ACSM CPT Review 2020 – ACSM Cost vs Value, Is ACSM worth it?

ACSM CPT Review 2020 - ACSM Cost vs Value, Is ACSM worth it?

Welcome to my ACSM CPT review, Coach Tyler here to explain all you need to know about this certification, the crucial ACSM study materials, and how to become an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer.

My goal by the end of this ACSM certification review is to have you realize whether or not it aligns with your personal training goals or not.

Afterward, I highly suggest checking out my ultimate guide on the best 5 personal training certifications (which includes ACSM) as well as my step-by-step guide on how to become a trainer.

I also have a free and awesome ACSM study guide and practice test here. Overall, the best ACSM study materials are created by Trainer Academy as they provide you with an exam pass guarantee. Check out my review on them here.

I suggest that you take the quiz to see which ACSM training and certification is right for you.

The menu at the top of this page will answer any questions that you might have related to personal training. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave me a comment here (I’ll respond within 24 hours). Also, visit the home page for the most recent and popular articles.

So, is ACSM legit? Let’s find out.

Study and become a trainer while at home. Certification and Study Guide Sales:

Get the ISSA Elite trainer and get the 3 Certs for the price of one! Their personal trainer cert, Nutrition cert and one other of your choosing. Limited time online offer.

Save 25% on NASM with my personal code PTP25

Save 50% on the ACE CPT.

Huge savings on online study materials for NASM, ISSA, ACE, CSCS or NSCA and ACSM
ACSM Pros and Cons

ACSM Pros and Cons


  • One of the most well-known certifications across the industry
  • NCCA-accredited
  • Heavy on the scientific aspect of training
  • The certification is valid for 3years
  • They accept CEC obtained from other Institutions


  • Lacking in program design
  • The textbook is not very intuitive
  • Lacking in overall study materials

If you like to digest their material in video format, here is the YouTube video I made on the ACSM CPT about three years ago.

In general, this article contains more information and is more up-to-date.

American college of sports medicine (ACSM) offers two different levels of certifications.

The first certification is their general CPT (Certified Personal Trainer).

The more advanced certification is called HFI (Health Fitness Instructor). This second tier certification requires you to have a college degree.

This two-tier system is very similar to NSCA’s CPT and CSCS certifications.

It might interest you to know that ACSM has been around for a very long time.

It was the second certifying agency to get accredited by the NCCA.

They have been marketing their certification as the “gold standard” in the personal training industry for a while now, but this is just a marketing technique used by ACSM.

Every certifying agency claims that its certification is the best.

If you are just getting started in the industry, make sure to check out my guide to the top fitness trainer certifications as well as how to become a personal fitness trainer.

You can make good money in this industry while doing something you love and helping people at the same time!

Now let’s get right into this ACSM review.

ACSM Review: General Information

ACSM Review: General Information

ACSM was the first certifying agency for personal trainers. It was established way back in 1954.

Because it has been around for such a long time, the agency has gained a lot of industry recognition.

ACSM is also recognized as a scientific body because a lot of the organization’s money and resources are devoted to further research into the field of exercise science.

Most of their research is referenced by most other certifying agencies in the field.

I would classify this certification as a “corrective exercise” certification.

This means that it focuses on correcting muscular imbalances and improving core strength.

To qualify for the ACSM personal training certification, otherwise called ACSM’s general CPT certification, you need to be CPR/AED-certified, as it is a practice in the industry.

The exam has approximately 150 questions and you get two and a half hours to finish it.

What is ACSM?

What is ACSM?

ACSM stands for the American College of Sports Medicine, it is an organization recognized by NCCA.

This organization had been verifying the knowledge, skills, and abilities of individuals before certifying professional fitness specialists and health fitness specialists for a long time now.

They design fitness programs, carry out research, prepare study guides, and administer exams for qualified candidates.

While it is one of several in the industry, this certification is worth watching out for and having in your kitty if you plan to go far in the fitness industry.

ACSM Certification

When you are ACSM certified, it means you have fulfilled all the necessary steps that are required and have passed the exam successfully.

