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Your Guide to Awarding Bodies, Accreditations & Qualifications in the UK Fitness Industry

If you’re new to the fitness industry you’re probably keen to get qualified and start working with clients. But, with so many fitness course providers competing for your attention, the online fitness education market can be hugely confusing for newcomers. Over the years we’ve seen an increase in the number of ‘training providers’ offering fast qualifications at low prices. Sadly, without approval of a recognised governing body, these qualifications aren’t worth much! Nor will they enhance your career prospects.  Fortunately, we’re here to dispel the myths and help you navigate the different qualifications in the UK Fitness Industry and levels you need. 

About T2 Fitness Education

For almost 15 years the team at T2 Fitness Education have been delivering industry leading courses. And we’ve helped thousands of people qualify as certified fitness professionals and Personal Trainers. Plus, we’ve just been awarded the highest “Enhancing” status from CIMSPA which means we’re trusted to deliver outstanding education, training and support. 

We've just been awarded CIMSPA 'Enhancing' Status.

Who is This guide Aimed At?

Whether you’re a gym looking to upskill employees or an individual trying to navigate your way through the essential fitness qualifications, this guide covers everything you need to know about the awards, accreditations and governing bodies for the industry. We’ll also cover what essential qualifications you’ll need to break into the fitness industry and how to choose the right providers. 

Fitness Industry Qualifications Terminology

To begin with let’s take a look at the different terminology surrounding training and qualifications in the UK Fitness Industry. 


Qualifications are gained through training and assessments. More typically, these are achieved through official completion of a course. They are a test of your skills and knowledge and help people to recognise what level or standard you’re at professionally.

Accredited Body or Awarding Body

Every official qualification has to be accredited or awarded by an official recognised body. This is to ensure appropriate standards in learning, teaching and support. There are around 23 different awarding bodies within the Fitness industry and they each have different criteria, governance and regulations for awarding learners. In the UK, most gyms and employers only recognise qualifications from awarding bodies that are regulated by Ofqual, so be sure to choose a course that is accredited or awarded by an appropriate body. Focus Awards, Active IQ and YMCA Awards are all regulated by Ofqual.


The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) regulates qualifications, examinations and assessments in England. As a framework, course providers and awarding bodies must have their qualifications recognised by going through a strict process. It’s a major undertaking that imposes requirements on an organisation, but it also has major rewards. On the whole it ensures that:

  1. Qualifications reliably indicate the knowledge, skills and understanding demonstrated by the student
  2. Assessment and exams reflect what a student has achieved
  3. People can have confidence in the qualifications regulated by Ofqual



The Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity or CIMSPA is the professional development/governing body for the UK’s Sports and physical activity sector.  The awarding bodies must ensure that the national standards and criteria – set by CIMSPA – are met for each qualification. 

Fitness professionals can join CIMSPA by paying an annual membership fee. Professionally, membership is good to have! Not only does it ensure that you’re up-to-date with best practices, essential training and industry news, but many employers insist on CIMSPA registration. If you want to demonstrate your personal dedication to high standards and qualifications then CIMSPA membership is a must. 

YMCA Awards logo.
We've just been awarded CIMSPA 'Enhancing' Status.

Qualification Levels Explained

All regulated vocational qualifications are graded by difficulty level. The higher the level the more difficult the qualification. In the leisure and fitness industry you’ll find courses and qualifications pitched at these different levels. 

Level 1 Qualifications

Level 1 qualifications are your entry level certificates. They are a great starting point for complete beginners looking to develop skills and knowledge in a particular area. 

Level 2 Qualifications

Level 2 courses are equivalent to GCSE grades A*-C or level 9-4. You don’t need any other qualifications to complete courses at this level but it helps if you have hands-on experience. Qualifications at this level are designed to provide a robust foundational knowledge and practical skills while preparing you for further study. 

