7 Best Personal Trainer Certifications [2022 Prices & Reviews]

Welcome to the ultimate breakdown of the best personal trainer certification programs.

By the time you finish reading, you will know the inside scoop on these popular personal training certifications.

My review looks at the following aspects of fitness 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, be sure to take my quiz to determine which CPT is right for you.

Without further ado, let’s dive into the nuts and bolts of these CPT programs.

Personal Trainer Certifications

Post Content

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

    I want to mention that the best fitness training certifications are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).

    NCCA accredited fitness certifications are the gold standard for being a certified trainer, and virtually every one of the top nutrition certifications and best online personal trainer certifications will have NCCA accreditation.

    the best personal training certifications

    Selecting the right certification is key to building a great personal trainer resume for your career goals, and ensuring you earn a high personal trainer salary.

    If you are stuck trying to choose the right certification for your fitness career, be sure to take my quiz to determine the right CPT for your career.

    Although these certifications range in difficulty, I do not recommend picking based on which personal training certification is the easiest.

    Instead, focus on what your career goals are when making the choice.

    You should also understand the personal trainer job description and the typical personal trainer duties and responsibilities when deciding career directions.

    With that in mind, selecting from the best NCCA accredited CPTs is among the most important steps towards becoming a personal trainer.

    I also recommend getting a personal trainer certification for fitness-adjacent careers such as becoming a yoga instructor, in addition one of the best yoga certifications of course.

    ISSA Study Materials

    Trainer Academy Guide
    Trainer Academy Guide
    • Complete curriculum study preparation
    • Audio guide, flashcards, and mnemonics
    • 800+ practice questions
    • Highest exam pass rate
    • Exam pass refund guarantee
    • Cheaper pricing than ISSA materials
    ISSA Materials
    ISSA Materials
    • Curriculum study preparation
    • Includes textbook and study plan
    • Follow-along supplementary materials
    • 200+ practice questions
    • No exam pass refund guarantee
    • $950 for starter package
    Free ISSA Study Guide
    Free ISSA Study Guide
    • Curriculum material overview
    • Complete chapter breakdowns
    • 60 practice questions
    • 130 flashcards and cheat sheet
    • Free from PTPioneer

    The International Sports Science Association (ISSA) is my top pick for the best CPT certification. ISSA stands out among the fitness industry for brand recognition and quality.

    A key career point about ISSA specifically is that you can take an NCCA accredited version of the exam or opt for the distance education accrediting commission (DEAC) exam, which is easier but far less respected.

    I always recommend you take the harder NCCA version as it is more respected.

    I also encourage all my aspiring CPT students to look into getting a nutrition certification on top of your personal training certification.

    The Top 7 Best Personal Trainer Certification Programs in [year] 4

    The CPT program gives you the skills needed for the physical training of clients.

    However, without addressing proper nutrition, clients are unlikely to see the level of results that would set you apart as a skilled trainer.

    The notable combination of a personal trainer certification and nutrition coaching certification will distinguish you ahead of individuals with the CPT alone.

    To go a step further, consider adding a training specialization certification to your CPT and nutrition coaching stack.

    Specializations are certifications that give you a more advanced skill sets for dealing with a specific type of client or training style.

    Some of the top earning specializations include corrective exercise specialist, group exercise instructor, and strength and conditioning coach.

    After all, not all clients need the same service or want the same kinds of training.

    You are far better off becoming a sought-out expert trainer in a certain specialty than trying to know something about all aspects of training.

    The Top 7 Best Personal Trainer Certification Programs in [year] 5

    Becoming specialized as a personal trainer helps get you hired faster, earn more, and deliver better results to your clients.

    I should also mention that completing these certifications counts towards continuing education credits for the ISSA CPT, meaning eventually you will have to do some sort of specialization or your CPT certification will expire.

    Unfortunately, these certifications typically come in at $600 or more apiece on top of your CPT program, which adds up quick.

    The good news is if you do end up choosing the ISSA CPT, you have the option to purchase the ISSA Elite Trainer Program, which I highly recommend checking out.


    The Elite Trainer program includes the ISSA CPT program, the ISSA Nutrition Coach certification, and an additional ISSA specialization of your choice.

    The Elite Trainer package comes in at $83.00 per month or $999.00 paid in full.

    When it comes to getting great value on a budget, the ISSA Elite Trainer is tough to pass up.

