Do you enjoy working out? Maybe you've taken some yoga courses or CrossFit courses? Or maybe you love to develop your own workout routines? If you're into exercise, you might be thinking about becoming a personal trainer. If becoming a certified personal trainer (CPT) is your goal, then you’ve got plenty of options. There are several organizations that help to train, guide, and help you receive your certificate.
With so many different certifying bodies available to choose from, though, how do you know which one is the right one for you? Which one will give you the most up to date training, affordable pricing, and help you get the credentials you need to boost your career prospects?
In this post, we’ll share 5 of the best personal trainer certifications available on the market and how they can help you to turn your passion for fitness into a career.
Best Personal Trainer Certification: Important Considerations
Before selecting the organization that will help you to become a certified personal trainer, there are a few major aspects you’ll want to consider.
It’s important that you choose a certifying body that has been accredited by the NCCA, NBFE, or DEAC. These groups are considered the gold standard for fitness certifications. Not only does mean the program is legit and meets several rigorous standards, but it will likely be an important requirement for employment with most fitness facilities.
All of the options listed below are NCCA (National Commission for Certifying Agencies) certified programs.
The curriculum for each certification is listed on the organization’s website. Before making your choice, you should go through the topics and make sure it aligns with your personal methods and philosophies.
When taking the exam for the first time, this will also give you some idea of the types of questions you will be asked and how difficult the exam may be.
The cost to become a CPT will vary from organization to organization. Note that some offer packages where the price includes both the study materials and the exam, whereas others advertise just the price for the exam with an additional cost for the study materials.
Each of the organizations below (as well as most others) will require the following:
- Minimum 18 years of age
- Valid CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) certification
- Valid AED (automated external defibrillator) certification
Some will also require that you have obtained at least a high-school diploma or GED.
Best Personal Trainer Certifications
There are many personal trainer certification courses out there. It's important that you find the one that best fits your needs. Below are some of the best personal trainer certifications that you can use to get certified.
American Council On Exercise (ACE)
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) certified personal trainer program is centered around their ACE Mover Method; a philosophy of facilitating behavior change to empower people to make healthier lifestyle choices. Their program is designed around the latest applied exercise science, coaching skills, and leadership strategies that will help you to apply your skills to clients one on one.
Exam: Exams are taken in-person and are based on the lessons outlined in the ACE Academy Elite guide and the ACE Personal Trainer Manual eBook. Study materials are self-paced and ACE claims you should be ready for your exam in approximately 16 weeks.
Price: Basic packages start at a list price of $599 with interest-free financing for up to 12 months. They also frequently run promotions where you can find their prices discounted by as much as 40% off.
National Academy Of Sports Medicine (NASM)
The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Personal Trainer program is developed with its exclusive Optimum Performance Training (OPT) model. This is a comprehensive training system based on scientific, evidence-based research, which helps trainers to understand the goals of their clients and design a program that’s right for them.
Exam: Exams may be taken in-person or online. It will be based on material from a 20 chapter textbook, lecture videos, and other media resources that you can study on your own.
National Strength And Conditioning Association (NSCA)
The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) focuses primarily on strength and conditioning training. Their CPT course will prepare trainers to assess, motivate, educate, and train clients by developing an individualized approach to help them meet their fitness and health goals.
Exam: Exams are taken in-person and will consist of 140 scored questions and 15 non-scored multiple-choice questions. The exam will cover the material found in the NSCA Certification Handbook will test your knowledge in four main areas:
- Client Consultation/Fitness Assessment
- Program Planning
- Techniques of Exercise
- Safety, Emergency Procedures and Legal Issues
The NSCA claims the pass rate was 77% for first-time candidates (as of 2018).
Price: The exam registration fee is $435 for non-NSCA members. If you become a member, then you will be given a discounted price.
The study materials are purchased separately with the “Digital Package” being the cheapest option at $193 for non-members.
American College Of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) holds itself and its candidates to what it calls its “gold standard”. They promote that their CPT program will give you the practical and scientific knowledge you need to work in a variety of fitness facilities, including health clubs, gyms, university, corporate, and community or public fitness centers.
Exam: All exams are taken in-person with a seat time of 165 minutes. They consist of 150 items which include 120 items that are scored and 30 which are non-scored. The material is covered in the content found in the Personal Training Exam Content Outline.
Price: The exam registration fee is $349 for non-ACSM members. If you become a member, then you will be given a discounted price.
To prepare for the exam, you will also need to purchase their textbook “ACSM's Resources for the Personal Trainer” for approximately $62.
Fitness Mentors (FM)
Fitness Mentors (FM) in-home CPT course promises to deliver an extremely thorough and deep understanding of everything you need to become a certified professional. FM’s certification program is the only option listed here which is 100% online.
Exam: The exam consists of 100 multiple choice questions based on material covered in their textbook as well as video lectures and other digital media.
Fitness Mentors recommends investing an average of 10 hours of total study time per week or two hours, 5 days per week (2 chapters per week) for a total of 6-8 weeks from start to finish.
Fitness Mentors boasts a 99% pass rate for their students.
Price: The least expensive option is the “Starter Package” for $399. This includes the exam and all required materials, as well as some extras like practice exams and a Facebook support group.
Final Thoughts: Best Personal Trainer Certification
If you're goal is to become a personal trainer, getting certified is the first big step. There are many certification courses out there, but they differ when it comes to exams and price. Find the best personal trainer certification that fits your needs with this guide and get training!