NCCA Accredited Certifications 2023 - The list for Personal Trainers!

Welcome to PTPioneer; we will look at the basics of NCCA accreditation and the best NCCA accredited certifications.

The topics covered in this article will be:

  • What NCCA accreditation means
  • How to become a certified personal trainer
  • The most respected CPT certifications with NCCA

By the end of this article, you will be well-informed regarding the NCCA and the certifications that receive their accreditation and stand at the top of the industry.

If you want more direct guidance on choosing your fitness certification, be sure to take my quiz to determine which CPT is right for you.

NCCA Accredited Certifications [year] - A Complete List for Personal Trainers! 1
NCCA Accredited Certifications [year] - A Complete List for Personal Trainers! 2

So, without further ado, let’s get into the article with a solid introduction to the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.

NCCA Accredited Certifications [year] - A Complete List for Personal Trainers! 3
CPTCPTFeaturesPrice
ISSA CPT ISSA CPT
  • Great technique, programming, and periodization
  • Good aerobic and special populations training
  • Less emphasis on corrective exercise
Check ISSA Pricing
NASM CPT NASM CPT
  • Amazing OPT training model
  • Excellent corrective exercise coverage
  • Good coverage of behavior change
  • Vague special populations coverage
Check NASM Pricing
ACE CPT ACE CPT
  • Complete skillset for healthy clients
  • Great IFT model for programming
  • Excellent Mover Model for behavior change
  • Less corrective exercise coverage
  • No sales skills
Check ACE Pricing
NCSF CPT NCSF CPT
  • Lower cost than comparable certifications
  • Contains essential knowledge for CPTs
  • Less brand recognition
  • Lacks behavioral coaching and business skills
Check NCSF Pricing
ACSM CPT ACSM CPT
  • Excellent science and behavioral change coverage
  • Good special populations training
  • Poor coverage of resistance training technique
  • No comprehensive program design framework
Check ACSM Pricing
NSCA CPT NSCA CPT
  • Bigger focus on strength and conditioning
  • Great starter for advanced certifications
  • Comprehensive textbook
  • Limited study materials from NSCA
Check NSCA Pricing

NCCA Accreditation

NCCA Accredited Certifications [year] - A Complete List for Personal Trainers! 4

Let’s use this intro to discuss NCCA accreditation and what it means to have this associated with your CPT or other fitness certification.

The National Commission for Certifying Agencies was developed to uphold the standards of excellence and accommodate all professions and industries.

The standards set by the NCCA were the first standards developed for the credentialing industry and they work to ensure the health, welfare, and safety of the public. Accreditation of certification programs is essential to ensure quality quickly with certs.

NCCA accredited fitness certifications are the gold standard for being a certified trainer, and virtually every one of the top nutrition certifications and best personal trainer certifications will have NCCA accreditation.

You may even see this NCCA accrediting body with organizations that focus in group fitness and offer other accredited certifications online.

NCCA Accredited Certifications [year] - A Complete List for Personal Trainers! 5

Finding the best NCCA certification for you and your future career is key to building an excellent personal training resume and ensuring a solid personal training salary.

When you are choosing an NCCA accredited CPT certification, it is important also to consider other factors, and not just whether or not it is accredited.

Having NCCA accreditation can greatly assist your personal training salary, as these certifications are more highly valued.

It is also important that future trainers choose a fitness organization they can grow with, which means they need to consider the other certifications, continuing education opportunities, and specializations they offer.

Ideally, this organization should have NCCA accredited certifications, so you are getting great value.

Choosing an organization with an excellent combination of personal training certification, nutrition certification, and several other specializations is a great idea to maximize value for you and your clients.

NCCA Accredited Certifications [year] - A Complete List for Personal Trainers! 6

Purchasing multiple certs can be quite pricey, so I recommend choosing one organization and finding deals on their programs.

If you choose the ISSA for your fitness certifications, one of the top organizations, then I recommend checking out their ISSA Elite Trainer Certification Bundle.

This Elite Trainer Bundle from ISSA includes the ISSA CPT certificationISSA Nutritionist certification, and a specialization of your choice, like ISSA Strength and Conditioning Certification, ISSA CES certification, and many more options.

For someone choosing to get their CPT program and wanting to maximize the value they get in their purchase, the ISSA Elite Trainer Bundle is some of the greatest value in the industry.

While completing the CPT program, you would have three certifications for half their price outside of the bundle.

ISSA Elite Trainer badge

The ISSA Elite Trainer Bundle is an astonishing deal, and it’s nearly impossible to find a similar bundle in the industry.

This Elite Trainer Program is a unique deal, and the ISSA occasionally discounts the bundle directly on its website.

If a deal on the Elite Trainer is going on now, check it out, as it is hard to pass up.

Now, since we have covered some of the basics of NCCA accreditation, let’s dive in and see the requirements set for accreditation.

Certification Accreditation Process

NCCA Accredited Certifications [year] - A Complete List for Personal Trainers! 7

Accreditation from the NCCA works to show impartial, third-party validation that the program in discussion is recognized to have met the national and international credentialing standards for the development, implementation, and maintenance of certification programs.

The NCCA analyzes the systems and processes put in place by certifying agencies, which in this case is any organization offering fitness certification.

