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More than a Gym


It is official: We are becoming more and more concerned with our health. Obesity is on the rise but with this comes a boom in fitness careers and an increase in leisure facilities. Almost 40 per cent of people exercise regularly and 62 per cent watch what they eat.


According to a recent study carried out by the UK-based Lifetime Fitness, a leading training company in the health and fitness sector, over a quarter of people said they would be interested in a career in health and fitness.


Ben Jones, Senior Tutor at Lifetime believes that people are aware of health and fitness more than ever before, due to media coverage in newspapers and magazines. The leisure industry is constantly growing – and where there is a demand for action, there is a need for supply.


The good thing about working in the fitness sector is that it can only have a positive impact on people. Those who exercise do so for a number of reasons and not only will it improve health, it is great fun too.”


In the UK, the most common way to launch a career in fitness is to complete a course with a leisure training provider that is recognised by Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs). The organisation was set up to help safeguard and to promote the health and interests of people who are using the services of exercise and fitness instructors, teachers and trainers.


The Register uses a process of self-regulation that recognises industry-based qualifications, practical competency, and requires fitness professionals to work within a Code of Ethical Practice. Anybody launching a career in health and fitness should become a member of REPs if they want to have credibility, and those with a REPs recognised qualification on their CV will certainly find it easier to find potential clients and keep them.


Ben advises that with all roles in the fitness industry, people not only need a reputable qualification but they need to encompass certain qualities too - they should be friendly, easy going, patient and definitely a people person. They need to have good customer service, great communication skills and be reliable and punctual.


 Many people prefer to combine a number of different jobs in this sector. Studio instructing is also popular for those with the confidence to stand up in front of a group, whilst personal training can be glamorous and involves one-on-one instructing, so it’s less intimidating.


Thinking of entering a career in the fitness industry? Read on for a breakdown of the different job roles and opportunities…



Typical salary: Starting salary ranges between £10,000 and £14,000.


Hours: Instructors usually work 40 hours a week or part time to suit the club’s requirements. It is typically shift work such as 7am-3pm, 11am-7pm or 12am-8pm, 2pm-10pm or 3pm-11pm.


What’s involved: The majority of fitness instructors’ time will be spent on the gym floor talking to club members. They will be responsible for performing health screening and initial induction sessions for members, writing exercise programmes and updating these with regular appointments. In addition, they will often have the opportunity to learn to teach some group exercise classes and, in some clubs, teach circuits and indoor cycling.


Benefits: Instructors will benefit from free training courses for continued professional development (CPD) as well as free use of the club’s facilities and the opportunity to personal train or teach group exercise classes. In particular, instructors will meet lots of people from a variety of backgrounds and help members achieve their fitness goals.


Entry requirements: A Level 2 (NVQ equivalent) gym instruction qualification is required from a fitness instructor. Lifetime offers a Fitness Instructor programme which is recognised by REPs.

Career development opportunities: There are a wide range of routes to take within a health club. In particular, instructors can train to become an Advanced Fitness Instructor or Personal Trainer but can also take on more responsibility from an operational side such as Duty Manager, Fitness Manager or Operations Manager.



Typical salary: Salary varies on whether the personal trainer is self-employed or not. Freelance personal trainers can earn £25 to £50 per hour and can be more if working in exclusive clubs in London. Those employed by the club earn less - usually 50% of the hourly rate - dependent on the area and experience, but on the plus side, they all have a more secure salary and a ready-made client base.


Hours: Many personal trainers also work as fitness instructors, so they usually work in shifts. Hours do vary, but those that are freelance can work anytime to suit them and their client. Generally, personal training sessions take place in the mornings, lunchtimes and evenings (outside the clients’ working hours).


What’s involved: Personal training usually takes place in the gym but nowadays it can also be held at the client’s house or in the outdoors or studio. Typically, sessions are done on a one-on-one basis, so it is less intimidating for the client, but it can sometimes be done in small groups.


Benefits: There are a wide range of benefits including attractive income, variety, and a great deal of job satisfaction. Personal trainers are able to build solid client relationships, see them develop and achieve their goals, and receive positive feedback in the process.


Entry Requirements: Requirements are much higher for personal trainers than fitness instructors due to the level of advice they can give. A Level 3 qualification is necessary and Lifetime’s Diploma in Personal Training provides all the skills required to be a personal trainer. Freelancers also need sound business skills including marketing and accounting.


Career development opportunities: Personal trainers can specialise in nutrition with the Nutrition and Weight Management Award, which involves building exercise programmes, monitoring results and developing nutrition plans. They can also take a Level 3 in Referred Populations, so they can specialise in specific groups such as children, ante and post natal or working with older adults.