Before you can apply for any ACSM CPT certification, there are two basic conditions:

  • You need to be at least 18 years of age.
  • You need to be CPR-certified

For other ACSM credentials, you need more experience in the field of exercise.

What counts as experience is the knowledge, skills, and abilities in clinical assessment, exercise testing, exercise prescription, and exercise training.

  • Exercise testing is used to examine the correlation between exercise and physiological systems. If you have worked in a clinical environment for at least 25 days, this qualifies you to take the ASCM exams.
  • Experience in exercise prescription for special demographics like healthy population, children, a diseased population.
  • Exercise training is the knowledge and skill of using repetitive body movements to build endurance, flexibility, or muscular strength.

American College of Sports Medicine is an organization that takes health and body fitness seriously, so your experience in that field counts before you can apply for ACSM CPT certification.

Once you have any of those experiences mentioned above, you will be qualified to take the ASCM exams.

Now, this is serious stuff!

You are definitely not going to become a doctor at the end of any of the courses, but you are expected to know a lot about the human body and how to care for those body parts as you train people.

It is serious because not having the right knowledge and training could turn out disastrous for the client – and your reputation too.

No wonder, then, that ACSM “licenses” you with a certificate to prove that you have acquired that training and know what you are doing.

No one will trust their health and body to a novice in the industry, hence the need to study hard, sit for the exam, and get the certification.

Candidates wanting an ACSM health fitness certification need to study to gain advance knowledge.

ACSM Certified Personal Trainer (CPT)

ACSM Certified Personal Trainer (CPT)

Personal trainers are one of the most sought-after people in the world at the moment.

A personal trainer possesses special knowledge about body fitness exercise training and prescription that are required by specific clients.

They have the ability to motivate clients by setting realistic body goals and develop several ways to achieve their aim.

They are trusted individuals that are passionate about their jobs.

Now, this profession is challenging and if you most do it, you must be good at it.

ACSM certifies personal trainers after they take part in the program, through workshop attendance, and the understanding of the study guide.

The ACSM personal trainer certification is very common and most fitness specialists obtain this certificate from ACSM because it shows that they have the knowledge, skills, and ability to create a focused and intensive approach or exercise regime to satisfy the individual need of their clients.  

The ACSM Certified Personal Trainer is qualified to design suitable exercise programs for clients that require their services. If you are a candidate wanting an ACSM credential that will take you a little bit further, check out these two certifications below.

ACSM specialty credentials

  • Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist (CES)
  • Certified Health Fitness Specialist (HFS)

As a Certified Personal Trainer aspiring for more in the health fitness industry, ACSM offers other credentials that will open up other possibilities in your career. We’ll, however, focus on the Certified Personal Trainer in the remaining part of this article.

ACSM has developed the relevant study materials and researched deeply into what is best suited for this unique training exercise towards acquiring the certificate.

There are also other channels open to learning, sharing, and participating. Although, overall the study materials provided by ACSM or not the best. I recommend Trainer Academy is the best spot on study material that will cut your study time in half. Also, I also have a free ACSM study guide and practice test here.

ACSM PT Support Study Group on Facebook

ACSM PT Support Study Group on Facebook

Keeping tabs with the new Digital Age, the ACSM leadership has thought it wise to create a Support Study Group open to all certified Personal Trainers and prospective PT candidates.

This is a wonderful opportunity for all and sundry to ask questions and get answers to some of the most pressing issues concerning the certification.

Presently having over 13,000 participants in the community, users get answers to challenges they may have with both academic and practical aspects of the certification.

The best part is that the answers are offered by fellow trainers who respond from experience and say things as they are instead of a sales personnel handling customer relations for ACSM.

This Facebook group is another testament to the authenticity and user-friendliness of the certification.

If you use it wisely, you might find most of the answers you need to ace the exam.

The Webinar – ACSM’s own live virtual classroom

The Webinar - ACSM's own live virtual classroom

Similar to the Facebook group, ACSM is taking advantage of technology to offer more value to its exam candidates.

The certification body understands that not everyone may have the time for a one-on-one class interaction to watch experienced trainers teach the rudiments of personal training.