Level 3 Qualifications

Level 3 qualifications are the equivalent of AS or A Level. They give learners a more enriched and deeper understanding of their subject level. The assessment is designed to reflect your knowledge, understanding and application of the content learnt. Since the levels are progressive you’ll typically need to have completed a Level 2 in the same subject in order to complete your level 3.

Level 4 Qualifications

Equivalent to the first year of the bachelor’s degree, courses at Level 4 are considered advanced learning. At this level learners can expect to gain in-depth, specialist knowledge that will set them apart from most other practitioners. For example, for qualified personal trainers we offer a Level 4 Strength and Conditioning course which is designed to enhance the services that PTs offer, especially those interested in elite performance. 


What Qualifications Do I Need to Work as A Gym Instructor?

The minimum requirement for becoming a gym or fitness instructor is a Level 2 qualification. This is an essential qualification that nearly all gyms and health centres will require. 

As an entry level qualification individuals looking to take this course don’t need any prior experience or knowledge. The Level 2 Certificate in Fitness (or Gym Instructing) covers essential skills and training needed to design and deliver safe and effective exercise programs within a gym environment. 

What the Level 2 Fitness Instructor Course Covers:

 Anatomy and physiology: Learn about the various systems of the body, how they work and interact, and also how exercise impacts on each of them.

Supporting clients Lifestyle Manage: You’ll discover how best to support clients on their fitness journey, understand the barrier to exercise, how to overcome them as well as the importance of formatting positive working relationships.

Principles of Professional Practice: Learn about the various health and safety considerations you need to be aware of when working in a fitness environment and how to deliver safe and effective exercise programmes. 

Principles of Health and Wellbeing for Exercise, Fitness and Health: Learn the fundamental components of fitness as well as the guidelines that underpin a healthy diet

Instructing Professional Practice and Effective Exercise: Learn how to plan and prepare to deliver exercise sessions. Become proficient at instructing effectively as well as exploring all of the exercise possibilities.

At T2 Fitness our Level 2 Gym Instructor certificate is awarded by Focus Awards. It’s therefore a nationally recognised certificate, delivered and assessed by industry professionals. The course requires 5 solid days of face-to-face training with support materials for learning and assessment accessible though an advanced online learning portal. Alternatively, you can study our Level 2 Fitness Instructor online course with full support via distance learning. 

Focus Awards accredited Level 2 Fitness Instructor Course
Level 2 Gym Instructor Course at T2 Fitness

What Qualifications Do I Need to Work as A PT?

 To qualify as a PT you’ll need a nationally recognised Level 3 Certificate in Personal Training. This can only be completed once you’ve obtained your Level 2 Gym Instructor certificate or you can do them together in our intensive Personal Trainer Diploma course, which combines the two qualifications. 

Accredited by Focus Awards our Level 3 course is a chance to build a deeper understanding of the fundamentals learned at Level 2. You’ll also develop essential skills for planning and delivering exercise programmes for groups and individuals in a gym environment.

What the Level 3 PT course covers:

Anatomy, Physiology & Kinesiology for Exercise & Health: A lot of the course is focused on anatomy and physiology to give you a firm understanding of the many body systems, including skeletal, nervous system and muscular system. We’ll look at each one and learn how they respond to exercise.

Principles of Nutrition:  There are many schools of thought about exercise vs diet, as well as fuelling for enhanced physical activity. In this course, we’ll expand your knowledge of nutrition and how it applies to various physical activity programmes for a wide range of clients.

Interpersonal & Personal Training Delivery Skills: We cover how to establish long term behaviour change and develop a strong client rapport through motivation, SMART goal setting and engaging training sessions. 

Programming: You’ll build on your Level 2 knowledge to gain a better understanding of exercises. You’ll learn how to design sessions that meet the goals of a wide variety of clients in a wide range of settings. 