    The best part?

    You can start studying the ISSA Elite Trainer for free by checking out the ISSA website today.

    While I do recommend the triple-threat certification stack of the ISSA Elite Trainer, if you are not sure on the third certification, you can opt to purchase the ISSA CPT and ISSA Nutritionist together for $69 per month for a total of $828.00.

    Given that most CPT certifications, including ISSA, cost over $800.00 apiece, it’s really a no brainer to go for the ISSA CPT and Nutritionist together.

    This is especially true if you want a big head start on your fitness industry career.

    Currently, you can start studying for the ISSA CPT for free today before committing to the program.

    I highly encourage you not to delay signing up, as the free ISSA trial may not be available indefinitely.

    ISSA Content Quality

    ISSA’s strongest component of the curriculum is its focus on resistance training programming, technique, and periodization.

    Additionally, ISSA 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.

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

    ISSA has somewhat less emphasis on 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.

    In terms of special populations training, ISSA does a great job of covering the different special population clients.

    The weakest section in ISSA is behavioral change, which could use a bit more fleshing out.

    Nevertheless, the excellent science, resistance training, and special populations training make ISSA an excellent general CPT cert.

    For a deeper look at the content in the ISSA CPT, check out my comprehensive ISSA CPT review.

    ISSA Pricing, Study Materials, and Exam Difficulty

    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, the cost is $599.00.

    The lowest tier option that includes study materials is the Start Training CPT package, which costs a total of $828.00 before tax, but can be financed interest free at $69.00 per month for 12 months.

    issa cpt textbook

    Materials in this program include:

    • Online Study Materials
    • 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

    The next tier is the Kickstarter CPT Package, which costs $948.00 or $79.00 per month for 12 months.

    In addition to the materials in the Start Training package, the Kickstarter includes the ‘get 5 clients in 5 weeks’ component and a free nutritionist course.

    Finally, the Top Trainer Package is the highest tier option, costing a total of $1428.00 or $199.00 for 12 months.

    This package includes the ‘In-Gym training experience,’ which theoretically gives you hands-on experience before you even get certified!

    issa ez curl biceps

    The quick overview is as follows:

    • Exam only – $599.00 + $79.00 test fee
    • Start Training CPT Package – $828 or $69 per month for 12 months
    • Kickstarter CPT Package – $948 or $79 per month for 12 months
    • Top Trainer CPT Package – $1428 or $119 per month for 12 months

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

    The non-NCCA exam is open book and is fairly easy, with around 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, as it is much more respected by gyms and fitness centers.

    issa trainer academy prep course

    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.

    You can also find paid third-party ISSA study guides that offer exam pass guarantees and comparable quality study materials.

    For example, my students report being much better prepared for the ISSA exam via third-party study guides such as the Trainer Academy ISSA CPT Prep Course.

    As I mentioned, you will find the most success in the fitness industry if you bundle nutrition coaching with a specialization on top of your personal training certification.

    The ISSA Elite Trainer package is by far the best valued program in the industry in terms of delivering this triple-threat combination of fitness certifications.


    With an ISSA CPT, the ISSA Nutritionist Certification, and an ISSA fitness specialization, you’ll be coming in hot out of the gate ready to start your fitness career.

    The ISSA frequently runs discounts on this incredible program, which you can view directly on the ISSA website.

    Exclusive PTP CPT Offers

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    If they happen to be running a promotion, it’s a tough deal to pass on.

    ISSA CPT Continuing Education, Salary, and Career Prospects

    Assuming you pass either ISSA exam, your certification requires 20 hours of continuing education every 2 years in addition to a $75 recertification fee.

    An ISSA personal trainer earns on average $35,522 per year.

    However, there is no reason to assume that is the upper limit if you are a motivated trainer willing to build your own personal training studio.

    In my experience, this is the most reliable way to make over 100k per year in the personal training business.

    NASM Study Materials

    Trainer Academy Guide
    Trainer Academy Guide
    • Complete curriculum study preparation
    • Audio guide, flashcards, and mnemonics
    • 800+ practice questions
    • Highest exam pass rate
    • Exam pass refund guarantee
    • Cheaper pricing than NASM materials
    NASM Materials
    NASM Materials
    • Curriculum study preparation
    • Video and written curriculum included
    • Textbook purchased seperately
    • 200+ practice questions
    • No exam pass refund guarantee
    • $899.00 for starter package
    Free NASM Study Guide
    Free NASM Study Guide
    • Curriculum material overview
    • Complete chapter breakdowns
    • 60 practice questions
    • 130 flashcards and cheat sheet
    • Free from PTPioneer

    NASM is among the largest NCCA accredited personal trainer certifications by market share – and for good reason!

