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Fitness Instructor vs Personal Trainer: What is The Difference

fitness instructor vs personal trainer image

Determining the differences between the role of a fitness instructor vs personal trainer can be difficult, especially if you’re a newcomer in the fitness industry. For clarity, these two terms cannot be used interchangeably! 

To understand the difference between a personal trainer and fitness instructor this article will cover:

Through completing a personal training diploma you will be fully qualified to fulfil both of these roles, becoming eligible for employment as both a fitness instructor and PT.

You can also download OriGym’s FREE prospectus to learn more about each qualification we offer!

 

Become a Personal Trainer with OriGym!

Launch your career in the fitness industry with OriGym's Personal Training Diploma! 

What Is a Fitness/Gym Instructor?

Gym instructor vs personal trainer intro

In order to understand the key differences between a fitness instructor vs personal trainer, you will need to know the roles and responsibilities associated with each position. 

For immediate clarity, the terms ‘fitness instructor’ and ‘gym instructor’ refer to the same job role. This can be somewhat confusing, especially if you’re newly qualified, so just be aware that employers may use these two terms interchangeably. 

Should you decide to become a fitness instructor you will be working in locations such as:

  • Gyms 
  • Health Clubs
  • Leisure Centers 

An example of this job role can be found below, in which the successful applicant will begin working as a fitness instructor in the Energie Fitness:

Ireland Group fitness instructor vs personal trainer

An exciting aspect of working as a fitness instructor is that your day to day responsibilities are varied. This allows you to develop skills and confidence in multiple different areas, including:

  • Conducting gym introductions
  • Showing members on the gym floor how machines work
  • Leading group exercise classes - e.g. indoor cycling and aerobics 
  • Maintaining hygiene and cleanliness throughout the establishment

Keep in mind that the four points listed above are merely examples of common fitness instructor responsibilities. Every employer is different, this is why it’s always important to read job descriptions in order to determine what will be expected of you in the role. 

Some may be specifically researching the differences between a fitness instructor vs personal trainer in order to learn what position is more financially lucrative. 

In this instance, take a look at the following statistic from Glassdoor, which estimates that fitness can earn between €12-€15 per hour:

Ireland Gym instructor vs personal trainer salary

Keep in mind that the proposed figure is merely an estimate that has been generated by creating an average from data collected by the site’s users. Other external factors such as the amount of experience you have, and where you are located can also influence your overall earning potential.

What is a Personal Trainer?

Gym instructor vs personal trainer Example

In contrast to the role of a fitness instructor, by becoming a personal trainer you will predominantly work with clients on a 1-to-1 basis. Other duties associated with PTs include:

  • Hosting Personal Trainer Consultation - These are informal meetings where clients can inform the trainer what they want to get out of the session, as well as any past fitness experience they may have. 
  • Establish Short and Long-Term Goals - During these meetings client’s will clearly stress what their overall goal is - e.g. losing weight or gaining muscle. From this the trainer can establish appropriate short and long term goals for the course of the training programme.
  • Creating Bespoke Workout Plans - Using the information gained in the consultation, the personal trainer will create a bespoke workout programme that is specifically suited for the client’s specific needs.
  • Leading 1-to-1 Workout Sessions - A personal trainer will then lead the client through their bespoke workout programme, meeting them for a set number of days in order to train. 
  • Offer Dietary and Nutrition Advice - Whilst not applicable to every personal trainer, many also offer nutritional advice and guidance that will help to facilitate the goals of their client’s.

Just from the few examples given above, you should already be able establish the difference between a personal trainer and fitness instructor.

This isn’t to say that these are the only responsibilities personal trainers are expected to fulfil, as the day to day operations of a PT can also be influenced by where they work too.  

Difference between personal trainer and fitness instructor Ireland

For reference, when establishing differences between a personal trainer and gym instructors, the former can work at a variety of different locations including:

  • Gyms
  • Client’s homes
  • Your own home
  • Outdoor locations - e.g. Parks

For example, if you run your own personal training business you will be able to establish where you prefer to train your clients. Alternatively, you can also seek contracted employment in locations such as Body Project:

Ireland What is the difference between gym instructor and personal trainer

Should you seek a contracted role, your employer will likely delegate roles and responsibilities to you, as and when they’re required throughout the working day.

Whereas freelance PTs will have more autonomy over what they do on a day to day basis. Beyond training their clients this can include responsibilities that help to sustain their business, including administrative tasks such as marketing.

With the inclusion of the aforementioned job advertisement, many of you may now be questioning ‘what is the difference between a gym instructor and personal trainer’s salaries?’.

Below you will find the average salary of a personal trainer as estimated by Glassdoor:

Ireland Personal trainer vs group fitness instructor Salary

Again this figure can be influenced by a variety of factors, and should not be taken as the definitive stat for all PTs. 