They investigate the curriculum provided by the certifying agency, professionalism, and how the certifying agencies administer and score their exams.

The NCCA uses a peer review process to:

  • Establish accreditation standards;
  • Evaluate compliance with these standards;
  • Recognize programs that demonstrate compliance;
  • Monitor and enforce continued compliance; and,
  • Serve as a resource on quality certification.

Now that we know more about what it means to achieve this accreditation and the overall value of certifications that receive it let’s look into the best NCCA personal training certifications offered in the fitness industry.

NCCA Accredited Personal Trainer Certifications

NCCA Accredited Certifications [year] - A Complete List for Personal Trainers! 8

Let’s look at the top NCCA accredited programs for future trainers to pursue!

International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA)

NCCA Accredited Certifications [year] - A Complete List for Personal Trainers! 9
Trainer Academy Guide
Trainer Academy Guide
  • Complete curriculum study preparation
  • Audio guide, flashcards, and mnemonics
  • 800+ practice questions
  • Highest exam pass rate
  • Exam pass refund guarantee
  • Cheaper pricing than ISSA materials
ISSA Materials
ISSA Materials
  • Curriculum study preparation
  • Includes textbook and study plan
  • Follow-along supplementary materials
  • 200+ practice questions
  • No exam pass refund guarantee
  • $950 for starter package
Free ISSA Study Guide
Free ISSA Study Guide
  • Curriculum material overview
  • Complete chapter breakdowns
  • 60 practice questions
  • 130 flashcards and cheat sheet
  • Free from PTPioneer

The ISSA CPT program is one of the industry’s top certified fitness trainer programs.

The ISSA is my top pick for CPTs, and it stands out regarding quality, value, and recognition.

One key selling point with this certification is that you can take the NCCA accredited CPT exam and opt for the DEAC accredited exam, which is much easier, but the NCCA version is highly recommended.

On top of CPT certification, it is an excellent idea to line up programs to get nutrition certification and any other specialization you are interested in.

The ISSA CPT will give you all of the skills you need for general personal training for your clients, and further certification can address other areas of interest with your clients.

Nutrition is one of these areas of interest that most people seek to discuss with their personal trainer, so why not get certified in more than one area?

NCCA Accredited Certifications [year] - A Complete List for Personal Trainers! 10

It’s always a good idea to think even further ahead and know what specializations you want to achieve to further your earning potential and success rate with clients reaching their goals.

To do this, ideally, you would look for an organization like ISSA with many specializations for all types of trainers.

Specializations give you more advanced skillsets for dealing with very specific types of clients and training styles.

Some of the most popular specialization certifications include strength and conditioning, group exercise, corrective exercise specialist, and many more.

The other benefit of pursuing these specializations is that the certifications count toward the already required continuing education credits (CEUs) for ISSA CPT programs and similar personal trainer certs.

Continuing education is part of the personal trainer’s role, and every two years, an ISSA CPT is required to achieve 20 hours worth of CEU credits to stay certified.

NCCA Accredited Certifications [year] - A Complete List for Personal Trainers! 11

Taking these courses and specializations is the number one way to check off the CEU credits while also improving your skillset for clients.

Cost is the main barrier to getting multiple certifications, so ISSA is highly valued. The Elite Trainer program includes the ISSA CPT program, the ISSA Nutrition Coach certification, and an additional ISSA specialization of your choice for half the cost for them all if bought separately.

issa-elite-trainer

The ISSA runs some absolutely crazy deals on their Elite Trainer Program, which you can easily see on their website.

I recommend taking that offer if they currently have a deal running, as it is an extremely valuable package.

ISSA’s Quality of Content

NCCA Accredited Certifications [year] - A Complete List for Personal Trainers! 12

ISSA strongly focuses on its resistance training programming, technique, and periodization.

ISSA has a new 19-chapter setup that focuses on all of the primary areas regarding personal training.

6 domains within ISSA’s program, are:

  • Applied Science
  • Nutrition
  • Client Intake and Ongoing Evaluation
  • Program Design and Implementation
  • Exercise Selection, Technique, and Training Instruction
  • Professional Practice and Responsibility

These domains cover all essential information and more.

The ISSA recently added a business section to their text, completing everything you need to know about personal training.

The text and its applied science and program design sections all provide as much quality as that of a degree in exercise science.

NCCA Accredited Certifications [year] - A Complete List for Personal Trainers! 13

One section that is less touched on would be the corrective exercise specialization and screening, but it does mention a bit throughout client screening.

Both aerobic and resistance training sections give all a trainer would need to develop a quality training program.

Perhaps the weakest section is behavioral coaching, but it does not detract from how well more important sections are done.

If you want a deeper ISSA CPT review, check out the PTPioneer comprehensive review.

ISSA CPT Price, Study Materials, and Difficulty of Exam

The pricing depends entirely on the package tier you choose to purchase with ISSA.

For the NCCA accredited exam to become an ISSA CPT and not have any other materials, it will cost $599.

NCCA Accredited Certifications [year] - A Complete List for Personal Trainers! 14

Most people will be looking for some study help, so the most popular options will be the different tiers of study packages, including the exam.

