Welcome to the PTPioneer article featuring the top 10 easiest personal training certifications.
There are a ton of personal training certifications out there, some of which are more difficult than others, and this fact led me to discuss the following:
After reading this article, I can promise that you’ll find both the easiest and best personal trainer certification to fit your career goals and needs.
However, if you’re still undecided about which certification is best for you, then I highly recommend you take the quiz to see which one best matches your training style.
Now let’s explore each certification, shall we!
The Easy Way Out
When it comes to finding the best personal trainer certification, there are some real war zones out there.
For example, take the National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (NSCA-CSCS) certification.
While this is rated as a gold standard certification, it should really be rated “pain in the butt.”
Because 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 and is actually the easiest certification to pass.
It’s pretty clear to determine which certification you’re more likely to obtain.
And not only is the ISSA-CPT the easiest, but they’re also one of the cheapest personal training certifications, especially when purchased as the ISSA Elite Trainer package.
Keep in mind, too, that ISSA occasionally runs deals on their website for the Elite Trainer program, so if there’s currently a deal on the Elite Trainer program, it’s pretty tough to pass up.
I’d highly recommend the ISSA Elite Trainer package not only to save you money but to get more certifications for your money, which can potentially boost your training business and income.
But enough of that, the thing is, there are many easy certifications available for you to choose from, and 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, there are many scams lurking.
And according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the personal trainer job outlook is higher than average, at 39%, so its 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.
And in order to figure out which certifications to avoid, you’ll need to look out for accreditation.
Let’s dive deeper into what this means.
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, the certification is supported and recognized by a panel of industry governing experts.
As I mentioned earlier, there are two accrediting bodies you must know – 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.
Now you’re ready to pick a certification!
Easy Does it?
Before running down the list, let’s discuss if an easy certification is really the way to go.
After all, the harder a certification is, and the longer it takes to become a personal trainer, the more of an incentive it is for test-takers to properly learn and apply the material.
Well, it’s really not that binary, because some of the harder certifications, such as the NCSA-CSCS.which I mentioned earlier, are actually lacking in many fundamental aspects.
The strange thing is that the NSCA-CSCS has no practical component and teaches you how to become a strength and conditioining coach purely based on theory.
While it still holds up as one of the best strength and conditioning certifications, it has such a low pass rate, you’d think it’s got all its bases covered in terms of applied concepts.
I’d recommend reading my CSCS review for more comprehensive information on this certification.
On the flip side, an easy certification, such as the ISSA-CPT, has a ton of practical relevance for an applied approach to coaching clients.
Now allow me to dive into my top 10 certifications from easiest to hardest.
Easiest Personal Training Certifications
The 10 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.
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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, with an emphasis on 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 NCAA.
ISSA is accredited by the DEAC, which deals with the authentication of distance and remote learning programs.
Since ISSA is done almost completely online, this unique accreditation makes total sense.
The ISSA-CPT certification exam is open book, which makes it extremely manageable in terms of 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.
You’ll cover all the important topics from functional anatomy, human biomechanics, and proper exercise techniques to learning how you can become a successful personal trainer.
Recertification is required of its trainers every two years, so 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, go for the ISSA Group Exercise Instructor (ISSA-GEI) certification.
The ISSA-GEI will teach you how to become a group fitness instructor in no time and at your convience.
Think you might be interested in the CPT?
The NPTI fitness trainer program was developed in 1997 by Eugene Mcilvaine.
Unlike most of the other certifications on this list, NPTI is an extensive 500-hour program, where your progress and qualification are directly tied to the hours you put in and the coursework you do.
The NPTI program uses a hands-on approach, with classroom and practical activities forming the bulk of your learning experience.
This outstanding course provides stimulated sessions training clients and experience with essential personal training equipment.
In my perspective, you only learn how to be a good personal trainer by stacking up on all the experience you can possibly get.
Surprisingly, NPTI does not have a final exam and does not award you with an exam pass certification.
Instead, what you get with NPTI is a non-accredited diploma, which, in my perspective, is a shame considering how well-structured and unique this program is.
Overall, NPTI finds itself in a weird place on this list where it’s neither here nor there in terms of difficulty.
