This post was updated on December 6, 2022.
When it comes to fitness modalities with staying power, few can compete with Pilates, an over 100-year-old practice that’s more in demand today than ever.
Pilates workouts are the third most successfully sold videos among our Wix Fit users, and Pilates lends itself well to hybrid fitness, or a blend of in-person and virtual workouts. The global market share of Pilates and yoga studios is projected to expand by 10 percent between now and 2028. As of 2021, it was valued at nearly $270 million.
So, how much do Pilates teachers make?
That’s all to say that there’s never been a better time to complete a Pilates teacher training program and start a fitness business, if you want to be a part of one of the longest (and strongest) performing sectors of the industry.
On average, full-time Pilates instructors make $67,596 per year in the U.S. and the average hourly rate is $32, based on aggregated job-listing data collected by the popular hiring platform Zip Recruiter.
If any (or all of this) is making you consider signing up for Pilates teacher training, then the next step is figuring out how to pick a certification program that’ll ensure you get a job as a Pilates instructor afterward. Here’s what to do and expect on your journey to becoming a Pilates teacher.
01. Choose a Pilates teacher training program
It’s important to know that there are two types of Pilates to consider: modern and classical.
Classical mat Pilates adheres to the original 34 exercises—in the same order—that Joseph Pilates programmed.
Modern forms of the method have the freedom to create and iterate on sequences using whatever Pilates exercises they choose. They often incorporate functional moves from other strength-training modalities such as squats and lunges.
The one you choose will make the biggest impact on the type of training program you move forward with. If you go the classical route and want to become certified to teach on all Pilates equipment, consider finding a nationally certified Pilates teacher near you that offers a comprehensive training program. It should be a minimum of 450 hours and include education on mat, reformer, trapeze table, wunda chair, ladder barrel, spine corrector and magic circle. This will equip you with all the education you need to teach the method the way Joseph Pilates developed it starting in the 1920s. And if you decide to go in this direction, consider becoming accredited by the National Pilates Certification Program.
After you’ve completed your Pilates teacher training (prices will vary at the discretion of your instructor), you can sit for its standardized exam. It costs $295, and if you pass, you’ll be added to their directory of nationally certified instructors. You can also receive a Nationally Certified Pilates Teacher (NCPT) through the Pilates Method Alliance, a nonprofit network of resources for teachers.
Joseph Pilates never patented his method because he hoped people would iterate on it and make it their own.
The main benefit of this type of national cert is that it validates your credentials with people who may not be familiar with the studio or instructor where you completed your Pilates teacher training. It’s not a necessary step, as studios typically require an audition process to confirm you have a comprehensive understanding of the practice prior to hiring you. But it could be beneficial to have a national, standardized credential if you plan to be self-employed, as it offers an extra layer of verification for potential clients.
But you don’t need to be nationally accredited to teach Pilates. For what it’s worth, Joseph Pilates never patented his method because he hoped people would iterate on it and make it their own.
If your ultimate goal is to teach a more modern Pilates method—perhaps even where you take classes as a client—then the best thing to do is to look into whether or not your studio offers Pilates teacher training. You’ve got a better chance of getting hired by the studio that’s trained you because they’ll feel confident that you’ve received all the education they require of their teachers. They taught you, after all. (Related: The best personal training certification for you)
If you take online Pilates workouts and really love the teaching style of an instructor, ask them about their personal Pilates teacher training journey. They may be able to recommend a certification program, and several studios now offer remote learning options. Also look into how to be an online personal trainer.
02. Consider the cost
How much does Pilates teacher training cost? Well, the cost and length of your Pilates teacher training will depend on a few factors. It’s possible that you’d find a cheaper online training program, like Power Pilates Mat Academy, compared to one conducted in-person because the overhead is lower, for example. Location also plays a role in cost, so you’ll need to do your research. But in general, you’re looking at a minimum of $1,200 for a mat certification in a city like New York, upwards of $7,000 for a comprehensive course.
