The NASM Virtual Coaching Specialization is a superb choice for any certified personal trainers looking to take their sessions online.
I’ve worked as a fitness trainer for over 12 years and built a successful online coaching business. I can honestly say that the NASM Virtual Coaching certification ranks as one of the top specialization courses I have taken.
The NASM VCS combines a thorough understanding of how to build your online training business from the ground up along with powerful ways to integrate modern technology into your coaching.
In this review I discuss the following topics:
- Is the NASM Virtual Coaching Certification worth it?
- NASM costs, price, and study packages
- General overview of the content in the VCS
- Pros and cons
Our PTPioneer contributors include many online fitness business owners and entrepreneurs who’ve used their personal fitness coaching skills to grow their own income streams. I spoke with our staff to get their thoughts on this program in addition to my own.
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Table of Contents
What is the NASM Virtual Coaching Specialist
The NASM Virtual Coaching Certification gives fitness professionals a way to supplement their existing in-person coaching business by using modern tools to conduct coaching remotely.
Virtual coaching can consist of either real-time sessions with clients or pre-built programs that clients can buy into.
In the NASM Virtual Coaching Specialization you learn how to develop a sound business plan for virtual business, how to go through appropriate assessments in a virtual environment, how to create coaching strategies for different clients online, how to scale and sustain your business, and how to market your services appropriately and effectively.
This makes the NASM VCS a good supplementary program to add to your personal training certification.
NASM Virtual Coaching Specialist
- Exam cost: $399
- Study material cost: Included with exam
- Prerequisites: None
- Exam passing score: 70%
- Exam pass rate: Not known
- Average completion time: 2-4 weeks
NASM‘s credibility and reputation
NASM offers a proven track record in the fitness industry as a certification leader. The NASM personal training certification is NCCA-accredited and consistently ranks #1 on Google in terms of search data.
I’ve reviewed many of NASM’s top programs and most of them are top quality. I like the NASM online portal as well, which includes the highest number of instructional videos of any certification provider.
NASM offers some great bundles as well. You can get their personal training and nutrition coach together for a discount and NASM also has a Elite Trainer package which includes 4 certifications for a good price.
Getting multiple certifications at the same time is always a good idea because you can use the other programs to help renew your personal training certification and separate yourself from the competition by having more specializations attached to your name.
ISSA also offers their Elite Trainer bundle which has four courses including training, nutrition, strength and conditioning, and a specialization of your choice.
Anyone who want to build an online coaching business
- People who just want to coach in-person clients
Is NASM VCS worth it?
The NASM Virtual Coaching Specialist is worth it for any coach who wants to train people online.
The NASM VCS teaches you everything you need to know to build your online business from the comfort of your home, and at a reasonable price.
Unless you have absolutely no desire to train clients online, pretty much anyone will benefit from this program. Even if you have a thriving online business, you can always learn something new from a course like this. Plus, you can always add another credential to your personal trainer resume and pick up some easy personal trainer CEUs (continuing education units).
The only negative I can think of is that it’s not a full certification, rather a specialization instead.
NASM Virtual Coaching Certification vs Other Virtual Personal Trainer Specializations
There are few certifications like this on the market; however, Fitness Mentors do offer their Virtual Nutrition and Virtual Health Coach. Obviously a health coach career is different from personal training; however these courses do cover some similar content, in terms of learning how to build an online business.
NASM is more comprehensive than either in my opinion.
Who is NASM Virtual Coaching Specialization meant for?
The NASM Virtual Coaching certification is geared towards individuals who want to build an online coaching business. These could be personal trainers, nutritionists, strength coaches.
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This isn’t a straight-up personal training certification. It’s meant to take your personal training skills and help you adapt them when you start your online business.
NASM Virtual Coach Specialization Cost
The NASM VCS costs $499 at the moment. If you check NASM’s website, the price could be as low as $399, depending on whether they are currently running any deals.
NASM allows you to pay the cost at once, or in 11 installments of $34 with a small deposit of $25. This is great because it means each payment is incredibly reasonable.
NASM does not have the cheapest personal training certification; however the Virtual Coaching is well-priced.
NASM Virtual Coaching Specialist review – content coverage
The NASM Virtual Coaching cert is broken up into 7 Chapters:
- Introduction to Virtual Coaching
- Building a Business
- Technology Considerations
- Communication and Coaching Strategies
- Administering Virtual Assessments
- Implementing Coaching Sessions
- Integrating Wearables into Virtual Coaching
Introduction to Virtual Coaching
The first chapter of the NASM VCS defines the role of a virtual coach.
You learn common trends in virtual coaching, the types of clients you encounter, character traits in a successful online coach, scope of practice, common coaching obstacles and how to avoid them.
One of the more useful parts of this chapter is the content regarding types of clients who seek virtual coaching. These people will be your target market, so pay close attention.
