Life as a Pilates Instructor

Lisa Johnson Pilates InstructorWhat is it like to be a Pilates instructor?  It's actually a great career, one that is constantly challenging, constantly changing, and incredibly rewarding.

Training to Be a Pilates Instructor

The training necessary to become a Pilates instructor is intense. Most personal training certifications are in the 16-hour range, but to be a fully-certified Pilates instructor requires a 500-hour course and takes most people 18 to 24 months to complete. You've got to love the discipline and be prepared to train and study hard. You'll be spending a lot of weekends in seminars and a lot of time on your own practicing, and then practice-teaching on your friends and anyone else willing to lie down on a mat for you. Expect to spend around $4,000 to become fully trained.

Finding a Job as a Pilates Instructor

That part is easy ... Pilates instructors are in demand! As a studio owner I am always looking for good help and Pilates instructors usually get paid better wages than personal trainers. We should, after all, since we've done so much more training. A full-time job for instructors is considered to be 25 - 30 hours per week with clients in a studio and you can easily make over $50,000. Not too shabby, eh?

When You Start

At first, you'll likely be working nights and weekends. It's just a fact of life; the good shifts tend to be taken by the more experienced instructors. As you work at a studio over time, shifts will open up and you'll be able to wiggle your schedule around to what you like best.  I personally love to work mornings; the clients are very consistent about coming and I'm done by 1:00 in the afternoon, which is perfect for spending time with my son after he comes home from school. Be prepared to learn a lot when you first start working with clients too. What the text book says isn't what will happen in front of you and practicing on other limber Pilates instructors in class isn't quite the same as that sweet older woman with a shoulder issue. You'll find yourself adapting your knowledge to work with each client. One set of cues might work great with one person and horribly with another. You'll develop a range of cues to work with people whether it's aural, tactile, or visual by demonstrating moves. Everyone learns differently and you'll need to figure out quickly how your clients process information best.

Pilates Instructors Are Very Friendly

We are inherently a social bunch. We geek out over anatomy, but we love to talk about movies, local goings on, and the latest health news. We also see many of our clients twice a week, so we tend to really know a lot about them. We go through their ups and downs and become part of their lives. This is all fine, but remember, there is a line that you have to think about crossing. We are customer service providers at the end of the day and that doesn't necessarily mean we become our clients' friends. Don't expect to get any dinner party invitations, but be grateful if you get a holiday gift. In the 15 years that I've been a trainer, I've become good friends with three people ... I have crossed the line, but only rarely and always at the initiation of the client. If you're curious about becoming a Pilates instructor, leave a question below and I'll do my best to answer it. I do recommend that you spend time researching the different training programs and deciding which one is the best fit for you. If you are a Pilates instructor, I'd love to hear your tips for new instructors. Cheers, Lisa

About Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson here. I've been a personal trainer since 1997, a Pilates instructor since 1998 and the owner of Modern Pilates since 1999. I'm hoping to give you some good ideas to get or stay in shape with a healthy dose of humor and reality. Thanks for joining me.

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78 Responses to Life as a Pilates Instructor

  1. Kari December 4, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

    As a Pilates client, this post really sparked my interest, if only to understand the perspective of my wonderful instructors. Several questions (if you’re willing to indulge more than one):

    1. Could you elaborate on holiday gifts from clients to instructors? (How common; any specific suggestions?)

    2. Do instructors spend time outside of class preparing a “lesson plan” or are they able to wing it in a more impromptu way depending on who is in a class and how things are going?

    3. Is the pay for an instructor commission-based depending on the number of people in a group class or does it tend to be a set rate per hour? In other words, is an instructor with a consistently full class paid more than an instructor who has a not-full class (perhaps in part due to a less popular timeslot)? Is the pay different for group classes versus private sessions?

    Great post today, great blog in general, and thanks for any insights about these issues!

  2. Lisa Johnson December 4, 2012 at 5:47 pm #

    Hi Kari,

    Happy to answer your questions. For the first one, holiday gifts tend to be anything from something simple and homemade such as cookies all the way up to restaurant gift certificate. We tend to get a lot of cute socks, and for my studio anyway, a lot of Peet’s gift certificates (the coffee shop up the street we all go to). I did read once that you should give a gift equivalent to the cost of one session … but most of my clients don’t follow that. I’m always grateful for any gift I receive, it validates for me that I’m doing right by my client, a vote of confidence if you will. :-)

    For the second question, it varies by instructor. I have a weird ability to remember prior sessions with clients, it’s a gift that I’m grateful for. So I don’t do lesson planning but I definitely work on goals with clients over time and push them along for their ability for that day. The one drawback of a lesson plan is that it doesn’t account for a day when a client is really excelling or when a client needs a calmer workout. So I like to read the client and adjust accordingly. When I go to a training though (we have to do continuing education every year) I always come back with “tricks” for my clients. New props or moves to try out and they always like them. Or at least they groan more.

