Easiest personal training certifications review. Tyler Read holds the textbooks in front of white board saying easiest cpt

Welcome to my PTPioneer article featuring the top 9 easiest personal training certifications.

Having reviewed each of these using my experience as a personal trainer for over 10 years, I’m able to give an accurate assessment of their overall quality. 

There are a ton of easy fitness training certifications out there, some of which are more difficult than others. In this article I breakdown the following:

  • Each personal trainer certification ranked from easiest to hardest training certification
  • Continuing education credits and recertification
  • What is the easiest personal training certification?

After reading this article, I can promise you’ll find the easiest personal trainer certification to fit your career goals and needs.

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No matter which certification you are pursuing, you will receive a great discount on the associated Trainer Academy MVP study materials.

However, if you’re still undecided about which personal trainer certification is best for you, I highly recommend you take the quiz to see which of these fitness organizations matches your training style.

What type of Certification are you looking to get?

Now let’s explore each easy personal training certification, shall we?

Our Top Picks

CPTCPTFeaturesPrice
ISSA CPT

ISSA CPT

  • Excellent Coverage of Technique and Aerobic Training
  • Good Programming and Periodization
  • Minimal Corrective Exercise
  • Best Fitness Certification Bundles
Check ISSA Pricing
NASM CPT

NASM CPT

  • Solid Corrective Exercise
  • Versatile OPT Model
  • Solid Behavior Change Coaching
Check NASM Pricing
NCSF CPT

NCSF CPT

  • Lower cost than comparable certifications
  • Contains essential knowledge for CPTs
  • Great online portal
  • Less brand recognition
Check NCSF Pricing

When it comes to finding the best personal trainer certification, there are some extremely challenging exams. 

For example, take the National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (NSCA-CSCS) certification.

This is rated as a gold standard certification, but it’s a tough one.

It has a 55% pass rate, which means that you’re almost as likely to fail as you are to pass, whereas the ISSA-CPT has an 89.9% pass rate, making ISSA the easiest personal training certification to pass from an organization out there. 

Determining which certification you’re more likely to obtain is pretty clear.

Not only is the ISSA-CPT the easiest, but they’re also one of the cheapest personal training certifications when purchased with the ISSA Elite Trainer package.

This includes their ISSA CPT program, ISSA Nutritionist certification, and another certification you choose for a reduced price.

Keep in mind, too, that ISSA occasionally runs deals on their website for the Elite Trainer program, so if there’s currently a deal or sale on the Elite Trainer program, it’s pretty tough to pass up for the value you get.

I’d highly recommend the ISSA Elite Trainer package discount to save you money and get more certifications, which can potentially boost your training business and income along with other benefits. 

But enough of that, the thing is, there are many easy certifications available for you to choose from. Unfortunately, a lot of the easy-to-pass certifications are the ones you must watch out for. 

As is the case with many goods and services, especially the internet variety, many scams are lurking.

And according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the personal trainer job outlook is higher than average, at 39%, so it’s no wonder scammers know you want to find out how to get personal training certification with ease.

But for the sake of brevity, I won’t be dealing with those fake certifications and bogus programs.

Instead of trying to weed out the bad, I’ll teach you how to spot some of the best personal trainer certifications, nutrition certification programs, and even online personal trainer certifications.

And to figure out which certifications to avoid, you’ll need to look out for accreditation.

Let’s dive deeper into what this means.

Personal Training Qualifications

The major qualification you need to be a personal trainer is having an NCCA-accredited personal training certification. While this is far from all it takes to be a successful personal trainer, it’s the foundation for which you will build your entire career.

Follow the accreditation

Before even looking at the personal trainer certification cost, you should look for credibility and official recognition.

And that boils down to accreditation, which is basically a certification’s certification or a badge of authenticity and verification.

Basically, a panel of industry governing experts supports and recognizes the certification.

As I mentioned earlier, you must know two accrediting bodies – the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) and the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC).

While the NCCA is older and more recognized as an accrediting body, the DEAC is more recent and was founded in response to the growing need for accredited remote learning certifications.

No matter what you do, make sure to look out for one of these two as a seal of authenticity. Gyms and employers like seeing an accredited certification over one that is not quality-controlled. 

Now you’re ready to pick the best personal training certification!

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Easiest Personal Training Certifications

The 9 certifications listed below are the easiest personal trainer certifications.

The following personal training programs are ranked from easiest to hardest based on the pass rate of their certification exam.

Note that the order of this list does not necessarily represent my top personal training certifications, just the easiest.

