Becoming a Pilates Instructor
So, you’re thinking about becoming a Pilates Instructor! Yay, that’s amazing and I’m super stoked for you. When I first set out to become a Pilates instructor I remember looking at all the workshop dates, apprentice hours, and meetings. I remember thinking “wow, 600 hours and in nine months!” I was excited and overwhelmed. I worked a full-time job managing a retail store across town. But, I wanted to become an instructor. So, I buckled down and fit those hours in between every free moment I had. One of the questions I get a lot is how to become a Pilates instructor and how long does it take to become an instructor? When I was a teacher trainer many students would base their choice on the program I taught for based on the length of time it took to become a Pilates instructor.
Now that I have been teaching Pilates ten years and have gone through three training experiences I can say I’m so happy my first program took as long as it took. In fact, one of the reasons I did a second training program was because I felt I needed more information. I had a strong foundation but I just felt I needed more time with people who had been teachers decades longer.
Choose a Pilates Program
When I wrote my book Profitable Pilates: Everything but the Exercises I spent a whole chapter on how to choose a program, questions to ask each program, and why the apprentice hours are so important to your success as an instructor. Learning the exercises, the steps, the reps, orders, safety’s, etc is the easy part. Learning to teach, to see, and to understand the depth of the work is something that only time in the Pilates method can do.
If you’re in the program decision stage I recommend my free course on “How to become a Pilates Instructor” and my ebook. It’s filled with tips for choosing the program that is the right fit for you! Every program out there has its own set of requirements, apprentice hours, timeline, and prices. Before you pick your program take a look at the experience and wisdom about program lengths from some of my favorite Pilates instructors in this world!
Anula Maiberg – Sixth Street Pilates– “Probably a year. I had one pilates cert that took about a year. And one a bit under. So I’d be super happy if the minimum requirement was a year. If that could be upheld somehow.”
Jenna Zaffino – Move From the Heart– “I’ve taken two, full comprehensive programs. The first was as an apprenticeship and took a little over a year to complete the training and then I tested out within the first 6 months of completing the study. The second was done long distance. I traveled between 2004 and 2008 to complete my training with Ron Fletcher. Much of my learning was a self-study situation. In my opinion, the longer the program, the better, but I understand the need to begin to make $$. I would love to see a program be 1.5 years where the teacher begins to teach beginning level students after 6 months, continues their practice and teaching for the duration of the year, and then has regular check-in educational sessions for 6 months following their graduation.”
Julie Driver- Julie Driver Pilates – “Becoming an instructor isn’t a finite destination, It’s a journey with many defining moments along the way. I still consider myself a student, I’ve had the privilege of working with generous teachers who have shared their knowledge and work with me along my path. Without continued education throughout our career, we can lose our way and our own passion for teaching.”
Jessica Valant- Jessica Valant Pilates – “I support the 450-hour requirement of PMA because I feel that’s a good general starting point for a program (to give them guidance). I also agree year minimum – I think that gives students a chance to complete all the required hours and teach and observing without putting pressure on them to do it too fast. Another perspective – I’ve had students take too LONG. Meaning they do their classroom work and then take two to three years to do the required hours while putting off the test. They end up losing accountability and develop their own style which is good but also hard when they are then required to test on one specific program. I think it would be nice to have more one-on-one throughout the program so that getting in is a little harder and people have more commitment to finishing.”
Carrie Pages- Carrie Pages Pilates– “Mine was a full year and levels I-V. Obscene amounts of anatomy, gobs of hours, etc. I wouldn’t change it for anything and I loved every freaking second and bit of it. I was also 19 and waiting tables and working the front desk of the Pilates studio. When I started my program I basically modeled it the way I was trained. I taught it that way for about 4 years and then I thought “there had to be another way”. Sooooo I broke the program into 3 parts. First, the mat training where I basically am scoping out who would be a good candidate for the Full Apparatus. It’s for two weekends and 50 hours. Then the full apparatus (levels I-III only). It’s 5 weekends. Then after at least a year of teaching or more, I do a level IV-V intensive weekend. It followed by more personal practice and more observation. Once all of that’s done you’ve got 450 hours. I’ve been super pleased with the layout. The students aren’t tripping out over how to teach the rowings but can focus on how to teach the exercises they’re actually going to teach on a regular basis. Depending on the person it may take them a few years to do it all but it is so much better than slamming them with Control Arabesque in their 5 months of training!”
Cloe Bunter– Breathe Education– “”Firstly, I need to start by saying that is a really hard question to answer! I’m six years in and sometimes it feels like it’s all just brand new again! And perhaps there is the bigger question of the definition between instructor and teacher? A Certificate IV in Pilates, which will enable you to instruct group Reformer and Mat classes to relatively healthy clients, can be completed in approximately six months if you are really consistent with your placement hours, however realistically may take nine to twelve months to complete your practicum dependent on other life commitments. To do a full certification Cert IV plus a Clinical Diploma in Pilates which qualifies you to teach on all apparatus and work with injured clients will realistically take you closer to 18months to complete. I think it’s important for new instructors fresh out of their course to realise that it is from there, in the real word, that the learning really begins and to not expect to know everything and be a master as soon as they complete their course. What I will say is that the learning process should NEVER end. I encourage all instructors to actively seek out continued education both formal and informal. Pilates Anytime, workshops, online tutorials etc. Keep up to date with the latest research in movement and pain so you can best serve your clients and industry. We are so fortunate in this day and age of social media that there are so many incredible resources just there waiting for you to read and discuss them with your peers.”. “
As you can see the length of time varies greatly depending on your program and YOU! Some programs training weekends might only be over the course of 6 months but the hours can take you another 6 months to a year to complete. My advice is to be consistent, do not let a week go by that you don’t take a lesson, and teach a fellow apprentice. Chip away at the hours and be as curious as you can be. You won’t know it all at the end but the more you desire to learn the more you will know when you are done and you’ll have a foundation that will set you up for the years of teaching ahead. The beautiful thing about teaching Pilates is that you will always be learning, always be a student. There is no need to rush the training experience. For more information on the career path of a Pilates instructor read this blog post. We also have great tips on becoming an instructor in this blog post and one more for good measure here.
As always if you have questions or comments you can post them below or contact me here.
Happy Pilates school hunting! It’s a journey, not a race so take the time it takes to learn and grow. In the end, most clients won’t care where you went to training but they will care how you make them feel and the benefits of working with you.