Exclusive PTP CPT Offers


Gold Standard Cert
NASM Gold Standard Personal Trainer Certification - Save 25%<br />
Most Popular Cert
ISSA - Most Popular Online Personal Trainer Certification 3 Certs for
Best Study Materials
TA - Trainer Academy - Best Study Materials for Personal Trainer Certification Online - See MVP discount
A Good Option
ACE Certification- A Good Fitness Course Online Option - 25% off<br />
A Good Option
NCSF Certification - A Good Option - Save 25%
Best CPT for you?
Best CPT For You? Take the Personal Trainer Certification Online quiz and Get a Personalized Recommendation Just for You

The lowest tier study package is called the Start Training CPT package, and it is $828 before tax but is often paid in the monthly interval option of $69 every month for 12 months.

The materials within this package are:

  • Online Study Materials
  • Dedicated Student Success Coach
  • 4-Week Fast Track Program
  • Job Guarantee
  • Free CPR and AED Certification Course
  • ISSA Community Membership
  • Passing Protection With A Free Retest
  • Online Bootcamp and Study Group

The second tier is the Kickstarter CPT Package, which costs $948 or $79 monthly for 12 months.

This second package includes everything from the first package with the addition of a “get 5 clients in 5 weeks” promise and a free nutritionist specialization course.

NCCA Accredited Certifications [year] - A Complete List for Personal Trainers! 15

The final tier of the ISSA CPT program is the Top Trainer Package, costing $1,428 or $199 every month for 12 months.

The additions to this package include “In-Gym training experience”, which gives you much-needed hands-on experience from a current trainer.

So, these packages are priced as follows:

  • Exam only – $599.00 + $79.00 test fee
  • Start Training CPT Package – $828 or $69 per month for 12 months
  • Kickstarter CPT Package – $948 or $79 per month for 12 months
  • Top Trainer CPT Package – $1428 or $119 per month for 12 months

If you want to start your ISSA studies or get a general idea of the content, check out our free ISSA Study Guide and Practice Tests.

It can also be beneficial to perfect your studies by seeking third-party resources.

Many students studying here on PTPioneer report great success when utilizing the study materials from Trainer Academy. They have an excellent Trainer Academy ISSA CPT Study Course.

As mentioned, you can further your training success by attaining multiple certifications and specializations.

The ISSA Elite Trainer is, without a doubt, the best fitness program, and it earns it by delivering three high-quality certifications for half the price they would be regularly.

issa-elite-trainer

With an ISSA CPT, the ISSA Nutritionist Certification, and an ISSA fitness specialization, you will maximize your service offerings and be able to train many types of clients.

You could specialize in areas like group fitness instructor, corrective exercise, and many other types of certifications. An ISSA personal trainer would benefit from any specialization they add to their resume.

If they are running a promotion, you’d be crazy not to purchase, as it is a great deal.

ISSA is a favorite of PTPioneer, but there are other options for personal training and fitness specializations.

National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)

NCCA Accredited Certifications [year] - A Complete List for Personal Trainers! 16
Trainer Academy Guide
Trainer Academy Guide
  • Complete curriculum study preparation
  • Audio guide, flashcards, and mnemonics
  • 800+ practice questions
  • Highest exam pass rate
  • Exam pass refund guarantee
  • Cheaper pricing than NASM materials
NASM Materials
NASM Materials
  • Curriculum study preparation
  • Video and written curriculum included
  • Textbook purchased seperately
  • 200+ practice questions
  • No exam pass refund guarantee
  • $899.00 for starter package
Free NASM Study Guide
Free NASM Study Guide
  • Curriculum material overview
  • Complete chapter breakdowns
  • 60 practice questions
  • 130 flashcards and cheat sheet
  • Free from PTPioneer

The NASM is a great choice for future trainers to pursue!

NASM is possibly the largest and most respected of all NCCA accredited organizations.

NASM thrives off of its innovative Optimum Performance Training Model, OPT.

If you want to work more as a corrective exercise specialist, NASM is a good choice since it has an excellent focus in this arena.

NASM’s Quality of Content

NCCA Accredited Certifications [year] - A Complete List for Personal Trainers! 17

NASM has an excellent balance throughout all of its domains and teaches the personal training basics for new NASM personal trainers as well as any other certification.

The domains allow for seamless progression right into personal training once the study program is completed.

The domains of study for NASM are:

  • Professional Development and Responsibility
  • Client Relations and Behavioral Coaching
  • Basic and Applied Sciences and Nutritional Concepts
  • Assessment
  • Exercise Technique and Training Instruction
  • Program Design

The OPT model is implemented throughout the textbook as the prime method for NASM trainers to utilize.

It is a great process to help tackle all of the training concepts and simplify them for new and learning trainers.

Outside of the OPT model, there is a solid amount of focus on special population training and basic business skills.

NCCA Accredited Certifications [year] - A Complete List for Personal Trainers! 18

NASM does not focus enough on nutrition coaching as some of the other CPT certifications, but their specific nutrition certification can help round off that bit of knowledge.

If you want to get into coaching athletes in the realm of strength and conditioning, and you are a CPT with NASM, it’s worth checking out their NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist.

For general fitness and special populations, NASM is at the top with ISSA and ACE; they all don’t miss a beat in their personal training for general populations.

I have also written a full review of NASM and also have a free NASM study guide on the site.

NASM CPT Price, Study Materials, and Difficulty of Exam

The NASM exam only costs $599 and doesn’t include any study materials with it.