    For the third, a lot of places pay a flat fee and a lot of places pay percentages. I’m actually in the process of switching over to a percentage base pay so that instructors have a little responsibility to help keep their schedules and their classes full. So they get a little bonus if they stayed consistently busy. I figure as an owner my job is to give them clients and their job is to keep the clients. :-)

    Hope that makes sense, ask me any other questions you have.


  3. rebecca January 3, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

    1.) How much of an expert do you need to be to begin a Pilates Comprehensive Program?

    2.) Most programs are very expensive ($4000) as you mentioned. Would you recommend this for someone who is looking at only a part-time career in Pilates?

  4. Lisa Johnson January 4, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

    Hi Rebecca, most of my instructors are part-time and do other things in their spare time. It’s a very high paying job for a part-time gig even though there is an initial investment you’ll likely be hired immediately upon graduating school and start in the $30 an hour or so range (at least in Boston) and can go up to the $40 range. (This will vary greatly by region, so check locally where you are.) As for beginning a program, if you have no prior experience you’ll likely be required to take an anatomy weekend workshop so when the trainers start throwing around the big words you know what the heck they’re talking about. We don’t do a smattering anatomy, we go deep, you’ll need to know what the four muscles of the quad are, the point of origin and point of attachment of muscles, how the muscles work in the body, etc. But don’t worry that’s all learnable … if you decide to do it, let me know. And feel free to ask any other questions you have. :-)

  5. Liv May 13, 2013 at 11:22 pm #


    Thank you for all of the information. I honestly think I’ve found my calling. I’m 26 years old living with two chronic illnesses and taking care of myself is my full time job. If I didn’t do that I’d quickly fall apart. That means eating right, exercising, sticking to my pain management routines, and knowing my limits. Physical exercise is very important to those of us with chronic illnesses but at the same time extremely difficult. I’m often in a significant amount of joint pain, dizzy, and suffering with all sorts of other symptoms. Pilates is one of the few workouts that I can do and I am so grateful. There is a real chance there for people like me to get active and regain some control over their lives. I’d like to help them while helping myself. It just seems like the perfect fit! Are there any specific programs or training I’d need to do so that I would be better suited to helping people with limitations? There are so many programs out there, & it can get a bit confusing! Any advice, words of wisdom or encouragement would be so very much appreciated.

    Thank you. :-)

  6. Catherine August 17, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

    Hi Lisa,

    I have considered becoming a Pilates instructor for years. However, as I am currently in college, I have little money to spare to become a full Pilates instructor. I’ve looked into Pilates Mat Certifications, which are not quite as pricey as the full Pilates instructor certifications.

    So my question is, would you recommend becoming Pilates Mat Instructor certified?

    Also, do you know how much a Pilates Mat Instructor would make?


  7. Lisa Johnson August 19, 2013 at 9:30 am #

    Hi Catherine,

    Depending on the part of the country you’re in a mat Pilates instructor would make about the same as a group exercise instructor, somewhere between $30 and $50 a class (possibly lower in really rural areas). The drawback to mat teaching is generally you don’t teach back to back classes but rather, one in the morning, one in the evening kind of thing … so you can’t stack hours and generate a lot of revenue. So if that’s worth it to you go ahead :-) It can always be a stepping stone for other training later. Or you might combine say a mat Pilates and a barre certification and then you could teach two classes back to back to better leverage your time. Hope that helps. Lisa

  8. ILona September 6, 2013 at 1:39 pm #


    Thank you so much for being so open about sharing all the info! Great info! I am a small business owner in Chicago (cleaning business), but I grew tired of it. It is very stressful, requires a lot of time investment, too much responsibility and very little control over what is going on when cleaners are at customers home, plus I have two little kids and want more time with them.
    I like to look good, feel good, so I was exercising this idea of doing something connected with women’s health when I came across your blog.
    It seems like a perfect job for me! (even too perfect to be true :)
    I am ready to start learning now, have initial investment, I was always fit and active. I am 37 now: it is too late to start though?
    Also, do you run into any problems when customers are trying to make you or your staff responsible for anything connected to your business? (they stretched their back, their leg, anything else…and it’s your or your instructors fault)

  9. ILona September 6, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    Lisa, another question: do have any schools that you can recommend in Chicago area?

  10. Lisa Johnson September 8, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

    Harmony studios are the best, definitely check them out. :-)

  11. Lisa Johnson September 11, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

    And Ilona I just hired a wonderful instructor who just became certified and she’s 42 … she is one of my fittest instructors and has a great touch with the clients. She’s booking fast. :)

  12. kelly September 18, 2013 at 4:59 am #

    Hi Lisa, I’ve been a Personal trainer for the last 12 years and now find myself 48 and divorced. Being on my own now I’m thinking of my longevity as a Personal trainer…Do you think 50 is ok to start training and getting the 500 hours to become the Pilates instructor.? Also I am in Long Island New York…would you know of a reputable course I could take here?

  13. Kate September 19, 2013 at 11:24 am #

    I live in the north shore area of MA (about an hour outside Boston). What would be the best program to start that you recommend? I am serious about the commitment.