The duration will depend greatly on what type of Pilates you want to teach. Mat certification, either classic or modern, tends to be the quickest, around 100 to 150 hours, and the more equipment you become certified on, the longer it will take—hence why a full, classical certification is at least 450 hours. (The duration of a modern certification will depend on the studio but will likely be similar in length.)
I completed both my mat and reformer Pilates teacher training in person in New York City last year (though my mat training was also offered remotely). In total, I paid about $3,000 and it took me nine months to complete their combined 200 hours. And if you are wondering whether it was all worth it? Yes, I’ve since been hired by the studio where I did my certification and teach group classes twice per week. I’ve already made back the cost of both my certification programs in wages, so the return feels well worth the investment.
03. Carve out time in your schedule
Pilates teacher training is an investment, not just of money, but of time. In general, you can expect to have a portion of your Pilates teacher training dedicated to lecture hours (at least 40–50) spread out over several weeks where you’ll receive instruction from the teacher (or teachers) running your program, plus self-practice hours, and teaching hours. There will also likely be a final exam that includes a written and practical test, meaning you’ll need to program and teach a sequence to your proctor.
To prepare for your test, remember that your instructors don’t want to see you fail—they’re rooting for you to succeed. Most likely, you’ll receive quizzes, study materials and homework assignments that give you an idea of what the final exam will look like. The format for your final exam will vary—online, in-person, open- or closed-book—so it’s worth asking in advance when you’re considering courses to ensure you can meet the requirements. Every academy or instructor can make up their own exam (there's no universal one), hence why the national certification exam can come in handy if you’re planning to seek employment outside of your studio. Though, first, it’s worth checking in with the new studio you’d like to teach at to see what prerequisites they’re looking for—it could save you both time and money.
04. Establish your online brand
It’s important to establish your online brand whether you plan to teach online or in-person. That means you’ll need to build a fitness website that includes the following:
A professional fitness website template. Choose a template that puts your core offerings at the center, then customize the colors, text and imagery to suit your brand. You can also sell online fitness programs from your website.
A video library. Mat Pilates lends itself well to workout videos people can do at home. Here’s how to shoot a workout video like a professional and 8 ways to up your Zoom exercise game.
A way to book classes. Wix Fit has scheduling software that allows clients to book classes both online and in-person.
Pricing plans. You’ll need a way for people to buy packages and memberships, so add the Pricing Plans app to your site.
Reviews and testimonials from people who’ve taken your class. It’s the online equivalent of word of mouth. See also: Creative ways to get your clients to post on social media.
05. Set up your business logistics
You’ll also need to protect yourself as a business owner. Get Pilates instructor insurance to safeguard you and your business in the event someone gets injured while training with you. Your best bet is to compare rates in your market and pick the most comprehensive plan you can afford. If you’re not sure where to start, check out the Pilates Method Alliance.
Aside from insurance, consider establishing an LLC or other business entity that keeps your personal income and property separate from your work as a Pilates instructor. Again, this is about protecting you and your assets against potential liability which is an inherent risk of owning a business and working with people.
06. Market your Pilates services to your target clients
The sky (or rather, your time) is the limit when it comes to building your brand.
If building community and growing your business organically are your primary objectives, team up with fellow entrepreneurs in the wellness and fitness space. These partnerships could take different forms, but essentially, you’d engage with each other’s audiences through virtual events, discounts, fitness challenges and the like. (Check out some fitness challenge ideas to get started.)
You can also reach out to relevant organizations. For example, I teamed up with a nonprofit in my neighborhood to teach free Pilates classes, and now some of those students have become my regular clients. (Read my piece on accessibility in the fitness industry for more on this topic.)
Many people use Instagram to build an online brand, but beware of spending all of your time there if your goal is to get more in-person clients. (Read more in this interview with Jonathan Goodman.) If you’re not social media savvy—or don’t have the funds to hire someone who understands algorithms and best practices—don't feel like you need a huge following to be a successful Pilates instructor.
When starting off, your best bet is to spread your advertising and marketing money across a few different channels to attract customers and see what works best for you. Then, you can adjust based on what’s doing well.