How To Become A Trainee Fitness Instructor

how to become a fitness instructor

The fitness industry is vast, and becoming a trainee fitness instructor can often be an ideal way to take your first steps in a new career.

But what exactly is a trainee fitness instructor, and what are their duties? Perhaps you’re wondering - where can I train to be a fitness instructor?

OriGym’s full exploration of trainee fitness instructing will cover everything you need to know about starting your journey, including exactly what you’ll need to be as successful as possible, your potential earnings, and where starting out as a trainee fitness instructor can take you.


However, if you’re set on taking further steps into a fitness career, then a personal training diploma may be exactly what you’ve been looking for.

OriGym’s industry-leading personal training diploma offers unlimited, 7-days-a-week support both during and after your course, as well as guaranteed post course interviews and a bespoke learning platform.

Download our FREE comprehensive prospectus, and learn more about what we offer!


Take Your First Step Into The Fitness Industry With OriGym's Courses

Start training as a qualified fitness instructor with OriGym's prestigious fitness instructor courses.

What Is A Trainee Fitness Instructor?

how to become a trainee fitness instructor

As the name suggests, a trainee (or apprentice) fitness instructor is someone who is observing or “shadowing” a fitness instructor as part of their on-the-job training.

This serves multiple purposes - the trainee fitness instructor can learn in an active  environment, see exactly how to perform the key duties of a fitness instructor, and what they can expect from the day-to-day running of a gym.

A crucial piece of information to note at this point is that any trainee fitness instructor will be working towards, or have already completed, a Level 3 gym instructing course. This is the bare minimum necessity to work in any fitness setting.

This traineeship functions as a form of basic training, and prepares you for completing more formal accreditation in order to achieve the Level 3 qualification you’ll need to start working in a gym.

But, when you train to be a fitness instructor, what duties will you be expected to undertake? Let’s examine what you’ll be doing in more detail.

What Can A Trainee Fitness Instructor Do?

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Now that we’ve established exactly what an apprentice fitness instructor is, you might be wondering what you’ll be expected to do when you choose to train to be a fitness instructor.

These roles often mirror those that you’ll be undertaking once you’ve completed your fitness instructor apprenticeship, albeit under the watchful supervision of the fitness instructor you’re working alongside.

We’ve outlined a few of the more common duties you may have as part of your gym instructor training:

  • Ensuring all areas of the gym are kept clean and safe: This may seem simple or self-explanatory, but it’s arguably one of the most important roles of any junior fitness instructor. Not only is this integral to ensuring that the gym can continue to run efficiently, but it also reflects positively on you, and demonstrates your commitment to a career in fitness.
  • Helping newer members explore the gym: It can often be daunting attending a gym for the first time. That’s where you come in. As part of your role as an apprentice fitness instructor, you’ll get the opportunity to assist new members in exploring the gym, helping them become familiar with gym etiquette and rules, and understanding which machines or equipment are right for specific goals.
  • Enrolling new members and dealing with telephone enquiries: Without new members and proper enrolment, a gym simply wouldn’t be able to stay open. Part of your role on a fitness instructor apprenticeship is to assist in the enrolment and recruitment of new members, and answer any queries they might have, whether that’s relating to their membership, classes, exercises, or the gym itself.
  • Assisting in the delivery of group classes: While you won’t have a starring role in class while completing your fitness instructor apprenticeship, you’ll still be expected to assist in setting up and delivering group classes. For instance, you might be asked to set out yoga mats or steps, or walk around and monitor form among the class attendees.

Of course, individual gyms or fitness centres may ask you to perform roles that are more specific to their facilities - for instance, if the gym you’re applying to has a swimming pool or a sauna, you may be asked to assist with aqua classes, or with lifeguarding duties.

What Are The Benefits Of Being A Trainee Fitness Instructor? 

#1 - A Foot On The Fitness Ladder

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Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of being an apprentice fitness instructor is that it provides you with the opportunity to take that tricky first step into the fitness industry.

It can often be difficult to get started with a career in fitness, but by undertaking a fitness instructor apprenticeship, it can streamline the process, and allow you to gain on-the-job experience that can often be invaluable.

It also provides you with an opportunity to decide if this is the right career path for you without having invested a lot of your time. 

As we’ve previously discussed, many of the duties you’ll complete as a junior fitness instructor will be similar to, or the same as, those you’ll be undertaking when you’ve completed your fitness instructor apprenticeship, and have secured a job in the field.

It can also lead to further opportunities, such as becoming a personal trainer - we’ll cover this in more detail later in the article, or you can read OriGym’s comprehensive comparison of a fitness instructor vs a personal trainer.

