ACE vs ISSA – Let’s See which one you Should Choose in 2019!

Hey everyone and welcome to my ISSA vs ACE article! After finishing my article, I am sure you will have a much better idea of which one of these two top certifications is the better choice for you!

Also, do not miss my ultimate must-read article of the top 5 CPT certifications! If you like the VS article format I suggest my articles: ACE vs NASM and ISSA vs NASM.

Afterwards, make sure to check out the ACE website as well as the ISSA website for more information. Check out Trainer Academy for the best study materials for either certification. The team over there offers an exam pass guarantee and overall will reduce your study time by 50%.

I recommend that you Take the quiz to find out which personal trainer certification is the best fit for you.

The menu at the top of this page will answer any question related to personal training that you have. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave me a comment here (I’ll respond within 24 hours). Also, visit the home page for the most recent and popular articles.

No matter which one you choose, I have awesome free study guides for both certifications:

Let’s jump right in.

Get 3 certs for 1 with the ISSA Elite Trainer Program ($1,400 of savings).

Save 25% on NASM with code PTP25 or Save $200 on the ACE CPT.

Get 50% off MVP study materials for NASM, ACE or CSCS at Trainer Academy
50% off NASM study materials or 50% off ACE study materials or 50% off CSCS study materials

ACE vs ISSA Quick Information

Both ACE and ISSA are considered general certifications. These two has been certifying professional trainers in the fitness and health industry for a while. They are both credible organization with a few others.

Is ACE accredited?

Yes, ACE is accredited by the NCCA.

National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) is a non-profit organization responsible for accrediting profession certification programs and Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) is responsible for accrediting distance educational programs. These two agencies are well recognized in the United States.

ACE currently offers two study packages which will cost you $299 and $499 whereas ISSA usually varies between $599 and $699. ISSA only offers one study package for their certification whereas ACE offers two different study packages that all costs different amounts and include some degree of different study materials. ISSA has a first-time pass rate of approximately 90% while first-time test-takers with ACE pass at a rate of approximately 65%.

ISSA offers general Personal Training certification courses and also go further into the advance specialization courses comprising of fitness nutrition, exercise therapy, sports nutrition and many more.

To qualify to write the certifications exam, ISSA and ACE requires that you have the following;

  • A current CPR and AED certification
  • You must have a high school diploma or equivalent
  • You must be at least 18 years of age
  • A valid identification

These are the minimum requirement in the industry unless you are reaching for Master Trainer and Elite Trainer Certification from ISSA. The Master and the Elite trainer certifications exams requirements are stricter.

The overall focus and recognition of ISSA and ACE


You may ask what does ISSA mean?

ISSA stands for International Sports Sciences Association. ISSA trainer certification covers a wide variety of topics within the realm of personal training. This makes the certification a good one for beginners. The body of knowledge has a pretty general focus on all aspects of personal training. I put the ISSA trainer certification in the general category as it covers a wide variety of topics.

An ISSA Certified Personal Trainer can do so much as help clients create an exercise program at the same time design proper nutrition because it is part of their curriculum. The study materials contain so much information about good eating habit and good exercise.

Is ISSA NCCA accredited?

The answer is No, ISSA is not accredited by the NCCA but by the DEAC. The Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) is responsible for accrediting distance educational programs. DEAC is also a non-profit organisation established in 1926.

Compared to the ACE certification, ISSA trainer certification digs a little deeper into is powerlifting, including the concept of the “strength curve” which is focused on athletic performance.

They also have an excellent overview of how to train people with special needs, as well as individuals who are focused on weight loss (the most common goal for clients). An ISSA Certified Personal Trainer is well equipped for the job of personal training.


First and foremost, what does ACE stand for in personal training industry?

ACE stands for American Council on Exercise and this organization has been in the health and fitness industry since 1985. This organization has certified over 90,000 fitness professionals.

