Welcome to my ultimate comparison breakdown of the ACE and NASM CPT certifications, two of the best personal trainer certifications around.
I write this after studying for and passing the personal training certification exams for both the ACE training program and NASM personal trainer certification.
NASM and ACE certified personal trainers are highly sought after by most gyms and jobs, so whether you choose ACE or NASM will depend on your particular needs.
I have over 10 years of experience as a trainer, and our PT Pioneer team has certified fitness professionals through both fitness certifications. We have combined our knowledge to give you the best possible comparison of the ACE vs NASM certifications.
My review looks at the following key NASM vs ACE certification topics:
- Comparison of pricing, packages, and prerequisites
- ACE vs NASM content deep dive: knowledge and skills
- Pros and cons of the ACE vs NASM certification
- Exam difficulties, preparation timelines, and study material review of ACE personal trainer cert and NASM
While you’re here, I suggest you take this quiz to get a quick idea of which certification is best for you.
Alright, let’s dive into the data and facts, and find out which of these fitness industry organizations is best: the ACE certified trainer or the NASM CPT.
- What is NASM?
- What is ACE?
- Pros and cons of ACE Certification vs NASM CPT
- ACE and NASM Certification Popularity
- ACE vs NASM Certification packages and study materials
- ACE vs NASM CPT course layouts
- What are the prerequisites to getting a personal training certification?
- The average income of ACE vs NASM personal trainers
- NASM vs ACE final exams
- NASM vs ACE recertification details
- ACE vs NASM overall ratings
- ACE vs NASM CPT (Video)
- NASM and ACE FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
|CPT||ACSM vs ACE Quick Breakdown||Features||Price|
|ACE||Check ACE Pricing|
|NASM||Check NASM Pricing|
What is NASM?
NASM stands for the National Academy of Sports Medicine. They are a personal trainer certification provider that educates health and fitness professionals.
Founded in 1987, NASM has become one of the leading names in health, fitness, and nutrition certification programs.
Google search trends show NASM as the most popular certification institute; this name recognition shows that many people value NASM’s programs.
NASM-certified trainers are among the most successful from a personal trainer salary perspective.
Additionally, gyms across the globe hire NASM trainers.
Is NASM accredited?
The NCCA, the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, accredits all the main NASM certifications. An accredited program always stands out over a fitness certification without the gold standard stamp of approval.
Aside from my free NASM study guide, you’ll find many useful prep resources from them when we go through the study materials later.
What is ACE?
ACE is the American Council on Exercise, a well-recognized non-profit certification provider with a global influence.
Founded in 1985, ACE’s immediate focus is on improving and addressing public health by encouraging people to make exercise a part of their daily routine.
ACE uses its IFT model, short for integrated fitness training, which gives trainers an easy format to follow to be creative with their exercises and workouts.
Is ACE accredited?
The ACE CPT certification is NCCA-accredited, meaning it holds the title of being up to the world-class standards set by subject matter experts in the US.
Good number of gyms and health clubs like seeing NCCA accreditation.
Pros and cons of ACE Certification vs NASM CPT
Both NASM and ACE programs offer unique benefits and drawbacks with their certifications.
ACE prices its programs extremely reasonably compared to other major trainer certifications.
ACE’s exercise psychology information is unmatched and their study materials remain among the best of any fitness organization.
The ACE fitness certification certainly gives you plenty to work with in terms of study options too.
NASM also provides an easy to use online learning platform and superb corrective exercise coverage for a CPT.
NASM has the best online exercise video library of any fitness organization; as mentioned before, the popularity of this organization cannot be understated. NASM remains the biggest fitness certification provider in the US.
On the negative side, the ACE personal trainer course doesn’t have the strongest exercise science content. The ACE Personal Trainer Certification glosses over exercise physiology in favor of education on the benefits of exercise.
This goes back to ACE’s primary goal; to get people moving. They’re concerned about access to exercise more than providing too much of the science that might confuse or overwhelm a new trainer.
NASM provides more science regarding the human body and how movement impacts body systems but fails to offer complete special population information.
Also, experts rate the NASM test a bit more challenging than the ACE, and of course, the NASM test costs more than the ACE Personal Training Certification.
The best personal training certification for you depends on the specifics of what you’re looking for, so let’s look at each package available.
ACE and NASM Certification Popularity
Both ACE and NASM are among the best personal trainer certifications in the fitness industry. NASM and ACE certifications are popular among employers and clients who know about the industry.
NASM is more popular and respected than ACE on account of the fact that the exam is more difficult, and the NASM-OPT (Optimum Performance Training) model is often regarded as better than the ACE-IFT (Integrated Fitness Training).
However, NASM is a bit more expensive, and the difficult NASM exam can be counterproductive depending on what you specifically need for your career.
ACE vs NASM Certification packages and study materials
Study materials determine the quality of your learning style and experience.
The best personal trainer certification program for you needs to fit your budget and give you the best possible course resources so you can pass the exam.
Both NASM and ACE offer extremely comprehensive study materials and options, and each bundle gives you more or less based on the price of these CPTs.
ACE Certification Cost and Materials
ACE has three packages: the Basic, the Plus, and the Advantage.
The Basic package contains the essential study materials, but only at a bare minimum level.
The ACE Basic Package costs $979 and you get the following:
- ACE Practice Exam
- ACE Answers (Basic)
- ACE Certification Exam
- ACE Personal Trainer Study Companion
- ACE Personal Trainer Textbook
- ACE University
The ACE Plus Package costs $1,149 and provides a more rounded approach, offering most of what you need to prepare to score well on the final exam.
- 2 ACE Practice Exams
- ACE Answers (Plus)
- ACE Certification Exam
- ACE Personal Trainer Study Companion
- ACE Personal Trainer Textbook
- ACE University
- ACE Exercise Science 101
The final tier, the Advantage package, costs $1,729 and includes all the basics and necessities plus a few extra bells and whistles.
In my opinion, the ACE Advantage program works best for most people, but the Advantage option gives you all the factors you need and more opportunity to succeed.
- 4 ACE Practice Exams
- ACE Answers (Advantage)
- ACE Certification Exam
The Basic package costs $979, the Plus is $1,149, and the Advantage package is $1,729.
To take the ACE exam only without additional materials costs $499.