#2 - Learning From An Expert

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When you undertake a fitness instructor apprenticeship, you’ll be paired with a mentor who has fully qualified and worked in the fitness industry for a long period of time. They will have completed a Level 3 gym instructor training qualification at the very least, and most will have also qualified as a Level 4 personal trainer.

By being paired up with an experienced gym instructor, you’ll be able to see exactly what you’ll need to be able to thrive in your role, as well be given handy tips on everything from ideas on how to motivate personal training clients, to the right gear and shoes to wear.

Learning from an expert can also provide you with valuable insights on what you can do to improve, as well as ways in which you can achieve the levels you’re striving for. They may have made similar mistakes in the past, and can give sage advice on how to avoid those same mistakes.

Ultimately, though, this expert (as with anyone in the fitness industry) will want to see you succeed, and will provide you with everything you need as a trainee fitness instructor to do so.

#3 - Establishes Reputation

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If you’re serious about a career in fitness, one of the most valuable things that gym instructor training offers is the opportunity to immediately begin building your reputation as a fitness professional.

Reputation not only means that you’ll be recognised by the regulars at the gym you’re working in, it also gives you a potential client base should you decide to branch out and develop your skill set to incorporate other areas of fitness.

This could be an area that’s wildly popular, such as sports massage therapy, or one that provides you with grounding to improve and develop your fitness instructing and personal training skills, such as professional development courses for personal trainers.

By building this reputation, you’ll also build your confidence in what you do, and by coming across as a confident instructor, you can build up a sense of trust and professionalism, too.

What Skills Do I Need To Be A Trainee Fitness Instructor?

trainee fitness instructor

We’ve just examined the roles of a trainee fitness instructor, as well as what you can expect to achieve, but it’s also important to be aware of the skills and traits that would make you an ideal candidate.

We’ve outlined a few of the key qualities you’ll need to possess to be a successful and forward-thinking beginner fitness instructor:

  • A passion for fitness - This may seem obvious, but a passion and enthusiasm for fitness is one of the most desirable qualities when you’re looking to succeed on your fitness instructor apprenticeship.
  • Reliability - This not only means that you can be relied upon to help with form and posture corrections, but also that you’ll be able to be trusted to be a good representative of the gym when you do complete your fitness instructor apprenticeship.
  • Knowledgeable - It’s vitally important to understand the advice you’re giving people, and how it can affect their bodies, their progress, and their goals. Whether that’s familiarising yourself with how to start calisthenics, or learning the function of each machine, it’s crucial you learn the key aspects of what you’ll be looking after as a trainee fitness instructor.
  • Punctuality - Punctuality is more than just arriving on time, it also means ensuring that you’re familiar with the class schedule so that you can greet gym members from their classes, as well as understanding your own shifts so that you’re effectively able to let your fellow colleagues and other trainee fitness instructors what’s going on
  • Supportive - Arguably the most important quality you can have, both as a trainee fitness instructor and in general, is to be supportive of others’ goals and aspirations. That could be through recommending exercises to help them progress, or suggesting foods that can boost metabolism. Or it could be as simple as encouraging them to push on to that next milestone.

Remember, these are just a few of the key qualities that can set you apart from the crowd on your fitness instructor apprenticeship. 

We’d always say, though, that the most important thing is to have a demonstrable passion for fitness, as this enthusiasm can really put across how keen you are to begin your career in the fitness industry.

What Can I Earn As A Trainee Fitness Instructor?

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After we’ve looked at the qualities and skills you’ll need to be a successful trainee fitness instructor, it’s understandable your next question would be about what you can expect to be paid.

Sadly, the answer may be quite disappointing, as fitness instructor apprenticeships (as with all other apprenticeships) are capped by the National Minimum Wage. 

This essentially means that the maximum rate per hour for those in their first year of a fitness instructor apprenticeship is €10.50, which cannot increase until after a year of being an apprentice fitness instructor. 

After this first year, for those over the age of 23, this increases to be in line with the National Living Wage of €12.90. This can then increase incrementally as you get older, depending on you having completed the first year of your fitness instructor apprenticeship.

Compare this to the wage of a fitness instructor who qualified using a Level 3 gym instructor course.

The average hourly wage for a fitness instructor in Ireland, regardless of age, is €11.

This wage can only increase, too, and you’ll be earning that amount immediately after you qualify. 

This gulf in wage is often a deciding factor when it comes to choosing between a fitness instructor apprenticeship and completing a Level 2 gym instructor training course, but there are other points you might want to consider. 