Like ISSA, ACE is also an excellent certification for people who are starting out with very little – or zero – knowledge about personal training or exercise science. This is why I put in the general category for personal training certifications.

It covers all the basics and general principles of personal training and provides an extensive collection of different exercises that will allow you to design personalized routines for your clients with ease.

ACE uses a model called the IFT model which stands for Integrated Fitness Training. This model is highly recognized and used throughout the fitness industry as a way to progress clients through a program safely and effectively. Has a strong emphasis on endurance training (cardiorespiratory) and functional training which allows you to reach a huge market of people looking to lose weight.

Overall, both of these certifications are great for beginners, especially those who intend to work with clients seeking to lose weight or get active again after a long stretch of minimal physical activity.

Check out the official video from ACE:

I have to give the slight edge to ACE certification thought due to the IFT model which I think is slightly better for programs design for a wide variety of clients.

The Winner for certification focus is ACE

Popularity and Industry Recognition


To me, the ISSA certification is recognized as the international certification. It has certified over 200,000 people in approximately 91 countries in the world.

You can take this certification test online so no matter where you are in the world you will be able to get certified with ISSA.

Almost every single gymnasium will accept the ISSA Trainer certification. Although there are some exceptions where employers do not accept certifications that are not accredited by the NCCA. You should ask your potential employer what certifications they accept before choosing one.

The ISSA certification is accredited by the DEAC (formerly the DETC) which is recognized as a very credible accreditation agency. In my eyes, both of the DEAC and NCCA are equal in terms of how legitimate they are as accreditation agencies.


The ACE certification is definitely one of the most highly recognized certifications in the industry. I have personally never talked to an employer that does not accept the ACE CPT.

From the ACE website, they state that they have certified approximately 90,000 individuals in the health and fitness industry. Some of the top employers for ACE-certified individuals are 24-hour fitness, Crunch fitness, anytime fitness and many more.

Here is a snapshot for the last 12 months of Google trends popularity between the ISSA certification and the ACE certification.

Both certifications have similar trends in terms of which months they are popular. Overall the ACE certification is much more searched compared to ISSA.

The winner for popularity/recognition is ACE

Info on the study materials and price 

ISSA certification review:

The ISSA certification cost is on the average except for the advanced specialization courses. ISSA offers only one certification package costing $799 plus a free nutrition course.

The package includes textbooks, additional materials online for studying, and the actual test. Occasionally they do have sales when the cost of the certification package is only $499 but this is only on rare occasions. Check here for the current price on ISSA.

The package comes with a hard copy of the textbook, a study guide for the textbook, practice quizzes and exams, and exercise reference guide, access to an online student forum, access to their online exercise lab and unlimited support from ISSA fitness professionals.

The textbook they provide is over 759 pages long and contains an extensive collection of exercises and examples. Regarding the strategy for taking this test, you should know that the test is an open book.

I think that the online exercise lab is cool because it shows you 250 animated exercises so that you can see how to perform the exercises perfectly in a three-dimensional view. Also, having access to fitness professionals whenever you have a question is very helpful.

It’s also cool to note that ISSA is one of the only certifications that offer a hard copy of their textbook with their cheapest package. Lots of other certifying agencies only offer a PDF version unless you pay additional.

It’s essential to highlight and mark important information as you study, so you can easily reference it later when you’re taking the test.

Get 3 certs for 1 with the ISSA Elite Trainer Program ($1,400 of savings).

Save 25% on NASM with code PTP25 or Save $200 on the ACE CPT.

Get 50% off MVP study materials for NASM, ACE or CSCS at Trainer Academy
50% off NASM study materials or 50% off ACE study materials or 50% off CSCS study materials


The ACE certification cost way lesser than ISSA. They provide two certification packages to select from. It can also be cheaper if you choose the least expensive option which is only $299 (prices change, see the current price). This option is called the ACE Basic Study package.

This option includes the textbook in e-book format, practice exams, access to ACE study coaches, the study manual in e-book format, the ACE Academy elite, access to personal training resources and of course access to take the test. The other option, which is more expensive, include additional study materials.