    With its groundbreaking NASM Optimum Performance Training Model, NASM is an excellent certification for the skills you need to be an amazing fitness coach.

    NASM Content Quality

    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 the early stabilization phase through multiple periods of training, ultimately leading to power and performance training.

    nasm cpt dumbbell overhead press

    The additional skills that round out the OPT model include behavioral change, special populations training, and basic business skills including sales.

    Unfortunately, NASM does not have great nutrition coaching coverage in its CPT certification. However, you can always get your NASM nutrition certification after you finish the CPT program.

    The biggest downside of the NASM OPT model is not that it is not effective. However, there will be times when following a strict OPT model does not make sense for a particular client’s goals.

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

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

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

    For a more comprehensive look at the skills and content in the NASM CPT, check out my full NASM review.

    NASM Pricing, Study Materials, and Exam Difficulty

    Taking the NASM exam only costs $599.00, which does not include any study materials.

    The basic study prep comes in slightly higher at $629.00.

    The most expensive option clocks in at $2,024.00 and includes a ton of materials.

    Note that NASM constantly runs promotions and dynamic price changes, so these prices are subject to change depending on the time of year and NASM’s current promos.

    The overall packages are as follows:

    • NASM Self-Study – $629.00
    • NASM Premium Self-Study – $899.00
    • NASM Guided Study – $1,199.00
    • All-Inclusive – $2,024.00

    Truthfully, the expensive packages are a bit overkill for most students.

    nasm senior fitness aerobic training treadmill

    In terms of exam difficulty, the NASM exam really is no joke. As of 2021, the NASM exam pass rate is roughly 60% for first-time test takers.

    Preparing well for the exam is your best shot at passing on your first try.

    Expect to spend roughly 3 months at minimum preparing for the exam if you have no other previous experience.

    I do recommend checking out my free NASM Study Guide and NASM Practice Test to start studying today.

    For paid study plans, the best value can be found in third-party study guides that offer the same resources as NASM, but at a steep discount.

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

    If you plan to add nutrition coaching to your personal training business, you can get a great deal on the NASM CPT and NASM Nutrition certifications when you purchase these two certifications as a bundle.

    If you just 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, which equates to 20 contact hours.

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

    The Top 7 Best Personal Trainer Certification Programs in [year] 6

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

    In terms of salary, it varies substantially depending on where you are located and your specific employment situation.

    According to data from ZipRecruiter, the salary varies from $26,000 to $78,000 for NASM certified trainers.

    NASM claims that the average NASM CPT will make $42,000 their first year as a trainer.

    When it comes to how much personal trainers make, NASM is definitely one of the higher earning CPT certifications.

    3: American Council on Exercise (ACE)

    ACE Study Materials

    Trainer Academy Guide
    Trainer Academy Guide
    • Complete curriculum study preparation
    • Audio guide, flashcards, and mnemonics
    • 800+ practice questions
    • Highest exam pass rate
    • Exam pass refund guarantee
    • Cheaper pricing than ACE materials
    ACE Materials
    ACE Materials
    • Curriculum study preparation
    • Video and written curriculum included
    • Textbook purchased seperately
    • 200+ practice questions
    • No exam pass refund guarantee
    • $899.00 for starter package
    Free ACE Study Guide
    Free ACE Study Guide
    • Curriculum material overview
    • Complete chapter breakdowns
    • 60 practice questions
    • 130 flashcards and cheat sheet
    • Free from PTPioneer

    With the ACE Integrated Fitness Model for training, the ACE University, and ACE answers, American Council on Exercise stands among the giants.

    ACE Content Quality

    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.

    Stacked on top of the great IFT model is the ACE exercise library, which contains hundreds of exercises with descriptions and videos, categorized based on the IFT model.

    This is great for newer trainers who are still building a repertoire of exercises they like to coach.

    Furthermore, the ACE IFT exercise library makes finding variations on exercises very straightforward, allowing you to easily modify existing programs depending on the circumstances.

    ace cpt content quality review

    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 successfully start working as a certified personal fitness trainer.

