How to become a personal trainer: costs and how to get started

On average, the cost to become a personal trainer in the UK is around £1,500. This covers the price of the Level 3 Certificate training course, which qualifies you to work as a PT. Some courses cost more than this, and some less (see our complete list of all PT courses with prices). But learning to be a personal trainer isn't only about money. If we're talking costs, we need to consider how much time and commitment is required. In other words, how much it costs in all the areas that are important to you. If you’re considering how to become a personal trainer at the moment you need to take all of these areas into consideration.

Let’s consider these factors in reverse order. You need to muster up a lot of commitment to complete a demanding training course. And to make a success of becoming a personal trainer after that ­ – meaning, to become a good one – you need an equal amount of commitment on an ongoing basis. So before choosing a career in personal training, you need to ask yourself if you already have the necessary qualities to make this a good life choice. For example, are you a gymaholic? Do you look forward to your workouts when you’re doing your everyday job? Do you like variety and challenge in your work? You’ll get plenty of both as a PT.

Are you the go-to guy when other people have questions about fitness and health, and do you have a real desire to help other people? Can you be an effective motivator for others, especially when they’re struggling to achieve their goals? Are you good at analysing and evaluating other people's problems and can you suggest sensible solutions? Are you patient? These are all essential qualities for a personal trainer.

Get started

So what do you need to get started as a personal trainer? The essential qualification you need in order to practice as a personal trainer is a Level 3 Certificate. A Level 2 Certificate will qualify you only as a Fitness Instructor, and allow you to work as a gym instructor but not as an independent personal trainer. Some, but not all, Level 3 courses incorporate the Level 2 in the package. It’s vital that whichever training provider you choose, their courses are accredited by one of the main regulatory bodies, such as YMCA or Active IQ. For the best chances of getting a job in a major gym, they should also be recognised by REPS (Register of Exercise Professionals).

Choosing a personal trainer qualification can take a lot of time. We've made it easier by compiling a list of all the courses and providers, along with information to help you decide. Check out our complete list of personal trainer courses.

As regards how much time is required to become a personal trainer, the answer is – it depends. There are many paths up a mountain and there are many possibilities when it comes to choosing a training course to become a qualified PT. The most popular route is actually the shortest and that is to do a full-time course at one of the training academies. Typically you would be learning from 9am to 5:30pm five days a week with homework to do in the evening. This represents your first commitment challenge. This method can provide you with a Level 3 Certificate in as little as 4 weeks and is fine if you have the money and the time. It’s also good if you like being in a classroom environment and interacting with other students.

Studying personal trainer qualifications

Studying with other aspiring trainers can be very motivating

If, like most people, you have a full-time job, and can’t just take four weeks off, then there’s the possibility of part-time study. Some course providers offer the chance to do a Level 3 course over 12 weekends, so the whole course can be completed in 3 months. You’ll still be learning with other students and have the guidance of a qualified tutor in the room.

Finally there’s the choice of distance learning, where courses are taken online. This option gives the student a lot more freedom as they can learn when they have the time available. This modular approach also gives the longest course time as it must be completed within two years, although most trainees finish it within six months.

How much does it cost?

And how much money will one of these course options cost? Once again, it depends. There seem to be as many different prices as there are course providers, and we know of about 50 in the UK. The cheapest combined courses usually cost upwards of £900. The most expensive in our survey cost almost £30,000 but that was for a 3 year degree. The average figure that we mentioned at the top of the article is £1,500. Interestingly, it doesn’t seem to make a difference to the price whether the training course is full-time, part-time or distance learning.

One factor that makes it difficult to fully compare prices is that many course providers like to offer course bundles or packages with extra modules included. These modules are really part of CPD or Continuous Professional Development and are not essential to achieving the Level 3 Certificate. So you must check exactly what the course entails before making a choice. If you have an idea of what you would like to specialise in, then you can probably find a course with those elements included. For example, Personal Trainer and Nutritionist is a popular combination. Or you might want to teach yoga, Pilates or HIIT. You might also consider deepening your knowledge of the fundamentals. As experienced South London-based trainer Steve Phillips told me:

"PTs should really have more knowledge of Anatomy & Physiology than is given under any present Level 3 UK qualification."

Starting your career as a PT with a speciality course already in your arsenal can give you a competitive edge and help you to increase your income. The possibilities are endless and there are courses to suit all tastes.

Before going for the cheapest option it’s a good idea to consider a few related issues. Most course providers now offer financing but what is the repayment term? Is it at 0% interest? How much is the deposit? Do they offer a guaranteed job interview at the end of the course? Is there any career support?

Even though there’s no simple answer to the question, I hope this article has given you some useful pointers in your search for the ideal personal training course.