Once you’ve read this article, here are 3 more you might find useful:


What Are The Downsides Of Becoming A Trainee Fitness Instructor?

#1 - Low Wage

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The first (and arguably the most relevant) downside to undertaking a fitness instructor apprenticeship is the low rate of pay. 

As we’ve just seen, you’re only entitled to €10.50 for the first year as an apprentice fitness instructor, regardless of your age. Of course, this can increase, but only after the initial year of your course, which can be difficult, particularly if you’re struggling to budget, leaving you with very little money with which to purchase .

Compare this to the Level 3 fitness instructor course offered by OriGym. With a qualification time of as little as two weeks, you’ll be able to apply for jobs that offer the full wage of a fitness instructor. 

This more immediate certification process also allows you to plan future qualifications, such as progressing to a Level 4 personal training certificate

#2 - Much Longer Training Time

trainee fitness instructor 4

Often mentioned alongside the significantly lower wages, the time it takes to qualify when opting for a fitness instructor apprenticeship is much longer than the time it takes to complete a Level 3 gym instructor qualification.

From our research, it can take up to 15 months to qualify as an apprentice fitness instructor. When compared to OriGym’s average completion times (as low as 2 weeks) for their Level 3 gym instructor training qualification, this is a huge time investment, and one that can be off-putting for many people.

For instance, having to work in that environment, and in that reduced capacity, for a period of over a year, can cause you to become overly comfortable with your role, and neglect other roles that might form part of your fully qualified position.

You may also become frustrated or demotivated, and choose to leave the profession before getting fully started. Motivation is often a big part of fitness, and whether it’s jotting down your ideas in a fitness journal, or setting yourself achievable goals, it’s vitally important to maintain that motivation, especially in a career in fitness.

#3 - Less Involved With Gym Goers

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As an apprentice fitness instructor, you’ll often find that you play more of a background role. Our research, and the roles we outlined earlier in this article, found that you’ll be working alongside a mentor for the whole of your fitness instructor apprenticeship.

This, as we’ve already discussed, has a few serious downsides, but perhaps a more understated downside is that you won’t get the same level of interaction or bond with gym goers as a fully qualified fitness instructor will do.

For some, this may not necessarily be a downside - they may prefer the limited conversation with customers - but we would always class this as a disadvantage of becoming an apprentice fitness instructor.

Less interaction means less opportunities to liaise with gym goers, and less opportunities to put the things and skills you’ll be learning into practice. Whether that’s helping with running technique, or offering bicep exercises for those looking to bulk, these are all integral parts of the fitness instructor role.

It can also detrimentally impact your future career - a trainee gym instructor doesn’t get the same level of interaction that a fitness instructor does, and therefore doesn’t get as much opportunity to put themselves across as a consummate professional.

#4 - Stuck With One Gym

become a trainee fitness instructor

This can often be a sticking point that you might never have considered, but, by completing an apprenticeship with one specific gym (as opposed to a Level 3 gym instructor qualification) you’ll often be stuck with that branch or chain of gyms.

On your fitness instructor apprenticeship, you’ll come to learn that specific gym’s (or chain of gyms’) ethos, ideas, safety protocols, and ultimately the layout of the gym itself. You’ll become familiar with what that gym wants, and how you can tailor your skill set to better fit that gym’s expectations.

By doing this, you can often become stuck working for that same gym, and won’t necessarily go for a position outside of that gym (or chain of gyms). 

With a Level 3 gym instructor training course, the choice is entirely up to you, and this ensures that there’s a much wider range of jobs available, at a vast array of fitness centres and gyms.

#5 - Only One Option For Study

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Sometimes, it can be nice to have a choice. Whether that’s choosing the right pair of cushioned running shoes, or which gym you ultimately want to work for, these decisions can shape our journeys in fitness.

Sadly, one of the biggest downsides to being an apprentice (or trainee) fitness instructor is that you don’t get to choose your method of study. 

As with all apprenticeships, you’ll be learning on-the-job for the majority of your time, with a single day devoted to independent study, and the completion of mandatory assessments that are part of any course.

However, with OriGym’s Level 3 gym instructor training course, there are a number of options available, offering you complete customizability of how you study, and how quickly you can qualify as a fitness instructor:

  • Full time - Qualify in as little as 2 weeks. The course runs from 9am to 5:30pm on Monday - Friday, and you’ll work in OriGym’s specially designed fitness facilities, working both on the gym floor, and in a bespoke classroom environment for the theory and knowledge-based elements of your training.
  • Part time - A blend of online and in-person learning, this option offers a balance between learning at OriGym’s specialist fitness space, and learning at your own pace utilising their bespoke online resources.
  • Online - An entirely online option, OriGym leads the way when it comes to online provisions. With a range of fully interactive online resources, eBooks & PDFs, online lectures and video guides, and manuals that cover everything you need to know, as well as a custom-built learning platform that ties it all together.

