The ACE and ISSA CPT certifications both do a good job of giving you the skills you need to train clients in the modern fitness industry. The ACE IFT Model is great for a plug-and-play template, while the ISSA CPT is better for making custom programs and special populations training.

Tyler Read holds up ACE and ISSA textbooks on a table - ISSA vs ACE

Welcome to the ultimate comparison of the ACE and ISSA CPT certifications. Having taken both ISSA and ACE training programs I can give you an accurate assessment of which is best.

I’ve been a trainer for over 10 years, utilizing ISSA and ACE CPTs in my practice. I am also certified through the other main fitness organizations and the team at PT Pioneer includes coaches with top training certifications from ACE, ISSA, NASM, and NSCA, among others.

Together we assessed ISSA vs ACE using our PT Pioneer methodology to find the best personal training certification

This ACE vs. ISSA review looks at these certifications closely and involves diving into the similarities and differences in these categories:

  • Pricing, packages, and prerequisites for ACE and ISSA
  • A deep dive into content, knowledge, and skills of the two certifications
  • Difficulty of exams and study material review
  • Pros and cons of ISSA vs ACE

Cut your Personal Trainer Certification study time in half with premium study materials for the programs in this article.

Use the code PTPJUNE to receive between 35% and 50% (depending on the program) off the Trainer Academy MVP Study System. Get the trial for any of their study systems here and check out my review for Trainer Academy here.

If you feel overwhelmed by the number of CPT certifications on the market, I recommend you take the quiz to find out which top fitness certification is the best fit for you to obtain.

ACE vs ISSA - which Should You Choose in [year]! 5
ACE vs ISSA - which Should You Choose in [year]! 6

Once you finish reading this ISSA vs. ACE comparison article, you will know which of these two impressive personal training certifications is right for your career.

I hope you are ready; let’s dive in.

ACE vs ISSA

Quick Breakdown: ACE vs. ISSA

CPTACSM vs ACE Quick BreakdownFeaturesPrice
ACE ACE
  • One of the most popular and highly regarded certification providers in the world
  • A non-profit organization that drives many community-based projects
  • A good entry point for new, up-and-coming fitness professionals
  • NCCA accredited
View on the ACE website
ISSA ISSA

 

  • Great customer experience and support
  • It goes in-depth into the business aspect of personal training
  • It tests you on a wide variety of skills
  • Relaxed testing and retesting criteria
  • In-depth, robust main text and study guide
View on the ISSA website
ACE
ISSA
Product
Product
ACE
ISSA
Exam cost
Exam cost
$499
$699+
Study Material Cost
Study Material Cost
$509+
$828+
Prerequisites
Prerequisites
18 years of age, High School Diploma/GED, CPR/AED Certified
18 years of age, High School Diploma/GED, CPR/AED Certified
Exam Passing Score
Exam Passing Score
72%
75%
Exam Pass Rate
Exam Pass Rate
70%
90%
Average Completion Time
Average Completion Time
3-6 Months
2-4 months
Trainer Academy Guides
  • Complete curriculum study preparation
  • Audio guide, flashcards, and mnemonics
  • 800+ practice questions
  • Exam pass refund guarantee
  • Cheaper pricing than premium materials
Provider Materials
  • Curriculum study preparation
  • Includes text, graphics, and videos
  • 200+ practice questions
  • No exam pass refund guarantee
  • $899.00 for ACE starter package
PTPioneer Study Guides
  • Curriculum material overview
  • Complete chapter breakdowns
  • 60 practice questions
  • 130 flashcards
  • Exam cheat sheet
  • Free from PTPioneer

What is ACE?

ACE stands for the American Council on Exercise and is a leading nonprofit exercise professional and health coaching certification organization.

ACE’s primary mission is to increase access to exercise for the general population. 

A lot of the ACE content revolves around teaching how to inspire clientele to put the work in and stay motivated so they can increase their overall well being. 

ACE uses their patented Integrated Fitness Training (IFT) program, which gives trainers a great starting template for workout programming.

Every person you work with will be different, so having a starting template which you can make adjustments to can be helpful.

Also, ACE’s personal training certification is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), the gold standard for any fitness certification.

I notice that most gyms like hiring ACE-certified trainers. 