I also like that this section of the NASM Virtual Coaching Specialist includes ways to avoid professional burnout. One of the major risks as a coach and entrepreneur is the long hours involved in making your business successful. If you want any long-term happiness, mitigating burnout is essential.
Building a Business
Chapter 2 of NASM’s VCS discusses how to become an entrepreneur versus just a business owner and how to write a business plan.
The key here is to not only work in your business, but on your business as well. This includes having a vision for the future, taking on new challenges, being willing to make changes to perfect your business.
This whole section is a goldmine of good tips. In fact. This chapter should be included in most personal training certifications, but usually isn’t. Creating a worthwhile career for yourself involves more than just being good at your job. You need to learn how to actually bring in income.
NASM gives you a complete picture of how to formulate your business plan. This includes things like mission statements, your unique selling proposition, and how to identify your target audience.
You learn about customer acquisition costs and how important it is to hold on to existing customers and extend the lifetime value of each one.
In the personal trainer marketing strategies segment, NASM teaches you the “Four P’s of Marketing,” how to create a sales funnel, which takes a prospective customer from just an interested party to a client.
You’ll get an understanding of how to do some basic budgeting and financial projections, and NASM even includes a personal trainer business plan template where you can map everything out easily.
In fact, one of the things I like about the NASM Virtual Coaching Specialist is that they give you templates for everything, meaning when you want to apply the things they’re teaching you can just plug and play from the start. You even get personal trainer pricing and packaging strategies.
In the next section of the NASM Virtual Coaching Specialist you learn the technological requirements you need to fulfill to be a virtual coach. This includes hardware, software, internet service, fitness programming software, and lighting, camera, and sound equipment.
For example, you’ll need a computer with certain processing and storage requirements. You need to know which video conferencing software you want to use.
NASM gives you examples and pros and cons for each.
You need to make sure you have a fast enough internet speed.
While the material in this section isn’t the most engaging, it’s very practical guidance and gives you an easy way to get started as an online coach.
NASM also discusses Nutrition and Fitness apps and how you can use them to great effect in your coaching.
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Communication and Coaching Strategies
This chapter of NASM’s Virtual Coaching program teaches you how to use virtual communication platforms to build the client-coach relationship. You learn virtual goal setting, motivational interviewing.
NASM first goes into the advantages and disadvantages of virtual communication. When you coach someone online, you gain the ability to use preparation to communicate better, but you lose something by not being there in person.
You learn how to leverage different communication platforms to your advantage and when to use different ones with different clients.
NASM covers the difference between synchronous and asynchronous communication and when to use which method.
Then you learn how to use virtual accountability and check-ins to help clients reach their goals. Data is one of your biggest friends as an online coach and NASM shows you how to integrate it effectively into your training.
Finally, NASM covers a few topics you’ll remember from your CPT: things like building rapport, SMART goals, and motivational interviewing. These topics seem a bit redundant for those people who already learned them when becoming a personal trainer, but NASM does give you examples of the differences in applying them to a virtual context.
Administering Virtual Assessments
Here NASM covers how to figure out which assessments are safe and effective for remote administration and how to use modern technology to collect reliable data.
You’ll remember some of these assessments from your training certification, but what NASM does here is explains how to determine if an assessment is good to use in virtual coaching, and NASM provides some good examples as well.
You learn how to assess strength, mobility, endurance, and how to conduct physiological and anthropometric aspects all online.
My only issue with this chapter is that on each assessment you learn why you’re using it and how to perform the assessment, but NASM doesn’t specify here what a good score on the test would be. Of course, you can look these things up online and do your own research, but it’s a bit disappointing that NASM doesn’t give you a chart in the textbook to look through like NSCA does in their CPT.
Implementing Coaching Sessions
In Implementing Coaching Sessions, the NASM Virtual Coaching Specialist course goes over session preparation, how to create the best training environment, what physical equipment you should purchase, different communication strategies for the actual workout, choosing exercises, training groups, and virtual nutrition coaching.
As a virtual coach, you need to have systems in place for scheduling and confirming appointments. You’ll need to set up your training space for recording or streaming. You also need to wear appropriate attire and present your workout space with the most professional visual appeal.
You need basic exercise equipment that you and your client will need to purchase. NASM gives you a good list of recommendations.
One of the key mistakes I see a lot of coaches making is poor lighting, video, or audio quality. NASM gives you a solid overview of how to fix these things and how to do so on a lower or higher budget.
NASM then covers basic program planning. This section does not replace your CPT periodization knowledge. It’s more about how to use different modalities in a home workout environment.
You also learn cueing tools for instructing different movements over the internet.
NASM describes when to use pre-recorded versus live instructions and safety considerations depending on the format of the workouts.
Finally, NASM briefly goes into how to conduct online virtual nutrition coaching. If you coach nutrition, you’ll find this section very valuable. And if you haven’t done any nutrition coaching, I’d suggest you integrate some of it into your business. Being able to coach nutrition alongside exercise gives you a more complete way to help someone achieve their health and fitness goals.
