Top 8 Best Personal Trainer Certifications

A quality personal trainer certification not only increases your income but it makes clients feel safe and confident in your hands. It shows your commitment and investment in education hence your determination to succeed.
A personal trainer assists individuals or groups to improve their health through physical activity (building strength and endurance) and providing nutritional guidance. Training certification proves that you have been trained and can succeed in these tasks.
Although many personal trainers practice without credentials, certified personal trainers have higher incomes and better reputations, distinguishing themselves from their competitors.
Starting your personal trainer journey with the best educational background will boost your career and build trust around your work.
In a certification course, you have to study the given materials and take a test, which results in a recognized training certificate.
Below is a list of the leading organizations suitable for beginners and recognized by all gyms. You’ll find the pricing, educational focus, study materials, test requirements, and other details to help you make an informed decision.

Which Personal Trainer Certifications Should You Get?

ISSA- International Sports Sciences Association

ISSA is the best international option if you want to get personal trainer certification from the comfort of your home. Considered an entry-level certification, ISSA consists of self-paced courses with the primary focus on Fitness Program Design.
The study materials and exam have a practical approach to body anatomy(skeletal and muscular system), health evaluation, and movement principles. In addition, you get program design lessons and a marketing guide. It also offers a Nutrition Certification to supplement your training.
According to Fitness Mentors, it brings one of the best salaries in the industry (estimated $46,000 average per year).

Price range:

  • Personal Trainer Certification + Nutrition Certification -US$599-US$799 
  • Master Trainer – US$1,598
  • Elite Trainer packages – US$2,997

ISSA offers a free retake if you fail the first time. Once you get certified, you get a free website to headstart your career.

The exam: 

Exam requirements: 

Accredited by: 

  • DEAC-Distance Education Accrediting Commission 
  • NCCA- National Commission for Certifying Agencies

NASM- National Academy of Sports Medicine 

NASM is a science-based approach to personal training certification and has its own Optimum Performance Training™ (OPT™) model.
NASM education focus is Exercise Technique and Training Instruction emphasizing stabilization, balance strength, endurance, and hypertrophy.
Their preparation pays special attention to injury prevention, corrective exercises, fixing muscle imbalances, and so on. This qualification is appropriate for a wide range of clients, including rehabilitation groups and athletes.
You can upgrade your education through NASM’s Advanced Specializations, such as nutrition, weight loss, senior, group, and women fitness.

NASM is one of the most popular choices, with over 22,304 attempts per year. The advantage is that NASM offers their certified personal trainers with an All-Inclusive membership 90-day guarantee job in one of the affiliated gyms.

Prices range:

  • Self-study – US$699
  • Self-study premium – US$999
  • Guided study – US$1299
  • All-Inclusive – US$1999

Exam: 

  • 120 questions 
  • 120 minutes 
  • 70% or higher required to pass
  • retake for free

Exam requirements: 

  • At least 18 years old
  • High school diploma or GED 
  • CPR/AED Certification 

Accredited by: 

  • NCCA

ACE- American Council of Exercise 

ACE is a general personal training certification and of the most prestigious ones. Also, it is top tier when it comes to the salary of the individuals it trains. It aims to train professionals to meet clients’ needs at any level and build healthy habits.
Apart from its basic personal trainer certifications, ACE offers more advanced options for Group Fitness, Health Coaches, and Medical Exercise.

Price range: 

  • Only Exam – US$399 
  • Basic to Advanced Packages – US$849-US$1,499

Their training model is called the IFT (integrated fitness training) that teaches corrective exercise and performance training in four phases. Each phase emphasizes different aspects of health: mobility, stability, aerobic exercises, endurance, and efficiency training. They teach professionals how to evaluate clients and design the proper program for their needs.

Exam: 

  • 150 questions
  • 180 minutes 
  • 62.5% or higher is passing

Exam requirements: 

  • Over 18 years old
  • CPR/AED certification

Accredited by:

  • NCCA 

NCSF- The National Council on Strength and Fitness

NSCF’s personal trainer certification exam is available online and is recognized in the USA, EU, Australia, and other countries. NCSF offers training in health evaluation, results-based workout techniques, weight programs, recovering exercise, aerobic fitness, nutrition, and more. Besides the basic personal training program, you can get specialized as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach and Nutrition Specialist

Verywellfit puts NCSF the best when it comes to the Academic level of the study materials and preparation. In addition, it teaches skills like client communication, creative exercise programming, and more.

