In this article, I’m going to answer this often-asked question: “how long does it take to become a personal trainer?”
It is one of the most common questions I have encountered in my 10+ years as a personal trainer.
In the end, you’ll know how much time you need to dedicate to getting qualified.
Let’s get going!
How Long Does It Take To Become A Personal Trainer? (Video)
How Long Does It Take To Become A Personal Trainer? (Podcast)
Becoming a certified personal trainer (PT) or an exercise specialist, as some call it is your ticket to a rewarding career where you help people achieve their personal training goals and change their lives.
In this article, I will break down step by step exactly how long it takes depending on your level of knowledge and which personal trainer certification you choose to study.
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.
I also recommend that you Take the quiz to find out which PT certification is right for you.
Make sure to check out Trainer Academy CPT study materials that cut your study time in half as well as offer an exam pass guarantee.
Learn more about The trainer Academy in my review on them.
I also have a free study guides and practice exams for the majority of the personal training certifications on this list.
It can also be a financially rewarding job if you know how to gain clients and keep them happy.
This article will break down the most common question that I get as a personal trainer.
How long does it take to become a personal trainer?
Unfortunately, this question is not all that straightforward, and there are many factors to consider such as your work schedule, the amount of free time you have to dedicate to study, and your motivation levels.
You also need to factor in the additional time costs of maintaining your qualification in the years ahead.
Since you’ve reached this article, you are probably reasonably interested in becoming a personal trainer.
The most helpful articles for you to read after this one are the ultimate guide to starting as a personal trainer.
We will look at the five best and most popular PT qualifications and the maximum completion times each course allows.
I will also give realistic estimates that take into account day to day obligations such as full-time work and extracurricular activities.
Well, the general answer is about 3 to 6 months, but there are a lot of variables at play that could lengthen or shorten this time.
A Word to the Wise
This section is one to pay more attention to as it holds very vital information.
Before discussing “maximum course times,” “prerequisites” and “continuing education requirements”.
I want to quickly mention how important it is to select a “respectable” course that will be widely recognized by some industry bodies and potential employers.
While I will deal with the five most credible PT certifications, in my opinion, you should still see what’s out there.
Here are a few factors you should always take into account when assessing whether or not a personal trainer certification exam is worth investing in.
The Quality of the Accreditation
Every PT qualification should be sanctioned by an accreditation body to be legitimate.
These organizations act as quality control overseers to ensure a course is delivering minimum training standards.
In my opinion, the only two credible personal training accreditation bodies out there for the United States fitness industry are the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) and the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).
When selecting a course make sure it has a first aid teaching component, such as CPR/AED.
That teaches students how to deal with a person who is having heart problems, or there is a first-aid incident.
You need to have a CPR/AED certification before you can take the test for any legitimate personal training certification.
This is another time factor you need to consider before getting certified. Usually, CPR/AED courses are a one-day event and last just a few short hours.
It is essential to choose a course that teaches this component because of the working environment of a PT.
This includes people pushing themselves and their bodies to the limit and since most states require a defibrillator to be present in the gym environment, most employees are required to have training.
Most employers of PTs such as sports clubs, community organizations and gyms will also require you to have studied a CPR/AED.
After over ten years in the personal training industry and familiarity with dozens of different accreditations, I can confidently say that the certifications with the highest industry recognition are NFPT, ACE, ACSM, NASM, ISSA, and NSCA.
These agencies are either accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) or by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC).
Make sure to read my article on the top five certifications!
That is not to say that other certifications are not good or not worth looking into.
It’s just that these five are generally considered to be of the highest quality by many players in the health fitness space.
How do Students Progress Through a Personal Training Course?
This section focuses on general information on how you can progress through your personal trainer journey with ease.
Unlike college qualifications that will usually commence at a set time and then proceed according to a specific schedule (such as semesters or trimesters), PT certification courses will usually allow you to study at your own pace and take the final qualification exam at a time of your choosing at an approved exam location.
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This being said, many certification programs will have an expiry time on when you must sit the exam by.
For example, the ACE certification requires students to sit the exam within six months of purchasing the program materials, and the NASM certification needs students to sit the exam within one year of course purchase.
Other study programs like the ACSM qualification don’t have an expiry date, and students can take as long as they like with the materials before registering for the exam.
