Pilates has become a widely discussed and sought-after industry in which many have found lucrative job opportunities with its rise in popularity as a discipline. So, how exactly do you become a Pilates instructor?
Requirements to become a Pilates instructor:
- Understand the skills needed and the job requirements.
- Get the required training.
- Obtain pilates instructor certification.
- Get Pilates insurance.
- Practice teaching in different environments.
- Start teaching.
- Keep learning.
I’ll cover everything you need to know regarding becoming a pilates instructor in the following sections. Additionally, you can review my ultimate guides for the pilates industry to get further insights:
How Much Does It Cost To Become a Pilates Instructor?
You need to have a clear idea regarding the amount of time and money you’ll have to spend if you decide to pursue a career as a Pilates instructor.
To become a fully qualified and certified pilates instructor costs between $500 and $6,000, depending on the type of certification you get and the hours of guided training you undertake. Some programs may take up to two months to receive a certification, while others can last up to a year.
Therefore checking if you have access to the necessary resources before continuing with any additional steps can be crucial as it avoids unnecessary difficulties and stress. Basic online-only programs can sometimes cost as low as $100, but if you’re looking to get a more comprehensive certificate, you might have to pay upwards of $5000.
Pilates Instructor Salary
Pilates instructors who work at studios or gyms can make anywhere from $15 to $70 per class, depending on their experience.
If you’re starting as an instructor and have limited experience, you might make around $15 or $20 per class. Those with a bit more experience can make up to $35 to $70 per class. The number of classes you’ll be able to teach per week can vary, though, depending on your personal preference or availability.
If you decide to work as a one-on-one instructor, you can increase your price based on the value you provide. Another good option is to open your own business. Doing so would include a hefty initial investment, but on the other hand, it can mean you’ll be able to make more than $200 per class.
1. Pilates Instructor Skills and Job Requirements
People looking to explore a career in the Pilates industry tend to come from varied backgrounds.
You might be a novice in Pilates, maybe having heard of it in the fitness and wellness industry and liked it enough to consider it a career option. On the other hand, you might have taken Pilates classes and be passionate enough to take it to the next level and teach.
If your situation resembles the former, and you are considering becoming a Pilates instructor, my first advice would be to take a few Pilates classes beforehand.
Take some time to see what they’re like, reflect on the class structure and what you can learn, and see if you really can and want to follow this career path.
The beauty of Pilates is that it activates all muscles and increases strength, flexibility, and stamina. It elongates and strengthens without building excess bulk. So if you are coming from the world of fitness and personal training, do you want this body shape?
Testing your compatibility with the discipline is crucial in ensuring a long, successful career.
Skills & Qualities of a Good Pilates Instructor
If you’re still unsure whether your characteristics align with the discipline’s requirements, here is a short list of some of the essential qualities and skills that all good Pilates instructors possess:
- Customer service obsession
- Enjoy teaching
- Personable & friendly demeanor
- Flexible & organized
- Team player, leadership skills
- Knowledge of marketing and advertising
The job requirements for a pilates instructor:
- Teach all assigned classes regularly
- Arrive 20 minutes before class to prepare and stay after class to interact with members
- Ability to get new students and increase class size
- Be a substitute teacher when needed
- Get Pilates and CPR certification
- Know the proper use and maintenance of equipment such as reformer machines
- Adequately demonstrate and perform all exercises and create engaging routines
- Ability to carry up to 55 lbs easily
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have all of these qualities yet; experience and time can help you get there.
2. Get The Required Training
After you’ve considered everything I previously mentioned and still decided you want to pursue a career as a Pilates instructor, the next step is to obtain the required and recommended training.
You will need to choose a Pilates training program that suits your needs, goals, and resources.
Before beginning the training, it might be helpful for you to prepare. For instance, you might want to watch videos or read any material related to the field that could help you gain some valuable general knowledge.
Many Pilates courses are offered online only and could provide suitable preparation materials before you get into intensive training.
What Qualifications Do You Need To Be a Pilates Instructor?
To be a Pilates instructor, you should have a Pilates certification and be well-versed in human anatomy and health and wellness practices. You should also complete extensive training to teach Pilates to others safely – including getting CPR certified.