Business Skills: Building a sustainable income is important for a lot of Personal Trainers who want the option to work as a self employed PT. In this module we focus on getting you ‘business ready’ by looking at vital aspects like pricing, marketing and rental agreements. We also cover industry issues and trends and how to adapt for career longevity. 

For more help with training and career development take a look at our road map to becoming a Personal Trainer.

Level 3 personal trainer course taking place at T2 Fitness Education
Level 3 Personal Trainer Course at T2 Fitness

What Other Fitness Qualifications Are There? 

Once qualified as a gym instructor or personal trainer, CPDs or Continued Professional Development are a vital way of keeping your knowledge and skills up to date. By completing CIMSPA-accredited courses you can earn CPD points. These help you maintain and boost your accreditation as a fitness professional. 

The main benefits of CPDs are: 

  • CPD give you the change to develop specialist knowledge in a particular area. For example completing our Kettlebell Instructor course or Aqua Aerobics Instructor course will allow you to offer this to your clients 
  • Obtaining specialist skills increases your earning potential as a PT
  • CPD that are accredited by CIMSPA ensures they are up-to-date, fit-for-purpose and recognised across the industry
  • CPD are highly regarded by employers and demonstrate your commitment to your profession
  • There are a huge variety of CPD courses, allowing learners to truly enhance their practical skills and knowledge.  

Finding a Training Provider For Your Fitness Course.

If you’re ready to embark on a new journey then getting qualified is the first step. Here are our top five tips on finding the right training provider for you. 

1.Choose Recognised Qualifications

It’s crucial that the courses you complete are awarded by bodies that are recognised by OFQUAL. This ensures that industry standards and best-practices in teaching, learning and support are being met or exceeded. It might be tempting to go with a provider offering cheap, fast qualifications but they won’t be worth much at the end of it.

2. Choose Experienced and Qualified Instructors

When it comes to learning, having the right instructors can make all the difference. Not only will you want to choose instructors that are engaging and knowledgeable, it’s helpful to have instructors that are passionate and supportive. At T2 Fitness we like to think of ourselves as mentors and we’re eager to impart our research, experience and continued love of helping and supporting others reach their goals. 

3. Choose Delivery and Formats 

The location of the training will be a deciding factor for most. However, don’t rule out training providers just because they aren’t on your doorstep. Remember, you’re looking for training providers that are supportive, experienced and provide industry recognised qualifications. Be prepared to travel and stay overnight throughout the duration of your course. Most of the training we provide takes place at our headquarters in Blunsdon House Hotel. They have a fantastic gym location in an equally beautiful hotel. Because we’ve negotiated special rates with the hotel many learners choose to stay on site while training with us.

4. Choose a Provider with Positive Reviews

What testimonials and reviews does a provider have? Take a look at their Google profile or trust pilot for genuine feedback and reviews. What you’re looking for is something that resonates with you. So, decide what matters most and find the proof that they can deliver

We have several student stories that detail the life-changing impact we have had on our students. 

5. Find A Partner Rather Than A Provider

Getting qualified is a small part of your journey. Remember that throughout your career you’ll be expected to continue your training to stay focused, excited and relevant. That’s why we recommend choosing a provider that you can grow with. Do they offer CPDs, other specialist courses, seminars, industry insights and stay in touch? When you train with T2 Fitness you become part of our family. We offer career long support and mentoring so whatever your ambition, we’ll always be here for you. 


The Cool Down

Whether you’re an employer looking to get your staff trained or personally looking for a career change, knowing the qualifications you need is vital. Nationally recognised qualifications are transferable guarantees. With them you can demonstrate that you have the knowledge and skills to deliver effective fitness programmes in a safe and controlled environment. 

Remember to  always make sure the courses you choose are accredited by official awarding bodies that operate under the OFQUAL framework. Once you find the right course for you do your search on the course providers! Your training will be enhanced by the right instructors so choose one that is recognised by CIMSPA. If you have any questions about your own career or have more questions about qualifications in the UK fitness industry, please get in touch.   


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