Key Differences Between Personal Training Certificates and Diplomas

What is the Difference Between a Certificate and a Diploma in Personal Training

Many newcomers are unaware of the difference between a certificate and diploma in the personal training industry, with some believing the two phrases to be interchangeable.

However, with this article, we’ll break down the differences between the two to help you determine which option will best suit your future career prospects. We’ll explore:

Whether you complete a personal training certificate or diploma, the best way to advance in the industry is with Level 4 Fitness Courses such as our Sports Nutrition Course. By enrolling on this course, you can set yourself apart from others in the industry by advertising yourself as both a personal trainer & nutritionist.

Alternatively, download our course prospectus for further information!

What Is A Level 3 Personal Training Certificate?

While you may be excited to enrol on any kind of fitness course, it's important to first understand these courses and why one may be better for you.

Certificates are programmes that focus on one singular area of study or speciality. With a Level 3 certificate in personal training, your focus will be on becoming a personal trainer.

However, applicants must have already achieved a Level 2 Fitness Instructor qualification before completing a Level 3 Personal Training qualification.

This is the crucial difference between a certificate and diploma in personal training - the diploma combines both the Level 2 & 3 qualifications, whereas the certificate only awards the Level 3 in personal training.

In short, a Level 3 Personal Training Certificate seeks to create employment opportunities and increase earning potential as a personal trainer.

The Level 3 certificate will qualify you to work within the health and fitness sector as a personal trainer. This job role will see you train clients at gyms and fitness centres, providing them with a tailored workout program and dietary advice to ensure they reach their goals.

The Level 3 in personal training is an absolute necessity when seeking employment as a PT. 

While it isn’t technically illegal to provide a personal training service without a Level 3 certification, you will be unable to find contracted employment in gyms and fitness centres without one. 

Furthermore, even if you opt to work on a freelance capacity without a PT certification, you won’t be able to obtain insurance and run the risk of serious consequences, including jail time.


Stand Out From The Crowd As A PT!

Market yourself as both a personal trainer & nutritionist with our Level 4 Sports Nutrition Course.

What Is A Personal Training Diploma?

As previously discussed, the main difference between certificates and diplomas in the personal training industry is that, while you must hold a Level 2 Gym Instructor qualification before enrolling onto a Level 3 certificate, there are no prerequisites for the diploma.

Diploma programmes will combine both Level 2 and 3 qualifications, ensuring that students can immediately enter the fitness industry following their graduation. 

For this reason, diploma programmes are typically lengthier than most certificates. Those who are interested in studying will complete both qualifications (Level 2 Fitness Instructor & Level 3 Personal Training) in succession.

Upon completing this course you will have all the necessary skills and knowledge required to immediately launch a successful career within the health and fitness sector.

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If you’d like to expand your knowledge on the topic of personal training qualifications, we’d recommend reading the following OriGym articles: 

Key Differences Between a Certificate and a Diploma in Personal Training

With all of this in mind, let’s look at the finer details that clearly highlight the differences between a certificate and a diploma in personal training.

#1 - What Is The Difference In The Modules Covered? 

Let’s start our discussion of the differences between the certificate and diploma in personal training courses by comparing the modules covered on each qualification.

Ofqual-regulated Level 3 Personal Training certificates have a pre-set curriculum that all providers must adhere to. 

For this reason, all industry-recognised qualifications (including our own) will cover the following topics: 

  • Anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology for exercise and health
  • Principles of health and wellbeing for exercise, fitness, and health
  • Applying nutritional principles to personal training
  • Programming Personal Training Sessions
  • Delivering exercise programmes for Personal Training sessions
  • Learning The Business

This regulation is in place to ensure that all students have a strong foundation of knowledge and skills required to provide a safe and beneficial experience for their clients.

Similar regulations are also implemented across Level 2 Gym instructor courses, to ensure that applicants can successfully run safe and effective fitness classes for clients. 

Therefore, since the diploma is made up of Level 2 and Level 3 courses, it covers all modules highlighted above, as well as those from Level 2, which are:

  • Motivating Groups and Individuals
  • Tailoring Training Sessions
  • Human Anatomy and Physiology
  • Principles of Exercise and Fitness
  • Health, Safety and Welfare
  • Learning the Business

Therefore, we can conclude this section by stating there are more modules covered on the personal training diploma course.

