Welcome to my NASM vs ACE comparison. Are you having trouble choosing between these top two personal training certifications?

In this article, you will realize which certification is perfect for your style of personal training. You also need to check out my must-read article on the comparison of the top five personal training certifications, or if you like vs articles: NASM vs ISSA and ACE vs ISSA.

Make sure to check out the NASM and ACE sites for more info as well as my special NASM flashcard study system.

I highly recommend that you take the quiz to find out which personal trainer certification is the best fit for you overall. This is just an estimation, read the article to get the full understanding.

If you have ANY question, do not hesitate to ask me at the bottom 🙂

ACE vs NASM Quick Information

NASM is considered more of a corrective exercise certification, whereas ACE is more of a general CPT certification. NASM progresses clients using their OPT training model, while ACE uses their IFT training model. Both NASM and ACE are extremely well-recognized within the industry and are both NCCA accredited certifications. Both certifications have fantastic study materials that include the textbook and live support. NASM also has the option for life workshops, compared to ACE which does not. The cost for ACE ranges between $599 and $799, whereas NASM costs between $699 and $1999 for their most expensive package. The pass rate for the ACE test is 65%, while the pass rate for the NASM test is 64%.

The overall focus and recognition of NASM and ACE

NASM

I categorize the certification as a corrective exercise certification.

While you can train average sedentary Americans, they do have a slight emphasis on muscular imbalances. Most sedentary individuals have many muscular imbalances from sitting all day.1

NASM starts to address these imbalances before progressing these clients through a strength routine. The beginning stage of their OPT training model is called “stabilization.” This is the level that focuses on corrective training for muscular imbalances.

NASM is useful for training sedentary individuals as well as clients that are coming off an injury. Having the skill set to get clients back into the habit of exercise is one of the best things you can do for them.2

Here is the official YouTube video for NASM:

ACE

ACE does an excellent job at helping potential trainers learn the essentials of exercise science for them to build useful workout routines for a wide variety of individuals.

I would put the ACE certification in the general category because they go over so many topics but does not necessarily specialize in any one of them.

Their exercise routines are typically geared towards the average sedentary American that is trying to lose weight. And that is a good thing considering that most of your clients starting out will have these exact goals.

Here is the official YouTube video for ACE:

General focus summary

General focus: It all depends on the type of clients that you would like to train. One is not better than the other unless you can determine in neck what kind of training you would want to become and the overall goals of the clientele that you will have.

Overall, I think that NASM better helps you repair for the average client that you will receive as a personal trainer. This is because most clients have some muscular imbalance that needs to be corrected.

The winner for certification focus is NASM (by a hair)

Winner of the general focus is NASM

Popularity and Industry Recognition

NASM

NASM an extremely well-recognized certification within the industry. It actually might be the most sought-after certification currently. If you have ever hopped on an Internet forum or gone to the personal training reddit section, you’ll see exactly how popular the NASM CPT is.

Not only does it have extreme hype online, but it also might be the most talked about certification by big-name employers such as 24-hour fitness. This is just how much weight the NASM certification has in the industry.

The NASM certification is accredited by the NCCA which is typically thought to be the most grueling and well-recognized accrediting agency.

ACE

ACE is also an extremely well-recognized certification within the personal training industry. Every commercial, private or local gymnasium that I have ever talked to accepts this certification. Similar to NASM, every gym accepts ACE.

Just like NASM, ACE is also accredited by the NCCA.

To show you guys have a net connect both certifications are in regards to popularity, here is a screenshot of the last 12 months on Google trends.

As you guys can see from the image, both certifications are practically neck to neck regarding which ones are being searched on Google.3

The winner for recognition and popularity is … a Tie!

Info on the study materials, price and earning potential

NASM

When talking about the study materials, you receive from NASM it all depends on the package that you purchase.

Self-study package: The most common packages the self-study package. This includes a digital copy of their massive 720-page textbook, online video lectures, a full exercise library, multiple quizzes, multiple practice exams, and the official study guide to go along with their textbook.

Premium self-study package: This package includes everything that the general self-study package did but adds and anatomy memorization activity, learning activities (for difficult concepts) and a bundle of flashcards.