  14. Lisa Johnson October 1, 2013 at 9:08 pm #

    North Shore, go to Stott training with PJ O’Clair at Club Excel, they’re great. :-)

  15. Lisa Johnson October 1, 2013 at 9:12 pm #

    Kelly, I’m a fan of Stott, the Kane School and Pilates on 5th which are all in your area, check them out and see which one appeals to you. And yes, I’ve hired instructors who were older than you and had very successful careers. L–

  16. Marcilene October 17, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

    Dear Lisa,

    I am very interested to become a pilates instructor. What are the physical skills needed in order to succeed? I have not been taking pilates for too long, thus, I am not an expert in the exercises. Is that something that we learn while getting certification? Should I be taking pilates classes for a long time before signing up for certification?
    Any help is appreciated.

    Thank you!

  17. Lisa Johnson October 27, 2013 at 9:20 am #

    Marcilene, if you’re doing Pilates classes you are ahead of where I was when I started. I hadn’t tried it before I showed up for the mat training! What you need to make sure about is that you know anatomy well. You need to understand how the body moves and then you can really dig into the nuances of Pilates and convey them to your future clients when you’re teaching. Good luck, and I don’t know where you are but I like the BASI and Stott training programs. You might want to check them out. L–

  18. Caitlin November 7, 2013 at 1:49 am #

    I am tired of the corporate hamster wheel and want to make a change. I am passionate about pilates and have been a student for about 3 years. As soon as I started, I began dreaming about becoming an instructor. It is my dream job but I am terrified of leaving my well established corporate career that I have invested time and eduction in to make this change. Have you met others who have uprooted their current careers and made a complete 180 degree switch? How did it go? What are your top pros and cons of being an instructor and the training? Please be honest. This will completely change my life. We won’t be able to afford the home or city we currently live in not making a corporate salary anymore so I am doing my research to understand all perspectives. But I think I will actually be happy and fulfilled. It is just scary to make the call and uproot the world as we know it. Oh, I am also pregnant with my second child. Can I do the training while pregnant or postpartum? I will have some time off of work for maternity leave and was thinking maybe I could use that time to jump start full-time training. Thanks for insights!

  19. Renee Sinning January 15, 2014 at 10:32 am #

    Hi there. I am seriously considering becoming a certified Pilates instructor as a second career. I am currently a high school math teacher, but we are moving out-of-state next summer, and being 48, I am thinking I’d like a change. I’ve always been interested in fitness, nutrition, and exercise. I have 2 questions:

    1) Am I too old to start this process? I like the idea of maybe opening a studio in a few years (i.e. a 5-year plan); and

    2) It doesn’t look like there are many functional anatomy courses offered, and none either here or where we are moving. Any suggestions on taking an online anatomy course? I have 3 kids so it is not like I can up and drive 8 hours to get to courses.

    Thank You.

  20. Michelle January 15, 2014 at 6:07 pm #

    Hi, I’m actually from Ontario, Canada and was wondering if you knew what the realistic rates are for starting instructors and more experienced, do they really range that much? Also, I’m a student so getting fully certified is a HUGE investment, so I’m really interested in the return. In your personal experience, do you find that private studios or large corporations ( gyms / city ) pays more? . I’m also currently a part-time fitness instructor working for the city and I started off at $20.00/hr. I’ve heard that some instructors can make up to $150, is that too crazy to expect to be real? I know I’ve also seen postings from the city a few years back for pilates instructors that paid $65/hr, but for that would you need to have your full certification or would you be able to make a salary like that with just a mat pilates certification ? Would much appreciate your response.
    Thanks :)

  21. Lisa Johnson January 27, 2014 at 9:31 pm #

    Caitlin, I certainly can’t tell you if the trade-off for corporate career and income is worth it to move to a Pilates instructor salary. A top instructor, working 30 hours per week can make about $50K a year in my market (Boston) but that varies around the country. What I will say as a Mom is the flexibility of hours really helps you be with your kids. For me that meant I worked early mornings until noon and then spent the rest of the day as a Mom which was pretty awesome. What did I miss about corporate? Well definitely the money and the good health insurance … other than that, not much. And yes, you can train postpartum if you have clearance from your doctor … so after the 6 week checkup you should be cleared and congrats on the new baby!

  22. Lisa Johnson January 27, 2014 at 9:46 pm #

    Hi Renee,

    You’re definitely NOT too old! If you want to do it, do it! Functional anatomy on line, I honestly don’t know of any classes, but you’ll need to commit 500 hours for a full Pilates certification, what’s another 8?

  23. Lisa Johnson January 27, 2014 at 9:50 pm #

    Michelle, I honestly can’t comment on the revenue for instructors in your area, the best thing to do is to ask someone already working although $65 and especially $150 seems really, really high … in Boston the top, top instructors make about $40 and start around $30. A busy private studio will pay more than a so-so gym, but a busy gym might edge out a top studio … think about quality of life where you teach too … instructors can get frustrated easily w/the gym environment. I just listened to an Equinox instructor vent about how she disliked it …

  24. Mark January 29, 2014 at 4:49 pm #

    Hi Lisa, I live in NYC, I am a straight male, in my 40s, and my question to you ( trying to be as PC as possible about this) do men have a better or worse advantage being a Pilates instructor? I know the history of Joseph Pilates, and I understand there are great male instructors out there and have been interested in this for years, but I also don’t want to spend the time and money on something that won’t work out for me. I have had some experience personal training, and I wouldn’t really recommend it to anyone, mainly because it wasn’t worth the time and the money put into it, plus gyms (where you are basically a glorified salesperson) is not a nice place to work.

