Austin’s Fitness Instructor Shortage

By Laura Bond Williams – October 1, 2021

Every day, in every way, Austinites are moving: high-intensity interval workouts, suspension training, kickboxing, spin, dance and barre, plus mind-body favorites like yoga and Pilates. With such a large population of workout-minded citizens, local studio owners say there’s a growing need for more well-trained teachers and plenty of opportunities.

Just a quick Google search for “Pilates jobs Austin” will bring up dozens of listings for Pilates, yoga and barre teachers. Jobs are full-time, part-time and by contract; in-person and online; in both local studios and national brand gyms; at dance studios, K-12 schools and even healthcare offices.      

Some businesses are expanding their teacher training programs to meet the demand, preparing teachers to work in their own studios or others. Other businesses hire a stream of independent contractors, while some hire instructors as employees. Most studios hire teachers who are already certified, but others may have proprietary brand training. 

Clearly, would-be teachers have a range of choices for both training and employment.

“I personally don’t think we have enough yoga teachers,” says Michelle Young, C-IAYT, E-RYT 500 and owner of My Vinyasa Practice.

My Vinyasa Practice alone has 50 employees and 20 contractors working online, in studios and on location in diverse industries like healthcare and education. Young says that just because there are a lot of teacher training opportunities doesn’t mean there is an abundance of teachers.

“We can have 20 people in training and only one or two will want to teach, and they only want to teach one or two classes a week,” Young says. “I find it challenging to fill all of the openings at times. I am constantly referring teachers to organizations that share our mission to integrate yoga.”

Pure Barre Southwest Austin owner Lisa O’Neill says her studio budgets for the cost of training when they hire someone new to Pure Barre. Would-be instructors submit a video audition and, after being hired, they complete a 100-hour training program that takes 8-10 weeks.

The job market [for hiring] is competitive,” says O’Neill, who plans to open her studio this fall with eight instructors. “I know I’m not the only Pure Barre studio looking to hire in Austin.” 

B Pilates owner Beth Hernandez hires teachers as independent contractors who may work for several studios — and some that may not even be within the same three-mile area. 

“Sometimes it can be difficult to find an instructor who has room on their schedule and isn’t conflicted from teaching at your studio,” she says. “I feel blessed to have had two instructors at my studio for two years.”

Pilates South Austin co-owner Kari Levassar says they’re always looking out for great teachers. She and co-owner Beth Dukleth are also master teachers for its Pilates teacher training program, which began in 2013. Their studio usually has 8-10 part-time instructors on its schedule as independent contractors. 

“We can always create more space for somebody who is a strong teacher, plus has the hustle and drive to work in this industry,” Levassar says. “And there is a shortage of those people.” 

“Every studio I know is looking for instructors,” says Brooke Bowersock, owner of Align Pilates, which hires its teachers as employees. Bowersock has been a master instructor since 2014 and opened her second studio in East Austin during the pandemic. That location, Align East, is designed exclusively as a Pilates teacher training studio to meet the area’s growing demand for qualified instructors.

Pilates and yoga teacher training programs are usually one-to-two-year commitments, and teachers in training might work a full-time job while preparing for their career change or side gig. Becoming an employee or contractor may mean teaching anywhere from 4 to 12 or more classes a week, plus private clients. Teachers may fill their private and group class schedules at two, maybe three studios as contractors, employees or both. 

Teachers who prefer a “side hustle” may stick to working at one studio close to home or work. Rebecca Rogers is a licensed vocational nurse who decided to teach Pilates on the side. She’s a part-time employee for Club Pilates and went through its teacher education program. She works as a contractor for two other studios and sees the growing demand.

“Especially in Austin, we always have someone new in a class,” Rogers says. 

Full-time instructor Celeste Knickerbocker enjoys being an independent contractor. She focuses on “maxing out” her schedule at three studios in Central, West and South Austin, and sees new job opportunities every day on LinkedIn. She worked at Pilates studios in Beverly Hills and San Francisco before moving to Austin in 2017 and says being able to work anywhere allows for “a constant state of reinventing yourself.” 

I feel fortunate that in all my jobs I have free license to teach the class I want to teach,” she says. 

Sometimes teacher training becomes the path to a new career. In 2014, Paradise Taylor was working in accounting when she began yoga teacher training with no plan to become a full-time teacher. By the end of the 10-month program, she saw how prepared she was to teach others — and she embraced it. 

“I’m a little shy. I got a little stage fright,” she says. “Then the impostor syndrome, too. Why would anyone come to me when you can go to someone who’s been teaching for 25 years? One message that came across to me is that there is a teacher for everyone. When you take your seat as a teacher, your students will find you.” 

Since then, Taylor has taught yoga in Austin, Costa Rica and Iceland, in studios, doctor’s offices, government agencies and even private events like bachelorette parties, resorts, parks and parking lots. She says her work teaching nine classes a week plus planning yoga retreats means more than a 20-hour-a-week-job. “If you’re serious about [teaching], it’s something you really want to do, start with 200-hour [training] and you almost can’t stop doing it,” she says.

Several teacher training programs in yoga and Pilates offer options for mentorship and apprenticeship.

“We encourage teachers to teach as soon as they feel comfortable, even if they are still in training,” says Young, founder of My Vinyasa Practice. “We supervise and mentor, and this helps to develop confident teachers who are learning while doing.”

Bowersock has 16 trainees in her Pilates mentorship program at Align East, where they get together six hours a week for specialized classes to earn hours that count for certification. “I don’t teach people to teach like me,” she says. “I teach to their strengths and guide them through the program.”

Pilates South Austin offers trainees apprenticeships by invitation. Since 2013, the studio has certified 60 teachers in Pilates, barre and Board 360 interval workouts, several of whom work in its studio. Levassar says the flexible appeal of the profession is also why more Pilates teacher training is needed. “Teachers can go to any city, all over the world, and as long as there’s a reformer in the studio, they can work anywhere, and that’s a beautiful thing.”

About the Author

Laura Williams smiling.

A certified life coach and Pilates teacher, Laura Bond Williams inspires clients to discover new ways of moving through life. She loves a good Broadway dance class or “Thriller” flash mob and is happy to take the stage anywhere, from the Long Center to a parking lot.

 
 

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