How To Become An Exercise to Music (ETM) Instructor- Ultimate Guide

Are you considering a career in fitness, but maybe the traditional personal trainer route doesnt quite float your boat? Or perhaps you are already a qualified personal trainer looking to add an extra string to your bow and include some variety in your working day?

And as you’ve landed here, we’re going to assume you’re interested in learning how to become an ETM instructor!

Lucky you, because in this guide we are going to cover everything you need to know when it comes to becoming an ETM instructor, from things you’ll need to consider and what is covered on the course, to job options and further progressions that you will be able to move into upon becoming qualified!

So keep on reading to find out how to become an ETM instructor, and let’s dive right in!

What is ETM?

ETM stands for Exercise to Music. As you can imagine, this covers a broad range of classes and fitness concepts.

The qualification pertaining to this area of fitness is the Level 2 Exercise to Music qualification. And as just mentioned above, you can imagine that becoming qualified in Level 2 Exercise to Music gives you the ability to teach a broad variety of classes!

The Level 2 ETM qualification is the minimum qualification that you will need when looking at how to become an ETM instructor. With this, you can branch into different areas, for example an aerobics instructor, a dance instructor, or an indoor cycling instructor. (If this sounds like something you’re interested in, why not have a look at our guide on How to Become A Spin Instructor!

However, it is important to note that for certain classes, the Level 2 ETM qualification is a pre-requisite for further CPD’s or additional qualifications. This means that you will first need to obtain the qualification, and then progress onto further qualifications. Some examples include: Spin / Indoor Cycling, Pilates.

You cannot teach yoga, pilates, circuits, kettlebells etc. without posessing the relevant qualification. It is therefore vital to ensure you check you hold all the required qualifications needed before beginning to teach a class.

What classes can you teach once you become an ETM instructor?

ETM instructors are covered to teach groups of healthy adult participants in a studio environment. As an ETM instructor, you are not able to teach within a gym setting, for example delivering gym inductions or working one to one with a client.

You will be able to teach a variety of classes, usually aerobic, body conditioning using small free weights or body weight (this is known as the MSE section – Muscular Strength and Endurance), and classes that combine both an aerobic component with a body conditioning component.

– Note: If you want to teach branded classes, for example Les Mills or Zumba, it’s likely you will need to complete an additional course provided by the company themselves, in order to teach under the brand name.

Why ETM?

ETM instructors are the backbone of studio-based exercise. This area of fitness continues to grow, becoming more and more popular, providing (almost) endless employment opportunities.

There’s a huge amount of freedom and creativity to be discovered in exercise to music, meaning you can have lots of fun! You can choreograph your own routines and really focus your classes on what you enjoy, and also what your participants enjoy too!

The great thing about ETM is that there are no pre-requisites to sign up onto a course, although having some experience partaking in an exercise to music class does help!

Becoming a qualified ETM instructor also provides an easy progression route to Level 3 group exercise, for example Pilates and Yoga, and since there are no pre-requisites for ETM, its a good way to get started in the industry!

Is ETM for you?

When considering how to become an ETM instructor, you should first ask yourself some questions to ensure you will enjoy and thrive in the role, and if the role is suitable for you!

If the answer is yes to all these questions, it is likely that you’ll love the role of an Exercise to Music instructor!

A couple of other things to consider… the role could involve early starts or evening classes, and could potentially involve a lot of travelling between different venues if you are working freelance for multiple gyms. Although, one great perk to becoming an ETM instructor is that you can have the flexibility to teach whenever is best suited to your schedule, especially if you decide to set up your own classes!

So if this sounds like something that suits you so far, keep on reading and you’ll discover how to become an ETM instructor!

First things first: Research

As with any new idea or potential career change, the first step is to do some research. You need to research the generic, basic skills needed for the role, along with any necessary qualifications and additional skills that could boost your chances of success. It can also be a good idea to have a look at a couple of job adverts and read through the job specifications, so that you are aware of what certain employers are looking for in the ideal candidate.

With ETM, the main skills required to succeed in the role are:

As we briefly touched upon earlier, to become an ETM instructor, you will need to obtain the Level 2 Exercise to Music qualification. Keep reading as in the next section we are going to discuss this in more detail!

The Qualification: Research

So, you have decided to take the plunge and enrol on a course. Before doing so, it is important to research different providers to find a provider that offers a course that is not only suitable to you and your learning styles, but is also fully accredited.

