NASM vs ACSM- Which one should you opt for in 2021

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    The essence of this comparison is to help you decide which one is a better option for your career.

    Essentially, it will be based on:

    The overall focus and recognition of NASM and ACSM
    Study materials and prices
    The test information and recertification

    Considering the number of years I’ve spent holding these certificates, I’m able to serve as a great reviewer.

    Let’s move right in!

    NASM vs ACSM

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      NASM vs ACSM (Video)

      NASM vs ACSM (Podcast)


      Hey everyone, Coach Tyler welcoming you to my NASM vs ACSM comparison battle.

      By the end, you will be able to choose the certification that suits your unique training style among the two NCCA accredited certifications.

      After the full comparison, I recommend checking out the individual websites of ACSM and NASM.

      My Guide with regards to the top 5 personal trainer certifications is also a must-read! Or if you like vs articles you might like my article NASM vs ISSA, NASM vs ACE or ACSM vs ACE.

      It’s strongly recommended that you take the quiz to find out which PT certification is the best match for you.

      The menu at the top of this page will answer any questions related to personal training that you may 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.

      For people trying to study for the NASM exam, check out my free study guide.

      I also have a free ACSM study guide and practice test here.

      For premium study materials and in the exam pass guarantee for both certifications, check out Trainer Academy.

      Check out my review on them here.

      NASM vs ACSM Quick Information

      NASM vs ACSM quick information

      This segment is dedicated to providing you insights into both certifications.

      Both the ACSM personal trainer certification and the NASM personal trainer certification are considered corrective exercise certifications.

      Both are also accredited by the NCCA. ACSM allows you to pick and choose your study materials whereas NASM has various packages that consist of different study material options.

      ACSM currently costs approximately $500 while NASM will cost you approximately $524 for their cheapest package.

      NASM has a slightly higher pass rate at 64% whereas ACSM first-time test-takers have a 54% pass rate.

      NASM requires you to recertify every two years while ACSM requires recertification every three years.

      Find here other certifications that will expand your knowledge in the fitness industry.

      So, which is the best personal trainer certification?

      The Overall Focus and Recognition of NASM and ACSM

      The Overall Focus and Recognition of NASM and ACSM

      Here, I’ll help you discover the uniqueness of each certification.

      I’m at your service.

      These two personal training certifications have pretty similar focuses overall.

      The question is  – which one should you choose? I would categorize both of these as “corrective” trainer certifications.

      They both contain a well-designed screening process that lets trainers know what their client’s strengths and weaknesses are.

      They both have a strong focus on muscular imbalances and how to correct them.

      ACSM is also a scientific body.

      They do tons of scientific research in the field of exercise science.

      Most certifications reference ACSM’s research in their textbooks.

      Also, ACSM puts much more emphasis on the clinical side of things than NASM.

      Both of these certifications are great for teaching functional training as well as corrective exercises (especially NASM’s CES).

      Overall, NASM maintains a stronger focus on program design using its optimum performance training model (OPT).

      NASM does a better job of relating to personal trainers while ACSM has a strong focus on the scientific process and how to improve the field of kinesiology.

      However, their study material does not break down their research into easy-to-understand chunks of information that can be applied to personal training.

      NASM takes ACSM’s research and pulls it together into a comprehensive, progressive model that can be used by everyone.

      They also touch upon other aspects of training such as performance enhancement and general weight loss practices more so than ACSM.

      For this reason, you are better equipped to train a wider variety of clients with NASM.

      Here is the official video from NASM

      Here is the official video from ACSM

      Winner of the style of training is NASM

      NASM vs ACSM - Which one should you opt for in [year]? 4

      Popularity and Industry Recognition

      First, I like to start off by saying that ACSM and NASM are both exceptionally well recognized within the fitness industry.

      That being said, which one is more popular and more recognized by employers?

      ACSM CPT

      Overall, ACSM is more recognized within the clinical setting or universities that use their study materials as part of their course curriculum.

      NASM CPT

      Regarding which employers recognize one or the other more, it seems that the majority of gym owners or fitness facilities prefer NASM.

      A lot of them have the OPT training model as a standard for their personal trainers.

      Both will be able to land you the job, but NASM is preferred among a higher number of facilities.

      One of the reasons is because of the OPT model used.

      It is one of the “safest” ways to progress personal training clients.

      As such, lots of gym owners see this training model as a way of keeping their clients safe.

      According to Google trends, here is the comparison of interest between NASM and ACSM over the last year.

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      ACSM and NASM trends

      The winner for popularity and recognition is NASM

      NASM vs ACSM - Which one should you opt for in [year]? 5

      Study Materials and Prices

      Study materials and prices

      I’m sure you are interested in knowing what makes each certification stand out?

      Check below to find out!

      ACSM CPT

      There are three primary textbooks that you can purchase for study with respect to ACSM.

      The original book focuses on the fundamentals of personal training, various techniques, and exercises that you will need to know.

      Be that as it may, the most important study material is their primary textbook.

      There is a second, smaller textbook that teaches you about fitness testing and screening, as well as how to prescribe exercise routines based on these tests.

