Whether you’re looking for a career change or gaining a qualification for the first time, personal training is a great choice. You get to work out as part of your job and meet new people! While it may seem like an unattainable dream, with a bit of hard work you can get there.

The first step on the journey for you could be to become a qualified gym instructor with a level 3 Certificate. But what is a gym instructor? And how is it different from a personal trainer? No, they aren’t the same thing. Let us break it down for you.

Gym Instructor

The Role of a Gym Instructor

What is the role of a gym instructor? They help gym members to use the gym equipment correctly. This ensures their safety and encourages people to get the most out of their workouts. Gym instructors are usually employed by the gym. This helps the gym mitigate the risk caused by people incorrectly using equipment.

Other duties of a gym instructor may be cleaning gym equipment and giving tours to prospective customers. They can usually be found out in the gym area during a shift. They may be spotting a member who is lifting heavy weights or advising someone on their form. They are there to help any gym member who needs it.

What skills do you need to be a gym instructor? It helps if you are friendly and not afraid to approach new people as you’ll need to chat with gym members. You should also be detail-oriented, so you notice when someone is working out with bad form. 


To become a gym instructor, you will need to complete Certificate III. This enables you to work in a gym, performing the role described above. You will also learn many skills applicable to the role. These include:

  • What is good form?
  • Group training
  • Human anatomy
  • Gym safety
  • Fitness appraisals

The course is both theoretical as well as hands-on. This will help you to apply what you learn in the classroom. You get to undertake work placements in gyms and fitness facilities.

If you are looking to make headway into the Australian fitness industry, you could try it out with the Cert 3 gym instructor qualification. Then you’ll get to spend your days in the gym and can see if this is the right place for you before you go for a personal training qualification.

Personal Trainer

The Role of a Personal Trainer

While a personal trainer is helping people in the gym, it is quite a different role from a gym instructor. Personal trainers often meet with specific clients one-on-one, rather than just helping anyone. They will help their clients meet their personal fitness goals, whether it’s to become stronger, lose weight or become more flexible.

They will start with a consultation with the client. In this session, the personal trainer will ask about the client’s goals. Then they can start to develop a fitness plan for them. The training sessions do not have to take place in a gym. They often do, but they could also be at a park or at home.

Personal instructors develop a long-term relationship with their clients. This is in contrast to a gym instructor who will generally just help whoever is around at the gym. You may see a gym instructor more than once, but you don’t make a plan to do so. Personal trainers help you to focus on achieving your goals and sticking to your workout plan. That’s why the role requires assisting people over a long period of time.


If you are interested and want to know how to become a personal trainer, here’s what you need to do. First, you will need to complete the Cert 3 to become a gym instructor. After you have achieved this and have some experience, you may be ready for the next step. This is to complete the Cert 4 to become a personal trainer.

What is taught in Certificate IV includes:

  • Setting up your PT business
  • Marketing and running your PT business
  • Plan your finances
  • Endurance training programmes
  • Training teenagers
  • Influencing exercise behaviour
  • Strength and conditioning

Personal Trainer vs Gym Instructor

As you can see, there are a few key differences between the two professions. We’ve created this handy table so you can see the main differences side by side.

Gym InstructorPersonal Trainer
Employed by the gymRun your own business
Helps anyone presentFocuses on one person at a time
Advises on equipment useDevelops fitness plan
Helps out at the timeHelps over a long time to achieve goals
Health and safety focusPersonal goals focus

Note that as a gym instructor, you won’t be qualified to develop a fitness plan or get one-on-one clients. You can still help people out, but you can’t try to perform the duties of a personal trainer until you are qualified.

If you are interested in becoming a personal trainer, the first step is to become qualified as a gym instructor. This is a great way to get your foot in the door as you learn relevant skills. Getting the Certificate III qualification will teach you much of the basic knowledge you will need as a personal trainer later on. Then you can go for Certificate IV to become a personal trainer once you have a bit of experience as a gym instructor. 

By becoming a gym instructor first, you can get to know the industry before worrying about running your own business too. Start there and have fun meeting new people and helping them work out safely.