If you want to start your ACE CPT test prep as soon as possible, take a look at my free ACE CPT study guide and practice exam.
Exclusive PTP CPT Offers
|Gold Standard Cert||Most Popular Cert||Best Study Materials
|A Good Option||A Good Option||Best CPT for you?
My students regularly lean on third-party resources such as the Trainer Academy ACE CPT Prep Course, which includes flashcards, study guides, practice questions, and an exam pass guarantee.
You can always consider purchasing the higher-priced official ACE study materials directly from the organization itself as well.
Every person learns differently, so having a wide variety of study materials can be a game changer, or even workshops.
NASM Certification Cost and Materials
NASM takes a similar approach to ACE in that they offer a range of study package tiers.
NASM offers four packages as opposed to ACE’s three.
These packages are: Self-study, Premium Self-study, Guided Study, and All-inclusive.
The cheapest package from NASM, Self-study, includes the following::
- The final certification exam
- A series of lecture videos
- NASM exercise library
- NASM practice test or practice exam access
- NASM exam answers
- Online CPT cert quizzes
- Comprehensive NASM study guide and handouts
The Premium Self-study includes everything in the Self-study package in addition to:
- Job Guarantee
- One-year NASM EDGE Trainer Plus
Next, we have the Guided Study package, which in addition to everything you’ve already seen, includes the following:
- Unlimited Access to NASM Fitness Experts
- Certification Exam Retest
- NASM-CPT Hardcopy Textbook
- Bonus Course: Motivational Interviewing for Coaches
I like this last package specifically for the inclusion of a hard-copy textbook. I personally prefer being able to flip through a physical book. You can also highlight and bookmark essential sections in the book for permanent retrieval.
Also, as a trainer, it’s always good to review the textbook occasionally for any questions you have as you start to coach clients.
Lastly, we have the all-inclusive package, which includes everything.
In addition to everything the other packages have, All-inclusive also contains:
- NASM’s Edge CPT Exam Prep
- Recertify for Life
- CPR/AED Certification Online
The All-inclusive package will be overkill for most people. Perhaps if you consider the recertify for life feature, you can rationalize spending your money on that package.
Speaking of price, NASM is often considered one of the more expensive certification providers.
The NASM Self-study package costs $999, while the Premium Self-study, Guided Study, and All-inclusive cost $1,399, $1,799, and $2,699, respectively (when not on sale).
Note that you can take the NASM-CPT exam only for $599 by itself, but that’s only recommended for people who have a strong exercise science background.
Whichever of these you choose, third-party study materials always help. I notice a lot of success with students using my Free NASM CPT study guide and practice exam or the Trainer Academy NASM MVP Study System. It’s always good to get some extra help.
Of course, other options are available as well.
Don’t forget to check out the pricing on the NASM official site, as they often have specials and discounts running.
NASM often has deals on certifications, so be sure to check out the NASM website for the latest pricing.
ACE vs NASM CPT course layouts
When comparing the ISSA and NASM content, I like to break down my review by looking at a few key topics both certifications cover.
Exercise Science Principles
Exercise science principles are crucial for personal training education, forming the foundation for all other topics.
These basic principles even build the foundation for establishing a mind-muscle connection through understanding body systems and how they operate.
Both ACE and NASM take different approaches to exercise science.
NASM tackles exercise science in Chapter 5: The Nervous, Skeletal, and Muscular Systems, Chapter 6: The Cardiorespiratory, Endocrine, and Digestive Systems, and Chapter 7: Human Movement Science.
These chapters start with physiology before you start learning movements.
On the other hand, ACE combines human body science with exercises that train the muscles in Chapter 11: Integrated Exercise Programming: From Evidence to Practice.
Chapter 9: Muscular Training: Foundations and Benefits, also digs into many exercise science-related topics.
In my opinion, in the ACE method, exercise science isn’t expanded on in any fundamental detail and leaves a lot to be desired.
NASM definitely takes the cake when it comes to this topic.
NASM covers topics like biomechanics more thoroughly, where you learn how the joints in the body operate, along with more detailed content on muscle fibers and energy systems.
Behavior Change Coaching Skills
To motivate your clients and help them achieve results, you need to know how to catalyze a shift in behavior.
Change psychology delivers practical and usable personal training tips for beginners and those who are thinking about improving their fitness but haven’t quite taken that leap in the right direction.
In my opinion, ACE does an excellent job of highlighting this topic in Chapter 3: Basics of Behavior Change.
ACE describes environmental influences on behavior, the health belief model, and self-determination theory.
I also like how ACE offers practical scenarios you may encounter with a client and how to approach each situation.
You can learn the theory of these methods, but knowing how to apply them gives you the key to success in this area.
NASM also covers behavioral coaching, but to a lesser extent than ACE. The topic can be found in Chapter 4: Behavioral Coaching.
The NASM training certification certainly gives you enough to be successful, but the ACE chapter is next-level.
This makes sense considering ACE’s focus on an inspiring change of attitudes within the general population, motivating people to even engage in at-home workout routines to build self-efficacy.
If motivating people to exercise seems like a topic you want to master, the ACE-CPT is your best bet.
Consulting and screening clients to reduce risk of injury
Before engaging in a workout with your client, you need to understand that client’s strengths and limitations so you can plan accordingly.
You also want to know if any circumstances or conditions need to be specifically accommodated to prevent aggravation of medical conditions and serious injuries, such as muscle displacement.
All this lies in your ability to conduct initial assessments with your prospective clients.
NASM covers screening extensively in Chapter 11: Health, Wellness, and Fitness Assessments and Chapter 12: Posture, Movement, and Performance Assessments.
Exclusive PTP CPT Offers
|Gold Standard Cert||Most Popular Cert||Best Study Materials
|A Good Option||A Good Option||Best CPT for you?
As for ACE, Chapter 10: Muscular Training: Assessments, Chapter 8: Cardiorespiratory Training: Physiology, Assessments, and Programming, and Chapter 7: Resting Assessments and Anthropometric Measurements expand on fitness and health assessments.
This segment of the ACE curriculum even covers how forming a positive bond with a client (Building Rapport) is important in conducting accurate initial assessments, an essential aspect of how personal trainers get clients.
Both programs have decent implementation and give good examples of postural, health, and strength assessments.
