Personal Trainer Levels Explained (UK)

Level 1 fitness instructor course

When you first look into getting qualified as a personal trainer, understanding the various personal trainer levels can be a challenge. 

That’s exactly why we have put this article together breaking down the various levels of personal trainer courses, explaining what qualifications you need to become a PT, and answering important questions such as ‘what is the highest level of personal trainer certification?’.

We’ve covered:

If you think that you’re ready to pursue a career as a personal trainer, why not check out OriGym’s Personal Training Diploma or enquire about our Level 3 personal trainer course here.

Alternatively, you can download a free course prospectus for more information.

Why are Personal Training Levels Important?

personal trainer levels uk

Before we go on to discuss the various personal training levels that exist in the UK, we thought that it would be best to start by explaining why personal trainer levels exist and why they are important. 

In England, all personal trainer qualification levels are set by Ofqual. Ofqual is the Government body responsible for setting the frameworks for vocational course levels and for ensuring that all awarding bodies adhere to those frameworks.

Ofqual levels and regulation exist so that a course, for example, a Level 2 Fitness Instructor course, will provide you with the same level of knowledge and training regardless of your course provider, whether you study as part of a PT apprenticeship, or at a local college. 

Course levels are important because they provide students and employers with a clear indication of what a particular qualification involves and what job or career it qualifies the individual to do. 

Personal trainer levels ensure consistency across the industry so that when an employer advertises a personal trainer job description, they can be sure that all candidates with a Level 3 personal training certificate have the necessary knowledge to fulfil all of the roles and responsibilities of a personal trainer.

Employers will almost always specify a personal training level within a job advert, just look at this example from indeed:

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In order for a personal trainer course to have Ofqual regulation, the course provider is required to pay a registration fee to Ofqual or to an Ofqual approved awarding body. For that reason, free or very cheap personal trainer courses do not have a level attached to them, and therefore do not qualify you to work as a personal trainer.

These courses are great if you know nothing about personal training and want to gain a little health and fitness knowledge, but that's about all they’re good for. Without a personal trainer level attached to it, a course will not get you any closer to becoming a certified PT.

You can read more about free personal trainer courses here!


Get Qualified as a Personal Trainer!

Enquire about OriGym's Personal Training Diploma here

What Level Qualification Do You Need to Become a PT?

personal trainer qualification levels

Now that we’ve established why personal trainer qualification levels are important, you probably want to know what level of qualification you need to have to work as a personal trainer. We have discussed the full process of becoming a personal trainer in this guide, but for now, let's stick to discussing qualification levels.

As you probably noticed in the job advert above, completing a Level 3 personal trainer qualification is essential if you want to land a job as a personal trainer.

There is no way around it, you will not be able to get a job as a PT without at least having a Level 3 qualification. Even if you plan on becoming a self-employed personal trainer or opening your own gym, you will still need a Level 3 certification as you will not be able to get personal trainer insurance without it.

Read here to find out what personal trainer insurance you need and why it is absolutely essential that you get insured!

What job adverts rarely specify is that as well as your Level 3, you technically need a Level 2 Gym Instructor Certificate (sometimes referred to as a Level 2 Personal Trainer qualification), too.

This is because in order to get onto a Level 3 Personal Trainer course, you must have already completed a Level 2 fitness instructing qualification.

For context, a Level 2 Personal Training certificate is equivalent to a GCSE grade A*-C (or 4-9 on the new scale) and a Level 3 certificate is equivalent to an A-Level. 

Seeing as you need both Level 2 & 3, many aspiring personal trainers choose to complete an Ofqual regulated Personal Training Diploma as this package includes Level 2 & 3 qualifications and is often cheaper than buying both courses separately!

Whilst a Level 3 course is the minimum level of qualification required to work as a personal trainer, there are tons of further qualifications that you can pursue. 

Do Level 1 PT Courses Exist?

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If you’ve ever asked anybody in the fitness industry whether Level 1 Personal Trainer courses exist, you might have had some mixed answers. This is because whilst there is such a thing as a Level 1 Fitness and Physical Activity course, the qualification is essentially useless, so many people don’t even know that it exists. 

Often referred to as a Level 1 Personal Training course, a Level 1 qualification briefly covers the principles of exercise and fitness. This course also offers an introduction to working as a fitness instructor and other jobs in sport, and teaches students the basic principles of running an exercise session safely and effectively.

If you’ve ever researched Level 1 Personal Trainer courses, you might have noticed that the word ‘basic’ is frequently used to describe the learning outcomes and course content. That’s because the Level 1 courses are exactly that! They only cover the absolute bare minimum level of detail.

The only real purpose of a Level 1 course is to act as an almost ‘prerequisite’ for further qualifications, introducing individuals to the topics and modules that will be covered on a Level 2 Fitness Instructor course.

However, given the fact that there are no entry requirements for a Level 2 course (outside of being at least 16 years old), there is absolutely no need to complete a Level 1 course as a prerequisite, as you could very easily become a fitness instructor in the UK with just a Level 2 qualification.

