What are the steps to becoming a Pilates Instructor?

In summary, to become a Pilates Instructor you should:

  1. Gain experience with the Pilates exercises
  2. Enroll in and complete a training program
  3. Begin teaching
  4. Prepare for and take a recognized certification exam such as the NPCP exam.

Start by gaining as much experience doing Pilates exercises as possible.

Take classes wherever possible, try private lessons, and check out some online instruction—anything you can do to increase your experience and knowledge of the repertoire. Then, talk to the teachers you encounter and find out what they did to become a professional. This will be key to finding out what training programs are likely available in your area. Then, find a pilates instructor training program to enroll in, and decide when you are going to be able to make the time and find the funds to enroll.

After you have completed your training program you will need to prepare for your certification exam. Many programs prepare you to take the Pilates Method Alliance (PMA) National Pilates Certification Program (NPCP) exam.

At some point during this process you should start thinking about where you might teach. You may be able to start teaching soon after, or even while you complete your program. For many students this can happen before they certify so don’t wait to take the initiative to begin. This is where you will really learn to be a teacher. There are many ways to be a Pilates teacher, and many different organizations where you can teach. Look for the place that will work for you at this point in your career. This might be a dedicated Pilates studio, a dance studio, the local gym, a community center, or a senior center. The key is to find a place that will allow you to begin practice teaching.

Pilates Mat Hundred

What qualifications do you need to become a Pilates instructor?

You will need to pass a nationally recognized certification exam, such as the PMA’s National Pilates Certification Program exam, to call yourself a professionally certified Pilates instructor.

Who can become a Pilates instructor?

Anyone with a passion for the subject can embark on the journey of becoming a Pilates trainer. There are successful trainers anywhere from under 20 to over 70. There are those who started training as teenagers, in retirement, and all stages of life in between. There are men and women. There are trainers of all different body types and sizes. There are trainers with a background in dance, gymnastics, and sports, and those who never had a strong connection to a movement system before Pilates. There are trainers who were physical therapists or fitness professionals, and some who came out of completely unrelated fields. What they all have in common, is that at some point they learned what Pilates could do for people’s bodies, got excited about it, and wanted to share it with others.

If you are searching online for opportunities to teach Pilates, chances are that you have at least some of what it takes to become a Pilates Instructor:

  • Interest in and enthusiasm for the method.
  • Commitment to obtaining a  professional certification and building a career.
  • Self motivation.
  • Strong work ethic.
  • Passion about sharing the Pilates method with others.

What kind of training do most Pilates instructors do?

Many schools offering Pilates teacher courses will offer training either as a comprehensive course, teaching the complete repertoire on all the pieces of equipment, or à la carte training on each piece of equipment individually. If you are able, you should enroll in a comprehensive course as this is the most efficient and logical way to learn the material. The principles and exercises layer on top of each other so it can be easier to internalize if you haven’t taken too much of a break between each piece of equipment.

If you are taking courses one at a time, it is highly recommended that you start with mat training, as this is where the most comprehensive basic information is layered in. Reformer is commonly the next course that students take. Mat and reformer classes are generally the most in demand from studios and gyms that hire teachers, but in order to sit for the NPCP exam you will need to learn all of the repertoire for all of the Pilates equipment.

How long does it take to become a certified Pilates instructor?

The number of hours required from course to course will vary slightly but the NPCP has attempted to standardize minimum required hours for comprehensive training and has accreditation from the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. NPCP certificants are assured that their credential has been validated by a recognized institution. At MOVE in Ann Arbor for example, comprehensive course instruction occurs over seven 18 hour weekends, with those weekends spread out across 9 months. Our entire program is more than the 450 hour minimum required by the NPCP.

Most Pilates instructors have taken a Pilates instructor training course that teaches one or more types of Pilates equipment: Mat, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, and Barrels. Learn more about these pieces of equipment if you aren’t already familiar with them.

How much does it cost to become a Pilates instructor?

The cost to become a Pilates instructor depends on the type of instructor training classes you take, the number of hours in the program, and/or the provider of the program. Many comprehensive programs start around $5000.

There are also fees for the NPCP exam; as of May 2021, the cost was $295 USD.

Pilates Ladder Barrel

How should I prepare to take a Pilates certification course?

The best way to prepare for pilates instructor training is to build your interest and enthusiasm for the subject:

  • Do as much Pilates as you can.
  • Go take Pilates classes at different studios.
  • Read about it.
  • Watch videos.
  • Expose yourself to different techniques.
  • Learn musculoskeletal anatomy.
  • Figure out what aspects of teaching and moving through the exercises excite you the most.

After I take my Pilates instructor training course, will I be certified?

While some courses may issue you some kind of certificate of completion, in order to call yourself a professionally certified Pilates instructor you will need to take a nationally recognized certification exam. Increasingly, the expectation is that teachers will pass the PMA’s National Pilates Certification Program exam which is an accredited third party certification organization.

When can I start teaching Pilates?

Once you have started your training, you can start practice teaching as soon as you feel comfortable. Most people start sometime during the mat training to teach the principles to family, friends, and fellow trainees. Some places will hire you during your training as long as you are on track to finish and plan on getting your certification. At MOVE Wellness, we have an apprentice program that offers mentorship and teaching opportunities so you have the support and practice you need to be a confident and competent trainer. Look for these opportunities to learn from seasoned teachers.

Pilates Cadillac

Is being a Pilates Instructor a full or part time career?

It can really be either. There are many trainers who work part-time as an instructor in addition to other full- or part-time careers, and many who do it full-time. Teaching Pilates is an in-demand skill and natural supplement to many careers such as physical therapist, dance instructor, massage therapist, sports coach, other types of fitness instructor, and more.

How much money do Pilates instructors make?

The amount of money you can make varies greatly according to experience and levels of certification. Learn more statistics and details about Pilates instructor wages here.

How much do Pilates instructors make per class?

Newer trainers can expect to earn closer to $15 or $20 per hour, while experienced trainers with several certifications and areas of specialization can earn much more. Weekly hours vary according to availability and desire. Some trainers teach only a few hours while others teach 30 or more.

Are Pilates instructors expected to do continuing education after their initial certification?

Yes, Pilates instructors should expect to be enrolled regularly in continuing education courses. 

Most trainers take at least one course per year, and most certifications require that you take a course at least once every two years. Courses can be as short as a day or a weekend, though some are a week or two.

Once you are an instructor, most teachers are enthusiastic about the chance to further develop their knowledge in some area of interest. This also ensures increased knowledge and expertise and makes a higher wage more likely.

Pilates Mat Barrel

What does the work day look like for a Pilates instructor?

This also can be highly varied according to what you are available for and comfortable with, as well as the resources of your area. There are many trainers at MOVE in Ann Arbor who will teach many classes and private lessons at a single studio location most work days, keeping consistent hours from day to day. Other trainers have more diverse hours to accommodate second jobs or the demands of parenting. Some trainers will work up to twelve hours at a time, where some only do an hour or two.

One of the nice things about this line of work is that you can often decide what you want your schedule to look like in order to fit into your life in a way that makes sense.

There are trainers who enjoy working at multiple locations, and there are trainers who prefer to teach at just one studio. Some teachers only teach, while others combine teaching with other aspects of running a Pilates or fitness studio.

The final takeaway? If you are truly passionate about becoming a Pilates trainer you can and should pursue it.

Are you interested in becoming a Pilates instructor and live in or near Ann Arbor, Michigan?

Contact us to learn more about our Pilates instructor training program. Schedule a free 15-Minute Consultation with one of our Instructor Trainers to get your questions answered about the MOVE Instructor Training Program.


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