However, neither of these certification programs covers cardiovascular assessments in much detail, which can be trouble for some.
ACE describes zone training in detail but they gloss over VO2 assessments in favor of using the Talk Test. While this exam format is very applicable and great for beginners, I wish ACE gave you another method for training athletes or the very fit.
In NASM’s case, they provide a walking cardiovascular assessment, and that’s about it.
Of course, you can always learn more about these assessments on your own, but if you’re going to be coaching high level triathletes or runners, maybe look at the ISSA-CPT or NSCA-CPT or maybe a strength and conditioning certification.
Program design and resistance exercise technique
Both ACE and NASM have their own patented periodization model and criteria.
The ACE Integrated Fitness Training system covers both cardiovascular and resistance programming.
Regarding muscular training, ACE recommends you begin with “Functional” training, which prioritizes balance and muscular endurance.
After that, you move to “Movement” training, where you strengthen the body’s main movement patterns (pushing, pulling, rotating, etc.).
Finally, once you complete these two phases, you move to “Load/Speed” training, which emphasizes either power, hypertrophy, or whatever goals you have after the two preparatory phases.
This system’s fundamentals certainly work and I like the emphasis on movement pattern training. I use movement training with many of my clients who want a better quality of life and with some of the athletes I work with.
My only gripe with this whole system is that while it does work, this form of periodization is a bit cookie-cutter, and not every client will be as patient with you as you guide them through each phase. Which means a bit of system modification could be in order.
ACE also gives some basic progression guidelines, but I wish they were more comprehensive.
NASM uses its Optimum Performance Training (OPT) model, which is actually pretty similar to ACE.
You move from a “Stabilization” phase to “Strength” to “Power.”
Neither of these organizations goes too deep into higher-level periodization techniques.
I think of the two models; I like the NASM-OPT model because it’s a little more flexible, although I would recommend using the functional movements that ACE gives you in their second phase.
The NASM personal trainer certification also comes out on top regarding exercise technique guidance.
ACE has an online exercise library, but the actual textbook lacks coverage of technique. I find this extremely disappointing when you compare ACE to NASM.
The NASM text has an entire chapter devoted to all the major exercise movements.
Beyond that, the NASM online exercise demonstration library is considered probably the best of any certification organization. The videos provide excellent advice and comprehensive visual coverage.
NASM edges out ACE when it comes to resistance techniques and strength training.
Aerobic training program architecture and technique
The ACE training program again uses its IFT model when it comes to this topic: with the three stages being Base, Training, and Performance.
You begin with “Base” training, in which ACE recommends steady-state training that increases in volume and intensity throughout the training block.
Then you move to “Fitness” training, which incorporates intervals into your cardiovascular programming.
Finally, the “Performance” block includes a mixture of steady-state and intervals to help achieve a particular cardiovascular endurance goal.
Again, I think this model will work well for most novice clients but doesn’t provide the in-depth coverage needed for an advanced endurance athlete. This isn’t an advanced athletic performance certification, so it makes sense that ACE gives you this model for training clients in the general population.
NASM does have some coverage of types of aerobic training but doesn’t give you a periodized program like ACE, so ACE is certainly the winner regarding cardio programming.
Helping special populations with fitness
ACE has one of the best, most comprehensive chapters on obesity I’ve seen in a CPT. They describe possible causes of obesity, both physically, environmentally, and psychologically.
The CPT program includes thorough guidelines and strategies for working with the obese.
ACE also covers clients with CVD, hypertension, stroke, PAD, metabolic disorders (diabetes, metabolic disease, etc.), pulmonary disorders (asthma, bronchitis), cancer, osteoporosis, and arthritis.
The ACE training certification also includes an entire chapter on training different age groups, from children to the elderly.
ACE even includes a section on training women postpartum, an additional specific to ACE, as I’ve not seen it in other certifications.
The only issue I have with this chapter is in the guidelines for training pregnant women; there is no mention of avoiding supine or prone positions in the second and third trimesters, which is covered in almost any other certification.
NASM also covers special populations, but the chapter doesn’t provide as much real-world advice as the ACE training certificate.
Perhaps the lack of focus NASM holds in this category comes from having several dedicated special populations certs such as the NASM Senior Fitness Specialization program.
In conclusion, ACE has a superior take on special populations training than NASM.
Both the ACE and NASM programs shine in different areas of nutrition.
ACE gives you the best practical tips to share with your clients regarding making healthier choices within the current MyPlate food guidelines.
NASM tells you a bit more about the science of nutrition and you learn about each macronutrient and its particular function.
I’d say, when it comes to nutrition, it’s a tie.
If you’re working with a client who struggles to change their lifestyle habits, the ACE content will probably help you more.
If you have a client with a specific performance goal, NASM’s science-backed information is the way to go.
Thinking long-term: business skills for personal trainers
When it comes to business skills for personal trainers, ACE doesn’t really give you much.
ACE has a chapter on business skills, but this mostly deals with liability and negligence, valuable things but not necessarily tips to build your business and make money as a trainer.
NASM, on the other hand, includes marketing skills in its certification.
The NASM CPT mentions how to write a resume, interview, and approach potential clients. These are integral skills needed as a new fitness professional to help you make money as a personal trainer.
Besides this information, I’d still recommend a good business course, but NASM is the clear winner over the ACE certified personal trainer.
What are the prerequisites to getting a personal training certification?
Most courses or education programs have a list of requirements that prospective students must fulfill to be granted access.
These prerequisites also apply to personal training certifications.
The NASM certification requirements are the same as ACE: you must be 18 years or older, hold a high school diploma or GED equivalency, and hold a current CPR/AED certification.
The average income of ACE vs NASM personal trainers
According to Ziprecruiter, average ACE certified personal trainers make, on average, $53,838, whereas NASM trainers’ average income reaches $50,905.
Whether you choose ACE or NASM, you stand to make a similar income. In my experience, most full-time trainers can expect to make around $40,000 a year at first, which increases over time as you build client relationships and a good reputation in your market.
Personal Trainer Career Roadmap
NASM and ACE are both great starting points for becoming a personal trainer. While there is no single route to success, every roadmap for a successful fitness career includes an ongoing commitment to education, especially pursuing fitness specializations on top of your CPT and always providing exceptional service at every client interaction.
