that getting their qualification is equivalent to getting a degree from Cambridge University… complete rubbish.

It’s just a sales diversion technique, don’t fall for it.

As I said earlier, all you need to worry about it ensuring the qualification is recognised by CIMSPA… ask any health and fitness professional and they’ll tell you the same.

I’ll give you a nutrition course (worth £xxx) if you buy our Personal Trainer course

This is another sales diversion tactic, and normally the ‘nutrition’ course isn’t worth the time you put into it.

As part of the Level 3 Personal Trainer qualification, you will cover certain aspects of nutrition.

These ‘free/added’ nutrition courses that you’ll be offered, will more than likely be at a level lower than what you’ll cover in your Personal Trainer course.

It might not just be nutrition course, I’ve heard of providers offering 4-7 free CPD courses.

But what did we say about free courses early… they’re not worth anything, don’t waste your valuable time.

A good question to ask is what level these free courses are at and who is the awarding body?

Are the qualifications on the UK Qualifications Framework?… Probably not!

Basic sales diversion techniques

When salespeople start talking about anything other than the Level 3 Personal Trainer course you are enquiring about, they are trying to divert your attention.

Either you’ve asked a question they don’t want to answer, or you’ve mentioned another providers course and they know it’s better than their offering.

Don’t be fooled, remember why you are speaking to them… It’s all about the Level 3 Personal Trainer course.

Make sure that you keep them focused on this… The key is the ‘Level 3 Personal Training qualification’.

Our course is 100% online

Just recently I have seen and heard that a few of the better know training providers are saying that their course is 100% online, which is scary stuff!

From what you’ve read so far, you should know that this is not possible if you want your course recognising by CIMSPA.

CIMSPA don’t endorse or recognise 100% online course, they demand that a gym-based practical assessment is carried out.

These providers are acting in an incredibly unprofessional and irresponsible manner.

They are displaying on their websites that their courses are recognised by CIMSPA, they even lead CIMSPA to believe that they are following guidelines… but in truth, they are going against the guidelines.

CIMSPA will not stand for this and they will lose their endorsements, meaning that their student’s qualifications could become worthless.

As I said this is a recent thing and I do wonder if they are struggling due to the recent Covid-19 restrictions.

For me, this does seem like an act of desperation and I do question the state of the business if they are resorting to this behaviour, is the Covid-19 situation impacting their business so much?

Ultimately, be careful… CIMSPA will not recognise any 100% online course.

To summarise

Getting the best Personal Training course/qualification, means getting a CIMSPA recognised qualification through a good training provider.

A good course provider will give you all of the details about their course, explain how they can help you and be clear on why you should take their course.

They will have 5-star reviews on Trustpilot, with very few (if not any) 1-2 star reviews.

Don’t be fooled by pushy salespeople who talk about everything but the course and their service.

You need a provider who will give you excellent support, who are committed to helping you complete your course.

If you want to speak to us about our Personal Trainer courses, call us on 0203 794 9250… or complete the form below.



Scroll to Top