Welcome to the ultimate certified personal trainer certification pri0ce comparison guide.
In this comparison, we’ll be looking at:0
Before we dive in, please take a minute to take the quiz. It will help you determine the best cert for your individual career goals.
With that said and done, let’s go.
Value vs Cost. Which is More Important
Value vs cost, which is the most crucial?
An age-old question, but one which is notably hard to answer because both metrics are inextricably linked
You can’t shift the needle of cost, for instance, without moving the needle of value.
Typically, the more valuable something is, the more it should cost and vice versa.
How Value is More Important than Cost
Sometimes, however, the inverse occurs, and you can have something that costs more than its worth or worth more than it costs.
Ultimately, your goal is to weigh up the value vs against the cost and not cost against value.
Because sacrificing value for cost might save you pennies in the short term, but in the long term, the economy of life always proves that choice to be the more expensive and, eventually, wasteful.
The holy grail is therefore nabbing a certification that is cheaper than it’s worthwhile, avoiding those that can be deemed overpriced.
I’ll help you figure out the worth of the best personal trainer certifications as featured in this article, and whether the price measures up to its standard value.
The value will be determined by quality and relevance.
Accreditation is one of the primary indicators of value for fitness certification programs.
That’s because it acts as the highest official form of quality approval, and as I pointed out, quality is the leading factor in determining value.
So what exactly is accreditation.
It’s a governing set of standards by which a certifying agency is held to and must meet to be approved for academic deployment.
Of course, this isn’t mandatory by any state or federal laws, so accreditation is not required, nor is it regulated.
Fortunately, the fitness industry is self-regulating, and many entry barriers require accredited certification, amongst other things.
The NCCA or National Commission for Certifying Agencies is the foremost organization when it comes to accrediting fitness certifications in North America.
The is another known as DEAC or Distance Education Accrediting Commission.
This organization does pretty much what NCCA accreditation does, with the caveat that it applies its standards to distance-based learning institutes and certification programs.
This form of education is becoming increasingly popular due to the administration of online personal trainer certifications and their increasing relevance.
Industry recognition is an important value metric.
It allows you to understand which is the best personal trainer certification to carry you towards becoming a successful personal trainer.
Industry professionals’ collective opinions and advice allow you to choose wisely based on positive reviews and feedback.
Remember to steer clear of free fitness courses online as they tend not to have much industry relevance and will probably not be accredited.
As far as value vs personal trainer certification cost is concerned, the recertification conditions of a cert add to the overall quality.
Recertification is the renewal of a professional fitness trainer cert after a period lapses from the initial certification.
Typically this is after every two years.
To recertify, you’ll need to submit some educational credits known as CEUs of Continuing Education Units and a small recert fee.
The ability to obtain cheap CEUs that a certification provider approves is where the value lies in this regard.
Since you’ve already forked out a bunch of money just to get certified in the first place, having cost-efficient access to recertification necessities is a significant value proposition.
Physical trainer certification exam difficulty is a more complex factor to address regarding the value conversation of fitness training programs.
That’s because it requires a lot of balance and rationalization.
The final exam needs to ingrain the necessary skills, and to do that; it has to pose a degree of challenge.
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If it’s too easy, it stops acting as quality control that allows only competent individuals to operate within the field of fitness.
That’s because the challenge aspect incentivizes installment of the lessons and concepts learned in the course curriculum, something which only serious and competent individuals will pursue.
However, a cert can’t be too difficult; otherwise, its entry barrier becomes prohibitive. If it’s a general certification like a CPT or Group Fitness program, the juice ceases to be worth the squeeze.
So for true value you want to tackle the easiest personal trainer certification within the realm of reasonable challenge.
10 Cheapest personal training certifications
Now let me introduce you to my top 10 picks for cheap personal trainer certifications.
Firstly I’ll list the certs in order of most expensive to cheapest, so Initially, we’ll just be dealing with the dollar value.
I will then conclude by matching up cost with quality so that you can better understand the value proposition each cert brings to the table.
10. ISSA CPT ($1,816.00)
ISSA, or the International Sports Sciences Association, is another massively popular certifying agency.
It is a pioneer in many ways.
Firstly, as its name suggests, ISSA was the first genuinely international personal trainer certification programs, provider. Because of this, it was also the first distance-based fitness institute in the US.
That is why DEAC accredits ISSA instead of the more prevalent NCCA.
ISSA is also the parent company of NCCPT, a certification provider I’ll be discussing later in this topic.
The collaborative resources of the two providers mean that ISSA offers both a DEAC and an NCCA accredited credential, thus shooting up the overall price, as you could imagine.
Check out my full ISSA Certification review here for an in-depth look.
9. NASM CPT ($899.00)
NASM is the National Academy of Sports Medicine, an organization considered to be one of the most recognized names in health and fitness certifications and credentials.