One thing that you can take away from this statistic however, is that you’ll likely earn more as a personal trainer. This topic will be explored later in the article, when discussing the key differences between a gym instructor vs personal trainer.

What Qualifications Are Needed to be a Personal Trainer vs Fitness Instructor

difference between level 2 gym instructor and level 3 personal trainer

Before deciding whether you wish to become a fitness instructor or personal trainer, you will need to ensure you have the right qualifications in order to apply for job vacancies. 

This section will specifically highlight the difference between level 3 gym instructor and level 4 personal trainer qualifications, providing insight into what job opportunities you can pursue following the completion of each course.

 

Become a Personal Trainer with OriGym!

Launch your career in the fitness industry with OriGym's Personal Training Diploma! 

What Qualifications Are Needed To Become a Gym Instructor?

What is the difference between gym instructor and personal trainer

In order to become a gym instructor you will need to complete a Level 3 Fitness Instructor qualification at a minimum! 

This is regarded as an entry level course, as applicants do not need to have prior fitness experience in order to enrol - At OriGym we simply ask students to simply be over the age of 16 when applying for enrolment.

When enrolled on this course, you will acquire vital knowledge that informs how you operate as a gym instructor. For example, one module will develop your understanding of anatomy and physiology, ensuring that your fitness classes are both beneficial and safe for members.

Most employers looking to hire fitness instructors will stress the importance of having the Level 3 certificate as a minimum requirement. This is evident from the following example from Energie Fitness Galway:

Ireland personal trainer or fitness instructor

Simply put, without a Level 3 qualification you will not be able to become a fitness instructor, as employers will view you as underqualified for the role.

The reason why so many employers place an emphasis on the Level 3 being a ‘minimum requirement’ is that many choose to prioritise applicants who hold a Level 4 personal training certificate

This is evident from the following example, which states that applicants who hold a Level 4 qualifcation are ‘desirable’:

Ireland Personal trainer vs gym instructor level 4

As you may expect from the name alone, the main difference between a level 3 gym instructor and level 4 personal trainer qualification, is that the latter is more advanced. 

Applicants who wish to apply for the Level 4 course will first need to hold a Level 3 fitness instructor qualification as a prerequisite. Once enrolled, students will then be able to develop their pre-existing knowledge and skills, honing them to a higher standard. 

For example, when on the course you will develop your knowledge on anatomy and physiology, which will help to better the training you provide for gym members. 

When applying for fitness instructor roles, a Level 4 personal training certificate will signify to employers that you are a highly qualified individual, who can take on additional responsibilities.

What Qualifications Do I Need to Become a Personal Trainer? 

Fitness instructor or personal trainer difference

When applying for personal training jobs applicants will need to hold both Level 3 fitness instructor and Level 4 personal training qualifications

This is a clear example of the difference between a personal trainer and fitness instructor’s job applications. Employers looking to hire fitness instructors will simply ‘prefer’ applicants who hold both qualifications, whereas both are essential in order to become a PT.

At OriGym we offer a Personal Training Diploma which allows you to obtain both qualifications without the need to re-enrol! 

The Level 4 personal training qualification is absolutely essential for becoming a PT, as employers won’t consider your application without it. During this course you will learn how to train clients on a 1-to-1 basis, through the creation of bespoke training programmes.

Employers will stress the importance of this qualification when posting job vacancies, as evident from the following example below:

Ireland Difference between personal trainer and fitness instructor

Whilst the Level 4 qualification is regarded as a necessity to operate in this job role, completing a specialist Level 5 personal training course can also help you to stand out.

Through the completion of one of these qualifications you can develop a niche in areas such as:

If you’re applying for contracted positions, employers may state they’re looking for specialist personal trainers by wording their vacancies as so: 

Fitness instructor or personal trainer Ireland

Likewise, developing a niche can benefit your own PT business, as you will be able to offer additional services to your clients. For example, following the completion of an advanced sports nutrition course you could offer meal plans that help to facilitate a client’s goals.

Whilst beneficial to your career as a PT, the level 5 qualifications are not a strict requirement for the role. Each is merely viewed as an add on that can develop the services you provide. 

If you’re interested in distinguishing between a fitness instructor vs personal trainer, the following OriGym articles may be of interest to you:

Differences in The Roles of a Gym Instructor vs Personal Trainer 

Differences in The Roles of a Gym Instructor vs Personal Trainer

Those questioning ‘what is the difference between a gym instructor and personal trainer?’ can use this section to develop a clear understanding of how each role differs from the other.

Through understanding how the roles of a fitness instructor vs personal trainer differ, you will be able to make an informed decision about what role you wish to pursue in the future. 

#1 - What’s The Difference Between a Gym Instructor and a Personal Trainer’s Earning Potential?

