Best Personal Training Certifications - Tyler stands up personal training textbooks on a table from ACSM, NCSF, NASM, NSCA, ACE, ISSA

This best personal trainer certification comparison roundup details my experience studying for, taking the test, and working with each PT certification. It details the cost of signing up, and recertification, chances of passing, CEUs fees, and a lot more. 

When you finish reading, you will know the inside scoop on these popular PT certifications and how to get a personal trainer certification.

My review looks at the following aspects of personal trainer certifications:

  •  Effectiveness of content and skills coverage for personal trainers
  •  Personal trainer certification costs, study materials, and exam difficulty
  •  Career and earning prospects for each CPT
  •  Breakdown of my review criteria and methods

If you want more direct guidance on choosing your fitness certification, take the quiz to determine which CPT is right for you.

Which personal trainer certification is right for you?

We developed this critical quiz to help you find the best certification for you and your goals.

Let’s dive into the nuts and bolts of these personal trainer certificate programs without further ado.

Best personal trainer certifications - textbooks lined up on table
CPTCPTFeaturesPrice
ISSA CPT ISSA CPT
  • Great technique, programming, and periodization
  • Good aerobic and special populations training
  • Less emphasis on corrective exercise
Check ISSA Pricing
NASM CPT NASM CPT
  • Amazing OPT training model
  • Excellent corrective exercise coverage
  • Good coverage of behavior change
  • Vague special populations coverage
Check NASM Pricing
ACE CPT ACE CPT
  • Complete skillset for healthy clients
  • Great IFT model for programming
  • Excellent Mover Model for behavior change
  • Less corrective exercise coverage
  • No sales skills
Check ACE Pricing
NCSF CPT NCSF CPT
  • Lower cost than comparable certifications
  • Contains essential knowledge for CPTs
  • Less brand recognition
  • Lacks behavioral coaching and business skills
Check NCSF Pricing
FM CPT FM CPT
  • FORM model is good for new trainers
  • Comprehensive coverage of training principles
  • Very little brand recognition
Check FM Pricing
ACSM CPT ACSM CPT
  • Excellent science and behavioral change coverage
  • Good special populations training
  • Poor coverage of resistance training technique
  • No comprehensive program design framework
Check ACSM Pricing
NSCA CPT NSCA CPT
  • Bigger focus on strength and conditioning
  • Great starter for advanced certifications
  • Comprehensive textbook
  • Limited study materials from NSCA
Check NSCA Pricing

1. International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) PT certification

ISSA CPT - best personal trainer certification - ISSA CPT textbook laid out with yellow question mark boxes
ISSA General Information

ISSA General Information

  • Exam cost: $828.00 (only purchased with study materials)
  • Study material cost: $69/month for 12 months
  • Prerequisites: CPR/AED, High School Diploma
  • Exam passing score: Scaled 550/800 – 90/125 Scored Questions
  • Exam pass rate: 70% (2019 data)
  • Average completion time: 3 to 5 months

What is the ISSA PT certificate?     

The ISSA Certified Personal Trainer certification is an industry-leading PT certification designed to prepare aspiring personal trainers for their first training job.

The International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) is among the top picks for the best CPT certification and is in first place in my book. ISSA-certified trainers who get their fitness education are more than prepared for their first client interaction. ISSA is a great launch point for many fitness careers, including Pilates, yoga, and certified fitness trainers.

ISSA credibility and reputation

ISSA stands out among the fitness industry for brand recognition and quality. International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) has certified over 200,000 personal trainers since 1988. (Source: ISSA)

The National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) has accredited multiple ISSA certifications, including the ISSA CPT test. The training certification you choose is among the factors that can help you get a job after passing your exam. Opportunities depend on many things, including the certification you select. Popularity is important for online training certification programs, especially when looking at health clubs for employment.

The NCCA is the gold-standard organization for determining whether a fitness certification is legit. You need to choose an NCCA-accredited fitness certification to ensure the curriculum is accurate and vetted by experts.

Note that you can take a non-NCCA accredited version of the exam, which is easier but far less respected.

I always recommend taking the NCCA-accredited version, which is administered through the National Council for Certified Personal Trainers (NCCPT), a subsidiary of ISSA and one of its partners.

The curriculum for both tests is identical. If you want to take the NCCA exam, you will have to learn it without referring to your notes because the NCCA version of the test is not open-book.

issa cpt textbook - the best personal trainer certifications

ISSA CPT pros and cons

Pros
  • Excellent resistance training technique
  • Good aerobic programming
  • Solid special populations

 

Cons
  • Limited corrective exercise
  • Weak behavioral change coverage

ISSA CPT study materials and costs

The ISSA pricing depends on what level of study material you choose.

To take the NCCA-accredited exam only without receiving any additional materials from ISSA costs $599.00 at the time of this writing.

ISSA CPT study materials and costs

The lowest-tier option that includes study materials is the basic CPT package, which costs $828.00 before tax. However, you can finance the program interest-free at $69.00 monthly for 12 months.

Picking the finance option is a great approach to limit your initial out-of-pocket expenses for the certification.

Materials in the ISSA basic ‌program include:

  • Online Study Materials & Infographics
  • Dedicated Student Success Coach
  • 4-Week Fast Track Program
  • Job Guarantee
  • Free CPR and AED Certification Course
  • ISSA Community Membership
  • Passing protection with a free retest
  • Online Bootcamp and study group

ISSA personal trainer content coverage

ISSA’s strongest curriculum component is resistance training programming, technique, and periodization. In my experience, the ISSA is the best certification overall.

Additionally, the ISSA PT certification curriculum includes excellent fundamentals of exercise science.

issa cpt muscle anatomy

The first section of the curriculum is primarily devoted to exercise science, with the later sections covering elements of resistance training. You will study the muscles on your arms, legs, chest, core, and shoulders to program your workouts.

You will also learn to coach clients with weights and monitor proper position to reduce the risk of injuries.

While this is very basic information if you already have an exercise science degree career, it is a great and thorough introduction to the topic for new personal trainers.

ISSA less emphasizes corrective exercise specialization and screening, but they do discuss it in the client screening section.

For aerobic training, ISSA gives you the basic tools to develop training programs based on relative intensities and different aerobic goals.

Regarding special populations training, ISSA does a great job of covering the different special population clients. If you work in health clubs, you will train special populations sooner or later.

The weakest section in ISSA is behavioral change, which is important when working with clients resistant to beginning an exercise program.

Nevertheless, the excellent science, resistance training, and special populations training make ISSA an excellent general PT certificate.

Taking the ISSA PT certification exam

The exam difficulty depends on whether you choose the NCCA-accredited version or not.

I took the NCCA-accredited ISSA personal trainer exam and found it one of the easier CPT exams. 

However, I did prepare for 2 months and also had a BS in kinesiology, so I did not need as much prep as someone with no fitness background. Be sure to schedule your exam with enough time ahead to prepare adequately.

The non-NCCA exam is an open book and is fairly easy, with around a 90% passing rate.

The NCCA-accredited exam is much more rigorous and has between a 65% and 70% pass rate, making it on par with most other respected fitness certifications.

I always recommend students pick the NCCA-accredited version, which is much more respected by gyms and fitness centers.

If you want to start studying for ISSA now before spending any money, take a look at my free ISSA study guide and ISSA practice test.

ISSA CPT continuing education, salary, and career prospects

Maintaining your PT certification requires 20 hours of personal trainer continuing education credits every 2 years, in addition to candidates paying a $75 recertification fee. This requirement is similar to virtually every top fitness certification in the industry.

Development is vital for top personal trainers, and continuing education is part of this.

You can get these credits through third-party courses or through ISSA fitness specializations.

I generally recommend going with an ISSA specialization on top of the CPT certification since that allows you to target a more niche clientele.

Examples of these specializations include the ISSA nutrition coaching certification and ISSA strength and conditioning certification.

Additionally, if you end up choosing the ISSA CPT, you can get a free specialization certification included in your purchase.

Finally, you can stack two specializations on your CPT when you go with the ISSA Elite Trainer program. This package is for trainers who want to advance their fitness career when they become certified quickly.

You can choose from any ISSA specialization depending on your long-term career goals.

An ISSA personal trainer starting with just the CPT earns, on average, $35,522 annually.

The exact personal trainer salary varies depending on location and your employment setup. You can check your local job board to see who hires ISSA trainers.

Trainers earning one or more specializations tend to see more than $45,520 annually.

Similarly, the more years of experience you obtain, the higher your earning potential becomes.

ISSA CPT overall rating

9out of 10

Credibility and Reputation9.5
Study Materials8
Cost/Value9.5
Exam Process9

2. National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) certification

NASM CPT - Best Personal Trainer Certification programs - NASM textbook with yellow question mark boxes
NASM-CPT General Information

NASM-CPT General Information

  • Exam cost: $599
  • Study material cost: $749-$2699
  • Prerequisites: High School Diploma (or GED), CPR/AED certification from a qualifying provider
  • Exam passing score: 70%
  • Exam pass rate: 74%
  • Average completion time: 3-6 months

What is the NASM CPT certification?             

The NASM CPT certification is a highly-respected NCCA-accredited fitness certificate with an incredible exercise programming framework for training clients.

The groundbreaking NASM Optimum Performance Training Model (NASM OPT) prepares fitness trainers exceptionally well to train general fitness clientele.

NASM is excellent for working in virtually any 1-on-1 training scenario. Employers also greatly respect ‌NASM-certified trainers.

NASM credibility and reputation

NASM is among the largest NCCA-accredited personal trainer certifications by market share – and for a good reason. They offer some of the best certifications in the industry.

The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) has certified over 200,000 personal trainers since 1987. (Source: NASM)

NASM logo

NASM’s OPT Model was one of the first complete training systems. It uses science-based workout principles to create a framework to plan excellent workout programs for any fitness goal. In terms of popularity, NASM is among the best training certification programs.

Every gym I have worked for actively sought-out NASM-certified trainers. In general, NASM is one of the better certifications for quickly landing a personal trainer job after you finish the program. NASM also partners with AFAA for group exercise.

NASM CPT pros & cons

Pros
  • Practical OPT Model
  • Great for getting a job
Cons
  • Difficult exam
  • Need NASM PES to utilize full OPT Model

NASM CPT study materials and costs

NASM pricing usually starts around $749 for the CPT (when on sale), with interest-free payment plans available.

The overall package pricing varies but is typically in the following range:

  • NASM Self-Study – $749.00
  • NASM Guided Self-Study – $1,079.00
  • NASM All-Inclusive – $1,619.00
  • Elite Trainer Bundle– $2,399.00

Truthfully, the expensive personal training education packages are a bit overkill for most students. I did really like NASM’s webinars and workshops, however. NASM also does one of the best jobs incorporating technology into the training business.

Expect to spend roughly three months studying for the NASM exam, at a minimum, if you have no previous experience.

You can start studying for free today with my NASM study guide and NASM practice tests.

The best value for paid study plans comes from third-party study guides that offer the same resources as NASM but at a discount. I recommend this approach to your studies.

My students typically prefer the NASM CPT Prep Course from Trainer Academy, although many options are available for personal trainer certification study materials.

You can get a great deal on the NASM CPT and NASM Nutrition certifications when you purchase these two certifications as a bundle.

This additional certification is worth considering since you need to complete credits every 2 years, and it will boost your career prospects.

NASM certification content coverage

Overall, NASM excels across most domains relevant to new personal trainers.

NASM does an effective job of teaching the underlying exercise science that is fundamental to delivering client results.

The NASM OPT model seamlessly allows you to progress clients from ‌early stabilization training to power and performance training. You learn about arm muscles, leg muscles, knees, chest, and shoulders from front to back.

Exclusive PTP CPT Offers


Gold Standard Cert
NASM Gold Standard Personal Trainer Certification - Save 25&percnt off
Most Popular Cert
ISSA - Most Popular Online Personal Trainer Certification 3 Certs for
Best Study Materials
TA - Trainer Academy - Best Study Materials for Personal Trainer Certification Online - See MVP discount
A Good Option
ACE Certification- A Good Fitness Course Online Option - 25&percnt off
A Good Option
NCSF Certification - A Good Option - Save 25%
Best CPT for you?
Best CPT For You? Take the Personal Trainer Certification Online quiz and Get a Personalized Recommendation Just for You

You will learn to assign reps and sets for exercises with weights, monitoring safety and position to keep clients free from injury, especially beginners.

The additional skills that round out the OPT model include behavioral change, special populations training, and basic business skills, including sales. NASM does not conduct many studies but draws on other providers’ scientific studies.

The NASM OPT model is highly effective. However, following a strict OPT model sometimes does not make sense for a particular client’s goals.

Ultimately, to train more advanced clients, particularly athletes, you must do additional research on higher-level strength and conditioning coaching.

NASM focuses greatly on wellness, making it great for general fitness and health clients.

If you do plan to coach athletes for strength and conditioning, consider the NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist.

Nevertheless, NASM knocks it out of the park for general fitness clients and special populations.

Taking the NASM certification exam

Regarding exam difficulty, the NASM exam really is no joke.

As of 2022 data, the NASM exam pass rate is roughly 60% for first-time test takers.

Despite my background, I had to study quite a bit because the OPT Model is NASM-specific and covered on the exam. So, you really have to learn the NASM curriculum.

Preparing well for the NASM PT certificate exam is your best shot at passing on your first try, so be sure to schedule it after planning your studies. Many candidates fail due to a lack of preparation.

If you want to get your CPT directly from NASM, you should check the latest pricing on the organization’s website.

NASM CPT continuing education, salary, and career prospects

After you pass your CPT exam, your certification is valid for 2 years.

Within those two years, you must complete 2.0 continuing education credits as added studies, which equates to 20 contract hours.

Example CEU courses include the NASM Senior Fitness Specialist and the NASM Certified Nutrition Coach.

In addition to the CEUs, you will need to pay a $99 recertification fee.

The NASM salary varies substantially depending on your location and your specific employment situation. You can check a job board to gauge your local salary expectations.

According to data from ZipRecruiter, the average salary varies from $35,000 to $55,000 for NASM-certified trainers.

NASM claims that the average NASM CPT will make $42,000 in their first year as a trainer. Expensive states such as New York may command higher pay.

Compared to many certifications, NASM is definitely among the higher-earning options on the market.

The NASM personal trainer certification is a great way to start ‌a successful fitness career. I recommend NASM for general population trainers who plan to work with average de-conditioned clients.

Since most fitness clients fall into this category, NASM allows you a lot of freedom in finding suitable clients immediately.

Additionally, you can always modify the OPT model as you become more experienced at training advanced clients. NASM is definitely a top personal trainer certification.

NASM CPT overall rating

8.5out of 10

Credibility and Reputation10
Study Materials9
Cost/Value7
Exam Process8

3. American Council on Exercise (ACE) certification

ACE CPT -  Best Personal Trainer Certification programs - ACE textbook laid out with yellow question boxes behind it
ACE General Information

ACE General Information

  • Exam cost: $499
  • Study material cost: $675 – $975+
  • Prerequisites: CPR/AED, High School Diploma
  • Exam passing score: Scaled 550/800 – 90/125 Scored Questions
  • Exam pass rate: ~70% (2019 data)
  • Average completion time: 3 to 5 months

What is the ACE certification?

The American Council on Exercise Certified Personal Trainer (ACE CPT) certification is an affordable personal trainer certification that covers the skills needed for the job.

The ACE CPT system for assessing clients and building ACE CPT programs is practical, so you can easily add a lot of variety to your training programs.

Pros
  • ACE IFT® Model is an excellent framework for resistance and aerobic training
  • Mover Model® helpful for behavior change
Cons
  • Lack of business skills
  • Easy exam is less respected

ACE credibility and reputation

Unlike ISSA and NASM, ACE is a non-profit organization offering fitness credentials. As such, they are less “sales-ey” regarding promoting their overall brand offerings and are more focused on studies. The non-profit status also helps gain more respect from colleges and universities. I also feel ACE reflects this brand in its logo and overall materials, which is a nice touch.

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) has certified over 80,000 personal trainers since 1985. (Source: ACE)

ACE has respect as an organization, offering an amazing array of resources for fitness professionals, including workshops and training certification programs.

Many gyms and fitness businesses accept the ACE CPT.

However, the ACE exam has a reputation for being easier, so it is slightly less respected than NASM and ISSA.

ACE CPT study materials and costs

ACE is among the least expensive PT certifications and training courses that still hold weight in the marketplace.

The exam only costs $499.00 before any study packages.

However, purchasing the Basic package for $587 includes the full ACE study portal and digital textbook.

With that said, it does not make sense to do the exam-only purchase. You will need ACE materials at some point and the textbook costs more when purchased separately.

Even at $675, the ACE CPT is still a great deal. Plus, you can finance for as low as $49 per month.

For more beefed-up study materials, you can purchase the following tiers of study packages:

  • ACE Plus – $745.00
  • ACE Advantage – $975.00

These include all the basic package materials and additional resources such as webinars. If possible, schedule a webinar and tutoring session.

If you want a more streamlined study package for the ACE CPT, take a look at the ACE MVP Prep Course from Trainer Academy.

This study package includes flashcards, practice quizzes, and additional materials. Plus, they guarantee 100% money back if you do not pass on your first try.

You can also study immediately with our free ACE study guide and ACE practice exam.

ACE content coverage

Overall, ACE does a phenomenal job of teaching the basic concepts and skills needed for personal training.

The comprehensive ACE Integrated Fitness Training Model (ACE-IFT) gives you the framework needed to program for clients of all abilities and fitness goals.

You also get the ACE exercise library, which contains hundreds of exercises with descriptions and videos, categorized based on the IFT model stages. You also learn safety checkpoints for technique. The library includes exercises you can perform on the floor, machines, free weights, and other options you may have space for in your gym.

This seamless way to add exercises to a program ‌is great for newer trainers.

Furthermore, the ACE-IFT exercise library makes finding variations on exercises very straightforward, allowing you to modify existing programs depending on the circumstances easily. You can easily assign reps, sets, and other programming variables as well based on the client’s current phase of the IFT.

Additionally, ACE gives you the basics of behavioral change coaching.

Between the IFT and behavioral change models, the ACE-CPT gives even the greenest personal trainer all the skills needed to start working successfully.

The biggest weakness I see in ACE is a lack of sales skills in the business section of the certification.

Concepts such as sales funnels, leads, prospects, and other sales jargon are‌ vital to close prospective clients. Without closing personal training sales, you won’t have anyone to train. Top personal trainers know how to sell personal training sessions.

Closing sales is what gives you, as a trainer, the opportunity to implement the IFT coaching programs you worked so hard to learn during your study time. To be the best fitness trainer, you need to know sales.

The good news is that, for the most part, a good gym for employment will teach you how to sell personal training.

The bad news is that for self-employed trainers, getting ACE certified alone will not prepare you to build your own fitness business.

Nevertheless, ACE will prepare you very well for the job of screening, programming, and instructing your clients in safe and effective workout techniques.

Taking the ACE exam

I found the ACE exam easier than NASM and ISSA. The ACE exam has a reputation as one of the easier exams in the industry. With that said, you still need a good grasp of the ACE material.

The ACE exam has a 65% pass rate, which is surprisingly low. I believe it speaks to the fact that you cannot rely on the “easy” reputation in place of studying. Thankfully, the test taking technology from ACE is excellent at making the exam a seamless process.

With that said, be sure to prepare for 2-3 months before taking your exam.

ACE CPT salary, continuing education, and career prospects

According to ZipRecruiter, an ACE CPT can expect a salary of anywhere from $15,905 on the lowest end to $124,493 on the highest end.

The average ACE salary is pegged at around $53,693 per year.

Regarding continuing education, ACE requires 2.0 CECs every 2 years, which equals roughly 20 course hours.

This requirement is the same as NASM and many CEU options could apply to both certifications.

ACE allows a massive range of CEUs, including courses directly from ACE and third-party CECs across a broad range of fitness niches.

Ultimately, you can use the ACE Certified Personal Trainer program as a launch point for whatever career you choose in the fitness industry.

ACE CPT overall rating

8.3out of 10

Credibility and Reputation8
Study Materials9
Cost/Value8
Exam Process8

4. National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF) Certification

NCSF CPT - Best Personal Trainer Certification programs - NCSF textbook with yellow question boxes
NCSF CPT General Information

NCSF CPT General Information

  • Exam cost: $299
  • Study material cost: $419 – $540
  • Prerequisites: 18 years of age
  • Exam passing score: 70%
  • Exam pass rate: ~75% (2019 data)
  • Average completion time: 3 – 6 months

What is the NCSF certification?

The National Council on Strength and Fitness CPT certification (NCSF CPT) is a lesser-known NCCA-accredited fitness certification.

The NCSF CPT aims to foster high competency levels in the next generation of fitness professionals.

The NCSF is certainly on par with the big names regarding content and value. However, fewer people know about the NCSF CPT, which is worth thinking about, depending on where you want to work. Overall, the NCSF is lower in popularity than ISSA or NASM.

Nevertheless, as an NCCA-accredited fitness coach certification program, the NCSF technically carries the same weight as the other certifications regarding expert-reviewed content.

NCSF credibility and reputation

The National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF) is an internationally-recognized fitness certification organization. As an organization, the NCSF is less well-known compared to NASM or ACE.

Nevertheless, it still excels at preparing its CPT students for their new careers.

NCSF CPT pros and cons

Pros
  • Top-tier materials with easy exam
Cons
  • Less known than NASM or ISSA

NCSF CPT study materials and costs

The NCSF offers a range of prices based on the level of study material you want from the organization.

The base exam cost is $299 if you do not care for any study materials directly from the NCSF.

For exam study packages that include study materials, you have the following tiers:

Exclusive PTP CPT Offers


Gold Standard Cert
NASM Gold Standard Personal Trainer Certification - Save 25&percnt off
Most Popular Cert
ISSA - Most Popular Online Personal Trainer Certification 3 Certs for
Best Study Materials
TA - Trainer Academy - Best Study Materials for Personal Trainer Certification Online - See MVP discount
A Good Option
ACE Certification- A Good Fitness Course Online Option - 25&percnt off
A Good Option
NCSF Certification - A Good Option - Save 25%
Best CPT for you?
Best CPT For You? Take the Personal Trainer Certification Online quiz and Get a Personalized Recommendation Just for You
  • Home Study – $399.00
  • Home Study Plus – $449.00
  • Combined CPT & Sports Nutrition Coach – $649.00
  • Combined CPT & Certified Strength Coach – $699.00

Each program includes the following:

  • Self-paced learning with full instructor support via chat or phone
  • Interactive video instruction (hundreds of lifts and drills)
  • e-Learning with digital self-tests
  • Hundreds of practice exam questions with detailed answers and explanations
  • Digital study materials for an optimal learning experience
  • On-demand testing vouchers for certifications purchased

The home study package includes basic study materials with a digital textbook. The home study plus includes a physical textbook. I also really liked the pre-recorded webinars that are not included in all fitness credentials. This is great because it has options for different types of learners.

To start studying for the NCSF immediately, check out my free NCSF study guide and practice test.

If you want the third-party study guide option, take a look at the Trainer Academy NCSF CPT Prep Course.

Check the NCSF directly for any additional deals

Overall, the NCSF CPT bundles really are a no-brainer.

NCSF content quality

The NCSF content is great for learning exercise science and the general skills needed as a CPT.

The earlier parts of the curriculum teach you the key anatomy and biomechanics that you need as a fitness professional.

From there, you will learn about behavioral change, client assessments, basic nutrition, and finally, the bread and butter of training: resistance training programming and technique.

Additional standout sections include flexibility and special populations training, although the latter is less covered than other CPT certifications.

The biggest downside to the NCSF is the complete lack of a business skills section. Business skills include everything from administration, liability and insurance guidelines, and of course… sales!

Luckily, you can pick up these skills outside your actual CPT certification curriculum, which is necessary for long-term success as a trainer.

Taking the NCSF exam

The NCSF was fairly easy compared to NASM.

I took the exam at an in-person testing center, meaning there was no chance of using outside resources on the exam. You do have the option to take the exam online through your account.

The NCSF personal trainer certification exam has a roughly 78% pass rate based on 2022 data. 

The NCSF pass rate reflects the relatively easy exam.

NCSF CPT continuing education, salary, and career prospects

The NCSF requires 10 CEUs every two years, corresponding to 20 contact hours. This number puts the NCSF CEU requirements in the same vein as ACE or NASM.

Thankfully, the NCSF gives you great flexibility in choosing your CEUs. You can use their own courses or third-party approved training courses to keep your CPT cert current and continue your professional development. You should peek at your local job board to see your expected NCSF salary.

According to the NCSF organization, NCSF-certified trainers average from $21.31 to $24.54 per hour as employees.

Self-employed trainers can make anywhere from $40-$60 per hour or more, depending on location and setup. I know trainers in New York who make a ton of money per hour.

I recommend getting an NCSF CPT certification if you plan to become a self-employed trainer with your own training business. The NCSF has the requisite information to train clients effectively.

Because it is less well-known, I would not recommend it if your goal is to work at a gym immediately after getting certified.

NCSF CPT overall rating

7.8out of 10

Credibility and Reputation6
Study Materials9
Cost/Value8
Exam Process8

5. Fitness Mentors (FM) certification

Fitness Mentors CPT General Information

Fitness Mentors CPT General Information

  • Exam cost: ~$500
  • Study material cost: $700+
  • Prerequisites: High School Diploma (or GED), CPR/AED certification from a qualifying provider
  • Exam passing score: 70%
  • Exam pass rate: Unpublished
  • Average completion time: 3 months

What is the Fitness Mentors certification?

Fitness Mentors’ personal training certification (FM CPT) is a recently added certification to the market. The certification contains excellent materials but is less well-known in the industry.

Fitness Mentors’ Credibility and Reputation

Fitness Mentors is a smaller certification company that offers a lot of accredited certifications under its own brand.

Fitness Mentors have quality offerings but less brand recognition than the bigger top-tier organizations like ISSA and NASM. Fitness Mentors could be in my top picks if they had better credibility.

Fitness Mentors CPT pros and cons

Pros
  • Large body of study material options
Cons
  • Pricey given the lack of recognition

Fitness Mentors CPT study materials and costs

The Fitness Mentors pricing includes four different options as of February 2023.

The lowest option, Starter Bundle, clocks in at $499 and includes the following:

  • FM CPT certification exam
  • Digital textbook
  • Lecture video presentations
  • Audio book lectures
  • Study guide questions
  • Chapter quizzes
  • Two realistic practice exams
  • Facebook support group with expert and peer guidance

The next tier is the Plus Bundle, which costs $729 and includes everything in the starter bundle in addition to the following:

  • Certified Nutrition Specialist Certification
  • Exercise Library
  • Bonus Learning Videos
  • Flashcards
  • Interactive learning activities
  • Study guide answers
  • Final exam preparation guide

The third tier is the Modern Trainer Bundle, which costs $999, and includes the full Plus Bundle as well as:

  • Online Trainer Certification
  • Nutrition Certification
  • Access to a personal fitness mentor
  • Pass Guarantee
  • Finally, the Ultimate Bundle Costs $1,599 and includes everything in the Pro Bundle as well as:
  • Virtual Group Fitness Instructor Certification
  • Virtual Health Coach Certification
  • Pain Management Specialist

Overall, the Starter and Plus bundles have the best value if you want a CPT. I do wish there were more webinars or similar resources.

Pre-paying for an additional five certifications is a bit of overkill especially because there is a good chance you do not need to complete all the additional five certifications.

The good news is that the Starter Bundle alone includes a substantial number of resources for you to pass the FM CPT and contains an excellent integration of technology and training principles.

FM-CPT content coverage

The Fitness Mentors certified personal trainer program is on-par with ISSA, NASM, and ACE overall.

A standout component is the FORM program design model, which gives similar programming abilities as the IFT and OPT models.

The curriculum covers the following content across 13 chapters:

  • The Fitness Assessment
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Exercise Physiology and Energy Systems
  • Program Design and the Form Model
  • Flexibility, Mobility, and Range of Motion
  • Programming Considerations for Exercise Related Injuries
  • Fitness Programs for Special Populations
  • Professionalism, Business, and Sales
  • The Cardiovascular and Respiratory Systems
  • Psychology: The Science of Behavior and Mind
  • Components of Nutrition
  • Emergency Procedures for the Fitness Professional

Among everything, the Fitness Mentors FORM Model is by far the strongest component of the certification.

Overall, the content in the FM-CPT gives you a great range of skills for meeting the demands of the personal training industry.

Taking the Fitness Mentors CPT exam

Exam-wise, the FM CPT exam is pretty easy. I passed without issue.

You need a 70% score on the exam to pass. However, the test is easy to pass compared to other certifications with more difficult exams.

Fitness Mentors do not publish their pass rate data. I found the FM CPT exam much easier than most of the other CPT exams I’ve taken.

Fitness Mentors salary, continuing education, and career prospects

Regarding salary, Fitness Mentors is a fairly new certification, so finding salary data is tough. If you land a job as a trainer, having the FM CPT is unlikely to increase or decrease your salary relative to other CPT courses.

The FM CPT requires 20 hours (2.0 CEUs) of continuing education every 2 years and a recertification fee.

Career-wise is where the Fitness Mentors CPT falls short compared to other certs.

Fitness Mentors has nowhere near the brand recognition of other organizations.

Some gyms specifically want ISSA, ACE, NASM, or ACSM, simply because the curriculum and reputations are well-known.

The bottom line with Fitness Mentors is you must be able to sell your experience and knowledge. 

The Fitness Mentors CPT is a great curriculum. However, the Fitness Mentor’s name does not currently carry weight with employers.

Fitness Mentors overall rating

7out of 10

Credibility and Reputation4
Study Materials8
Cost/Value7
Exam Process9

6. American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) certification

ACSM CPT - Best Personal Trainer Certification programs - ACSM textbook laid out with yellow question boxes
ACSM General Information

ACSM General Information

  • Exam cost: $349
  • Study material cost: $400-$1000+
  • Prerequisites: CPR/AED, High School Diploma
  • Exam passing score: Scaled 550/800
  • Exam pass rate: 66% (2018 data)
  • Average completion time: 3 to 9 months

What is the ACSM certification?

The American College of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer program (ACSM-CPT) is a highly science-focused personal training certification. The ACSM CPT is a good starting point for an exercise physiology career or clinical training setting.

The ACSM CPT has less of a framework and programming style for regular fitness training than flagship certifications like NASM or ISSA.

ACSM credibility and reputation

The American College of Sports Medicine is one of the oldest organizations in the fitness certification world.

As a non-profit, the ACSM is dedicated to promoting and conducting research in fitness and exercise science and partners with many researchers to advance the science of fitness knowledge. Universities and colleges respect the ACSM certifications as well. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has certified over 100,000 personal trainers since 1990. (Source: ACSM)

In fact, many of the other certifying organizations draw from ACSM research for the base of knowledge needed to develop a CPT program.

As such, the ACSM remains among the most influential organizations regarding modern fitness training standards.

ACSM pros and cons

Pros
  • Great exercise physiology bases
Cons
  • Lack of comprehensive programming framework

ACSM CPT study materials and costs

If you want to take the ACSM exam without purchasing study materials, the cost is $399.00.

Depending on what materials you want, you can purchase the following:

  • Online practice questions through PrepU – $64.99 for 3 months of access)
  • ACSM CPT Prep course – $529.00
  • ACSM CPT Facebook Group – free
  • ACSM’s Resources for the Personal Trainer Textbook – $110
  • ACSM Certified Personal Trainer Digital Flashcards – $51.99
  • ACSM Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription textbook – $87.19

If you purchase every single study option directly from the ACSM, you pay a similar price range as the ACE, NASM, and ISSA packages. However, the ACSM webinars can be worth it. I have taken courses at universities that are less in-depth on science than the ACSM.

If you want to dive right into studying for the ACSM CPT, check out my free ACSM study guide and ACSM practice exam.

The ACSM textbook layout feels dated and could use an update. 

The other resources are decent, but your best bet is to consider third-party study options with better deals and even exam pass guarantees.

For this reason, if you do take the ACSM CPT exam, I highly recommend using a third-party study guide such as the Trainer Academy ACSM CPT Prep Course.

If you fail your attempt at the ACSM exam, you have to pay a hefty $199 retake fee.

ACSM personal trainer content coverage

Content-wise, the ACSM exercise science and anatomy sections are top-tier.

The ACSM information does go deeper than you need as a personal trainer.

However, knowing the underlying science behind effective fitness training is beneficial if you work with clinical populations. Furthermore, this knowledge is excellent preparation for science-focused careers like exercise physiology.

Additional standout sections in the ACSM include behavioral change coaching and client health screenings. I especially like the focus on client safety.

The ACSM coverage of these topics is the most in-depth I have seen from any CPT certification.

Sadly, the ACSM falls short on the actual program design and exercise technique sections. 

It does not provide a great system for designing long-term exercise programs or choosing exercises efficiently for each training phase.

The aerobic training section is slightly better than the resistance training section. but still falls short compared to the very structured methods found in training models like the ACE IFT or NASM OPT.

The ACSM does bring more for special populations training and business skills sections, which go beyond other certifications.

However, it’s tough to compensate for a weak resistance training section, regardless of the other coverage. Without resistance training knowledge, you cannot be an effective trainer.

Overall, the ACSM certification is great if you want to take your career in a more clinical direction.

Taking the ACSM CPT exam

The ACSM exam is fairly difficult. Passing requires a good grasp of various scientific and anatomical concepts. 

I passed on my first try but I studied for about 3 months and took a lot of ACSM practice exams.

According to 2020 data, the ACSM has a 69% pass rate, making it of similar statistical difficulty as NASM, ACE, and ISSA.

As such, 31% of students were forced to accept failure or shell out some additional cash.

ACSM CPT salary, continuing education, and career prospects

According to ZipRecruiter data, an ACSM CPT can earn between $18,500 and $95,500 per year, averaging $50,738. This data is not bad when compared to the stats from other certifications.

In general, ‌top-earning ACSM CPTs likely have additional certifications or many years of experience before earning higher salaries.

The ACSM’s CEU requirements are more rigorous than other CPT certifications.

The ACSM requires you to recertify every 3 years, which is a longer timeframe than the typical 2-year recertification period for other CPT certs.

That said, the ACSM requires 45 contact hours compared to the 20 contact hours that are usual for 2-year recertification.

As such, you must do roughly 1.5 times the number of contact hours of other certifications to stay certified with the ACSM.

In the long run, the ACSM does offer great career prospects.

However, for general personal trainers who do not want to work in a clinical setting, the ACSM CPT is not my top choice.

ACSM CPT overall rating

6out of 10

Credibility and Reputation7
Study Materials4
Cost/Value5
Exam Process8

7. National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) certification

NSCA CPT - Best Personal Trainer Certification programs - NSCA textbook laid out with yellow question mark boxes
NSCA CPT General Information

NSCA CPT General Information

  • Exam cost: $435 (non-member price)
  • Study material cost: $435-$1000+
  • Prerequisites: CPR/AED, High School Diploma
  • Exam passing score: 70%
  • Exam pass rate: 72% (2018 data)
  • Average completion time: 6 months

What is the NSCA certification?

The NSCA CPT certification is a personal training certification with an extra focus on performance assessments and strength and conditioning programming applied to general fitness clients. Among the main fitness credentials, the NSCA has the most information on training for performance.

This focus makes sense since the National Strength and Conditioning Association focuses on strength and conditioning across all of its certifications.

NSCA credibility and reputation

The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) is a non-profit certifying agency focusing on athletic performance research and training.

Over 60,000 fitness professionals in the US have earned a personal trainer certification from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) since 1977. (Source: NSCA)

The NSCA is a global leader in research, practical application, continuing education, and networking opportunities for strength and conditioning coaches and personal trainers.

Credibility-wise, most gyms will accept the NSCA personal training certification.

However, the NSCA CPT is extra-respected among coaches in the strength and conditioning field. If you plan on becoming a strength and conditioning coach, the NSCA PT certification is a good choice.

Additionally, becoming an NSCA member gives you excellent discounts on all NSCA products, including the NSCA CPT program.

You also get access to the NSCA Journal of Strength and Conditioning.

The publication is full of peer-reviewed scientific research on all athletic performance and strength and conditioning topics.

NSCA CPT study materials and costs

The NSCA offers multiple study material options depending on your study preference. 

The NSCA textbook contains everything you need to pass the NSCA PT certificate exam.

However, you can purchase the NSCA Digital Package if you want additional practice questions. This option includes a basic study outline and 200 practice questions, and the NSCA textbook.

The next package is the NSCA CPT Essentials Package

This option includes the NSCA digital materials and the hard copy of the NSCA Essentials of Personal Training 2nd edition.

The NSCA CPT Essential Plus Package includes everything in the Essential package and the 3rd edition of the NSCA Exercise Technique Manual.

My biggest complaint is the lack of video or digital resources available for NSCA exam prep.

The “digital” components of the study materials are all in PDF format. It is not a truly “digital” course like NASM and ACE have full video modules and interactive study portals. When I approach my studies, I personally prefer having multiple formats. My students include various types of learners who also prefer a wide range of study options.

Pricing on the NSCA materials varies depending on whether you are an NSCA member. 

The NSCA pricing is as follows:

  • Exam-only (no study materials included) – $435 (non-members), $300 (members)
  • Digital Package + exam – $636.40 (non-members), $452 (members)
  • NSCA-CPT Essential Package + exam – $749.45 (non-members), $555.55 (members)
  • NSCA-CPT Essential Plus Package + exam – $976.50 (non-members), $779.75 (members)
  • NSCA membership – $130/year (professional), $70/year (with student discount)

The annual membership cost is‌ lower than the discount you receive on study materials. So, it makes sense to sign up for an NSCA membership when you purchase your exam.

To dive right into your NSCA CPT exam prep today, check out my free NSCA CPT study guide, which includes a practice exam.

If you want a great deal on third-party study materials, I recommend the Trainer Academy NSCA CPT Prep Course.

NSCA CPT content coverage

The CPT textbook covers over 25 chapters of content. Coverage ranges from basic stabilization training to weight training, plyometrics, and performance.

Taking the NSCA PT certificate exam

Overall, preparing for the NSCA CPT will require far more effort on your part simply because the organization lacks this comprehensive course.

Based on 2019 data, the NSCA CPT has a 72% pass rate, making it slightly easier on paper than the other certifications we’ve covered. I recommend test candidates schedule the exam a way out for adequate preparation.

NSCA personal trainer salary, continuing education, and career prospects                  

According to PayScale data, the salary for an NSCA-certified personal trainer ranges from 50,000 per year to 60,000 per year, with the average coming in around $52,000. If you want to train clients at colleges or universities, consider the NSCA CPT.

Regarding continuing education, the NSCA is a bit different from other organizations. The NSCA requires 6.0 CEUs every 3 years to stay certified. As always, states such as New York have higher earnings than cheaper states.

This equates to 60 contact hours every three years or an average of 10 hours per year.

The categories for NSCA CEUs are as follows:

  • Conference attendance in-person or digital
  • Sharing expertise/research conducted through presentations or publications
  • Educational activities such as college courses, internships, and CPR/First Aid
  • NSCA Quizzes and assessments typically as part of a CEU course
  • The number of allowable credits within each category varies. For a full breakdown, check out the NSCA recertification guidelines.

Career-wise, the NSCA CPT is a great starting point for becoming a strength and conditioning coach.

NSCA CPT overall rating

5.3out of 10

Credibility and Reputation8
Study Materials3
Cost/Value7
Exam Process3

Which is the Hardest Personal Training Certification

The hardest personal training certification is arguably the NASM CPT or the NSCA CPT, depending on your background knowledge and study proclivities. Both exams have challenging questions and structures, but NASM has better study materials when you purchase a study package, which can make the exam easier to pass.

Runner-Up Best Personal Training Certification Credentials

The following certification credentials didn’t make our top list picks but are still worth mentioning as excellent alternative options.

NFPT Personal Fitness Trainer Certification

The National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT) offers a very affordable alternative to more expensive fitness credentials. The NFPT Personal Fitness Trainer approach includes similar factors as the other top CPT program picks. You can take the NFPT exam for $250.

If you look at the program tiers, for $299, you will receive the textbook and exam, and for $399, you can get the premier package, which includes the maximum amount of study resources available for the NFPT. I definitely recommend checking the NFPT certification if you are on a strict budget.

If you are still unsure about which certification to choose, be sure to take my quiz to determine which coaching certification is right for you.

Best personal training certifications FAQs (frequently asked questions)

What does a personal trainer certification program include?

Certifications usually include exercise science, nutrition, behavior change, exercise technique, and programs.

What are the different types of personal trainer certifications?

Different types of certifications include personal training certifications from various organizations that cover similar material and specialties, such as corrective exercise or strength and conditioning.

What is the cheapest personal trainer certification?

On average, this will increase a personal trainer’s salary by around $4,000 per year. Nutrition coaching and most fitness specializations are growing at an incredible rate. This could increase significantly over the next years regarding which personal trainer certification is the cheapest. The ACSM personal trainer certification takes the lead, costing only $349. The next is NSCA at $435, ACE costing $499, NASM costing around $599, and ISSA at $828.

What is the easiest personal trainer certification?

The easiest personal training certification is the ISSA non-accredited exam with a 90% pass rate, although I always recommend taking the accredited version. The next easiest certification is ACE, with a 65% pass rate, followed by NASM, with a 64% pass rate.

How long does it take to become a certified personal trainer?

Studying for and getting certified as a personal trainer usually takes three to six months. You can reduce this time by purchasing third-party streamlined CPT study guides. If you have an exercise science degree, it should only take you approximately 1 or two months to study.

What are the requirements to become certified?

The majority of personal trainer certifications have the requirements or prerequisites of being a high school graduate (or equivalent), being at least 18 years old, and holding a valid CPR/AED certification before taking the personal trainer exam.

Can you be a personal trainer without becoming certified?

Although it is not illegal to work as a personal trainer without certification, is severely frowned upon in the personal training industry. Not only will you not be able to get a formal job as a personal trainer, but it can also be very dangerous for the clients you are training if you are not formally educated on proper exercise techniques.

Is a personal trainer certification worth it?

If you’re curious whether getting a personal trainer certification is worth it, the answer is yes. Getting a personal training certification is definitely worth it. Not only do you gain critical knowledge for helping your clients, but it also opens the door to lots of work opportunities.

What personal trainer certificate is most respected?

ISSA is the most respected personal trainer certificate, with the NASM CPT as a close second. In general, the personal training certifications that are the most respected are certifications that are NCCA-accredited.

How long are personal trainer certifications good for?

Most personal trainer certifications are good for two to three years. All reputable and accredited personal training organizations require a certain quantity of continuing education to get recertified after that period. 

What certifications do most gyms accept?

Most gyms accept NASM, ACE, ISSA, ACSM, NSCA, NCPT, and NCSF. All of these personal training certifications are nationally recognized and accredited by the NCCA.

What is the most respected personal trainer certification?

If you’re wondering what personal trainer certificate is most respected, I would say it is a close call between ISSA, NASM, and ACE for the most respected personal trainer certifications.

How long do personal training certifications last?

Most entry-level certifications last one to two years before you must recertify. Advanced personal trainer certifications may have different requirements.

What certifications are best for different states?

Gyms across the United States accept most NCCA-accreded personal trainer certifications. 

What is the process of becoming certified?

Choose your fitness training certification, study the personal training curriculum, sign up to take your exam, and pass your exam.

Best Personal Trainer Certification Takeaway

Best Personal Trainer Certification programs - CPT textbooks for ACE, NASM, ACSM, NSCA, ISSA, and NCSF laid out on table with yellow stars and questions marks - which is the best personal training program?

Regardless of which certification you choose, you can be sure these nationally recognized personal trainer certifications will prep you for becoming a successful personal trainer. Let’s take a look at my top personal training certification.

While ISSA is by far my top choice, but you should also consider your specific career goals in fitness when picking your certification.

Additionally, being a great trainer requires far more than just a CPT.

Skills such as getting creative with exercises and workouts, as well as learning how to motivate your clients requires getting hands-on experience.

If you are nervous about training clients because you lack experience, seeking out a personal training internship is a good bridge between having no experience and becoming a professional trainer.

Finally, if you have a specific gym in mind where you want to work, always check to make sure which gyms accept which personal trainer certifications. Also, if you want a list of the NCCA online best personal trainer certifications, check out that article. Let’s turn you guys into the best fitness trainers out there!

The Top 7 Best Personal Trainer Certification Programs in [year] 8

References:

  1. McClaran SR. The effectiveness of personal training on changing attitudes towards physical activity. J Sports Sci Med. 2003;2(1):10-14. Published 2003 Mar https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24616604/
  2. About ACSM. ACSM_CMS. https://www.acsm.org/acsm-membership/about-us
  3. ACSM journals. ACSM_CMS. https://www.acsm.org/read-research/journals-bulletins
  4. The Optimum Performance Training Model. NASM. https://www.nasm.org/certified-personal-trainer/the-opt-model
  5. Personal trainer: IFT model. ACE. https://www.acefitness.org/fitness-certifications/personal-trainer-certification/ace-ift-model.aspx
  6. University L. Lionel University: Fitness and Nutrition Education. Lionel University | Fitness And Nutrition Education. https://www.issaonline.edu/company/
  7. Become a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist | NSCA. https://www.nsca.com/certification/cscs/
  8. “Google Trends.” Google Trends, https://trends.google.com/trends/?geo=US
  9. “Personal Trainer Accreditation.” IHRSA, https://www.ihrsa.org/industry-issues/personal-trainer-accreditation/
  10. Personal Trainer (CPT) (NASM) Salary | PayScale. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Certification=Personal_Trainer_(CPT)_(NASM)/Salary
  11. “Recertify Your NASM Personal Trainer Certification.” NASM, https://www.nasm.org/recertify/personal-trainer-recertification
  12. Stay Certified | NSCA. https://www.nsca.com/certification/recertification/
  13. The Mission of NESTA’s Personal Fitness Trainer (PFT) Program. https://pft.nestacertified.com/about-nesta-mission-statement/

Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

Tyler Read


All Posts

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.

Ask me a question and I will reply ASAP

206 thoughts on “The Top 7 Best Personal Trainer Certification Programs in 2024”

  1. Hi, thank you so much for the article and reviewing these programs. I’m in my mid-30s, female and looking for a career change. My goal is to work independently as a personal trainer and yoga teacher (for which I have a cert). While, I would like to be open to different populations, I want to focus on 55+ community to help them maintain balance and improve ROM. Which cert would be best for me between ACE, NASM and ISSE? Thanks again!

    Reply
    • Hey Ava, I would suggest a CPT from any of those three organizations you mentioned, with my personal favorites being NASM and ISSA. In addition, both of these two organizations do have Senior Fitness Specializations for personal trainers to pursue. I would check those out if I were you.

      Reply
  2. Hi Tyler,
    I want to thank you for your helpful overview of these CPT programs. Just when I thought I was closer in my decision of choosing one, I am still undecided, lol. However, I am leaning towards NASM or ACE.

    My goals/reasons for becoming a Certified Personal Trainer are to help people reach their desired level of fitness (regardless of health or body limitations), overcome struggles with weightloss/weight management, and overcome whatever is holding them back from achieving their health/fitness goals. To be honest, I have struggled with each of these, but have also had success in the past, which I think would make me a good trainer because I can empathize with my clients. It also encourages me when I encourage/motivate others and see them reach their goals.

    That all being said, which of these two programs do you think mostly encompass all the things I would like to do without having to get a specialization for a while? Thanks again!

    Reply
    • Hey Vanessa, I’m glad to have you on the site and using the articles. I would fully recommend NASM or ISSA first, but your second option of ACE is not bad either. These three CPT programs are some of the best you can go for, and you need to find the best on for your case. Since NASM is found in your two listed, and I would suggest it as well, perhaps that is your best starting spot to see if the NASM CPT is best for you.

      Reply
  3. I’m surprised NESTA wasn’t included in this list…

    Content is as good as nasm ans better than Issa (at least it was when I got certified) and there was no open book or online exam – closed book proctored exam at a testing center…. and if I recall it was even more questions than nasm… it’s no walk in the park – you need to know your sh*t to pass.

    Reply
    • Hey, I agree that NESTA is good. It could definitely be in a top 10 article, and for some other fitness professionals, I am sure it would make it into their top 7. There are a lot of categories to base the overall opinion on, and I tried to justify my reasons throughout.

      Reply
  4. Hi there,
    Thanks for this really helpful article. I’m currently a qualified Personal Trainer here in Australia but will be moving to New Jersey in just a few weeks and have been wondering how I can get my best foot forward for re-training in a Personal Trainer course. This was really useful to read. Thanks!
    Cheers,
    Sylvia

    Reply
    • Hey Sylvia, you can’t go wrong starting with any of the certifications throughout this article. In addition, experience is very important, and you will already have that going in, since you personal trained in Australia. Good luck in your endeavors!

      Reply
  5. Tyler,

    Thanks for all your help and information. This has been extremely helpful in deciding which certification to pursue. I have decided to go with the ISSA right now due to the state of everything and my learning style. I will look at your study material as well.

    One note, and one you may want to update: with the ISSA plans now, you no longer get the actual textbook, you only get the digital version. The hard copy text, which I like to have, must be purchased seperately.

    Thanks,

    Reply
    • Hey Blaze, that is true. If you purchase the basic package, then it does not include the hard copy of the textbook. But, some of the upgraded packages for the ISSA CPT does include the hard copy.

      Reply
  6. Hi Tyler! Thanks for this breakdown. Another certification program I have heard about it NCSF. It’s definitely the most affordable one I have found, but are you able to shed some light on what you know about a CPT with NCSF? Thanks!

    Reply
  7. Hello Tyler,

    I’ve doing research about CPT and read enough articles including yours and the better option was ISSA according to your article but i see lotta NASM, ACE, NCSA discussion in the comment section! What do you think is the best thing to do here?

    Reply
    • To be honest, all four of those options are fantastic. The only reason people used to discredit the ISSA certification was because it was not NCCA accredited. But that’s no longer the case. They have fantastic study materials, are accredited and have great support. All around it’s one of my favorite options right now.

      Reply
  8. Hello Tyler
    Thank you so much for all the articles and kwnoledges.
    I’m Davood I’m living in Turkey now and I’m planning to take ISSA PTC because its online and from what i read and understand that’s the ISSA PTC is suitable for me actually have a question im moving to live in Portogal is the ISSA PTC is accepted in the or in Europe
    If not which are accepted there that have online cert ?
    Thanks again for this wonderful article

    Reply
    • This is a very specific question regarding personal training certifications. I will definitely check in the area that you live in to see which personal training certifications are accepted and which ones are preferred by your local employers. Good luck with your personal training career.

      Reply
  9. Hello! First off, thank you so much for compiling all this information, definitely the most helpful website out there for comparing certifications.

    I’m not interested in making a career out of personal training, but I want all the knowledge that a personal trainer has (and the bragging rights to say I’m certified). I also want to learn more about nutrition. Which of these certifications would you say offers the most knowledge on nutrition and improving quality of life?

    Reply
    • Hey there, I definitely understand where you are coming from. All five personal training certifications on this list touch upon nutrition for at least one chapter. If nutrition is your final goal though, I would get a dedicated nutrition certification. Check out my article on the top 5 nutrition certifications.

      Reply
  10. Hey Tyler
    I love your content,thank you soo much for explaining things in such a great way.I am from India and my age is 23. I am an international artistic skater, how ever I want to get a certification which will help me to implement the knowledge and eventually help in in my artistic skating career.
    I have done my Bachelors degree in Commerce,basically I have no knowledge in the field of fitness, So what would you recommend, I am confused which course I should select.

    Reply
    • If you plan on mostly training in India I definitely recommend contacting some local employers to see which certifications are accepted and preferred in India. The majority of my audience is from North America.

      Reply
  11. Hello Tyler,
    I think i posted this question before but i don’t remember in which article.
    Which certificate best suits bodyweight training and movement exercise?

    Thank you.

    Regards,
    Moe

    Reply
  12. Hi Tyler,

    Thank you so much for this article, it turned out to be exactly what we were looking for! I’m writing to you on behalf of my sister, who is stretching and flexibility trainer here, in Kazakhstan. She wants to continue her education and get a certificate from ISSA. But she doesn’t know English fluently. Is it possible to sit the test in other languages, in Russian, for example? Or is it possible to have a translator nearby, during final exam?
    And one more question, how can she get CPR/AED certificate?
    Thank you in advance!

    Reply
    • That will definitely make it a little bit harder not being a native English speaker. But, if her English is okay she can work through the course content at her own pace and should be fine for the exam. If she signs up with the international sports Sciences Association the actually provide a CPR or AED certification free of charge or for very little extra money.

      Reply
  13. I’ve 2 Questions…

    1st. I wanna ask about what’s best CPT among NASM / ISSA / ACE ??

    And i see u always recommend “NASM”

    Btw…I graduated from law school so i didn’t study fitness field ;but i’ve been working out 8 years ago so i’ve experience & A lot of knowledge

    2nd. If the answer is ISSA or ACE should i go for NASM after that?..

    Reply
    • All five of the certifications on this list are definitely good options for General personal training certifications. If you want to specialize, there are plenty of other certifications to specialize in afterwards. That being said, out of these five, the National Academy of sports medicine is probably the most recognized by employers. You can always get multiple certifications and it will expand your knowledge as a personal trainer. It’s never a bad idea.

      Reply
  14. Hey Tyler! First of all, just wanted to say thanks for all that you do- I so appreciate this page as a resource. I have Canadian and American citizenship, living in Canada at the moment but would like to move to the US within the next 5 years. I was wondering if you had any insights into a good certification that would be accepted in both countries? Don’t know if I’m reaching for the stars here and will have to end up getting 2 separate certifications, but hoping you may have some advice:) I can’t seem to get a straight answer online. Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    • Hey there, I know that ACE and NASM are pretty widely accepted up in Canada. I do know that there are specific certifications in Canada that are not really well known in the United States. Such as canfitpro.

      Reply
  15. I posted on another article but I think there may have been a glitch. Lol

    Anyway I was asking about specific certifications or what should I be diving deep into. I am getting my NASM – CPT. Once finished I am really going to try and focus on helping clients lose weight and keep it off, while also helping them time and build that “6 pack.” I was wondering if there’s a certain certification or anything that dices deep into turning the “dad bod” into that cut, toned athlete look. I’m not sure if I was clear enough, but thank you so much for your help!

    Reply
    • I think a general personal training certification such as the one you are obtaining from the National Academy of sports medicine is a great place to start. If you want to get more into bodybuilding stuff there are specific bodybuilding certifications out there that you can try to achieve.

      Reply
  16. Dear Tyler,
    My name is Anya and I live in Russia currently. Thank you very much for your review, it helped me a lot to choose the right certiicate for me. I am going for ISSA certificate. I also did a CPR/AED certificate online from the National CPR Foundation. Is this certificate is acceptable for taking CPT exam? Thank you

    Reply
    • I’m glad you found the personal training certification that was right for you. The international sports Sciences Association is a fantastic organization. Good luck studying.

      Reply
  17. Hello!
    This has been a very helpful website! Thank you!

    I am considering ISSA, probably the Elite bundle. My question is that there are the programs for to be a certified personal trainer but then there are other specialized certifications. How important is it to be specialized? If I were to just be a personal trainer for now would I still be competitive for jobs?

    Reply
    • I think it’s very important to One Day become specialized. It takes a while to find your Niche to see what people you like to train in what style of training is for you. Overall, the bundle of three is a very good deal as you will have them forever.

      Reply
  18. thank you for sharing these information,
    just some questions; this job guarantee and internship that comes with NASM is just for USA, right?
    I think for those who live in europe ACE now is better because of its discounts, what do u think?

    Reply
  19. Thanks so much “TYLER” for all the comprehensive articles and kwnoledges you are sharing here, i so much feel satisfy with them. Just a question please which certificate(s) are recomended in Canada, And will ISSA be accepted in Canada any idea! I love to be a great personal trainer Easy workout and see the effect. My type of person will like to have more than two CERT, but will start with ISSA if online or NASM if offline.
    Kind Regards!

    Reply
  20. Hey Coach,

    thank you for all the hard work you have put into this and the value you have given without me spending even a single cent. Your website has been extremely informative and helpful in helping me decide what kind of certification I want to do.

    I am in Japan at the moment, living in Tokyo and looking to change careers. I am Canadian but also a born-American citizen. I would like to do personal training here to clients, both ex-pats and Japanese, but conditioning and performance coaching is not super popular here; as such, corrective exercises and exercises that utilize bands, or just bodyweight would be more popular here. Especially with a culture of prevention rather than correction/cure is the name of the game here in Japan and in Asia in general.

    After reading your article on the 5 cert. offered, I am thinking to go with ISSA, since it is affordable and more international than NASM, and I can take the test online.

    Warm regards,

    Reply
    • Thank you for the kind words. Good luck with your personal training career and I hope that the international sports Sciences Association certification serves you well. I agree with what you were saying in that the Asian countries are more preventative than the United States or Western countries in general. Good luck with your new career.

      Reply
  21. Hello sir , i am from India .
    And i want to be a personal trainer as well as sports nutrionist .which brand is best for me.

    Reply
    • If you are out of the United States I would probably recommend the international sports Sciences Association (ISSA) as you can take the exam online. Have you looked into them?

      Reply
  22. Hi Tyler,

    I live in the PHILIPPINES and would like to avail an on line PT certification.

    Although I will be in the US towards the end of next year. Any recommendations you can tell me which one I should take via on line?

    Reply
    • Hey there, the international sports Sciences Association certification can be done online and I think that would be a great bet for you to start studying now so you can get certified before you come over.

      Reply
  23. Hi Tyler,
    Thank you for all this Information it was so helpful and detailed!
    But I do have a question since I am living and working quite internationally. I’m from Germany and would love to stay in Europe (I lived in the US for the last 10 years so I would be open to going back there for a year or two, but ultimately want to end up in Germany or the UK). After just getting my BSc last year in Communications I want to follow my actual dream of working in Health and Fitness. I’m applying for a Masters degree in Sports and Exercise Nutrition and would like to combine the two things to open my own business one day. (Obviously I’d have to work my way up for a few years to gain experience but opening up a gym and building a fitness oriented community is my ultimate goal) I was leaning towards NASM and was wondering what you think? Does that work for being in Germany of the UK? I’m sorry for the long message I just wanted to give you enough info to go on. Thank you so much!

    Reply
    • Hey there, yes the National Academy of sports medicine to my knowledge is very well-recognized through all of Europe. I would make sure though to see which employers you are thinking about working for. I would contact them just to double-check. Good luck with your personal training career.

      Reply
  24. Hi Tyler,
    Really interesting stuff here, I will sure dig a bit deeper around your site.
    I am interested can you invest in any of these certifications without prior diplomas or degrees as a personal trainer or anything related to health, fitness and do any of them offer writing exams in Europe.

    Thanks so much for your content, best wishes,
    Nikola

    Reply
    • I’m not really quite sure how many of these offer writing exams in Europe. I do know that you can take a lot of these personal training certifications in Europe in that they are accepted throughout the majority of the countries there.

      Reply
  25. Hi Tyler~

    I am considering the ISSA and the NASM certification programs. I may have missed it somewhere but what do you think is the reason behind the difference in the exam pass rate between the two certifications? 90% vs 64% is significant – how much does the content vary or is it because of the way the test is structured? I am a stay at home mom (ex advertising executive) and looking to pursue a different career where I can set my own hours. I do not plan on working in a gym – I would like to train at my home or client’s home. Target people who don’t want to commit to a gym due to expense or intimidation of the gym scene. I also feel it’s imperative to have the nutrition certification to go with. What do you recommend? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Overall the difference comes down to the fact that the international sports Sciences Association has their test online. For the National Academy of sports medicine U will need to go into a test-taking facility in order to take and pass your exam and get certified.

      Reply
    • Interested to hear which company you went with. I am somewhat in the same boat. I am a registered nurse looking to get into training and then add nutrition. I’ve spent weeks trying to decide between ACE, NASM and ISSA. I also plan to train outside of the gym. I just worry if I need to go into the gym and go with ISSA and not be able to get hired.

      Reply
      • I have personal training certifications from ACE, NASM and ISSA. They are all good options and give you different points of views as a personal trainer. I think that they are all a good starting point.

        Reply
  26. Hi Tyler!
    I love your post and everything you have to say! I am currently certified by ISSA and I love all he support they give me. I know a lot of people say that NASM, NSCA, ACSM and Ace are the way to go and that they are “better” than ISSA, but I love ISSA and their curriculum. I do have question about the amount of how much they make. ISSA trainers make way more than ACE, NASM and ACSM trainers. Do you know why this is? Even though people recommended the latter four? Thank you!

    Reply
    • I definitely agree Josh. The international sports Sciences Association has fantastic curriculum in a fantastic Supporting Cast. I think they are definitely a company that is growing fast and in the right direction and this might be the cause for this. I’m sure that you will become a great personal trainer with their certification. Good luck with your personal training career.

      Reply
  27. Thank you!!!
    I am so glad I stumbled upon your site!!! It’s been of great help in my decision making process to become a PT. Great breakdown of cert possibilities and the comparatives are ever so useful!

    Reply
  28. Good afternoon,
    I am interested in teaching stretching and posture to help people age with less aches and pains. Can you recommend a program that would focus on that?

    Reply
    • Hey Jennifer,
      The flexibility training is your primary goal, I still suggest getting a general personal training certification such as one of the five mentioned in this post. They all have a full chapter dedicated towards flexibility Training Concepts.

      Reply
  29. Thank you very much, Tyler. I appreciate everything you do. Really gave me a confidence boost with the decision I made as I enter my personal training career. Once again thank you greatly.

    Reply
  30. Hey Tyler,
    I recently took the plunge into the ISSA Elite and then found your site. I’m excited to get started; that said I now have a little ‘buyer’s remorse’ (just a little) seeing that none of the other agencies you reviewed are accredited by DEAC. I this going to hinder me in any way looking for employment in the field? Is this because they identify as an international agency?
    Also, if I decide to expand certification to another agency down the road, are they ‘friendly’ with each other when perusing CEU’s?

    Reply
    • Hey Justin,
      fantastic questions. First of all, the international sports Sciences Association is a great organization in the are accepted by a lot of gyms in the United States. I would definitely suggest calling up your local gymnasium that you want to work at to see if they accept ISSA. My guess is that they do. In terms of each organization working with the other ones, basically all full certification are accepted as continuing education credits for the other organizations. ISSA Is no exception.

      Reply
  31. Hi Tyler,
    Wow! Thanks for your insightful information–crazy helpful!
    1. You said you have a “discount code PTP25 to save 25% on all NASM CPT certifications.”
    This does not seem to be valid anymore. Did it expire or did I not attempt to use it correctly?
    2. As you mentioned to someone else, you think a 5th edition of the NASM textbook should generally be the same as the 6th (enough to pass the test) and then I could always reference the digital copy that comes with the self-study package. So long as that’s still your opinion, I think I’m going to aim for that as it cuts costs to a quarter.
    3. Last question: For the average person with a physical fitness background but no academic experience in exercise science, how many hours of studying do you think I should plan on before I take the test? Does the NASM self-study program give you 6 months or 12? (I’m getting mixed messages).
    Thanks so much! I’m so appreciative of your information!

    Reply
    • Hey Beth,
      Sorry about the discount code. I am contacting NASM about this right now to see what can be done. Yes I’m terms of the 5th edition textbook compared to the 6th edition, they are relatively the same. If you contacted nasm about this they would say that you can study with the 5th edition perfectly fine and passed the exam. Although my study guide here on my website and does follow exactly chapter by chapter with of the sixth edition textbook. I typically recommend at least 3 months to 6 months if you are not coming from any sort of exercise science background.

      Reply
  32. Hi Tyler,

    Thank you for this great information of Certification.
    I have one more question, if you don’t mind…
    What certification would you recommend for dancers or instructors who train dancers?

    Thank you in advance!

    Reply
    • Hello,
      if you are looking to train dancers, you are probably more inclined to take some sort of sports performance certification. All of these certifications are going to touch upon sports performance in some way, but they are not sports performance or strength and conditioning certifications. I would recommend getting the basic personal training certification from either one of these agencies, and then getting a specialist certification for sports performance such as the NASM PES, CSCS or strength and conditioning certification from ISSA.

      Reply
  33. Tyler, thank you very much for the detailed outlines of the certifications!

    After reading this, I am leaning towards ISSA. Another comment mentions continuing education being recognized from other organizations. I kind of wanted to expand on this for my own brain to understand- if I were to move forward with ISSA and choose NASM or another agency for my continuing education materials, (after the 2 years/re-certification), would this be accepted for the CEC requirements? My concern is the ISSA being DEAC, while NASM and others being NCCA accredited. Can you cross-platform (so-to-speak) the CECs? I hope that made sense!

    Also, I am currently on my own fitness journey and still losing significant fat and will need to tone my skin and muscles for that ideal instructor body- since I am not ‘peak’ physical condition, does it seem likely this will hinder me from getting a job? However, with it being more than likely 6 mos. before I get the certification, I may have the body by then but with life, you never know!

    Thank you for the work and materials you are providing to us all!

    Reply
    • Hey Katie,
      Don’t worry about being in peak physical condition in order to get a job. It is all about the journey. Everybody has different points that there and in their fitness journey and not every personal trainer is a chiseled beast. So definitely don’t even think about that as you were studying for in trying to become a personal trainer. In terms of the continuing education. Both ISSA and NASM will accept the other certification as a legitimate source for continuing education in order to get recertified. It’s always a good idea to expand your knowledge and a definitely recommend getting multiple certifications for people looking to perfect their craft. Good luck personal training in 2020 and I hope you had a great New Year’s.

      Reply
  34. Good morning Tyler!
    I normally read an article and get what I want and scram, but out of other articles where I have compared the top 5 P.T. Cert’s, this is BY FAR the most comprehensive and detail-oriented article. You allowed me to sink my teeth in each certificate and the how’s and why’s in each section. It is rare for me to have my want for details met or exceeded. A tip of the hat to you friend. I look forward to reading your other articles and I hope leaving a comment boosts your search potential.

    Thank you,

    C.J. Sobkowiak

    P.S. I’ll be signing up for ISSA. Wish me luck! Any additional tips or articles you’d suggest? My focus will be general health/ Weight loss but I’ll also focus on my little brother on the side to help him get a football scholarship when hes of age.

    Reply
    • Hey CJ,
      thank you so much for the kind words. I put a lot of time in research into this article and I really hope people get great use out of it. The international sports sciences Association is a fantastic notification so you have definitely chosen well. A general health and weight loss focus will lend you the most amount of personal training clients. It is also good to specialize down the road once you find your passion and what type of clients you like to train. Good luck to you and all your personal training efforts in the help you have a great 2020.

      Reply
  35. Tyler…my 22 year old grandson is unfortunately incarcerated and will be for five years….he has taken some basic college courses and is working in maintenance at this time…he works out on his own using some very clever techniques. In planning for his future he has asked me to do research on whether he is able to become a personal trainer while serving the remainder of his sentence…He has no access to a computer so what certification provides the best option for him….thank you so much

    Reply
    • Hello Jean,
      I’m sorry to hear that about your grandson. In the meantime it is a great opportunity for him to study up on exercise science so that he can get certified as a personal trainer afterwards. In terms of getting study materials to him, if he can have textbooks, thus all he really needs. All of the top five personal training certifications on this list have a primary textbook that can definitely be used in memorized while he is in there. I think this is the best idea.

      Reply
  36. Hello Tyler,
    My goal would be to do personal training for small groups or 1on1 with adults or kids that are in sports age of 9 to 15. This would be on the weekend side gig and sometimes during the week evenings. I work full time 8-5 40 Hours a week.
    If this gets big for me i would love to open my own personal fitness gym/crossfit gym.

    What cert would you recommend me to start with?

    Reply
    • Hey JV,
      I definitely still recommend getting a general personal training certification such as ISSA, NASM or any of the other three on this list. Afterwards, I think you should specialize in group exercise fitness. ACE and ISSA have fantastic group exercise certifications that are available through them.

      Reply
  37. I’d like to buy an online basic course for a young friend (34), who shows interest in possibly becoming a personal trainer. He would prefer working with senior clients.
    Thanks in advance for your advice.

    Reply
    • Hello Charles,
      if you’re friend is planning on working with elderly clients while personal training, I still suggest that he gives a general personal training certification such as from the National Academy of sports medicine, international sports sciences Association, American Council on exercise or any of the other top credentialed certifications. Afterwards, if he wants to focus on elderly clients, he can also get a specialty certification in that area. I hope this helps.

      Reply
  38. sir i am rengaraj form india. my age 22 sir i completed my bcom degree in 2018. sir my profession is become a fitness trainer and future bodybuilding contest prepare coach sir.so which course is usefull me sir please tell me sir issa or nsca.

    thank you sir

    Reply
    • Hey Rengaraj,
      If you want to get into bodybuilding and prep coaching for bodybuilding I would recommend starting out with the ISSA personal training certification in if you want they actually have a bodybuilding and a transformation specialist certifications that would go hand-in-hand for what you are trying to accomplish.

      Reply
  39. Hi Tyler –
    Thank you so much for everything you’ve shared with us on this website. I am considering becoming a personal trainer (I’m 42!) and I am looking at ACE as the training provider. They don’t have anyone available to talk to right now but they have a promo for their PLUS Study Program for $399!!! It says it includes ACE Certification Exam but I wanted to make sure that means the cost of taking the exam. When I spoke to someone at NASM, I was told ACE programs do not cover exam cost. Thoughts?
    Thank you!!!

    Reply
    • Hey Rem,
      yes, they do seem to have an excellent deal going on for Black Friday/cyber Monday for half off their study plus program. I understand what the person from the National Academy of sports medicine was telling you. Previously, the American Council on exercise was selling their study materials separate from the exam itself which was something that they were trying out. It seems like they have switched back to the old system of selling the certification exam with all the study materials in a single bundle. I think this is a better idea because people were getting confused when they found out that what they purchased did not include the exam after all. The price and package they have on their site does include the exam so don’t worry about that.

      Reply
  40. Hello, I have always been interested in & have a passion fitness & nutrition. I turned 50 this year and its way past time to pursue my dream job. I am interested in some sort of program geared towards helping women.I am also on somewhat of a tight budget as I have just relocated to the state of AZ in hopes of a healthier lifestyle. Please provide any helpful feedback.

    Reply
    • Hey Kim,
      it is never too late to pursue your dream of becoming a fitness professional. All of these general certifications focus on men and women equally. They do not specialize as they are general personal training certifications. Later on down the road you can specialize in women’s fitness if you would like. It’s always recommended to get a general personal training certification first though to build a strong base of knowledge that you can branch off from later. If you are looking for something on a budget, I recommend checking out ACE.

      Reply
    • Hey Aliza,
      This is a good question. I would think that yes all of these certifications would be accepted in Canada but I usually focus my expertise on the United States and what is excepted here. For all other countries, I suggest contacting your local gymnasiums or training studios to see which personal training certifications except and which ones they prefer just be 100% sure. I hope this helps.

      Reply
  41. So regarding ISSA, you had mentioned the PT cert is $499-$799. They have a deal going in right now for both Nutrition and PT cert for $799. Would that be the best deal you have seen for this combo? Am I better of waiting for it to be discounted further? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hey Phil,
      This is absolutely a fantastic combination to get the personal training certification and the nutrition certification for $799. In fact, they also have another deal where you can get the nutritionist certification, the personal training certification as well as 1/3 certification of your choice for only $999.

      Reply
  42. Hi Tyler,
    I really appreciate the amount of time you spend in clearing everyone’s doubts in detail.

    I’m from India (City: Jaipur, State: Rajasthan)
    I’m a long distance marathon runner and have been doing some serious training for 5 years now. I’m among top 10 females in the country in terms of my timing, and fastest female runner from my state.

    I read a lot about food/ superfoods that I take and have an inclination towards nutrition for an athlete or a healthy layman too.

    I’ll be grateful if you can recommend me to do a course with which I can carry it forward in India.
    I’m open to do both : online course as well as I can physically go out for a short term course.

    Awaiting your response
    Thanks.

    Reply
    • Hey Charu,
      I noticed that you are leaving a comment on my article on the top personal training certifications although it seems to be that you are talking about nutrition certifications. If you want a full dedicated nutrition certification, I recommend you check out my article on the top ones. In terms of the nutrition advice given in these personal training certifications themselves, they all do have a chapter dedicated towards nutrition. It basically covers the very bare minimum of nutritional advice that you can and should give as a personal trainer. It does not go super in-depth though. In regards to which certifications will be accepted in India, I cannot tell you that information because I do not know. I recommend contacting some of the spots in India to see which certifications they accept and which ones they prefer.

      Reply
  43. Hello Tyler
    My name is Sara and I just love your website ! I love in Toronto Canada and moving to Dallas Texas in a month . I am a personal trainer got my certificate at can fit pro.
    Any idea if the state of Texas will Honour Canadian certificate ? Canfitpro is the most recognize Canadian one
    Thx so much

    Reply
    • Hey Sara,
      Can Fit Pro Is a fantastic certification up in Canada. In terms of whether or not it is accepted in the United States is a very good question. On top of that, even if the certification is recognized within the United States, sometimes certification acceptance can vary from gymnasium to gymnasium based on their personal preferences. The best way is to try to call up some of the local spots to see which certifications they accept.

      Reply
  44. Hi,

    thank you for all these well written and comprehensive articles! I am debating on which course I should take, but before that I would like to know if you have by any chance any affiliation with one of the above mentioned courses companies?

    Regards

    Reply
  45. Hii…IAM.from India…and in India..there is not much scope in fitness industry as compared to Australia; Canada etc…I have done diploma in sports science…and after that I have done ace certification….now IAM looking forward to do ace nutrition then nsca CSCS….I want to get job in fitness field in Australia or… New-Zealand but people say that ace doesn’t work in New Zealand and in Australia…pls help me now what should I do …pls help ??? Thanku

    Reply
    • Hey Bhup,
      As I have mentioned two other people asking about particular advice for specific countries, it all depends. The majority of this information was written for people training in the United States and in Canada. I do not know the regulations or the certifications that are accepted in every country. The best bet would be to ask potential employers which certifications they accept and which certifications they prefer for their personal trainers. That way you have your bases covered. I hope this helped.

      Reply
  46. Hello,
    I would like to become a personal Trainer. I’m Looking for an accredited school on line. There are 5 top schools advertised online as well , which one is the best and also an accredited school. Looking forward to hearing from you soon.

    Thank You,

    Kim

    Reply
    • Hey Kim,
      All the personal training certifications on this list are legitimate and accredited. If you are looking to get hired in the United States, all of these certifications are widely accepted. I would think about more on the type of focus if certification has while trying to decide which one is right for you. What type of people do you want to train?. Do you want to try and overweight individuals? Do you want to train athletes?

      Reply
    • Hey Neethu,
      this is an interesting question to ask. The answer is really that all of these courses are meant for men and women. These are all general personal training certifications in create a strong base of knowledge in kinesiology and exercise science. Later, if you want to specialize as a trainer, you can start learning more about training for women or training for men. There are some specialist certifications out there. But for now, all of these apply to men and women as they are all general personal training certifications. I hope this helps answer your question.

      Reply
  47. Thanks! Also what do you think the amount of time to shoot for preparing for certification? Is there a general recommendation or just whenever you have gone through the materials and feel ready?

    Thanks again

    Reply
  48. Hi Tyler,
    I have always been interested in the personal trainer/nutrition world. I am interested in helping people , and I am curious if I should already have a fitness degree or anything to pursue ISSA or NASM program? Or how well someone might do self studying through any of the programs you list.
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hello Sarah,
      No, you do not need any higher education more than a high school diploma or equivalent in order to get any of these five personal training certifications on the list. ISSA and NASM are fantastic options no doubt about it. You can definitely do self studying and I highly recommend doing that actually. There are some fantastic study programs for the majority of the certifications on the list. I have recommend A trainer Academy to hundreds of my students and they have had wonderful success with using their materials. https://traineracademy.org/

      Reply
  49. Hey Tyler – thanks for all of this. Amazingly helpful website. Question: I am going with the NASM training, self study. The earlier edition textbooks (4th and 5th edition) are a lot cheaper online than they use now (6th edition). Do you know if the material has changed much or will I be ok with an earlier cheaper edition? Thanks again!

    Mike

    Reply
    • Hey Mike,
      that is a great question and to be honest the textbooks have not changed that much from one edition to the next. I wouldn’t go much further past the fourth edition though. If you can pick up the fifth edition for much cheaper that would be a good way to go. Also, if you have signed up already with the national Academy of sports medicine, you will receive an e-book version of the sixth edition textbook. Unless you really need the physical addition in your hands, the e-book will be just fine.

      Reply
  50. Hello Tyler. Love the page and the information you provided. Do you absolutely have to have a PT Cert for to study Corrective Exercise. And if not, which certification provides that option. Please and thank you.

    Reply
    • Hello Sherman,
      it is absolutely recommended to get a general personal training certification before you move on to a specialty such as corrective exercise. You need to build a strong foundation first before you jump into style of training such as corrective exercise. I suggest getting the general personal training certification from the National Academy of sports medicine. After that you can move on to their corrective exercise specialist the CES. That is a very helpful certification and the combination of the two will give you a great understanding of personal training in general.

      Reply
    • Hey Kirti,
      You will have to check with each individual certifying agency to see if they have an exam center close to where you live. I do know that ACE and NASM have some international locations where you can take the exam but I do not know every single location. That being said, ISSA allows you to take the exam online so you won’t need to go into a study center to take this one. That may also be an option for you.

      Reply
  51. Hi Tyler – very helpful post – thanks! I am inquiring for a friend in Bhutan, Cheemi Deema, an amazing female athlete from the most fantastic country I have ever been to. We both competed in the Tour of the Dragon, a one-day 168 mile bicycle race over 4 Himalayan mountain passes and Cheemi is the first Bhutanese woman to ever complete the race. She just completed a bachelors degree and would like to get a personal trainer certification. Very few females are engaged in sports in Bhutan, so she is a Wonder Woman. The problem is, how can she take any certification tests if they are only offered in official testing sites, such as in the USA. What PSI site is the closest to Bhutan, or can she take a test online? She originally wanted to become a Level 1 Cross Fit certified trainer, but it is cost prohibitive. Thank-you very much, Lois

    Reply
    • Hey Lois,
      While that is in incredible story and that tour of the Dragon in the Himalayan mountains sounds absolutely epic. In terms of finding a PSI testing location for the National Academy of sports medicine, that might be difficult. I do believe however that there are locations outside of the United States I just don’t have all of the memorized off the top of my head. In terms of taking a test online, you cannot do that with NASM. You can however, get certified with ISSA online. I recommend going to the PSI online website and from there you can search the various testing locations around the world.

      Reply
      • Dear Tyler, I am very appreciative of your quick response, and have since suggested the ISSA online course to Cheemi. I wrote a story about my experience, if you want to read it, let me know and send an email to me at [email protected]. So here’s another question, Cheemi’s real dream is to open the first ever Cross Fit training center in Bhutan. I did some googling and see that Cross Fit offers level 1 certification in Bangkok (about a 3 hour flight from Bhutan) for $1000 USD. What do you think of Cross Fit certification? is it a good bang for the buck? I myself have mixed feelings about Cross Fit — having been in the fitness industry for over 20 years, I incorporate elements of Cross Fit in my training, but it has been years since I have stepped foot inside a Cross Fit training center.

        Reply
        • Hey Lois,
          I think CrossFit can be safe as long as it’s coached by somebody that is very knowledgeable. The problem I have with CrossFit is usually it contains a whole class with only one instructor. It’s very difficult to teach proper form to all students at the same time and that’s why it results in too many injuries coming from CrossFit. That being said, I think the CrossFit certification is great. Is it a personal training certification? No it’s not. I highly suggest anybody to get certified with a general personal training certification before moving on to getting the CrossFit level I certification. This would give them a better base of knowledge so that they can then further specialize with CrossFit.

          Reply
  52. Its actually quite daunting trying to figure out which certification to get, and i think it takes a bit of research. thanks for your website and info and I think it might have made me re-think which one to go for. I am a senior looking to be a PT for one on one in home senior clients. For fitness, nutrition, and lifestyle. As an aside, I used to be a 325 lb 45 year old who with the help and advice of a sports chiropractor friend, went on a diet and exercise program and in 5 years lost 130+ lbs… that was 16 years ago! So its long been my desire to help older folks (people my age and older) to stay health by staying active, enjoy applicable exercise, and understanding good nutrition. Getting older should not mean giving up on life!

    I originally looked at ACSM, but it looks like to get some of their benefits you need to be a member of ACSM, but in order to be a member you need to be in the heath care industry already?? Anyway Im now thinking that ISSA might be a better choice for me. What do you think? Thanks!
    Greg

    Reply
    • Hey Greg,
      first of all, I’d like to congratulate you for losing over 130 pounds. That’s absolutely fantastic. I think it’s super cool that you want to get into the personal training and fitness industry as it seems like it has been a very big part of your life. I totally agree that getting a good base of knowledge on exercise and nutrition can be not only very helpful for your own programming but you can also help tons of other people as well. The American Council on sports medicine is a fantastic organization overall and being a member of their organization is definitely something that has value. I do think that ISSA better lays out their information in programming for people that are just starting out or that do not have exercise science backgrounds. That being said, both of them are fantastic certifications and are widely accepted if you are looking to become a trainer at a local facility. If the information is just for yourself though, I would say go with ISSA as their study materials and support is overall better in my opinion.

      Reply
      • Thanks again for your info! As I have continued to read about different organizations online, the list of interesting certs has grown! I am also now considering the ASFA. American Senior fitness Assoc., certification. Granted they do not seem to be credential by either of the two regular bodies that credential all the other fitness programs, but they focus on Senior fitness and nutrition, etc. Another one I came across is the AFPA, it looks like its more holistic in nature, etc. Boy or boy there are lots of them!
        Greg

        Reply
        • Hey Greg,
          I have heard of the American senior fitness Association. There are definitely a lot of legitimate credentialed personal training certifications out there on the market to choose from. It can be overwhelming I know. In fact, that’s why I created this website to help people navigate through all the certifying options available. If you think you want to go the holistic personal training certification route, you can definitely take a look at AFPA. Although, I recommend getting a standard personal training certification such as one of the five on this list first, and then branching off into other areas such as holistic certifications. I hope this makes sense and helps you out a little bit.

          Reply
  53. Thanks for these info! very helpful! one question tho. If a course for example is approved with NASM, does ACE, ISSA,NSCA etc recognize it?

    Reply
    • Hello Deborah,
      Are you talking about for continuing education credits with each of the personal training certifications? If that is what is what you are talking about, definitely each certification would be recognized by the other ones as sufficient continuing education credit to get recertified.

      Reply
  54. Hi Tyler,

    I’m deciding between ACE and ISSA for CPT and wondering which one is good for providing member supports after getting certification. The supports I mean like networking, online and offline forum and gatherings, and also the affiliate marketing if I want to have my own studio and start building my business from there. Please provide your advice. Thank you very much!

    Reply
    • Hey Eve,
      Both the American Council on exercise as well as the international sports sciences Association have a great customer service and member support team. They will both be able to help you both through the study process for their certification. Both programs have affiliate marketing teams as well that you can earn money from by recommending their services. If I hope this helped and good luck creating your own personal training studio and business. You’re going to do fantastic.

      Reply
  55. Thanks for all the valuable info on your website, Tyler! Could you please comment on which certification has the most information/assistance/support in the area of starting your own business as a private PT (in case I missed it)? Thanks again!

    Reply
    • Hey Justine,
      I think that for business/financial success information the National Academy of sports medicine as well as the international sports sciences Association both provide a fantastic amount of knowledge on the subject. If I had to decide between the two, I would say you get the best bang for your buck with ISSA as it comes with their package that is a fixed price. To get a lot of this information from NASM you will need to purchase one of the more expensive packages which sometimes is a little too expensive for most people’s wallets.

      Reply
  56. Great article! I was previously a CrossFit Coach and due to health issues had to stop coaching but it is still such a passion. I’m Now able and trying to jump back in but I want a more general certification. This article has so many links to information that you really take away the need for further questions about the different types of certifications. One question I have is which certification has more areas than you can branch off into and take classes for additional certs after getting my basic PT certification? Thanks so much.

    Reply
    • Hey Jennifer, great question on personal training certifications in general. Overall, you can take any of these general personal training certifications in branch off into other specializations from other certifying agencies. For example if you got the general certification from the American Council on exercise, you could also afterwards branch off to get the performance enhancement specialist certification from the National Academy of sports medicine. You could also do this vice versa. If you want to stay within one organization, I would say that the international sports sciences Association or ISSA and the National Academy of sports medicine or NASM have the widest variety of certifications that tie together better if that makes sense. A good combination for any personal trainer is the general certification from NASM combined with a corrective exercise specialist certification such as their NASM CES. Another popular combination is a general personal training certification as well as a nutrition certification. The best bang for your buck deal for this would be the general ISSA certification combined with their nutritionist certification in my opinion. I hope this helps shed some more light onto your question.

      Reply
  57. Am still in highschool (Senior) and will be 18 within a month. Was curious if I’m able to get a certification once I turn 18, but also while not graduated yet. If so, which one(s) would be the best? One more thing, wanted to ask if GPA typically matters when acquiring certifications.

    Reply
    • Hey Cameron,
      A lot of the prerequisites for the majority of these personal training certifications are that you are 18 years of age and have a high school diploma or the equivalent. Since the basically all have this requirement, you should check out the certifications based off the type of training you want to do when you become a personal trainer. On your last point, your GPA will have no effect towards getting any of the personal training certifications that I mentioned in this article.

      Reply
    • Pepe Victor,
      It all depends on which certification you get. All of them are recognized in different locations around the world but in each specific country is hard to tell which personal training certification is recognized. I know that in Europe the American Council on exercise and the National Academy of sports medicine are both well recognized in that area. Also ISSA is getting more and more recognized in Europe as well. What I would recommend that you do is to ask the specific gymnasium that you plan on working at which certifications they accepted and which ones they do not accept. That is the best way to know for sure.

      Reply
    • Hello I had some questions. I have been thinking about being certified through NCSF. I have taken the in person workshop twice. I just working and life happens. Now with covid I think its time to just buckle down and get this done.

      So what do you know about NCSF? vs ace or issn I think it was called . Looking forward to hear back.

      Reply
      • The NCSF offers a solid certification that does compete with ACE and ISSA. It can oftentimes be found for cheaper than the others. I would definitely recommend it, as it is NCCA Accredited.

        Reply
  58. Thanks for the great info, really appreciate you article and responses! What are your thoughts on ACTION PT Certifications? They are NCCA accredited and have a great “Platinum” training package (includes adv nutritional cert) for $249. From what I hear, real education comes from years of doing it. I have a gym asking me to start doing PT, they just need NCCA accredited and have a team of PT’s to coach me as I learn. Seems like the amount I will learn from hands on and networking will eclipse any difference between ACTION and a more expensive program (NASM, ACE, etc…). What do you think? I’m just starting to look into and make sense of all this. Thank you:)

    Reply
    • Hey Curtis,
      The action certification is a decent certification. It does have NCCA accreditation which is the biggest barrier for most gymnasiums when they are hiring any personal trainer. If the gym that you are trying to work at simply suggest getting NCCA certified, this is definitely not a bad option. And it is true, you get a lot more experience from hands-on working with clients and learning on your own than any certification will ever teach you. That being said, a lot of places only accept big name certifications such as NASM. As long as you have checked with your gym before hand and they are cool with action, I say go for it.

      Reply
  59. Hey thanks for the great article, some really useful info in there. Just one suggestion, there is a fair amount of spelling and grammar errors in the text, not sure if you realized it.

    Reply
    • Hey Hayden,
      Thanks for pointing this out I will definitely run through it and check for any errors. Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment and good luck with your personal training selection!

      Reply
  60. Thanks Tyler, great information for those of us who are starting out and need some guidance. Appreciate your efforts.

    Reply
    • Hey Pat,
      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I hope my article helped you guide yourself To choose the correct personal training certification for you. Which one are you going to go with?

      Reply
  61. Thanks SO much for putting together such a comprehensive article/site. I’m a Physical Therapist Assistant and want to branch out, learn more to share with my patient ps and friends as well as not have to deal with so much “red tape” of the required documentation…which has to be done at point of patient care for productivity and therefore takes away from patient care, in my view. But that’s a rabbit trail…
    Anyway, thanks and I’ll be passing this on through social media!
    Question: during my research on accreditation, I found an organization called W.I.T.S. who are accredited by NCCA. They have a 5 week, 5 days a week, 7 hr a day class through my local Community College, as a matter of fact, the same college I graduated with for my AA degree to become a PTA. Are you familiar with this group and their quality of education?
    Patti

    Reply
    • Hey Patti,
      I have heard of W.I.T.S. But I have not done an official review of the program. I also heard that they are accredited by the NCCA. I will have to do a full and thorough review to see if they meet the criteria of the top CPT certifications that are currently on this list. Stay tuned for this and think you so much for stopping by and leaving your opinion/experience as a fitness professional. It’s always good to hear new opinions!

      Reply
  62. I have a few questions. first you mentioned ACE CPT Pro Advantage Package would benefit individuals with weak math skills (me) When I go to the ACEfitness site it isn’t offered, just the basic and plus package. Am I missing something?
    Also, I am anxious to get started on my road to become a personal trainer and leaning towards the ACE certificate, I want to be able to properly come up with workouts and understand what their benefits are for the body, I’m hoping that’s the right one for me. I was wondering would a bachelors degree in something like kinesiology, or a fitness specialist help me understand the training world better? I want to understand why you are doing the workout and how it benefits you. and truth be told, I am somewhat doing this for myself as well, I found a passion and want to go for it, I don’t have much experience, I just go to the gym a lot and ask questions.

    Reply
    • Hey Kady,
      These are all great questions regarding personal training. Obviously, a degree in exercise science or kinesiology is also a fantastic option as you will learn a ton about the body and workout programming from going through a full degree. The American Council on exercise is a fantastic choice. I would suggest contacting ACE and asking about the fitness math booklet that they offer. They change their offers in packages from time to time and thanks for pointing this out as I will need to update this article.

      Reply
    • Hello,
      Over 10 years ago ISSA was not seen as up to par compared to other certifications. This is because it was accredited by the DEAC and not NCCA. This has changed dramatically over the last 10 years and it is a very legitimate certification indeed. Sometimes it takes people a little bit longer to realize this fact and some gymnasiums might not be up-to-date on how they should view ISSA. It should be accepted throughout the United States but unfortunately some people are just behind the times.

      Reply
  63. Hi Tyler,
    I am from India,
    I will go to US, UK but most probably UAE.
    I also play Tennis and want to work with Tennis player,
    I mean sportsperson in general.
    Which PT Certification is best for me.
    I read almost most of your articles but I am still confused
    because you know 1$ equals RS 70
    so in general $600 is a hell lot of money in India
    Thanks.

    Reply
    • Hey Nashit,
      It really depends on where you want to be doing personal training for which personal training certification you get. Are you going to be doing training in the United States? Or are you going to be doing training in India? I agree that $600 can be a good chunk of change. If you are going to be doing training in India I would recommend going with ISSA. Although you should ask the gymnasiums that you are applying to to see which certifications they accept before you sign up for any one of them. I hope this helps.

      Reply
  64. Tyler- I love what you have created here. More PT needed to have resources such as this before choosing this path. Have you heard of PTA Global? I would love a chance for you to review our material and see how the content differs from other NCCA certs out there. Thanks for the consideration, Israel

    Reply
    • Hey Israel,
      I definitely have heard of PTA global. You are right and thanks for pointing this out. I should have a full certification review on this. I have just been so swamped with other things I have not really written complete reviews in a little while. I will definitely check out this trainer certification more in depth.

      Reply
    • Hello, the recertification process for each certification varies. Check out the part on continuing education in recertification in this guide on the top personal training certifications. Most require you to pay an additional fee for recertification that varies by certification as well. None of these five certifications that I mentioned in this article will require you to take the test again. That is however unless you wait for a long period of time without getting recertified, then you would need to take the test again. I hope this helps

      Reply
  65. Should i get job after completion of ace cpt in US? I’m from india.
    Approximately how much should i get paid for personal training

    Reply
    • You can definitely get a job as a personal trainer after getting certified through ACE. The average starting pay for a personal trainer in the United States is between $17 and $20 per session. This varies widely depending on where you are working. For example people that are starting off in a commercial gym such as 24 hour fitness will probably be paid $17 or $18 per hour long training session. On the other hand, if you are working at a private club and need to get your own clients you could be starting off between $30 and $40. There is a trade-off though. You will have to get your own clients and you will not have a full sales team behind you at private clubs. That is the reason that you make more money. I hope this helps answer your question.

      Reply
  66. I teach PE and Health to K-8 students. I would love to have the background knowledge of a personal trainer as well to help my students even more. We have a fitness-oriented program and the students have responded well. Any idea which certification is best? I don’t plan to leave teaching to be a personal trainer outside of school but I feel like i am a personal trainer to these students. I see youth certifications but I’m not sure Which one to go with. Thanks

    Reply
    • Hello Denise,
      I feel that for your situation NASM would be a fantastic certification to go with. They also have a more advanced specialization certification called the youth exercise specialist certification that could be something to look into after you are certified through the general CPT. I hope this helps answer your question!

      Reply
  67. Hi Tyler, I must say this is a well put up content and In fact, the entire information on this website. It is simple and precise. Thanks a lot, god bless your hard work brother.
    I am looking to get Strength and Conditioning certification, which one would you suggest considering the fact that I live in Canada. I am thinking to get certified with ISSA since their course offers a lot of flexibility and its most suitable to my busy lifestyle.

