How Long Does it Take to Become a Personal Trainer in 2023?

Hello and welcome to the most in-depth breakdown of how long it takes to become a personal trainer.

Becoming a personal trainer is a great choice for your career, but it will take some time and a commitment to learning.

In this article you will learn:

How students progress through a personal training course
Hidden time costs and continuing education
Various courses and their duration, etc.

After reading this article, you will have a great idea of how long the process of becoming a successful personal trainer takes.

If you are trying to figure out which certification best suits your goals, I recommend that you take the quiz to find out which PT certification is the best fit for you to obtain.

Let’s dive in!

How Long Does it Take to Become a Personal Trainer (In [year])? - An Exclusive Insight 8

How Long Does It Take To Become a Personal Trainer? (Video)

How Long Does It Take To Become A Personal Trainer in 2023? ⌛


Becoming a certified personal trainer through one of the best personal training certifications in the industry is your ticket to a rewarding career where you help people achieve their personal training goals and change their lives.

But how long does it take to become a certified personal trainer full-time starting from zero?


Unfortunately, this question is not all that straightforward, and there are many factors to consider such as your work schedule, the amount of time you dedicate to study, and your motivation levels.

You also need to factor in the additional time costs of maintaining your certification in the years ahead. Following a great guide to becoming a personal trainer can help with sticking to a timeframe.

Along with knowing how long it takes to become a personal trainer, it is a good idea to know the typical personal trainer salary and the top 5 personal training certifications in the industry you can certify with.

I also have free study guides and practice exams for the majority of the personal training certifications on this list.

Personal training is a financially rewarding career path if you know how to gain clients and keep them accountable for reaching their wellness and fitness goals.

And honestly, becoming personal trainer certified is just the beginning because you can then go on to earn other related certifications, such as group fitness certification, strength and conditioning certification, health coach certifications, and nutrition certifications.


If you are more interested in how to become a nutrition coach or how to become a strength and conditioning coach, we have articles covering these areas, too.


First of all, I want to quickly mention the importance of selecting a respectable fitness certification program that’s widely recognized by most industry bodies and potential employers.

While I will deal with the five most credible PT certifications, I’d still recommend seeing what other personal trainer courses are out there.

Factors That Determine How Long It Takes To Become a Personal Trainer

Now let me discuss some factors you should always consider when assessing whether or not a personal trainer certification exam is worth investing in.

The Quality of the Accreditation

Every PT certification should be sanctioned by an accreditation body to be legitimate, which would also include aerobics and other credentials such as the best Pilates certifications.

These organizations act as quality control overseers to ensure a course is delivering minimum training standards.

In my perspective, the only two credible personal training accreditation bodies are the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) and the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).

CPR/AED Component

When selecting a personal trainer course, make sure it has a first aid teaching component, such as Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Automated External Defibrillator (CPR/AED) course.

You must have a CPR/AED certification before you can become a personal trainer anyway.


Exercise programs often include people pushing themselves and their bodies to the limit and since most states require a defibrillator to be present in gyms, most fitness professionals are required to have the proper training.

I guarantee you that over the course of your PT career you will have at least one fatigue-related or first-aid incident.

This is also another time factor you need to consider before getting certified, but thankfully, CPR/AED courses are one-day events lasting just a few short hours.

Industry Recognition

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 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).

That is not to say that other personal training programs 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 personal training business.


When choosing a personal trainer certification program, you want to make sure it is of quality accreditation, that safety is prioritized, and that it is reputable in the industry.

There are so many programs you can enroll in to become a personal trainer, and the hardest part for most is choosing the certification that’s right for you.

And not only does the personal trainer course have to be right for you, but more so, the course duration.

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Now let me discuss the typical course progressions of the most renowned personal trainer certifications.

This insight alone could help you become a personal trainer in no time.

Typical Course Progression

Unlike college courses that will usually commence at a set time and then proceed according to a specific schedule (such as semesters), PT certification courses will usually be self-paced.

You can even take the final exam whenever you choose at an approved exam location.

This being said, many certification programs will have an expiry time on when you must test.

For example, the ACE certification requires students to test within six months of purchasing the program materials, and the NASM certification requires testing within one year of course purchase.


Other fitness trainer study programs, such as the ACSM-CPT, 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 (such as someone with years of experience or with a bachelor’s degree in a health or fitness field) could prep for and take the exam within a concise space of time.