Personal trainers certified by NCSF have an income of around $35,061, making it one of the best investments for a personal trainer, considering that it is also cheaper than the ACE, ISSA, and NASM.

Price range:

Exam:

  • 150 questions 
  • 180 minutes 
  • 62% or higher is passing
  • %57.40 pass rate

Exam requirements: 

  • 18 years old
  • high school diploma (or equivalent)
  • CPR/AED (after being certified)

Accredited by:

  • NCCA 

ACSM- American College of Sports Medicine

As a research-based center, ACSM has the gold standard for professionals looking for a healthcare career. ACSM education focus is Exercise Leadership and Client Education.Combining practical knowledge with scientific research, they train students to tailor health and fitness programs for individuals of all health levels.
ACSM offers many opportunities for advanced specializations like physiotherapy, sports, and more. They have a study program that modifies the study materials based on the student’s weak points called PrepU. Three main certifications are:

  • Certified Personal Trainer (ACSM-CPT)
  • Certified Exercise Physiologist (ACSM-EP)
  • Group Exercise Instructor (ACSM-GEI)

The average salary for an ACSM certified personal trainer is estimated to be $40,000. 

Price range:

  • Exam only – $279 (members), US$349 (non-members)
  • Preparation Course (Study kit and materials) – $206.76

Exam: 

  • 120 questions
  • 120 minutes
  • 68.75% or higher required to pass. 
  • 54% pass rate.

Exam requirements: 

  • At least 18 years old
  • High school diploma (or equivalent)
  • Adult CPR/AED Certification

Accredited by:

  • NCCA 

NESTA- National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association

NESTA personal training certification course focuses on the principles of psychology, anatomy, fitness program development, implementation, and modification.

The program emphasizes the business and career aspects of personal training and includes a system to help you market yourself and learn how to sell.

The income of personal trainers with NESTA certification is $37,531. NESTA’s personal training certification is very affordable.

Prices range:

  • Exam only – US$199
  • Exam + education and study kit – US$477-US$977

Exam: 

  • 125 Questions
  • 120 minutes
  • 69% or higher required to pass

Accredited by:

  • NCCA

NSCA- National Strength and Conditioning Association

NSCA is the best personal trainer certification association if you want to work with athletes. There is a strong emphasis on exercise science, kinesiology, athletic performance, power output, speed, and agility training.

They train you how to evaluate the client, assess the situation, and tailor an adequate program. Additional training programs include Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Certified Special Population Specialist, and Tactical Strength and Conditioning Facilitator.

Price range:

  • Exam – US$300 (members), US$435 (non-members)
  • NSCA-CPT Essential – $240 for members/$290 for non-members
  • NSCA-CPT Essential Plus – $455 for members/$511 for non-members
  • NSCA-CPT Digital – $144 for members/$193 for non-members

Exam: 

  • 155 questions
  • 180 minutes
  • 70% or higher required to pass
  • 58% passing rate

Accredited by:

  • NCCA

NCCPT- National Council for Certified Personal Trainer

NCCPT is a good personal trainer certification for the commercial trainer because it emphasizes gym-related skills, from working with gym machines to efficient communication.

Price range:

Exam: 

  • 140 Questions
  • 120 minutes
  • 72.7% or higher required to pass

Exam requirements: 

  • At least 18 years old
  • CPR Certification

Accredited by:

  • NCCA

Questions to consider before making your choice: 

  • What best suits me according to what kind of trainer I want to be? – General population, weightlifting, athletic coach, etc.
  • What is my budget? -Top tier or cheaper agencies.
  • How much time will I dedicate to it? Studying materials or exam preparation can take up to 9 months.
  • What do I want to achieve with it? A simple personal trainer certification or a specialized one.

We hope this guide has helped you find the best personal trainer certification for your needs. We know how tough it can be to choose which one is right, so we’ve done our research and provided you with a range of options that should meet most individuals’ budgets and goals. Achieving personal trainer certification can mean higher pay, more job opportunities, and better career prospects.

About the Author

, Celebrity Personal Trainer and Fitness & Nutrition Expert headquartered in Scottsdale, AZ. He specializes in helping men and women achieve weight loss, muscle building, toning and other customized fitness & nutrition programs to create a Healthy Lifestyle. James offers private luxury personal training, 12-week custom workout plans, and personalized nutrition meal plans. Follow on Google+.

Comments are closed.

Top