But, the first tier of the NASM CPT study package is the Self-Study, which costs $899.

The materials included in the self-study package are:

  • 100% Online Course
  • NCCA Accredited Exam
  • State-of-the-Art, Digital Learning Platform
  • High-end Learning Videos
  • Audio Chapter Summaries
  • Exercise Demonstration Library
  • Biodigital 3D Models
  • Handouts and Resources Library
  • Practice Exam, Quizzes, and Knowledge Checks
  • Virtual Coaching Specialization: Train Clients in the Gym and Online!

The second tier is the Premium Self-Study package, which costs $1,199.

This package has everything from the previous tier, plus:

  • Job Guarantee
  • One-Year NASM EDGE Trainer Plus
  • Certification Exam Retest

The third tier for NASM’s CPT program is the Guided Study package, which comes in at $1,599 before any deals they may have.

On top of what is in the previous tiers, this one adds on these materials:

  • Unlimited Access to NASM Fitness Experts
  • NASM-CPT Hardcopy Textbook
  • Bonus Course: Motivational Interviewing for Coaches

Then we have the final tier, the All-Inclusive package, which comes in at $2,699 before any deals.

Included within this package are all the other tiers’ items, plus these:

  • NASM’s Edge CPT Exam Prep
  • Gymternship
  • Recertify for Life
  • CPR/AED Certification Online

All of these plans include an excellent amount of materials and should make studying very doable.

A solid highlight is an internship offered in the final tier, which is hard to put a price on, as hands-on experience is perhaps the most helpful part of any program and definitely worth your consideration.

NCCA Accredited Certifications [year] - A Complete List for Personal Trainers! 19

The NASM CPT exam is not the hardest in the industry, but it will test you intensely on the materials covered throughout the textbook.

It is a good idea to utilize NASM practice testing as we offer with our free study guide here on PTPioneer.

Many students of PTPioneer also refer to third-party resources for help with their studying. For that, the most popular resource is Trainer Academy and their NASM CPT Study Materials.

You may also desire to add nutrition specialization into your training business, which is a great deal on a bundle of the NASM CPT and NASM Nutrition certifications.

If you want to get your CPT directly from NASM, check the latest pricing on the organization’s website.

Next, let’s look at the final of the top 3 CPT certification organizations in fitness, ACE.

American Council on Exercise (ACE)

NCCA Accredited Certifications [year] - A Complete List for Personal Trainers! 20
Trainer Academy Guide
Trainer Academy Guide
  • Complete curriculum study preparation
  • Audio guide, flashcards, and mnemonics
  • 800+ practice questions
  • Highest exam pass rate
  • Exam pass refund guarantee
  • Cheaper pricing than ACE materials
ACE Materials
ACE Materials
  • Curriculum study preparation
  • Video and written curriculum included
  • Textbook purchased seperately
  • 200+ practice questions
  • No exam pass refund guarantee
  • $899.00 for starter package
Free ACE Study Guide
Free ACE Study Guide
  • Curriculum material overview
  • Complete chapter breakdowns
  • 60 practice questions
  • 130 flashcards and cheat sheet
  • Free from PTPioneer

The American Council on Exercise is the most popular nonprofit organization on the list.

This organization is accepted throughout North America and most of Europe, and they utilize their own state-of-the-art model, known as the IFT Training model, for progressing clients.

ACE also has some excellent programs inside their study materials in the form of ACE University and ACE Answers, which help those studying for ACE programs.

ACE’s Quality of Content

ACE teaches all of the essential skills for personal training, and the other two certifications are higher on this page.

The Integrated Fitness Training Model, or IFT, gives one of the best frameworks for program design and progression in the fitness industry.

This IFT model makes it very easy to learn and implement all of the textbook’s information and maximize your future clients’ abilities and fitness goals.

ACE also offers a comprehensive library of exercises, which contains hundreds of exercises with videos and detailed descriptions, all categorized to fit with the IFT model taught by ACE.

NCCA Accredited Certifications [year] - A Complete List for Personal Trainers! 21

This online video resource makes it easy for an ACE CPT to search for and use variations and modifications for all exercises and throughout many circumstances.

ACE breaks up its study materials into these domains:

  • Introduction to Personal Training
  • A Client-centered Approach to Personal Training
  • Assessments, Programming, and Progression
  • Program Modifications for Clients with Special Considerations
  • Professional Responsibilities

ACE also has a well-implemented Mover Method, which is a systematic approach to progressing and simply designing exercise programs based on a client’s unique skills, needs, and goals.

ACE hits the nail on the head in all domains but lacks the business and sales skills to focus on other certifications.

This is a minor negative, but it is important to note.

Some good news with the lack of information on sales and business skills is that many jobs will help teach how to sell personal training.

Nonetheless, ACE does a great job preparing its trainers for personal training, and clients will have all they need to succeed with these teachings.

If you would like an in-depth ACE CPT review, I have touched on that within PTPioneer.