    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 actually vital for making sure you close prospective clients and have people paying you to train them.

    In many ways, a poorly skilled trainer with a knack for sales may actually do better than a squared-away fitness expert who couldn’t sell booze to a college kid.

    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.

    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, especially when it comes to personal training marketing ideas.

    If you are an ambitious person and want to build your own personal training studio, no CPT certification alone will cover this topic – it is simply beyond the scope of basic personal trainer certs.

    Nevertheless, ACE will prepare you very well for the job of screening, programming, and instructing your clients in safe and effective workout techniques – just be sure to learn some sales skills to round out the cert.

    ace client intake clipboard

    For a complete look at the ACE CPT certification, check out my full ACE CPT review.

    ACE CPT Pricing, Study Materials, and Exam Difficulty

    As with other fitness training certs, ACE offers a range of packages.

    The exam only costs $199.00, making ACE among the more affordable certifications to take if you do not purchase study materials from the ACE organization itself.

    The study packages directly from ACE range in cost, with the more expensive packages including additional materials.

    The pricing for ACE packages is as follows:

    • ACE Basic Study Package – $509.00
    • ACE Plus – $599.00
    • ACE Advantage – $899.00

    I do want to highlight that the overall quality of ACE study materials is excellent, however, the price really cuts down on the value provided, especially since the information is overkill for the certification.

    ace trainer with older woman lifting dumbbell

    If you want to start studying for the ACE CPT right now, check out my free ACE CPT Study Guide and ACE Practice Test here.

    If you want to pay for premium third-party study guides with exam pass guarantees, my top students recommend the Trainer Academy ACE CPT Prep Course.

    Overall, ACE is middle of the road in terms of the cost of becoming a personal trainer.

    The ACE exam has a 65% pass rate, making it slightly easier than NASM, harder than ISSA, and about on par with the ACSM exam difficulty.

    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 $46,915 per year.

    In terms of 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.

    Exclusive PTP CPT Offers

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    Save 25%
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    ace cpt woman trainer training older man with light dumbbells

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

    Ultimately, you can use the ACE CPT as a launch point for whatever career you choose in the fitness industry.

    Also, take a look at comparing ACE vs ISSA and ACE vs NASM, which are the top fitness industry certifications.

    4: National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF)

    The National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF) is a less well-known organization compared to NASM or ACE, but still does an exceptional job of preparing its CPT students for their new careers.

    NCSF Study Materials

    Trainer Academy Guide
    Trainer Academy Guide
    • Complete curriculum study preparation
    • Audio guide, flashcards, and mnemonics
    • 800+ practice questions
    • Highest exam pass rate
    • Exam pass refund guarantee
    • Cheaper pricing than NCSF materials
    NCSF Materials
    NCSF Materials
    • Curriculum study preparation
    • Video and written curriculum included
    • Textbook purchased separately
    • 200+ practice questions
    • No exam pass refund guarantee
    • $419.00 for starter package
    Free NCSF Study Guide
    Free NCSF Study Guide
    • Curriculum material overview
    • Complete chapter breakdowns
    • 60 practice questions
    • 130 flashcards and cheat sheet
    • Free from PTPioneer

    NCSF Content Quality

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

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

    ncsf sport and aerobic anatomy

    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 in other CPT certs.

    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 of your actual CPT certification curriculum, which is a must for long-term success as a trainer.

    For a much deeper look at the NCSF CPT certification, check out my comprehensive NCSF CPT review.

    NCSF Pricing, Study Materials, and Exam Difficulty

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

    ncsf pricing study materials and exam difficulty

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

    For exam packages that include study materials, the NCSF ranges from $400 to well over $700, depending on what level of study materials you want.

    The home study package includes basic study materials with a digital textbook. The home study plus includes a physical textbook.

    The workshop package includes a 2-day live workshop in addition to the regular home study prep materials.

    Finally, the NCSF Workshop Plus package includes everything in all the lesser-priced packages wrapped up into one sale.