ISSA-CPT

Easiest personal training certifications - ISSA CPT textbook laid out with a copy of scantron exam next to it and a sharpie

Number one on my list of the easiest certification programs is the ISSA Certified Personal Trainer (ISSA-CPT).

ISSA stands for International Sports Sciences Association, emphasizing the international part since ISSA is available in multiple language regions and numerous countries.

ISSA is also unique in that, although accredited, it isn’t with the NCCA.

ISSA is accredited by the DEAC, which deals with the authentication of distance and remote learning programs.

The DEAC-approved courses have slightly different standards than the NCCA. 

Since ISSA is done almost completely online, this unique accreditation makes total sense.

The ISSA-CPT certification exam is an open book, making it extremely manageable regarding passing probability.

The current pass rate is 89.9%.

Not only is ISSA the easiest certification to pass, but it is also one of my top three overall certifications due to several aspects.

You’ll cover all the important topics from functional anatomy, human biomechanics, physiology, and proper exercise techniques to learning how you can become a successful personal trainer.

ISSA prepares you to sell personal training and provides some great personal training marketing ideas for you to kick off your career.

Recertification is required of its trainers every two years, so they earn those continuing education credits.

Also, ISSA offers one of the best group fitness certifications as well, so if you’re considering teaching group classes for that added job flexibility, go for the ISSA Group Exercise Instructor (ISSA-GEI) certification.

The ISSA-GEI will teach you the tools to become a group fitness instructor in no time and at your convenience.

Think you might be interested in the CPT credential?

Visit my ISSA review and then check out my free ISSA study guide and practice test for assistance in prepping for success with the exam.

Note that ISSA has two exams now. The DEAC-approved exam, which is the easier one, and a NCCA-accredited exam through the NCCPT, which is harder. 

The NCCPT exam has a 70% pass rate, so if you want the easier of the two exams, make sure to do the DEAC-online exam.

ISSA General Information

ISSA General Information

  • Exam cost: $999.00 (only purchased with study materials)
  • Study material cost: $83.25/month for 12 months
  • Prerequisites: CPR/AED, High School Diploma
  • Exam passing score: Scaled 550/800 – 90/125 Scored Questions
  • Exam pass rate: 89.99% 
  • Average completion time: 3 to 5 months

NASM-CPT

Easy personal trainer certification - NASM CPT textbook laid out with a copy of scantron exam next to it and a sharpie

Next up, we have the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) personal trainer certification.

The NASM-CPT is one of the most reputable certifications you can get behind your name.

Its online training course has high industry recognition and is globally regarded as one of, if not the best, fitness certifications.

NASM logo

With NASM, the focus is on a corrective exercise approach to personal training.

Even their corrective exercise training program, the NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist (NASM-CES) is a great  specialization on the market, allowing you to help prevent injuries in clients. 

The NASM CPT covers all the right fundamentals and exercise concepts effectively without being prohibitively complex and you’ll also learn great ways to motivate your clients in the gym. 

Though the NASM-CPT exam offers enough of a challenge to test your commitment to applied knowledge, it’s not too much that it can be considered hard.

For this reason, the NASM-CPT sits somewhere on the moderate side of this scale, with a pass rate of 74% for first-time test takers as of 2020 data.

However, just like ISSA, NASM now has a fully online version of their persona trainer exam which is open book, with a pass rate of around 90%.

So, if you want the easier of the two exams, make sure to pick the online version.

Just like with ACE, NASM continuing education credits are easy to obtain in-person and online.

For example, if you want to learn how to become a nutrition coach, you can do so through the NASM-CNC certification, which will award you continuing education credits toward your CPT.

Individuals are required to renew their cert every two years.

NASM is the third certification on my list of overall top three certifications.

Overall, the NASM-CPT is probably the most well-recognized certification in the industry today for both live in-person and online personal trainers.

If you’re interested in this full-bodied online course, check out my NASM-CPT review and even take a sneak peek at my free NASM study guide and practice test for better understanding. 

Exclusive PTP CPT Offers


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

NASM-CPT General Information

  • Exam cost: $899+
  • Study material cost: Included in exam cost
  • Prerequisites: High School Diploma (or GED), CPR/AED certification from a qualifying provider
  • Exam passing score: 70%
  • Exam pass rate: 79% (proctored), 90% (non-proctored)
  • Average completion time: 3-6 months
Easiest Personal Trainer Certifications - the [year] List 3
Easiest Personal Trainer Certifications - the [year] List 4

ACTION CPT

Easiest personal trainer certifications - Action CPT textbook laid out with a copy of scantron exam next to it and a sharpie

ACTION is a new certifying agency, and its certification is for a new kid on the block.