  25. Marisa January 30, 2014 at 8:18 pm #

    Hi Lisa,

    1) What do you recommend for classes when it comes to learning more about anatomy? I found some courses online with ACE, but was curious if you had any recommended books for self teaching or other online courses.

    2) How do you feel becoming a Pilates instructor and it cutting into your own practice? My biggest fear since this will be a part-time gig on top of my 40 hour a week job that I might lose out on keeping myself fit. “If you talk the talk you have to walk the walk,” and I’m nervous that losing out on hours of my own time will make me less of an inspiration for my clients haha.

  26. Lisa Johnson February 6, 2014 at 7:45 pm #

    ah, the glorified sales person … yes one of my pet peeves. Instructor skills have nothing to do with sales skills and I don’t know why health clubs make their talented fitness people try to sell stuff. Sigh. As for Pilates vs. personal training … there are a LOT more personal trainers out there, it only takes a weekend after all, the dedication you need to be a Pilates Instructor means some commitment on your part. It takes a LOT longer and the testing is fairly strident and it’s not cheap. So it weeds out the non-committed pretty quickly. Not as far as being a guy … others on this thread have disagreed with me. But I think it’s an advantage. There are less guys teaching and you stand out more … there is also the “flirt factor” which some clients like, although there is a right way to do this and a VERY WRONG way to do that. That said you still have to be a good instructor and guide your clients to the next level. Hope that answers your question. Only you can decide if it’s worth it. :-)

  27. Lisa Johnson February 6, 2014 at 7:49 pm #

    Hi Marisa … the anatomy classes really vary by school. They often will have a prep course/weekend where you can cover the anatomy OR they will recommend certain classes so ask your potential certifying school where they send other students.

    As far as it cutting into your own practice. There is definitely an ebb and flow … a super busy week where you run from work to the studio and just want to go home at the end (those week, maybe months WILL happen). But there will be those weeks where something clicks as an instructor and you learn more about your own practice and it really jazzes you up and amazes you and makes you want to teach even more because it’s so DANG cool to turn people onto Pilates and watch them blossom and learn along with them. :-) So it’s not all one or the other …

    Hope that helps … I do recommend if you’re a part-timer trying to do 2 shifts a week, one shift a week and I notice the instructors don’t develop their teaching as quickly or as thoroughly. Good luck.

  28. Tami February 11, 2014 at 12:26 pm #

    I am currently living in the DFW area of Texas. Can you recommend a program here to become a Pilates instructor. I have only taken a few classes an I am hooked and in love. Does that sound crazy? I love anatomy and everything you are saying in this blog is just telling me that this may be the answer I have been looking for in my life. Will I be training as well as learning in a pilates program ? Any answers would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you

  29. Lisa Johnson February 15, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Tami that’s not crazy at all and I had a similar experience … I can’t recommend any particular program in TX as I’m not familiar with any instructors down there. I trained Stott and I know there are some Stott people down there. I’m also a fan of BASI, I think they’re a good solid program and they’re West Coast based so perhaps they’ve gotten into TX. As for teaching while you’re learning you can definitely start teaching once you take mat training (you can teach mat classes at a nearby gym or studio) and once you have Reformer you can do reformer training … but I urge you to learn the full repertoire, it makes such a difference with how you approach clients and how you can help them. The more tricks up your sleeve the more confident you’ll feel and the better your clients will feel. :-)

  30. Lena February 18, 2014 at 4:49 pm #

    Hey Lisa!

    Great post and very infomative.

    I love love love Pilates and love the positive vibe I get everytime I go. The teachers are always super happy too!

    I have only been going for a short period but want to learn in order to teach. One problem I have though – is anxiety. The thought of teaching a class scares me because I lack confdence, I am shy and in order to hold a class, you have to know what you’re talking about and not lack confidence.

    How do you overcome this? I don’t want it to hold me back. Did you ever have the same worries?

    Thank you :)

  31. Lisa Johnson February 20, 2014 at 8:49 am #

    Hi there, the more confident you are with the material the better. When you do your training, get some of the DVDs from the school (or another school) and watch them with the volume off. Now pretend you’re the teacher and cue the video as if you were teaching it. That will give you practice for pacing and if you trip over your words no one will know/care. Also, practice on your friends! They’ll be happy for the free session and the chance to help a friend out. Finally, what I tell all my newbie instructors … you only have to know one more move than the clients do. That will keep your air of authority. :-) Good luck.

  32. Clare February 21, 2014 at 5:07 pm #

    Hello Lisa,

    Thank you for your post. I was a fitness instructor in college, and Pilates and Zumba were my two favorite classes to teach- each rewarding and fun in their own ways.