What is ISSA?

ISSA is the International Sports Sciences Association and is among the most respected CPT providers in the fitness industry.

ISSA was one the first certifications to take their teaching online, and they have an incredibly easy-to-follow workflow for getting your certification right from your home.

ISSA also offers great certification options for an entry-level candidate learning how to become a personal trainer and supplies some incredible specialist fitness certifications.

Is ISSA accredited by the NCCA?

ISSA has an NCCA-accredited version of their personal trainer certification and a non-accredited version, both available for the same cost when you sign up for the course. The only difference is that you will opt to take the accredited ISSA exam when scheduling your test. The accredited version is harder, but I generally recommend it for all my ISSA students.

Regarding the ISSA exam information, the study materials for each version of the ISSA CPT exam are identical.

However, the NCCA accredited version of the exam is more difficult than the distance education version and also more respected.

Regardless of your specific certification, I recommend all aspiring trainers consider adding a nutrition coaching certification to their personal training resume.

After all, physical training is important, but without the ability and qualifications to help your clients on the nutrition side of things, you will deliver mediocre results.

Conversely, combining nutrition coaching and personal training will help you get better results for your clients and earn more money doing so.

To crush it as an ISSA certified trainer, I would further consider adding specialized programs such as group exercise, health coach, or corrective exercise to your resume.

Having the “full stack” of certifications means you can serve even more niche clientele with everything they need to crush their specific fitness goals – ultimately leading to a much more lucrative personal training career.

The great news is that the ISSA and ACE offer additional nutrition and specialist certifications. If you pick either of these organizations for your CPT, you can stack up your credentials.

I will say that the price tag for three certifications adds up quickly.

If you choose the ISSA CPT, I highly encourage you to check out the ISSA Elite Trainer Bundle.

issa-elite-trainer

The Elite Trainer package gives you these three ISSA certifications (ISSA CPT, nutritionist, and choice of specialization) at over a 50-percent discount to purchase each product individually.

With our exclusive PTPioneer offer, you can pick up the ISSA Elite Trainer bundle for $1308 paid in full or $109 per month for 12 months.

The interest free financing allows you the time to finish the certifications and start making money before paying for everything.

If you aren’t fully sold on doing the full three certifications up front, you can still get 2 certifications for the price of one when you choose the ISSA CPT and Nutritionist certification

With our PTPioneer ISSA deal, you pay $1188 in full or $99 a month for 12 months, which is a similar cost to purchasing the CPT alone without any deals.

Now, deals do not last forever, so I highly encourage you to check the ISSA website. If you can take advantage of this deal, it’s tough to pass up.

Pros and Cons of ISSA vs ACE

Tyler Read holds up both ISSA and ACE textbooks against a whiteboard that reads issa vs ace

ISSA and ACE both cover the essentials you need to become an excellent personal trainer. Despite this, each CPT offers unique benefits and drawbacks.

ACE shines in the area of motivational coaching. If you feel as if you don’t have the tools to get someone excited about changing their fitness habits, making healthier choices, I would definitely consider ACE. 

The ISSA cert covers behavioral coaching thoroughly, but ACE gives candidates more.

If you are more interested in learning the science behind how the body works and responds to exercise, how to program good strength and muscle building workouts, ISSA excels over ACE. 

ISSA also gives you excellent business skills content compared to ACE. This enables you to actually make money as a personal trainer, once you know how to sell your services and manage your client roster in and out of the gym. 

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On the negative side, ACE doesn’t include too many business skills in their CPT certification. When you’re taking your first steps as a new trainer, having some business know-how should be a priority, so you can earn an income with your passion.  

The only real negative with ISSA comes from the price: the ISSA CPT costs more than most other personal training certifications.

ISSA and ACE certification packages and study materials

ACE and ISSA textbooks on a table with a money sign behind them and gold coins - Ace vs ISSA, which certification costs more

CPT certifications from ISSA and ACE come with multiple pricing options depending on level of study materials and features. 

ACE offers three main packages for their CPT certification. All of the packages are of high quality, and when choosing a certification package to pursue, it really comes down to how much someone thinks they need to study.

