Personal Training College Courses VS Private Providers

personal training college courses

If you're looking to start a new career in fitness, we have put personal training college courses vs private providers head to head so you can make an informed decision on the best avenue for you.

When choosing which route to head down, it is important to gather all of the important information and be aware of all of your available options. For that reason, our thorough guide provides a one stop shop for all of your personal training courses vs private providers queries. 

Here you will find information on the following:

Since you’re here, we assume you’re somewhat interested in pursuing a career in fitness? If so, why not head over to our personal training courses page and drop us an enquiry today. 

You can also browse the plethora of courses on offer here at OriGym in our downloadable prospectus


Why Become a Personal Trainer? 

personal training college courses

The role of a personal trainer is one that has become increasingly popular, perhaps due to the plethora of benefits that come along with the position. Luckily, whether you’re completing a personal training college course, or a private one, they both offer the same outcome of becoming a qualified personal trainer and reaping the benefits of its title.

Some of these benefits include the opportunity to earn a high profit margin, as the earning potential for a qualified personal trainer is one that is ever-growing. With competition becoming tougher, more courses surrounding broader aspects of training, such as nutrition, strength and conditioning and sports massage are becoming widely available. This is telling that a broader range of knowledge is much more powerful when entering the competitive industry.

The more knowledge that a PT gains and has to offer, the more trustworthy they are deemed in the field, and in turn providing them with a better succession rate. This kind of reputation encourages a packed diary full of clients who want your service, equating to more money for the business. 

As well as bringing in more clients, expanding knowledge and skills allows for a PT to raise their hourly rate to mirror their status as a trainer, which is a great way to increase earnings and showcase how valuable your service is.

Another great perk of becoming a personal trainer is the flexible working hours. There are many gyms that operate 24 hours a day 7 days a week; this kind of freedom allows you to train clients night and day, broadening your client base by ensuring you don’t miss out on any client who needs the service but are restricted to a certain schedule.

Personal training college courses and those operated by private providers both offer the opportunity for growing your own empire. Everybody dreams of being their own boss, and by growing a personal training business, there is the ability to do just that. Personal trainers are in charge of their own rate, hours, holidays and everything in between. 

However, it’s important to remember that you’re also in charge of all vital admin that needs to be done, this is fundamental to running a strong business that adheres to health and safety regulations.

Overall, becoming a personal trainer from whichever route opted for can grant you with a new business venture where you’re in the driver’s seat. You can read here all about if you should become a personal trainer to weigh up your options!


What is a Personal Training College Course?

college courses for personal training 

Personal training college courses are courses that are conducted through an educational body. Although they feature many similarities to private courses, there are also some notable differences.  

College courses for personal training ensure that you get the qualification that you would in any other instance, a level 3 personal training certificate. However, it’s important to note that this is the bare minimum needed to become a personal trainer.  

Personal training college courses provides a minimum coverage of topics such as; 

  •     Anatomy and physiology
  •     Nutrition
  •     Plan and prepare personal training sessions
  •     Instruct and supervise personal training sessions

The personal training courses provided by colleges may vary; this includes the syllabus and additional modules, however all cater for the same objective of a level 3 personal training qualification. While the outcome is the same, colleges may choose to target different elements to make their course stand out from other offerings.

To exemplify this, one college may offer further educational courses, such as sports conditioning on top of the level 3 qualification. However, if another college lacks in further development courses, they may find their student applications dropping. Colleges now strive to get the edge over their competitors in an attempt to offer more and ultimately gain more students.

The entry requirements to enrol on to a level 3 personal training course remain the same regardless of the avenue you choose to take; meaning for a college course you must still possess a level 2 gym instructor certificate. However, some colleges combine the two in 1-2 year course offerings. Nevertheless, we will discuss entry requirements in more detail a little later.

One of the main features of studying a personal training course in college is financial support, and if you’re between the age of 16-18 it is more often than not free of charge. Though we will dig into the financial aspects further on in the article. You can see exactly what makes a good personal trainer here in our article.


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What is a Private Provider Course?

college pt courses 

A private provider course delivers many of the same elements that a college course does, however there are some extra benefits that come with going private.

