These days more people than ever are looking to make a complete career change and want to start working within the fitness industry. Whilst to some of us this might sound like a distant daydream should you want to make this a reality I’ve teamed up with Discovery Learning to highlight the difference between becoming a Gym Instructor or a Personal trainer.

The difference between a Gym Instructor and a Personal Trainer

Starting a new career or going for a new qualification, in any sort of industry, will always have you question everything – from future job prospects to the actual job descriptions and how you can develop professionally. These are all valid questions and normal for everyone to question everything to ensure they are making the right decision before making that commitment.

When it comes to the fitness industry, qualifications can sometimes be confusing and I want to take a moment to highlight a frequently asked question:

“So what exactly do gym instructors do in comparison to personal trainers?”

Although both these titles are for fitness professionals, there are a couple of differences between the services a Gym Instructor offers and what a Personal Trainer offers.

Let’s take a look in more detail: 

What does a Gym Instructor do?

A Gym Instructor is usually employed by the gym and is mainly there to ensure that members are using the equipment correctly and safely.

Amongst the most important responsibility they have is to check that gym members are using the correct technique when performing any exercises. If the wrong technique is used, injuries can occur easily so it is best to have an expert there to help people avoid this and get the best out of their workout.

A gym instructor will be based almost exclusively at the gym and is there to offer assistance to everyone. For example by volunteering to spot gym members who are performing slightly more difficult exercises such as lifting heavier weights or teaching new members how to use the equipment correctly. 

Other jobs would include tidying up equipment, signing up new members, offering gym inductions, and tours of the gym facilities.

For those that are not quite sure whether personal training is the right career path, by starting with the Gym Instructor qualification can give them a rough idea of what it’s like to work in the fitness industry.

What does a Personal Trainer do?

Much like a Gym Instructor, a Personal Trainer is there to help their clients, however, they have a more personal approach, and this is often on a one to one basis. 

Their primary focus for a Personal Trainer is to help their client reaching their bespoke fitness goals. The starting point is a consultation to discuss goals, existing levels of fitness, and/or any injuries, which will then assist the Personal Trainer in building a personalized plan of action.

For example, the client wants to lose x amount of weight, the Personal Trainer will work on developing a workout and diet plan that will turn that into a reality.

Unlike gym instructors, a Personal Trainer typically operates wherever and whenever is most suitable for clients. Training sessions are primarily based at the gym, however, some Personal Trainers will offer more flexibility such as park based workouts, or home gyms. 

Because a Personal Trainer will primarily focus on working on a one-to-one basis, they are also there to provide motivation and encouragement to ensure the client has success in achieving their goals. Developing this long-standing relationship is one of the key differences between that of a Personal Trainer and a gym instructor. While the gym instructor will help you, their services are utilized on a more ad hoc basis and not focused on you achieving your personal goals. 

How about qualifications? 

Gym Instructor is the first big step towards becoming a Personal Trainer and they should have the following qualifications:

  • Level 2 Certificate in Fitness Instructing – Gym.
  • Level 2 Diploma in Health, Fitness, and Exercise Instruction
  • Level 2 Diploma in Instructing Exercise and Fitness

With regards to Personal Trainers, they should have the following qualifications:

  • Level 2 Certificate in Fitness Instructing – Gym
  • Level 2 Diploma in Health, Fitness, and Exercise Instruction
  • Level 2 Diploma in Instructing Exercise and Fitness
  • Level 3 Diploma in Fitness Instructing and Personal Training
  • Level 3 Diploma in Personal Training


I hope you’ve found this helpful? What would your dream job be?