If I had to advise on a personal trainer career roadmap, it would be to get multiple specializations as quickly as possible to dial in your niche in the industry.
NASM vs ACE final exams
Pass rates of ACE & NASM certification exams
To pass the ACE CPT exam, you must achieve a scaled score of 500 out of 800, equivalent to 90 out of the 125 scored questions, around 72%.
About 70% of ACE test takers pass the exam and become certified. This passing rate is about average for CPT tests.
The current pass rate for candidates taking the NASM exam is 64%, making the exam difficulty considerably more challenging.
How many test questions on the ACE vs NASM exam
The ACE certification exam gives you a maximum of three hours and consists of 150 multiple-choice questions.
The NASM certification exam lasts two hours, and consists of 120 questions.
NASM vs ACE recertification details
As for recertification, you must submit 2.0 CEUs of continuing education credits every two years to maintain your cert with ACE. There is a fee of $129 to renew.
NASM recertification occurs every two years at the cost of 2.0 CEUs and a $99 recertification fee for on-time recertification.
Other offerings from NASM and ACE
Both ACE and NASM have some great options regarding other courses and programs that give you both CEUs and extra qualifications to add to your name.
ACE courses and specializations:
- ACE Group Fitness Instructor
- ACE Health Coach
- ACE Medical Exercise Specialist
- ACE Fitness Nutrition Specialist
NASM certification courses:
- NASM Group Exercise Instructor (AFAA-GEI)
- NASM Certified Nutrition Coach (NASM-CNC)
- NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist (NASM-CES)
- NASM Weight Loss Specialist (NASM-WLS)
Having multiple certifications will place you in a better position to stand out fully as a fitness professional.
ACE vs NASM overall ratings
Rating-wise, ACE scores a 9 and NASM scores a 9.4 out of 10.
Both these certifications do an excellent job of teaching everything you need to be a good personal trainer.
NASM edges out ACE due to the inclusion of some business skills and better exercise technique coverage.
However, I do think ACE proves to be better when it comes to teaching beginner clients. ACE may be the better option if you’re newer to exercise and want an easy framework to use with your students. ACE is also an easier exam.
Personally, I believe that NASM, despite being harder and more expensive, gives you slightly more in terms of knowing the science behind how the body moves and operates from the ground up. This sets you up for a longer-lasting career in the exercise field.
Ultimately, either will work, but you must decide which works better for your needs.
ACE vs NASM CPT (Video)
NASM and ACE FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
How can I become an ACE certified trainer?
You must pass the ACE CPT exam with at least a 72 percent score to get your ACE personal training certification. You must also meet the CPR/AED and high school diploma requirements to sit for the exam.
How can I become a NASM Certified Trainer?
To become a NASM certified personal trainer, you must pass the NASM CPT exam with at least a 70 percent score. You must meet the CPR/AED and high school diploma requirements to sit for the exam.
Is a certified personal trainer credential from the ACE or NASM organizations worth it?
Yes, I can confidently say that ACE and NASM present some of this space’s best and most recognized certification programs.
Not only are you getting a decent education, but you’re also doing it through one of two of the most recognized, revered, and respected certification providers on the planet.
Do fitness trainers need a degree?
No, they don’t; if you want to be a personal trainer, I advise you not to get a degree.
That’s because degrees are a considerable time and money investment.
Unless you want to branch out into a more demanding career field within health and fitness, such as being a sports physician, I’d advise that a degree isn’t necessary.
That said, having a degree as a PT isn’t bad and can boost your credibility, which can be leveraged for more influence and higher earnings.
Programs such as kinesiology and sports science are good examples.
What does personal training look like in future job outlooks?
Personal training is here to stay; however, the way it’s here to stay looks digital.
All roads lead online when it comes to personal training and fitness.
Online courses and coaching has become the fastest way to capitalize on fitness servicing by harnessing the power of scale.
Because your clients are online, you are not limited by session time and can service multiple clients simultaneously, offering services in a global venue.
How long does it take to become a PT?
Both ACSM and NSCA will give you a year to complete your certification.
Within that enrollment period, most candidates certify between 3 to 9 months.
Are NASM and ACE worth it?
If you are serious about being a qualified personal trainer, the ACE or NASM certifications are excellent choices. I think the NASM personal training certification is slightly better than the ACE CPT, but they will launch a great career in fitness for a candidate.
Which is harder, NASM or ACE?
NASM and ACE are very similar in difficulty. According to statistics, NASM is marginally harder. In either case, be sure to spend adequate time preparing for either exam to pass on your first attempt.
- “How to Become a Certified Personal Trainer.” ACE, https://www.acefitness.org/fitness-certifications/personal-trainer-certification/how-to-become-a-personal-trainer.aspx
- “Earn Your Personal Trainer Certification.” NASM, https://www.nasm.org/become-a-personal-trainer
- “Salary: ACE-CPT | United States.” Ziprecruiter, Ziprecruiter, 2023, https://www.ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/Ace-CPT-Salary
- “Certification Renewal.” ACE, https://www.acefitness.org/fitness-certifications/recertification
- “Salary: NASM-CPT | United States.” Ziprecruiter, Ziprecruiter, 2023, https://www.ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/NASM-Personal-Trainer-Salary.
- “Recertify Your Nasm Personal Trainer Certification.” NASM, https://www.nasm.org/recertify/personal-trainer-recertification.
PTPioneer Editorial Integrity
All content published on PTPioneer is checked and reviewed extensively by our staff of experienced personal trainers, nutrition coaches, and other Fitness Experts. This is to make sure that the content you are reading is fact-checked for accuracy, contains up-to-date information, and is relevant. We only add trustworthy citations that you can find at the bottom of each article. You can read more about our editorial integrity here.
77 thoughts on “Comparing NASM and ACE: The Best Personal Training Certifications in 2023?”
I am absolutely fresh to the PT world and I have a heart for the elderly. I am 55 and out of shape but I want to start the foundation for a second career, and I do believe that this will also motivate me to get back into shape. My hope is I can get certified and begin working with healthy seniors and not so healthy ones. I am still unsure of which cert to go with! My friend says NASM because that is what she has. I just received my BSc in an unrelated field and still want to continue studying.
