ACSM and ACE are two of the top personal training certifications in the industry.
It can be a tough choice between the two. By the end of this article, you will know the differences between the two certifications as well as have a firm idea of which one you should choose. After reading this article, I recommend 110% reading my ultimate breakdown on the top five certifications as well.
Let’s stop jibber-jabbering and get right into it!
ACE vs ACSM: General Certification Overview
Welcome to my ACE vs ACSM article everybody. By the end, you will be able to choose the certification that is right for you or realize that neither of them is perfect for you. ACE is an excellent certification for beginners as it covers all the basics and fundamentals of personal training.
Their model will allow you to create routines for a variety of individuals and their specific needs. As a beginner, it may be difficult at first to design your programs for particular individuals, but this certification will allow you to do that with ease.
The majority of the programs they outline for you are aimed for the traditional American who is overweight.
I believe that this is a good thing as the majority of your clients will be the average overweight American.
In contrast, ACSM has a greater focus on personal training for rehabilitation or muscular imbalances that are caused by injuries. This includes instruction on performing a detailed screening and fitness test.
This allows you to analyze what people are capable of performing regarding physical motions and the exercises to be applied to correct these limitations.
This screening and correction process is very similar to the one provided within the NASM certification. I am assuming that you are at the very beginning of your journey into the personal training industry. PTpioneer is dedicated to helping you on your journey.
I recommend checking out my article on getting started as a personal trainer; the time it takes to become a trainer and what type of money to expect from a career in training.
Comparison of tests, pricing, and study materials provided:
The ACE certification offers an array of study materials beyond just the textbook, including personalized online help, flashcards, videos, etc.
These materials go far beyond what traditional certification companies provide their applicants which is usually only a textbook which may be the reason that ACE has a higher pass rate than most (approximately 65%).
There are three different options to select from. The least expensive one is only $499, but this only includes the textbook training manual and the ability to take the test.
The other two options are slightly more expensive but include additional materials to assist you in studying and passing the test. The prices change from time to time, check out the current prices here.
The mid-tier option ($599) provides additional videos, flashcards, and instructions on how to better understand the study manual provided.
The top tier option labeled the premium plus includes additional instruction on how to perform fitness math as well as the ability to retake the test if you have failed the first time.
The ACE certification test provides you three hours to answer 150 multiple-choice questions.
I recommend that you check out my article that provides more detail about the ACE certification as well as check out the ACE website to get a better understanding of the options and get more information on what each plan has to offer and which one is right for you.
The ACSM certification has two primary textbooks that are provided to you when you sign up for their program. It should also be known there is an option to buy an additional third book that provides an overview of what will be on the test for an extra $40.
If you decide that this is the correct certification for you, I recommend you spend the extra $40 and purchase the third book as you will find it to be beneficial due to its inclusion of practice exams.
The larger of the two textbooks focus on the fundamentals and techniques of personal training which will cost you approximately $70.
The second book primarily focuses on the screening/fitness tests and solutions to address the problems that were diagnosed. This book indeed provides in-depth knowledge of how to help people with disabilities or other populations with special needs.
ACSM also offers a workshop for $375 that consists of three days of instruction in preparation for the exam as well as a single day workshop for $129.
The exam fee will differ depending on whether you are a member of ACSM. The price for nonmembers is $279 in contrast to $219 for members. The total costs including both the exam costs as the textbooks come out to around $440 for nonmembers.
The consensus is that this exam is harder to pass relative to the ACE certification.
This may indeed be due to the reason that they only provide textbooks instead of the array of additional study materials that ACE delivers including flashcards, videos, etc.
I have difficulty strictly reading and learning from a textbook, but everyone learns differently, so you’ll have to make that determination of what’s best for you.
I highly recommend you check out my article that provides greater detail about the ACSM certification. If you want more information on ACSM, you should check out the full review here.
Conclusion on ACE vs ACSM
Based on my assessment and comparison of these two certifications I would recommend that you get certified through ACE if you expect to be training clients that are of the general population in which their primary goals are to shed weight and build muscle.
Their fitness model provides you with the required knowledge to help people with a variety of needs to achieve their goals.
I also believe ACE provides a superior knowledge of the fundamentals of exercise science for beginners. I highly encourage you to check out all of the packages that they offer to see which one is the best for you.
ACSM is pretty technical and can be especially difficult for people who don’t already have a solid foundation of exercise science.
They also lack solid weight training instructions relative to other certifications. But if you’re looking for the certification that is more clinically focused and have aspirations to help clients of particular populations or muscular imbalances due to injuries, this may be the certification for you.
If this is the kind of training you are interested in, I also recommend that you check out ISSA, NASM, and NSCA, as these certifications also provide a wealth of knowledge and instruction on how to train individuals with disabilities and other special needs.
I hope the above information I provided in my ACE vs ACSM article was helpful and will help guide you in making the best choice for you.
I will have to give the trophy to ACE because they have much better study materials (check them out here!) and they are also highly recognized within the industry.
ACE and NASM are my top two certifications as of right now. You should now check out the certifying agencies websites for more information on which certification would be the best for you.
Here are some additional ACE comparison articles that you may enjoy: ACE versus NASM, ACE vs ISSA and ACE vs NSCA. Here are some other ACSM comparison articles that may be helpful as well: ACSM vs NASM, ACSM vs NSCA and ACSM vs ISSA.
Please let me know if you have any questions or comments by typing them in the comment box below. Also if this article is helpful please share it with your friends or on social media using one of the buttons on the site. Thank you and happy personal training!
Tyler Read has a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology. Tyler is also a certified personal trainer with NASM, ACE and CSCS. Tyler’s main goal is to help people get started in the personal training industry and to become successful personal trainers. Tyler is the owner of Personal Training Pioneer which helps people get started in the personal training industry and become successful.