Pilates instructor leading a class in a studio
Pilates instructor leading a class in a studio
Pilates instructor leading a class in a studio

Become a Pilates Instructor

From instructor qualities to qualifications, our guide explains all

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If you love Pilates and you 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.

A teacher will over time, provide their students with enough information to enable them to become somewhat self-sufficient. They will observe how their students move, what muscular imbalances and dysfunctions that they present with, providing appropriate Pilates-based interventions to address these imbalances. 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 instructor

If you are considering how to become a Pilates instructor then 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
• 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, possess a glorious sense of power – Joseph Pilates

Getting the right qualifications

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

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.

While this 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 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. There are also a small range of mandatory units also.

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 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 training standards are often lower in their training providers.

Pilates equipment courses

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

For more information about what is required to teach Pilates on the reformer, take a look at our reformer Pilates training course.

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 far exhaustive, and really 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.

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.

Next Steps

If you’re still interested in learning more about what it takes to become a Pilates instructor, then take a look at our sample learning materials in the HFE app, our award-winning blog which is rich in Pilates-specific articles and guides, and our mock assessments.

Pilates Instructor Courses and Qualifications

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