Having only gained NCCA accreditation in 2014, ACTION still has a far way to go before fully gaining the same level of recognition in the fitness industry as some other big ones on this list.

One unique aspect of the ACTION CPT certification is its cost, which is as follows:

  • Basic: $99
  • Professional: $149
  • Platinum: $249

The Basic plan comes with the textbook and a digital verification badge.

The Professional and Platinum plans include the following:

  • Main textbook
  • Free Kindle textbook
  • Flashcards
  • Digital verification badge
  • Personal job reference letter
  • Personal training from a library
  • Professionally written business plan

The Professional and Platinum plans also include access to the best personal trainer insurance rates.

Along with the ISSA-CPT, it is one of the cheapest personal trainer certifications accredited by the NCCA that you can get your hands on.

While the quality of content offered by this program is agreeable, it doesn’t hold much when compared to the other more established fitness programs discussed in this article.

Although the current pass rate is unknown, from what I’ve come across in reviews and forums, the exam is easy enough for a substantial majority of first-time exam takers to pass.

Recertification is a requirement every two years.

ACTION CPT General Information

ACTION CPT General Information

 

  • Study material cost: $99 – $249
  • Prerequisites: None
  • Exam passing score: 70%
  • Average completion time: 8 – 16 weeks.

NCSF-CPT

Easy personal training certification - NCSF CPT textbook laid out with a copy of scantron exam next to it and a sharpie

The National Council of Strength and Fitness (NCSF) isn’t the easiest exam, but it isn’t the hardest on this list. 

The 150 multiple-choice NCSF-CPT exam focuses mainly on program design material, exercise form, and corrective exercise prescription, which give you the skills to help anyone achieve their fitness goals.

With this program, there’s no doubt you’ll gain the versatility necessary to succeed as a personal trainer and maybe someday even build your own personal training studio.

If you take the NCSF route, know that this nationally accredited personal training certification has a 77% pass rate as of writing.

Recertification takes place every two years.

NCSF CPT General Information

NCSF CPT General Information

  • Exam cost: $299
  • Study material cost: $399 – $540
  • Prerequisites: 18 years of age
  • Exam passing score: 70%
  • Exam pass rate: ~77% 
  • Average completion time: 3 – 6 months

NCCPT-CPT

Easiest personal training certifications - NCCPT CPT textbook laid out with a copy of scantron exam next to it and a sharpie

The National Council for Certified Personal Trainers (NCCPT) personal trainer certification is another one that has seen a recent surge in popularity. The NCCPT is the accredited version of the ISSA CPT, so it uses the exact same curriculum.

The NCCPT-CPT is an amalgamation of around 34 different fitness certifications – a fusion of well-rounded knowledge resources.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) research plays a heavy role in what you will learn from NCCPT.

This isn’t uncommon owing to the specialized research capacity of ACSM, supplying data and knowledge to most other certifying agencies.

Also, the NCCPT-CPT, like most on this list, is NCCA accredited, meaning you can take advantage of its credibility.

The general pass rate for a first-time student is 70%, putting it on the easier end of the spectrum.

A few years ago ISSA bought the NCCPT, so if you get the NCCA-accredited ISSA exam, this is the one you’ll take.

Recertification takes place every two years.

NCCPT General Information

NCCPT General Information

  • Exam cost: $599
  • Study material cost: $999
  • Prerequisites: CPR/AED, High School Diploma
  • Exam passing score: Scaled 550/800 – 90/125 Scored Questions
  • Exam pass rate: 70% (2019 data)
  • Average completion time: 3 to 5 months

ACSM-CPT

Easiest training certifications - ACSM CPT textbook laid out with a copy of scantron exam next to it and a sharpie

I’ll kick things off with the hardest of them all – the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) personal trainer certification.

The ACSM-CPT exam is notorious for being in the same league of difficulty as other more advanced qualifications, such as the NSCA-CSCS.

The ACSM CPT has a global pass rate of 69%, making it one of the hardest certifications of all time.

ACSM is by no means an easy personal training certification.

It is robust regarding what you’ll walk away with, and its deep medical heritage and research culture place it in league with other gold standard fitness certification types.

With this certification, you’ll be successful if you combine your knowledge with important personality traits that are best for personal trainers, such as active listening and timeliness.