However, those who are only taking the Level 3 certificate will still need to complete these modules as part of their Level 2. 

#2 - Course Completion Time Differences Between a Diploma and a Certificate

There are multiple variables which can influence the amount of time it takes to complete your qualification.

For example, one of the key differences between certificate and diploma in personal training is that the diploma takes more time to complete. 

This is because it has combined two qualifications (Level 2 Fitness Instructor and Level 3 Personal Training), meaning that it requires twice the time.

However, please keep in mind that many providers will have a unique approach to training, meaning that the time it takes to complete could vary greatly depending on where you choose to study

For example, at OriGym we provide students with 3 study options, each of which influences the time in which our students finish the course. This can be seen in the average times of our personal training certificate below: 

  • Full-Time Students: Takes an average of 2 weeks to complete - attend in person classes Monday-Friday at OriGym’s training centres. 
  • Blended Learning Students: Takes an average of 6 weeks to complete - split your free time between online learning and in-person workshops at 1 of OriGym’s 12 training centres.
  • Online Learning Students: On average this course takes 12 weeks to complete - study independently using OriGym’s state-of-the-art e-learning platform, with one in-person examination. 

In contrast to this, the OriGym students on the personal training diploma will take:

  • Full Time: Takes an average of 4 Weeks to complete, attend in-person classes Monday-Friday in OriGym’s training centres.
  • Blended Learning: This takes an average of 12 weeks to complete, combining online learning with in-person workshops. 
  • Online Learning: Will take an average of 18 weeks to complete, done entirely through our online e-learning platform.


Stand Out From The Crowd As A PT!

Market yourself as both a personal trainer & nutritionist with our Level 4 Sports Nutrition Course.

Keep in mind that all of the times given here are averages, and only applicable to OriGym students. Other providers may require you to study for lengthier periods or may provide a faster qualification process, there is simply no one blanket time required to qualify. 

With OriGym, there is no set time limit on the online learning option, meaning that you can take as long as you wish.

Furthermore, we operate an unlimited resit policy, meaning that, even if you do initially fail and fall outside of the given times above, you can still try again free of charge.

Other course providers may not offer this same policy, so be sure to read each regulation diligently before deciding on who to study with. 

#3 - The Difference Between the Price of a Personal Training Certificate and Diploma

Those who are interested in entering the industry professionally may question how much it costs to become a personal trainer with these qualifications. 

The answer isn’t as easy to deliver as you may expect, due to the fact that providers will charge different rates for both certificate and diploma qualifications. 

This can be seen in the graphic provided below, comparing the diploma prices of 8 major competitors in the fitness industry: 

Using our data, we determined that the average price for a personal training diploma is £1963.50.

In contrast to this, Level 3 personal training certificates will typically be cheaper, due to the fact that it's a shorter course with only one qualification attached to it. 

Through our research, we found that the average price of a PT certificate was £1,753.88.

Although it’s tempting to opt for the certificate since it’s cheaper, you can’t actually pay this price without first getting your Level 2 Gym Instructor qualification. 

Therefore, you could end up paying more when opting to pay for each course separately over the personal training diploma.

Level 2 qualifications average out at £729 across the industry, meaning that you could be paying a total of £2,482 if you choose to pay for each course separately.

This figure was provided by adding together the price of the Level 2 Fitness instructor (£729) course and Level 3 Personal Training (£1,753) courses.

Using the averages we calculated, a diploma will cost £1963.50, whereas the two qualifications individually will cost £2482.

Therefore, from a financial perspective, it may be better to opt for the personal training diploma. Not only will this save you money in the long run, but you’re immediately equipped to start working as a PT.

#4 - Are There Any Teaching Differences Between Personal Training Diplomas and Certificates?

As we’ve mentioned throughout this article, for the Level 3 section of their qualification, both diplomas and certificate students will learn from the same curriculum. 

Most course providers will offer students multiple ways to study, across both the certificate and diploma. These are:

  • Full-time
  • Part-time
  • Online

Be sure to read the provider's website diligently in order to determine what method of study would be best for you and your existing schedule. 

