The ISSA and NSCA CPT are both top-tier fitness certifications for a successful personal trainer career. The ISSA has a focus on special populations and general fitness, whereas the NSCA CPT has more exercise science coverage. ISSA has a higher price but comes with more study materials than the NSCA CPT.

Keep reading to find out which certification is right for you.

ISSA, NSCA CPT, or a different cert?

We developed this critical quiz to help you find the best certification for you and your goals.

Tyler Read holds NSCA and ISSA textbooks up on table with whiteboard in the back - which is better, NSCA VS ISSA

Welcome to my PTPioneer review featuring ISSA vs NSCA. I base this review on my experience taking and passing both ISSA and NSCA exams, along with my experience as a certified personal trainer for over ten years.

Our group of contributors at PTPioneer includes trainers with both NSCA and ISSA certifications and together we have compiled the most accurate assessment of these two CPT programs

My ISSA vs NSCA breakdown compares both personal training certifications across the following domains:

  • Topical information: pricing, packages, and prerequisites
  • Content deep dive: knowledge and skills
  • Exam difficulties, preparation timelines, and study material review
  • Pros and cons of NSCA vs ISSA

When you finish reading, you should know which personal trainer program is right for you: ISSA or NSCA

If you’re still unsure about which CPT you should choose, I recommend that you take the quiz to discover which PT certificate resonates most with you.

What certification is right for you?

We developed this critical quiz to help you find the best certification for you and your goals.

Let’s dive in. 

Quick Breakdown: ISSA vs NSCA

CPTACSM vs ACE Quick BreakdownFeaturesPrice
ISSA-CPT ISSA-CPT
  • Great customer experience and support
  • It goes in-depth into the business aspect of personal training
  • It tests you on a wide variety of skills
  • You can take the test anywhere in the world
  • Possibly the most international certification
  • Relaxed testing and retesting criteria
  • In-depth, robust main text and personal trainer study guide
  • No live instruction
  • Black and white textbook
View on ISSA Website
NSCA-CPT NSCA-CPT
  • NSCA accreditation
  • Huge NSCA network
  • NSCA clinics
  • NSCA accredited schools
  • Great CEU opportunities
  • Fair NSCA membership costs
  • Membership discounts and benefits
  • Access to the NSCA Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research
  • Lacks coverage on the personal training business, marketing, and sales
  • Some CPT exam prep material is inadequate
View on NSCA website
Product
Product
Exam cost
Exam cost
$828
$300 (members), $435 (nonmembers)
Study Material Cost
Study Material Cost
Included in exam cost
$200-$500+
Prerequisites
Prerequisites
18 years of age, CPR/AED, high school diploma
18 years of age, CPR/AED, high school diploma
Exam Passing Score
Exam Passing Score
75%
70%
Exam Pass Rate
Exam Pass Rate
90%
72%
Average Completion Time
Average Completion Time
3-6 months
6 months
Trainer Academy Guides
Trainer Academy Guides
  • Complete curriculum study preparation
  • Audio guide, flashcards, and mnemonics
  • 800+ practice questions
  • Exam pass refund guarantee
  • $199.00 for MVP package
Official Materials
Official Materials
  • Curriculum study preparation
  • Includes text, graphics, and videos
  • 200+ practice questions
  • No exam pass refund guarantee
  • $899.00 for starter package
PTPioneer Study Guides
PTPioneer Study Guides
  • Curriculum material overview
  • Complete chapter breakdowns
  • 60 practice questions
  • 130 flashcards and cheat sheet
  • Free from PTPioneer

What is ISSA?

Founded in 1988, the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) remains a world leader in online fitness certifications. 

ISSA is a non-profit organization that has successfully certified fitness professionals over many decades and remains one of the best online personal trainer certifications.

The ISSA CPT is dubbed as a general fitness trainer certification with a slight emphasis on nutrition coaching, powerlifting, and athletic performance.