    The NCSF Study Package pricing is as follows:

    • NCSF Home Study Package – $419.00
    • NCSF Home Study Plus Package – $479.00 (sale price)
    • NCSF Workshop Package – $479.00 (sale price)
    • NCSF Workshop Plus Package ($539.00)

    Note that various promotions may impact the price of these packages on a day-to-day basis.

    ncsf difficult exam

    To get started studying for the NCSF right away, 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, which my students highly recommend and include personal trainer practice exams, flashcards, comprehensive text and audio study guides, and other great resources.

    Other organizations tend to charge an arm-and-a-leg for overkill prep packages.

    The NCSF does a good job of offering great study material at fair prices and is among the cheapest personal trainer certifications that still hold respect.

    The NCSF personal trainer certification exam has a roughly 78% pass rate based on 2019 data, making it theoretically easier than NASM or ACE but harder than ISSA.

    NCSF CPT Continuing Education, Salary and Career Prospects

    Like all certifications, the NCSF requires ongoing CEU credits to stay current with your cert.

    The requirement from the NCSF is 10 CEUs every two years, which corresponds to 20 contact hours, making the NCSF CEU requirement the same as ACE or NASM.

    Thankfully, the NCSF gives you a great deal of flexibility in choosing your CEUs, allowing you to use their own courses or third-party approved courses to keep your CPT cert current.

    According to the NCSF organization, NCSF certified trainers average from $21.31 to $24.54 per hour as employees, while self-employed may make anywhere from $40-$60 per hour or more, depending on location and setup.

    5: Fitness Mentors (FM)

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

    Overall, Fitness Mentors has quality offerings but less brand recognition than the bigger top-tier organizations like ISSA and NASM.

    Fitness Mentors Study Materials

    Fitness Mentors Materials
    Fitness Mentors Materials
    • Curriculum study preparation
    • Video and written curriculum included
    • Digital textbook included
    • Two (2) practice exams
    • $399.00 for starter package

    FM Content Quality

    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:

    1. The Fitness Assessment
    2. Anatomy and Physiology
    3. Exercise Physiology and Energy Systems
    4. Program Design and the Form Model
    5. Flexibility, Mobility, and Range of Motion
    6. Programming Considerations for Exercise Related Injuries
    7. Fitness Programs for Special Populations
    8. Professionalism, Business, and Sales
    9. The Cardiovascular and Respiratory Systems
    10. Psychology: The Science of Behavior and Mind
    11. Components of Nutrition
    12. Emergency Procedures for the Fitness Professional

    Between 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.

    fitness mentors content quality

    FM Pricing, Study Materials, and Exam Difficulty

    The Fitness Mentors pricing includes 4 different options as of January 2022.

    The lowest option Starter Bundle clocks in at $399 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 $699 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 Pro Bundle, which costs $899 includes the full Plus Bundle as well as:

    • Online Trainer Certification
    • Access to a Personal Fitness Mentor
    • Pass Guarantee

    Finally, the Ultimate Bundle Costs $1499 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 just want a CPT.

    Pre-paying for an additional five certifications is a bit overkill – especially because there is a good chance you do not end up needing 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.

    Exam-wise, the FM CPT exam is pretty easy. You need a 70% score to pass.

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

    FM Salary, Continuing Education, and Career Prospects

    male training with male client on trx

    In terms of salary, Fitness Mentors is a fairly new certification, so it’s tough to find salary data. It’s safe to say that if you land a job as a trainer, having the FM CPT is unlikely to increase or decrease your salary relative to other CPTs.

    The FM CPT requires 20 hours (2.0 CEUs) of continuing education every 2 years in addition to 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 on Fitness Mentors is you must be able to sell your experience and knowledge, because the Fitness Mentors brand is just not big enough to stand for something in-of itself.

    6: American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)

    ACSM Study Materials

    Trainer Academy Guide
    Trainer Academy Guide
    • Complete curriculum study preparation
    • Audio guide, flashcards, and mnemonics
    • 800+ practice questions
    • Highest exam pass rate
    • Exam pass refund guarantee
    • Cheaper deals than ACSM pricing
    ACSM Materials
    ACSM Materials
    • Curriculum study preparation
    • Includes CPT Prep course
    • 200+ practice questions
    • Facebook CPT group (free)
    • No exam pass refund guarantee
    • $600+ for study course, textbooks additional $80+
    Free ACSM Study Guide
    Free ACSM Study Guide
    • Curriculum material overview
    • Complete chapter breakdowns
    • 60 practice questions
    • 130 flashcards and cheat sheet
    • Free from PTPioneer

    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 on fitness and exercise science.

    acsm exercise testing on oxygen machine female trainers

    Although the ACSM personal trainer certification is not my number one pick for best personal training certs, many of the guidelines and studies used to develop the other certifications originate from ACSM research.