What’s The Difference Between a Gym Instructor and a Personal Trainer’s Earning Potential?

Within the introductory section of this article, the salaries of a fitness instructor and personal trainer were included to highlight what you could earn when working in either job role.

From the statistics presented within this section it was determined that personal trainers earn more on a yearly basis. This is due to the fact that fitness instructors predominantly work in contracted positions, meaning that their salaries are fixed and non-negotiable.

This means that even if you’re an experienced fitness instructor you will need to accept a proposed salary offered by the employer, such as this example below. 

Ireland What is the difference between fitness instructor and personal trainer

In contrast to this, personal trainers who own their own business will be able to set their own prices and earn a higher salary as a result.

To answer the question ‘what is the difference between a gym instructor and personal trainer’s salary?’, you will need to observe a range of different pricing points. This will help you to understand just how large of a pay gap the two roles can have.

For example, look at these pricing packages from Endeavour Gym:

Endevaour personal trainer or fitness instructor

Then compare them with PT packages created by Body Buddies:

BODYBUDDIES What is the difference between fitness instructor and personal trainer

From the two examples provided above you will be able to see just how varied the pricing points for personal training can be. Ultimately, what you decide to charge will come down to your own personal preference, and can be influenced by a variety of factors such as your experience or location.

One thing remains clear however, when debating the earning potential of a fitness instructor vs personal trainer, the latter will likely always earn more, even when working the same hours.

Let’s use the examples above to demonstrate this, say a fitness instructor worked 10 hours a week, at a rate of €12 per hour. In total this individual would walk away with €480 at the end of the month

In contrast, a personal trainer would only need to sell 2 progammes priced at €350 to earn more than the fitness instructor. 

You should therefore carefully consider your earning potential when deciding to pursue either a personal trainer or fitness instructor position. There is more money to be made as a PT, largely due to the fact that you have more control over your earnings, rather than an employer. 

 

Become a Personal Trainer with OriGym!

Launch your career in the fitness industry with OriGym's Personal Training Diploma! 

#2 - The Professional Development Opportunities of a Personal Trainer vs Group Fitness Instructor

The Professional Development Opportunities of a Personal Trainer vs Group Fitness Instructor

No one wants to remain stagnant in the same job for long periods of time, as through professional development comes benefits such as:

  • An increased salary 
  • Additional knowledge and skills
  • A lager pool of clients to target
  • Higher client retention rates

With this in mind, before becoming a personal trainer or group fitness instructor, you need to consider the development opportunities of each role.

For example, if a fitness instructor is employed within a gym they could progress and become the manager of the establishment. This is evident from the example below which lists the Level 3 qualification as a requirement for the position:

Personal trainer vs group fitness instructor manager Ireland

With that being said, there are some limitations to the progression opportunities available for a fitness instructor. This is largely due to the fact that they will typically have to remain in a form of contracted employment, such as the proposed example above.

In contrast, personal trainers could choose to pursue other career progression opportunities outside of the typical contracted roles at gyms and fitness centres, such as starting their own personal training business or becoming an online personal trainer.

#3 - What Is The Difference Between a Fitness Instructor and a Personal Trainer’s Work Schedule?

What Is The Difference Between a Fitness Instructor and a Personal Trainer’s Work Schedule?

When discussing the difference between a personal trainer vs group fitness instructor, one of the most obvious examples is the working schedule of each role. 

As previously stated, fitness instructors will predominantly work within contracted positions, meaning that employers will always determine the hours that they work. For example, at Gym Plus the chosen candidate would be expected to work 25-30 hours per week, to the following shift pattern:

Ireland Fitness instructor and personal trainer shift pattern

These hours are predominantly fixed as fitness instructors will need to be present in order to teach regularly scheduled classes - e.g. if they teach a HIIT class that runs every Tuesday at 6pm, they’ll need to be in work for that time every week. 

In contrast to this, a personal trainer's working hours are more flexible, as they only need to be available as and when their clients need them. This means that the working rota can change on a weekly basis depending on a client’s availability.

When discussing the working hours of a personal trainer vs fitness instructor, each position will come with its own benefits and drawbacks. For example, whilst a PT may have more freedom with their time, they will also need to be highly self-motivated, as no one is prompting them to work.

#4 - Differences Between Group Fitness Instructor vs Personal Trainer’s Client Base

Differences Between Group Fitness Instructor vs Personal Trainer’s Client Base

Another example of the core differences between a group fitness instructor vs personal trainer is who they’re qualified to work with.

As previously stated, instructors who only hold a level 3 qualification will be able to lead fitness classes, as well as assisting members on the gym floor. 

If you’re questioning ‘can a fitness instructor do personal training’ the answer is no, as they are not qualified to fulfil duties such as the creation of bespoke training programmes.

