A personal trainer certification is definitely not going to set you back as much as a college degree, but price is still a factor. When looking at which cert to get, most people will often start with the cheapest personal trainer certification they can find.
There is dignity in trying to save as much as you can, but when it comes to Cheap personal trainer certifications, you might end up costing yourself more in terms of time and progress.
This article will look at the cost of 10 of my highest recommended general PT certs as well as a few specialist ones. They will be ranked from the cheapest, to the most expensive.
You should also have a look at my other certification reviews if you want a better grasp of the other variables at play when considering which cert works for you.
I recommend you take this quick quiz. I put it together for you to have a quick evaluation that will help you decide.
If you have any burning questions that this article or the quiz haven’t answered for you, drop a comment and I’ll answer.
With all that out of the way, I present to you my guide on the Cheapest personal training certification.
Value vs Cost. Which is More Important
We all want to save our money, but at the same time, we want to spend it on the best quality stuff, and absolute catch 22.
That’s because cost and quality correlate in proportion with each other in most cases. This means the more expensive something is, the higher the quality it possibly possesses and vice versa.
An extreme pitfall of the cost/quality relationship is the existence or numerous online scam and bogus certifications. These predatory certs offer nothing in the way of useful knowledge or industry recognition. Avoid super cheap internet certs at all costs (no pun intended).
Because of all these weeds in the PT field, a way to defend both the consumer and the certifying agencies is through the little known process of accreditation.
This is basically a certification for certification that gives you the assurance that what you’re getting into will be another step forward instead of back.
For this reason, my advice to you is to always prioritize value (what something is worth) over price (monetary cost)
How Value is More Important than Cost
There are many factors to look at when trying to determine value of a good certification. And while cost is definitely a big one, you’ll need to look at other factors that make it possible to determine value.
Accreditation is an essential indicator when you’re out trying to choose a new certification. As I mentioned, accreditation is how a certification gets authority and credibility.
This is done through two main organizations, the NCCA (National Commission of Certifying Agencies) and the DEAC or Distance Education Accrediting Commission. These two bodies are headed by a unified panel of industry leaders who specialize in fitness and sports science.
The NCCA is the more popular accreditor, with most of the top certifications having it as their backing. DEAC on the other hand, is equally credible, but has a narrower focus on distance and remote learning based institutions such as ISSA.
Never settle for anything less than a certification with one of these two accreditations. Anything else won’t get you far I’m afraid.
Industry reputation if you want clients, gym owners and sports management to give you a second look. Beyond just being accredited, you also need pursue a cert that’s regarded and supported by your chosen career path.
Industry reputation is indicated by popularity amongst your peers and colleagues. It’s also a lot to do with the history and heritage of a certification, which will also determine how stable the learning delivery and outcomes are.
The reality is some certifications are designed for specific scenarios such as performance and nutrition. In that case, you’ll need to decide which specific path you feel like taking.
The length of time between having to do a revision test is known as the re-certification period. It’s an industry standard the usually sees you re-certifying every 2 years, more in certain cases.
The aim of re-certification is that by doing so, you continue maintaining and progressing your knowledge and ability to apply sound and correct principles as a trainer or coach.
It’s also an indicator of quality and value in that you can basically get an idea of how frequently the knowledge update cycle is for a particular certification or certifying agency.
If you just feel like gaining a general cert that lets you in the door with gyms and clients, get one with a longer re-certification period. If your aim is to constantly enrich yourself with leading edge applied knowledge and perhaps become an authority on fitness science, go for one that requires more regular re certification.
How hard is the exam?
That’s a very common question and one worth taking into account when deciding the value of a certification for yourself. That is because difficulty dictates risk vs reward,
For example, an exam like the NSCA CSCS has a high risk of failure, but at the same time is one of the most rewarding certs to carry, especially for a career in professional sports management. For any other reason, the reward might not be worth a 45% probability of failure.
On the other hand, an exam with a low risk of failure, a.k.a an easy exam, might lack the right degree of challenge and incentive and diminish the quality control mechanism baked in the exams to only select for the best performers.
The basic rule of thumb is, the harder and exam, the more worth it is to get, as long as it’s for the right field.
The biggest determining factor in all this is YOU!
What do you want? What sort of trainer do you want to be, do even want to be a trainer? Are you trying to conquer the fitness world or are you just looking for something random to do.
Asking yourself what you’re in it for is a great way to decide which cert, if any, is the most valuable option for you.