Exclusive PTP CPT Offers


Gold Standard Cert
NASM Gold Standard Personal Trainer Certification - Save 25%<br />
Most Popular Cert
ISSA - Most Popular Online Personal Trainer Certification 3 Certs for
Best Study Materials
TA - Trainer Academy - Best Study Materials for Personal Trainer Certification Online - See MVP discount
A Good Option
ACE Certification- A Good Fitness Course Online Option - 25% off<br />
A Good Option
NCSF Certification - A Good Option - Save 25%
Best CPT for you?
Best CPT For You? Take the Personal Trainer Certification Online quiz and Get a Personalized Recommendation Just for You

ACE CPT Price, Study Materials, and Difficulty of Exam

NCCA Accredited Certifications [year] - A Complete List for Personal Trainers! 22

ACE has multiple tiers to choose from, just like other fitness organizations.

These packages are going to range in their price and what they offer.

If you want to purchase the exam only, you would need to pay $199, and no study materials would accompany this.

The first tier of actual study packages is the Basic package, which comes in at $979 before any deals are considered.

Included in the Basic package are these materials:

  • ACE University
  • ACE Certification Exam
  • ACE Practice Test (1)
  • ACE Personal Trainer Textbook (Digital)
  • ACE Personal Trainer Study Companion (Digital)
  • ACE Answers (Basic)

The second tier of packages for the ACE CPT is the Plus Package, and which comes in at $1,149.

Included in this Plus package will be these materials:

  • ACE University
  • ACE Certification Exam
  • ACE Practice Tests (2)
  • ACE Personal Trainer Textbook (Digital and Hardcopy)
  • ACE Personal Trainer Study Companion (Digital and Hardcopy)
  • ACE Answers (Plus) (Includes Live Q&A Webinars)
  • Free Ground Shipping
  • Free Standard Shipping in the USA
  • Exercise 101

And then, we have the final tier of the ACE CPT programs, known as the Advantage Package, which comes in at $1,729.

The materials included in this top tier will be:

  • ACE University
  • ACE Certification Exam
  • ACE Practice Tests (4)
  • ACE Personal Trainer Textbook (Digital, Hardcopy, and Audiobook)
  • ACE Personal Trainer Study Companion (Digital and Hardcopy)
  • ACE Answers (Advantage) (Includes Live Q&A Webinars and Facilitated Study Groups)
  • Free Shipping Expedited
  • Exercise Science 101
  • Dedicated Advantage Team

Many deals are constantly going on for these programs, so you can often find them for significant percentages off the base prices.

The ACE CPT programs are all of excellent quality and you will get more than you need in terms of knowledge in fitness.

NCCA Accredited Certifications [year] - A Complete List for Personal Trainers! 23

When it comes to the ACE exam, it currently has a 65% pass rate, which makes it slightly easier than NASM, and somewhat more challenging than ISSA.

It could definitely help to go for practice testing and other study resources outside of resources directly from ACE.

Many people may choose to go with a third-party resource when looking for study help, and I always see my students recommending Trainer Academy.

When it comes to ACE study programs, they offer an extremely useful Trainer Academy ACE CPT Prep Program.

Overall, ACE is an excellent CPT program that ends up in the middle of the list regarding NCCA Accredited CPT programs.

That wraps up what we consider to be the top 3 NCCA accredited personal training certifications; now, let’s move on and look at another excellent option with NCSF.

National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF)

NCCA Accredited Certifications [year] - A Complete List for Personal Trainers! 24
Trainer Academy Guide
Trainer Academy Guide
  • Complete curriculum study preparation
  • Audio guide, flashcards, and mnemonics
  • 800+ practice questions
  • Highest exam pass rate
  • Exam pass refund guarantee
  • Cheaper pricing than NCSF materials
NCSF Materials
NCSF Materials
  • Curriculum study preparation
  • Video and written curriculum included
  • Textbook purchased separately
  • 200+ practice questions
  • No exam pass refund guarantee
  • $419.00 for starter package
Free NCSF Study Guide
Free NCSF Study Guide
  • Curriculum material overview
  • Complete chapter breakdowns
  • 60 practice questions
  • 130 flashcards and cheat sheet
  • Free from PTPioneer

The NCSF is a newer face in personal training and offers an amazing deal for certification.

The NCSF is a community-driven health and fitness company in southern Florida.

It is not just an organization for personal training certification but is also used to oversee the NCCA credentialing programs.

The National Council on Strength and Fitness is not as well-known as the three organizations higher on the list, but they offer packages equivalent to their study systems.

NCSF’s Quality of Content

NCCA Accredited Certifications [year] - A Complete List for Personal Trainers! 25

All of the general skills for personal training and knowledge in exercise science will be taught throughout the high-quality study programs.

The first domain of study dives into the anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics basics, which is up to par with ISSA and NASM, and even surpasses that of ACE.

The next primary domain will detail behavioral change, client assessment, basic nutrition, and all of the essentials for resistance training programming.

Compared to other organizations’ study programs, there is a little less coverage on the special populations and flexibility side of training.

But, the biggest lack of materials would be when it comes to teaching the business aspects of personal training. Some other top certifications have this problem, and it’s quite unfortunate.

When it comes to missing business skills, you will miss out on topics like administration, liability, sales, and insurance. These can be very helpful for the future of personal trainers.

If you would like a more detailed review of the NCSF CPT cert, make sure to check out the PTPioneer NCSF CPT review.

NCCA Accredited Certifications [year] - A Complete List for Personal Trainers! 26

NCSF CPT Price, Study Materials, and Difficulty of Exam

The NCSF offers 4 Main packages for future trainers to choose from, and they aim to please different types of people.