    As such, the ACSM remains among the most influential organizations when it comes to modern fitness training standards.

    ACSM Content Quality

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

    Although this information can go deeper than you need as a personal trainer, knowing the underlying science behind effective fitness training is always beneficial to explain your reasoning to clients and helps you develop more effective training programs.

    Additional standout sections in the ACSM include the behavioral change coaching section and the client health screenings, which are arguably among the most in-depth lessons on the subject from any certs I’ve looked into.

    acsm health intake form and assessment

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

    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 to the table for special populations training and business skills sections, which go beyond other certs.

    However, its tough to make up for a weak resistance training section, regardless of the other coverage, simply because without training skills, you cannot be a good trainer.

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

    Unfortunately, if you need the skills to get a job as a trainer, you should investigate other certifications before doing ACSM.

    For a complete look at the ACSM CPT certification, check out my detailed ACSM CPT review.

    ACSM Pricing, Study Materials, and Exam Difficulty

    acsm pricing study materials and exam difficulty

    If you want to take the ACSM exam without purchasing study materials, the cost is $349.00.

    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 – $270.00
    • ACSM CPT Facebook Group – free
    • ACSM’s Resources for the Personal Trainer Textbook – $79.99
    • ACSM Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription textbook – $87.19

    Purchasing every single study option directly from the ACSM puts you in the same price range as many other mid-tier packages from ACE, NASM, and ISSA.

    If you want to dive right into studying for the ACSM CPT, check out my free ACSM Study Guide and 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.

    Note that if you fail your attempt at the ACSM exam, you’ll be forced to pay a hefty $175 retake fee.

    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

    acsm exercise testing bike mask and computer

    According to ZipRecruiter data, an ACSM CPT can earn between $33,000 and $78,000 per year, with the average being $49,020. This is not bad when compared to the stats from other certifications.

    However, given the diverse range of career choices, expect that top-earning ACSM CPTs likely have additional certs or many years of experience before earning higher salaries.

    The ACSM’s CEU requirements are a bit more rigorous than other CPT certs.

    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 a 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, as a basic CPT cert, it is not my top choice.

    7: National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)

    NSCA Study Materials

    Trainer Academy Guide
    Trainer Academy Guide
    • Complete curriculum study preparation
    • Audio guide, flashcards, and mnemonics
    • 800+ practice questions
    • Highest exam pass rate
    • Exam pass refund guarantee
    • Cheaper pricing than ACSM materials
    NSCA Materials
    NSCA Materials
    • Curriculum study preparation
    • Video and written curriculum included
    • Textbook purchased separately
    • 200+ practice questions
    • No exam pass refund guarantee
    • $300+ for textbook and prep course (exam not included)
    Free NSCA Study Guide
    Free NSCA Study Guide
    • Curriculum material overview
    • Complete chapter breakdowns
    • 60 practice questions
    • 130 flashcards and cheat sheet
    • Free from PTPioneer

    The NSCA is a non-profit certifying agency that primarily focuses on athletic performance research and certifications.

    In fact, the NSCA is a global leader in research, practical application, continuing education, and networking opportunities for strength and conditioning coaches as well as personal trainers.

    Additionally, becoming an NSCA member gives you insane discounts on all NSCA products as well as access to the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, which is a top journal for peer-reviewed scientific research on all topics related to athletic performance and strength and conditioning.

    nsca resisted sprint training

    NSCA CPT Content Quality

    The NSCA textbook truly is a tome of knowledge for general personal training.

    With over 25 chapters of content covering everything from basic stabilization training, weight training, plyometrics, and performance coaching, you really get the full range of personal training knowledge.

    My biggest concern with the NSCA CPT content is not that it has anything missing per se.

    diagram kettlebell clean

    However, there is so much content covered that it can easily feel overwhelming, especially if you have no other fitness background.

    Taking your time getting through the textbook is the best bet for learning the material. If you are able to absorb the information this way, there is no doubt you will be an excellent personal trainer.

    If you want a more thorough look at the NSCA CPT, check out my comprehensive NSCA CPT review.