When researching courses, make sure that they are endorsed by CIMSPA, or that their qualification is awarded by a governing body like Active IQ or YMCA Awards. Without this accreditation, the course is essentially worthless, as it will not be recognised by any employers. Ensuring the course is accredited means that you have been taught to national standards and have covered all the vital and necessary topics to be safely and competently qualified in that area.

Here are some questions that you should seek to find the answers to when researching different courses:

You may also have some of your own questions for the providers, for example if you’re looking to start teaching straight away, how quickly can you become qualified? Do you get career support, guaranteed interviews, marketing and business advice?

Another top tip is to look at reviews and testimonials from past students on the course. We recommend using a site such as TrustPilot when searching for reviews, as reviews that are published on the provider’s websites can sometimes be misleading.

It can also be useful to check out the social media pages of the provider, as people often turn to social media to praise or complain about something! Plus, looking at the kind of content that is published can give you an indication of what to expect – for example if they post frequently and respond quickly to comments, it is likely they are more invested than a provider that perhaps hasnt posted since September 2017.

Charlotte Cooper, owner of CDP Dance, undertook an ETM course to become a Zumba instructor. Charlotte shared her experience with us, and here’s what she had to say:

I became a self employed teacher in August 2016 and very quickly then also became a Zumba instructor. On my B1, which is the initial training course for Zumba, it was advised that taking an ETM (exercise to music) qualification would support and enhance our instructing ability. It was advised to do this with EMD UK, the national governing body for group exercise, as they run the ETM course and give the option for Zumba. After a year of running my classes on and off, it was advised to look at gyms to run classes but gym require you to also have ETM.

The ETM qualification is a mixture of theory and practical. The theory covers anatomy of the body and how to plan your classes to meet the requirements of different demographics – kids, adult, elderly, pregnant, recovering from injury/illness to name a few. The practical was how to teach your class and how to seamlessly add in adaptions as required. I found that the support from EMD UK whilst undertaking the qualification enabled me to pass.

Whilst I am no longer a fitness instructor the skills and knowledge learnt from the qualification have been transferred to my other classes. EMD UK have since altered their ETM qualification so that it supports fitness instructors and teachers like.

The Qualification: What to expect

For budding ETM instructors, the qualification will include two parts: theory and practical.


The theory element of the course will be split into two parts: Level 2 Anatomy & Physiology, and Principles of Exercise. Be prepared to learn about the musculoskeletal system – bones and their structure, muscles and their movements, joints and their ranges of motion, cartilage, tendons etc. You will also learn about the circulatory system, the cardiorespiratory system, the nervous system, and the body’s energy systems.

You’ll also learn about components and principles of fitness training, along with the benefits and adaptations. As a brief snapshot, this includes the difference between muscular strength and muscular endurance; resistance training guidelines and cardiorespiratory training guidelines; the FIIT principle and much more!

As well as the more science-based theory, you will also study the theory side to Exercise to Music. As a brief overview, this will include being able to recognise the beat and phrase of music, how to choreograph routines to different concepts (ie. 32 count, verse & chorus), how to safely warm up and cool down, and how to structure a class based on the aerobic curve.

You will also learn about the necessary licenses needed to allow you to use music in your classes. There are a lot of legalities surrounding the use of music, so in order to ensure there is no breach of copyright, licenses exist so that you can use music in your classes with no issues. Some of the most common ones are the Performing Rights Society (PRS) License, and the Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) License.

It is possible to purchase music suitable for use within an ETM class without requiring a PPL License, however the tracks are usually cover versions and are much lower quality than the originals.

You should ensure that you have all the necessary licenses and permissions required before teaching a class. Don’t worry if you’re a little confused – details of the different licenses are covered in further detail within the content of the course.

Along with the theory, you will also create your own lesson plan that you will deliver for the practical assessment.


For the practical element of the ETM course, you will deliver a class to a group of participants that will be assessed by an examiner.

You will choreograph and plan the class, and this is likely to include a warm up and cool down, along with an aerobic component and an MSE section (Muscular Strength and Endurance). You will be given time to practice your routine before delivering it to a small group of participants.

Once you have delivered your class under the watchful eye of the examiner, you will have to fill out an evaluation form detailling how you think it went. What did you think you did well? What could you have done better? It can be helpful to ask your class participants for feedback to help you fill this out. They can praise what you did well and also give you some constructive criticism or feedback for you to work on for next time!