This means that someone with extensive knowledge of the subject matter of a course (such as a person with lots of experience in the industry or a person with a bachelor’s degree in a health or fitness field) could prep for and take the exam within a concise space of time.
Various courses and their duration
In this section, we will be discussing the various courses and the estimated time-frame to complete each.
Maximum Course Duration and Realistic Course Completion Time
Here is a breakdown of the maximum time you will have to complete the following five high-quality PT certification courses. I’m also going to estimate regarding a realistic completion time.
While your completion time for these courses will vary according to personal factors such as your workload, amount of free time and motivation levels.
I’ve based my estimates on the “average” hypothetical person working a 9-to-5 job with weekends off.
Detailed reviews of all the below courses can be found here.
This PT certification from the American Council on Exercise is excellent for people who are just getting into personal training, as the organization’s course material has a gentle learning curve making it accessible for people from a variety of backgrounds and education levels.
To find out more about the ACE certification, and exam information check out my full review here.
I highly suggest you check out their website as well.
How long will it take? — Students have 180 days (or six months) from the time of purchase until their exam registration expires.
Because most people come to this course with little or no prior experience and the information you learn is quite general and covers many different topics, a realistic completion time for this qualification is about 4 to 5 months.
This time can be cut in half if you use the ACE study materials over at Trainer Academy.
They also offer an exam pass guarantee.
I also have a pretty cool free ACE study guide here on my website.
The PT certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine is one of the best training courses out there.
It has grown in recognition and credibility over the years.
This course is very well run, NCCA accredited and has a strong focus on corrective exercise training for targeted demographics such as the elderly, pregnant women, people with eating disorders and people recovering from illnesses.
The NASM PT certification is one of the most highly sought-after qualifications in the industry and has wide recognition amongst gyms in the United States.
If you want more info about this certification, check out my full review.
I also suggest that you check out their official website for the latest news and up-to-date information.
How long will it take? Upon purchasing the program materials, students have 12 months to complete the program materials and then sit the two-hour exam.
For someone coming to the course with no prior experience, there is quite a lot of information to digest.
This Study time can be cut in half by using the NASM study materials over at Trainer Academy.
They also offer an exam pass guarantee.
I also have a pretty cool free NASM study guide on my website right here.
The International Sports Science Association certification (or ISSA) is a great choice for people that are looking for a shorter overall study and all-inclusive time.
The biggest reason that you can get away with a shorter study time with ISSA is due to the fact that it is a completely online personal training certification.
You can access all of your study materials and even take the test online.
This not only makes it one of the easiest personal training certifications, but it also lets people get certified much quicker than they would have by signing up for other training certifications.
I’m not saying you are going to have the full textbook memorized in this amount of time, but you will have enough information in order to pass the test because it is open book.
So if you are in a time crunch, ISSA is the certification to go with.
I have a fantastic free study guide, practice test in flashcards for the ISSA certification that can be found here.
Also, if you want to cut your study time by, even more, check out the premium ISSA study materials from Trainer Academy.
The certification from the American College of Sports Medicine is widely regarded as one of the best courses.
This is especially true when it comes to post-rehabilitation and corrective exercise training.
The ACSM course is quite rigorous, and it has one of the most extensive textbooks of all the courses I’ve seen.
How long will it take? Students have an unlimited amount of time to work through the training materials in this course.
Which is a good thing because the textbook is enormous! They can register for the exam whenever it suits them.
Due to the large textbook and the fact that the course material is quite dense.
Check out my free ACSM study guide and practice test here.
Also, if you want to shorten your overall study time, make sure to check out Trainer Academy for premium ACSM study materials.
This certification from the National Strength and Conditioning Association has one of the most challenging exams.
It has an excellent and long-established reputation and was the first fitness education provider ever to be accredited by the NCCA.
This course has an excellent focus on strength and conditioning training.
How long will it take? This course has a 9-week online prep component that does a great job of preparing new candidates for the final exam.
You can still take the course at your own pace and once you purchase the program materials.
You will have 180 days (or six months) until the course expires.
This certification from the National Personal Training Institute is a very comprehensive and credible certification.
You will receive a diploma since the course is very dense and will take you 500 hours of study over six months.
This includes 50 hours of practical training sessions with a qualified instructor.
This course is one of the most intense courses out there, and it goes into detail on biomechanics, physiology, and fitness nutrition.