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A HFE Pilates instructor talks to their reformer class.
A HFE Pilates instructor talks to their reformer class.

Become a Pilates instructor

6 minute read

If you love Pilates and want to learn how you can turn your passion into a career, this short and focused article will tell you everything you need to know about how to become a Pilates instructor or teacher.

Before we explore the specific steps necessary to become fully qualified in the field of Pilates, it is first necessary to distinguish between a Pilates instructor and a Pilates teacher. When talking about Pilates instructor courses, many people use these titles interchangeably as if they mean the same thing – they absolutely don’t!

Pilates instructor vs. Pilates teacher

An instructor is somebody who will show their participants how to perform exercises safely and effectively. They will demonstrate the necessary techniques, provide appropriate feedback and encouragement as is required. In contrast, a teacher will educate their students about the movement, how it should feel, which muscles should be activating at which stages of the exercise, how to activate these muscles and how to get in and out of the exercise safely.

HFE Pilates instructor working with a student on boat pose

A teacher, however, will provide their students with enough information to enable them to become somewhat self-sufficient over time. They will observe how their students move, what muscular imbalances and dysfunctions that they present with, providing appropriate Pilates-based interventions to address any issues. A Pilates teacher may also provide advice and guidance to their students on how to move better at home and in the workplace.

Qualities of a Pilates teacher

If you are considering how to become a Pilates teacher, it is probably best first of all for you to consider the qualities required so that you can really assess whether this is an opportunity for you.

Great Pilates instructors and teachers have:

  • Excellent observation skills – particularly with posture and movement
  • Following on from the previous point, an incredibly keen attention to detail
  • Strong communication skills – both verbal and nonverbal
  • Empathy and interest in others
  • Detailed knowledge and understanding about movement and posture
  • The ability to motivate and inspire others to become a better version of themselves

The mind, when housed within a healthful body, possesses a glorious sense of power - Joseph PilatesJoseph Pilates Originator of Pilates

Joseph Pilates at peak physical fitness


Getting the right qualifications

If you are still reading up to this point, then presumably you think you have what it takes to become a Pilates instructor and eventually progress to being a teacher. On this basis, we’ll now explore the different qualifications required to do just that.

Level 3

The entry-level qualification to become a Pilates instructor is the Level 3 Diploma in Teaching Mat Pilates. There are no entry requirements for the level 3 diploma, other than a keen interest in, and practical experience of, mat-based Pilates. The qualification on average takes between 3-6 months to complete, although those who have a busy lifestyle often struggle to achieve this in less than 12 months. This is certainly something that should be considered at enrolment.

For those who have commitments that prevent travel for a face-to-face course, another option to consider would be online Pilates teacher training. This alternative offers a blended learning approach similar to other courses, replacing the in-person classroom environment with a similar and scheduled virtual setting.

HFE Pilates tutor leading practical weekend training

While Level 3 may be the entry-level qualification to become a Pilates instructor, it is by no means a foundational qualification. The course covers a range of theory and practical subjects related to anatomy, physiology, health and safety, posture, postural assessment, planning and teaching Pilates exercises. In addition, students learn the principles and fundamentals of Pilates, how to motivate clients and how to set goals effectively.

Level 4

The Level 4 Certificate in Mat Pilates provides more advanced study option for those who have demonstrated their ability at Level 3. The programme is much more modular than the level 3 programme and students are able to select units which best align with their interests and areas of expertise, alongside a small range of mandatory units.

For more information about Pilates qualifications, our comprehensive guide to Pilates instructor qualifications explains things in much more detail.

Irrespective of who is delivering the training, it’s important to ensure that this qualification is backed by a reputable and recognised awarding organisation. Certainly, in the health and fitness sector, YMCA Awards and Active IQ are the safest hands to be in, because they are both active-leisure sector specialists.

More generic awarding organisations like City & Guilds or Pearson may offer similar qualifications, but they often don’t have technical experts in their organisations verifying these qualifications. Consequently, the standards are often lower in their training providers, and this may draw the attention of potential future employers.

Pilates equipment courses

For those looking to truly advance their career in Pilates, there are a number of equipment-based courses in place for Pilates teachers. Joseph Pilates specifically designed a number of pieces of apparatus to support his training methods, so these equipment courses focus on these techniques.

Such courses include, but are not limited to the Pilates reformer, Cadillac, trapeze, ladder barrel and spine corrector. If you’re interested in learning more about the history and applications of these pieces of apparatus, our guide to Pilates equipment will prove very informative and interesting reading.

Pilates student using a spine corrector in a Pilates studio

For more information about what is required to teach Pilates on the reformer, take a look at our reformer Pilates training course. We also have a Level 3 Pilates small equipment course, for those interested in incorporating tools such as the Pilates circle or stability balls into their sessions.

Employment opportunities for Pilates instructors

Once the studies are over and your qualifications are complete, there are a number of potential employment opportunities available to you.

It’s important to remember that the following list is not completely exhaustive, and only provides a summary of some of the more popular routes Pilates instructors take once they are qualified:

Teaching freelance classes in private gyms and health clubs

Working privately with clients on a one-to-one basis

Working in corporate fitness/wellbeing programmes

Teaching Pilates in exercise referral schemes*

Working overseas in fitness retreats, cruise ships and/or holiday resorts

Working in a boutique Pilates studio

Teaching in local authority facilities (e.g. leisure centres)

Teaching Pilates in a dance school/college

*Also requires a recognised exercise referral qualification

The wealth of opportunities available to qualified Pilates instructors and teachers is explored in much greater detail in our guide to Pilates instructor jobs and qualifications.

earning potential for pilates teachers promo

Pay and salary

Most Pilates instructors are paid on an hour-by-hour basis for the classes that they teach. The pay and salary vary depending on the region of the country, the type of employment and the specific employer.

On average, Pilates instructors and teachers are paid between £20.00-50.00 per hour, although those who are self-employed can often earn much more. It’s normal for those qualified in Pilates to teach around 15-20 classes per week, although again, some do often teach more.

We dive deeper into this subject in our guide on how much Pilates teachers get paid, where we look to account for all the varying factors, sources of income and employment available.

Next steps

If you’re still interested in learning more about what it takes to become a Pilates instructor, then contact our Careers team today for their expert advice on any questions you might still have.

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