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A HFE Pilates course teacher speaks to a student (left) and a circle of four students sit in discussion (right).
A HFE Pilates course teacher speaks to a student (left) and a circle of four students sit in discussion (right).

Different methods of study – Pilates teacher training

6 minute read

A deep dive in to the many different ways in which it is possible to study and qualify as a professional Pilates teacher in the UK.

We understand that once you have set your sights on taking a Pilates instructor course, it can be quite daunting and overwhelming to process all the different routes and qualifications that are available.

Understanding the number of different ways in which these courses can be completed and the benefits of each can also be quite a lot to take in. This is why we’ve decided to provide you with a summary of all of this in one place, so that you can consider the relative benefits and drawbacks of each in your own time.

In no particular order, here’s a summary of the main Pilates course formats:

Directly delivered courses

It wasn’t too long ago that if you wanted to become a Pilates teacher, you’d need to attend full-time course in person for around 6-8 weeks. This made the prospect largely unattainable and inaccessible for most people, especially those already in work or with a family.

Outside of a small range of boutique Pilates studios delivering their own brand of Pilates, there are very few full full-time directly delivered Pilates courses still on the market. Here at HFE, we don’t deliver any Pilates qualifications without some degree of home-study.

Health and fitness teacher delivering theory class

Blended courses (home study with attendance)

With advances in learning technology, it’s now possible to qualify as a professional Pilates teacher on a part-time basis, completing the knowledge elements of the programme through home-study and remote tutor support, then undertaking the practical elements of the training in-person at a dedicated training facility.

Blended courses provide a great deal of flexibility because you get to study at your own pace and can spend as much time as you like completing the knowledge elements. The only fixed part of the course is usually the practical training days, although most qualifications do have a deadline and end date, just to help to keep you focused!

Most of our Pilates qualifications are delivered in a blended format, with students typically completing around 8-10 weeks of supported home-study, followed by 6-days of face-to-face training (usually at weekends).

While blended courses offer a great deal of flexibility, you do need to be sure that you can find enough time to complete the home-study learning and coursework– we typically advise about an hour or so per day. For this reason, it’s also important you have a solid level of self-discipline when it comes to getting your work done on your own accord.

health and fitness instructor delivering practical pilates class

In Pilates, there are a number of different modes of Pilates (e.g. mat, reformer) and across these modes, there is a wide-range of Pilates equipment (although the founder, Joseph Pilates, referred to this as apparatus). Here at HFE, we currently have a range of blended Pilates courses and qualifications, including the Level 3 Mat Pilates Teacher Qualification and our flagship Reformer Pilates Courses.

Online and virtual Pilates courses

Online Pilates teacher and instructor courses have started to become more popular in recent years, especially throughout the COVID-19 lockdown period.

Most of the completely online and on-demand courses, which are typically delivered by pre-recorded video, don’t lead to a formal Pilates qualification. This is because Ofqual and the other awarding bodies responsible for regulating these qualifications require a certain amount of face-to-face training to be completed.

Unregulated qualifications don’t have to comply with these requirements, which is why they can deliver entirely online. However, these courses are often less recognised by employers, professional bodies (e.g. CIMSPA) and insurance providers, so you may have problems further down the line.

Alternatively, Virtual Pilates teacher courses can provide a great compromise between online and blended formats, while also attaining a recognised and regulated qualification. They offer all the flexibility of a blended course with regards to the home-study, while allowing students to complete the practical work in a virtual classroom-like environment.

Because the virtual training is live rather than pre-recorded, they are considered viable methods of delivery by awarding bodies and Ofqual. This makes them very attractive!

While we don’t deliver online, on-demand Pilates qualifications, we do have a range of these virtual Pilates qualifications scheduled throughout the year. We believe our virtual courses are truly excellent and provide a world-class level of Pilates education, aiming to give you as optimum experience as possible despite not being in-person.

Of course, a virtual programme will always have it’s potential drawbacks, and students that like social interaction do tend to prefer attended formats. There’s also some practical disadvantages that can be difficult to replicate, such as not being able to physically correct your client’s techniques, because they aren’t physically in front of you. This means you have to be extra accurate with your verbal instructions.

That being said, many students are drawn to the virtual format because they are planning on teaching their Pilates classes virtually once they qualify. Completing their training in this way can really help them to prepare for teaching in this way and they get the opportunity to see first-hand how our tutors work effectively in this space.

Zoom Pilates screen

Why qualifications matter in Pilates

Finally, it’s imperative to underline the importance of getting a regulated Pilates qualification rather than just a certificate from a training provider – the two are not the same!

Given Pilates’ interpretative nature, there are a number of studios and brands delivering their own portrayals of the Pilates methods and off the back of this, their own instructor programmes. While these instructor programmes may (or may not) be good in terms of quality, they are not qualifications. The only qualification in Pilates is the Level 3 Diploma in Teaching Mat Pilates.

There is only one regulated qualification to become a qualified mat-based Pilates teacher and that is the Level 3 Diploma in Teaching Mat Pilates. While it is available through a number of awarding organisations (e.g YMCA Awards, Active IQ), if it isn't regulated by Ofqual, it isn't a qualification! YMCA Awards

ymca awards logo

A regulated qualification must be issued by an Ofqual approved awarding organisation, such as YMCA Awards or Active IQ. These qualifications are written by subject specialists and extensively quality assured to ensure that you get a universally accepted level of training and assessment. They are seen by many as a passport of competence.

While there are other Pilates teacher programmes on the market, most of these are not transferable and are only recognised by that organisation. As such, they can be seen more as licenses to deliver that particular brand or style of Pilates as opposed to an industry-recognised qualification. Again, you may encounter problems when looking for insurance or employment as a result.

ofqual logo

If you want to maximise your future career prospects, we strongly advise that you stick with regulated qualifications first, then use non-regulated training for CPD (continuing professional development) purposes later on. That way, you’re covered either way, and may find some new and interesting techniques from the different interpretations.

We hope that you found this guide useful. If you do have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact a member of our Careers Team who will be more than happy to assist you.

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