Here are the three main packages:

ACE Basic Study Package – $675 on sale; this includes:

  • ACE University
  • ACE Certification Exam
  • ACE Practice Test / Practice Exam
  • ACE Personal Trainer Textbook (digital)
  • ACE Personal Trainer Study Companion
  • ACE Answers (basic)

ACE Plus Package – $745 on sale; this includes:

  • Everything in the previous ACE Basic Package
  • ACE Personal Trainer Textbook (both digital and hard copy)
  • ACE Personal Trainer Study Companion
  • ACE Answers (plus)
  • Exercise Science 101 Certification Course

ACE Advantage – $975 on sale, this includes:

  • Everything in the previous ACE Plus Package
  • Facilitated Study Groups
  • Exercise Science 101
  • Dedicated Advantage Team

If this seems pricey upfront, don’t stress about the decision.

You can start studying today with my free ACE CPT study guide and practice test before spending any money on expensive materials.

My PTP students report cutting their ACE study time and effort in half with Trainer Academy.

Benefit from the Exam Pass Guarantee and Retake Fee Guarantee. Plus, take advantage of my current discount code PTPJUNE for 35% off the MVP Program (Ends  June 20th, 2024).

Try it out for free here to see if it’s right for you, or read my detailed review for further insights.

If you do want to pay a premium for the official ACE CPT Study Materials, you are always free to do so.

Now, let’s look at the ISSA personal training certification cost.

ISSA offers a one full payment option, but they also offer monthly payments. The ISSA CPT costs $999. 

This price includes ISSA online study materials: 

  • Online textbook
  • Study guide
  • Online practice quizzes
  • Audio and video lecture options
  • Online workbook
  • Online student forum
  • ISSA take home personal trainer certification exam
  • Free NCCPT accredited exam
  • CPT education boot camp
  • Fast track program
  • 5 in 5 client program
  • Free professional Website
  • Unlimited support

You can kickstart your ISSA CPT studying today by checking out my free ISSA study guide and practice test, which will give you a better feel for what to expect from the ISSA.

Suppose you are stressed about spending money and potentially failing the ISSA exam. In that case, I recommend purchasing a third-party study package with an exam pass guarantee, such as the Trainer Academy ISSA CPT MVP Study Bundle.

As I also mentioned, I highly encourage you to get a nutrition certification and additional fitness specialization alongside your CPT certification.

If you do opt for the ISSA CPT, the best move by far is to get the ISSA Elite Trainer Bundle which includes the CPT, nutritionist, and specialization certifications.

As I mentioned, you can get an exclusive discount on the ISSA pricing when signing up through our link below.

If you are going to become an ISSA CPT, it’s really a no-brainer to go for the Elite Trainer program for the added skill development. 

Also, if the Elite Trainer seems like more than you want to handle right away, you can get the ISSA CPT and nutrition certification together for a lower price through our PTPioneer deal.

Of course, if the ACE CPT is more up your alley, they also frequently run promotions. Check the ACE website directly to take advantage of any current deals.

It’s certainly safe to say the ACE CPT will not let you down regarding the skills and knowledge needed to be a successful personal trainer.

ACE and ISSA course layouts

ACE and ISSA textbooks open to their table of contents - course layout of ISSA vs ACE

ISSA and ACE trainer certifications teach different domains to various degrees.

Let’s dive into each one and see how these training courses handle exercise science, behavior change, consultation, screening, program design, special populations, business skills and nutrition. 

These topics cover the essentials needed to become a successful personal trainer.

If you want more detail into the individual certifications, look at the rest of PTPioneer for articles like the ISSA personal training certification review.

Exercise science

All fitness certifications cover the foundations of exercise science and kinesiology in some way, and both ACE and ISSA both include sections on these topics. 

The American Council on Exercise handles the basics of exercise science in the same textbook sections as their practical skills.

Combining exercise science with practical skills gives you some detail on the two topics, but I personally don’t like this method.

ACE does a great job of merging this exercise science information with their IFT model for designing programs, but some of the finer points of biomechanics and body systems feel a bit underdeveloped. 

ace curriculum

When I compare ACE to ISSA, I think that the ISSA cert gives fitness professionals a bit more here.

ISSA mainly aims to teach their personal trainers to develop great programs. But, they still meet the expected mark for their exercise science foundations, including info on kinesiology, biomechanics, and diagrams of the body’s muscles. 