Your overall income as a fitness professional depends on many more factors than which organization you got your CPT from.

In my experience, trainers with the most success typically offer nutrition coaching as part of their services.

Without addressing nutrition and physical training, you cannot expect to deliver 5-star results to your clients, so it’s worthwhile to consider a nutrition coaching certification in conjunction with your CPT program.

Additionally, completing a fitness specialist certification such as group exercise or strength and conditioning is another solid move to carve out lucrative expertise in the fitness industry.

Comparing a specialist certified trainer with nutritional coaching knowledge on top of their personal training certification to a trainer who only holds the CPT credential, it’s clear which trainer will be ahead in the long run.

The good news is that both the ISSA and NSCA offer several additional certifications you can add to your CPT program. However, the ISSA overall has better options for continuing education.

Of course, the price of getting 3 different certs adds up quickly.

If you choose the ISSA CPT, I highly recommend using the ISSA Elite Trainer bundle.

The Elite Trainer includes the personal trainer certification, the ISSA nutrition certification, and a third ISSA specialization of your choice.

With our exclusive PTPioneer ISSA deal, you can pick up the Elite Trainer package for just $1308 or $109 a month, paid in full.

You can also get the CPT and another ISSA certification for slightly more than the standard price as the ISSA CPT through the same deal.

I wouldn’t sleep on this, though, as it’s hard to say exactly how long it will last. If you can grab the deal today, it’s tough to pass up.

With the ISSA model, there are two different exams: one is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC), while the other is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). I would recommend taking the NCCA accredited exam as it holds more recognition in the eyes of the fitness industry. 

What is NSCA?

The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) is a worldwide authority on strength and conditioning founded in 1978.

This organization continues excellent research regarding performance studies and new exercise techniques in the world of fitness. 

NSCA focuses more on athletic performance than ISSA does and their Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (NSCA CSCS) program stands among the best in its kind.

The NSCA CPT has NCCA accreditation, the gold standard stamp of approval in terms of overall quality.

Most gyms hold the NSCA in high regard, as well as their certification programs.

Pros and cons of ISSA vs NSCA

NSCA vs ISSA - Tyler read holds up ISSA and NSCA textbooks in front of white board with ISSA vs NSCA on it

ISSA and NSCA CPTs both have their fair share of pros and cons.

The ISSA personal trainer certification gives you all the tools you need as a new coach. You learn about how to design excellent exercise programs, motivate and teach individual clients, as well as other skills like how to sell your personal trainer services. 

ISSA covers more business skills than other CPTs, which is why their trainers on average make more money than from other organizations. ISSA also designs their curriculum based around the easiest and most efficient way to learn the information.

NSCA gears their CPT more towards training clients with a focus on athletics. There is a lot more detail than ISSA regarding programming, teaching movements and exercise physiology and biomechanics. 

On the downside for NSCA, the course covers so much detail that you can get kind of lost in terms of what information will be essential as a new trainer. NSCA also doesn’t include much business skill preparation. 

ISSA’s main negative comes from the price. It’s a lot more expensive than NSCA, although if you do their multiple specialization deals, the price per certification goes down a lot. 

NSCA and ISSA certification packages and study materials

NSCA and ISSA textbooks on table with gold coins on them and a money bag - which personal trainer certification costs more

Most online personal trainer certifications provide you with an ebook and the option to purchase a hard copy.

Some people, such as myself, prefer a physical textbook.

It’s easier to leave bookmarks and sticky notes and have the satisfaction of a physical object to supplement your studies.

ISSA’s main textbook, Fitness: The Complete Guide, comes free with your purchase of its certified personal trainer certification.

The ISSA-CPT book has a conversational tone that makes it accessible while still expanding on technical aspects and terminology.

The cohesion between a lighter read, hard facts, and science-backed knowledge makes absorbing information much easier.

While the sidebar footnotes give ISSA’s text an almost skimmable appeal, I’d strongly advise you to read it thoroughly for a proper understanding.

