Full-time or part-time courses? What’s right for aspiring fit pros?

If you’re looking for a lit career in the fitness industry, you’ll need an accredited NQF level 5 tertiary qualification, such as a National Personal Trainer Certificate, or an Advanced Personal Trainer Diploma.

But before you enroll, you’ll need to decide whether to study on a part-time or full-time basis. “There are advantages and disadvantages to both options,” explains Paul Mills. Managing Director at the Health & Fitness Professionals Academy (HFPA).

Full-time courses are ideal for school-leavers. At their age they have few responsibilities, which means they can attend daytime lectures. Successfully completing a full-time course does require a great deal of dedication and perseverance to remain focused, though.” That means missing lectures to hang with your fam is a serious fail.

Student life

Attending lectures at a campus is also a great way for you to meet new peeps and network. “Campus life is really social. It’s a great opportunity to make important peer connections and mingle with like-minded people,” adds Paul.

You’ll also have more time during lectures to engage with lecturers, or collaborate with other students and share information. “Course leaders are also on hand to discuss more complex concepts in greater detail, or answer specific questions, and can provide assistance with any of the course work.”

The benefits of full-time courses

Importantly, full-time courses allow your lecturers to expand the scope of the course work by adding in other elements. “Students who enroll for HFPA’s Advanced Personal Trainer two year diploma, for example, will gain exposure to additional theoretical and practical elements, such as HIIT, group fitness, and functional training.”

This will help to broaden your knowledge and marketable skills, which is a huge benefit in today’s highly competitive marketplace. “While these add-ons account for the difference in price between full-time and part-time courses, it’s definitely worth it.”

That’s because a broader educational foundation will create a springboard into the industry that lets you hit the ground running. “With the ability to offer more services from day one, graduates can exploit more opportunities. This not only boosts their earning capacity, but also increases their chances of establishing a successful long-term career.”

Paul adds that HFPA also creates opportunities during lectures for their full-time learners to engage with experts and industry professionals, who are often invited to give guest presentations. “These people boast extensive industry experience and have a wealth of acquired knowledge that they share with our learners. This type of platform gives valuable tips to those about to embark on their careers.”

Be flexible with part-time courses

Part-time courses, on the other hand, are more suitable if you’re someone who has existing family or work commitments. Whether you’re looking to make a career change, or you’re on the hunt for a side hustle to make more money, a part-time course might be the ideal option for you.

We also get many established industry professionals who enroll. They usually want to specialise or expand their offering, but can’t afford to sacrifice billable hours during the day to attain these additional qualifications,” elaborates Paul.

The trade-offs

While part-time courses may offer the flexility needed to balance your commitments, there are, of course, going to be a few trade-offs. “These include less contact time with lecturers and course leaders. These time constraints also limit our ability to broaden the scope of the part-time courses offered, yet part-time studies can take longer to complete.”

You may also miss out on opportunities to interact with industry experts and experience all of the practical elements offered to full-time students, which is another aspect to consider before making a decision.

Part-time graduates would also need to complete additional courses to broaden their offering as their career progresses, so they need to carefully consider the opportunity costs associated with following this route,” adds Paul.

As a part-time student you’ll also need to be self-motivated and disciplined to get through the course material and do the extra work required to pass. However, the reduced inputs mean that part-time courses can be significantly more affordable. “Graduates ultimately leave with the same qualification at the end of the day, but it’s their experiences that will be vastly different,” concludes Paul.

For more information on the various qualifications and short courses offered by HFPA, visit www.HFPA.co.za.


Author: Pedro van Gaalen

When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.


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