The most in-demand fitness qualifications

Improve your career prospects in the health and fitness industry by registering for the right courses

For many people, health and fitness is more than just a lifestyle – it’s a passion that they look to turn into a career.

Personal trainers, instructors and other fitness professionals help to change the lives of their clients by assisting them to lose weight or improve their health, which is a major drawcard. This makes it a highly rewarding career.

It’s also a rapidly growing sector, which offers numerous job opportunities as the general population becomes more health conscious and more service providers and gyms are needed to meet the demand.

Passion alone ins’t enough

Unfortunately, in such a specialised and technical field, passion alone isn’t enough. You also need the necessary qualifications, skills and expertise to deliver a safe and effective service.

There are, of course, various paths that school-leavers or those looking to make a career change can take to break into the industry.

According to Paul Mills. Managing Director at the Health & Fitness Professionals Academy (HFPA), the first stop for aspiring fitness professionals is a tertiary institution that offers the core foundational courses.

“National certificates or diplomas are the most in-demand courses as they provide graduates with an NQF level 5 qualification – a level above a grade 12 or trade certificate,” he explains.

These accredited higher education diplomas are offered over two years, with-full time, part-time and distance learning study options available, or as shorter certification courses, depending on the qualification sought.

In the fitness industry, these equate to fitness instructor or personal trainer qualifications, which ensure that new fitness professionals are equipped with a broad base of knowledge and the core competencies needed to fulfill their job functions.

Pilates and yoga certifications are also popular because they too are considered to be core programmes. “These are ideal for those who want to get into the industry quickly with a specialised offering, without the need to go through the longer foundational courses,” continues Paul.

“Although attaining one of these recognised and accredited qualification is enough to start a career in the health and fitness industry, to be successful, and advance, fit pros need to build on this base. Many professionals therefore go on to achieve more advanced diplomas or certifications to pursue specific career paths, such as sports coaching or conditioning, life coaching or nutrition, or to work with special populations.”


Rack up qualifications and generate new revenue opportunities.

Another popular qualification that most fit pros enroll in is a Group Fitness Instructor certificate. “Not only do these qualifications help to diversify a trainer’s offering, creating new opportunities to generate revenue, but these certificates count towards their Continued Education Credit, or CEC requirements.”

CECs are, in general, short courses – six months or less – that ensure professionals stay current with the rapidly evolving world of fitness, particularly with regard to new technologies, techniques and equipment.

Paul says the most popular Group Fitness Instructor qualifications at present are High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), Spinning, Functional Training and Boot Camp instructor courses.

“We also offer combined courses, such as our Advanced HIIT Instructor series. These offer significant value because they broaden the number of opportunities available to trainers and instructors to generate additional sources of income,” he adds.

Once obtained, these qualifications can help to steer a fit pro’s career in different directions by moulding them into multi-skilled professionals who have more opportunities for formal employment, or help them to carve out a niche for their specialised offering.

Your opportunities

Once qualified, graduates can find employment in health clubs and specialised fitness facilities, sport-specific environments, in private or corporate wellness practices, schools, sports clubs or rehabilitation centres, as well as in hotel spas and on luxury cruise liners.

“Many professionals also choose to branch out on their own with creative offerings that keep training fun yet effective. In this way they get the results their clients are after, while keeping them engaged and interested, and ultimately coming back for more. And that’s a key component to a successful business, especially as this helps to drive word of mouth referrals.”

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.

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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