Additionally, the ISSA online support staff does an excellent job at answering questions you may have about the material in the course.

The online videos synthesize the information for you as you take the steps towards the test. 

The most common price for ISSA personal trainer certifications is $999. With this comes a textbook, entrance to the ISSA certification test, and extra online study materials and practice tests to accompany your online course resources.

Prices are subject to change, so always check the website for updates.

And if you want the textbook, that’s another $40.

I’ve put together a free ISSA Study Guide and Practice Test if you want to start studying immediately without paying a dime.

For premium third-party study guides that include flashcards, audio, multiple ISSA practice tests, and an exam-pass guarantee, my students report great results with the Trainer Academy ISSA CPT MVP Study Guide package.

As I mentioned earlier, bundling a nutrition certification and additional fitness specialization on top of your base CPT certification will put you ahead of the curve compared to only having a training cert.

With that in mind, if you do go for the ISSA CPT, I highly encourage you to take advantage of the ISSA Elite Trainer Bundle.

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This starter package will save you a ton of money across these certifications while also knocking out a full four years of CEUs with a single purchase.

The ISSA Elite Trainer promotion lets you get the three certifications for $1308 or $109 monthly for 12 months.

That amounts to $436 per certification, which is hands down the best sales price you will find in the fitness industry.

You can also get a 2-for-1 on the CPT and ISSA nutrition certification if you aren’t fully ready to do the Elite Trainer.

At $1199 for both certifications, that comes out to $599 per certification.

Please note that the ISSA can switch up their promotions anytime so I wouldn’t delay too long. If they offer the deal, it’s hard to pass up.

Now let’s explore the NSCA certification cost and NSCA study materials, which include three distinct package offerings:

NSCA membership comes in three possible options
  • NSCA-CPT Essential Package
  • NSCA-CPT Essential Plus Package
  • NSCA-CPT Digital Package

Although some guidance is offered in the Essential Package, there is not too much hand-holding.

This includes the following:

  • Essentials of Personal Training course textbook
  • NSCA Study Guide
  • Over 200 digital practice questions

I believe this best suits those with a good grasp of sports medicine principles and who want to expedite the study process.

Secondly, there’s the Essential Plus Package, which is all-inclusive and ideal for newbie personal trainers and includes:

  • Essentials of Personal Training course textbook
  • Exercise Technique Manual
  • NSCA Study Guide
  • Over 200 digital practice exams

This is best for someone who wants extra exercise technique knowledge. 

Lastly, NSCA’s Digital Package is a very simplistic, basic package with all the training wheels removed.

If you are experienced and/or don’t require much guidance, this is for you. The differences between the three packages are too great. Neither of them really give you as much as ISSA. 

This last Digital Package includes the NSCA study guide and over 200 digital practice test access.

The total NSCA-CPT cost combines the study package and your exam registration, and prices differ based on your membership status.

Let’s take a look below:

Members:

  • Exam cost: $300
  • NSCA-CPT Essential Package: $255.55
  • NSCA-CPT Essential Plus Package: $479.75
  • NSCA-CPT Digital Package: $152

Nonmembers:

  • Exam cost: $435
  • NSCA-CPT Essential Package: $314.45
  • NSCA-CPT Essential Plus Package: $541.50
  • NSCA-CPT Digital Package: $201.40

Clearly, having an NSCA membership cuts your costs considerably while offering other perks.

Furthermore, NSCA membership comes in three possible options, including the following and their respective annual fees.

Depending on where you stand in your career, you can make your choice of membership option.

Student memberships are for full-time undergraduate and graduate students.

Professional memberships are great for those in the field, and they include the following details:

  • Full access to five strength and conditioning journals
  • NSCA online content
  • Discounts

And lastly, the CPI membership is the juiciest yet, including full member benefits, personal trainer liability insurance, and much more.