Both ACE and ISSA offer specializations which go deeper, but both these programs will be enough to get you started as a personal trainer. 

ISSA’s anatomy and physiology coverage is done well and worth looking into when considering exercise science. 

Let’s look at Behavioral Coaching next.

Behavioral coaching

ACE does an excellent job with behavioral coaching, surpassing many of the top certifications in personal training.

The ACE CPT offers their own behavioral change coaching system known as the Mover Method. 

I would say that the Mover Method stands above all other PT certifications as the best behavioral change system I have reviewed. 

The Mover Method is a philosophical approach that believes healthy lifestyle behaviors begin with empowering clients to take a personalized journey where they can achieve their goals.

This happens due to the empathy and trust set up from the personal trainer and the proper communication and collaboration developed with the client. 

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The first step comes from assessing the stage of change the client is at, then establishing processes of change, and finally building self-efficacy. 

It truly is the better approach to behavior change when compared to most other CPT certifications. That doesn’t mean other certificates offer bad behavior change ideas, as ISSA still provides in-depth materials to study optimally and learn motivational tips as well. 

ISSA covers all of the motivational interviewing and other required materials well in their chapter on behavior change. They do a good job setting up how to set smart goals for clients to succeed. 

The ISSA cert content offers a similar approach to ACE, but it is not presented in as clean and comprehensive as with the ACE Mover Method. It is much easier to apply a behavioral change system like ACE teaches than the individual components discussed with ISSA. 

Motivations and behavior coaching are essential so that you can help your clients progress and stay motivated throughout their journey.

Some other items touched on by both organizations in this realm would be the important personality traits and similar improvements for personal trainers. 

Let’s look at client health screening next.

Client health screening

ISSA and ACE textbooks opened to pages, ISSA shows tape measurements

ACE uses the risk screening protocols from ACSM, and ISSA has a very similar offering.  

So, ACE uses some reliable information from which they receive from outside certification organizations, but they only give you one real cardiovascular performance assessment, which is based around the Talk Test.

ace-screening chart for whether client participates in regular exercise

I personally don’t think this test is enough. ISSA gives you multiple examples of cardiovascular assessments like the Step Test, the Cooper 12-min run test and the one-mile walk test.

ISSA also offers more postural chain assessments, a component to corrective exercise. It’s also good to assess motion restrictions within your client’s movement in the screening session. Different individuals will all have different mobility. 

The health screening documents are mostly the same, as all CPT certifications handle this subject well.

All in all, ISSA wins out here, although ACE will work as well. 

Next, let’s look at the program design and resistance/aerobic exercise technique.

Program design and resistance/aerobic exercise technique

ACE is at the top of the game when it comes to setting up exercise program designs for both resistance and aerobic training. They provide a library of thousands of exercises for the user to access, which ISSA has as well.

ACE Mover Method diagram and chart

The textbook also utilizes its own ACE IFT model, which is the integrated fitness training model. Their online study system will categorize the exercises based on that, so it is very fluid and understandable for someone once they have a little knowledge of ACE’s IFT model. 

The ACE IFT model translates well with either aerobic or resistance training, and they really implement the program variables such as reps, weight, sets, rest time, and periodization. It is a comprehensive training program, and ACE makes studying and learning for new trainers very easy. 

ISSA does not have a competing model for training, like the ACE IFT. Still, ISSA teaches the basics and beyond regarding exercise programming, form, and ways to progress towards a goal with weights. 

Their exercise library and other online mediums do contain the same breadth of knowledge that ACE holds. 

ace-ift-cardio

The training principles and periodization techniques are taught to par with the competitors. They still give everything a trainer needs to use their creativity with program designs and workouts for clients.

Let’s look at how these two organizations handle special population training next.

Special populations

Special population training is essential for fitness trainers, as it needs to be done correctly to adequately teach all types of clients. 

The specific special populations that certifications cover include a range of groups like: 

  • Pregnant clients
  • Clients with chronic ailments
  • Obese clients
  • Adolescents
  • Senior clients
  • Clients with disability
  • Clients with other long term injuries

Both ISSA and ACE place great care on this topic, so you can rest assured knowing that you get a quality certification with special population training covered well, assuming you choose one of these certifications.