Remember: it is very important to be honest when filling out your evaluation!

To achieve the qualification, you will need to pass both the theory and the practical elements.


Now you have the qualification, what’s next? How do you actually become an ETM instructor? Well read on, and we’ll talk you through the options you have!

Career Options

As with most fitness disciplines, eg. personal training, gym instructors etc., there are generally a few different routes that you can take when looking for work. You can be employed or self employed, however it is likely that as an Exercise to Music instructor, you’re going to be self-employed.

If you decide to go down the self-employed route, there are a couple of things to consider. Being self-employed comes with a variety of added responsibilities, such as filing your own taxes, sorting out National Insurance contributions, and securing insurance for your business.

You need to ensure you are prepared to take these responsibilities on. It can be additional work however it is a very rewarding career that can make it all worthwhile.

One positive with fitness instructing is that you can do it part time to supplement your income, or you can go full time and earn a comfortable salary.

In a Gym

As an ETM instructor, one option you have is to work for a gym. You will work for the gym delivering classes.

You will either be directly employed by the gym, or you could be self-employed and have an agreement with the gym that allows you to use their facilities to teach your classes, usually in the way of paying rent or teaching a few classes for free each week to cover the rent costs.

It’s important to consider the pro’s and cons of both these scenario’s.

Working for a company

If you decide to go down this route, you will be employed, either directly or on a freelance basis, by the company. The company will already have agreements in place with multiple facilities, securing slots for their company to teach classes.

With this option, all the hard work is done for you: you will not need to negotiate with gyms or sport facilities for a slot to teach a class, as this has already been done by the company.

One consideration with this choice is that you may have to travel between different venues to teach classes. It is likely the company will work with multiple venues, so unlike being employed (whether directly or freelance) for one particular gym or club, you could be required to teach out of mutiple venues.

You will need to consider transport / fuel costs – do the company cover or subsidise these?

A couple of pro’s with this route include:

It is a great way to build confidence and develop your experience. Generally in this set up, the main instructor has a team of 2 or 3 assisstants to help them deliver the class. This can include duties such as controlling the music, helping with any participants queries, demonstrating modified versions of exercises.

Of course some may prefer to get stuck in and start teaching straight away, however if you are a little nervous, this can be a great way to start out in your ETM career and can allow you to build confidence and get a feel for the role before teaching a class yourself.

Kind of like dipping your toe in the water first rather than being thrown straight in at the deep end!

Group Exercise Coordinator

An alternative option to consider is the role of a group exercise coordinator. In this role, you would be overseeing and leading the fitness programme at a gym.

Instead of the classic route of teaching classes, duties for this role could include: leading and managing a group exercise team, supporting a group exercise timetable change, launch events for new classes, developing a group exercise programme for the gym, ensuring every class is a positive experience for the participants, managing and implementing feedback.

Working for yourself

A very common route that lots of newly qualified ETM instructors go down is the route of setting up their own classes. They hire out village halls, church halls etc. and advertise themselves to attract clients. This can be quite tough if you don’t already have a pre-existing client base.

Something else to consider here is that you should obtain a first aid qualification. While this isn’t compulsory and therefore not something you need to worry about when looking at how to become an ETM instructor, usually this is offset by the fact that you would be working in a gym: therefore there would be qualified first aider’s on site.

However, if you are working on your own in a setting such as a church hall, it is vital that you have a suitable first aid qualification so that if any participants of your class were to become injured, you would be able to deal calmly and effectively with the situation.

Opening your own studio

Once you have established yourself in the industry and have gained experience and built up a loyal client base, you may consider opening up your own studio. This is an exciting business venture and could be the ultimate rewarding step in your career as an Exercise to Music Instructor.

Once you have done the research, found and secured a suitable venue, perfected the interior and exterior and sorted all the necessary business admin… the fun can begin!

A fabulous benefit of owning your own studio is that you can design your own timetable – you can teach whatever classes you want, whenever you want! Another perk of owning your own studio is that you can give aspiring ETM instructors the opportunity to get started in the industry, and also hire more experienced instructors to deliver their classes in your studio.

This can allow you to earn additional income in the form of rent, and depending on how large/ how many rooms your studio has, and how many instructors you hire and can have running a class at any one time, there is the potential that you could cover all overheads with income earned from rent, leaving all additional income you make through teaching your own classes etc. as profit.