All of these options also come with 7-days-a-week tutor support from a dedicated team of qualified instructors who have all completed everything you’ll be undertaking.


How To Train As A Fitness Instructor

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This is a question that doesn’t have a single answer, as you might have gathered from what we’ve just discussed. However, there are two main options when it comes to training to be a fitness instructor.

We’ve already discussed the fitness instructor apprenticeship in great detail, but it’s often much more beneficial to opt for completing a Level 3 gym instructor course instead.

With this qualification, you can be certified in as little as 2 weeks, and then begin searching for jobs immediately with your Level 3 qualification. You’ll also receive tailored, expert guidance that provides you with everything you need to begin a successful career in the fitness industry.

There’s also much more customizability when it comes to how you receive your training on a Level 3 gym instructor course - you can opt to study entirely online (with the exception of a single practical assessment) or part time, which is ideal if you’re on a tight schedule.

Not to mention that, with OriGym’s industry leading Level 3 gym instructor course, you’ll also receive access to a vast library of resources and support materials, alongside guaranteed post-course interviews at gyms across the country.

With two main options available, let’s now turn our attention to where this Level 3 qualification can take you.

What Are The Career Progression Options As A Trainee?

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Once you’ve completed a Level 2 gym instructor course (either as part of a fitness instructor apprenticeship or through OriGym’s Level 3 qualification), it’s important to think about where you can progress to, and how you can get there.

The natural progression is, as you might imagine, to move onto a Level 4 personal training qualification

With this, you’ll be able to work as a personal trainer, creating bespoke fitness plans for individual clients, offering advice on nutrition and overall health, and designing exercises to fit the needs of your clientele.

It’s also crucial to note that this makes you more appealing to any gyms recruiting for a fitness instructor. Even if you decide not to work as a personal trainer, having the Level 4 personal training qualification makes you much more desirable to any potential employers, and gives you many more skills that you can deploy in your work.

In this case, we would recommend undertaking what’s known as a personal training diploma - this gives you both the Level 3 gym instructor and the Level 4 personal training certifications, and immediately makes you much more appealing to potential employers.

Additional Courses

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Not interested in completing a Level 4 personal training certificate, but still want to progress in the fitness industry? 

Once you’ve achieved your Level 3 qualification (either as an apprentice fitness instructor, or through OriGym’s Level 3 gym instructor training qualification), you’re able to complete a vast array of courses that further your education, and provide you with grounding in specialist areas.

If you’ve always wanted to delve into training more tailored towards those at the peak of their fitness game, a Level 3 qualification gives you the opportunity to undertake a strength and conditioning course, providing you with everything you need to help them progress.

Or, for example if you particularly enjoy the benefits of kettlebell training, completing a CPD in Kettlebells can give you the grounding and education you need to take those classes to the next level, challenging yourself and the class participants.

Either way, it’s important to understand just how far you can progress in fitness, and the foundations that a Level 3 gym instructor qualification provides you with. 

Before You Go!

Whether you were looking for guidance on your future career, or were apprehensive about taking that first step into fitness, the aim with our guide was to clear up the misconceptions that often surround becoming a fitness instructor.

And regardless of whether you opt to become a trainee fitness instructor, or get started much quicker with our Level 3 gym instructor course, it’s important to choose the option that’s right for you.

Or if you’ve got your heart set on a lucrative fitness career, then the ideal option is OriGym’s personal training diploma.

Offering unlimited career support 7-days-a-week, as well as guaranteed post-course interviews, bespoke resources, and a custom-made online learning platform, they provide a complete package for the lowest price amongst their closest competitors.

Read more in our FREE prospectus, and see exactly how this could be ideal for you!


Take Your First Step Into The Fitness Industry With OriGym's Courses

Start training as a qualified fitness instructor with OriGym's prestigious fitness instructor courses.

Written by Jessie Florence Jones

Content Editor

Jessie has a 1st class honours degree in English Literature from University of Leeds and an MA in English Literature from Durham University. Naturally Jessie has a real passion for writing especially about film, culture and wellbeing. Outside of writing she loves hiking, country walks and yoga, which she has been doing religiously over lockdown.

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