Unlike most other fitness certifications, you must recertify every three years, which is not too long, but not the usual two years, which I think is ideal to stay sharp.

ACSM General Information

ACSM General Information

  • Exam cost: $299-$399
  • Study material cost: $400-$1000+
  • Prerequisites: CPR/AED, High School Diploma
  • Exam passing score: Scaled 550/800
  • Exam pass rate: 69% (2020 data)
  • Average completion time: 3 to 9 months

NSCA-CPT

Easy personal training certification - NSCA CPT textbook laid out with a copy of scantron exam next to it and a sharpie

The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) is a notorious certifying agency when it comes to exam difficulty.

By now, I’ve mentioned how difficult the NSCA-CSCS is, probably one of the hardest tests out there with a 55% pass rate.

But that’s because the CSCS certification is geared toward exercise science and athletic performance optimization.

Specialized types of fitness certifications are often more difficult than general personal trainer certifications due to the specificity of the content and the certification’s more narrow focus.

The NSCA-CPT, however, is a general personal trainer certification, so you’d assume it’s easy, yes?

Unfortunately, that’s not the case, which lands the NSCA CPT pretty high up on this list, and with a 66% pass rate, it’s clear to see why.

Recertification takes place every three years for every fitness trainer. 

In all, NSCA does in fact have a strong reputational standing, so nabbing this certification will be a great investment nonetheless.

And according to my research, trainers with the NSCA-CPT had the highest overall personal trainer salary when compared to trainers with other top certifications, such as ISSA, NASM, and ACE.

However, don’t let this statistic alone keep you from going for other certifications.

Personal training rates, as a whole, vary so much and depend on many factors, such as experience level, educational background, certification, specialties, location, and a range of reasons. 

If you’re intrigued by this certification, you can find out more about the course, curriculum, costs, and final exam in my NSCA-CPT review.

Check out my free NSCA study guide and practice test while you’re at it for plenty of extra support with each topic in the NSCA textbook.

NSCA CPT General Information

NSCA CPT General Information

  • Exam cost: $435 (non-member price)
  • Study material cost: $435-$1000+
  • Prerequisites: CPR/AED, High School Diploma
  • Exam passing score: 70%
  • Exam pass rate: 66% 
  • Average completion time: 6 months

ACE-CPT

Easiest personal trainer certification - ACE CPT textbook laid out with a copy of scantron exam next to it and a sharpie

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) is another big, expert rating personal training certification that still is very popular.

ACE has a more general approach to fitness training and offers good core principles to carry you into a lucrative personal trainer career.

You’ll also learn all the best personal training tips and even some small group personal training tips as well.

And with a rich evidence-based knowledge delivery system, the ACE-CPT exam comes in at a moderate difficulty level, not too hard, but not too easy.

The ACE-CPT pass rate is 65% for first-time exam takers as of the time of writing. So, if you pass this, you are in good company. 

Recertification is required every two years.

Most ACE-certified trainers would agree that the ACE continuing education options are solid and hassle-free both in-person and online.

If you have a specific niche, you can earn continuing education credits from the specialized program of your choice, for example, personal training for seniors.

Check out my  ACE certification review, and definitely explore my free ACE study guide and practice exams for help with all learning styles. 

ACE has some great specializations in addition to their CPT, like the Fitness Nutrition Specialist (ACE FNS). 

ACE General Information

ACE General Information

  • Exam cost: $489
  • Study material cost: $489 – $864
  • Prerequisites: CPR/AED, High School Diploma
  • Exam passing score: Scaled 550/800 – 90/125 Scored Questions
  • Exam pass rate: ~65%
  • Average completion time: 3 to 5 months

AFAA-CPT

Personal training certifications - AFAA CPT textbook laid out with a copy of scantron exam next to it and a sharpie

The Athletics and Fitness Association of America is a professional fitness certification provider founded in 1983.

The AFAA Personal Training Certification is a respected personal training program.

A few years ago, NASM bought the AFAA to get their group fitness certification; however, the two CPTs are still different. 

The AFAA textbook teaches a complete approach to the techniques and exercises needed for training clients. However, the textbook does feel a bit antiquated compared to other CPT coursework.

Pass rate for this exam is 62%, although this may have changed since this statistic is from 2017. Make sure your preparation is solid in consideration for this harder exam. 

Look at my AFAA certification review for more information on pricing and quality of the program’s instruction. 