Just wanted to thank you for the article you wrote comparing Ace & NASM, it was very informative and helpful! I plan on beginning my PT certification studying right after Christmas. I kept going back and forth between Ace & NASM but now I’m almost positive I will be going through Ace. I will definitely be coming back to your ptpioneer site!
Thank you again,
Your very welcome Jennifer! Best of luck! Study hard!
I just signed up with NASM in February 2017, the full course, which is $1999 but they seem to always have a 25% discount sale going on most of the time so I got mine for $1500. One thing I have read after purchasing this course is that I have to buy my exam. One would think with this high price the exam would be included. Another thing is that their instructions are hard to follow on the website. I am not sure if my course has started or not, so I tried to call and no one home on the weekends or at night. Also, they are very hard to get a hold of if you are already a customer. I have to wait on hold for up to 20 minutes just to get to talk to someone then after that it takes them a long time to help me with my issues. They are not open 24/7 for assistance and I have to dial them at least seven times before I get an open line, meaning when I call I get this message, “no routes found” and then they hang up. So I have to keep calling until there is finally an open route then it’s, like I said, up to 20 minutes to talk to someone. This is very discouraging. Needless to say, I am now looking to switch to ACE, but will do my homework more in depth.
I am sorry to hear you had such a horrible experience with NASM. I have never had those problems myself and when I call I always reach somebody helpful very promptly. Sorry to hear, you can always switch to ACE.
thanks for sharing your experience with NASM. I myself was having a difficult time choosing what program to go with. You definitely made my decision a lot easier. When it comes to learning something new, its very important to have proper direction and guidance. It disappoints me that NASM is failing in this category because it was my #1 choice. I am still researching both programs but as of now it looks as though i will go with ACE. Thanks again!
Yes, Carol I was debating between NASM & ACE. Your feedback definitely gives me better insight. Thanks.
Great to hear, both of these organizations are fantastic the National Academy of sports medicine as well as the American Council on exercise will provide you fantastic personal training credentials to start your career.
Good morning Mr.Taylor thank you for your article! Please let me know which certificate is better for working with senior citizen group of clients.
Maybe I missed this information.
I’m sorry if this information was missed. I think that NASM is definitely a better personal training certification for working with elderly individuals. This is because of the OPT training model takes more precaution and increases the intensity of exercises more gradually. It is meant to focus on stabilization for a long time before moving on to strength training which is very important especially for elderly individuals or people that have not exercised in a very long time. I hope this helped answer your question 🙂
Can i get the NASM – CPT and NASM PES online ? I’m living in Vietnam. Thank you
I am not quite sure if they have test taking facility is for NASM in Vietnam. You’ll have to check online. I’m sorry I could not help you more
Hi, I am contemplating becoming a personal trainer, but my goals are different to the ones outlined on your article. I would love to work with people who struggle with diabetes and help them achieve health through exercise more than relying on medication. I have a bachelors in psychology with a minor in nutrition. Do you know which program would be best based on what I want to do? Thanks
This is a very specialized concentration of individuals that you would like to work with. Honestly, neither one of the certifications dives too much into special populations although both of them do a little bit. What you would want to do is get a specialist certification. Unfortunately, most specialist certifications require you to have a general personal training certification before you can take them. A certification that talks will do more about special populations needs is the senior fitness specialization from nasm. I hope this helps
hey so I plan to become a PT very soon now that I graduated high school, and I am leaning more towards taking the NASM exam but Ace still looks so good, so I was wondering, would it be possible to be certified for BOTH nasm and ace?
Both the American Council on exercise and the National Academy of sports medicine have fantastic personal training programs. It is absolutely possible to get certified through both NASM and ACE. Having multiple certifications only improves your knowledge as a trainer. But you should probably do one before the other is my suggestion. What type of people do you want to train when you become a personal trainer?
Thank you so so much for this article. I am a Stay at home mom, fitness blogger, athletic clothing designer, I own a successful Etsy shop selling kids party supplies. I have been talking to my husband for 6 months about taking my fitness blogging to a new level and becoming a PT. I am so glad I came across your site. I have been thinking about taking the NASM but after this, I am really considering ACE.
Mine and my husband’s hobby is working out. I help family and friends get in shape as well. I am not really in it for the money (at least for now) because I do not want to work outside the home. I am looking to just learn more about helping people get fit.
In 2016-2017 my husband was very sick from pancreatitis and respiratory failure and on life support. He pulled through and it changed our lives. My goal in life is to help others.
Fantastic story and I’m so glad that your husband is healthy now. It is true that learning about health and fitness is an incredible gift not only for your own family but also giving you the ability to help other friends and family as well.
I totally agree and the American Council on exercise is a fantastic certifying organization to go through. You will love their study materials and support that they offer. NASM is also a fantastic option but has a slightly different focus. You could always come back and get certified with them at a later date or even get an advanced certification to really specialize in the type of training that you want to learn.
Even if you don’t work as a personal trainer in the typical gym situation, it is still a fantastic knowledge to hold. I’m curious what you’re fitness website and clothing line is? Maybe we can collaborate on some ideas together as bloggers. Let me know 🙂
What a great article! The comments leave me feeling a little uneasy but I like the idea of stability first before strength training. It’s like learning how to stand before you walk. For that and many other reasons, I feel NASM will be right for me. Thank you for your articles. I will definitely check out your other blogs.
I like your analogy for the national Academy of sports medicine in regards to learning to stand before you walk. I totally agree with you with this regard in terms of the stability phase. Make sure to check out my article on the top personal training certifications as well as this could further help your decision.
I want train kids 6-16 What type of certification do I need, NASM or IYCA ?
Unfortunately, I do not know too much about the IYCA certification as I have never gone through it or reviewed it on my website. That being said, NASM is recognized as one of the top all-around certifications for all age ranges. On top of this they also have a youth exercise specialist (YES) advanced certification that is excellent. I highly recommend it.
Hi, great information. Thank you. I am looking for a new career later in life and I love working out and group classes. Teaching group classes will be my focused. Do I need to get certified as a Personal Trainer to teach group classes or get the ACE Group Fitness Instructor Certification?
You do not necessarily need a general personal training certification such as ACE or NASM in order to get the group exercise certification. I do think that it is helpful though. This is especially true if you are trying to do both group training as well as general personal training as you can pull clients both directions to get a lot more work. It also is good to have a general understanding one-on-one personal training for your group classes in regards to injury prevention, proprioception training etc. I hope this response helped!