ACE and ISSA devote many chapters to different special population groups, like personal training for senior citizens. They do an excellent job of clarifying how the general population’s training guidelines change for these special populations. 

They both also handle explaining these issues in their entirety. This really adds to the understanding of not just what you change in special population training plans but also why you make the specific changes for each category. 

There are even example plans for these special population groups, which can’t be any more helpful than what they provide. Both certifying organizations receive a 10/10 in handling special population groups. 

Nutrition

Both ACE and ISSA cover nutrition fundamentals throughout their study materials.

Both programs cover this material across multiple chapters and go through all of the standard parts of CPT nutrition coverage.

ACE nutrition chart with dietary intake guidelines

The certification programs cover topics like basic nutrient information, metabolism of nutrients, supplementation, and more. 

The two organizations also put a lot of emphasis on hydration and fluid guidelines to help with keeping your clients healthy while exercising and in everyday life.

You won’t miss out on any fundamental information with either of these certifications, and they all lay the excellent groundwork for their nutrition or health coach certifications. These certs are the ACE FNS and ISSA nutritionist.

In terms of comparing ACE vs ISSA here, I think ACE gives you more habit-based tools to work with, while ISSA deals more with nutrition science and sport performance.

Business skills

While ACE does give you all you need to know about scope of practice and legal guidelines, they don’t mention a significant amount of personal trainer marketing tips and business strategies.  

For someone planning to build their own fitness business, it would be good to know more from the get-go.

ISSA, on the other hand, does give you an entire chapter on business and marketing, including how to write a business plan, and keep track of clients. 

This is a huge boon to anyone getting started in the fitness industry and one of the reasons I think ISSA trainers tend to make slightly more money than ACE certified personal trainers. 

For a deeper look at the content in both of these certifications, check out my comprehensive ISSA personal trainer certification review and ACE certification review.

Next, let’s dive into the certification requirements with these two and compare personal training certification requirements.

ACE vs ISSA - which Should You Choose in [year]! 5
ACE vs ISSA - which Should You Choose in [year]! 6

Certification prerequisites

Both ISSA and ACE require the standard personal trainer prerequisites: you must be over 18, have a current CPR/AED certification and a high school diploma or GED equivalency. 

ACE vs ISSA CPT salary

According to Ziprecruiter, average ACE certified personal trainers make on average $53,838, while ISSA CPTs make $65,555.

I think in part, this disparity comes from the fact that ISSA includes more business skills advice in their training program. 

Remember that both these numbers give you just a suggestion of how much you can make with these programs rather than actually tell you your starting salary. I know many trainers who make much more than this and some who make less.  

Which exam is harder, ISSA or ACE?

ISSA vs ACE textbooks laid out next to each other on table

The exam experience could decide the best online personal training certification; let’s see how that looks for these digital fitness certifications.

The ACE CPT exam has a pass rate of 70%, sometimes dipping down into the upper 60s. If you compare the ACE vs NASM CPT exam, you see that ACE is quite a bit easier based on data. 

The exam grade required to pass is 500 out of 800 on the test, which comes in at 90 out of 125 scored multiple-choice questions. 

This is a pretty standard passing score and passing rate for the industry, whereas ISSA has an easier and less common score. 

If you do happen to fail ACE’s exam, you will be forced to pay a fee of $249 to retake the exam. That should be enough motivation to want to prepare adequately with lots of study. 

The DEAC-accredited ISSA exam has a pass rate of 90% for first-time test-takers. This is an absurdly high pass rate for the industry, and it is for one specific reason. 

The ISSA test is not proctored, so no one is monitoring the activity and integrity of the test-taker.

It is also an open-book exam, so nothing can stop someone from looking up all the information needed to pass it. Partner this with the free retake, and it is virtually impossible to fail this certification on account of all the retakes and open-book format.

There is also no time constraint on the exam.

With that in mind, I highly recommend taking the NCCA accredited version of the ISSA exam, which has a pass rate of 70 percent, making it on par with ACE. It is nice to have the flexibility with ISSA to take either exam though.

I would say you need more time for ACE exam prep to pass the ACE test than it does for a future ISSA coach to pass theirs if you take the non-accredited ISSA exam.