NASM’s CPT is one of the most sought after in the PT job market, and personal trainers holding this cert range from group fitness instructors in some of the best gyms all the way to fitness entrepreneurs with their own personal training studios.
NASM’s packages probably have the most diverse variance when it comes to price, with the most expensive package being the most expensive overall.
Their cheapest option will set you back $899.00, but if you have a look at current official prices, you’re highly likely to score an incredible discount.
Check out my full NASM Certification review here.
8. ACE CPT ($849.00)
The American Council on Exercise is a stalwart in the fitness coach certification game.
Enjoying a relevance that puts it arguably in the top 3, ACE’s name and reputation carry a value proposition that translates to one of the highest premiums in the certification market.
As with most other fitness trainer certifications, ACE regularly posts deals and discounts on the cost of ACE certification, so don’t forget to check their official CPT price listing for more information.
You should also read my full ACE CPT review for more insight.
7. NSCA CPT ($712.80)
NSCA is the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
It’s a certification provider I would consider a legacy institution owing to its long-running heritage and influence.
As the name suggests, NSCA is a strength and conditioning-focused provider, meaning athletic performance and sports coaching programs are part of its fundamental offerings.
That may be the very aspect of their value proposition that makes their cheapest cert package the most expensive of the 10 I’m showcasing.
Because with NSCA’s education, you could potentially become a sports performance professional or sports coach, one of the most lucrative career path in fitness.
Check out NSCA’s current pricing for deals and discounts.
You should also take a look at my full NSCA CPT review right here.
6. NCSF CPT ($699.00)
The National Council on Strength and Fitness is one of the lesser-known program providers from a mainstream perspective.
However, in the domain of the fitness industry, it is recognized as a high-quality performance-centric institute, having endorsements from some of the top gyms in the US.
For just under $500, you’ll have access to a comprehensive study package with all the essential prep materials and access to the exam.
Take a look at their official site for any updates on discounts and specials.
For full insight, check out my NCSF CPT review here.
5. NCCPT CPT ($599.00)
The National Council for Certified Personal Trainers is an industry certification provider aimed at the general PT market.
As mentioned earlier, it was acquired by ISSA, and since then, it has acted as its parent organization’s official NCCA accredited option.
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Through ISSA, you will be able to purchase the certification as part of ISSA’s complete CPT package; however, you can buy NCCPT as a stand-alone opinion.
In that case, you will only have access to the exam, meaning your acquisition of recommended prep material will be at your discretion.
Check out my full review of NCCPT right here.
4. ACSM CPT ($525)
ACSM is the American College of Sports Medicine. It’s one of the oldest certification providers. It has established itself as an academic and research leader, even going as far as providing data and knowledge for the curricula of other certification providers.
ACSM has a complex pricing system that includes different membership tiers that activate various discounts.
The cheapest option when all things are considered is $525.
The standard price constantly fluctuates due to periodic deals and discounts, so make sure you know the current cost for inexpensive personal training certification.
And don’t forget to check my full, comprehensive ACSM CPT review here
3. NESTA CPT ($477.00)
The National Council for Certified Personal Trainers was founded in 1992 and has set itself apart from others by having a more entrepreneurial focus on a fitness career.
I firmly advocate for this since business acumen and an entrepreneurial mindset helped me gain success and what I try and inspire my students to accomplish.
It isn’t as popular as most of the other certs I’ve discussed here, but as an NCCA accredited certification, it most certainly meets the requirements while giving you some much-needed business insight.
It’s also one of the most agreeable for low-cost personal trainer certification and therefore makes for an excellent option for fledgling fitness professionals.
Check out my NESTA CPT review here.
2. NFPT CPT ($339.00)
The National Federation of Professional Trainers is a fast-track, friendly entry into the world of personal training and provides a valuable learning experience for the generalist PT market.
NFPT also provides plenty of value with its free lifetime CEUs, meaning recertification and CEU acquisition are remarkably cheap.
Additionally, NFPT has no testing fees, meaning you’re only paying for the study and prep materials, making this the second cheapest cert on my list.
Check out NFPT’s official site for up to date deals and steals.
Also take a look at this full comprehensive NFPT CPT review right here.
1. ACTION CPT ($99)
Action CPT is the newest certification on this list. It is also the cheapest certification I’m looking at and is the only cert whose price point is below triple figures at just under $100.00.
Through exploring Action CPT, I’ve realized that it presents a very rudimentary take on PT education and s also one of the quickest and easiest personal training certifications.
It’s pretty barebones but comprehensive enough to make the cut for NCCA accreditation, which is why I can review and recommend it.
If you want an affordable online fitness certification, just as a starter or cheap CEU option, Action CPT, the cheapest accredited certification I know of, is a viable choice.
The price point is a steal, but it’s almost a free online fitness coaching program when you factor in potential discounts.
Check out their website for up-to-the-minute pricing.
You should also take a look at my Action CPT review here for a more in-depth analysis.