    I have been tossing around the idea of becoming recertified in Pilates, through an intensive Pilates specific program and not just a ‘group fitness instructor certification.’ I’ve been working in the corporate world a few years and am in a good spot, but I find myself yearning for the fulfilling work I once had of helping others improve their health and lifestyle. Additionally, thinking of my future, I would appreciate the flexibility offered for possible mommy time later down the road.

    A few questions for you, please:
    1. How long would you recommend being an instructor before opening your own studio?
    2. What certification programs do you recommend in Chicago? I would likely get certified in Chicago before relocating.
    3. Is this salary of ~$50k only possible if you are teaching Pilates with equipment?
    4. Are there any areas of the country that you know of there being a lack of or an abundance of Pilates instructors?

    Thank you so much.

  33. Imogen February 28, 2014 at 6:47 pm #

    Hey Lisa!

    What a helpful post! I am currently in my final year of university (I’m supposed to be writing my dissertation as I type!) However I am thinking of different job opportunities to line up after I graduate.

    I write a blog which is becoming increasingly about health food and am a TV and radio presenter – after I finish uni I will be hoping to work on these career paths, however they notoriously earn very little whilst starting out.

    Pilates, yoga and general fitness as well as biology has always been a massive part of my live, I developed scoliosis a few years ago so pilates is increasingly important in my routine. I am trained as a lifeguard and swimming teacher so I feel I have a basic understanding and foundation for training to become a pilates instructor!

    I was just wondering if you had any tips for training then applying for jobs – it would be great to do classes at a few different gyms and clubs – I just want to make sure I have a clear vision of where I’m going and the logistics! If you have any pointers that would be lovely :)

    Thank you!

  34. Lisa Johnson March 8, 2014 at 9:22 am #

    I finished my Reformer training and opened a studio literally two weeks later. I don’t recommend that!! But that’s how things played out and I just went with it, never regretted my decision. That said, the Pilates industry is a whole lot more sophisticated now … if I was that new I’d start out of my house first before I opened a more commercial space. THAT said you can be a studio owner and not teach Pilates at all, you just have to 1) have cash flow to get started (like $50K minimum) and 2) be really good at running a business and hiring instructors. So I guess my answer is when you feel confident and ready to try …

    In Chicago, go to Harmony Pilates, they ARE amazing … great group of instructors and smart, savvy people. They are Stott trained, but I think they have training classes in their facility now too.

    No you can’t make $50K a year with just a mat certification, you absolutely need the equipment. And there is a shortage of instructors pretty much everywhere in the country, studio owners are ALWAYS looking for talented instructors, there is no shortage of job opportunities, work wherever you want for the most part.

  35. Lisa Johnson March 8, 2014 at 9:26 am #

    Hi Immy,

    I think I’ve pretty much explained all that throughout the comments, read through and see if you can find your answer. :-) Basically be professional, know your stuff and you’ll get hired.

  36. Diane April 2, 2014 at 9:43 pm #

    Hi Lisa,

    First of all, what great info you provide on here! Thank you!! It’s great to hear such positive news about pay and hiring demand. I just starting doing a remote online pilates studio membership and fell in love immediately. I’ve always worked in the corporate world, but have been passionate about health & fitness since I was nine, and even inspired my next door neighbor’s mom to lose weight at that age! I currently live near Vero Beach, FL and haven’t found any studios offering training in Indian River County. One up in Brevard County had strict prerequisites I couldn’t meet. West Palm & Orlando are too far since I work full time too. I don’t suppose you know of anything in this county? I’m thinking of moving back to Southern CA, possibly trying L.A. What are your recommendations there? I am considering Pilates Technique ( because it is comprehensive, works around a full-time work schedule, offers some career guidance and has a directory of graduates. Please let me know your thoughts on this or other programs. I also would aspire to open a studio after about 5 years, give or take, of teaching experience.

  37. Diane April 6, 2014 at 9:58 am #

    And another program I’m looking at in the LA area is

  38. Ginny May 13, 2014 at 3:18 pm #

    Hi Lisa,
    I am very new to pilates, but not to fitness. I have taken only 2 pilates classes, but have found that I stand up straighter and get a better ab workout than anything else I’ve tried before. I would love to teach it. The problem is that I live in a very rural area in south central PA. The closest pilates studio is over 1 hour away. I’ve looked into Any thoughts on that certification. I believe it is an international certification. Also, do you have any recommendations on an anatomy workshop as you had referenced above? I would love to be able to bring pilates to the area–I’m sure I could find a job once I acquire the certification. I would love to make a living out of it, but even just to be able to share it with people in my community would be fun!!

  39. harold July 21, 2014 at 12:21 am #

    hi, I find what you say interesting, have taken pilates for 5 years and now for the past year have been going to various studios to find one I like, because my instructor and the studio owner had some sort of falling out and was fired. we, the entire class protested wrote letters and walked out made phone calls and the owner did not change, the instructor eventually now works in a place for women only, which it seems is not uncommon. some of us left some stayed all are upset. I think I can do certification however i have come into 60,and am unsure about it, am very flexable i am told, and would like to open my own studio and teach because pilates changed my life for the better and some of these instructors i have met may know there moves, but cannot teach and may hurt some newbees . what do you think, thankyou . Brooklyn,n.y.

