Note: Since this article was written, the PMA has stopped using the "Gold Certified" designation and has begun using the term "Pilates Pioneers" to refer to those who met the gold certification requirements.
PMA is the acronym for the Pilates Method Alliance. To be PMA gold certified means that a Pilates instructor passed the PMA instructor certification exam the first year it was given, without the aid of a study guide.
After the first year of the exam, the PMA created a study guide for it. People who passed the exam after that, who had a study guide available to them are certified, but not gold certified. Does that mean they couldn't have passed the exam without a study guide? Not necessarily. Does it meant that they have less experience than a gold certified instructor? Not necessarily. Does it mean that they are in any way less-able instructors than those who are gold certified? Not necessarily. Everyone, first year exam takers and those after, had to meet the same requirements to take the test -- like age, number of hours of teaching experience, and hours of classroom practice.
I'm not suggesting that walking in cold off the street and passing the PMA certification exam isn't a significant accomplishment, it is. But I have some concern that "gold certified", which sounds very illustrious, might lead an uninitiated consumer to think that it means more than it does.
There are many factors that influence what make a good Pilates instructor and what makes an instructor right for each individual. Knowing that an instructor passed the PMA national certification exam, whether they did it in 2005 without a study guide or 2006 and after with a study guide, should give you a good level of confidence in that instructor's knowledge, though the exam does not test live teaching skills. Beyond that, if your instructor is gold certified you know that he/she has been around a while, was probably a devoted Pilates practitioner and instructor way before the exam was created, and is brave enough to take and pass an extensive exam with little or no prep from the exam giver.
Please note that the PMA instructor certification exam is meant to be an international 3rd party certification credential. There are, however, many independent Pilates schools that use the term certification to indicate that someone has graduated from their educational program.Related Links: