The Top 5 Best Personal Trainer Certification Programs in 2019

Best Personal Trainer Certification Programs

So, I hear you are considering becoming a personal trainer. That is excellent news!

But before you do so, you will need to get certified from a legitimate certifying agency. This process may seem overwhelming as there are dozens of various personal training certifications on the market today.

By the end of this article, you will know exactly which certification is the best fit for you and your personal training career.

I recommend that you Take the quiz to find out which personal trainer certification is the best fit for you overall. This is just an estimation, read the article to get the full understanding.

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

Contents: Here are the 5 best personal trainer certifications reviewed in this article.

Check out this quick video of an interview I had with the manager of golds gym Venice Beach (AKA the Mecca) where we talk about the 5 best CPT’s. This video does not go in depth on each of the certifications, so still make sure to read the full article to get a full understanding of each.

Top personal trainer certifications

The 5 Best Personal Trainer Certifications 

Below is the list of my top five personal training certification organizations. This certification comparison covers the topics of CPT recognition, study materials, cost, earning potential, exam information and recertification. All of these are critical when choosing a certification.

1) NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine)

NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine)

About NASM

NASM was founded in 1987. Since it started out, it has been on a steady rise towards one of the prestigious certifying agencies on the market. Many people considered to be the greatest personal trainer certification.

NASM is regarded as a corrective exercise focused certification.

It also touches upon some aspects of performance. It’s training principles you learn from NASM can be applied to a wide variety of clients.

They are well-known for their famous optimum performance training model or OPT. This training model lets’ personal trainers advance their clients in a safe yet effective manner that is not dependent on the level of fitness of the client.

This is one of the big reasons why NASM is so popular.

The OPT model was created from the most recent scientific research in the field of kinesiology, injury prevention, and human performance.

A lot of the material you learn with NASM focuses strongly on the stabilization phase of the optimum performance training model.

This is the very first phase of five total that you learn with NASM and has significant implications for athletes, average clients as well as rehab or clinical population clients.

NASM uses this optimum performance training model for the majority of their personal training certifications.

With NASM specialization certifications such as their corrective exercise specialist or performance enhancement specialist dive deeper into specialized population training.

These certifications further apply the OPT training model with the same emphasis on preventing injury and corrective exercise.

NASM Recognition and popularity

Over the last ten years approximately, the NASM CPT has been one of the most talked about certifications in the United States. It is clear that every single employer recognizes NASM as a valuable certification to own.

If you browse the Internet, you will see the same thing; everyone is talking about how to get NASM certified.

According to the NASM website, in the last ten years over 190,000 people have been certified with NASM.

NASM Study Materials

Here is the comparison chart comparing the four available packages from NASM.

I know what you’re thinking, this is a time of study materials! I initially thought that as well, until I started studying for this monster test and realized all the study materials were essential towards my learning process.

Let’s go over each of these packages.

NASM CPT self-study

The self-study package includes:

  • A digital copy of the textbook: The textbook is 20 chapters long and overall is 720 pages.
  • Lecture videos: The lecture videos are great for visual learners. A significant portion of the textbook is covered through video as well.
  • Exercise library: An extensive exercise library with the most important exercises, how to perform them and how to progress and regress them for different clients.
  • Cueing library: Teaches you how to correct people’s exercise form.
  • Practice exams: Practice exams so that you can see how much you have learned.
  • Quizzes: Quizzes so you can summarize what you have learned after each chapter.
  • The official study guide: The study guide is meant to follow along with as you are going through the textbook.

NASM CPT premium self-study

The premium self-study bundle includes everything that the regular self-study package does with the addition of:

  • Anatomy memorization activity: Memorizing the anatomy section is one of the hardest parts of studying for any of the certifications. This memorization activity makes it much easier to stick.
  • Learning activities: NASM incorporates lots of different learning activities and tricks so that you can grasp the material.
  • Flashcard bundles: For me, flashcards work exceptionally well for memorizing things. If you are like me, you’ll get great use out of these.

NASM CPT Guided study

The guided study contains everything that the self-study and premium self-study do with the addition of:

  • Content/Exam prep webinars: Webinars are a fantastic way to ask questions about confusing material. The teachers of these webinars go over difficult concepts and break them down.
  • Access to coach and mentor: You also have access to contact expert coaches so that you can ask them questions.
  • Discussion questions: Similar to having access to coaches and mentors, thought-provoking discussion questions are provided in an online forum so that you can discuss with your peers and mentors.
  • Live workshop: For those who like to learn by doing, a live seminar is available for the guided study package.
  • Exam prep guarantee: If you don’t pass the NASM test the first time, this package lets you retake it for free. You will be very thankful of this if you don’t end up passing the first time. NASM retest costs are $200!
  • A hard copy of the NASM textbook: Having a hard is personally essential for me. I like to highlight and add sticky notes everywhere! But seriously, everywhere, it’s nothing but sticky notes by the end. 😅

NASM CPT All-inclusive

The all-inclusive package includes everything that the previous three did with the addition of:

  • CPT development program: For you hands-on learners, this provides 80 hours of on-site practice. This includes working with real clients.
  • NASM business accelerator program: For you business-minded individuals, this is a great program that will help you maximize your time, money earned and value as a trainer. This is extremely valuable because most certifications don’t talk too much about the business side of things and how to make that cash money! 🤑

Overview of the NASM study materials:

The NASM certification has the most amount of study material available to their students hands-down.

No matter what learning style you prefer, NASM has a way for you to master their curriculum.

Some unique features that I found incredibly helpful were their webinars, interactive learning activities and the anatomy memorization. NASM has some of the best CPT certification study materials.

I do wish that they offered the hardcover book with all of their packages. You will have no problem with the e-book though. I found it completely comfortable to read on my smartphone, tablet or laptop.

For those who want additional study materials (and better ones), check out the team over at Trainer Academy. They have incredible study materials for NASM.

I also have my own free NASM study materials that you can check out here on my site.

Check out the NASM study materials here on their site.

NASM Certification Cost

The pricing for the NASM certification all depends on which study package you purchase as I talked about above. Since there is a wide variety of the different study materials they offer, there is also a significant variation in the price.

Here are the current prices. NASM frequently has deals for up to $125 off. The current deal is $125 off which you can find here.

Although NASM is considered to be one of the more expensive personal training certifications, it provides the best study materials. It is the best bang for your buck for what you receive.

The all-inclusive package might seem expensive at first, but it comes with NASMs “job guarantee” which is a guaranteed internship at a health and fitness club that NASM organizes.

This is so crucial to get your foot in the door shortly after getting certified. This gives you the opportunity to practice as well as concrete the new information that you have just learned in a real fitness environment.

With the $125 off discount, it makes NASM a relatively cheap personal trainer certification.

The personal trainer certification cost for the all-inclusive package is one of the highest in the industry, but it is also one of the most helpful.

The NASM exam cost without the study materials is usually $499. Unfortunately, the option is not available currently.

Check out the current NASM certification cost

NASM Earning potential

The average salary for a NASM certified personal trainer is $41,000.

The top employers for a NASM certified trainer are Anytime fitness, 24-hour fitness, Lifetime fitness and LA fitness.

NASM Exam Information

The NASM consists of 120 multiple-choice questions. This test is not open book. Let me quickly break down each section of these 120 questions. 1

The pass rate for the NASM exam is 64%.

  • There are 15 questions on applied sciences
  • There are 15 questions on fitness assessment
  • There are 20 questions on training instruction and exercise technique
  • There are 25 questions on program design
  • There are 12 nutrition questions
  • There are 10 questions related to administration and client relations
  • There are 8 questions on professionalism and responsibility
  • There are 20 pretest questions

Because there are several different types of the exam, your score is a scaled score. This accounts for varying difficulties of the exams. You need a scaled score of 70 to pass the NASM test.

You will have two hours to complete the NASM exam, and you will know whether you pass or not immediately. If you pass the NASM test, the certification will be mailed to you and arrive approximately 4 weeks after you take the exam.

If you fail to pass the exam on the first try, you need to wait at least 24 hours to apply to retake it. 😭 The cost to retest will be $199 unless you purchased NASM all-inclusive package that includes a retest voucher.

NASM Test Requirements

All tests must be taken at a PSI testing center. The is are located around the United States and most major cities. You must bring photo identification and proof of CPR/AED certification to the testing center.

You must take the NASM examination within 180 days 365 days of enrollment in the certification program.

To take the test, you must be at least 18 years of age and have a valid CPR/AED certificate. You need a high school diploma or equivalent for the NASM CPT.

Check out my free NASM practice test here or if you want five full additional practice tests for NASM, Trainer Academy has some extremely helpful tests.

NASM Recertification

To recertified with NASM, you need 20 hours of continuing education credits. This equals 2.0 NASM continuing education credits.

You are required to get recertified every two years, and the cost for recertification is $99. You also have the option to pay $299 to cover the cost of recertification for the rest of the time you recertify with a NASM.

So if you plan on being a NASM personal trainer for more than six years, is worth the $300.

Take note that this is not cover the continuing education cost themselves, just the recertification cost with NASM.

The renewal of your CPR/AED certification is worth .1 CEC’s. You will need to get the rest of your continuing education through a NASM qualified continuing education provider or through NASM themselves.

One of the recommended routes for recertification with NASM is to obtain their prestigious CES, PES or FNS certifications.

2) ISSA (International Sports Sciences Association)

ISSA (International Sports Sciences Association)

About ISSA

The ISSA personal trainer certification is one of the unique organizations on the market. I call it the international certification.

The international sports sciences Association was founded in 1988. Currently, there are over 200,000 trainers in 91 different countries that are certified with ISSA.

ISSA is a general certification with a slight emphasis on performance/body composition training.

Sadly, ISSA does not have a certification summary video 🙁

This is one of the only options for a personal trainer certification online. That’s why it’s so internationally recognized.

ISSA is not only a personal training certification, but it is also known as in academic institution. If you notice their website has a .edu ending to it which are usually reserved for colleges and universities.

ISSA delivers a solid base of information to start as a personal trainer without diving into one area specifically. The textbook is enormous, and there’s a lot of information to be absorbed.

If you plan on training the average American, the ISSA personal trainer certification might be the perfect fit. This is especially true if you are looking for a personal training certification online.

Over the last five years, ISSA has been showing the world that it is in the running for the best personal trainer program. I also highly recommend checking out their delete trainer program.

Check out the ISSA website here.

ISSA also has an elite trainer package. This is where you can get three excellent certifications for cheaper then any one individually. The ISSA elite trainer package consists of their trainer certification, nutritionist certification and specialty certification of your choice. If ISSA is running this deal, its hard to pass up. I typically recommend the corrective exercise certification or their strength and conditioning certification but you can choose from any of the following:

ISSA Recognition and Popularity

The ISSA CPT as I mentioned before, is what I consider one of the most significant international certifications. This is mainly because you can do everything remotely from using their study materials online to taking the test.

Because of this, ISSA has certified over 200,000 people in 91 different countries according to their website.

Not only is ISSA a CPT program that is recognized around the world, but it is also very prevalent here in the United States.

ISSA Study Materials

The ISSA CPT has recently beefed up their study materials that are available. There is only one package that is offered by ISSA and here are all the study materials that it includes.

  • A hard copy of the textbook: A hard copy of the book is always great. This substantial 759-page textbook covers everything you need to know.
  • Study guide and workbook: This is a study guide to work along with as you go through the textbook.
  • Marketing and business guide: Something that makes ISSA stand out is that they are very business-oriented. This guide teaches you what you need to know about making more money and utilizing your time efficiently as a trainer. Overall, very handy!
  • Practice exam and quizzes: No study material would be complete without full exams and quizzes for each chapter.
  • Exercise reference guide DVD: DVD that contains exercises and how to perform them correctly. The only question is, who uses DVDs anymore? 🤔
  • Online student Forum: This is something unique to ISSA, and I think it works very well when you are studying. Having access to other people that are studying the same material and being able to bounce ideas off of them is a fantastic way to learn.
  • Online exercise lab: This lab includes 250 animated exercises. You get a full 3-D view of how to properly do the exercises. This is a very cool feature.
  • Unlimited educational support: Having access to ISSA professionals is one of the best study materials that they provide. If you have any question regarding the study materials, they are there for you.

Overview of the ISSA study materials:

The study materials for ISSA are overall excellent. They have a ton of different content for people with varying types of learning.

It’s great how you get the textbook in e-book format as well as hardcover for no additional cost.

Their exercise lab is exceptionally cool to use and much better than learning exercises out of the book.

Throwing yourself on the online student forum is also a fantastic learning experience. It has a feel like you are on Reddit. There’s a ton of information and hidden gems there.

Their strong focus on business-oriented personal training is a big attraction and has excellent information.

I also have my own free ISSA study guide and other study materials that I recommend you check out.

Check out the ISSA study materials here.

ISSA Certification Cost

The price for the ISSA certification is very straightforward and simple since they only have one package to choose from.

  • The one package will cost you between $499 and $799 (typically)
  • ISSA elite trainer package (3 certifications) for $999 (When they run this deal, don’t miss it)

When ISSA runs their CPT + Nutrition certification deal, you get their nutritionist certification for free ($799 value). Holding a nutrition certification is the best supplementary certification for any trainer, and ISSA has one of the best nutrition certs on the market. Even if you don’t plan on getting a nutrition certification, you would be glad to know that you have the option. Trainer’s can earn significantly more money by offering their nutrition counseling to their clients. This combo deal gives the best overall return for one’s money.

I generally say because they frequently have promotions going on their website. The most expensive I’ve ever seen it was $799, but they always have specials bring it down to $499.

I love the simplicity of the cost of ISSA. You also get the full hardcover textbook which I think is very valuable. Overall, this is the second cheapest personal fitness trainer certification.

ISSA Earning Potential

The average income for an ISSA certified personal trainer is $46,000.

The income information I got for ISSA was from a separate site than the other four and therefore did not show the top employers category.

Based on the info from the ISSA website, their top partnered fitness centers are: Bally Total Fitness, Curves, Equinox, Powerhouse gym, Lifetime fitness and 24-hour fitness.

ISSA Exam Information

The ISSA exam is much more unique compared to the other fitness trainer certifications on this list. They don’t merely have a multiple-choice section. This test is an open book. 1

The ISSA pass rate is approximately 90% making it the overall easiest personal trainer certification.

There are four separate sections you will need to pass to get certified through ISSA. There is a true-false portion, multiple-choice portion, six short essays and to case studies.

You need to receive a 75% in each of the four categories as well as 75% overall to pass the ISSA test.

There are approximately 160 true and false/multiple-choice questions on the test. There are six essays of 250 words each. The last section is to case studies where you need to create a suitable 12-week workout program for two imaginary clients.

You will be given six months from your purchase date to take the ISSA test.

If you don’t pass the ISSA test on the first try, no problem, the second attempt is free! 😎 If you don’t pass on the second time, each additional retake will cost $50.

A good place to start studying is with my free ISSA study guide here.

ISSA exam requirements

ISSA requires its personal trainers to be at least 18 years old, hold a high school diploma (or equivalent) and have a current CPR/AED accreditation.

The ISSA exam is taken online, making it the only fully online personal training certification on this list.

ISSA Recertification

Just like with ACE and NASM, ISSA continuing education credits require 20 units every two years.

The cost for ISSA recertification is $75 which makes it one of the cheaper options available.

3) ACE (American Council on Exercise)

ACE (American Council on Exercise)

About ACE

The ACE personal trainer organization is one of the most well-known agencies in the industry. This certifying agency was created just a couple years before NASM in 1985. ACE is considered by every employer as a top personal trainer certification.

The ACE CPT is a general personal training certification.

Similar to the OPT training model with NASM, ACE has their own IFT (integrated fitness training) model.

Much like the OPT model, the IFT focuses on progressing clients systematically through a workout program while keeping a high priority on safety and injury prevention.

Their IFT model also touches upon corrective exercise and performance training as well, but not as much is NASM.

The IFT has a slight emphasis on functional training and cardiorespiratory training making it an excellent certification for weight loss (which happens to be a huge market).

The ACE CPT is a fantastic choice for people that are planning on training the typical sedentary American client. This is one of the reasons why ACE personal trainer cert is so popular is because it focuses on the general population where there is a large market.

Another reason why ACE is widely recognized is due to the way the program is structured. Its information is extremely informative but easy to digest at the same time.

ACE Recognition and Popularity

ACE is another extremely popular certification that is right up there with NASM. If you went around asking personal training employers who they preferred over NASM and ACE, it might be a 50-50 split.

This is a test I should do some time soon!

According to the ACE website, they certify over 75,000 individuals in the health and fitness industry. They also claim that being ACE certified will get you in the door for an interview at a lot of big name gyms such as 24-hour fitness, anytime fitness, crunch fitness and many others.

ACE Study Materials

The ACE certification does not have quite the abundance of study options that NASM does, but it is no slouch. Here is the comparison chart for their three packages.

ACE CPT pro essential package

  • Practice tests: Essential practice tests to study what you have learned.
  • ACE study coaches: Access to ACE-certified professionals so that you can clarify concepts and ask questions.
  • The textbook in e-book format:
  • The training manual study companion e-book: A study guide to go through as you are reading the manual.
  • Fitness professionals e-book: This e-book covers the fundamental knowledge of exercise science that you need to provide practical yet safe workout routines.
  • ACE Academy elite: The Academy allegiance is a guided study course that covers difficult concepts through instructional video. This is a solid study blueprint.
  • Access to personal trainer resources: These resources include fitness tools and calculators, fitness assessment forms and additional study tips.

ACE CPT pro plus package

The Pro plus package includes everything the essential program package does with the addition of a hard copy of the three books

  • A hard copy of the personal trainer manual
  • A hard copy of the study companion manual
  • A hard copy of the ACE essentials of exercise science for fitness professionals

ACE CPT Pro Advantage Package

The ACE pro advantage includes everything that the previous two packages did, with the addition of:

  • Fitness math online course: Some of the more complicated things to learn are the concepts regarding math. Such as V02 maximum, body composition, energy expenditure and others. This course helps you master these concepts, especially if you are not a math wiz like me! 😵

Overview of the ACE study materials:

The study materials for ACE are pretty solid overall. I would put them just a notch below NASM on what they offer.

The ACE Academy and personal training resources are handy to concrete the information in your head.

It’s a shame you can’t get the hardcover textbook without upgrading, but the e-book is just as good and much easier to study from on the go.

For those who want additional ACE study materials (and better ones), check out the team over at Trainer Academy. They have incredible study materials for the ACE CPT.

I also have a free ACE study guide, practice test and flashcards that you should definitely check out.

Check out the ACE study materials here on their site.

ACE Certification Cost

As you most likely saw in this section on study materials, ACE has three separate packages to choose from. Compared to NASM, ACE has a much simpler cost structure.

  • $599 – Pro essentials package
  • $699 – Pro plus package
  • $799 – Pro advantage package

With the price of each of these packages, you receive entrance into the exam as well as the study materials that I listed in the study materials section.

The most significant advantage to the pro-advantage package is that ACE will let you pay off your certification in four separate payments with zero interest.

This comes down to four payments of $199.75. This can be very helpful especially if you don’t have that chunk of change lying around. I know that I never did! 😬

The ACE exam cost without study materials is usually $399. This option is also not currently available through ACE fitness.

Check out the current ACE certification cost

ACE Earning Potential

The average salary for an ACE Fitness certified personal trainer is $42,000.

The top employers for an ACE certified trainer are 24-hour fitness, Anytime fitness, the YMCA, and Golds gym.

ACE Exam Information

The ACE exam consists of 150 multiple-choice questions. This test is not an open book. Three general sections make up the ACE test. The three parts are the application, analysis, and recall. 1

The pass rate for the ACE exam is 65%.

The application and analysis section build the majority of the ACE fitness examination with approximately 70 to 85% of the questions coming from this section.

The application and analysis section will test your ability to make decisions and solve problems through real-world scenarios. The recall section is all about your ability to remember factual knowledge from the textbook. 🤔

Similar to the NASM exam, 25 sample questions don’t count towards the score of your test. This leaves the remaining 125 questions that you will be graded on.

To pass you will need to answer approximately 90 of the questions correctly which equates to about 500 points which is a passing grade. Just like NASM, ACE grades on a scaled score because some versions of the exam are more difficult than others.

After purchasing the ACE certification, you have six months to take the test. You will be given three hours during the exam to answer the questions.

Three hours is plenty of time, and you should have no problem finishing before then. ⏰

There is a retest fee of $199 in case you, unfortunately, do not pass the first time.

ACE Exam requirements

The ACE test must be taken in a computer-based exam location.

To take the ACE fitness test, you must be at least 18 years old and hold a valid CPR/AED certificate. The academic requirements are that you must have completed high school or have the educational equivalent.

Check out my free ACE practice test here or if you want five full additional practice tests for ACE, Trainer Academy has some extremely helpful tests.

ACE Recertification

The value of ACE continuing education credits is slightly different than those with NASM. With ACE you will need 20 continuing education credits, where each credit is worth one hour instead of .1 CEC like it is with NASM.

Don’t worry; this still comes out the same amount of time, 20 hours total.

You are required to recertify every two years with ACE, and the cost is $139.

One of the recommended routes is to get certified with one of their advanced certification such as becoming an ACE group fitness instructor or an ACE health coach.

4) ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine)

ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine)

About ACSM

The American college of sports medicine certification is one of the oldest certifications to date starting in 1954.

It has gained a ton of recognition due to its influence and innovation in progressing the field of exercise science.

Although it is a very good personal training certification, at times it seems outdated regarding the style/design of the study materials, not the actual curriculum itself.

The ACSM CPT is categorized as a corrective exercise certification.

It is well-known for being one of the most prominent exercise science and sports medicine organizations. This certification is preferred in the hospital setting and wellness centers.

ACSM is one of the leading pioneers in exercise science research. In addition to being a training certification, they are also a scientific body.

A ton of their research is referenced in almost every single personal training manual.

They have a firm emphasis on corrective exercise similar to NASM.

I recommend this certification to anyone who is planning on working in a healthcare setting such as a clinic or wellness center. ACSM is an NCCA certification.

Check out the ACSM website here.

ACSM Recognition and Popularity

Being one of the oldest certifications, the ACSM CPT has received and maintained its reputation in the fitness industry for a long time.

I highly doubt that there is in the employer that does not recognize the ACSM certification as one of the best CPT certifications. Unfortunately, I can’t find exact numbers on how many individuals are certified with them.

ACSM Study Materials

The ACSM CPT does things much differently than ACE or NASM. There are not too many study materials available, and you can pick and choose which ones you want to purchase for your individual study needs.

There are five basic options that they have to aid you in your studying.

  • ACSM’s resources for the personal trainer: This is the primary textbook for ACSM and is 632 pages long.
  • ACSM’s Guidelines for exercise testing and prescription: This handbook provides the essential knowledge for exercise prescription and testing for clients that are both diseased and healthy. This textbook is 472 pages long.
  • ACSM’s certification review book: The review book is to go along with the primary textbook. The review textbook alone is 288 pages.
  • Workshops and webinars: ACSM provides hands-on learning with their seminars and webinars. You need to be relatively close to a big city to attend one.
  • PrepU: This is a personalized approach to studying for the ACSM. It prepares a study plan for you based on your current knowledge on exercise science.

Overview of the ACSM materials:

ACSM’s study materials are overall lacking because they don’t have an e-book version of their textbooks.

Their workshops and seminars are fantastic, but unfortunately, you need to live close to one of the large cities in the United States, or you’ll have to fly to one.

The lack of interactive learning material and video instruction leaves a lot on the table for ACSM.

ACSM Certification Cost

The pricing for ACSM can be slightly tricky because it depends on how many study materials you choose to purchase.

  • Three textbook package – $134.99
  • One day CPT workshops – $130
  • Three-day CPT workshop – $375
  • The six-course webinar series – $240
  • The ACSM exam – $300

There are some caveats to the prices. For example, if you purchase the three-day workshop, you get $50 off the exam.

Overall the cheapest way you can go is if you somehow already had the knowledge to pass the test and just purchased an exam voucher. This would only cost you $300.

This could also be the price if you are lucky enough to know someone that already has the textbooks.

If you decide to get the textbook package as well as the exam, the total will come to $435. In this list, this is the cheapest personal trainer certification.

If someone wants to take full advantage of all the study materials offered, the cost is $760 for the whole shebang!

Check out the price for ACSM here.

ACSM Earning Potential

The average salary for an ACSM certified personal trainer is $40,000.

The top employers for an ACSM certified trainer are the YMCA, LA fitness, and RedBrick Health.

ACSM Exam Information

The ACSM test is comprised of 120 multiple-choice questions. 30 of these questions are unscored questions and are for research only. This test is not open book. 1

The ACSM test pass rate is the lowest with only 54% of people passing on the first time. 😳

  • 28% – Exercise programming and prescription
  • 24% – Exercise physiology and exercise science
  • 13% – Fitness exercise testing
  • 10% – Medical and clinical considerations
  • 9% – Weight management and nutrition
  • 8% – Injury prevention and safety
  • 4% – Outcome assessment and program administration
  • 4% – Human behavior

ACSM also grades on a scale due to difficulty. The scale ranges from 200 to 800, and you need a 550 to pass.

You are given 2.5 hours of test time to answer all the questions.

If you don’t pass the ACSM the first time around, there is a $150 test retake fee.

ACSM exam requirements

To take the ACSM exam, you need to register for the test at a Pearson VUE testing center. There are over 5000 locations.

You need to be 18 years of age, have a high school diploma (or equivalent) and have a valid CPR/AED certification.

ACSM Recertification

ACSM continuing education credits are much cheaper to obtain compared to NASM or ACE.

Overall the cost to recertify is only $30, and you have to recertify every three years.

The only caveat is that you are required to complete 45 hours of continuing education credits.

That comes out to approximately 15 hours of continuing education per year as opposed to only 10 hours of continuing education with NASM or ACE.

5) NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association)

NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association)

About NSCA

The NSCA is another popular certification that has been around for a long time. They were founded in 1978. Since that date, they have widely been recognized as a very reputable agency.

In fact, they were the first certifying agency to be accredited by the NCCA (I’ll talk more about NCCA certifications later).

The NSCA is a performance-focused personal training certification.

The national strength and conditioning Association is widely considered to be a top leader in performance-based training.

They are one of the leading researchers for human performance training.

This is a fantastic certification if you are planning on working with athletes trying to reach peak performance. There is a strong emphasis on power output, speed and agility training.

This certification is geared toward individuals that are finishing up a degree in exercise science or kinesiology.

Most people go on to complete their CSCS (certified strength and conditioning specialist) certification which is preferred for working with athletes as a strength and conditioning coach.

Check out the NSCA website here.

NSCA Recognition and Popularity

The NSCA CPT is one of the leading certifications that is used by colleges and universities as study materials for some sports performance curriculum.

This certification along with the others is instantly a certification that will be recognized by employers. Unfortunately, I am unable to find the number of NSCA certified trainers.

People certified by NSCA as well as their advanced CSCS certification are extremely sought after in the sports performance industry.

NSCA Steady Materials

The NSCA CPT offers study materials in the same way that ACSM does. You can pick and choose which study materials you would like to use to prepare you for the exam.

  • Essentials of personal training: This is the primary textbook for NSCA and is 696 pages long.
  • Exam content description booklet: This booklet is to help you prepare for the exam and should be followed along as you read the book.
  • Complete practice questions bundle: This is a practice exam.
  • Exercise technique manual for resistance training: This is a manual with 70 resistance training exercises with step-by-step instructions.
  • Live clinics: For those who want hands-on experience, a live clinic is a great learning tool. Once again, the problem with life clinics is that they are held in larger cities only.
  • Strength training anatomy (recommended resource)
  • Sport nutrition (recommended resource)

Overview of the NSCA study materials:

The textbook has a ton of information and is very informative. Overall, the study materials are severely lacking for NSCA because they have no interactive learning material or e-book version (Don’t know how this is possible).

The only way to learn is by reading their textbook which can be unbearable for some people.

NSCA Certification Cost

Similar to ACSM, the NSCA CPT has a complicated cost because you can pick and choose the study materials you need to prepare for the test.

Overall two different study packages can be purchased with NSCA. Not one of these three packages will include the examination, that needs to be purchased separately.

On top of that, the price of each package depends on whether you are a member or a non-member with the NSCA.

Let’s break down the study material prices first and then the exam prices separately.

NSCA study material pricing

  • The basic option – $277 for nonmembers and $179 for members. (includes the core essentials of personal training textbook, practice exams, and exam content booklet)
  • The standard option – Approximately $486 for nonmembers and $287 for NSCA members (Contains everything in the basic option with the addition of the exercise technique manual and bonus materials)

NSCA membership costs

If you are somebody who is adamant about becoming NSCA certified, it’s a smart decision to become a member with the NSCA.

Depending on the membership type, you can receive a discount on continuing education credit, study material, and access to member-only research in exercise science.

  • $47/year – Associate membership
  • $65/year – Student membership
  • $120/year – Professional membership
  • $337/year – Liability insurance + certified professional

NSCA Exam Voucher Costs

  • $300 and $345 – Depending on which membership you have. The $345 option is for nonmembers. The price of the exam also depends on whether or not you want to take the computerized version or the pencil and paper version!

I know right, that probably just scrambled your brain. I know I sure did for me just trying to explain it! 🙄

It’s clear that the cost of NSCA has the most factors that need to be considered if this is the certification you want to go for.

The cheapest option would be to sign up for the associate membership for $47 a year. Then you can get the exam for $279 and the most affordable study package for $177. The total for this is $503, but you have a yearly membership.

The cheapest cost for NSCA for nonmembers is $349 for the test and $277 for the study materials. The total comes to $626. You can see the NSCA here.

NSCA Earning Potential

The average income for an NSCA certified personal trainer is $41,000.

The top employers for an NSCA certified trainer are LA Fitness and Bayview Retirement Community.

NSCA Exam Information

The NSCA exam consists of 140 multiple-choice questions. 15 of these questions are not scored. This is not an open book test. 1

The NSCA pass rate is 58%. Let’s take a look to see how the test is broken down.

  • 35 questions (25%) – Client assessment and consultation
  • 43 questions (31%) – Program design and planning
  • 43 questions (31%) – Exercise technique
  • 19 questions (13%) – Emergency procedures and safety
  • 15 questions – non-scored for research purposes

The NSCA test is based on a scaled rating, and you need to score at least a 70 to pass.

After signing up for the NSCA certification, you have exactly 6 months to take the test. For the test itself, you have three hours to answer the questions and submit it.

The NSCA is pretty brutal with their retake policy. It will cost you $300 to retake the test if you are a member and $435 to retake the test if you are not an NSCA member.

This, coupled with their low pass rate, can end up being very expensive if you are not adequately prepared for the test. 😒

NSCA exam requirements

The NSCA test must be taken in a Pearson VUE testing facility. You need to be at least 18 years old, hold a high school diploma or equivalent, and have a current CPR/AED accreditation.

NSCA Recertification

Obtaining NSCA continuing education credits is one of the cheaper options out there.

NSCA requires you to recertify every two years, and it only costs $50. You are required to complete 20 hours of continuing education.

One of the most common routes for continuing education is to obtain their advanced CSCS certification (although it requires a bachelors degree).

Personal Trainer Certification Comparison Chart

Type of Cert:CorrectiveGeneral GeneralCorrectivePerformance
Exam Pass Rate:64%90%65%54%58%
Recert Cost:$99$75$139$30$50
Retest Fee:$199Free$199$150$250-$475
Valid for:2 Years2 Years2 Years3 Years2 Years
CEU's:20 Hours20 Hours20 Hours45 Hours20 Hours
Earning Potential:$41k46K$42k$40k41k
Popularity (searches/month)6,6004,4008,1004,4001,300

Visual of the Personal Training Certification Types:

Personal Trainer Certification Infographic

NASM and ACE are neck and neck regarding recent popularity according to Google trends.

The ACSM certification comes in third place, slightly edging out ISSA and NSCA. But since ISSA has so many people certified through them, I have them taking the 3rd place for recognition and popularity.

Cheapest Personal Trainer Certification

The cheapest personal training certification on this list is NSCA costing only $435. The next two cheapest Certifications are ACE and ISSA at $499. NASM costs around $574. The personal training certification that is the least she is the NSCA which costs $626.

I list all the CPTs from cheapest to most expensive in this article.

Best Online Personal Trainer Certification

The best online personal training certification is ISSA. ISSA offers everything online including the curriculum as well as taking the exam online. The other certifications only offer online curriculum, But you need to go into a facility to take their test.

Check out my full list of the best online CPT certification options.

Easiest Personal Trainer Certification

The easiest personal training certification is ISSA with a 90% pass rate. The next easiest certification is ACE with a 65% pass rate followed by NASM with a 64% pass rate. NSCA and ACSM are harder Personal training certifications with 58% and 54% pass rates respectively.

Check out my full list of the easiest CPT certifications.

Certification Accreditation Information

The certifications that I will be discussing on this website are either accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC formerly the DETC) or the National Commission for certifying agencies (NCCA). If you choose to get a different personal trainer license, make sure they are accredited by one of these two organizations. This is very important!

The link above will take you to my full NCCA list of nationally accredited personal training certifications.

I only trust certifications that have either one of these two accreditations.


National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA)


Many people, as well as employers in the personal training industry, consider the NCCA to be the preferred certifying agency for certifications.

The accreditation process with the national commission for certifying agencies is very rigorous. Certifications agencies are frequently required to renew their accreditation to ensure they are up to standard.

This accreditation agency was started in 1987. Out of my five top certifications, ACE, NASM, ACSM, and NSCA are NCCA accredited organizations.

Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC formerly DETC)


The distance education accrediting commission was initially founded in 1926 as the distance education and training Council. They recently changed names a few years ago.

The DEAC also has a rigorous credential process that involves taking polls of students, peers, and experts in the field when analyzing certifications/programs.

Just like the NCCA, the DEAC requires their organizations to frequently renew their accreditation to make sure they are up to snuff with their standards.

One of the significant differences between the DEAC and NCCA is that they do not get directly accredit the certification, but rather the curriculum that the certification offers.

Which in my mind, is the same thing. They accredit the study materials and the information that you will be absorbing for the certification. The ISSA CPT is the only five on this list that is accredited by the DEAC.


Both the DEAC and NCCA are recognized as top accreditation agencies, although some might argue that NCCA is the standard for personal training licensure (accrediting).

In reality, the most important thing is that both accreditation agencies are recognized by the International Health, Racquet, and Sports Club Association (IHRSA).

The IHRSA is the principal trade association for the personal training and fitness industry. They view both DEAC and NCCA accredited certifications as equals.

This makes all five of the certifications on my list even in regards to accreditation.

Conclusion on the Top Personal Trainer Certifications

best personal trainer certification guide - ptpioneer

So, what is the best personal trainer certification? As you can see, it all depends on what type of clients you want to train once you become a personal trainer.

Overall my top personal training certifications are ACE, NASM and ISSA due to their industry recognition, the amount you will learn and the excellent study materials that they provide. NASM is the overall most well-known certification, ACE gives you a great base of knowledge and ISSA packs some serious value (especially if they are running their Elite trainer deal For only $999).