Hi, thank you for the article. I am still very confused between ACE and NASM. I signed up for NASM and took a test, unfortunately I failed the test few points. I read the book, did lots of practice test at the app and still failed. Test was hard and nothing close to a book material or any prep tests I was practicing. OPT model is a great approach but I don’t think NASM really teaches you how to create a workout. I feel like NASM is great for those who already have some fitness experience and whar to advance in anatomical knowledge. Now I feel so much resentment to study again and take the test again. I was thinking to try ACE, considering that they might take a different approach in teaching. My question is, does ACE teache you how to put together a workout to meet someone’s fitness goals? I don’t know if I should just study NASM again or try ACE. Any feedback is very appreciated, please.
First of off, sorry that you did not pass the exam on your first try. The test is definitely a difficult one and a lot of the practice tests and study material supplied by NASM are not the best. I would still suggest trying to go with NASM one more time as it is still one of the most recognized certifications in the industry. On top of that, the retake fee is only $199, whereas you will have to pay over $500 to start with ACE. It would require less studying overall to stick with NASM, then to switching certifications and trying to learn their information. I highly suggest checking out my personal study materials that will point you in the right direction of what exactly you need to study to pass the exam. I promise this will help tremendously. You can check it out right here: https://www.ptpioneer.com/nasm-premium/
I self-prepped for NASM exam after 10 years as a Certified Public Accountant. I’m not really sure how the test was much different from the materials in NASM’s book. Not only do they lay out the weights that each topic will represent on the exam, they also highlight the areas that are most important within those topics. I didn’t feel any question on my exam was unfair. NASM’s study guide option does a fantastic job of preparing you for test success. It’s also possible you ended up with a terrible question pool in your exam. But, I assure you I passed without any prior textbook knowledge of the fitness industry.
Awesome to hear Sean,
I am glad that you passed the test without any problem. A lot of people do not have the same success that you do on the exam. The NASM exam is graded on a scaling score which means that some versions are much harder than other versions of the exam. It might’ve been that you got one of the easier versions, or it might’ve been that your study techniques were awesome. Either way congrats on passing the exam!
Does the recertification cost include the required 20 hours? Or Do you have to pay the recert cost plus the cost of 20 hours?
the cost for recertification for both NASM and ACE does not include the continuing education itself. It is just to recertify with those certifying agencies for two extra years. On top of that, you will have to pay a continuing education provider in order to go through a course, webinar or other curriculum in order to show proof of the 20 hours you completed of continuing education. I hope this helps and good luck!
Thanks for the informative article. I am from India and my education is mostly related to technical background. Recently past few months I have started getting habit of eating clean and healthy and slowly it has become quite a part of my life and I want to pursue my career as nutritionist. After going through your multiple articles I have zeroed down to ACE for nutrition coach. But as I see CPR/AED something as prerequisite. Can you tell me something about it?
Yes you need to get a CPR/AED certification from an approved supplier. This is basically for safety purposes as you need to know how to use the AED defibrillation machine in case somebody’s heart stops beating. You also need to know CPR to maintain oxygen flow to the brain to keep them alive as long as possible before an ambulance comes. These are general prerequisites for working in a gymnasium and is also a fantastic idea if you are going to be working for yourself doing nutrition or fitness consultations. I suggest checking out the American Red Cross for more information on how to get certified.
I’m retired from the military and I coach HS Cross country and I wanted to use a program that can assist me in training my young student Athletes which program would you prefer.
Although both programs are excellent, if you purely want to work with youth athletes NASM has a youth exercise specialist certification. You may want to look into their general certification, and later on down the road pickup of this youth exercise certification as well. I hope this helps!
I love the article and thank you very much for your effort. I am looking to go in the direction of training athletes. I study training methods, nutrition, anatomy, kinesology, etc. on my own. Now i’m looking to get certified and take the neccessary steps to make it happen. With your info provided, I am assuming ACE is the route to go? Or do you suggest NASM which focuses more on imbalances. I have a YMCA in my area but not an LA Fitness, and I saw you suggested ACE for that gym which is why I hesitate with NASM. But I do not intend on staying in this area for as long as I have to. Eventually becoming a self employed personal trainer is my ultimate goal. Im looking to be the best trainer I can be for the people/athletes I serve. Thanks for your time man, have a great day!
Well it sounds like you are on your way to becoming an awesome personal trainer. In terms of training athletes, both will do just fine. On the other note of where you will work, both of these certifications are so highly recognized that any gym you working will recognize them as a top-notch certification. So that part I would not worry about. If you just want to specialize in athletes, I do recommend picking up a specialization certification. But first obviously, you do need to get certified with a general CPT certification. If you want to go the route of training athletes, I usually recommend going with the general NASM certification and then going for the NASM PES performance enhancement specialist certification afterwards. I really hope this helps and good luck with all the studying!
Thanks for this great post! I still have a question though. My goal is to get my initial certification, and then get a specialty senior fitness certification, which NASM and ACE both offer. Are you very familiar with the senior fitness certs for either? I really feel like the one that would better prepare me for working safely and effectively with seniors is the one I want to choose. Any suggestions? Thank you!
Thank you for the great feedback. To be honest I have more information on the NASM senior fitness specialist program and I know it is a fantastic one. Either way, I would suggest sticking with the same company for both of them although you do not have to do this. I hope this helps and good luck with all the studying!
Thank you for all the helpful information!
However, I was wondering if the final exams for these certifications were online on a computer or paper/printed out at the special locations?
For both the ACE and NASM exams you will need to go into a test taking facility and take them in a monitored setting. This is to prevent any sort of cheating from going on. Once you are done with the exams for either one of them you will be able to find out if you have passed or failed on the spot. You will be able to print out a temporary certification online but the full certification will be mailed to you and arrive within a couple weeks after passing the exam. I hope this helps!
But do I need to bring my own laptop to the location I am taking the exam at?
You do not need to bring your laptop to the exam location. All you need to bring is identification, proof that your CPR/AED certified and proof of payment. You are not allowed to bring any study materials and to the testing area while taking the tests.