CPT guided study: This includes everything that the previous two packages did but adds exam prep webinars, full access to a mentor or coach (for any questions), additional discussion questions, access to a live workshop, exam prep guarantee (free retest) and a hard copy of the 720-page textbook.

CPT all-inclusive: This is a combination of the three previous packages with the addition of CPT development program (includes 80 hours of on-site practice) and The NASM business accelerator program. I know this package only adds to extra things but trust me, they are beneficial especially if you want to create a full-time business with personal training. I also can explain how helpful the hands-on practice is.

ACE

Similar to NASM, ACE offers three separate packages that you can choose from on their website. Each of these packages contains different study materials as well.

ACE Pro essential package: This includes practice tests, access to ACE study coaches, the textbook (e-book format), The fitness professionals e-book, ACE Academy elite  (guided study), access to additional personal training resources (calculators, fitness assessment forms, etc.)

ACE Pro plus package: The Pro plus package includes everything that the Pro essential did but adding in a hard copy of the manual, hard copy of the study companion manual and a hardcopy of the ACE exercise science for fitness professionals book. This package is primarily for people that love hard copies (like I do!).

ACE pro advantage package: The Pro advantage package includes everything that the previous two did with the addition of the fitness math online course. This helps cover the most difficult concepts to master and explains them like a charm.

Overall, both programs offer fantastic study materials for their certification. The fact that NASM provides a little bit more hands-on experience and business practice with their more expensive package give them the edge overall.

Winner for the study materials is NASM

The Price of the Certifications

NASM CPT

The price of NASM all depends on which package you purchase from them. I also have a $125 off discount for all of the different packages offered by NASM. So I will show you the regular price as well as the discounted price for you guys.

ACE CPT

Just like NASM, the price of ACE all depends on which package you purchase from them. Here are the prices for the three packages available.

Although the overall price after the $125 off discount is less with NASM, their self-study package does not offer much in regards to study materials compared to the Pro essentials package from ACE. So if you were to go with the cheapest option we from both certifications I would say you get the most bang for your buck with ACE. Also, this $125 off discount is not always active with NASM.

Save 25%+ on most NASM CPT certifications at checkout (DO NOT CALL THEM!)
Here is the link to the 25%+ off sale
Get $100 off the ACE Pro Plus CPT Certification or get a FREE nutrition certification with their Pro Advantage program!
Here is the link to the ACE CPT sale
Get a FREE Nutrition Certification or apple watch with the purchase of the ISSA certification!
Here is the link to the ISSA deal

The overall winner for certification price is ACE

Earning Potential

One of the most important factors for people that are looking to become personal trainers is how much money they could potentially make when they get certified. Since this is going to be your job, you want to earn as much money as you can to support yourself.

Before I show you how much money you can make with NASM and ACE, I would like to point out that the certification is not the most critical factor when it comes to how much money you make. More important than the certification you hold is how much you hustle, practice, learn and develop your craft. This is 100x more important than what certification you hold. These numbers I found on payscale.com.

NASM

The average income for a NASM certified personal trainer is $41,000.4

The employers that are most likely to hire a NASM certified personal trainer are LA fitness, lifetime fitness, 24-hour fitness and anytime fitness.

ACE

The average salary for a personal trainer holding the ACE certification is also $41,000.5

The top employers for someone holding the ACE certification are 24-hour fitness, golds gym, anytime fitness and the YMCA. We

The winner for earning potential is a tie!

Info on the tests and recertification 

NASM CPT

After you purchase the certification, you will be given 12 months to sign up and take the test.

The test contains 120 multiple-choice questions. You will have 2 hours to complete the examination, and you will get the results immediately after you finish. You need to score a minimum of 70 on a scaled score to pass. A scaled score means that there are different versions of the tests where some are more difficult in some are easier.

The overall passing rate for the NASM exam is 64.3%. If you pass the  NASM test, you will know right away, and your certification will arrive in the mail approximately four weeks after the test date. If you happen to fail the test on your very first try, You will have to pay $199 to retake the test.6

Requirements: You are required to take the  NASM test at a laser grade facility. You can sign up at any Lasergrade facility. These facilities are located in most major cities throughout the United States. You must hold a valid CPR/AED certification by the time you take the test.

Check out my full review here. Check out their site here for more and current information!

ACE CPT

After you sign up for the ACE certification, you will have six months to take the test.