    NSCA Pricing, Study Materials, and Exam Difficulty

    nsca pricing study materials and exam difficulty

    Pricing-wise, the NSCA has some of the most reasonable prices in the business.

    The exam only package costs a hefty $435.

    However, if you choose to become an NSCA member and get the benefits of membership, that price drops to $300.

    In fact, becoming a member for a year and then buying the discounted exam only is cheaper than purchasing the exam only as a non-member.

    Once you add study materials to the package, it becomes an even better deal.

    The NSCA digital package which includes a basic study outline and 200 practice questions for an addition $202 for non-members or $152 for members.

    The next package is the NSCA CPT Essential Package – this includes the NSCA digital materials as well as the hard copy of the NSCA Essentials of Personal Training 2nd edition for $290.70 or $240.30 for non-members or members, respectively.

    Finally, the NSCA CPT Essential Plus Package incudes everything in the Essential package as well as the 3rd edition of the NSCA Exercise Technique Manual, which is an invaluable resource for new trainers with less experience in exercise technique.

    nsca cpt textbook

    The Essential Plus Package can be purchased for $511 or $455 for non-members or members, respectively.

    Overall pricing is as follows:

    • Exam only – $435 (non-member), $300 (member)
    • NSCA Digital Package – additional $202 (non-member), $152 (member)

    To dive right in to your NSCA CPT Prep today, check out my free NSCA CPT Study Guide and Practice Exam.

    For paid study prep materials, you can find much better deals on NSCA CPT Study Materials through third-party sites such as the Trainer Academy NSCA CPT Prep Course.

    My biggest problem with the official NSCA study materials is the lack of an overall digital course with video modules and similar resources.

    The “digital” components of the study materials are all in PDF format, so it is not a truly digital course the way NASM and ACE have full video modules and interactive study portals.

    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.

    NSCA CPT Salary, Continuing Education, and Career Prospects

    According to PayScale data, the salary for an NSCA certified personal trainer ranges from 31,000 per year to 60,000 per year, with the average coming in around $50,000.

    In terms of continuing education, the NSCA is a bit different from other organizations. The NSCA requires 6.0 CEUs every 3 years to stay certified.

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

    The categories for NSCA CEUs are as following:

    1. Conference attendance in-person or digital
    2. Sharing expertise/research conducted through presentations or publications
    3. Educational activities such as college courses, internships, and CPR/First Aid
    4. 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.

    For general fitness coaching, it is great as well, however, the organization’s focus on athletics makes it ideal for trainers who want to pursue a career in athletic performance coaching.

    Review Methodology

    To do this review, I used my personal knowledge of each certification and their exams.

    Based on my years of experience as a trainer and understanding of the on-the-job needs, I assessed how well each CPT’s curriculum prepares you for this demand.

    Pricing and other information is taken from the providers themselves to give you a full-spectrum comparison of these certifications.

    FAQ: Top Personal Training Certifications


    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.

    While ISSA is by far my top choice, 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.

    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.

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


    1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24616604
    2. https://www.nasm.org/certified-personal-trainer/the-opt-model
    3. https://www.acefitness.org/fitness-certifications/personal-trainer-certification/ace-ift-model.aspx
    4. https://www.acsm.org/acsm-membership/about-us
    5. https://www.acsm.org/read-research/journals-bulletins
    6. https://www.issaonline.edu/company/
    7. https://www.nsca.com/certification/cscs/
    8. https://www.nasm.org/about-nasm
    9. https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/
    10. https://trends.google.com/trends/?geo=US
    11. https://www.deac.org/Discover-DEAC/DEAC-History.aspx
    12. https://www.ihrsa.org/industry-issues/personal-trainer-accreditation
    13. https://www.nsca.com/certification/nsca-cpt/nsca-cpt-study-materials/
    14. https://www.nsca.com/certification/nsca-cpt/
    15. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Certification=Personal_Trainer_(CPT)_(NASM)/Salary
    16. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Certification=American_Council_on_Exercise_(ACE)/Salary
    17. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Certification=Personal_Trainer_(CPT)_(ACSM)/Salary
    18. https://www.paysa.com/salaries/issa–certified-personal-trainer
    19. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Certification=Personal_Trainer_(CPT)_(NSCA)/Salary
    20. https://www.nfpt.com/personal-trainer-certification-comparison
    21. https://www.nasm.org/recertify/personal-trainer-recertification
    22. https://www.acefitness.org/fitness-certifications/recertification/
    23. https://www.acsm.org/get-stay-certified/stay-certified/recertification-faqs-2
    24. https://www.nsca.com/certification/recertification/
    25. https://www.nfpt.com/faq
    26. https://nationalpti.edu/about-npti/faq/
    27. https://www.ncsf.org/about/accreditation
    28. https://pft.nestacertified.com/about-nesta-mission-statement/
    29. https://www.afaa.com/faq
    30. https://www.nasm.org/continuing-education/fitness-specializations
    31. https://www.acefitness.org/fitness-certifications/specialty-certifications/default.aspx
    32. https://www.nsca.com/cscs-exam-prerequisites/
    33. https://traineracademy.org/certifications/personal-trainer-certifications/
    34. https://www.ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/Ace-CPT-Salary-in-New-York-City
    35. https://www.ncsf.org/pdf/NCSF_2019_Annual_Exam_Report.pdf
    36. https://www.ncsf.org/careers/job-outlook
    37. https://www.ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/ACSM-Personal-Trainer-Salary