Typical salary: Hourly rates range from £18 to £25 but it can be higher for some locations and specialist disciplines such as yoga and Pilates. This can also increase with an established reputation.

Hours: Most studio instructors are freelance and fill a variety of clubs’ class timetables. Typically, class time slots are available in the early mornings, lunchtimes and early evenings.


What’s involved: Depending on experience, instructors can choose the type of class they want to teach, whether it is aerobics, yoga, Pilates or circuits. Freelancers can have as many classes as they can fit in and some also work as fitness instructors.


Studio instructing is ideal for those who are active and like teaching a variety of classes – in most you are required to take part, although occasionally instruction or observation will be more important. 


Benefits: Instructors usually benefit from free use of club facilities. In addition, they can work when you want, receive a good rate of pay as well as meet new people, develop skills and most certainly get a buzz from working in a group environment.


Entry Requirements: In addition to a level 2 instructing qualification, studio instructors should have experience in a class environment. Lifetime offers an Exercise to Music Certification.

Career development opportunities: As well as combining their role with fitness instructing, they can also specialise in step classes and aqua aerobics which can also be studied for at Lifetime.



Typical salary: Starting salary ranges from £14,000 to £25,000 but it can increase up to £40,000 depending on the size and facilities of the club.


Hours: Fitness managers usually do shift work including early mornings, late afternoons and weekends. Some also choose to work as fitness consultants.


What’s involved: Managing the fitness aspects of the centre is the main element of the job. Tasks usually include dealing with customers and members, maintaining the club and its equipment, and supervising and training staff.


Benefits: Managers can take advantage of free use of facilities but more importantly they can enjoy a secure job with plenty of career prospects. Other benefits include meeting new people, educating and mentoring staff and overseeing activities across the fitness centre.


Entry Requirements: Most fitness managers start working as fitness instructors and then work their way up. Practical experience and a qualification in fitness instructing and managing are recommended. A degree or HND in a relevant subject is also desirable but not necessary.


Career development opportunities: Promotion is very common within the fitness industry and can happen quite quickly, especially if you are prepared to move to a new location. Internal promotion is likely with fitness managers progressing to deputy manager, manager, operations manager, senior leisure officer or centre manager. Some move onto group or regional manger depending on the size of the club.



Typical salary: Average salary is usually around £20,000 to £25,000.


Hours: Assessors typically work 9am–5pm but they may also need to work outside those hours depending on the company they work for.


What’s involved: There is plenty of variety on a daily basis including observing practical work, setting and reviewing work, coordinating exams, and some tutoring too. Assessors are required to travel; visiting candidates at one site all day or seeing a number of small groups at different sites.


Benefits: This role is great for those who want autonomy – assessors have targets to reach and it’s up to them how they do it. There is no weekend or shift work and not only do assessors have higher secure salaries than some leisure jobs, there are tremendous opportunities for career development. 


Entry Requirements: A level 3 in fitness instructing is required as well as three to five years experience of working in the industry. Most assessors have previously worked in a gym environment whether fitness instructing or centre management. They need to have completed or be working towards an assessor award which Lifetime helps to get them through.


Career development opportunities: Assessors can progress to regional managers which involve overseeing a number of assessors. They can also work as an internal verifier to examine whether assessors are doing their job right or become an external verifier on an examining board.



Typical salary: Starting salary ranges between £23,000 and £27,000.


Hours: Hours vary depending on the workload of the tutor and when courses are booked in. When teaching it is usually 8.30am-5.30pm plus weekends.


What’s involved: The role of a tutor varies, from teaching in a classroom environment to training and observing students in a gym environment. In addition, they provide phone/email support, arrange tutorials, and undertake administrative tasks such as marking case studies.


Benefits: A job as a tutor can be extremely rewarding. They are able to share their knowledge and experience and, as a result, see students develop and achieve new skills. Teaching is also very beneficial for those who are career focused and want to help others get work. 


Entry Requirements: Tutors need to have completed or be working towards a teacher training certificate. In addition, they need a Level 3 ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) qualification, and preferably a degree. Alternatively, some can progress through the assessor route and again, work towards an assessor award which is usually done in-house.


Career development opportunities: Most tutors often move into more responsible roles depending on the structure of the company - there are opportunities to progress to senior tutor, tutor manager and training director. Some even set up their own training consultancy or teach at schools and colleges, while others prefer working as a personal trainer alongside tutoring.


Useful Links:

Visit www.lifetimehf.co.uk to browse the range of courses on offer.


See www.exerciseregister.org for details of approved training providers


See www.skillsactive.com for information on training within the leisure sector.


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