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Personal trainer, Fitness instructor or Fitness coach. What’s in a name?

The terms used to describe fitness personnel can be confusing. What is the difference between a personal trainer and a fitness instructor? What is the best course to do and what is the difference between the qualifications on offer?

Fitness Instructor

Let’s start with the terms used by people working in the exercise and fitness sector. An instructor is by definition a person who gives directions and tells or shows people what to do. A fitness instructor carries out inductions for new members and points out safety guidelines. Fitness instructors show members how to use equipment and they design basic exercise programs . They also teach classes if qualified. Fitness instructors can also carry out basic fitness assessments. They generally work in fitness facilities as employees. They carry out most of the duties described above in the course of their work.

Personal Trainer

Personal trainers are more specialised. People hire personal trainers for individual sessions. They may use a PT for a once off session or a series of sessions. A PT begins by carrying out a comprehensive health and fitness assessment with a new client. He or she then designs and delivers an exercise program suited to their clients’ needs and goals. A PT will monitor, update and review the program for the period they work with the client. Some PTs will train with their clients.Fitness instructors and personal trainers differ in the way they work. The PT spends more time with individual clients. The instructor works in a more general way.  Personal trainers tend to have more specialised knowledge and skills. Trainers get paid per session and they spend up to an hour with a client. They are generally self-employed. Trainers work in fitness facilities or
they may travel to meet clients.

Fitness Coach

We prefer to call our graduates fitness coaches. Coaching is a process of helping people to reach their goals. A fitness coach does this by planning; delivering and evaluating exercise appropriate to the people he or she is dealing with. Fitness coaches can deal with individual clients or teach group classes and activities. They demonstrate, instruct, observe, correct and motivate people. A fitness coach encompasses personal training and fitness instruction.

Certificate, Diploma, Full time, Part time, what’s in a course

A person interested in becoming a fitness professional has many courses to choose from. With so many courses on offer, it is difficult to distinguish between the many claims each one makes. Look before you leap into a course. Research a course to avoid disappointment as there are major differences between the courses. Here are some of the key questions to ask.

Who accredits the course and awards the qualification?

Just because the title of a course sounds good does not mean it is well regarded. A course offering a qualification by a recognised body should be your first priority.  The course and qualification should be externally validated. The most recognisable bodies awarding qualifications are Universities and Third Level institutions.  There are also many established educational and vocational bodies.

The National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) provides a way to compare
qualifications. It also ensures that they are quality assured and recognised at home and abroad. Qualifications on the NFQ are graded from levels 1 to 10.  The NFQ describes the level of knowledge, skill and competence of a qualification. It outlines what learners should know and be able to do on the basis of a given qualification.

  • The courses offered by Motions are on the National Framework of Qualifications The Higher Certificate in Exercise and Health Fitness (U.L.) is a Level 6 Major Award
  • The Certificate in Exercise and Health Fitness (U.L.) is a Level 6 Award

Some organisations say that their qualifications are aligned to a particular level on the Framework. That does not mean they are on the Framework.The courses offered by Motions are the only fitness instructor/personal trainer qualifications on the NFQ. They are also the only courses of this type accredited and awarded by a University. Some courses take place in University sports facilities. Student may think that they are accredited by the University. This is not the case.

How do you assess the quality of a course?

Check the qualification awarded on completion of the course. The body that accredits and awards the qualification should be well regarded. It should be subject to quality audits and controls. A University course is monitored to ensure that it is adhering to standards. A large number of courses offered are not subject to external quality control.

What are EQF and SQF standards?

EQF is the European Qualifications Framework. Both the Certificate and Higher Certificate in Exercise and Health Fitness are on the EQF. They are level 5 qualifications. Again, they are the only fitness qualifications at this level.

The qualifications we offer are also recognised as the highest industry standard by Europe Active.  Europe Active represents the European Health and Fitness sector in Brussels. Europe Active is also a standards setting body for the health and fitness industry.

The Certificate and Higher Certificate in Exercise and Health Fitness are benchmarked on the Europe Active Sectoral Qualification Framework (SQF) at Level 5. This is the only Irish Specialist Fitness Qualification at level 5.

Are your course fees protected?

There have been high profile college closures in recent months. These were mainly language schools. This brought into focus the potential risk for students attending private colleges. If a college gets into financial difficulty and closes, students will lose their fees. Most of the colleges teaching fitness courses in Dublin are private. We are a private college but our affiliation with the NCEF and U.L. ensures that student fees are protected. Courses run by Motions are fully bonded and will finish in all circumstances. Motions is also the longest established college teaching courses of this nature. Motions has been running courses for over 30 years.

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