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    About The Author

    193 thoughts on “The Top 7 Best Personal Trainer Certification Programs in 2022”

    1. Michelle Buckman

      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!

      1. 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!

    2. 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!

      1. 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.

    3. 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!

      1. 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.

    4. 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.

      1. 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!

    5. 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?

      1. 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.

    6. 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..??

      1. 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!

    7. 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! 🙂

      1. 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 🙂

    8. 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!

      1. 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.

    9. Anne del Rosario

      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!

      1. 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!

    10. 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!

      1. 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.

        1. 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?

          1. 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.

    11. 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.

      1. 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!

    12. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

    13. 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.

      1. 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!

    14. 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

      1. 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

    15. 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?

      1. 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.

    16. 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.

      1. 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.

    17. 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!

      1. 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.

    18. 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.

      1. 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.

    19. 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

      1. 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!

    20. Vibhash Rathore

      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

      1. 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.

      1. 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

    21. 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

      1. 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.

    22. 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

      1. 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.

      1. 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.

    23. 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.

      1. 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.

    24. 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?

      1. 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!

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

      1. 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?

    26. 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.

      1. 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!

    27. 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:)

      1. 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.

      1. 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.

    28. 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.

      1. 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.

    29. 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.

      1. 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.

    30. 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!

      1. 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.

    31. 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!

      1. 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.

    32. 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?

      1. 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.

    33. 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!

      1. 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.

        1. 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!

          1. 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.

    34. 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

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

          1. 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.

      1. 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.

    35. Sherman Culliver

      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.

      1. 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.

    36. 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!


      1. 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.

    37. 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.

      1. 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/

    38. 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

      1. 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.

    39. 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,


      1. 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?

    40. 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

      1. 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.

    41. 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?


    42. 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

      1. 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.

    43. 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

      1. 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.

    44. 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!

      1. 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.

      1. 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.

    45. 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.

      1. 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.

    46. 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!!!

      1. 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.

    47. 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

      1. 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.

    48. 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.

      1. 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.

    49. 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?

      1. 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.

    50. 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

      1. 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.

    51. 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.

      1. 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.

    52. 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!

      1. 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.

    53. 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!

      1. 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.

    54. 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!

      1. 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.

    55. 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?

      1. 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.

    56. 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.

    57. 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?

      1. 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.

    58. 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!

    59. 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!

      1. 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.

    60. 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!

      1. 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.

      2. 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.

        1. 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.

    61. Nikola Sapunar

      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,

      1. 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.

    62. 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!

      1. 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.

    63. 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?

      1. 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.

    64. 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.

      1. 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?

    65. 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,

      1. 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.

    66. Uzonna Martins

      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!

      1. I definitely recommend calling up the gymnasiums in your area to see which personal training certifications they accept. Good luck with your personal training career.

    67. 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?

    68. 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?

      1. 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.

    69. 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

      1. 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.

    70. 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!

      1. 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.

    71. 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!

      1. 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.

    72. 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?..

      1. 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.

    73. 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!

      1. 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.

    74. 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.


    75. Drashta Shelawala

      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.

      1. 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.

    76. 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?

      1. 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.

    77. 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

      1. 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.

    78. 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?

      1. 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.

    79. 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!