You can learn more about human anatomy to be better informed about how different Pilates exercises can have on the body. The reading materials for any pilates course offer extensive materials on human anatomy.
You can find a variety of training programs, depending on the type of certification you want. For example, you can get certified in classical or contemporary Pilates.
Additionally, you can specialize in teaching mat classes, reformer classes, or comprehensive classes. No matter the specialization, it is essential that the Pilates Method Alliance recognizes the training program.
The program devised by Joseph Pilates, who, as you may have already guessed, founded Pilates as a new form of exercise, forms the basis of Classical Pilates. It is not the same program as the original, but it borrows a lot of concepts while making some necessary improvements.
On the other hand, Contemporary Pilates consists of a more modernized approach; the classic exercise form will still be there, but with more drastic additions and changes. For example, physical therapy is a new addition to this variation and plays an important role, which is why this form helps with rehabilitation for injuries.
Additionally, you can aim to acquire either a mat certification, reformer certification, or comprehensive certification. Following the former type of training means you’ll be able to teach mat classes with exercises that don’t require any other equipment.
The comprehensive certification requires training for teaching mat exercises and other types of equipment such as reformers.
How Long Does it Take To Become a Pilates Instructor?
The National Pilates Certification Program requires at least 450 hours of training to become certified as a Pilates instructor. However, training times can vary, and more comprehensive programs will often take longer.
3. Obtain Pilates Certification
To be certified as a Pilates instructor, you’ll need to take the nationally recognized exam (or the NPCP exam). This step is necessary for you to be able to call yourself a professional, licensed Pilates instructor.
There are 125 multiple choice questions in the NPCP exam; it lasts three hours, and the passing score is 80. It can be done online, preferably on a laptop or desktop computer.
Cost of NPCP Exam
You can apply for the NPCP exam online, and you have to pay a fee of around $295. If you fail the exam, you’ll have to pay an additional $150 fee to retake it.
If you are dreading a 125 multiple choice question test, don’t worry! There are several guides available that can help you. All you need to do is make sure you read all the available material and practice with mock exams to get the best possible results.
Once you’ve completed the exam successfully, you can start thinking about putting your certification to good use.
4. Get Pilates Insurance
Before you start teaching anyone, you must remember to complete an essential and often neglected step: getting insurance.
Pilates includes physical exhaustion and pushing the body to (reasonable) limits, and like any other type of exercise, it involves specific risk of injury. Injuries happen, no matter how careful or professional you are, so you need to be prepared for this scenario.
The best possible way to prepare is to buy liability insurance to protect yourself against any lawsuits by clients who have sustained injuries.
Once you have insurance, you’ll be much more confident and comfortable in your teaching. You may also seem more trustworthy to your potential clients because having an insurance plan shows a certain level of care and professionalism.
It would be wise to have your insurance so that you won’t have to depend on others, for example, the studio’s insurance, which is especially important if you’re a freelance Pilates instructor.
Most insurers offer fitness plans; some even offer them specifically for Pilates. But if you choose to buy fitness insurance, remember to check if Pilates is covered to be sure that it will cover your needs.
How Much Does Liability Insurance Cost for Pilates Instructors?
Liability insurance plans for Pilates instructors range from $500 to $1000 per year for one instructor. The price can depend on where the services happen and how the business is structured.
5. Practice Teaching Pilates
Teaching Pilates is recommended to build some experience and confidence before starting work as a professional instructor. Still, you may skip it if you feel like you’re already adequately prepared.
If you need to take time to work on your skills and teaching style, which is perfectly normal, you may want to start practicing to teach first.
For example, you can try to teach some basic exercises or even just principles to your friends and family. Doing so can help you understand how well your students have absorbed the knowledge you’ve been imparting and what teaching method suits you best. After all, this is practice, so you’ll have the opportunity to adjust your teaching style before you start working as an instructor.
Another way of practicing is with fellow trainees at the training program, even before getting certified. You can try teaching one another and exchanging knowledge and tips. Additionally, some studios can even offer you a position before certification, knowing that you are on your way to taking the exam.