The biggest problem I have with the NPTI is its overall price tag, which goes at over $700 most of the time.
3. ACTION CPT
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 Platimum plans include the following:
- Main textbook
- Free Kindle textbook
- Digital verification badge
- Personal job reference letter
- Personal training form 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 occurs every two years.
The National Council for Certified Personal Trainers (NCCPT) personal trainer certification is another one that has seen a recent surge in popularity.
The NCCPT-CPT is an amalgamation of around 34 different fitness certifications – a fusion of well-rounded knowledge resources.
The research conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) 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 rely on its credibility.
The general pass rate for first-time test takers is 65.9%, putting it on the easier end of the spectrum.
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Recertification takes place every two years.
The National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association (NESTA) is an innovator in the expert rating certification game.
They continue to evolve these tools, which helps fitness professionals better manage and interact with clients for more maximized outcomes.
And one of the biggest personal trainer benefits includes helping clients maximize their outcomes both inside and outside of the gym.
Since the NESTA-CPT is one of the newer certifications on this list, its status isn’t quite as established as the others here.
However, it rose up the ranks as a tried, true and reputable certification.
NESTA offers great specailty certifications, too.
So you’ll have the opportunity to learn how to become a health coach, about group training, HIIT and conditioning, and much more.
Based on the most recent statistics, NESTA offers a more lenient, but not easy, experience when it comes to the final exam.
Although the challenge level is one thing, the fact that you have a full 2 hours to complete just 100 questions might suggest why it’s relatively easier.
The NESTA-CPT pass rate is 65.4% for first-timer test-takers, which is a median pass rate when compared to these other personal trainer certification programs.
The one thing I dislike about this program is that recertification takes place every four years.
I think this is too long of a time gap for fitness professionals to obtain their continuing education credits.
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) is another big, expert rating personal training certification that stands neck-and-neck with NASM in terms of recognition, reputation, and popularity.
ACE is a great establishment to be associated with and all of its certifications are NCCA accredited.
ACE has a more general approach to fitness training and offers good core principles to carry you through into a lucrative career as a personal trainer.
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.
Recertification is required every two years.
Most ACE-certified trainers would agree that the ACE continuing education options are outstanding 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.
Overall, ACE is the second certification on this list that is in my top three overall certifications.
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 a high level of industry recognition and is globally regarded as one of, if not the best fitness certification.
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) holds up as one of the best specialty certifications on the market.
It covers all the right fundamentals and exercise techniques effectively without being prohibitively complex and you’ll learn great ways to motivate your clients as well.
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 64.3% for first-time test takers.
Just like with ACE, NASM continuing education credits are made easy to obtain both in-person and online.
You’ll be required to renew your certification 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.
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 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 58% pass rate, it’s clear to see why.
Recertification takes place every three years.
In all, NSCA does have a strong reputational standing, so nabbing this certification will be a great investment nonetheless.
And according to my research, trainers with the NCSA-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 more.
If you’re intrigued by this certification, then you can find out more about the course itself, 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, too.
The National Council of Strength and Fitness (NCSF) is one of the toughest exams on this list, making it to the end of the ranking.
The 150 multiple-choice question test has many tricky questioning standards which require plenty of preparation and strategic insight in order to avoid tripping up.
The NCSF-CPT exam focuses mainly on program design, exercise form, and corrective exercise prescription, which enables you 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 to someday even build your own personal training studio.
This nationally accredited personal training certification has a 57% pass rate as of writing.
Recertification takes place every two years.
Overall, the NCSF-CPT is definitely not for you if you’re going for one of the easiest certifications to get.
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 54%, making it one of the hardest certifications of all time.
ACSM is by no means an easy personal training certification.
It is robust in terms of 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 successfful as long as you combine your knowledge with important personality traits that are best for personal trainers, such as active listening and timiliness.
Unlike the most other fitness certifications, you’re required to recertify every three years, which is not too long, but not the usual two years, which I think are most ideal to stay sharp.
The Easiest Conclusion Ever
So there you have it, the easiest personal training certification programs ranked for your convenience.
Overall, regardless of the ease of the personal training certification program, my overall top three are the ISSA, ACE, and NASM certifications.
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 a 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 for you.