Top CPT Programs and Typical Completion Time

Below is a breakdown of my top five high-quality PT certification courses, the maximum time you will have to complete, and the typical completion time.

I’ll also give a realistic estimate as to how long it may take you to become a personal trainer in each program.

While your course completion time will vary according to personal factors, such as your workload, educational background, time spent studying, and motivation levels, I based my estimations on the hypothetical person working a 9-to-5 job with weekends off.



This ACE CPT certification from the American Council on Exercise is excellent for people who are just getting into personal training.

The organization’s course material has a gentle learning curve which makes it accessible for people from a variety of backgrounds and education levels.

This qualification is a great certification to build more advanced qualifications upon and is one of the most highly sought after industry certifications and is viewed favorably by many gyms in the United States.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Personal Trainer (In [year])? - An Exclusive Insight 9

So 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 are entry-level trainers and those looking to start a new career training clients, a realistic completion time for this credential is about 4 to 5 months. 

However, this time can be cut in half if you use the ACE study materials over at Trainer Academy.

Make sure to check out the free ACE study guide here on PTPioneer. Study materials help with ACE test prep, and it also helps to know the ACE exam FAQ.




The NASM CPT 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, the online programs are well put-together, and it is NCCA accredited.

NASM 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-CPT is one of the most highly sought-after certifications in the personal training and group fitness industry and is highly reputable amongst gyms across the United States.

How long will it take? 

Upon purchasing the program materials, students have 12 months to complete the NASM online personal trainer course and then sit the two-hour exam.

If you have no prior experience, then there’s quite a lot of information to digest.

Although not as much as some courses, a realistic timeframe for somebody with average commitments is about 3 to 4 months.

But this study time can be cut in half by using the premium NASM study materials over at Trainer Academy.

Check out this free NASM study guide, comprehensive NASM test prep article, and NASM exam FAQ article.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Personal Trainer (In [year])? - An Exclusive Insight 10



The International Sports Sciences Association certification, ISSA CPT, is a great choice for those seeking a shorter overall study time to become a personal trainer.

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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.

The average study time you can get away with while studying for ISSA is approximately 2 to 3 months.

I’m not saying you’ll have the full textbook memorized in this amount of time, but you will have enough information in order to pass the test to become a personal trainer 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.

Our free materials are excellent for ISSA test prep and ISSA exam FAQs.




The certification from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is widely regarded as one of the best courses to become a personal trainer.

Especially, when it comes to post-rehabilitation and corrective exercise training.

The ACSM-CPT course is quite rigorous, and it has one of the most extensive textbooks of all that I’ve seen.

For more, you can check out my review of the course.

How long will it take?

Students have an unlimited amount of time to work through the training materials in this course.

This qualification would realistically take the average person 5 to 6 months to complete.

If this certification entices you, 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.

And finally, I recommend my ACSM test prep article and ACSM exam FAQ article.




This certification from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) 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 NSCA CPT course has a strong focus on exercise science and strength and conditioning training.

How long will it take?

The NSCA personal trainer course has a 9-week online prep component that does a great job of preparing new candidates for the final exam.

Once you purchase the program materials, you can take the course at your own pace.

You will have 180 days (or six months) until the course expires.

A person with average commitments and spare weekends could probably complete the online prep course in 3.5 months.

Here at PTPioneer, we have a free NSCA study guide/practice test or you can check out the premium NSCA study guide from Trainer Academy.

Both are guaranteed to cut your study time to become a personal trainer in half.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Personal Trainer (In [year])? - An Exclusive Insight 11



The certification from the National Personal Training Institute (NPTI) is comprehensive and credible.

The course is dense and will probably take you 500 hours of study over six months, including 50 hours of practical training sessions with a qualified fitness instructor.

The NPTI-CPT is one of the most intense courses out there, and it goes into full detail on biomechanics, physiology, and fitness nutrition.

How long will it take? Realistically this course is likely to take you a full six months due to the very involved curriculum.

Keep in mind there’s an off-site training requirement, which means that students are also responsible for attending the final exam with an off-site agency.

Other CPT Programs

While the above courses are more than enough to get your PT career on its way, some people may want more involved study.

Whereas most employers require a personal trainer to have an essential PT credential, an associate or bachelor’s degree certainly doesn’t hurt your employment chances.