With the accredited version of the ISSA exam, the exam difficulties are even, but ACE is still slightly more difficult in this matter. 

ISSA vs ACE recertification details

Most CPT certifications require recertification every few years, so you must keep up with their terms, submit a set amount of hours, and recertify; otherwise, you do not stay certified. 

Continuing education units, or continuing education credits as they are sometimes called, are attained through attending specific classes and events and then receiving the accompanying hours, which count as the credits. 

ACE has one of the most standard policies for recertification. They require 20 continuing education unit hours, equal to 2.0 continuing education units. These must be attained within two years.

The ACE organization also supports many outside organizations for trainers to attain their units for recertification. 

Also accompanying these hours will be a recertification fee. For ACE this is $129 for one certification, which then decreases in price per certification depending on how many you have from ACE.

ISSA has a similar recertification process where they work on a two-year recertification basis and require the exact same 20 hours of continuing education units. 

ISSA recertification implements one exceptional policy: you do not have to pay a recertification fee if you get your units through their organization. But, if the hours are achieved through other organizations, you must pay a minimal cost of $99 to recertify. 

So, if you are looking to not pay for recertification, ISSA would be a better choice, as when you achieve CEUs through them, you do not pay. 

Examples of great ISSA CEUs include the ISSA group fitness certification and the ISSA nutrition coach, which is the same certification as the Precision Nutrition Coach.

Both organizations still have rather great deals regarding recertification, which is part of the reason they stay at the top. 

This is a list of ISSA programs which will give you CEUs:

These ACE programs will also count towards recertification:

ACE vs ISSA overall ratings

ISSA and ACE textbooks with yellow question boxes and stars - which cpt is better - ACE vs ISSA overall rating

In conclusion, the ISSA and ACE are highly regarded in the fitness industry, and they have some similarities that make it hard to choose between them.

I give ISSA a rating of 9.5 out of 10 and ACE a 9.2. This is due to the inclusion of business skills in the ISSA CPT and the better assessments.  

Which personal training certification would you consider to be the best certified personal trainer program? In other words, Which is better, ISSA or ACE?

An ISSA course will be my recommended choice for personal training certification in most scenarios, even without NCCA accreditation, a still well-respected exam, and it covers the essential skills and knowledge to a greater degree.

If you are still deciding which personal trainer certification is best for your goals, be sure to take my quiz below to get started on your personal training journey!

It is likely the best fitness trainer certification in the industry next to organizations like the National Academy of Sports Medicine fitness trainer cert. 

Free study guides for the ISSA CPT or ACE CPT can be very helpful to kick start acing the materials.

The value of both organizations is quite high, so it depends on where you want to go with your career. Which fitness certification is best for you may depend on various factors we have not gone over here.

Ready to start your CPT program?

Then check the official websites to view the latest PTPioneer deals on ISSA and ACE. You can also look at my individual ACE or ISSA personal training reviews. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How does ISSA Stack up to ACE?

ISSA beats ACE at the end of the day, but the two are both in the top class leading CPT certifications in the fitness industry. You can be a successful personal trainer with either company, but if you are on the fence, I urge you to go with the ISSA fitness trainer certification. It is the best personal trainer certification, in my opinion, when compared to ACE.

How do you become a Personal Trainer?

By learning the fundamentals of exercise science careers and fitness programming through an educational experience such as a fitness certification in one of these companies or many more.

Is Personal Training with a credential from the ACE or ISSA organizations worth it?

Yes, personal training is an excellent field to get into, and it is highly recommended that you choose a certification from a respected organization like these two. I would still put preference toward ISSA accreditation.

Do Personal Trainers Need a degree?

No, you do not need a degree to be a personal trainer. Extra education will never hurt your job chances, but it is not a requirement for personal training. Strength and conditioning (like the ISSA strength and conditioning, ISSA SAC) jobs may require further education.

Is the future of personal training good?

A personal trainer’s prospects usually depend on many factors, from coaching ability, marketing, certification recognition, etc. If you want more information about this, check out the link here. ISSA jobs in fitness are growing.

How hard is the ACE certification?

The ACE certification is moderate-to-hard. The personal trainer exam should not be underestimated. However, with adequate preparation, you can readily become an ACE certified personal trainer.