It can be a really profitable and rewarding venture, so if it’s something you think you’d be willing to invest in in future, it’s definitely worthwhile trying to build up your brand in the industry while perhaps working freelance, and build a loyal client base to give you a good boost when starting up.

Owning your own studio is also another scenario where you should secure a first aid qualification, and ensure there is always a qualified first-aider on site whenever there are classes being taught.

In a Gym or freelance?

Let’s take a look at the positive’s and negative’s on both sides – working freelance vs. working in a gym or club, whether directly or freelance. The graphic below summarises the main points you should consider.

A note on First Aid…

It may suprise you to know that a first aid qualification is not a compulsory requirement for an ETM instructor. However, we would recommend obtaining a first aid qualification regardless of the setting where you will be working. Any type of exercise carries a risk of injury, therefore we believe it is important to be able to deal with any occurrences as the instructor of the class.

If you wish to increase your knowledge further, you can progress onto qualifications such as Level 3 Pre and Post Natal Exercise, or Level 3 Exercise for Older Adults. This will allow you to safely adapt exercises for these particular groups.

Further progressions

So, while we are on the subject of progressions, there are lots of options from here that you can take to allow you to progress your career and expand your knowledge.

Exercise to Music is usually a pre-requisite to other Level 2 courses, for example Level 2 Step and Level 2 Indoor Cycling Instructor.

The ETM qualification is also often a useful background qualification to have if you want to enrol on a branded course, for example a Zumba Instructor course. Although the Zumba courses have no official pre-requisites, it’s always best to cover your back and have the base knowledge that is provided on a Level 2 ETM course. Plus, if you’re looking to work for a gym, a lot of them will require you to hold a minimum of Level 2 Exercise to Music before they will allow you to teach.

And as mentioned above, once you have the Level 2 ETM qualification, you can then move onto Level 3 courses such as Pre and Post Natal Exercise, Older Adults, and even additional disciplines such as Level 3 Yoga Teacher Training or Level 3 Pilates.

ETM Instructor salary

One of the most frequently asked questions!

Unfortunately there is no set answer to this question, due to the variety in the role. If you are working as an instructor part time, you will obviously be earning less than full time instructors. As there are lots of part time instructors out there as well as those instructing full time, this makes it difficult to reach an average salary figure.

The amount you earn is also largely dependant on where you work, ie. for a gym or a club, or freelance from public spaces; how many classes per week you teach; your average number of class participants.

When researching this, we found a range of figures from between £11 an hour to upwards of £35 per hour. Hourly rate depends on the gym / club you are employed by, whether they take rent, and your level of experience, as well as the factors mentioned above.

However if you work freelance out of public spaces such as church halls, you can set your own class prices and, providing you can attract the clients, you essentially have the potential to earn as much as you like.

You can also increase your salary by getting additional qualifications under your belt, for example your earnings are likely to increase if you become qualified in Special Populations, as your knowledge is more specialised and you can work with a broader variety of clients.


All fitness professionals should have insurance to cover themselves, for example in case of any accidents or injuries leading to claims. If you are working for a gym, they will likely have insurance that will cover you as long as you are directly employed by them. Double check this with your employer before you begin teaching any classes for the gym to ensure that you are fully covered. If you are working freelance, you will need to arrange your own insurance.

And that’s that!

So there you have it: our Ultimate Guide on How to Become an ETM Instructor.

Is there anything we missed that you’d like to know? Any tips you want to share that could help others?

Let us know in the comments below!

We’d also love to hear your stories – if you’ve taken the plunge and enrolled on a course, how is it going?

Get in touch with us on Facebook or Twitter, and if you’re interested in becoming one of our students, get in touch with one of our enrolment team at 0800 002 9599 or via [email protected].

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About the Author: Abbie Watkins

Abbie Watkins OriGym
Holding an MA Marketing Communications and Branding as well as a BSc Psychology from the University of Liverpool, Abbie’s experience encompasses the retail, hospitality and fitness industries. Since joining OriGym, she has become a qualified Personal Trainer and gone on to complete a specialist qualification in advanced Sports Nutrition. Abbie’s main focuses cover staying up to speed with YouTube fitness influencers, identifying successful and innovative content formats. She has contributed to various publications, including the Daily Express. Beyond OriGym, she enjoys going on scenic runs and upbeat exercise classes, and often found on the front row of a Saturday morning spin class. 

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