Although there are no education requirements besides a high school diploma to be a general personal trainer, having higher education can help you advance your career.

There are also plenty of other advanced certifications and specializations that can be obtained after obtaining standard personal training certification.

These will only open your doors to more possibilities in the personal training world.

Advanced Certifications

There are many career options for personal trainers to pursue. They often rely on specializations and further advancements in certification.

Some of the advanced certifications that I talk about on my website are the NASM PES and the NASM CES.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Personal Trainer (In [year])? - An Exclusive Insight 12

These two certifications focus on athletic performance and corrective exercise training relatively.

Well recognized within the industry, they can greatly expand your skills as a personal trainer.

The timeframe for being able to get certified with either one of these is approximately the same as the NASM-CPT certification, which is about 3 to 6 months.

Associate Degree

To gain much more in-depth knowledge of health and fitness and acquire a more varied skill set, take a look at an associate degree in related fields, such as kinesiology or anatomy.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Personal Trainer (In [year])? - An Exclusive Insight 13

An associate degree will usually take a few years to complete, and most will be run according to a semester schedule.

After you graduate, the knowledge you have should be enough to help you pass any general PT course relatively quickly.

Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor’s degree is an excellent way to set yourself up for a serious and more flexible career in the fitness industry.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Personal Trainer (In [year])? - An Exclusive Insight 14

While a bachelor’s degree may be overkill for those who want to be personal trainers or group fitness instructors, you may find it useful to cultivate a broader career as, say, an athletic trainer.

Most subject studies include general education, anatomy, physiology, nutrition, injury prevention, program creation, and fitness assessment, as well as many other fitness-related subjects.

This may also be a good option if you want to start your own business or take on more advanced courses, such as the NSCA’s superior strength and conditioning course (NSCA CSCS).

One of the CSCS course prerequisites includes having a bachelor’s degree at minimum.

If you take this into consideration, tack on another 4 to 6 years, as these are the average times it takes to complete a bachelor’s degree.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Overall, about 3 to 6 months is the general answer for how long it takes to become a personal trainer, but as you can see, it really depends on how much time you make for your studies.

While I definitely suggest blocking out at least six months for mostly all personal trainer certification programs by default, you can drastically cut this time in half by using the study materials over at Trainer Academy.

They have an awesome team of personal trainers over there.

If you’re interested in starting your journey as a trainer right away, a guided study is the best way to achieve that.

There’s no point rushing through a course only to fail the exam and then have to pay the hefty recertification fees.

Six months will give you more than enough time to go through all of the materials and practice quizzes slowly and methodically.

Although the above personal training certification programs are just a few suggestions and my personal favorites, there are many other good ones out there being offered by other bodies that I’ve also reviewed, such as the courses offered by the NCSF, NESTA, ISSA, and AFAA.

I hope that my article on how long it takes to become a personal trainer has helped you on your quest to become a personal trainer in no time.

Happy training!

Tyler Read

Tyler Read, BSc, CPT. Tyler holds a B.S. in Kinesiology from Sonoma State University and is a certified personal trainer (CPT) with NASM (National Academy of sports medicine), and has over 15 years of experience working as a personal trainer. He is a published author of running start, and a frequent contributing author on Healthline and Eat this, not that.

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16 thoughts on “How Long Does it Take to Become a Personal Trainer (In 2023)? – An Exclusive Insight”

  1. PTPioneer User

    hey Tyler! Great info and thanks! Torn on what cert to go after as this will be a new career move. I think NASM might be my best option but can’t commit since there are other great certs out there:) Do you know which certification is good to mix with martial arts (internal style- qi qong, Hsing-i etc..) My goal is to help the older generation build core strength and develop better chi-breathing.. I have been practicing these styles for the last 10 years so was wondering which cert will go hand in hand.. any input is greatly appreciated..thanks!

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hey Rony,

      I am glad that you have been enjoying my content. Have you checked out my article on the top five personal training certifications? That might direct you in the right direction. It looks like You are looking to do some specialization training. I am pretty sure that NASM has an MMA training specialty certification. And might be best to go with NASM since they would be using the same OPT training model for both programs.

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      The study time depends on how much knowledge of exercise and fitness you already have under your belt. The ACE test should take approximately 4 to 5 months on average. From the time that you purchased the exam you have exactly 6 months to take the test. On average ACE will cost between five and $600. It might be a little bit more or a little bit less depending on if there is a promotion running at the time that you purchase.