In terms of teaching, the only difference between certificate and diploma personal training courses is that since the diploma also covers the Level 2 Gym Instructor curriculum, the diploma takes longer to complete and involves more assessments. 

For reference, here is a complete breakdown of all the assessments that you will be required to pass in order to obtain your diploma or certificate with OriGym.

Level 2 Gym Instructor Qualification (Only Applicable to Diploma Students)

  • Multiple choice Open book online exam on anatomy and physiology - 70% pass required
  • Multiple choice Open book online paper on principles of exercise and health - 70% pass required
  • Practical Assessment on delivering a gym-based induction - Pass required

Online & Part-Time Level 3 Assessments:

  • Multiple choice open book online exam on anatomy and physiologyPass required
  • Multiple choice open book online exam on the application of nutritionPass required
  • Practical assessment on delivering a customised personal training programme - Pass required
  • Coursework on programming with clients, smart goals, client screening and progressive overview - Pass Required

Full-Time Level 3 Assessments: 

  • Multiple choice exam on anatomy and physiology – 70% pass mark required
  • Multiple choice exam on the application of nutrition – 70% pass mark required
  • Practical assessment on delivering a customised personal training programme - Pass required
  • Coursework on programming with clients, smart goals, client screening and progressive overview - Pass Required

Pass rates for online examinations are typically set by the providers, whereas in-person examinations are marked identically across the industry to reflect Ofqual regulations and standards. 

Whilst the teaching style does not change, the approach to marking can be influenced by the way you choose to study.

To summarise, the primary difference between a diploma and a certificate is that the diploma includes both the qualifications you need to be a personal trainer (Level 2 and Level 3), whereas a certificate just offers the Level 3 certification. 

This makes the diploma an ideal choice for those just beginning their journey, with the certificate being more valuable to those who’ve already taken that first step with Level 2.

This can have an impact on aspects such as price and the time it takes to complete the course, but for the most part the certificate and diploma’s approach to qualifying students as personal trainers will be identical. 


Stand Out From The Crowd As A PT!

Market yourself as both a personal trainer & nutritionist with our Level 4 Sports Nutrition Course.

Will a Diploma or Certificate Provide Better Employment Opportunities?

Some readers may wonder whether their choice in qualifications could affect their future career prospects, which is why it’s important to keep in mind that employers will only hire personal trainers who hold a Level 3 Certification or equivalent.

This means that both diplomas and certificates will provide equal employment opportunities, with neither one or the other being viewed as the superior option. 

This is due to the fact that employers will only be interested in the end result, and the fact you actually hold the qualification itself. Very few will actually care about which method you chose to study, as it will have no bearing on your overall performance.

Therefore, when it comes to finding employment most job roles will prioritise candidates who have a Level 3 Personal training qualification, which you’ll have obtained through either a diploma or certificate (following the completion of a Level 2 course).

An example of a job application asking for a Level 3 personal trainer qualification can be found below: 

Therefore, we can answer this question by stating that both a personal training certificate and diploma hold equal weight within the professional physical fitness industry. 

They are each recognised as providing the holder with a Level 3 Personal Training qualification and are therefore just as beneficial as each other for ensuring you become employed post-graduation.

Before You Go! 

As we’ve explored, the primary difference between the two is that the diploma has a built-in foundation Level 2 Gym instructor course, whereas those studying the certificate will already need to possess this prior to enrolment.

Regardless of completing a personal training certificate or diploma, you can separate yourself from the competition with a Level 4 Personal Trainer qualification, starting with our Sports Nutrition Course.

You can also download our FREE Prospectus to learn more about all of the courses we offer.

Written by James Bickerstaff

Content Writer & Fitness Enthusiast

James holds a BA (Hons) in Creative Writing and Film Studies and has recently gained a MA degree in Film, both of which he attained from Liverpool John Moores University. After taking up the couch to 5K challenge on a whim, James found a new passion for running, which he combines with his love for healthy cooking and writing. All of this led him to becoming a copywriter for OriGym.  

When he is not writing content for the site, James can be found researching new recipes, writing music reviews, reading and watching latest film releases.   

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