Private providers of personal training courses display their reputable status through endorsement of CIMSPA & REPS. These are independent registers for the health and fitness industry; REPS recognise the training or qualifications and provide accreditation. They’re essentially a stamp of approval that you may want to see when diving into an investment. You can read more about the reps point system here where we explain everything that you need to know.

Private providers are typically more unrestricted on what they provide and how they can get you launched into the industry. In other words, there is more than one way to reach your level 3 qualification – these are the routes you can take to becoming a qualified personal trainer with a private body:

  •     Level 2 Gym Instructor
  •     Level 3 Personal Trainer 
  •     Online Personal Trainer Level 4 Master Courses
  •     Personal Training Diploma

The personal training diploma is a popular choice among students, this is due to the convenience of combining level 2 and 3 into one and coming out of the course well equipped for the industry. 

Many paths to becoming a personal trainer require an entry level qualification; however, choosing a private provider and opting for a diploma can have you qualified without any relevant qualifications prior. 

Private providers are selling a service; therefore, they provide help along the way and ensure that their graduates are being recognised in the industry. This can be done by setting up interviews and being in conjunction with recognised gym operators - something college courses for personal training may lack.


Independent Course Providers VS College Courses

Personal Training College Courses VS Private Providers

Now we know what a personal training course in college consists of and those of private providers, it's useful to compare the two to decide what is right for you. 

First off, by exploring the kinds of people who are suitable for personal training college courses, and who are more well-matched for private providers. College courses are often a popular choice for those aged 16-18 who have recently left school; this is due to the ability of jumping straight into the industry after you’ve completed the course at a young age.

Depending on which college students opt for, there can be varied opportunities, as many colleges offer diverse options on what the course consists of. Most courses will run over 2 years, which makes it different to private providers that can qualify students much quicker.

To demonstrate this, if we compare the course offering of the City of Liverpool College and that of Reaseheath College, you can see that both courses offer the same outcome, however the modules and course length vary: 

City of Liverpool College 

  •     One-year course length
  •     18+ only
  •     Modules covered: 4
  •     Qualification: level 3 personal training certificate

 Reaseheath College

  •     Two-year course length
  •     16+
  •     Modules covered: 23
  •     Qualification: AIQ level 3 Diploma in Physical Activity, Fitness and Exercise Science. 

As you can see, there are some significant differences between colleges and what they offer, some offer the minimum criteria for, whilst many offer a two-year course covering all areas. Comparable to private providers, personal training courses can be very time efficient and budget friendly too.

It’s often found that, compared to personal training college courses, private providers would be the better choice for those seeking a course that is time sensitive, accredited and industry recognised.

When demonstrating a private provider and what they offer, we can share here at OriGym what our courses provide:

  •     Personal Training Diploma (level 2 & level 3 combined)
  •     Level 2 Gym Instructor
  •     Level 3 Personal Trainer 
  •     Online Personal Trainer
  •     Level 4 Master Course
  •     Varied course lengths: 2 weeks - 12 weeks
  •     16+
  •     Modules covered: from 6+

Private providers also offer flexible payment plans, just like the ones here at OriGym, you can pay in instalments interest free. This is a great option for anyone who doesn’t want to contribute to the accumulation of student debts. 

Another way of weighing up the pros and cons of taking on a personal training course in college or privately is the reputable evidence. Private providers tend to have vast accessible reviews and real accounts of graduates for your reference; although this is something that isn’t as widely practiced in regard to college courses for personal training. 

For example, OriGym demonstrates Trust Pilot reviews that display a 4.9 out of 5, whereas the City of Liverpool College is unable to provide such raw and honest reviews in the same way. This simply due to the mechanics of business and education sectors being so varied in how they operate.

Further, although the bones of the covered modules in college courses for personal training are available usually online, private providers are able to supply extensive detail and have teams on hand to deliver any information or queries that may arise. This kind of efficiency ensures students don’t apply for a course that may allow for any surprises.

There are more than these two options too, you can read about personal training apprenticeships here to find out more information.

What are the Entry Requirements for Both?

pt college courses

College courses for personal training often require a level 2 fitness instructor qualification before you’ll be accepted onto the course, again this can vary depending on what college students apply for. In a generalised sense, a personal training college course requires either a relevant level 2 qualification, extensive industry experience or another appropriate level of education, such as an A-Level. 