The Plus study option includes a hardcopy of the primary textbook, a hard copy of the study manual as well as access to the essentials of exercise science for fitness professionals. This option costs $499 in total. If you are the type of person that likes to highlight stuff or have a hard copy of the textbook, this is the package for you.

This package also comes with the addition of the fitness math online course. This basically goes over the difficult to understand concepts such as your VO2 maximum, energy expenditure concepts or body composition. If math is not your strong suit, this is the package for you.

Overall the prices between ACE and ISSA are almost identical. The biggest difference for me is that ISSA gives you a hard copy of their textbook with their package which makes all the difference to me. Both have access to fitness professionals if you ever get stuck on the concept. Both provide fantastic supplementary study materials as well but ISSA takes the slight edge.

For the best study materials, check out Trainer Academy. Reduce your study time by 50% and get an exam pass guarantee.

Here’s a link to my free and awesome ACE study guide.

The winner for study materials/price is ISSA.

Check out my free study guides, practice tests and flashcards for both certifications on my site:

Info on the tests and recertification 


Don’t get me wrong, even though it is an open book, this test is still very challenging.

The ISSA Personal Trainer Certifications test is online and you can do it in the comfort of your home. It has different sections, and you must score 75% or above in all of them to pass. The sections include multiple-choice, case studies, and essay questions. The consensus is that the case studies section is the hardest part of the test.

The ISSA trainer online test case studies focus on developing a progressive 12-week routine for two individuals with specific needs or goals. This is why it is critical that you spend a lot of time studying routine development, particularly in special populations, if you plan to pass this section of the test.

The overall pass rate for the ISSA exam is approximately 90% due to the fact that it is an open book test.

Even if you end up failing on your first time around with ISSA, to retake the test on your second try is absolutely free. If you end up failing your second time as well, a minimum fee of $50 will be charged for your third attempt.

The recertification requirements for ISSA are;

  • You get 20 units of continuing education every two years, this is approximately 20 hours of continuing education.
  • Renew your CPR and AED certification and pay the fee.
  • Pay the certification fee. The fee is $99 to recertify with ISSA.

If you aspire to be a fitness trainer and this certification interests you, I highly encourage you to check out my complete article that provides more detail. Check out my full review of ISSA here or check out the ISSA website for more info.


The ACE test is not easy, and you should prepare and study very seriously; the pass rate for first-time test takers is only 65%.

There are several resources you can access for exam preparation. One of those resources is the ACE Practice Exam kit, it comes with 750 practice questions and it cost $29.95.

Overall there are 150 multiple-choice questions. In order to take the test, you need to go to the ACE website and sign up with one of their approved test-taking facilities. Most of the test (approximately 70 to 85%) come from the application and analysis section. So make sure to study the section extra hard if preparing for it.

In order to pass you will need to answer approximately 90 of the 150 questions correctly. This equals right around 500 points on their grading scale.

After you purchase the package of your choice, you will have six months to sign up for a test date and take the test. During the test, you will have three hours to finish all 150 multiple-choice questions.

If you happen to fail on your very first time, the retest fee costs approximately $199. So make sure you study hard for your first time around!

Ace requires you to get recertified every two years and requires approximately 20 hours of continuing education. The cost for recertification is $129 for one certification. The recertification requirements are the same as that of ISSA, the fee is the difference.

In addition to checking out their website, I recommend you read my complete article on the ACE certification here.

Overall I like the test-taking process with ISSA due to the fact that they do multiple-choice, short essays as well as real program design Incorporated in their exam. They also have a completely free retest fee as well as a cheaper recertification fee after two years.

Test your knowledge with my free ACE practice test here.

The winner for the test and recertification is ISSA

Conclusion on ISSA vs ACE

After reviewing the two certifications in the industry, I presume you would ask these questions.

Is ISSA a good certification or is ACE a good certification?