There are a lot of opportunities for you to practice to become the best instructor you could be, so I highly recommend not skipping this step.
6. Start Teaching
It’s finally time to start teaching. You are now trained, certified, insured, and, more importantly – confident, which means that you can begin working as a Pilates instructor. So, where do you start?
There’s no shortage of career opportunities as a Pilates instructor. Some of them include:
- Freelance instructor: As a freelance Pilates instructor, you can teach at various studios while maintaining your own clients.
- Instructor at studios, gyms, and clubs: You can work in this capacity on a full-time or part-time basis or even in a freelance capacity
- Online instructor: You will typically have your following of students who you can teach online
- Instructor at resorts, retreats, and cruise ships: Such positions are seasonal and quite lucrative
- Influencer: At this level, you will mostly be selling your digital courses and teaching high ticket/expensive private sessions and retreats
Some alternative options might require more specific training related to getting more knowledge about human anatomy. You can choose to specialize in pre or post-natal Pilates, Pilates for athletic performance, spine care, orthopedic injuries, scoliosis, etc.
Try to base your choice on various factors, such as whether you prefer working full-time or part-time, at home or in a facility, one-on-one or with groups, etc. Weigh your options and research every specific type of job you are interested in to make an informed decision.
Advantages of Being a Pilates Instructor
There are a lot of advantages to choosing a career as challenging and gratifying as being a Pilates instructor. The first advantage should be that it is something you genuinely enjoy doing and brings you joy. This advantage is truly priceless.
Secondly, being a Pilates instructor means you can have a flexible schedule. Some instructors prefer regular hours at a specific location, while others can do different hours on different days. Some choose this career as a part-time option, opting to do only a few hours a week to accommodate another job.
The important thing is that when choosing this type of career, you at least have the option to select a work schedule in which you can thrive.
Another advantage of this career path is that you can teach Pilates from almost any location unless you teach reformer Pilates, requiring providing reformer machines to your students.
With that said, you may want to go to a gym or a fitness studio if you are certified in comprehensive Pilates to take advantage of all the necessary equipment. For mat Pilates, you can use any location, even a room in your own house or a nice spot in the garden, especially if you are an online instructor.
There are so many career opportunities for you, whether you want to commit to teaching Pilates full-time or just teaching part-time in addition to another job. All you need to do is decide what’s best for you and then choose.
Keep Updating Your Knowledge
There will always be new developments and studies in any field, so you need to be up to date with the latest trends.
Pilates instructors usually try to take additional courses at least once a year to ensure they are up to date with the cutting-edge knowledge in their field. You also can enroll in continuous courses, which means that you don’t have to register for a class every time you want to refresh your knowledge.
An additional advantage to continuously learning about teaching Pilates is that it makes you competent and trustworthy to your clients. They are bound to feel much more at ease knowing they learn from someone who takes this discipline seriously and is up to date with all the latest trends and developments.
These refresher courses and pieces of training are usually not very long, as they help bring you up to speed rather than teach you wholly new and unfamiliar concepts. They can last up to a few weeks, but most are only a weekend long.
Don’t limit your knowledge to the study of Pilates. Also, spend time learning about marketing, sales, and advertising. A good Pilates instructor can source their own customers. Also, learn how to use a pilates studio software that you will be using daily.
If you’re passionate about Pilates, you may be considering a career as a Pilates instructor. It’s a lucrative career choice, considering the variety of employment options available in the field.
Additionally, the supply of good pilates instructors is limited, unlike that of yoga or fitness instructors. Once your resolve to become a Pilates instructor becomes a real possibility, there are specific steps you can take to achieve your goal:
- Make sure this is the right profession for you.
- Train to obtain the necessary certification.
- Get ready to start teaching: practice and purchase liability insurance.
- Start teaching as a Pilates instructor, whether employed at a local studio or freelance Pilates instructor.
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About the author
Naz Ahm is the founder of StudioGrowth and has spent a decade growing start-ups and venture-backed companies. He writes about sales, marketing, and growth, especially in the yoga, fitness, and wellness industry.
Naz has an MBA from IESE Business School and started his journey in the wellness industry when he set up an on-demand wellness business. Naz currently splits his time between the U.K and the US.