The truth is that the majority of people who ask about or search for Level 1 Personal Training courses are actually looking for Level 3 courses - they just don’t know it!

Level 2 Personal Trainer Courses Explained

level 3 certificate in fitness instructing

A Level 2 Fitness Instructor, Gym Instructor, or Personal Trainer course, whatever you choose to call it, this Level 2 qualification is the essential first step towards a career in the fitness industry.

If you're here because you want to know whether you can do Level 3 personal training without Level 2, then the answer to that is a firm no.

Covering modules on anatomy and physiology, the principles of exercise, and how to motivate individuals, the Level 2 course fully prepares you for the role of a gym instructor.

On completion of OriGym’s REPs and CIMSPA endorsed Level 2 qualification, you will gain:

  • Level 2 Certificate in Fitness Instruction
  • 20 REPS points and entry to REPS Level 2 Status
  • 10 CIMSPA points

Despite sometimes being referred to as a ‘Level 2 Personal Training course’, it’s important to note that a Level 2 course does not qualify you to work as a personal trainer.

Whilst fitness instructors are qualified to perform tasks such as carrying out gym inductions, offering members general health and fitness advice, and ensuring that the gym floor is well-maintained, there are a number of personal trainer specific tasks that require a Level 3 qualification - but more on that in the next section!

Read this recent article to learn about what Level 2 Fitness Instructors can do!

Level 1 fitness instructor course

A Level 2 Gym Instructor course can take anywhere from 2 weeks to a number of months to complete, it really depends on a combination of factors. Some of those contributing factors include the course provider you choose, your preferred study method, and how much time you have to commit to the course.

If you study a full-time course with a private training provider such as OriGym, then you will be able to complete your full Level 2 Personal Trainer certification in just 2 weeks.

If you choose to complete a part-time fitness instructor course with a private training provider, there is a little more flexibility around how long it takes you to get qualified. On average, our students take approximately 6 weeks to complete the part-time Level 2 course.

Some students do speed up this process by putting extra study hours in, whilst others balance their studies around work and other commitments, and as a result, they take a little longer to get through the course content.

If you are looking to fit your studies into your already busy life, part-time and online gym instructing courses are brilliant because they allow for a lot of flexibility and are completely self-paced.

Why not check out these recommended articles:


Get Qualified as a Personal Trainer!

Enquire about OriGym's Personal Training Diploma here

What is a Level 3 Personal Trainer Course?

Level 3 fitness instructor course

As we mentioned when we answered ‘what level qualification do you need to become a personal trainer?’, a Level 3 Personal Training course is the minimum personal trainer qualification level required to become a certified PT. 

You might have heard of a Level 3 Fitness Instructor course, but this qualification no longer exists. Essentially, the Level 3 Fitness Instructing qualification is useless because as you already know, you only need a Level 2 qualification to become a fitness instructor.

Level 3 courses are designed to prepare individuals for a career in personal training. The course covers anatomy and physiology in further detail, as well as nutritional principles, and the business of personal training.

After completing a Level 3 qualification, you will have all of the necessary knowledge and training required to plan and deliver effective personal training programmes. 

Compared to a Level 2 certification, Level 3 courses open up a whole new career path, enhancing employability prospects and increasing earning potential. Want to know more about how much money you can make in this career? Read this OriGym guide to find out how much personal trainers earn

The majority of private training providers offer 3 study methods for PT courses, those are:

Level 2 personal trainer course

The study method that you choose will not only affect how you study, but it will also determine how long it takes you to get qualified and the price of your course.

Full-time Level 3 courses typically involve two weeks of face-to-face teaching split between a classroom and a gym environment. At the end of the two weeks, you will be required to complete a practical assessment. Should you pass that assessment, you’ll have your Level 3 boxed off in just two weeks.

On the other hand, online courses are completely self-paced and so there’s no set time frame for how long it takes, or how often you have to study. You can study as little or as often as you like, in any location, and at any time. The only time your physical attendance will be required will be to complete your final practical assessment. 

Part-time or ‘blended learning’ courses are a middle ground, involving a combination of online study and face-to-face learning during practical workshops. Again, your physical attendance is also required for a practical workshop, but provided you pass first time (as a lot of people do) this will only be a one-time occasion. 

As long as a Level 3 course is regulated, it really doesn’t matter which study method you choose. Whether you study online, part-time, or full-time, the outcome is the same and so the choice completely depends on your preferences and how you learn best. 

Remember you do need to do the Level 2 qualification first, so account for that when thinking about how long it takes you to become a fully qualified personal trainer

What is A Personal Training Diploma?

what is the highest level of personal trainer certification

For anybody who doesn’t have either their Level 2 or Level 3 personal training qualifications, completing an Ofqual regulated Personal Training Diploma is a brilliant option.

A personal trainer diploma combines the Level 2 Gym Instructing and Level 3 PT qualifications into one course.