First, if you were to purchase the CPT exam from NCSF, you would pay $299.

From there, we get into the study material options and the CPT exam.

The first package offered by NCSF is the Home Study package, which comes in at $699, and is sometimes discounted by around $300.

Included in this first package will be these materials:

  • Personal Training Textbook 2nd Edition (Digital)
  • Instructional Videos
  • Lesson Notes
  • Questions and Answers
  • Review Quizzes
  • Instructor Support
  • One Year Membership
  • NCSF Personal Trainer Certification Exam
  • Payment Plan Option

Next, we have the Home Study + Option, which comes in at $799 before any deals they may have currently running.

This Package includes everything in the first study program, plus the addition of the Physical Version of the Personal Training Textbook 2nd Edition.

The third option from NCSF brings some valuable experience through a 2-day workshop instruction, which gives more hands-on experience across 16 hours.

The workshop reference guide is also added for use during and after the workshop. The only thing missing from this third package is the physical textbook.

The workshop package costs a total of $799 before any deals.

And the final option for NCSF is Workshop +, which includes all offered materials and is basically the workshop program plus a physical textbook for future trainers that benefit from having a textbook.

This final option comes in at $899 before any deals and is an excellent value compared to the other top organizations.

All of these packages are of excellent value and teach their materials well. Still, some people prefer to seek out third-party resources to assist them with their efficiency in studying.

The Trainer Academy and the NCSF CPT Study Program are the most popular third-party study resources.

This is always highly recommended by my students here on PTPioneer, as they include excellent materials in the form of study guides, flashcards, practice exams, and audio guides.

NCCA Accredited Certifications [year] - A Complete List for Personal Trainers! 27

A main benefit of the NCSF is that they are among the most affordable CPT study programs and earn a spot amongst the cheapest personal trainer certifications in the fitness industry.

The NCSF exam is also worth mentioning as it is easier than two of the certifications above, both NASM and ACE, but harder than ISSA’s CPT exam.

Altogether, the NCSF offers up a valuable program to its trainers, and the name might not carry the weight of some of these other organizations. However, it still offers everything needed to succeed in training.

Make sure to check the NCSF website for more information and deals they may have running for their programs.

Now, let’s look into a well-known and established organization like ACSM.

American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)

NCCA Accredited Certifications [year] - A Complete List for Personal Trainers! 28
Trainer Academy Guide
Trainer Academy Guide
  • Complete curriculum study preparation
  • Audio guide, flashcards, and mnemonics
  • 800+ practice questions
  • Highest exam pass rate
  • Exam pass refund guarantee
  • Cheaper deals than ACSM pricing
ACSM Materials
ACSM Materials
  • Curriculum study preparation
  • Includes CPT Prep course
  • 200+ practice questions
  • Facebook CPT group (free)
  • No exam pass refund guarantee
  • $600+ for study course, textbooks additional $80+
Free ACSM Study Guide
Free ACSM Study Guide
  • Curriculum material overview
  • Complete chapter breakdowns
  • 60 practice questions
  • 130 flashcards and cheat sheet
  • Free from PTPioneer

The ACSM is a very popular and well-founded organization. They play a major part in the clinical and research-focused areas that other organizations benefit from.

ACSM is the oldest of the organizations on this page, so it makes sense that the name carries weight and value in the industry.

ACSM is a non-profit organization whose goal is to promote and conduct research in exercise science.

The CPT certification from ACSM is not a favorite for PTPioneer, but it is still an excellent option and one that remains an influential organization throughout the world of fitness.

ACSM’s Quality of Content

NCCA Accredited Certifications [year] - A Complete List for Personal Trainers! 29

Since this organization is well-known for its research in exercise science, it makes sense that its exercise science, anatomy, and biomechanics section is as good as anything in the industry.

In fact, ACSM provides a lot of the basis for other study programs rooted in exercise science. It really is perfectly provided to the future trainers.

This foundation in exercise science is very beneficial to the future of personal training, and trainers who are studying will value this study program.

The other two areas that are well-done through ACSM are the screening and behavior coaching sections.

It is not a favorite cert of mine because it does not teach actual program design well and does not stand up to the certifications listed above ACSM on this page.

The ACSM could benefit from a state-of-the-art model for implementing programs and training like what is found within the NASM OPT or ACE IFT model.

I’m sure future iterations of the CPT content will expand upon this important domain, as it is the only thing lacking. Unfortunately, it is one of the most essential aspects of personal training certification.

The main type of trainer this certification would be for is the future trainer who desires to take their career in more of a research and clinical side of fitness.

If you would like an in-depth breakdown of the ACSM cert, make sure to check out PTPioneer’s ACSM Personal Trainer Cert Review.

NCCA Accredited Certifications [year] - A Complete List for Personal Trainers! 30

ACSM CPT Price, Study Materials, and Difficulty of Exam

ACSM does not offer packages for their study materials like other organizations but instead offers the ability to purchase materials separately so that you purchase exactly what you need.

The ACSM exam costs right at $349, and then from there, you can decide what materials you want to purchase.