    Reply
    • Thank you for the compliment. I think that the International sports Sciences Association is a fantastic Certifying agency overall. In fact there are definitely one of my top three certifications currently. They also have a great strength and conditioning certification as well. That or the performance enhancement specialist from NASM would be my top choices. In regards to living in Canada, it really does not matter as long as you check with the place you want to work to see what certifications they accept. I am sure that they will say either one of these two are great options.

      Reply
  68. I am looking to get certified as a personal trainer, but work with people primarily online. What program do you suggest? I am leaning towards ISSA… the only thing that concerns me is the fact that they are not NCAA accredited. How big of a factor is this?
    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hello Kelli,
      Maybe 15 to 20 years ago that used to be a factor in regards of not being NCCA Accredited. When it comes to getting a job at a gymnasium, it is usually important to ask what personal training certifications they like to accept. For the most part ISSA is very widely accepted and currently in 2019, NCCA accredited certifications do not really have an edge. I think that ISSA is a fantastic certification and is definitely one of my top three overall. In terms of working online, you should definitely have no problem repping ISSA on your personal training profile.

      Reply
  69. Hi Tyler, Thanks for the information! Have you heard of World Instructor Training Schools (WITS) A community college nearby is hosting their program this summer for $750. That includes 15 hours of lecture, 15 hours of instrution/simulation and a test voucher and optional 30 hour internship. What seems different about them is that it is in-person rather than online, which is what I prefer. Do you know of any other in-person CPT organizations? There is one called National Personal Training Institute, but it costs over $6000.

    Reply
    • Yes I have heard of the world instructor training schools but I have not done an official review on them. I have also heard of the national personal training Institute but for me that $6000 is very steep and in terms of employment opportunities, you will have just as good of chance getting hired with any of the cheaper certification such as NASM, ACE, ISSA, ACSM or NSCA. I hope this helps answer some of your questions.

      Reply
  70. Hello there!
    I am thinking on getting my PT Certification again. I had it through NESTA and expired last September. I am married to a motocross guy who compites in the 50 Intermidiate class. This has me interested in a very different training area I have never done. I have been an athlete for many years. Twenty plus yrs in Gymnastics and Dance, 17 yrs in powerlifting competitions and in an alternating way I have also compited in Figure and Bikini Contests. With this very wide and different areas of expertise that go from strength to shaping to endurance and also my passion for nutrition I cannot make up my mind what program and what institution to follow and get re-certified. Any thoughts and suggestions that help me making up my mind and start ASAP?

    Reply
    • Hello Claudia,
      It looks like you were trying to get specialized with your personal training. Most specializations require a general CPT such as the ones listed in this article. So what I like to do is recommend certifications first, and then typically I will recommend that same organization for their general certification. The organizations that have the most specializations are NASM, ACE and ISSA. For example, if you want to work with athletes, the NASM performance enhancement specialist certification is a great option. If that is your end goal, I would also recommend going with NASM as your general certification as well. ISSA also has a fantastic performance specializations certification that you should check out. If nutrition is your main goal as well, all of them have a decent nutrition certification as well and I highly recommend checking out my article on the top nutrition certifications here: https://www.ptpioneer.com/nutrition-certification-programs/ In fact, NASM just released their certified nutrition coach certification which is already getting really good feedback.

      Reply
  71. I just got my certification and I’ve been looking at some of the resources on this website… They’ve been pretty helpful for me. Especially with picking the gym I wanted to work at and how to start building my clients.

    There’s a lot of good information on the site. It’s http://www.TheSixFigureTrainer.com

    Reply
    • Hey Jayce, thanks for stopping by and commenting. I am glad that you are liking the comment and I will definitely check out the website you are suggesting. Good luck with all the personal training endeavors

      Reply
  72. Hi Tyler. Thanks for all the info. I was looking at NASM’s All Inclusive Program and noticed they have a “Job Guarantee”. I would really like to know your thoughts on their “job Guarantee”. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Hey Jack,
      sorry, it took me so long to get back to you, Thanksgiving weekend was absolutely hectic for me. Anyways yes the all-inclusive program is highly recommended by me. All of my students that go through it all speak very highly of it as well.

      Basically, the job guarantee is exactly as it sounds. The National Academy of sports medicine will connect you with an employer in your area immediately after certified for 80 hours of on-site training/internship. Most people that come out of the 80 hours of training with their gym usually get hired by that same gymnasium. At the end of your 80-hour internship, if you still do not have work, a 90-day timeline starts. During these 90 days, NASM will still continue trying to connect you with other employers.

      If for some reason at the end of the 90 days you do not have a job as a personal trainer, you can get a refund from NASM for the additional cost (or the difference) between the all-inclusive package that you purchased and the next cheapest package, which is the guided study program. This would mean you would get approximately $500 back. You would also have the option to receive something of similar value such as the NASM CES or NASM PES certification if you choose one of those instead.

      I think it’s definitely a win-win situation and that’s why I highly recommend this package. Most people come out with a full job. The ones who don’t, get all their money back anyway. It’s a great way to get your foot in the door and NASM has a ton of connections with a ton of different gyms. I hope this helped, and sorry for the late reply. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

      Reply
  73. My goal is to become a well-rounded personal trainer with a strong foundation that can have a big impact in helping all types of people. Because I have not decided on any specialized fields to pursue yet, I am having a difficult time deciding which certification to pursue. Any advice would be appreciated. I have a high school diploma and am located in California if that makes a difference.

    Reply
    • Hey Jack, sounds like you have a good plan ahead of you. With these general CPT certifications, there is no rush to get certified as a specialist. They will all basically teach you the basics so that you can get a good idea of the people you want to train in the future. ACE and NASM have a good amount of specialty certifications so going with one of those two might lead you into an advanced cert down the line. They also both have really good study materials.

      Reply
      • Thanks Tyler. I was looking at NASM’s “All Inclusive” Program. Any thoughts? Is it worth the money? Also, can you tell me everything you know about their “job guarantee”? I can’t seem to find much info on it online. Thanks again for all your help and knowledge.

        Reply
  74. Thank you for all of the information, I found it very helpful. I’ve been thinking about becoming a trainer for awhile now and have always been interested in working with obesity and weight loss. I originally found ISSA but after reading your article i’m thinking ACE may be a better option for me. Their continuing education courses and their study material options are what sold me. Thank you for taking the time to put this together, I really appreciate the help.

    Reply
    • Hey Amanda,
      I am glad that you found what you were looking for on my website. The American Council on exercise is a fantastic organization and I have no doubt that you will be very happy with the choice that you made. They do a fantastic job of teaching all of the essentials in a very easy to understand manner. I also like how you have access to fitness professionals in case you have any questions with the ACE study materials that they offer. ISSA is another good organization as well but if you’re going to focus purely on weight loss and obesity I think you made the right choice. Let me know how it goes and good luck with your personal training adventure!

      Reply
  75. Hi,

    After reading most of your articles I’m pretty sold on getting certified with NASM. My question is to be CES is it required to complete the CPT first and then do that specialty!

    Reply
    • Hey Shonda,
      I am glad that you liked my material! In terms of the corrective exercise specialist certification, yes you do need a general cpt in order to move on to the CES certification. This is not necessarily have to be the NASM certification but it needs to be a certification accredited by the NCCA, NBFE or DETC.

      Reply
      • So is it possible to get CPT certification through one organization and a specialization through another? For example, could I get NASM CPT and then the CSCS certification through NSCA?

        Reply
        • Hey Jer,

          It really depends on which specialization certification you get and the specific requirements for that particular certification. Most specialization certifications only require you to have a general CPT but not necessarily through their organization. In regards to the CSCS certification I am pretty sure that you don’t even need a general CPT, you only need a bachelors degree (or be a senior) and hold a valid CPR/AED certificate. I hope this helps.

          Reply
  76. Hi! Thank you for your detailed comparisons. Very helpful! I’m a breast cancer survivor (3 years free now) and have been doing strength training in the last 2 years. Cancer caused my body to be deformed but I have never felt stronger in my life. I want to inspire and train other cancer survivors like me to get back on their feet, feel good about their body again, and be stronger. I was thinking ACE or NESTA, but your insights are tipping the scale. Thanks and God bless you!

    Reply
    • Hey Anne,
      Glad I could help and congratulations on overcoming cancer! I’m glad to hear that you are feeling stronger than ever now and I hope you keep on making fantastic progress. Becoming a personal trainer is something I know that you will enjoy!

      Reply
  77. I am a elementary school teacher and want to transition careers. I have always loved fitness and am taking the leap to be a group fitness instructor/personal trainer.
    I have been struggling on which certification would be best for my situation. Ideally, I would like to work in a smaller group fitness setting or 1-1 with woman who have hit 40 & need to change up what they are doing to get the results they want. Is it better to get a personal training certificate and then a group fitness certification? Or is it better to do group fitness then a PT certificate? I have spent a lot of time researching, but still can’t decide if I should go with NASM or ACE and what order to get the certifications. Any advise would be greatly appreciated!

    Reply
    • Hey Laura,
      I would definitely go with the general personal training certification first before moving on to the groups certification. You will learn a lot more and build a stronger foundation that way. If I were you and looking at the clients that you would like to train I would get the general NASM certification and then after you have completed the actor with the ACE group fitness certification. I know lots of people that have this combination and it works out very well for them.

      Reply
  78. Hello PT Pioneer!
    I was wondering what the best Personal Training Certification would be for someone elderly (I am 67). I mostly want to train people my age that have not really exercised much in their life. These are mostly sedentary individuals that need to start exercising to preserve quality of life. I was thinking either NASM, ACSM or the ACE cert but do not know which to go for. Any help would be great! 🙂

    Reply
    • Hey Leslie,
      I am very glad to hear that you would like to start your career as a personal trainer. As I mentioned in the article, all three of those personal training certifications are good options to go for. For your specific client that you would like to train in the future, the top personal training certifications are the NASM certification or the ACSM certification because they both have a strong emphasis on corrective exercise and stabilization training which is very beneficial for elderly clients or people just getting started with exercise. For me the NASM certification is better for this because I really love the optimum training model (OPT) that they use. I hope this helps and good luck with your studying 🙂

      Reply
  79. I’m From india, and having a 2.5 years of experiences.. i’m looking forward to work in any of this countries like (USA,UK,NZ,AUS…).
    SO, which one would be the most likely certification you suggest me to go for it..??

    Reply
    • Hey Pritam,
      I cannot speak for other countries like the UK or AUS. But in terms of the United States I have noticed that ACE and NASM are two of the gold standard certifications of the modern era. Some other good certifications are the NSCA and ACSM certifications that I feel like their curriculum hasn’t been updated in quite some time compared to the first two. Most employers that I have encountered actually prefer NASM for the most part. Any one of these for would be a fantastic option in my opinion. I hope this helped answer your question and good luck with your training!

      Reply
  80. Hi, Really useful information. I wonder if you can help me decide whether ACSM or NASM would fit better for me. I’m a doctor from the UK (with a previous degree in Public Health Nutrition) but for now don’t want to take my USMLEs and re-train here. In the meantime I am looking at starting a career in women’s health and fitness with a special interest in re-building the core after pregnancy. I therefore want a clinical course but there will obviously be other fitness goals for clients too. Do you think ACSM would be better? Or NASM?

    Reply
    • Hey Laura,
      Did you know that there are actually pre-and postnatal exercise programs. Although there more like specialty programs that you should take after one of your base certifications such as NASM or ACSM. I believe that both of these certifications have a very small section on pregnancy training. If I were you I would go with NASM due to the fact that there are lots of extra specialty certifications you can get from them once you have a good base of knowledge from there general CPT. ACSM has much less to choose from in this regard. I hope this helped answer your question.

      Reply
    • Hey Saed,
      No problem I hope my website has helped you choose the certification that best fits your style of training and personality. Good luck with the studying and get out there and start training!

      Reply
  81. Thank you so much for your articles about certifications, they are so helpful, especially for people like me that are new to the fitness industry. it certainly provides valuable information necessary to guide a beginner to venture into becoming a personal trainer.

    Reply
  82. Thank you very much for guiding us! The world needs more men like you! I have a question though. I live now in Ecuador but next year ill be living in the States. Ecuadorian Red Cross offers also cpr/aed certification. Will that work? Once again, thank you very much for your help!

    Reply
    • Hey Allan,
      that is a pretty specific question you are asking about CPR. I am not sure if all Red Cross certifications are created equal. You should definitely contact the certification you are looking to go with to see if they would accept a Red Cross CPR certification from a different country.

      Reply
  83. Hello, if my overall goal as a trainer is to work with athletes and increase performance, which cert am I better off pursuing NASM or ACE? I would really like to continue education under one brand!

    Reply
    • Hey Sadiq,
      For the specific goal that you have I would go with NASM. That is because they have a more advanced PES certification that you can try to obtain afterwards that is much more focused on performance.

      Reply
  84. Thank you so much for all the work you have done in creating this website!
    It is incredibly helpful and I look forward to reading more of your articles along my journey!
    I am just starting and feel much more informed and educated after reading your articles about certifications.
    You should be proud and rightfully satisfied that you have successfully steered another newbie in the right direction!
    🙂

    High five and thumbs up!

    Reply
    • Hey Michelle,
      Thank you so much for your kind words. I hope your journey as a personal trainer is a great one as I know it will be! Matter which personal training certification you choose, this profession is extremely gratifying and will change your life for the better!

      Reply

Find the best Cert for you

Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The ISSA Exam

18749