So, they have created these live webinars which are open to people who register.

With this option, every potential personal trainer can attend live coaching, get answers to the most crucial questions, and join other participants as they communally prepare for their exams.

Studies have shown that when people study together for exams, they are more likely to do well.

This is the philosophy behind the ACSM personal trainer webinars – aimed at helping candidates pass the exams easily.

ACSM Certification Cost

ACSM Certification Cost

ACSM CPT Exam cost

The cost of the exam will depend on whether or not you are a member of ACSM.

Non-members pay $349 for the ACSM PT exam itself.

ACSM members pay $279 to take the exam.

If you fail to pass the test on your first try, you will have to pay a hefty $175 retest fee.

Exams are conducted in computer-based testing centers across cities worldwide.

You are required to study the exam content outline before taking the exam given that all the questions are related to the certification of your choice.

For candidates that are qualified based on experience, they can write Certified Exercise Physiologist, Certified Personal Trainer(CPT), Cancer Exercise Trainer and Certified Group Instructor exam.

ACSM organizes workshops for all the certification exams.

It is a three-day (26 hours) live workshop handled by well-educated and experienced instructors. The workshop costs $375 and you can earn 20.75 CEC.

For a one-day (7 hours) workshop, it will cost you $129, this can earn you 7.5 CEC.

If you want to retake the exam because you didn’t pass the first time or missed the test, you will have to pay $125.

When you pass the exam, you will be audited based on the information you provided and within 30 days you will be ACSM-certified in the field of your choice.

So, you see, the ACSM personal training certification is as inexpensive as it is worth the cost.

ACSM Study Guides

Study material

As part of your ACSM CPT test prep, you need books to help you.

The ACSM study guides for the ACSM CPT exam are not included in the package.

There are five main textbooks that you can purchase from ACSM’s website; these are suitable for the ACSM PT exam.

  • Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription
  • Resources for the Personal Trainer
  • ACSM’s Introduction to Exercise Science
  • Nutrition for Exercise Science

ACSM’s guidelines for exercise testing and prescription, as well as the next two on the list above, are their primary textbooks.

This will cost approximately $70.

The others are complementary textbooks that cost roughly $40 each.

The first is a text on fitness screening and prescribing exercise routines.

The second complementary text focuses on people with disabilities and the examination of case studies.

They do have several other ACSM study guides that are readily available on sale for candidates.

ACSM also offers live workshops that you can attend to get hands-on training with ACSM certified instructors in charge.

They provide a one-day workshop for $129, as well as a three-day seminar for $375.

Overall, you should expect to pay approximately $450 for the study materials and test.

If you want a better study guide option, check out Trainer Academy.

Similar to the NSCA, you are required to show proof of continuing education every three years to get recertified.

Study and become a trainer while at home. Certification and Study Guide Sales:

Get the ISSA Elite trainer and get the 3 Certs for the price of one! Their personal trainer cert, Nutrition cert and one other of your choosing. Limited time online offer.

Save 25% on NASM with my personal code PTP25

Save 50% on the ACE CPT.

Huge savings on online study materials for NASM, ISSA, ACE, CSCS or NSCA and ACSM

There are other materials called PrepU; these materials are targeted at the certification of your choice.

More ACSM study materials

PrepU is packed with model questions and answers from past exams.

For the ACSM Certified Personal Trainer test prep, it costs between $64.99 to 94$.99 for between 6 months and 2 years.

There are also free ACSM CPT study guides in the form of online videos that can help you prepare for the exam.

There are a couple of online study resources that you can access but are not easy to find, in my opinion, but they are there.

The good news is that approximately 71% of first-time test takers pass the ACSM exam on their first try.

So, pay attention to this next section which is a review manual for candidates wanting to rewrite the ACSM CPT exam.

I have free study materials from other certifying agencies; NASM flashcards, a lot of ACE prep materials, and also CSCS study materials. You do need superb PT software programs to make your job more effective as a personal trainer.

ACSM Journals – Added value to enhance knowledge better

ACSM Journals - Added value to enhance knowledge better

ACSM prides itself as the leader in personal training as well as the health and fitness industry.