The answers to the two questions are yes, depending on what you want from each of the certifications.

Regarding the actual body of knowledge, I really would recommend either of these certifications for people just starting out in the personal training business with a minimal understanding of exercise science.

Overall the winner of this comparison (by a hair) is the ACE certification!

The only reason I’d recommend ACE over ISSA is that ACE has greater recognition within the personal training industry. Some employers only accept NCCA accredited certifications which include ACE but do not include ISSA (it is DEAC accredited).

If you want to drastically reduce your study time, check out Trainer Academy for awesome study materials.

Either way, both are fantastic and you should have no problem getting a job with either. Make sure to check out both sides below so you can get to know these organizations a little bit better before you make your final decision.

For those of you who would like to see this comparison in video format, here is the video I made a few years ago. Overall, my article is more up-to-date than the video.

Thanks for stopping by everyone, Don’t forget to leave a comment. Also, share this page using the social media icons if you found it helpful!

You should check with your potential employer to see which certification they prefer between ISSA and ACE. You should never get a certification that won’t be accepted at the place that you are looking to train, so it is best to ask.

I strongly suggest that you Take the quiz to find out which certification is best for you if you’re still on the fence about which one to choose.

As mentioned before, ISSA does have a slight emphasis on power training and athletic performance relative to ACE, so if you are planning on having athletes as the majority of your clients, I would recommend considering the ISSA certification.

Another proper certification that is great for training athletes is the NASM PES. You should also keep in mind that you don’t need to pick just one certification. I highly recommend getting multiple certifications, including advanced certifications.

This will make you a much more dynamic personal trainer with an array of knowledge across many facets of personal training.

After considering everything, I have to give the edge to the ACE personal training certification because more gyms accept it, they have better study material, and the test is not an open book.

I prefer tests that are not an open book because it means you have to memorize the material! ACE is one of my two favorite certifications with the other one being NASM ( read my review of NASM here).

I hope my look at  ISSA vs ACE helps clear things up for you so that you can choose the certification that is appropriate for you. Here are some additional ACE comparison articles that you might enjoy reading: ACE compared with NASM, ACE vs NSCA and ACE vs ACSM.

Here are some additional ISSA comparison articles as well: ISSA vs NASM, ISSA vs ACSM and ISSA vs NSCA.

I hope you found this article helpful, and if you have any comments or questions, please submit them in the comment box below.

24 thoughts on “ACE vs ISSA – Let’s See which one you Should Choose in 2019!”

  1. Helo sir,
    I want to become Nutrionist.But don’t know what to choose ISSA or ACE.i have to start from 0 i have done Bachelor of bussines administration degree.plz help.

    1. I think that ACE is a better springboard especially if you would like to get started with nutrition. I was start with their general personal training certification.

  2. Im certified by ISSA as an SSC.I’m from India and people give neither respect nor recognition to the certificate. In spite of scoring 89% in my exams and despite the fact that I have several years of experience I am offered almost the same salary as the other uncertified guys. The problem with ISSA is that since it is an open book test , any and everyone who don’t have good command over English or don’t just want to study, is getting the answers from the representative of ISSA in India. It cost me Rs 31000 to enroll for ISSA and all across the country all that I’m getting offered by gyms are Rs 12000 p.m (max). Some even don’t offer personal training for the first few months. Choosing ISSA was the biggest blunder in my life

    1. I am sorry to hear that. It sounds like there are not too many regulations on who can become personal trainers and what is required in India.

        1. Hey Navneet,
          The retest fee for ACE is usually $199. That is unless you purchase the premier package which comes with a free retest option just in case you end up failing the first time. Good luck with all of your studying

  3. Hey Tyler, real good stuff on your review. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    I check the both websites. Great programs.

    ISSA have the online program and international exam test, also ACE has the same exam test, here in my city in Brasilia/Brasil.