      You will be able to design different routines for healthy individuals and individuals with disabilities after studying this textbook.

      Other than the textbooks, you also get the option of purchasing live workshops.

      These live workshop sessions help you get hands-on experience.

      ACSM offers a one-day seminar as well as a three-day workshop.

      The one-day workshop costs $129, and the three-day workshop costs $375.

      The workshops overall are excellent and ideal for aspiring health and fitness training enthusiasts.

      You will get much more experience with the three-day workshop.

      I also have a free and awesome ACSM study guide and practice test here.

      Overall, the best ACSM study materials are created by Trainer Academy as they provide you with an exam pass guarantee.

      NASM CPT

      There are four different package types that you can purchase from NASM and each package type contains different study materials.

      Let’s go over each package one by one.

      Their self-study package is their most basic package.

      It comes with a digital copy of their textbook, lecture videos, exercise library, practice exams, and practice quizzes, as well as their official study guide.

      NASM’s premium self-study includes everything that the original self-study has but complemented with additional learning activities, flashcard bundle’s and exam prep webinars.

      The guided study includes everything that the previous two contain with the addition of direct access to mentors and NASM coaches, additional discussion questions, a live workshop, exam prep guarantee and a hard copy of the textbook.

      The most prestigious package is the all-inclusive package which includes everything the previous three has in them with the addition of a job guarantee, CPT development program and access to the NASM business accelerator program.

      The job guarantee will hook you up with free internships organized by NASM right after you get certified.

      I enjoyed the business program as well as it helps you focus on saving time and making more money.

      Overall, NASM is a health and fitness certification that provides a better way of studying for their exams compared to ACSM.

      The study materials they provide are more organized and helpful.

      ACSM, on the other hand, just hosts textbook materials which can be difficult for some learning styles.

      Also, make sure to check out my free NASM study guide here.

      For the best NASM study materials, check out Trainer Academy (much better than the materials provided).

      These can help reduce your study time by 50% and offer an exam pass guarantee.

      Check out my free and awesome NASM study guide here.

      Winner for the study materials is NASM

      NASM vs ACSM - Which one should you opt for in [year]? 6

      The Price of the Certifications

      Is the ACSM certification cost really worth the value the certificate offers or will the NASM certification cost prove to be the perfect investment personal trainers will be over the moon about?

      Let’s find out!


      The price for ACSM depends on the study materials you purchase.

      The cost for their primary textbook is approximately $70.

      This smaller textbook costs approximately $40.

      The third book is mostly just for reviewing case studies.

      This book also contains several practice tests to help you prepare for the big one.

      This third book costs approximately $40.

      You can purchase all three textbooks in a package for approximately $135.

      The exam itself is purchased separately and is $300.

      The absolute cheapest way you could go about buying the ACSM certification program is by getting the primary textbook and exam only which would come out $370.

      If you want to get the whole bundle with the workshop and everything, you’ll be shelling out approximately $750.


      Here are the current prices and my discounted price.

      Readers of my site can use my personal discount code PTP25 to save 25% on all NASM CPT certifications.

      • $699 $524 (25% off) – Self-study package
      • $1099 $824 (25% off) – Premium self-study package
      • $1499 $1024(25% off) – Guided self-study package
      • $2199 $1649 (25% off) – All-inclusive package
      • Check out my special deal for 25% off

      Also, they frequently have special deals priced between $100 and $150 off.

      Right now they have a $125 off deal and it can be found here.

      Winner for the overall price is ACSM

      NASM vs ACSM - Which one should you opt for in [year]? 7

      The Test Information and Recertification

      test info

      Below are detailed information on the test and recertification for each certification.

      If you a little adventurous choose one of the top fitness nutrition specialist certifications for your CEU to upgrade your knowledge.


      ACSM is one of the hardest personal training certifications to pass.

      There is approximately a 54% pass rate of success for first-time test takers!

      For the examination, you will receive 2 1/2 hours to complete all of the 120 multiple-choice questions that they provide.

      There is a steep retest fee of $150 if you don’t pass at the first around.

      To pass the test, you need to score a 550/800 on a scaled rating.

      This means that some tests are harder than others so that there is not a certain number of questions you need to get right.

      To take the ACSM exam, one needs to be 18 years old, have a high school education or the equivalent and have a current CPR/AED certification.

      Test your knowledge with my free ACSM practice test here.

      Also, Trainer Academy has five full practice exams that will fully prepare you.


      To take the NASM certification, you need to sign up for a test date at a local PSI/Lasergrade facility.

      These facilities can be located in most major cities throughout the United States.

      You will have six months from the time that you purchase any of their packages to take the exam.

      The test contains 120 multiple-choice questions, and you need to receive a grade of 70 on the scaled rating to get certified.

      You get two full hours to answer all the questions during the test.

      The passing rate for the NASM exam is 64%.

      The great thing about PSI/Lasergrade is that you will receive your results immediately after taking the test.

      The NASM CPT has an even steeper retest fee of $199 if you don’t pass the first time.

      If you get one of their more expensive packages, the retest comes free.