They produce five different peer-reviewed journals for public consumption.

Users only need to subscribe via email to enjoy these free publications covering everything in sports medicine and exercise science.

Continuing education, for ACSM, is a serious business and that explains why they invest so much to commission and get these research outcomes published for the growth and development of their subscribers and the general public at large.

ACSM Continuing Education Certification

ACSM Continuing Education Certification

Recertification is highly required in the health fitness industry.

It is to ensure that all the ACSM personal trainers and other fitness professionals are up to date in their specialties.

There are ACSM online Continue Education short courses you need to pass and earn credits from before submitting for recertification and auditing.

ACSM CEU approved courses

  • Health and Fitness
  • Coaching HIIT
  • Autism Exercise Specialist

Some other fitness organizations like ACE, NCCPT, NETA, ISSA and NASM require trainers to be recertified within two years of getting the first credential.

On the other hand, trainers who hold the ACSM personal trainer certificate are required to renew them every three years.

You can either fill and submit an online form or turn in a hard copy at the nearest chapter to you.

Failure to carry out the certification renewal on the 31st of December of the said year, and after an additional 6-month grace, will attract an additional $25 fine.

The Continuing Education Credits required by a Personal Trainer is 45 for recertification.

American College of Sports and Medicine (ACSM) accepts CEC from other organizations so long it is in the same field from your initial certification.

With medicine becoming more advanced by the day as well as innovators racking their brains day and night trying to create new stuff, you can rest assured that the personal training industry will also continue to evolve rapidly.

New tech, new medication, and new possibilities mean the trainer must be on his/her feet, keeping up with these new innovations – otherwise, get out of the business entirely.

ACSM, like most other certification bodies, see the need for this, hence the requirement for consistent and scheduled recertification.

Find here best certified nutrition specialist options for your CEU. It is advisable to use other certifications programs for your renewal.

Don’t brood over it; the ACSM personal trainer exam and further recertification tests are for your own good!

ACSM Personal Trainer Insurance

ACSM Personal Trainer Insurance

Let’s face it, this type of profession might expose you to various types of lawsuits because you are working with people that literally put their trust in you.

Mistakes are bound to happen due to oversight or poor judgment.

Even if you are a Personal Trainer that owns a gym or an employee working for someone, with ACSM personal training certification insurance, you get complete protection from lawsuits.

This is important because there are clients that hide their health history or some very recent health issues and as a personal trainer, you make decisions and create exercise programs based on the information you have.

The result can be disastrous if the hidden health condition is indeed terrible.

It is in situations like this that you will need complete ACSM personal trainer insurance for.

With such insurance cover, you will get professional and general liability protection, stolen equipment coverage, and many more.

It costs $169 per year for insurance coverage.

It is like your car or home insurance; no one ever prays or wishes for disasters to happen, but when they do, a good insurance cover could save you from lawyers and the courts – or even a jail term.

That being said, I’ll advise you to check my website for awesome professional liability insurance for personal trainers.


After my ACSM certification review, my overall ranking is:

ACSM certification rating

If you decide to go with ACSM, make sure to check out my free study guide and practice test here. Also, Trainer Academy guarantees that you pass the exam by using their study materials. I highly recommend them.

I would put the ACSM CPT in my 5 top fitness trainer certifications (along with NASM, ACE, ISSA, and NSCA). It is highly regarded by every employer that I have ever talked to.

If you’re still having trouble with which training certification to choose, take the quiz to help you figure it out.

This certifying agency has improved research in the fitness industry by leaps and bounds.

In my opinion, they focus more on research than on the application of it for personal trainers.

I think that organizations such as ACE or NASM do a better job than ACSM in terms of providing solid study materials and program design for their trainers.

ACSM does a great job of teaching the basics to new personal trainers.

If you decide to go with ACSM, you should also check out their HFI certification.

To qualify, you are required to have at least two years of training (Associate Degree) in a health-related field.

Make sure to check out some of my other certification reviews so you can find the one that is best for you.

A proper certification that works well with ACSM, NASM or any other corrective exercise certification is a health coach certification.