Here are the materials offered and their prices:

  • Online practice questions through PrepU – $64.99 for 3 months of access)
  • ACSM CPT Prep course – $270.00
  • ACSM CPT Facebook Group – free
  • ACSM’s Resources for the Personal Trainer Textbook – $79.99
  • ACSM Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription textbook – $87.19

These resources are fantastic for studying for the ACSM CPT exam, but sometimes outside resources can condense the materials and highlight the things that you will certainly be tested over.

Most students here on PTPioneer prefer to go with some third-party study guides, like Trainer Academy and the ACSM CPT Prep Course.

The ACSM exam is as difficult as NASM, ACE, and ISSA, with a 69% passing rate.

Make sure to check ACSM and their prices for the study materials if you decide to go that route.

Next, we have one last NCCA CPT certification from another great organization in fitness, NSCA.

National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)

NCCA Accredited Certifications [year] - A Complete List for Personal Trainers! 31
Trainer Academy Guide
Trainer Academy Guide
  • Complete curriculum study preparation
  • Audio guide, flashcards, and mnemonics
  • 800+ practice questions
  • Highest exam pass rate
  • Exam pass refund guarantee
  • Cheaper pricing than ACSM materials
NSCA Materials
NSCA Materials
  • Curriculum study preparation
  • Video and written curriculum included
  • Textbook purchased separately
  • 200+ practice questions
  • No exam pass refund guarantee
  • $300+ for textbook and prep course (exam not included)
Free NSCA Study Guide
Free NSCA Study Guide
  • Curriculum material overview
  • Complete chapter breakdowns
  • 60 practice questions
  • 130 flashcards and cheat sheet
  • Free from PTPioneer

The NSCA was the first certification for personal training to get NCCA accreditation.

This is the last NCCA Accredited Certification in Fitness and Wellness that we will discuss in the article.

While they are not known for their personal training, it is still a very strong certification for trainers to strive for.

The NSCA is known for its amazing strength and conditioning program, the NSCA CSCS.

This is easily the gold standard as far as certification in strength and conditioning goes.

So, if your objective is to get into that realm of fitness, NSCA is undoubtedly the way to go.

The NSCA is a non-profit, like ACSM, and they lead the industry in research on athletic performance.

They also have many opportunities in the realm of practical application, continuing education, and networking for trainers and strength coaches.

They offer membership to their organization, which brings great discounts and deals, as well as access to the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, which is a valuable resource for anyone in Personal Training.

NCCA Accredited Certifications [year] - A Complete List for Personal Trainers! 32

NSCA’s Quality of Content

NSCA’s textbook contains a breadth of knowledge for NSCA personal trainers spread across 25 chapters.

All training domains will be covered, like training and programming, nutrition, behavior coaching, and much more.

The textbook has been updated as of 2022 and is as current as any program.

The main problem with NSCA and their CPT cert’s study materials is that so much information is included that it is overwhelming and feels like it lacks focus.

Having too much information is not a bad thing, but when it comes to studying, it can be a nearly impossible task for someone new to exercise science.

If you want a more detailed review of this certification, check out this PTPioneer NSCA CPT review.

NCCA Accredited Certifications [year] - A Complete List for Personal Trainers! 33

NSCA CPT Price, Study Materials, and Difficulty of Exam

Regarding price, NSCA has some reasonable prices but no real deals running on their website. So, if deals for other certs didn’t exist, this would be great.

The NSCA does offer the ability to become a member, which cuts down the prices a little bit, but even then, it isn’t to the level of organizations like ISSA or NASM.

Registering for the exam costs $435 for a non-member and $300 for a member of NSCA.

The packages do not include the NSCA Exam but do include materials for studying only.

The first package is the NSCA-CPT Digital Package.

This is aimed at people who wish to become familiar with the questions on the exam and includes an NSCA CPT study guide and more than 200 practice questions.

This NSCA CPT Digital Package costs $152 for members and $201.40 for non-members.

The second study package from NSCA is the NSCA CPT Essential Package.

The Essential package is aimed at people who may already have experience or a degree in exercise science or want more basic study materials.

The essential package includes the Essentials of Personal Training 3rd Edition, the NSCA CPT Study Guide, and over 200 practice questions.

The Essentials package costs $242.10 for members and $297.90 for non-members.

The last option for study packages is the NSCA-CPT Essential Plus Package. This is the preferred study package if you only want materials from NSCA and not third-party resources.

Ideally, the Essential Plus package is for someone who is newer to the field of exercise science or wants all of the study materials available.

This final package includes the Essentials of Personal Training 3rd edition with an Online Study Course, the Exercise Technique Manual 4th Edition, the NSCA CPT Study Guide, and Over 200 practice questions.

The Essential Plus package costs $454.50 for members and $513 for non-members.

The main issue with these study materials is with the digital materials, as they are all truly PDF format documents.

The NSCA CPT exam has a 72% pass rate, which makes it a hair easier than other CPT certifications but harder than ISSA.

Make sure to check out the NSCA website, they hardly ever have deals on their programs, but it’s good to see their offerings.

PTPioneer NCCA Cert Review Methodology

NCCA Accredited Certifications [year] - A Complete List for Personal Trainers! 34

For the coverage and review of the above NCCA-accredited CPT certifications, I have used my own knowledge and experience of the certifications and their associated organizations.