You can start studying today before spending a dime on anything by checking out my free NSCA CPT study guide and practice test.

For paid NSCA study guides, you can get a better deal overall, plus an exam-pass guarantee when you go with third-party study guides such as the Trainer Academy NSCA CPT MVP Study Guide.

Regarding study materials and prices, ISSA vs NSCA remains a tie. With a membership, the NSCA packages are a bit cheaper than ISSA, but you also get less overall study content. 

Be sure to check the websites for the most up-to-date pricing, books, and resources, as they are subject to change.

ISSA and NSCA course layouts

NSCA and ISSA textbooks open to table of contents page with chapters

These individual chapter breakdowns and topics highlight the important domains covered by both NSCA and ISSA in their trainer programs. 

Exercise science

Although the ISSA Certified Personal Trainer (ISSA-CPT) certification is mostly basic, it’s not easily obtainable.

ISSA exceeds expectations with its sharp focus on the “average” client’s needs regarding program design.

ISSA personal trainer textbook - ISSA vs NSCA CPT

And it builds a solid knowledge base for those learning how to become a personal trainer.

The moderate emphasis on corrective exercise makes sense because average clients typically want to lose weight and avoid injury.

ISSA provides a rich depth of scientific and practical health and fitness principles.

NSCA’s approach to exercise science mostly highlights training adaptations to aerobic and resistance training, which aligns well with its overall focus on athletes and athletic performance.

Given its heavy emphasis on strength and conditioning, its exercise science coverage is definitely stronger than ISSA. 

If this topic interests you, the NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) certification review and free CSCS practice exam provide additional information.

ISSA vs NSCA on exercise science puts NSCA on top, but only by a hair.

While ISSA has great exercise science content, NSCA goes a bit more in-depth. 

Behavior change coaching skills

Successful personal trainers must apply effective behavior change coaching skills in their sessions. 

ISSA provides cutting-edge nutrition, fitness, and lifestyle knowledge, with a strong emphasis on behaviors surrounding those aspects and their impact on overall health.

Their approach to behavior change compares well with the American Council on Exercise (ACE) CPT program.

When clients learn to prioritize exercise and avoid processed junk foods, their life outside the gym is much more controlled.

Overall, ISSA goes more in-depth on nutritional aspects than most other fitness certifications and ranks on top amongst comparisons of the best nutrition certification programs.

Moving forward, the NSCA personal training certification curriculum covers the following concepts on this topic:

  • Goal setting
  • Motivation
  • Influences and adaptations of mental health around exercise

Fitness requires a strong mental component. 

Your body follows what your mind tells you, and once you control your mind, you master your body.

Though NSCA highlights some great ways to motivate your clients inside and outside the gym, ISSA gives a bit more depth on behavior change, communication skills, and psychology than the NSCA personal trainer curriculum.

Consulting and screening clients to reduce risks of injury

Below is a comprehensive outline of ISSA’s Basic Assessment of Fitness Participants section.

ISSA screening GXT unit outline

First, ISSA covers GXT, which stands for Graded Exercise Test.

GXT is a treadmill or cycle ergometer test that delivers heart rate, ECG, and other data and often requires medical supervision.

The workload is gradually increased until an increase in workload is not followed by an increase in oxygen consumption.

This phenomenon identifies the individual’s maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 Max).

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The GXT test enhances accuracy and allows trainers to design more client-tailored aerobic fitness routines.

While weeding out estimations and guessing makes the routine much more effective.

ISSA covers stress tests, and blood pressure basics, using Target Heart Rate (THR), the Borg RPE Scale, using MET equivalents, all in sufficient depth.

You’ll also cover the following assessments in sufficient depth:

  • Cardiovascular endurance
  • Muscular strength
  • Flexibility
  • Muscular endurance

NSCA covers health assessments, fitness assessments, and the norms and protocols of continuous fitness testing in great depth and includes charts and diagrams.