After getting my CPT I plan on getting other outside certs for my continue Ed. Have you found that more outside certs offer CEUs for one more than the other? Or if they offer CEUs, they offer both ACE and NASM. Also is the process easy for getting CEUs approved? Lastly, I’ve had a difficult time learning anatomy though I think it’s super important. Does one over the other present anatomy material better than the other? Thank you.
In my experience, most full personal training certifications whether is the specialization certification or an additional CPT will offer complete continuing education for the majority of any other certification requirements. I hope this makes sense. Basically, if you need continuing education for the American Council on exercise, going through the full national Academy of sports medicine program will be sufficient continuing education to renew with ACE. And vice versa.
Hi, Im very new to your channel and webpage. Love what I see so far,but I am very excited about starting my quest to being an ACE cpt but don’t have the full amount of money to get the study material. Is there anything you can recommend that I can begin studying now just so I don’t feel like Im wasting time when I can be studying? Thank you in advance.
Hey Patrick, that’s cool to hear that you’re starting out with the American Council on exercise certification. You can start here with my free study guide and practice test on my website https://www.ptpioneer.com/study-ace/ Once you have enough money, I highly suggest picking up a study package from Trainer Academy. They have a premium study guide that has helped thousands of my students pass the exam. They also have helpful practice tests as well. https://traineracademy.org/ace/
Hi, I’m an Ace certified group instructor. Was formally also certified through Nasm CPT. Year’s ago now. I let it lapse. I’m familiar with the opt model, I’m thinking about recertification, become a certified pt again along with my gfi. I am training a few people without a cert. As in my state anyway, it is perfectly legal, up to the gym owners. I’m an independent contractor. I’m wondering about the ift model through ACE and how it differs from the opt model. Honestly, I use some of the theories I learned from the opt. Model, but never fully grasped it? I don’t personally feel that training someone who has never worked out before on an unstable surface is a good idea. Learn to stabilize on 2 feet before 1 or a bosu, stability ball. Lunges aldo help to teach balance. I find new people to be very nervous. We don’t want to scare them off! I prefer to help them learn proper form in exercise and educating to why it’s important, work on correction of imbalance in the body as part of a training routine. If it’s all corrective, people get really bored. There’s only an hour, people don’t want to warm up for half of, sorry, my opinion. So wondering what ace teaches?
Hello Monica, This is all very important questions that you have. And to be honest, there are a lot of similarities between the IFT model and the OPT model from NASM. It doesn’t focus as strongly on corrective exercises as NASM I would say is the biggest difference. There are still lots of fitness assessments for muscular imbalances but it does not Focused so heavily on stabilization. This might be a good option for you and it’s always a good idea to get a different opinion from a different certification. Since you already have a lot of knowledge from the National Academy of sports medicine, I would switch it up and go with the American Council on exercise to expand your skill set.
I am very interested in signing up for a bundle package so that I can get certified as a personal trainer and nutrition/health coach. This would be a huge career change for me. I’m aiming to primarily work with youth, particularly those seeking to lose weight and implement healthier ways of eating into their lifestyles. Youth athletes would be of interest too, but not at the top of my priorities list. Both NASM and ACE sound excellent, but I would like to know which one would be the best for me based on my goals.
I’m so sorry that this message is super late. All of December I was crammed. If you are looking to get a personal training certification as well as a nutrition certification, I would lean more towards the national Academy of sports medicine. And this is mostly because there nutrition certification is much more up-to-date and in-depth compared to the American Council on exercise. Both of their personal training certifications are fantastic. And if you were just getting a personal training certification, they are pretty similar in terms of quality. You can always focus later on down the road on the youth exercise with NASM’s youth exercise specialist certification. I hope this helps and happy new year!
HI,I AM A PHYSICAL EDUCATION TEACHER WITH A DIPLOMA FROM THE NATIONAL AND KAPODISTRIAN UNIVERSITY IN ATHENS GREECE.WE HAVE IN GREECE NASM AND ACE CERTIFICATIONS TOO.I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW IF YOU HAVE IN USA A DIPLOMA FROM A UNIVERSITY IN PHYS ED DO YOU STILL NEED A CERTIFICATION FROM NASM OR ACE IN ORDER TO WORK FOR A GYM?
No matter if you have a bachelors degree or Masters’s degree in physical education or kinesiology, most gymnasiums do require you to be certified by a credible personal training certification in order to work in their facilities. I don’t necessarily agree with this logic, but it is the way it is.
Hey! So I work out Mon-Friday and LOVE it. I often get asked to provide some workouts for others or people ask me can they work out with me in the gym. I thought about getting certified and came across your article. Which do you recommend for me? I love strength training and lifting weights and stress the importance of doing that and not just running to lose weight or get to fitness goals. It’s all about diversifying your workouts. I just want to train others to get in shape, meet their goals and have a better understanding of health and fitness. What should I do?!
this seems like all of the information you’d like to help people with come from a general personal training certification. Both the American Council on exercise as well as the national Academy of sports medicine are great options for you. Both of them touch on the importance of cardio, flexibility as well as a lot of weight training or resistance training to include in their programs. If I had to pick one out of these two I would go with the national Academy of sports medicine because I file the better layout their information in a logical format.
What do you have to pay yearly to maintain your certification. CSCS hours and $450.00 membership fee.
It depends on which certification you are trying to get. Most of these recertification fees cost approximately $200.
First of all I wanted to thank you because you’ve been extremly helpful .. i mean in my case lol.
So I’m a french dude who use to live in Canada, Toronto for 2 years before I came back to Paris 7 years ago. I’m planning on going back there to start a Personal Trainer career (got a hook up in the gym industry there) !! So as a french gentleman without any VISA for now … can I get to start the NASM courses from France. Paris (I workout since almost two decades now) ?
I’m gonna take your quiz by the way mate
Best regard have a great day Tyler
Hello, that’s a great question. You should be able to take the exam at some sort of test-taking facility over there in Europe. I know they have testing facilities for the National Academy of sports medicine all around the world but you will have to check the website to make sure where they are. Good luck with your personal training career.
is it possible to become specialist before passing CPT exam on ACE?
Some specialist certifications have prerequisites of a general personal training certification. I definitely recommend you get a general personal training certification before you tried to specialize in anything as well.