    I only have question if i can take the ACE curse all on-line like ISSA ?
    Also, do you know if this both certification have good acceptance in Canada ?

    1. Hey Kyle,
      With ISSA you can take the exam from your own personal computer. With ACE you need to go into and exam taking facility. I just checked for you and there are five locations in Brazil that you can go to in order to take the computerized ACE exam. In terms of the course itself, yes you can do everything in regards to studying online with the ACE certification. In terms of acceptance in Canada, it really varies from gymnasium to gymnasium but I would think that they would have a very similar acceptance to those in the United States.

      1. hello tyler , i like your article it eplained a lot of things , i have a uestion similar to this i’m from tunisia but i live now in kuwait , is it allowed to have the test here in kuwait ? thank you

        1. I mostly just focus on the most important certifications in the United States since that is where I am from. I do not really have expertise on all of the other countries but I do know that some certifications are valid in Europe and surrounding areas such as the ACE and NASM certifications. I would check with your local gymnasiums that you would like to apply to to see which certifications they accept. That is the most sure way you will know which one to go for.

    1. Hey Aseel,

      Yeah there is nothing wrong with getting another certification. It will only make you a better trainer overall and give you a different perspective on training 🙂

  4. I am a Nurse Practitioner and I am looking into getting my CPT and a nutrition certification. Would possibly like to start my own business soon. Any suggestions regarding which very based on this information?

    1. Hello Jennifer,
      well in terms of both of these aspects, both of these certifications have a nutrition certification and both of them touch upon business aspects in their general personal training certification as well. That being said, ISSA frequently has deals combining a free nutrition certification with their general personal training certification. This is a fantastic deal as you are basically getting a free $500 certification for free when this promotion is going on.

  5. Hi I am muaythai Instructor from India. I want to take a personal training course. I want to know how what is the duration of the ACE course. How much time whill i get to finish the course?

  6. Hey ! Great webpage! Thank you for the comparisons! I was trying to compare all this myself and it was getting quite overwhelming …Haha. So my question for you is which cert would you recommend: I have seen a personal trainer in the past and have some knowledge on personal training from PT and browsing the web, but i am interested to learn for myself the correct way to train to minimize injury and to have the most beneficial workout… And hopefully down the line train others if i am sucessful lol
    Also i live in Ontario, Canada… how do i find out if there are exam facilities for the ACE here?
    After looking at your webpage I am leaning toward ISSA or ACE… right?

    1. You can take the ACSM CPT at many Pearson Vue places in Ontario and it’s higher regarded than both of these other certs.

      1. Hey Jay,
        Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Depending on where you live and what gym owners you are talking to Really depends on which personal training certification is valued the most. ACSM Is a great certification as well!

  7. I m due for ISSA recertification sept 2020 …. however I like the ACE certification ceu courses better …. can I use ACE ceu’s for ISSA recertification?

    1. Hey Darlene,
      It all depends on which certifying agency but for the most part, other certifying agencies do accept the same or similar continuing education. I do know for a fact that most certifications will except getting certified by another organization as legitimate continuing education for their own certification. In terms of the continuing education courses offered by the American Council on exercise, you will have to check with ISSA directly in order to find out. I hope this helps.

  8. What is the difference in ncca credited (ace and nasm) and certified department of education( issa ) do you consider one to be better then the other and why? Thanks for your time

    1. Hey Jeff,
      the biggest differences between NCCA accredited certification such as the American Council on exercise or the national Academy of sports medicine, and certifications that are not accredited by the NCCA (such as ISSA) is that they require their testtakers to take a proctored exam. Meaning that you need to be monitored while taking the exam as opposed to having the test be online or not monitored. This is the biggest difference. That being said, the majority of gymnasiums or employers to accept ISSA as a legitimate certification because they have other legitimate accreditations such as the DEAC. I do know that they are working on getting NCCA accredited as well so that there testtakers could have the option of taking the NCCA accredited version or the online DEAC accredited version. I hope this helps answer some of your questions.

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