NSCA protocol periodization for different goals

As you can see above, NSCA prioritizes sequencing and week-by-week training, something ISSA only faintly touches upon.

Ranking ISSA vs NSCA in this category, I say that NSCA comes out on top here, although ISSA does a fine job as well. 

Program design and resistance exercise technique

ISSA’s main priority is teaching trainers how to develop great programs, which is actually a similar approach to that of the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) CPT program.

The strong focus on programming and the practicality of personal training make both ISSA and NASM stand out from other fitness certifications, but overall, ISSA stands out more than NASM.

I believe getting creative with your exercises and workouts keeps clients engaged and wanting more.

On the other hand, NSCA teaches you the application of specificity, overload, variation, progression, and sequencing principles in a detailed but easy-to-understand way.

I’ve found that the NSCA-CPT and the NSCA-CSCS programs take similar approaches.

Most trainers from this program consider it second nature to select exercises, determine training frequency, and arrange exercises in a specific sequence.

You learn loading by using 1-repetition maximum, body weight, or repetition maximum testing.

This is great information for you to use to assign training loads, volumes, and rest periods based on clients’ needs.

I think it’s really important to have variation between training sessions, training days, and training weeks.

Lastly, ISSA and NSCA offer great beginner core workouts and helpful tips to apply when training clients.

So what’s the best personal training certification for program design and resistance exercise technique? NSCA wins again, but ISSA is a close second. 

Aerobic training program design and technique

When it comes to aerobic training program design and technique, the ISSA-CPT curriculum addresses the following:

ISSA-CPT Curriculum Aerobic and cardiovascular training

Though complex and thought-provoking, ISSA provides commonly used terms and definitions that are easily understood.

One thing I like best about ISSA’s aerobic training section is its broad focus on the techniques of movements such as cycling, rowing, rope training, and more.

Moreover, NSCA highlights aerobic training concepts in a high-quality fashion, both from a general perspective and a performance enhancement perspective.

NSCA highlights aerobic training concepts in a high-quality fashion

NSCA covers the proper design of aerobic training programs based on the principle of specificity and individual goals.

You also learn how to determine aerobic training intensity, frequency, and duration and understand their interactions and effects.

Another thing I’m fond of is the emphasis on proper warm-ups, cool-downs, and stretches.

If anything, these are the most important parts of an exercise routine.

Overall, it’s fair to say that ISSA vs NSCA covers aerobic training well, but this time, NSCA wins again.

For NSCA vs ISSA on the depth of aerobic training coverage, NSCA goes deeper than ISSA.

Helping special populations with fitness

The ISSA-CPT curriculum descriptively covers special populations and provides examples of a typical fitness routine based on the client’s condition.

For instance, you’ll cover personal training for seniors, and youth, considerations during pregnancy, and guidelines for those with other complications, such as diabetes.

Similarly, NSCA has an entire section dedicated to special populations, including senior fitness, pregnant clients, and especially rehab clients.

ISSA vs NSCA on special populations remains a tie.

Thinking long-term: business skills for personal trainers

Another feature ISSA definitely got right is its emphasis on business and entrepreneurial strategies.

Trainers must be knowledgeable on how to sell personal training.

It helps you develop some fundamental personal training marketing ideas and essential strategies to set you up for success in the fitness industry.

According to most, ISSA’s business guide, Fiscal Fitness, is a complete game-changer and provides some great personal training tips for beginners in the field.

ISSA's business guide, Fiscal Fitness, NSCA vs ISSA

A business guide is an uncommon fixture with most other big-name certifications, like NSCA or ACE.

While it isn’t quite as comprehensive as taking a business course, it’s a major step up from what you’d normally expect from a fitness training certification.

One drawback is that the marketing strategies are somewhat dated and exclude online fitness trainers and social media protocols, although the actual ISSA text has been updated to include these new business opportunities. 

Regardless, Fiscal Fitness can help tremendously build a profitable personal training business.