I have worked in the industry for 20+ years, starting out as a collegiate strength and conditioning coach and I currently run a corporate facility that offers personal training and group exercise classes. I held both CSCCa and NSCA certifications in the past and missed my recertification deadline with NSCA last year, so I lost it (CSCCa is cancelled once you no longer work in industry). I took your what certification is tight for you quiz twice and it suggested ISSA (despite originally thinking I was going to pursue NASM). If I do ISSA and wait for offer to get 3 certs in one (PT, nutrition and 1 choice), will ISSA’s Corrective Exercise cover what I would miss by not doing NASM? While I continue to grow, my primary focus at this point of my career is having a certification, as my job extends well beyond PT (wellness and wellbeing). Thanks for any advice!
Well the corrective exercise specialist from the international sports Sciences Association is significantly different from the general personal training certification that you would be doing with NASM. If you were looking to Simply get recertified NASM is a fantastic option. But, the three for one deal is definitely enticing and an excellent bundle of certifications and knowledge.
ACE is basic AF. It’s great more if you want to be a mediocre trainer. They just want your money. When you need support they are slow AF!
Good to hear your feedback on the customer service aspect of the American Council on exercise. I have never personally experienced this but it’s good to hear all opinions.
Thank you for the detailed information.
One question, I am from India and working professional in finance & A/c’s from last 6 years and always have passion into fitness and been into training and follow healthy nutrition from last 8 years. So, Can I do any of this course apart from my current job time and also do part time job to gain experience in this field.
My purpose is to study and apply for job in abroad if its possible to get there and settle. Please guide what courses and path to make me move out of India and work in any foreign country ?
You can absolutely work as a nutrition coach part-time. It really depends on how many clients you can get on your own or if you need help from an organization such as a gym to get you those clients.
Ace or Nasm in Australia and Alemania? Which is better?
That’s a good question, both the American Council on exercise and the National Academy of sports medicine or actually pretty well known in the European countries. I would definitely contact local employers to see which ones they accept though.
I am wanting to work at a small town gym teaching group classes mainly. Some general personal training on the side. But I love step, Zumba, barre, and yoga. I am also interested in the “transformation” program. With the idea I could be next to someone through their whole journey.
Anyway, I was wondering what program you think would be most beneficial?
I usually always recommend to start with a general personal training certification such as nasm or Ace. From there you have a good building block of fitness and you can expand into other specialty certifications such as transformation specialist, corrective exercise specialist excetera
I was an ACSM CPT for 6 years and then let it lapse. I then started looking at recertifying and read your blogs with the company vs company. I truly feel NASM is far superior to ACE or ISSA and on par with ACSM and NSCA. I chose NASM because of its overall focus and it’s in depth content on the industry itself, the business aspect, the corrective exercise, It’s programming (it’s there you just have to click on all the links to see the sample workouts), along with its science and anatomy content. As with any general certification it lays the foundation and through CEUs, professional development, and experience the niche and fortes of the individuals coaching/training style will evolve. I did the elite program through NASM and I finish my last course the Behavior Change Specialization (BCS). All in all NASM blew away my expectations and I’ve nothing but great things to say about them. If you want a well rounded, very thorough, not “Easy” but not impossible (you get what you put in…kinda like health and wellness) NASM is the way to go! I also have a BS in Healthy Lifestyles Coaching from ASU and I’m a Assistant Fitness Director for US Fitness. I will be getting my CSCS this fall. Again thank you for your blogs and your desire to help and educate!
Hey there, I’m so glad that you had a great experience with the National Academy of sports medicine. They are definitely one of my top three certifications hands down. They have a fantastic curriculum, support, study materials and I really like their Optimum Performance training model. That’s why I definitely give them an A+ on my site. Good luck with your personal training career and I’m glad that you have enjoyed your experience becoming a trainer up until this point.
Thanks for the great website! My choice comes down to between ACE and NASM and after taking your test, i got NASM. I have been comparing the two, going scrutinizing your reviews and study guides (over and over again), i have the NASM 6ed book, the new ACE table of contents and ACE 4ed book. I have to say i absolutely love the book structure and the OPT model with its 5 phases and how clear it is what to do in each phase – highly quantitative.
However, it boils down to costs and course content, and i have decided to go for ACE. My reasons are:
1. ACE logo looks cooler and their website looks much much better (more this decade look). Well i will have to log in regularly right, guess it helps if i like what i see.
2. ACE is non profit – not sure why this matters though.
3. ACE is also recognized by EREPS – this would be a plus point if you’re like me in Europe
4. Why the so many “please call … for …” in NASM website? It’s 2020, it’s all online, there’s email, live chat, zoom, skype etc. Can’t afford to call from europe.
[Value for money]
5. With the current summer sale, ACE would cost cost me €150 less (NASM without book and ACE with book)!
6. One can purchace ACE courses anywhere. You have to go to NASM international partners (they charge you their prices) and you cannot take advantage of the discounts in (US) website!
7. Will i miss out on the OPT model if i don’t take the NASM-CPT? No, i already have 6ed book, it’s easy/clear to read.
8. ACE based on the 4ed (terrible to read, reminds me of my old thermodynamics textbook) offers a whole lot of softskills and the writing style highly qualitative. The qualitative and lengthy writing does a good job at explaining the whys and discusses the approach that is being dealt with. Therefore by doing ACE-CPT and with NASM book i will learn more.
9. ACE has just launced the new&improved course material – hope the book looks much better 😉
10. PS. ACE 5ed book is impossible to find online for a good price. I got my NASM 6ed boook online for a fraction of the price!
That’s a very in-depth breakdown. Let me try to give my info. I do think that the optimum performance training model is fantastic. It really helps you work with a wide variety of personal training clients. If you were looking to only train in Europe, that bite be a factor. Although I do know that a lot of people have used their National Academy of sports medicine certification in various parts of Europe. I do agree that the NASM is a little bit easier to follow although the 5th edition of Ace has definitely gotten better. It is pricey to find online though. In terms of price for the exam, calculating the price for the textbook that you already have I would say they probably come out about even. I personally like NASM more and the OPT model is definitely part of that reason. So that would be the choice I go with. Good luck with your personal training career. Either one will serve you well!
I live in Canada so the exchange rate is a problem for me. Have you heard of Canfit pro? I was curious about your thought on both the PT and weight loss coach programs? TIA
Hey Jen, thanks for visiting the site. I haven’t heard of them, but I will research them and see what I can find out.