  40. Marz August 24, 2014 at 4:38 pm #

    Hi! I know this is an old post but I was wondering how long (approximately) it takes to be in good enough shape to teach Pilates? I know everyone’s level of fitness is different and I would say that I am at the lower end of intermediate at this point. Thanks!

  41. angela September 8, 2014 at 11:12 pm #

    is it too late to start this career at age 30?

  42. Bragda Pilates September 29, 2014 at 9:55 am #


    It is not being in shape to be able to teach pilates but about the knowledge of what move would benefit the client the most.
    Pilates instructors are not there to “perform” but to give the best movements for THE CLIENT.

    Doing pilates, you will get in shape as fast as a month if you do it twice a week.. but do it for yourself. You do not actually workout for yourself when leading a group or specific-need person. It is defining what would the group or the person benefit the most.

    If you end up doing loads of lessons per day – you certainly will talk more then actually workout anyway. Your eyes are your best tool. Watch, observe, listen to their joints and arm yourself with a good qualification so you know how to make their time and money – the best spent.

    Bragda Pilates Richmond VA

  43. Jill October 4, 2014 at 9:22 pm #

    Hi Lisa,

    I am 47. Love Pilates. Just moved out to the LA area. I am looking for a career change! I am strongly thinking of getting certified. Do you feel my age will help me, hinder me or it is not an issue?
    Do you have any suggestions which certification programs you feel are the best?

  44. Jil October 11, 2014 at 11:17 pm #

    Thank you for this post and for all the Q&A- super helpful! I love Pilates and would love to become an instructor. I’ve only done mat Pilates through a big gym. Would you recommend doing classes with a studio before starting training? I’ve also never taken Reformer Pilates classes. Should I have some experience in this before beginning training? Last question, do you know of any good programs in the Indianapolis area? Thank you!!

  45. Nicole October 17, 2014 at 5:10 pm #

    Hi Lisa,

    I just want to say thank you – I have been teaching yoga for over 5 years and recently just signed up for the Stott matwork course, I’m taking it next month. I was feeling a bit old for it this morning (I’m 34) and wondering if the time commitment would pay off – I used to work at a desk all day and am making the move, albeit slowly!, to being a yoga + pilates instructor eventually owning my own boutique studio :) I love the work and just wanted to say thanks, I needed the positivity and good vibes you put out there today!


  46. Cindy October 30, 2014 at 7:19 am #

    Hello ! My name is Cindy I’ve just turned 20 and was studying kinesiology but decided to skip this semester and research my goal of becoming a pilates instructor. I love fitness and the active lifestyle What I would like to know is if you reccomend any pilates certification schools and if I finish by the time I’m 21 or so would I still have as much job options or do business’s prefer older instructors ? I’m based in Hollywood . Oh and what is your favorite benefit of being a pilates instructor ? -Cindy

  47. John Fox November 28, 2014 at 11:41 am #

    Hi Lisa, this is a terrific post, esp. for people like my twin daughters who are considering their career options, weighing Pilates vs. Yoga. They’d love to pursue both, but cost & time make that impossible. How would you compare and contrast opportunities for instructors in either of these?

  48. Liliana December 9, 2014 at 9:00 pm #

    Hi Lisa,

    So excited to have found your site. I’m newly Stott certified in
    Pilates Reformer in the Los Angeles area. I’m looking to apply for part time work at a studio. I’m not sure how much to ask for in pay. Is starting pay in Los Angeles same as in Boston? I can’t find anything online. Lastly I noticed a lot of studios also prefer a 4 year degree in a related field which I unfortunately don’t have. You think this will be a problem for me?

    Thank you!

  49. Megan December 22, 2014 at 7:58 pm #

    Thank you for the info. Can you recommend a teacher traing in San Diego? I want to pick a well respected traing program that will prepare me to be an excellent instructor.

  50. Lisa Johnson December 23, 2014 at 8:04 am #

    Hi Jill, for Indianapolis I don’t really! Look for Stott or Basi or Balanced Body. :-)

  51. Lisa Johnson December 23, 2014 at 8:05 am #

    Jill, I do strongly feel that age doesn’t matter. At least for me as a studio owner, I hire talent … and besides it’s the 40 somethings that can afford to take Pilates regularly. :-)

  52. Sandy December 25, 2014 at 10:38 am #

    Hi Lisa. Thanks for the post and questions :)
    I’m now 29 years old and thinking of changing my career path to become a Pilates instructor. I’ve done Pilates reformer for about 15 times now. Half a year. How many times should I have lessons before I can start the training course? (I’m thinking of polestar program) I don’t know if I can really become a good instructor but I do really enjoy doing Pilates and I am very flexible. Am I too old to start this ? How long should I have lessons before I can start the program?
    Thanks a lot :)

  53. Kayla December 28, 2014 at 4:10 pm #

    Hi Lisa, I am currently going through balanced body to get my mat certification and I’m almost done with all my training and what not. But am having an extremely hard time with 1. Retaining information for anatomy. 2. When I get up I front of someone to teach I get so nervous that my mind goes blank. And 3. when someone has a condition, knowing everything they can and can’t do (pilates wise) right then and there. Any tips on how to quickly fix these things so I can be certified within the next couple months? Thank you!