On the other hand, NSCA totally lacks a business section in its textbook.

Something I find detrimental, especially for those learning how to be a successful personal trainer and building their brand.

It isn’t easy to manage any career without business smarts.

So ISSA vs NSCA on business coverage – it’s an ISSA win, no-brainer!

Summary

I can tell you right now that ISSA has its strengths and weaknesses, as does NSCA.

And although you’ll choose one, you probably could learn how to be a good personal trainer from either one.

ISSA takes the crown when it comes to business skills and behavioral change coaching skills. NSCA comes out on top from an exercise science and programming design aspect. 

ISSA vs NSCA prerequisites

Both ISSA and NSCA, as well as most other fitness professional certifying agencies, have the following personal trainer requirements:

  • At least 18 years of age
  • High school diploma, or the equivalent (GED)
  • Current and valid CPR/AED certification

The NSCA has the best Strength and Conditioning certification.

To be eligible, you must have a bachelor’s degree in a related field or a higher degree in Chiropractic Medicine or similar fields to qualify for the NSCA-CSCS exam.

Personal trainer salary

ISSA trainers make on average $65,555 according to Ziprecruiter. NSCA trainers make $49,739 in average figures. 

While this number should be taken lightly and there’s no way to accurately predict how much you will make as a trainer, I think the higher ISSA wage comes from the fact that they include business skills as part of their CPT certification, while NSCA does not. This explanation only highlights the trend in salary among trainers. Your actual income as a fitness professional comes from many factors, like ability, training experience, not just your certification.

Personally, I recommend starting out with less concern about how much you’re making as a trainer and more in terms of the quality of training you can provide. Once that is at a high level, then you can set your career goals on higher salary figures. 

Which exam is harder, ISSA or NSCA?

NSCA and ISSA exams compared - textbooks with scantron sheet in between them

The DEAC-accredited ISSA certification test is an open book, with a pass rate of 90%.

This makes ISSA personal trainer certifications the easiest fitness certification to obtain regarding pass rate statistics.

Most test-takers pass their first attempt largely due to the loose restrictions placed on how you take the test.

Firstly, it’s a non-proctored test, which means no one monitors the integrity or activity of a candidate during an exam.

Secondly, because it’s an entirely open book exam, you can refer to all your study materials as you do the exam.

You can even use the almost infinite knowledge dump on the internet during the test!

Thirdly, your ISSA-CPT certification exam is self-paced, so there isn’t a time constraint outside of the enrollment period.

But there’s just one caveat.

Although it is easier to pass than, say, ACSM or NASM, there are sections of this exam that are relatively difficult.

The passing score is at least 75% in each area and overall.

And while most other CPT exams are exclusively multiple-choice, the ISSA exam also includes case studies.

By far, according to those who have taken this exam, the hardest section is the case studies.

You will receive two random fictional clients with different challenges and goals.

You must develop an appropriate 12-week individualized program for both clients.

You need to know how to transition different clients through a routine to pass.

My biggest tip would be to study the textbook’s special populations and program-design section extensively on account of this.

Thankfully, ISSA has a very lenient approach to retakes, where immediately following the failure, you are permitted to retake the exam for free.

Of course, it’s a one-time deal, so if you fail your free retake, you must pay $50 to be allowed another try.

This fee is still pretty decent compared to what other certifications may charge, which is sometimes as high as $200.

This makes things super convenient, although some might suggest it makes them too convenient.

Having a retake fee and a stringent policy is a means of quality control.

The NCCA-accredited ISSA test has a lower pass rate of 75%, which puts it middle of the pack in terms of difficulty. This test is proctored and not open-note so you should take study preparation seriously. 

The NSCA-CPT exam consists of 155 questions in total and includes 140 scored and 15 non-scored questions.

The passing grade is 70%, which you have 3 hours to achieve.

According to a recent survey from NSCA themselves, 72% of test-takers pass their first time.