I have over a decade of experience as a personal trainer and a firm understanding of the requirements for passing CPT certification exams. I have assessed the CPT curriculums to see if they adequately prepare future trainers.

The details regarding current prices and deals have been taken directly from the organizations.

DEAC Accreditation

The Distance Education Accrediting Commission is a private, non-profit organization created in 1926 that works to accredit courses for many types of institutions.

It operates for institutions throughout the globe and is a reliable second choice when it comes to personal training.

DEAC accreditation is the second form of fitness cert accreditation, which you will find as a sole accreditation for some certifications, and other certifications will offer options for both.

The gold standard is always going to be NCCA, but
DEAC is a good second option ensuring you learn viable information from your certification.

Make sure you know which program offers what and know the accreditation type you are going for, as this is relevant to your certification, especially if you choose a CPT program outside of those discussed in this article.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the best online personal trainer certification?

Speaking of which online personal training certification is best, I believe the best online personal training certification is ISSA, followed closely by NASM and ACE.

What is the most respected Personal Training certification

The most respected certification will be NCCA accreditation certifications, which are the top certifications mentioned in this article. Non-NCCA accredited certifications are valued a bit less.

Can you personal trainer without a certification?

It is not illegal to work without certification. Still, it is highly discouraged in the industry, and it is also much harder to verify to employers and clients that you are qualified to help them.

What are the benefits of NCCA Accredited Certification?

NCCA accreditation for organizations ensures learners get a high-quality course that is verified to teach them the essential information for success in a field, like personal training.

Do gyms accept NCCA-accredited certification?

Yes! Not only do they accept them, but NCCA-accredited certs are the most respected and sought-after of personal training certifications.

Conclusion on NCCA Accredited Certifications

Currently, my top two NCCA certifications are the ISSA and NASM, but any choice on this list will lead to a profitable future as a fitness professional.

Make sure to review all of the PTPioneer study materials offered to get a headstart on your programs.

Also, if you are looking for third-party study resources, Trainer Academy offers many study programs for various fitness certs.

After reading this article, I hope you understand what the NCCA does and how they make personal training certifications safer and more valuable.

Happy personal training!

Resources:

https://www.credentialingexcellence.org/nccadirectory

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.

PTPioneer Editorial Integrity

All content published on PTPioneer is checked and reviewed extensively by our staff of experienced personal trainers, nutrition coaches, and other Fitness Experts. This is to make sure that the content you are reading is fact-checked for accuracy, contains up-to-date information, and is relevant. We only add trustworthy citations that you can find at the bottom of each article. You can read more about our editorial integrity here.

31 thoughts on “NCCA Accredited Certifications 2023 – A Complete List for Personal Trainers!”

  1. PTPioneer User

    Hi
    Great source of info on your website
    Though do you have the official link so that I can verify the list of PT certifications accredited?

    Thank you
    best regards

    Philip

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      The ISSA, although not accredited by the NCCA, is a fantastic certification overall. In fact, it is one of the top five certifications I am recommending to the visitors of my website as really grown over the last five years to be a premier certification. I suggest checking out my article here on the top personal training certifications. https://www.ptpioneer.com/best-personal-trainer-certification-guide/ I hope this helps and if you have any other questions don’t forget to drop a comment.

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hey Amber,
      The material I put on my website is basically just for the United States because that’s where I live. Every area has different requirements for certifications as well as accreditation. I suggest you check with the local gymnasiums in Ireland to see which certifications they accept. Is very possible that they do accept ACE but I can’t guarantee that for you.

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hey Ben,
      This is a great question that I would love to answer for you. Although the national Academy of sports medicine has merged with The aerobics And fitness Association of America, they are still two completely separate certifications. You can purchase either one from the NASM website. They are both fantastic options but I think as a starting personal trainer, NASM is definitely the gold standard. I hope this helps.

  2. PTPioneer User

    What do you think of the NPTI (National Personal Training Institute) program? From what I’ve read, the school offers hands on gym training & classroom instruction vs that of an online program, however, it’s more pricey & I’m not sure if it’s NCCA accredited. I also wonder if it’s recognized & taken seriously by companies looking to hire personal trainers.

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hey Lisa,
      The national personal training Institute is a fantastic program overall in you will get tons of hands-on training experience that will be very helpful for when you actually start training individuals. In fact, they probably have the most hands-on experience compared to any other programs I talked about on this website. Kept up being said, they are very costly and they are still not currently Currently accredited by the national Commission for certifying agencies Otherwise known as the NCCA. You can tell this by a list on their website https://nationalpti.org/npti-personal-trainer-certification-comparison/. The biggest problem is that some people do not accept non NCCA Accredited certification still although that is slowly changing in the personal training industry. Don’t get me wrong though, it is still recognized by tons of employers. Might want to check with the potential employers in your area before you start going for it. I hope this helps.

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      I have never heard of this personal training certification to be honest. But there are always new ones popping up and is good for me to do more in-depth research in order to fill out my website. Thanks for pointing this out.

  3. PTPioneer User

    Hi mate,
    Why there are as many complaints from professionals as the difficulty and the difference in salary when you have ISSA certification ?
    Thank you and great job !!

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      There is no difference in terms of personal trainer salary for the people that have the international sports Sciences Association certification. In fact, now they are accredited by the MCCA since January 2020. Good luck with your personal training career.

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