There are 150 multiple-choice questions that you need to answer. Although there are 150 questions, ACE equates this to a maximum of 800 points. You need to score at least 500 points to pass which equals approximately a 62.5% or higher is necessary to pass.

Roughly you will need to answer 90 out of the 150 questions correctly to pass. This equals approximately 500 out of the 800 total points.

You also get a whopping 3 hours to answer all these questions. In my experience that is way more time than is needed. There is a 65% pass rate for 1st-time test takers according to ACE. Just like NASM, if you happen to fill the test on your first try, you can pay $199 to retake it.7

Requirements: To take the test you need to set a date for a computer-based exam location. These exam locations are held all around the world and can be found on the ACE website. You are required to be 18 years old and have a valid CPR/AED certification.

Here is my full review on ACE. You need to check out their website for the most current information!

Overall, ACE has a very slightly higher pass rate than NASM.

The overall winner for the test information is ACE (literally by a hair)

Recertification Requirements and Continuing Education

NASM

Regarding continuing education or CEU’s, NASM requires each personal trainer to complete 20 hours over the course of the two-year certification. It costs $99 to recertify every two years. You can check out more information on NASM continuing education here.

ACE

Just like NASM, ACE requires their trainers to recertify every two years. You also need 20 hours of continuing education credits for ACE.

The cost to recertify is $129. You can check out some continuing education options for ACE in my article here.

Overall NASM costs $29 less to get recertified. Both of them require 20 hours every two years of continuing education.

The winner for continuing education is NASM

Conclusion on NASM vs ACE

Regarding job potential, both are very highly recognized by employers. They are both accredited by the NCCA which is good. I have talked to employers that prefer NASM over ACE as well as the other way around.

The gym I work at currently prefers NASM over any other certification on the market. You honestly have a high chance of getting employed and making a good living with either certification.

I have to say that NASM gets the slight edge for me as the best personal trainer certification, but you really cannot go wrong with either!

The overall winner for NASM or ACE is NASM!

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

For those of you that want to see my full video on NASM vs ACE here it is on youtube. Although I made that video almost 4 years ago, most of the information stands true to this day.

Summary:

If at the end it’s still hard to choose which cert is best,I recommend that you take the quiz to help you choose the cert that is best for you.

ACE does cost slightly less money than NASM which is a good perk. Also, some of the best personal trainers I have ever known are certified through ACE.

I think the study materials for NASM and ACE are fantastic. If you are having trouble understanding specific concepts, both companies will provide additional assistance and offer different ways to study so that you can finally understand the topic.

Both certifications have excellent study materials is when it comes down to it. Whether you choose ACE or NASM, you will feel adequately prepared for training your first real client when the time comes.

Some of the best trainers that I know are certified through both agencies. In the end, it all comes down to what type of clients you will be training in the future.

If you were working with anybody that is coming off an injury, I would go with NASM Both certifications are excellent for training the average sedentary American as I have mentioned above.

If you are just getting started in the personal training industry the first post, I would suggest you check out if you haven’t already is my guide on how to become a certified personal trainer.

If you are wondering how much money you can make as a trainer, check out my article on how long it takes to become a certified trainer and salaries for personal trainers.

If you are looking to train athletes, NASM has an advanced certification called the performance enhancement specialist. I highly recommend that you check out both websites to see which one would be the best for you!

I hope my article on the differences between ACE and NASM was helpful in choosing which certification will be right for you.

Shoot me a comment if you have any other questions regarding these certifications.

When it comes to NASM against ACE, which will you choose? Leave a comment below!

Tyler Read has a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology. Tyler is also a certified personal trainer with NASM, ACE and CSCS. Tyler’s main goal is to help people get started in the personal training industry and to become successful personal trainers. Tyler is the owner of Personal Training Pioneer which helps people get started in the personal training industry and become successful.

References:

  1. https://blog.nasm.org/newletter/overactive-versus-underactive-muscles-mean/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24616604
  3. https://trends.google.com/trends/?geo=US
  4. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Certification=Personal_Trainer_(CPT)_(NASM)/Salary
  5. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Certification=American_Council_on_Exercise_(ACE)/Salary
  6. https://www.nasm.org/resources/faq
  7. https://www.acefitness.org/faqs/
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