I just wrote a guide on how to become a health coach that you should check out and also find places where personal trainers are hired.

Another section that might interest you is my comparison articles like NSCA vs NASM, NSCA vs ACSM, ACSM vs NASM and ACSM vs ACE.

I hope you find this ACSM test prep and ACSM certification review helpful in your quest to become a certified trainer.

I suggest you check out the ACSM website for more information.

Leave a comment down below after the FAQ section if you have any questions for me!

ACSM Certification FAQ

What is ACSM?

ACSM is the abbreviation for the American College of Sports Medicine. It was founded in 1954 and has been certifying personal trainers in different sub-fields. It is also recognized by the NCCA.

What certifications do ACSM offer?

ACSM certifies people to become Certified Personal Trainers (CPT) in two categories: Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist (CES) and Certified Health Fitness Specialist (HFS). Others include ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist (ACSM-CEP), ACSM/NCHPAD Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer (CIFT)

How much does ACSM certification cost?

ACSM is a relatively cheap personal trainer certification? ACSM members pay $279 to take the exam while non-members pay $349 for the ACSM PT exam

Do I need Insurance as a Certified ACSM Personal Trainer?

Yes, you need to be covered under an insurance plan which typically costs $169 per year.

What is the pass rate for ACSM exam?

Your chances of success are high. Typically, a third, or about 71%, of those who sit for the exam pass. Your chances of passing are pretty good when compared to other PT certifications.

Is ACSM a good certification body?

Absolutely! The fact that they are a scientific body that churns out lots of research in the field puts them head and shoulder above many others in their category. That is why most gyms will require the certification before employing you.

Does ACSM provide study materials and other resources?

Yes. You can purchase the textbooks from their website before sitting for the exam. These are Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription ($70), Resources for the Personal Trainer (about $40), ACSM’s Introduction to Exercise Science (about $40), and Nutrition for Exercise Science (about $40).

How can I get the electronic version of ACSM CPT practice test and ACSM Study Guide?

ACSM provides a lot of useful and relevant content in the form of a study guide where you get practice questions. You can get the full study guide, practice questions, and flashcards on our website home page.

What is ACSM contact information?

ACSM is located at 401 W Michigan St, Indianapolis, IN 46202, United States. You can reach them on the phone at +1 317-637-9200 or Fax at (317) 634-7817

What is ACSM Personal Trainer Salary?

The ACSM average personal trainer salary per year is around $48,916, give or take, depending on the state where you practice.

How long does ACSM certification last?

ACSM certification qualifies you to be a personal trainer for three years. Before the three years elapses you are required to apply for recertification by getting your CEC (Continuing Education Certification) and paying for the recertification process.

The second option is that you pay to retake the exam.

How do I get ACSM certified?

There are four easy steps to get certified with ACSM.

  • Choose a certification of your choice based on your qualifications and passion
  • Choose the package that suits you and study for the exams
  • Choose a date that is convenient for you to write the exams
  • Pass the test and you will become one of the best personal trainers out there

How hard is the ACSM CPT exam?

With the help of study materials, test books, and prepU , your chances of passing are high.

8 thoughts on “ACSM CPT Review 2020 – ACSM Cost vs Value, Is ACSM worth it?”

  1. I am from india,i want to do actual course where I can attend theory and practical session so I can understand concepts easily,but confused in ACSM and ACE. plz suggest

  2. Hi Tyler I am trying to decide on who I should go with for my Cot certification.I am going to be working with the general population hopefully at a Ymca.I have been working out since I was seventeen and now am Sixty one.Please give me your recommendation thanks

    1. Hey Donnie,
      I personally think that the ACE general personal trainer certification is the best for the general population. Especially if you are planning on working at the YMCA as they are are a very reputable certification with them.

  3. Hii i m from india stays at kandivali Maharashtra and want to do sports nutrition course could u pls help me with the details of acsm course details

    1. Hello, I recommend checking out the ISSA sports nutrition certification as everything can be done online. With ACSM you will need to go into a testing center I believe and I am not sure if they have any in India although I am not 100% sure on that you will have to check. I hope this helps answer your question.

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