How hard is the ISSA certification?

The ISSA certification is moderately difficult and requires you to prepare beforehand, especially if you take the accredited exam version.

Is ISSA nationally accredited?

The ISSA certification can be accredited or not, depending on which version of the exam you take. You can become an NCCA accredited CPT with your ISSA certificate when you purchase your ISSA exam or CPT package.

Is ACE internationally recognized?

Is ISSA any good? Yes. ACE is recognized internationally in many cases and is accredited in Europe through the EHFA. Nevertheless, I always recommend checking the gyms or fitness trainer employment setups in the country where you plan to sell your services for what certifications they require.

How long is the ISSA certification good for?

The initial ISSA certificate is valid for two years, at which point you will need to recertify by completing continuing education credits.

ISSA vs ACE Certification - Which is best for you in 2023? 🤷‍♂️

ISSA vs ACE (Podcast)

Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

Tyler Read


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50 thoughts on “ACE vs ISSA – which Should You Choose in 2024!”

  1. Hi Tyler,
    I have been reading all of your articles. I really appreciate this blog and the time you have spent to put it together! I have been in education for 22 years, specifically in languages and am looking for a career change. I am trying to decide between ACE and ISSA for a CPT (I would take the NCCPT version of the ISSA test) and then a nutritionist cert. I am having a hard time determining which program would be most beneficial and be most hirable in the most gyms. It seems like 6 in one and half dozen in the other. I really just want to be hirable as a personal trainer/nutritionist.
    Thanks!
    Ally

    Reply
    • Hey Ally, Both ISSA and ACE are among my top choices for personal training certifications, so that you couldn’t go wrong with either of those choices. I think ISSA may currently have the upper hand with the deals they offer and bundles of certifications that learners can choose from. I hope it all works out!

      Reply
  2. Can you please tell me if ISSA certifications are approved by majority of the GYM’s in Dubai? As one if the ISSA representatives said that it might be acceptable in some and some might require “reps” accreditation and there’s a whole new process for that… so can you kindly clarify this “reps” thing to me as it has got me a little confused

    Reply
    • I actually don’t know how it is handled in Dubai, but as an internationally recognized certification, it definitely has its presence over there. You should ask some of the local gyms to see what certifications they are looking for from employees.

      Reply
  3. For your information ISSA NCCA accredited just a month back. It has 3 certifications accredited by NCCA.
    Personal trainer
    Strength & conditioning
    Yoga instructor
    Its as per their website.
    Can you please check the authenticity?
    Thanks in advance

    Reply
    • Thanks for pointing this out, I am meaning to upgrade my articles. Yes it’s true they now have multiple NCCA accredited certifications. They are a great choice if you are trying to decide which certification to choose.

      Reply
  4. HEY TYLER,

    I have been doing enough research on this topic either which is the best course to be picked up! And according to your article ISSA Is recommend but i see lotta ACE, NASM discussion in the comment section! i’am from nepal and iam into bodybuilding and planing to start online training one o one and also i’am starting personal training! So what could be the best option for me.

    Reply
    • Hi Prakash, thanks for reading the article and comment section. Since you’re from a bodybuilding background, I think any of the three would be great options. The ISSA is internationally recognized, so that would be a better option for you seeing as you’re from Nepal.

      Reply
  5. Hi. I am confused because I spoke to a rep from ISSA today and she said that their program is NCCA accredited and I looked on the website and it states that you take the free NCCA exam. It also states:
    “ Accreditation:
    The following exams have been accredited by the NCCA: Certified Personal Trainer (CPT), Certified Group Exercise Instructor (CGxI), Certified Yoga Instructor (CYI), Certified Indoor Cycling Instructor (CICI) and/or the Certified Strength Training Specialist (CSTS).“

    Has it changed since you posted the comparison or is it still not the same certification as ACE and NASM offers?

    We are interested in ISSA because of their current deal but want to get a respect certificate.

    Reply
    • Hey there, thank you for pointing this out to me. I have been needing a Refresh on my articles for a while. yes, ISSA now has five separate NCCA accredited certifications including their personal training certification. They are definitely one of my top recommended certifications because they have excellent support, great study materials and overall fantastic information. I highly recommend them.

