Career as a Fitness Instructor

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Being a Kindergarten teacher vs. Pilates Instructor

Jan 2011

I've decided to leave my well paid but highly unfulfilling career in finance to become either a kindergarten teacher or pilates instructor. The problem is, I don't know which I'm more passionate about. I love them both for different reasons, and can see myself doing either career. With teaching, my main concern is will I have the energy and patience to be surrounded by kids all day, then come home to my own two kids, who are both under 5? With pilates, my main concern is stability - will I be able to get a job? I'd love hearing from others who have made a career change and how they decided which direction to go, or from teachers and pilates instructors with advice about those careers. Torn between two passions

I am guessing you are looking for work that is people oriented and nurturing. There are some major differences, however, in work stability, tax/employee status, and training between the two choices.

You may find the book ''Creating A Life Worth Living'' quite helpful. It takes you through exercises that help you get clear on what it is you are looking for in a work environment and what needs you need met.

As a self-employed person (Massage Therapist), I see the benefit of being a Pilates Instructor as being quicker to train for (and therefore to start working and making income at) and potential for flexible hours. However, Pilates studios have some very expensive equipment that instructors use with clients. If you want to commit to setting up your own studio you will have up-front costs, plus you will spend a lot of unpaid time marketing yourself and administering your business. If you choose to work for someone else, you will make less money per client and/or may only make money when you have students in your class. You may have to be a substitute teacher for a while before you have a large enough following to be part of a regular schedule. You may not be able to take your clients with you if you decide to move from one studio to another or build your own business. Usually clientele is built up over time, so you will likely need to continue working your current job until you are able to transition fully whether you decide to go it on your own or work for another business. Either way, you will likely have to take care of all your own taxes and insurance (professional liability insurance as an instructor, and your own family health insurance if your partner's does not cover you or your children), plus things like licensing and continued education. Also, be aware that working full time as a Pilates Instructor will be the equivelent of working part time in any office-type job, as you will have a high chance of physical burnout or injury if you work more teaching for more than about 20 hours/week.

I am not as familiar with what it takes to become a Kindergarden teacher, but in that field, as long as you are an employee rather than a substitute teacher, you should have regular, predictable hours, predictable income, your employer will take care of your taxes and you will have benefits. If you don't already have experience working with large groups of children, I would highly recommend finding ways to get some experience before committing to training. Good luck finding a good fit!

Maybe I am too risk averse, but leaving your well-paying job sounds like a mistake to me. I can't see any guarantees you would be happier as a kindergarten teacher or a pilates instructor and you would certainly be a lot poorer. Could you augment your wellpaying job with volunteer work that you would find more personally rewarding? And if you want to earn less money, cut back on your hours? Keep the security and the insurance benefits that come from the good job!
I would say pilates instructor. The education will be cheaper and you can set your own hours. Plus you can have a flexible schedule. Most importantly, you'll be more likely to find a job. Teaching jobs are extremely hard to come by these days especially at the elementary level. Tons of schools are dealing with budgetary issues, etc. Take it from me- I returned to school to be a teacher, have a Masters in Education, 4.0 GPA, great references and TONS of experience and I've been looking for a teaching job for years. If you are passionate about education maybe study to be a preschool teacher (early childhood education). The money is not nearly as good, but the job prospects are better. unemployed teacher
I can't speak about being a kindergarten teacher, but as a 20 year massage therapist, 7 year personal trainer and 5 year Pilates trainer (and now Pilates studio owner) I can say that you can't just take Pilates training and expect to have ft income. The training is about a 500 hour program (depends on where you study)...but it's pretty intensive. As someone who had my own massage practice and a family while I was doing my Pilates training, it took me about 2 years to complete all of my observing and apprentice hours after the initial training. I was employed at a studio and made CRAP $ per hour w/ not enough clients...there were 4 other trainers who were more experienced then I was...sometimes people want to work w/ a trainee because it's cheaper, but I certainly couldn't make a living. I contracted teaching classes at other studios and gyms...that's about $25.00- $45.00 per class, depending on where...but you might teach 1 or 2 classes per day.

As an independant contractor working in a studio you might be able to eventually charge $60.00 per session (give or take) and you might get 60 or 70% of that. I don't mean to sound discouraging...I absolutely LOVE teaching Pilates but be realistic. It takes a long time to build up your clientelle, and Pilates is not cheap so it's exclusive to certain people.

I now own my own Pilates studio so my overhead is way higher then when I had a small massage therapy practice. I have some trainers working for me and I work hard, myself. I'm definately not rolling in dough but I'm paying my bills. I can never stop marketing....TONZ of non paid marketing time.

If you have a good paying job now, I'd say keep it and learn Pilates on weekends, evenings, etc. YOu'll work and build up clientelle over time and then can decide if you can afford to quit your job and make it as a Pilates trainer. It's a great field. Good luck. anon Pilates trainer

I missed the original question, but wanted to chime in about my experience as a pilates instructor.

The information previously given by the Pilates studio owner was realistic and sound advice. I also think that your practice differs according to your own skill set and background in business. I started a pilates practice after a decade working as a teacher and managing an educational business. Luckily, my experience in teaching students one-on-one, and running a business (marketing, billing, setting payment policies, customer service, etc) made the transition smooth and fairly quick. I worked at a studio while I completed my student hours, and about 6 months later, created a marketing campaign in my neighborhood to reach new students for my home-based studio. In a few months time, my practice took off. I continued to teach classes at a studio to learn from my peers and stay involved in the community, but I made my living by teaching privates at home. I have many friends who are excellent pilates instructors, but do not have experience in marketing and self-promotion, therefore their practices depend strictly on working for a studio who does that work for them. They are happy with this arrangement as they do not enjoy the logistics of running their own business, but their pay is reduced significantly. Not to a terrible rate by any means, but they definitely have to work more to pay their bills, etc.

So, I would recommend that you evaluate your skill set and determine what sounds appealing about teaching pilates. If you love the practice and teaching, but not marketing and book keeping, maybe set your sights on working for a studio. I think that most instructors make between $20-$30 an hour working for a studio. However, if you love the entire package and have a lot of energy to devote to your new business, then know that the possibility of earning an even higher FT salary is possible. The latter requires constant attention and management, but for me, it's worth it.

Regarding teaching kindergarten versus pilates (if that was your original post). The summer and holiday breaks that you get teaching kindergarten are not paid for in pilates. You only make an income while you are teaching (unless you own a studio with other employees). That being said, if you run your business well, you can take breaks as needed, without losing clientele. Maybe not an entire summer though!

Good luck! pilates teacher

Editor note: See Teaching Career for additional responses.

Becoming a Pilates instructor>

April 2008

I'm planning to switch careers and become a Pilates instructor, which I'm really passionate about. Are there any Pilates instructors out there who can give some advice about which studio to do my training at, and how easy it is to find work once certified? Every studio seems to have a slightly different philosophy and it's difficult to know which is best. Do studio owners really care where you get your training, or are personality and ability more important? Is there anything else I should know about the field before embarking on this career path? A new Mommy who is reconnecting with her dreams.

Hi, I am in the process of my Pilates training at Synergy Fitness Studio on Solano Avenue in Albany.Though I''m not carreer changing, I'm adding on to my Massage Therapy practice. I've completed my class work and am starting my apprenticeship hours...I also am working on my observing adn assistant teaching hours. It's total a 500 hour course before I''m certified. June
Nora St John at Turning Point Studios is excellent. She does the regular instructor training and also supplemental training for pilates based injury prevention and rehab. Heather