When looking for a fitness trainer or personal trainer, it’s important to find a credentialed Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) who knows their business. While the criteria for different certifying agencies may vary slightly, you want a trainer with a diverse background in physical fitness and exercise planning. Even with a nationally accredited personal trainer certification many new trainers are inexperienced or lack a background in physiology, kinesiology or nutrition. The best trainers have not only worked within the fitness, health and wellness fields previously, but have prior knowledge to health from an academic institution.
The top ten most well known nationally accredited certifying agencies for personal training, accepted by most national gyms such as LA Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness, Golds Gym & Equinox are ACSM the American College Of Sports Medicine, NASM the National Academy Of Sports Medicine, NSCA the National Strength And Conditioning Association, NCSF the National Council On Strength And Fitness, NFPT the National Federation Of Personal Trainers, ACE the American Council On Exercise, CI the Cooper Institute, NESTA the National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association, IFPA The International Fitness Professionals Association and ISSA the International Sports Science Association.
Each of these certified fitness-training agencies are NCCA-accredited programs (National Commission for Certifying Agencies) aside from the ISSA. This national commission only accredits programs that meet or exceed its standards for personal training and physical fitness training curriculum. While there are various other accreditation organizations, in terms of personal training, the most valuable certifications are NCCA recognized.
Each of the nationally accredited CPT programs mentioned above vary slightly in terms of curriculum, program format i.e. emphasis on nutrition, exercise planning, kinesiology etc, recertification requirements, program materials & cost, but all share specific similarities. For example, any worth-while agency will include education concerning client health-fitness assessment, exercise technique, fitness program design, nutrition, client relations & administration, as well as a CPT professional scope of practice and responsibilities.
As mentioned previously, it’s also important to have a personal trainer with an academic background in the health-science fields such as biology, physiology, kinesiology or nutrition. This is due to the fact that anyone can study to become a personal trainer through one of the accredited programs, but at the same time might lack the background to thoroughly understand the underlying scientific principles of health, exercise, metabolism and diet. In fact, individuals who have a diverse medical or science background often have a better understanding of the effects of proper exercise than a CPT.
Another option for personal training certification is receiving a personal training degree, diploma or certificate from a trade school or college program that is accredited by the government instead of the NCCA.
Becoming a certified personal trainer can often be costly, with the exam alone costing anywhere from $50 to $279. More so, if you choose to buy all of the test preparation materials, take a workshop and purchase textbooks, the cost can total upwards of $800, with even more costs for re-certification.
Here’s the breakdown for our top four picks personal trainer certifications:
*Both NCCA & non-NCCA accredited
National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
A NASM personal trainer certification is NCAA-accredited and accepted by most employers and gyms. The exam alone costs $549, but is included in all of the study packages. NASM preparation packages rang from $599 to $799. The requirement for recertification is every 2 years and costs $700.
American Council on Exercise (ACE)
ACE is also an NCAA-accredited personal trainer certification that is highly recognized within the personal training and sports club industry. The current cost of the PT exam is $219. In addition to the cost of the exam, ACE study materials range from $150 to $580. Unique from other agencies, ACE also offers an online study program in addition to their study materials. The requirement for recertification is every 2 years for $400.
National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
NSCA is another highly respected NCAA-accredited personal trainer certification. Different from other agencies, NSCA is known for their preparation for special-needs populations. For this reason, their exam is known to be one of the more difficult certifications processes. NSCA exam fees range from $235 to $400 depending on membership type. The requirement for recertification is every 3 years for $500.
International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA)
The ISSA is one of the only non-NCAA-accredited personal trainer certification that we’ve discussed, which is also reasonably well recognized within the fitness and sports clubs industry. ISSA certification is ideal for first time trainers seeking part-time or free-lance employment. The program fee is $595, and the course and exam are 100 percent available online. Recertification is required every 2 years for $600.