Certification Value Ranking
Since I already mentioned that value is more crucial than cost, I’d like to take some time to expand on which cert has the overall value for money.
Once we peel back the lid on the contrast of value against cost, you might find that a more expensive certification might rank higher than a cheaper one on the list.
Let’s take a look at the value rankings of each certification program.
NCCPT brings up the rear when it comes to the cost/value comparison.
While it is a viable NCCA accredited cert, the value of the curriculum compared to other heavy hitters doesn’t correspond well with how much you’ll need to pay for it.
The price point for NCCPT encroaches on top-tier cert territory while only offering an exam-only package.
On top of that, you’ll have access to it directly through ISSA, making the separate purchase unwarranted.
So the fact that NCCPT is easily and cheaply obtained through ISSA greatly lowers its stand-alone value.
9. NCSF CPT
NCSF CPT is a bit more of a robust offering when compared to NCCPT since it contains a complete study package and valuable prep materials.
However, it’s a tadpole in the ocean of well-received and well-recognized fitness programs.
It doesn’t hold enough weight in the industry to justify the price, in my opinion, when looking at which gyms accept which certs.
It’s also not the most prominent credential amongst those developing a personal training business plan.
8. NFPT CPT
7. NESTA CPT
I would make the same point about NESTA as I have about NFPT in that it’s a comprehensive certification from a curriculum perspective. Still, from a personal trainer job outlook perspective, it’s not that industry-recognized, relatively speaking.
Despite being pricier than NFPT, I appreciate NESTA for its business focus.
Through NESTA, you can begin to adopt a business minded approach in such areas as personal trainer business cards, coming up with a personal training business name, and how to capitalize on the use of social media for your fitness services.
6. NSCA CPT
Now we get to the more prominent certifications when it comes to value.
NSCA is one of the most reputable certifications in the industry. However, it only comes in at number 6 due to its price compared to the cheaper ACSM CPT, which I would consider of equal value.
5. ACTION CPT
Action CPT is a new kid on the block, and because of that, its curriculum doesn’t have as much of a track record as the others on this list.
However, it is still good enough to espouse the fundamentals of personal training to the extent that it has earned an NCCA accreditation.
Added to this, it is priced in a way to match its value realistically by being the cheapest option you can get.
4. ISSA CPT
ISSA is a well-trusted and well-recognized provider.
Its certifications often rank as the best value for money, so it’s in my top five.
Previous iterations of this cert would have garnered a top spot in this list because they were reasonably priced and included a lot of valuable extras, such as a free nutrition cert.
However, while still providing a valuable package, the price has shot up considerably with the worthy inclusion of an NCCA accredited exam to go along with the standard DEAC ISSA test.
Being the only triple-digit price point is what forces ISSA out of the top three when value and cost are compared.
3. NASM CPT
NASM is a darling of the industry when it comes to certification.
They have produced some of the most successful PT professionals and are accepted in the best gyms in the US.
Their industry recognition alone makes them one of the most valuable certification providers, and that’s before we’ve even gone into the quality of their top-tier CPT program.
Both In-person and online personal trainers alike have benefited from their experiences as NASM candidates.
However, as the second most expensive cert, NASM misses out on that number one spot.
2. ACE CPT
Number two goes to ACE, another titan in the personal training certification arena.
ACE has a far-reaching reputation of excellence extending across the globe, giving trainers from all corners of the world the opportunity to work in their favorite gyms or start their own personal training studios.
Its IFT model is heralded as one of the best systems for deploying comprehensive, results-driven fitness to the masses, making ACE one of, if not the best, system for the general population.
ACE, however, also falls short when it comes to price, giving it the number two spot.
Before we crown our number one CPT cert, let’s look at other high-value certifications that may or may not have an attractive price but are worth considering.
These certifications are accredited (either NCCA or DEAC), which is my main criteria for value determination.
- Academy of Applied Personal Training Education
- International Fitness Professionals Association
- National Exercise Trainers Association
- PTA Global
- World Instructor Training Schools
1. ACSM CPT
And my number one certification when it comes to value vs cost is ACSM.
Now ACSM isn’t always my top pick for best personal trainer certifications in general, but it certainly finds itself in my top five.
If I were to pick a top three, ISSA, NASM and ACE would occupy that trio.
But when it comes to value, ACSM is the cheapest top 5 cert while still deploying top tier education.
Lastly, ACSM is the granddaddy of many certification providers because ACSM has lent its research and knowledge to a vast number of certification providers who, to this day, implement what ACSM has researched in their curricula.
This means ACSM is valuable to trainers serious about their careers and advantageous to other certification providers.
You really can’t beat that.
Cheapest Fitness Certification FAQ
So there you have it, folks, a comprehensive list of the ten cheapest personal training certifications.
While price is the main focus of this topic, I also took the time to shine a light on the importance of value.
It’s good to indicate your affordable options, but it’s equally crucial to pay that knowledge with value and relevance for whatever path you decide t take in fitness.