Integrating Wearables into Virtual Coaching
The final chapter in the NASM VCS teaches you the benefits and limitations of using wearables, how they collect data, and ways to use this data as part of a virtual coaching program.
This section will be interesting for people who like collecting workout data with wearables and less so for people who do things the old-fashioned way.
Still, it’s valuable to give you an idea of the new wearable digital landscape if you haven’t looked into smartwatches, fitness or sleep trackers.
Also, one of the benefits of using this data is that it’s another way to virtually communicate with your clients.
NASM mentions personal training software applications and how you might use them, including the NASM EDGE Personal Trainer App.
NASM VCS Exam Prep and Study Materials
After each chapter you get a quiz to test the information. You can retake quizzes and NASM will refresh the questions, which makes studying for the final exam a breeze.
You don’t get a physical copy of the textbook, which is the only real negative if you like having something to flip through.
Because the final exam is open-book I’d suggest taking as many notes as you can while reading through each chapter.
NASM Virtual Coaching Specialization Requirements
NASM does not require any prerequisites to fulfill prior to taking the Virtual Coaching Specialist. This makes sense as it’s a specialization instead of a full certification.
Most people will use this in addition to their personal training certification which usually requires CPR/AED and high school diploma/GED equivalency.
NASM Virtual Coaching Specialist Salary
According to Glassdoor data, online fitness coaches make $63,683 a year on average in the US. This is on par with personal trainer salary; however, I personally feel that you could make much more. First off, your market is huge in the online sphere. You can train people anywhere in the world.
This means endless access to leads which you can convert to customers. Also, if you have an existing in-person training business and want to use this to augment it, you can then combine your income from in-person and online sources.
The other nice thing about online coaching is how streamlined you can make it. You don’t have to spend extra time and resources traveling to your clients or to your gym. This means the potential to pack more clients into a day and less travel fees. One of the benefits of being a personal trainer is the ability to make your own hours and if you coach from home you have even more flexibility from a time perspective.
NASM Virtual Coaching Exam
After completion of all the chapter quizzes, you’re eligible to take the final exam.
This is a 90 minute, open-book test featuring 100 multiple-choice questions. You need 70% or higher to pass and you get 3 test attempts.
In my experience, this is a pretty easy exam compared to most personal training certification tests. The extra attempts make it less stressful as well.
The NASM test prep you’ll need for the NASM CPT is certainly more extensive than for the VCS.
NASM Virtual Coaching Specialization Continuing Education & Recertification
You do not need to recertify.
The course gives you 1.5 CEUs for your NASM continuing education requirements in regards to renewing your CPT.
Other NASM Offerings
NASM offers the highest number of certifications and specializations of any fitness agency. Each of these programs has the two-fold benefit of giving you CEUs to help you renew your CPT and an extra credential you can put on your resume. Of course you also get the opportunity to fine tune your trainer skill set and carve out a niche.
Most of the below specializations focus on different populations you may encounter as a trainer, from seniors to athletes to golf players.
- NASM Group Exercise Instructor (AFAA-GEI)
- NASM Certified Nutrition Coach (NASM-CNC)
- NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist (NASM-CES)
- NASM Weight Loss Specialization (NASM-WLS)
- NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist (NASM-PES)
- NASM Certified Personal Trainer (NASM-CPT)
- NASM Certified Wellness Coach (NASM-CWC)
- NASM Youth Exercise Specialization
- NASM Golf Fitness Specialization
- NASM Senior Fitness Specialization
- NASM Group Personal Training Specialization
- NASM Stretching and Flexibility
NASM Virtual Coaching Specialization Overall Rating
Overall, I give the Virtual Coaching Specialization a 4.5 out of 5. It’s not perfect, but it covers everything you will need to get started as an online coach and is a great companion cert to have along with your personal training certification.
Even if you don’t want to coach online, but just want to start your own personal training business, I think it’s worth it to take this course because of the no-nonsense business skills taught in Chapter 2.
If you want to learn how to be a successful personal trainer I fully recommend the NASM VCS. Honestly, in this modern day, I hope NASM takes some of this content and puts it in their CPT because it covers so much of the business skills you need that NASM does not include in their normal personal training certification.
NASM Virtual Coaching Specialization
Interested in the NASM Virtual Coaching Specialization? Read my complete NASM VCS review and find out if this certification makes sense for your career.
NASM Virtual Coaching Training Specialization FAQs
What is NASM Virtual Coaching?
A NASM virtual coach designs and implements workout routines for clients in the same way as normal personal training, but just online instead of in-person.
How fast can I get NASM certified?
Each NASM program has a different timeline. This NASM Virtual Coaching Specialization should take you 2-4 weeks to finish.
Is NASM Virtual Coaching proctored?
The final exam for the NASM VCS is open-book, so no proctor required.