In contrast, level 4 personal trainers will predominantly work with individual clients, creating fitness programmes that help them fulfil their personal goals. They will also be able to lead fitness classes too, as they will have already completed their initial Level 3 training.

Differences Between Group Fitness Instructor vs Personal Trainer’s Client Base 2

Another key difference between a personal trainer and fitness instructor’s clients is that PT’s can choose who they train. Through deciding your own clientel you can carve out a niche demographic, such as developing specalist fitness programmes for groups such as:

  • The elderly 
  • Disabled clients
  • Clients with conditions such as diabetes 

In contrast to this, fitness instructors don’t get this choice. Instead, they will be prompted to work with existing gym members, specifically those who have already signed up for the fitness class. 

When deciding whether to become a personal trainer or fitness instructor the size of your potential client base may be a determining factor in what you decide to pursue. In this instance, becoming a PT may be more lucrative as you can work with both individuals and groups of clients.

Are There Any Similarities Between The Role of a Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer 

Are There Any Similarities Between The Role of a Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer

When discussing the roles of a fitness instructor and personal trainer the differences between the positions are clear, but that’s not to say they are polar opposites. There are some similarities to be found, including:

  • Both will hold a Level 3 Fitness Instructor Qualification - Whilst fitness instructors will hold this as a minimum requirement for their job, PTs will also need this before completing their Level 4 course.
  • Both work with fitness enthusiasts: Regardless of whether you’re a personal trainer or fitness instructor, both individuals work with fitness enthusiasts, who wish to work towards an end goal e.g. to lose weight or gain muscle 
  • Both can work in gyms and fitness centres: Fitness instructors and personal trainers alike can both seek employment in gyms and fitness centres. 

As stated throughout this article, personal trainers are also qualified to fulfil the duties of a fitness instructor too. Some employers will therefore look for candidates who can complete both roles, such as the following example from Midleton Fitness in Cork:

Ireland Fitness instructor or personal trainer CORK

When operating in these contracted positions, personal trainers may be expected to complete hybrid responsibilities, such as:

  • Conducting gym inductions
  • Working on the gym floor to offer feedback to members
  • Lead fitness classes
  • Conduct fitness assessments
  • Offer personal training consultations
  • Offer 1-to-1 bespoke personal training sessions

But contracted roles aren’t the only situation in which personal trainers will fulfil fitness instructor responsibilities. If a PT rents out a space in a gym, they may be required to work on the gym floor as part of their rental agreement. 

Is It Better to Become a Personal Trainer or Group Fitness Instructor? 

Is it better to become a Personal trainer or fitness group instructor

Deciding whether to become a fitness instructor or personal trainer will be a decision that affects your professional livelihood. Whilst both roles hold their own unique benefits and drawbacks, it’s ultimately better to pursue personal training for a variety of reasons.

The most obvious being, that as a qualified level 4 personal trainer you can still fulfil the roles and responsibilities associated with the fitness instructor position. The same cannot be said about fitness instructors, who are simply not qualified to offer 1-to-1 bespoke training programmes.

In addition to this, other benefits of becoming a personal trainer vs fitness instructor include:

  • Higher earning potential 
  • Greater career progression opportunities
  • A larger client pool
  • The ability to set your own working hours
  • The freedom to own your own business

ersonal trainer vs fitness instructor includes

Operating as a level 2 fitness instructor can be beneficial, but the job role can be somewhat limiting at times. This is largely due to the fact that you will likely have to remain in contracted positions, which can deprive you of autonomy in areas such as your salary and working hours.

For this reason, it’s worth completing a personal training diploma, as this will allow you to fulfil duties associated with both roles. In addition to this, through the completion of this course you will be able to experience a variety of the aforementioned benefits, getting the most out of a fulfilling career. 

Before You Go!

You will now have a clear understanding of the differences between a fitness instructor vs personal trainer’s job role. Remember, these two terms cannot be used interchangeably, and even when you’re qualified to work in both roles they will still have distinguishable responsibilities.

A personal training diploma will qualify you to fulfil such responsibilities, equipping you with skills that allow you to lead fitness classes, and offer 1-to-1 bespoke training to individual clients. 

Alternatively, you can download our course prospectus for FREE! 

 

Become a Personal Trainer with OriGym!

Launch your career in the fitness industry with OriGym's Personal Training Diploma! 

Written by James Bickerstaff

Content Writer & Fitness Enthusiast

James holds a BA (Hons) in Creative Writing and Film Studies and has recently gained a MA degree in Film, both of which he attained from Liverpool John Moores University. After taking up the couch to 5K challenge on a whim, James found a new passion for running, which he combines with his love for healthy cooking and writing. All of this led him to becoming a copywriter for OriGym.  

When he is not writing content for the site, James can be found researching new recipes, writing music reviews, reading and watching latest film releases.

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