Certainly not as harsh as NSCA-CSCS certification, whose pass rate is 56% for first-time candidates attempting both exam sections.

Comparing ISSA vs NSCA on exam difficulty leads to my conclusion that the NSCA-CPT exam is far more complex.

NSCA vs ISSA recertification

ISSA requires all their health and fitness professionals to renew their certifications every two years.

You must obtain 20 hours of continuing education credits (CECs) in that two-year period.

CECs may come from other certifications, such as Group Fitness Instructor, Master Trainer, or nutrition certifications.

While all CECs from ISSA remain free, any CECs outside of ISSA continuing education courses cost $99.

On the contrary, NSCA’s recertification process demands submission of 6.0 CECs after every three-year period from initial certification.

As you can see, this CEC requirement is drastically higher than ISSA’s.

Most certifications require renewal after two years, so I guess that extra wiggle room could be a good thing for some.

Though others may argue that three years is too long.

You may earn CECs through NSCA by doing the following:

  • Attending NSCA events
  • NSCA online course
  • NSCA live workshops
  • Presentations
  • Volunteering
  • Taking college courses

Prices vary.

ISSA vs NSCA for CECs compare pretty well, and overall, this would be a tie for quality.

And for ISSA vs NSCA on pricing, ISSA is far less expensive.

However, NSCA offers much more of a variety of options to earn CECs, as well as more hands-on experiences.

So, in the end, you get what you pay for.

ISSA vs NSCA Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How does ISSA stack up to NSCA?

Overall, ISSA is the preferred certification to work amongst general clientele. But if you go into strength and conditioning, or wish to work with athletes or special populations in any way, then I definitely recommend NSCA first.

Which gyms accept ISSA certification?

Fortunately, many health clubs, fitness facilities, and gyms accept ISSA certification. Employers recognize ISSA as a genuine CPT certification program.

Which gyms accept NSCA certification?

Similarly, most gyms, health clubs, and fitness facilities also accept NSCA certifications. NSCA is a great certification to have for working with professional athletes, student-athletes (college or high school), and sports teams.

Is Personal Training with a credential from the ISSA or NSCA organizations worth it?

Yes, personal training is an excellent field to get into and it is highly recommended to choose a certification from a respected organization such as this. You can always upgrade your CPT with specializations, such as Group Fitness Instructor, Fitness Nutrition Coach, and more!

Does Personal Training require a degree?

While personal training does not require college, having more experience and education can never hurt. If you do want to go for, say, the NSCA-CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach) certification, then a four-year degree in Exercise Science, Kinesiology, or another related field is required.

What is the general job outlook for Personal Trainers?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts about 15 percent job growth for personal trainers, including group fitness instructors, throughout 2019-2029, which is much faster than average.

How does personal trainer salary for ISSA vs. NSCA compare?

The average pay for an ISSA-CPT varies greatly, from $31,016 annually plus, whereas the average pay for an NSCA-CPT is higher, at $48k and beyond. But overall, like with anything, your total income depends on you.

ISSA vs NSCA overall ratings

ISSA vs NSCA overal ratings - textbooks for ISSA and NSCA on desk with gold stars on top and yellow question boxes

Still caught up in an ISSA vs NSCA conundrum?

I recommend ISSA, especially for entry-level trainers trying to build a good knowledge base to work with the general population.

NSCA is a great certification if you’re more focused on strength and conditioning and possibly furthering your education to work in a more specialized setting or primarily with athletes.

Overall, both personal trainer certifications have the potential to set you up for success, and I hope that I was able to help you choose the best certification for you in my ISSA vs NSCA article.

For a deeper look at each CPT program, check out my in-depth articles that review the ISSA CPT and NSCA CPT individually as well as my coverage of the popular NASM CPT

Ready to start your CPT journey?

Then check the organization’s websites directly for the most up-to-date pricing.

Thank you for joining me, and may you have an amazing fitness career path. 

Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

Tyler Read


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