In terms of course content, assessments and exams, and the qualification outcome, there is absolutely no difference between completing a PT diploma and doing each course separately.

Diplomas are a really popular way to get qualified as the majority of course providers offer personal trainer course packages at a discounted rate, so it is almost always cheaper to buy a personal training diploma than it is to buy the Level 2 and Level 3 PT courses individually. 

If you’re certain that you want to become a personal trainer, then you need to complete your Level 2 & 3, there’s just no way around it. With that in mind, it's hard to see why anybody would pay more for a Level 2 course only to have to buy a Level 3 course separately before they can work as a PT.

If you choose this route of qualifying as a personal trainer, you will start by studying for your Level 2 personal training course. Once you have passed your Level 2 assessment, you can then move straight onto working on your Level 3 personal trainer qualification.

Are you interested in getting qualified as a personal trainer in just 4 weeks? If so, enquire about OriGym’s full-time personal training diploma here.

What is The Highest Level of Personal Trainer Certification?

personal training levels uk

By now, you should know that a Level 3 Personal Training course is the qualification required to become a PT. What we haven’t covered yet, is that there are actually qualification levels beyond Level 3.

Currently, Level 4 is the highest level of qualification that is relevant for a personal trainer to pursue. According to this UK Government article, a Level 4 qualification is the equivalent of a Certificate of Higher Education or a Higher National Certificate awarded by a degree-awarding body. 

Level 4 personal training courses allow you to specialise in a niche area of the health and fitness industry, enabling you to offer further services than a standard Level 3 personal trainer.

Although Level 5 vocational courses do exist for plenty of other subjects, and despite numerous people searching for Level 5 personal trainer courses every month, there are currently no Level 5 qualifications in personal training. 

What Are Level 4 Personal Trainer Courses?

personal training levels uk graphic

Often marketed as ‘Master Personal Training courses’ or as part of a ‘Platinum Personal Trainer Diploma Package’, Level 4 personal trainer courses are specialised qualifications that provide a detailed insight into one particular area of personal training. 

Whilst there is no such thing as a ‘Level 4 Personal Trainer course’, as all Level 4 courses are more specific than just personal training, there are plenty of advanced Level 4 qualifications that personal trainers can complete as part of their professional development.

Here at OriGym, we offer the following Level 4 qualifications: 

Just some of the benefits of pursuing a Level 4 qualification include increased earnings, a widened target market, a competitive edge over other PTs, and being able to include your specialisation as part of your personal trainer marketing strategy

Level 4 fitness instructor course

Say you choose to complete OriGym’s Level 4 Nutrition for Sport course and become a nutrition coach, having this qualification will allow you to write and implement nutrition plans that are tailored to a client’s individual needs and exercise goals.

You would also be able to recommend supplements, and work closely with clients to amend their training programme and nutrition plan in order to maximise their progress. 

Meanwhile, Level 3 PTs can only advise or suggest how a client can change their eating habits to best compliment their training programme. 

This means that having a Level 4 Personal Trainer qualification in Nutrition allows you to offer more services, and bump up your prices seeing as you can now market yourself as an expert in this area of the industry.

Confused about whether PTs can write meal plans? We’ve answered ‘can personal trainers can give nutritional advice?’ in this blog post!

When it comes to comparing Level 4 courses, it's important to know that regardless of whether a course is marketed as a ‘master personal trainer qualification’, ‘platinum PT course’, or as part of an ‘elite personal training package’, a Level 4 course is just that, a Level 4 course.

Any extravagant description that you might see is purely a marketing tool designed to make you want to choose one course over another. In reality, Level 4 is the highest of personal training levels in the UK and so any of these descriptions don’t really mean anything. 

This is something that we have discussed more in this OriGym guide to becoming a Master Personal Trainer!


Get Qualified as a Personal Trainer!

Enquire about OriGym's Personal Training Diploma here

Before You Go!

We hope that our guide has helped you to better understand the various personal trainer qualification levels that exist in the UK.

Now that you know what you need to do to get qualified, why not go ahead and enquire about our Ofqual regulated online personal training course here or check out our range of Level 4 Personal Training course packages.

For information on all of the courses that you can study with us here at OriGym, don’t forget to grab your FREE course prospectus!

Written by Abbie Watkins

Fitness Content Executive, OriGym

Join Abbie on Facebook at the OriGym Facebook Group

Holding an MA Marketing Communications and Branding as well as a BSc Psychology from the University of Liverpool, Abbie’s experience encompasses the retail, hospitality and fitness industries. Since joining OriGym, she has become a qualified Personal Trainer and gone on to complete a specialist qualification in advanced Sports Nutrition. Abbie’s main focuses cover staying up to speed with YouTube fitness influencers, identifying successful and innovative content formats. She has contributed to various publications, including the Daily Express. Beyond OriGym, she describes herself as a ‘work-hard, play-hard’ type going on scenic runs and upbeat exercise classes, and often found on the front row of a Saturday morning spin class. 

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