Fitness Instructor Vs Personal Trainer

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Written by Jade McKee (Clean Health Online Coach)

Have you been contemplating making a change? A switch from your 9-5 desk job, into the fitness industry – working each day in an area you are passionate about? The thought of making such a big change in your life can be quite frightening and stressful.

Thrive Global lists starting a new job right up as number 4 out of the 10 most stressful life events… And they aren’t wrong! When researching the job opportunities that are available in the fitness industry, the different roles, and the qualifications that are required to fulfil those roles, can sometimes sound confusing. So today we are going to break down the difference between a fitness instructor and a personal trainer for you.

The entry level qualification to become a fitness professional in Australia is the SIS30315 Certificate III in Fitness (Gym Instructor). Completing this certification will allow you to be employed as a Gym/Fitness Instructor and a Group Exercise Instructor.

SIS40215 Certificate IV in Fitness (Personal Trainer) is the next step, qualifying you to work as a Personal Trainer.

To take the first step into a career in the fitness industry, become qualified through our Master Coach Program! Click here to enrol.

So, how are these roles different?

Fitness/Group Instructor:
As a Fitness Instructor you may be employed by a gym, and are there to assist ALL of the members that it caters for. Your role will be varied, and may include:

  • Customer service
  • Supervising the gym floor – assisting members and correcting technique if required, making sure members are using equipment safely
  • Cleaning equipment
  • Conducting fitness assessments
  • Developing, monitoring, and reviewing fitness programs for both individual members and for groups
  • Conducting gym tours and completing membership consultations

If also employed as a Group Exercise Instructor, you will be required to deliver group exercise sessions that are suitable for clients of varying ages, at different stages of their fitness journey. The big difference to Personal Training here is the word ‘Group’ – these sessions will not be designed to suit a specific individual, and there will be limited interaction with group members on an individual basis during the session.

Personal Trainer
As a Personal Trainer on the other hand, you have completed a higher level qualification, and now have the in-depth knowledge that allows you to work on a one-to-one level with your clients, designing specific programs to target their goals.

Although Personal Trainers may typically be employed as a contractor by a gym, you will be less focused on the day-to-day running of the gym and will be more focused on the needs of your clients. That said though, as you will be running your own business you will be responsible for tasks like promoting your business, sales, and bookkeeping.

As a Personal Trainer, your number one focus will be helping your client’s to reach their goals. This will not only include pushing them through a training session, but also by keeping them accountable, motivated, and on track for success. You will also have the option of working online with clients, should you choose to.

If you are knew to the industry, working as a Fitness Instructor is the ideal place to start. You will get to experience the industry, without having to commit to the extra study – until you are ready to. By working as a Personal Trainer you may find you have more flexibility in your position. You will be able to conduct both one-on-one and group fitness sessions, work with niche markets of your choice, and have the opportunity to expand your services online – potentially servicing clients from around the globe.

1. Fitness Australia (2020) Scope of Practice for AusReps. Accessed on 9th October 2020 from 
2. Marchese, R. (2015)  Essential Guide For Fitness (3rd Edition). Cengage Learning.
3. Mayers, A. (2018) 10 Most Stressful Life Events. Thrive Global. Accessed 9th October 2020 from

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