      To take the NASM exam, one needs to be 18 years old, have a high school education or the equivalent and have a current CPR/AED certification.

      Both exams test your knowledge of the overall curriculum very well.

      At times, I felt that ACSM was trying to trick you, whereas NASM provided questions that better display your knowledge of the material.

      Here is a link to my full review of NASM. You need to check out the NASM site for more information!

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      Save 25%
      Most Popular Cert
      3 Certs for 1
      A Good Option
      50% off
      Best Study Materials
      See MVP discount
      Best online PT course
      $100 Off
      The Top PT Software
      Get Free Trial

      Test your knowledge with my free NASM practice test here, a career and training system (or discovery journey) that ensures you find the best certification that suits you best.

      Find out what do you need to become a personal trainer, the best certified personal trainer courses, and a personal trainer pay in the fitness industry to make an informed decision about your career in personal training.

      Winner for the Test and Requirements is NASM

      NASM vs ACSM - Which one should you opt for in [year]? 8

      Recertification Requirements and Continuing Education Credits (CECs)

      Which one is more affordable between the ACSM recertification and NASM recertification; which one is easier to pass; and which provides more value?

      Let’s dig in to see!


      ACSM has one of the cheapest recertification fees in the industry.

      It only cost $30 to recertify, and you just need to recertify every three years.

      The only thing that I don’t like is that you have to complete 45 hours of continuing education units to get recertified.

      The average is 15 continuing education hours every year over the course of three years.

      Since the price of the ACSM continuing education program is affordable, there remains no reason for fitness pros not to get recertified.


      To recertify with NASM, you will have to pay a recertification fee of $99.

      They require you to get recertified every two years and need 20 hours of continuing education units.

      This comes out to 10 hours every year.

      Overall, I like not having to worry about recertification until three years later instead of every two years.

      Also, ACSM costs only $30.

      This low cost ensures there is no excuse for not enrolling for the NASM continuing education program.

      You can also look out for other Continuing Education Units that are cheaper for recertification.

      Winner of recertification and CEU’s is ACSM 

      NASM vs ACSM - Which one should you opt for in [year]? 9


      Conclusion on ACSM vs NASM

      You made it this far!

      That’s all the essential information you need to decide on which certification is better for you in the long run.

      I wish you good luck!

      Both of these personal trainer certifications are well recognized among fitness professionals and within the industry.

      I don’t know of one commercial or local gym that would not take either one of these.

      Check for Gyms that employ personal trainers.

      ACSM is recognized as one of the oldest and most challenging certifications.

      Overall, NASM won in the categories of general focus, recognition, popularity, study materials, and the test. Earning NASM first place overall.

      No wonder it is so widely accepted in the industry and held in high esteem among fitness trainers.

      ACSM wins in the category of overall price and recertification requirements earning ACSM two total trophies.

      Find other study materials that can help you pass your exams at first attempt

      The overall winner for NASM against ACSM is NASM!

      NASM vs ACSM - Which one should you opt for in [year]? 10

      If you are still having trouble choosing the certification that is best for you, I recommend that you take the quiz to find out which is the best match for you – if you should be NASM certified or ASCM certified.

      The ASCM test has a lower passing rate than NASM.

      This could be because their textbook is so dense with information.

      Another factor could be that NASM’s study materials are more natural to understand. 

      In any case, ACSM is more affordable than NASM by approximately $200.

      Both are accredited by the NCCA (National Commission for Certifying Agencies) which is a good thing.

      This means that they both follow strict guidelines regarding their information and test-taking procedures.

      I think that NASM’s OPT model provides an obvious path for success, especially with new trainers.

      NASM also has a strong emphasis on building a business as a personal trainer which ACSM does not.

      Because of this, they help their trainers become more successful.

      Both certifications are great for working with post-rehab clients, or clients with multiple muscular imbalances.

      However, in this comparison, NASM wins the trophy! Their study materials, training model, and business mindset make them the top of the field at the moment.

      As you choose this career path do not forget professional liability insurance that best protects you from lawsuits and also equip yourself with ups and downs of personal training.

      If I had to choose my favorite two certifications, they would be NASM and the American Council on Exercise (ACE) (check out my review of them).

      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!

      Here is the youtube video that I made about 4 years ago on the same subject.

      Although some things have changed, my opinion remains the same more or less.

      Since PTpioneer is dedicated to helping people get started in the personal training industry, let me point you in the direction of some helpful articles.

      I would first start out with my main guide about starting out in the personal training industry.

      Are you wondering how much money you can make as a personal trainer? Check out my article on personal training income. 

      This article will tell you the exact timeline you will follow in your new career.

      Let’s not waste any time and jump right into my ACSM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) or NASM (American College of Sports Medicine) article.

      There are other personal trainers certifications that will equip you to be among the best in the fitness industry.

      I hope you enjoyed my article on NASM vs ACSM personal training certification review!

      Here is a quick list of other NASM comparison articles on my site:

      Here is a list of comparison articles for the ACSM certification:

      If you would like to leave some input, don’t hesitate to write a comment below

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