If you have not done so already, I recommend that you Take the quiz to find out which PT certification is right for you if you still cannot come to a decision.

If you want to get started studying right away, here are the free study guides/practice tests on my site:

Before I get started with the breakdown of the article if you could please share this article using one of the social media buttons down below.

I would be very grateful. Also, don’t forget to comment if you have any question regarding any certification. I will get back to you soon as I can!

If you want to focus on corrective exercise or post-rehabilitation training, the top two CPT certifications I would recommend are NASM and ACSM.

Both of these certifications have great screening processes that allow you to pinpoint muscular imbalances.

You will learn a great deal of anatomy and biomechanics from both of these certifications.

If you want to be working with clients that have a primary goal of losing body fat, the certifications that I would recommend are NASM, ACE, and ISSA. Overall these three at my top choices for anyone just starting out.

If you want to focus on sports conditioning in peak performance training, the certifications I would recommend are NSCA (for the CSCS),  NASM (for the PES) or ISSA.

Both of these advanced performance certifications are fantastic. And both of these necessary certifications lead into them thoroughly.

If you want some more specific comparisons to check out some of my articles such as ACE vs NASM, NASM vs ACSM, ACE vs ISSA, NSCA vs NASM and ISSA vs NASM! Or just my main section on comparison articles!

I hope that the breakdown of my top 5 certifications was helpful for any personal trainer that is just starting out.

Remember that the most important thing is to learn what type of clients you want to work in the future.

If you are still confused about which one would be the best certification for you, I suggest checking out the ACE website, the NASM website or the ISSA site because you really cannot go wrong with either of those.

Now get out there and start studying!

Personal training is the most rewarding career, and I am so glad that I get to do every day!

Please like or share my article on social media using one of the buttons if this article was helpful to you.

Next thing you should do is check out my massive guide to starting as a personal trainer as well as my article on the average PT income!

If you like articles that talk about the best certifications, make sure to check out the best group exercise certs, the top corrective exercise certifications, the most recognized strength and conditioning certifications and the best nutrition certifications for personal trainers.


  • Michelle Buckman says:

    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!

    • Tyler Read says:

      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!

  • Sadiq says:

    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!

    • Tyler Read says:

      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.

  • Allan Estrada says:

    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!

    • Tyler Read says:

      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.

  • uche says:

    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.

  • Saed says:

    Thank you so very much for the detailed information on all the courses!

    • Tyler Read says:

      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!

  • Laura says:

    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?

    • Tyler Read says:

      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.

  • PRITAM says:

    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..??

    • Tyler Read says:

      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!

  • Leslie says:

    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! 🙂

    • Tyler Read says:

      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 🙂

  • Laura says:

    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!

    • Tyler Read says:

      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.

  • Anne del Rosario says:

    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!

    • Tyler Read says:

      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!

  • Shonda Spencer says:


    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!

    • Tyler Read says:

      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.

      • Jer says:

        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?

        • Tyler Read says:

          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.

  • Amanda says:

    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.

    • Tyler Read says:

      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!

  • Jack says:

    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.

    • Tyler Read says:

      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.

      • Jack says:

        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.

  • Jack says:

    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.

    • Tyler Read says:

      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!

  • Jayce R says:

    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

    • Tyler Read says:

      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

  • Claudia says:

    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?

    • Tyler Read says:

      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: In fact, NASM just released their certified nutrition coach certification which is already getting really good feedback.

  • Kyerra I Simmons says:

    Very detailed! Do you know if any of these places are a title 4 educational institution?

  • Anita says:

    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.

    • Tyler Read says:

      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.

  • Kelli says:

    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!

    • Tyler Read says:

      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.

  • prabh says:

    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.

    • Tyler Read says:

      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.

  • Denise says:

    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

    • Tyler Read says:

      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!

  • Vibhash Rathore says:

    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

    • Tyler Read says:

      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.

  • Motria Kraus says:

    What is the certification process after 2 years? Pay money and? Do I test again? Do I need CEUs?

    • Tyler Read says:

      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

  • Israel Allen says:

    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

    • Tyler Read says:

      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.

  • NASHIT HASAN says:

    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

    • Tyler Read says:

      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.

  • cgordon says:

    why don’t a lot of places accept ISSA?

    • Tyler Read says:

      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.

  • Kady says:

    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.

    • Tyler Read says:

      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.

  • Carlos says:

    Thanks, Tyler! You did a great outlining these programs!!

  • Patti says:

    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?

    • Tyler Read says:

      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!

  • Pat Murphy says:

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

    • Tyler Read says:

      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?

  • Natalia says:

    Hi Tyler,
    Thank you for writing this very helpful article. It really solved my questions!

  • hayden says:

    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.

    • Tyler Read says:

      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!

  • Curtis says:

    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:)

    • Tyler Read says:

      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.

  • Victor Campos says:

    Nice article, really appreciate. My question is the cpt’s are internationally recognized ? thank you

    • Tyler Read says:

      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.

  • Cameron says:

    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.

    • Tyler Read says:

      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.

  • Jennifer says:

    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.

    • Tyler Read says:

      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.

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