Personal trainers help others to achieve their fitness goals. It's an ideal career for anyone who is passionate about staying healthy

As a personal trainer, you'll create one-on-one fitness programmes for your clients, motivating and guiding them to achieve their goals.

Clients may wish to lose weight or gain muscle and you'll teach and help them to exercise properly using appropriate workouts and plans. You'll instruct and advise clients, using a range of fitness equipment including fitness machines and weights.

Similar roles include fitness instructor and gym instructor, but a personal trainer holds more fitness qualifications, meaning they're able to provide clients with tailored health and exercise advice. It's not uncommon for those new to the industry to train as a fitness or gym instructor first before qualifying as a personal trainer.

You'll work in a gym or a similar setting but can take sessions outdoors or to other venues.


In the role of personal trainer, you’ll need to:

  • conduct fitness assessments to establish client fitness and skill level
  • hold one-on-one small-group personal training sessions with clients
  • identify goals and create tailored exercise plans
  • monitor your clients' progress
  • guide clients on health and lifestyle changes and pass on government-backed nutrition advice
  • educate and advise clients to maintain or reach their fitness and health goals
  • keep up to date with the latest personal training techniques and best practise
  • help clients with their workouts
  • create and maintain positive, professional and trusting relationships with clients
  • provide innovative and challenging exercises to keep clients engaged and motivated
  • proactively seek and provide feedback in a manner which suits each individual client
  • assist with membership retention strategies for existing clients
  • accurately record your clients' training sessions and track relevant paperwork
  • communicate with clients in a professional and courteous manner
  • act as a positive role model for all clients
  • make the best of the environment in which clients are exercising
  • analyse information relating to individual clients
  • market your business to increase your client base
  • maintain an online presence through your personal website, blog and social media.


A large proportion of personal trainers work freelance (self-employed) and are therefore paid by the hour for each session they undertake.

  • Freelance personal trainers can expect to earn between £20 and £40 an hour. Some locations and high-profile clients make it possible to earn up to around £50 to £75 per hour.
  • A full-time personal trainer with a good client base may be able to achieve an annual income of circa £30,000 to 40,000 depending on experience and location.

Working hours

Working hours vary considerably and will depend on whether you're employed by a gym or self-employed.

You'll need to be flexible to meet the needs of your clients, so you'll probably work in the evenings, early mornings and weekends.

While you're building up your client base, it's not uncommon to work 12-hour days, which will include working with existing clients while also trying to recruit new ones.

What to expect

  • Personal training is not a 9 to 5 office job. Where you work can be incredibly varied. This could include client's homes, a local gym, a park or even on a cruise ship or holiday resort.
  • Personal trainers are often viewed as positive role models by their clients. It's essential that you look after your own health and well-being, to promote a healthy lifestyle to others.
  • You'll need to offer a varied service to your clients that is tailored to their individual needs. Keeping up to date with developments in the fitness industry will help you do this, and you should continually develop your own skills, knowledge and qualifications.
  • As a freelance or self-employed personal trainer, you'll be expected to have public and professional liability insurance. This can be obtained by a sector-relevant company such as UK Coaching.


To work as a personal trainer, you'll need both a Level 2 gym instructing and a Level 3 personal training qualification (many providers offer both as a one-course package). This should be awarded by a recognised awarding body such as Active IQ.

To be properly recognised, these qualifications should be endorsed by  CIMSPA (Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity). In addition to this, such a qualification should be studied through a CIMSPA Education Partner who is listed on the CIMSPA directory.

A personal training qualification can be obtained by a taught vocational course (classroom or online) from an approved provider such as a college or private training provider. Another option is to complete a Level 3 Personal Trainer apprenticeship in a work-based programme that typically lasts 15 months.

It's also possible to qualify as a personal trainer via completion of an accredited fitness-related degree programme, but only if the course has the CIMSPA professional standards for personal training embedded into it.

It's not necessary to have a foundation degree, HND or degree to be a personal trainer. However, if you wish to undertake a higher education qualification, the most relevant subjects include:

  • fitness and personal training
  • health and fitness management
  • health, nutrition and exercise science
  • personal training
  • sport science and personal training.


You will need to have:

  • the ability to inspire clients
  • a friendly and outgoing personality
  • excellent people skills to enable you to work with a range of individuals with different backgrounds and motivations
  • a good understanding of the human body and nutrition
  • a love of health and fitness
  • excellent timekeeping and organisational skills
  • the ability to deliver a high level of customer care
  • excellent oral communication skills
  • awareness and understanding of safeguarding practice and policy
  • high levels of enthusiasm and drive
  • problem-solving and stress-management skills
  • the ability to use information technology for a range of purposes including record keeping, scheduling, session reminders, sales and invoicing, client management and analysing your clients' progress.

Work experience

The fitness industry is a popular area of employment so it's advisable to get as much relevant work or volunteer experience as possible.

As well as giving you a deeper knowledge and understanding of the industry, work experience also provides great networking opportunities with other fitness professionals and potential clients.

It’s possible to start a training course or apprenticeship to become a personal trainer with no prior relevant experience, but many employers and prospective clients will view you more favourably if you have acquired some first.


Personal trainers may operate in a self-employed capacity, on a freelance basis, or they may be employed in a gym-based role or a combination of both.

A variety of employers recruit personal trainers, including:

  • leisure centres
  • gyms and personal training studios
  • health clubs
  • hotels, resorts or spas
  • cruise lines
  • health care charities
  • the armed forces
  • large organisations providing employees with workplace fitness facilities.

Look for vacancies at:

Professional development

The main route for progression in personal training is through either diversification or specialisation. As well as exercise referrals, there are a range of additional skills and options you can qualify in to offer to your clients. These include yoga, Pilates, nutrition, kettlebells, group-based training, pre-and post-natal exercise and circuit training.

Undertaking a qualification or CPD course that is recognised by CIMSPA is always recommended for your professional development. You can find out about industry-recognised training and continuous professional development opportunities via contacting CIMSPA who will provide advice and guidance for their existing and aspiring members.

More careers advice and details about training courses is available from organisations such as:

Career prospects

It's possible to start your own personal training business as soon as you've qualified, but many trainers choose to work for an employer first and then branch out once they've gained a good client base.

The fitness sector is well supported by governing organisations such as UK Active, which have the aim of improving physical activity provision across the UK. For this reason, the sector is ever-expanding and breaking new ground making it an exciting place to be.

The 2023 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report states that while there are slightly fewer gyms in 2023 than there were in 2022, there are more gym members and a higher average gym membership fee. Reassuring signs of growth in the sector for anyone considering a career as a personal trainer.

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