To compare the two clearly, college courses for personal training will usually require one or more of the following: 

  •     Interview
  •     Maths and English GCSE (these can be offered on the course if they’re not obtained already)
  •     Level 2 in gym instructing
  •     Industry experience

Some even require as much as a minimum of 5 GCSEs at grades 9 – 4 and this must include a minimum Grade 4 in English Language, Grade 4 in Maths, and a Grade 4 in Science. 

Comparable to this are private personal training course providers; applying for a course can deliver industry ready knowledge, without any prior qualifications. For a student who has no experience at all in the industry, nor any relevant qualifications – the diploma in fitness instructing and personal training would be the best option.

Without opting for the diploma, private providers will typically only ask for a minimum of a level 2 in gym instructing to follow onto a level 3 in personal training. This suggests that with a lack of educational background, going private is the best option to be industry ready in as little as 4-weeks.

If you’re looking for a new part time career, you can read all about how to become a part-time personal trainer for something that suits your schedule.


How Long do They Last?

PT college courses vs private

So how long does a personal training college course typically last? This depends on where the place of study is, and what they offer. From the examples we have mentioned, it’s clear to see that courses can be profoundly varied in colleges.

Therefore, when choosing your college courses for personal training it may be beneficial to first assess how much spare time you have, and if it is flexible enough to work around your lifestyle. 

With a personal training course in college, it runs similar to standard courses of this level where it is typically compulsory to attend classes on-site. However, private course providers offer a range of flexible options that may fit those who are busy, have children or other commitments. 

Let’s take a closer look at the structures comparing Reaseheath College and OriGym:


  •     2-year course
  •     3 days a week 


  • Full time - 4-weeks (Average)
  • Part time - 8 weeks (Average)
  • Online - 12 weeks (Average)

As we can see, due to the education sector being structured the same way any other academic course would be, there is less room for flexibility. However, here at OriGym we provide the option for online learning, part time or full-time options to work around those with busy schedules.

One difference between personal training college courses and the private diploma is the time it takes up. A personal training course in college typically takes up to 2 years to become industry ready; this is a long commitment and if you’re an older student, it’s likely you’ll have to work along-side this too.

Though there are benefits to this, colleges can provide extensive industry practice in some instances and deliver field work, this can see you get the vital practice you need of being in the work environment. 

Another perk is the ability to gain a range of courses as an added bonus, giving you the superiority over your competitors. A good example of this is Reaseheath college who provide the following awards as a part of their diploma:

  •       Level 2 Award in Instructing in Circuit Sessions
  •       Level 2 Award in Instructing in Kettlebells
  •       Level 2 Award in Instructing in Studio Cycling
  •       Level 2 Award in Instructing in Suspended Movement
  •       Level 3 Diploma in Sports Massage Therapy

This displays a well-defined structure for a college course, and it rationalises the time spent as they provide extra further educational courses over the competing colleges in the area.

However, you can also make most of your time on a private course too, with the ability to take on a range of CPD courses.

For example, here at OriGym, we offer continuous professional development fitness courses that enhance the practice of the new personal trainer and give them the edge to beat rivals in the industry – you can view all of the CPD courses on offer here. 

Again, this makes the time well spent on the course, and that extra bit of time expanding your knowledge will make a big difference in your career.

If you’re interested in a career in fitness, check out our articles on how to become the best in the field of fitness:


How Much Do Personal Training College Courses Cost?

personal training college courses

Personal training college courses differ tremendously in regards to the financial aspect from private providers, so let’s explore these in some more detail. 

College courses for personal training are a great option for those students that are straight out of school and either don’t have the funds to go privately, or are not quite ready to jump into the industry so quickly.  

There are plenty of options for college courses which again, vary from each one, however the main price points are:

  • Aged 16-18 = Free
  • Aged 19-23 with no prior A-Levels = Free
  • Aged 24 and over or 19-23 with A-Levels prior = fees are charged; however, you may qualify for an advanced learner loan. 

There is also an option for personal training college courses to be paid through an advanced learner loan, but what is this exactly? 

An advanced learner loan is payable directly to the course provider and is available for individuals aged 19 or above.  

You may qualify for the loan if you’re undertaking an approved qualification from levels 3 – 6. The loans are provided by Student Finance England and are easy to administer, you simply apply and if you’re eligible, SFE will directly pay your loan to the provider. This is perfect for those who may have taken A-Levels in other areas and have had a career change.