  2. PTPioneer User
    Denise Kirejczyk

    Hi Tyler, I have been training under a master trainer for about six months now. I enjoy doing it and have been sort of a gym rat most of my life. I’ve also been a schoolteacher for over 20 years. I’ve decided to make this my retirement job, but I’m somewhat perplexed as to which certification to get. I do enjoy working with older women such as myself, and those that may have injuries that would require a special program. Since I work full-time still but would be one of the best avenues for me as far as taking an online class and/or acquiring certain prep materials? Thanks, Denise

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hello Denise,
      It all depends on which certification you would like to go for. With working with older individuals that may not have been exercising, I think that NASM does the best job of re-incorporating exercise back into it and in active lifestyle. They like to focus a lot on muscular imbalances and do a lot of fitness assessments before programming for an individual client. In terms of study materials, you can find free study materials as well as premium study materials here on my website.

  3. PTPioneer User
    Stephanie Newkirk

    Thanks for all the info! I’ve stopped by your website numerous times, it’s always realistic and in good taste! I just bought my NASM training from NASM themself, and plan on doing my first 2 chapters this weekend.

    I’ve been a yoga teacher for over 6 years(my specialty is rock/metal yoga), and want to eventually incorporate it in (or at least make one where music can be an influence). when I’m established as a PT with experience. Music to me is very important, and I always encourage everyone’s inner badass. I’m a bit eccentric, stubborn, and passionate in real authenticity with bright sunset hair and a rocker attitude, haha. How long teaching for a box gym should I wait before ever branching out? Tips and suggestions you may have for me? What are your thoughts on online pts, too?

    I know I have a few months out before I’m in a gym, but I’m thinking ahead for goals I plan to aim for! Yoga has not been very lucrative, but rewarding, yes. I got paid around $25 for a class, and maybe tops $100 for my own style of session.

    Thanks and I appreciate you!

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hey Stephanie,
      Thanks for reaching out to me and I’m super interested in the rock and metal yoga that you speak of. I would love to give that a try! You can totally work at a box gymnasium for a little bit of time just to get some experience and then if you are confident in your personal training sales skills, you should consider breaking away and starting your own thing. You can definitely make a lot more money if you are not in a commercial gym setting. In terms of online personal training, you can definitely make a lot of money in that medium as well. You just need to know how to market yourself online through social media or your own personal website. I know a lot of the successful online personal trainers that are killing it. It’s not as hands-on and I think that the client doesn’t get as much value by not being in person, but you can have a lot more clients and do everything digitally. The client also pays a lot less so they can be a win-win situation for both parties.

  4. PTPioneer User

    Tyler, thank you very much for your quality content. I’m actually reading this from Taiwan. Would you recommend having multiple certificates or perhaps just 1 cert to start with?

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hey Eric,
      at first I would start out with the general personal training certification. Obviously, if you want to specialize you can move on to something afterwards. A general personal training certification will give you strong base to work from but in general people that specialize in target a specific market and possibly make more money.

  5. PTPioneer User


    If I wanted to become a personal trainer with CPR and AED certification how long would that take? I would like to specialize, if at all possible, in cardiovascular health.

    -Joe Ferris

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hello Joe,
      Getting a CPR and AED credential just takes one afternoon. Probably four or five hours at the most. You will have a lecture and then have to pass the exam at the end of the class. It’s very easy to be honest so you shouldn’t have to worry about getting that at all. I recommend going through the Red Cross to get your certification as they have always done a great job with their classes.

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hey Emily, new language personal training certification are you talking about. Most of the certifications require recertification every two or three years. The average length is 2 years.

  6. PTPioneer User

    Hi Tyler,

    I was trying to find where your study programs were. I registered with NASM and had to cancel my test because I didn’t have the material down yet. I am having trouble studying the material. I have my test scheduled for about 8 weeks from now. Just trying to figure out the best way to get the content in my head, right now it’s not sticking and not sure where to begin.

    Thank you!


    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hey Amy, I definitely understand where you are coming from. The exam from the National Academy of sports medicine is hard. But, 8 weeks should be enough time for you to study and pass it. Have you checked out trainer Academy? They have fantastic study materials and a 8-week study blueprint to follow along with that would be perfect for you.

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