      Reply
  6. Hello Tyler,
    I am bodyweight/calisthenics and mobility (Animal Flow/GMB) practitioner. Which cert. do you think is mostly applied on the above? Thank you.

    Reply
    • If you were looking for mobility and corrective exercise information and you want to learn more about that I think that the National Academy of sports medicine might be your best option.

      Reply
  7. HI Tyler,
    I want to become a PT but I also would like a certification in group training. my focus is working with women over 40 who’s body is changing constantly and can’t exercise like a 20 year old. I am more interested in cardiovascular and strength training specially for weight loss and stress release. I am torn between the ACE and ISSA. I am just starting out on this journey and would be so grateful for some guidance. From the article I read, I understand that I have to be CPR certified… I am not currently certified in that, Is this the first step I should take?
    and if so where would I have to go to certify?

    also, I like the fact that it is an open book test and that I can retake it, just in case. I have high anxiety when it comes to test taking.

    Thank you for your response,
    Lili Bothwell

    Reply
    • I definitely recommend getting a general personal training certification first such as either one of these two. Afterwards, if you want to specialize more in group exercise training, you can get a specialization certification in that area. That is the route that I recommend you take. Yes you do need a CPR and AED certification to get any one of these certifications. Good luck with your training career.

      Reply
  8. Hey Tyler, I’m trying to figure out what kind of personal trainer I might be and hence which cert would be best to pursue using your quiz, but there are multiple choice options which I know are there but are cut off. What do I need to do to access them? I’m using a Chromebook but I also tried using my cell phone and I get the same issue.

    Thank you!
    Beth

    Reply
    • What device are you using? Have you tried to access it on a laptop as well as a phone? Which personal training questions in particular are getting cut off or is it the whole entire quiz?

      Reply
  9. This really helped me thank you so much! I have a bachelors in exercise science and I’ve been trying to find nutrition certifications.

    Reply
  10. Thanks bro for answering all,
    I am highly experienced in this field (Nutrition and personal trainer) currently living in Europe I am looking for two courses that might lift a bit my information and give me a valid certification in world, I find ACE is worth with the offers these days, do you have any offers or comments?
    thank you,

    Reply
    • Both certifications are fantastic. Depending on you where you work you should find out which certifications your local gymnasiums accept. Good luck with your personal training career.

      Reply
  11. Hey Tyler,
    I have just complete my diploma in mechanical engineering.But I want to make future in fitness field.And I want to start from base.i want learn every basic points too with knowledge.nd I don’t have much more .I asked in gym then manager say go with issa but I’m confused between issa or ace for cpt .I checked their books ND I found their is more knowledge in issa (may be I’m wrong).so brother please give your useful thoughts on it.i get combo in issa but scared that if I don’t get job after certification?ND even listen that ace is hard to give.thank you brother.

    Reply
    • Hello there, I definitely understand your concern. The most important thing is that you check around at your local Fitness facilities to see which certification day except. In terms of the information provided, both certifications are excellent and you will get a lot of great information from both. It really just depends on your style end which certification is required in the area that you will be training.

      Reply
  12. Hey Tyler,

    I am a self taught trainer and already have a great clientele but for some professional reasons, I am planning to take the ISSA or the ACE. Though I feel like ACE has a slight edge, the ISSA Nutrition + Trainer seem more value for money. My question is if there is something similar to the ISSA Nutitionist + Trainer combo for ACE. I mean if I were to do ACE, what nutrition cert would be a good combination for a similar price point or even slightly better, which would you recommend . ISSA PT+Nutrition or ACE +some nutrition

    Reply
    • Hey Bomee,
      I have never seen the American Council on exercise couple their personal training certification with a nutrition certification. It is a smart thing to do though as nutrition and training go hand-in-hand. I agree with you that it is great value for the money with the international sports Sciences Association combination. That being said, the American Council on exercise is also a fantastic cert.

      Reply
  13. 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

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  14. 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?

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  15. 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?

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

      Reply
      • 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!

        Reply
  16. 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?

    Reply
  17. 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?

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  18. 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 ?

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
      • 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

        Reply
        • 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.

          Reply
  19. 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

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
        • 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

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

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply

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