AFAA PFT General Information

AFAA PFT General Information

 

  • Exam cost:   $499
  • Study Material Cost:  $579
  • Prerequisites: 18+ years old, High School Diploma, First Aid, CPR, AED
  • Exam Passing Score70%
  • Exam Pass Rate: ~62%
  • Average Completion Time: 3-9 months

Easiest Personal Training Certifications FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Which personal trainer certification is easiest?

Out of my list of easy personal training certifications, the ISSA-CPT ranks as the easiest one of all for people to pass.

Which group fitness certification is easiest?

Overall, I’d say that the easiest group fitness instructor certification is the ACE Certified Group Fitness Instructor certification. This popular certification can be obtained in most states in less than 6 months.

What is the most difficult personal trainer certification?

According to this list, the most difficult personal training certification is the AFAA-CPT.

How hard is the personal trainer certification?

In general, personal trainer certification is not that hard to obtain, as long as you know what you’ll be in for and stay focused and dedicated to your studies. But other factors, such as experience level, educational background, and chosen certification provider, may largely influence how hard it will be to obtain your certification.

What is the fastest way to become a personal trainer?

One of the fastest ways to get a high-quality personal training certification is with the ISSA fast track. The ISSA Certified Personal Trainer – Fast Track Program can get you certified in just four weeks.

Can you become a personal trainer without certification?

Being certified is one of the most important factors in the personal training business. While no state law requires personal trainers to be certified, you should be prepared to complete an educational program that results in official certification.

What are the basic personal trainer certification requirements?

For the most part, as long as you have a high school diploma or the equivalent (GED), are at least 18 years of age, and have a current and valid CPR/AED certification, then you meet the requirements to enroll in a CPT program.

Is it worth becoming a personal trainer?

Do you have a strong passion for helping others and all things fitness and health? Then yes, it is worth becoming a personal trainer. That’s my perspective. Fitness professionals can do a lot of good in the world and have great careers. There are also tons of opportunities in the fitness industry these days. 

Conclusion

So there you have it, the easiest personal training certification programs ranked for your convenience. 

Regardless of the ease of the personal training certification program, my top three organizations are ISSA, ACE, and NASM. The CPTs from these companies are the best, in my opinion.

Keep in mind that “easiness” is just one factor and should not be the only thing you look at when deciding which is the best personal training certification for you.

In other words, the easiest path is not always the best one, so be sure to allow a degree of challenge.

This assures you of quality.

I hope that my easiest personal training certificate comparison has helped you on your quest to discover the right certification option for you.

That’s everything, happy training!

The Top 10 Easiest Personal Training Certifications [In 2023]
Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

Tyler Read


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Ask me a question and I will reply ASAP

10 thoughts on “Easiest Personal Trainer Certifications – the 2024 List”

  1. Hi Tyler! Thanks for the article. In order to take advantage of the ISSA fast track program (4 weeks), you have to sign up for one of their 12 month programs. I was hoping that was not the case.

    Reply
    • Hey Aileen, that does appear to be the case. The fast track program helps simplify studying and shorten your study time.

      Reply
  2. Good morning,
    I’m interested in getting my certification for personal use not for training purposes. I want to learn the correct way to exercise, workouts and nutrition. I kindly ask for your opinion on what you suggested is best for me.

    Reply
    • Hey Hope, I think an organization like ISSA or NASM would be most optimal for you. They have strong Exercise Science foundations and they both teach the design of exercise programs well. These are currently my two favorite programs.

      Reply
    • Hey Phebe, many of these certification organizations do have an international presence, but since I focus primarily on the US and Canada, it would be best for you to call around and see what certifications are accepted at your ideal place of employment.

      Reply
  3. Hello and good evening!

    I’m havinh trouble picking the right cert. I’m thinking the ISSA CPT might be the best one because im a high school coach in two sports and I just want to be able to train other kids in different sports and possibly do virtual training with clients. In this time i might have to shift my work to virtual and trying to become more licensed in my coaching certs. I’m licensed to coach basketball and soccer. What cert would benefit me most? Thank you for your help!

    Reply
    • The ISSA certification is definitely great for online training. All of them are good options as these are General personal training certifications. If you are looking to get a strength-and-conditioning certification as well, I suggest checking out the NASM PES or the CSCS if you have a 4 year degree.

      Reply
  4. Overall. What is the least expensive, easiest and accredited PT course to take out of them all?
    Basically, I just need the credentials on paper to start working.

    Reply
    • Hey John,
      Well do you want to know what the easiest certification is? Or do you want to know what the cheapest personal training certification is? The easiest certification is ISSA, hands down. The cheapest personal training certification is the Action CPT.

      Reply

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