  54. Danielle January 31, 2015 at 1:46 am #


    I am changing/researching careers, Pilates instructor is on the top of my list.
    I recently moved to the gulf coast of florida (Naples).

    Do you find that pursuing a masters in a related field of health/fitness (thinking nutrition) would assist in increasing the salary/pay range?

    I am a single female, and looking to make $50,000 in the begining with certification as a full time instructor… but hoping to increase my earning power- assuming if I get a masters this would help.


    I see you recommend the STOTT certification.
    Are certain Certification programs seen as a better education / place you in a better earning power position (and of course knowledge for your clients)? kind of like a Yale vs. community college scenario?

    thank you for your time.
    I am very excited for my new journey!

  55. Lynette February 19, 2015 at 7:39 pm #

    Starting my Stott training this fall and am looking for an online anatomy class to take in preparation, so many not sure of the good ones, any ideas?

  56. Oshananda Manuel February 24, 2015 at 12:37 am #

    Hi Lisa,
    I am wondering if you can recommend a good Pilates teaching training program in Canada. British Columbia to be specific but anywhere in Canada that is good would be appreciated.

    Thank you !

  57. Lisa Johnson March 2, 2015 at 2:31 pm #

    Hi Oshananda, definitely try Stott, they’re based in Toronto, but having teaching facilities all over Canada.

  58. Nastasja Jackson March 11, 2015 at 11:19 am #

    Hi Lisa,

    I am interested in becoming a pilates instructor and would love to work at your studio! How would I apply for a job?


    Nastasja Jackson

  59. Lisa Johnson March 11, 2015 at 11:57 am #

    Hi Nastasja, I recommend checking out the local Stott school up in Manchester-by-the-Sea. We only hire people who are at least mat & reformer certified … although we prefer the full 500-hour certification. Thanks and good luck. L–

  60. von March 31, 2015 at 1:57 am #

    Hi Lisa

    I practice pilates on and off for years, never have a chance to commit longer due to work commitments. now I would like to do a career switch in becoming a pilates instructor. but till date, my back is still very stiff and not able to do some positions? does that mean it will hinder me from passing the practical exam? I don’t have any injuries but my back is just horribly weak.

  61. Vicky April 9, 2015 at 9:04 am #

    Thanks for the great article! I’m studying to become a Pilates teacher. I have a back problem that is exacerbated by inactivity, so I’ve decided to do whatever I can to stay moving. I was wondering how do Pilates instructors take time off to get further education, for example, a Yoga TTC, to help them deliver a better class? I plan on telling future interviewers at gyms, that I would like to take a certain month off to take a TTC class abroad, but I’m worried that that no one will hire me if they know that I will be away for a month. Is it wise, or acceptable, to ask for a month off work at a gym or studio?

  62. Isha mehta April 19, 2015 at 11:39 pm #

    Hi Lisa

    I have earned a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy from India and have been in the U.S. past 7 years.I have not been able to work here due to family issues but now considering to begin my career and Pilates is really attracting me though I have not taken any of the classes.I want to enhance my knowledge in the same path I had been following.Having said that could you please guide me some good schools in Atlanta for the program.And also which program I should be looking into.??With the study part,do I also have to attend classes.??


  63. Anastasiia June 3, 2015 at 5:05 am #

    Hello to everyone!
    My name is Anastasiia, I’m a representative of recruitment company ClarusApex. Currently we are looking for Reformer Pilates Instructor with international certificates. Could you please help us with that? We really need your help. We will appreciate it. Thank you in advance
    Best regards

  64. Jessica August 6, 2015 at 11:51 am #

    I’m in Houston tx and considering signing up for certification level 1 Pilates which would cover May and reformer training I really am having trouble figuring out the amount of hours is need to make decent salary I know that you’d need work full time but could you give me an idea of a part time salary range the typical hours and how the studios might pay me??

    Thanks !

  65. website worth & domain value calculator November 20, 2015 at 5:58 am #

    I am trained in basic mat Pilates and basic magic circle, stability ball, and bands. I am an independent fitness contractor. Recently, I began volunteering at a church teaching Pilates for seniors. It is a one hour class. I have foot the expense for all equipment used. I make no money for this. However this is my problem. My class is at 1:30 but I have to arrive at 11am to move and fold up and put away church dining tables and chairs before I can set up for class. Then I am expected to unfold and put everything back when finished. When I agreed to volunteer it was never mentioned this would be part of the deal. I have neck and back problems, as well as shoulder and knee. This is just to much to ask of a small lady under 5’3 and challenges as myself. How would you suggest I approach this situation professionally? I want to help others, but feel they are expecting more than what is logical and realistic.