Some personal training college courses may even waive your fee, such as Hugh Baird for example – dependent on personal circumstances. So, as it is apparent from the above information, college courses have many routes to go down to get funding either free, waivered or loaned.

The typical fee associated with college courses for personal training is approximately £2800, this is a much higher price point from those of private providers. Thereupon, let’s see the typical price point of a personal training course private provider. 

Some private providers can have a similar approach as colleges, this is done using the advanced learner loans to get students onboard with the government's help. However, here at OriGym we do things a little differently. 

OriGym caters for those who want a budget friendly option with a high quality of substance. Based on the price from OriGym’s personal training diploma, prices begin from £1,199.00 and can be paid on a 0% interest payment plan. This price sets the student up to be ready to work within a matter of weeks with all the knowledge they need.

However, some private providers can vary significantly, some even reaching a price point of £3000 for an ‘ultimate package’, so it’s worth doing your research beforehand! You can read more on how much it costs to become a personal trainer here.

What to Expect from College Courses for Personal Trainers

college pt course

Knowing what to expect before you undertake a college course for personal training is important, you can assess if it suits you and you can plan in advance. 

Recognised awarding bodies such as Focus and Active IQ have a particular structure, these bodies are always good to look out for when choosing the correct course for you. There are main aspects that are covered in the majority of courses, these are:

  •     Anatomy and Physiology
  •     Nutrition
  •     Plan and prepare personal training sessions
  •     Instruct and supervise personal training sessions

These subjects run across a personal training course in college and those in private sectors; however, not all are operated by recognised bodies such as Active IQ and Focus. Therefore, if they’re not mentioned, it's good to do your research or ask the college what modules will be covered.

The modules in a personal training course in college and through private providers ultimately prepare the student for the workplace, specifically diplomas. Diplomas in particular are a great way to get into the industry fastest, however there must be preparation for the intensity of study. 

There are areas that cover the biological nature of personal training, such as understanding the body’s mechanics and overall health and wellbeing. All the while there is an emphasis on delivery and performance when training clients, as this can be intimidating to conduct for the first time.

You can rest assured with the right course that has sufficient support, your confidence will grow, and it will provide all of the knowledge you need to be prepared for your first client; you can even compare the best personal training courses here.


Where do Personal Training College Courses Lead?

college pt qualification 

Personal training college courses lead onto a profession into the industry successfully, particularly those that combine the level 2 fitness instructor and level 3 personal training course. 

A personal training course in college provides a recognised qualification which can kick start a career in personal training either as self-employed or with a company. Some courses offer the range of speciality sectors that we mentioned earlier, which provides the opportunity to progress into being specialised in certain areas, such as sports massage. 

It is important to remember that although the course is described as a personal training course, there are elements of nutrition, business and more that you may just find are more suited for you. This kind of incorporation can lead to further education courses in those areas that you either enjoyed most, or feel are most appropriate for your business development.

There are many recognised businesses that integrate private providers into their business and help graduates get interviews and start their career with a recognised name. OriGym provides guaranteed interviews with gym giants and helps with the progression of your career after your course. Then, once you have your qualification in the bag, you can find the traits of what makes a good personal trainer here.


Overall, applying for a personal training course in college is a big step, and hopefully now you understand the price marks, the pros and cons and what is best suited to your life. There are many benefits of college courses for personal training and the same goes for private providers.  

However, the decision is now over to you! With plenty of colleges offering the course, financial support if necessary, and teams on hand to help – you have an abundant number of alternatives to choose from. To make your decision that bit easier, why not start with checking out OriGym’s personal training courses on offer?

Alternatively, you can find all of our courses from personal training to CPD here in our downloadable prospectus.

Written by Kimberley Mitchell


Having gained a B.A Hons degree in Media, Culture and Communications, Kimberley has gained experience in areas of web journalism, website production and marketing.

Alongside this, Kim expanded her knowledge and passion for fitness, by becoming a fully qualified fitness instructuor and personal trainer. Kim has also gained specialist qualifications in yoga, nutriton, spin and many more.

After working in the industry as a PT, Kimberley went on to study an MA in Digital Marketing and continues to expand her knowledge in the industry. Her main focus is to keep up with current trends and communications with a focus around health & fitness, writing and being creative.

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