Personal Trainer Certification Cost Ranking: Top 10
1. ACTION CPT ($99)
the crown for cheapest accredited personal trainer cert goes to ACTION CPT. at only $99 for all student resources and exam access, this is the only certification on this list that costs a double digit figure. Find out more about ACTION in my review here.
2. NFPT CPT ($249)
The National Federation of Professional Trainers or NFPT comes with 2 recommended options to choose from. The standard package and premier package, which respectively go for $249 and $349. More on NFPT in my full review.
3. NESTA CPT ($477)
NESTA goes for $477 for the full study and exam plan and $299 for just the exam. If you want to know more about this cert, check my NESTA review here.
4. NCCPT CPT ($478)
This cert ranges between $399 and $478 depending on the package tier you decide to go with. Why not take a look at my NCCPT review article for more info.
5. ISSA CPT ($499)
ISSA costs a cool $499 for the standard suit of study material plus the exam. This cert is unique in many ways, including its global presence. Find out more in my review here.
6. NCSF CPT ($499)
This cert will set you back $499 for everything you generally need to prep and take the exam. You can have a look at my review of NCSF for a full scope of what to expect.
7. ACSM CPT ($521)
ACSM costs around $521 to register for the exam and make use of the available study material. As with all the other certs, I’ve written up a review to help guide you through the ins and outs of ACSM.
8. ACE CPT ($599)
To get in on ACE with everything you’d typically need, you’re looking at $599. I’d rate the ACE CPT as one of the best, if not the best value when it comes to what you pat and what you get. the study materials are second to none, and the exam offers enough of a challenge to help you cement relevant concepts. If you want to know more, check out my review article for more insight on this certification.
9. NSCA CPT ($712.80)
the NSCA CPT costs around $712.80 for the exam and study resources. with a steep price and a steep difficulty curve when it comes to the final exam, you need to have a solid prep plan in place before tackling this behemoth. I’ve got a handy article with a detailed breakdown of NSCA CPT here.
10. NASM CPT ($799)
NASM will cost you $799 to get you into the exam and get you the necessary prep material. This makes it the most expensive cert on this list! NASM could do better with the study material offered, but with the credibility this cert gives you, its worth every dime and more.
If you want more on this NASM certification, check out my review here.
And that’s my top ten personal trainer certifications, ranked from the cheapest (ACTION), to the most expensive (NSAM).
Remember, there’s more than one factor that determines which the right certification for you to take is
Now let’s briefly go through a few specialist categories and the costs of the various different certification options.
4 Strength and Conditioning Certifications Ranked by cost
Now let’s look at 4 Strength and conditioning certifications and how they weigh up based on cost. These certifications allow you to choose a career in specialized training for elite athlete population groups such as pro-athletes, college amateurs and athletic development academies.
- NSCA CSCS: $260
- CSCCa SCCC: Member:$360 – Non Member: $470
- ISSA SSC: $799
- NASM PES: $699 – $999
As you can see, it’s quite a range of costs, so check out my full comparison of strength and conditioning certs to help you make your decision
6 Nutrition Certifications Ranked by cost
Nutrition is the real key to significant results, both in body composition and performance. Let’s look at 6 of the best nutrition certs and what they cost. These certifications allow you to add comprehensive diet and nutrition strategy to your exercise offerings for a full rounded service.
- ACE Fitness Nutrition Specialist: $299
- NESTA Fitness/Sports Nutrition Coach $449
- ISSA Sports Nutrition Certification: $499
- AFPA Nutrition and Wellness Certification $599
- Precision Nutrition Certification level 1: $799
- NASM CNC Certified Nutrition Coach: $899
If you want a full detailed background of all these nutrition certifications, please check out my review article here.
3 Corrective Exercise Certifications Ranked by cost
Corrective exercise is an essential aspect of health and wellness. It deals with locating and improving aspects of the biological machine that may be out of check. Here, we take a look at the best certifications to get you started in this field based on cost.
- NASM CES: $699
- ACE (biomechanics method) CES certification $749
- ISSA corrective exercise certification $799
Those are my top 3 corrective exercise certifications. If you’d like to learn more about them, go ahead and check out my full review of them here.
To sum things up, I just want you to understand that while cost is a major factor, the real question is the question of value. How valuable is a cert to the industry you prefer will determine how valuable it is to you.
If you want to know more about what sort of certification your trainer profile type would go for, take my quiz. You could also drop a comment below and let me know if you have any specific queries you’d like for me to address.