  66. website worth & domain value calculator November 21, 2015 at 12:54 pm #

    Hi Lisa,

    I’m considering beginning a Stott Intensive Certification Program. Will you share your thoughts about the most reputable and recognized certification programs? I’m trying to find out how Stott compares to other options, and if there are restrictions after certification. Thank you so much!

  67. Elizabeth January 7, 2016 at 9:16 am #


    I’ve practiced mat work three times a week for 15 years but never formally trained. If I get “fully” certified, would studios take into account my personal practice experience? Or does only formal, professional experience matter?

    Also, I’m almost done with my MBA, and the idea of starting my own Pilates business is appealing. What’s the best route to go? Get certification and then teach at a studio, while building a private client base? I’m guessing studio work is necessary to get official teaching experience on my resume and make connections?


  68. Anita February 22, 2016 at 8:39 pm #


    Do you have any thoughts on which pilates school to train with? (Polestar vs. Club Pilates?)

    Thank you in advance.

  69. Andrea April 24, 2016 at 11:17 pm #

    Hi! I am looking at a Pilates mat training class…It is associated with Balanced Body Education. Just wondering if there’s an advantage to an particular kind of pilates? (I’ve heard a lot of good things about Stott.) I am in Bali, so have limited options here…)

  70. DaChaun McGee May 19, 2016 at 1:15 pm #

    Hello Ms. Johnson I am a high school but about to graduate. I am not college bound and ave no interest in it. But I am interested in becoming a Pilates Instructor as I have practiced it at home and I was hoping to get a answer from you at least about 3. questions.

    1. Where would a person like me that is about to graduate start my journey without going to college?

    2. Will I need a job to back up the expense needed to get the necessary qualifications to become a Pilates instructor?

    3. I am in Indiana, where would I be able to go and get anatomy and other qualification help from?

  71. Lisa June 4, 2016 at 7:09 pm #

    Hi there
    I have been doing mat Pilates fir about a year now and I just love my classes so much that I am thinking about becoming a Pilates instructor . While quite a few of the ladies in my class are probably between 40-60 years of age , I am concerned at my age – 53 it may be difficult to get hired
    What are your thoughts on this and can you recommend where in AZ I could go to get certified?
    Thank you kindly

  72. Lorwina Yu Tamondong July 2, 2016 at 3:26 am #

    Hi Ms. Lisa! I am teaching pilates for 6 years now. I am currently working in Singapore for a year now. Back in the Philippines I used to teach 5-6 hours consecutively , but it’s all private. Here, its a mixture of classes but mostly group classes. Sometimes, I feel I’m starting to drain on my 5th class, what more if its on your 6th. I am more towards the quality of my teaching. What are your thoughts of the maximum consecutive hours of teaching a group?
    Thanks for reading!

  73. Burcu August 13, 2016 at 4:36 pm #

    Hi Lisa,

    I want to be a pilates trainer. But I live in Turkey so I need an international pilates certificate. Which one is suitable for me? What do you recommend? I want to move abroad especially Avustralia or Europe. Could you help me?

  74. Ravonne July 12, 2017 at 5:03 pm #

    Hi Lisa, are you able to recommend a training school in Washington DC?

  75. Rachel September 20, 2017 at 2:47 pm #

    Hi Lisa,

    I live in NYC. I’m interested in becoming an instructor. Can you recommend a school here? There are so many. Thanks

  76. MTMG October 22, 2017 at 3:29 pm #

    Hi Lisa,

    I, too, am looking for the most reputable school in the NYC area. There are several and all seem to have a following, but I know some must be more “stand-out” than others. Any suggestions?

    Thank you!

  77. Jason T November 24, 2017 at 10:05 am #

    Hello Lisa.
    Thank you for the time you take to answer questions, I’ve read some and your insight is very helpful.
    I just came across Pilates, and will be receiving one on one treatment to build up my core. I’ve had injuries that have compromised this area, and it needs work. I’ve been an athlete much of my life, 37 yrs now, training intensely and working hard labour work about 10 years now (which I love to do!). Now I’m working on strengthening for said work.

    But…I’m also turning a new leaf. I’d like to do less of that hard labour, and genuinely help people. I’m super impressed with the results Pilates can have on people. I’m at a point where I am very passionate about helping people obtain better health, and this is a natural transition for me.

    Do you know of exemplary male instructors who I can look at for guidance? I have found a renown training center (Body Harmonics in Toronto), and I’m confident in their educational training. But, it’s really important for me to see what successful male instructors are doing that works. Males who are, let’s put, a mans man so to speak. Albeit, I strive to be compassionate and know that, and know that I know, I want to help people, while getting paid for loving what I do.

    Also, what insight can you provide on instructors who are mobile and visit clients are their home?

    Thanks in advance of your help!

    Warm regards.


  1. Pilates Teaching Cues - pilates connection - February 7, 2018

    […] Life As a Pilates Instructor – Lisa Johnson Fitness – So you want to be a Pilates instructor? Here’s what you need to know in order to make an informed decision; it’s a great career with lots of benefits. […]

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