If you are looking to become a personal trainer or are looking for additional certifications and resources as an active trainer, the various options can be overwhelming. Though the information and resources of many certifications can be useful there are some that are respect more than others at almost every gym and fitness facility out there. It is always important to be sure the certification body is also accredited by National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) which is held as the gold standard for the personal training field.
Remember to keep in mind however, that a personal training certification from any of these certifying bodies will not necessarily prepare you for training clients. Just like any other professional, a certification tells a client or employer you went the extra mile but there is no substitute for practical experience.
Find out how much a certification will cost, how often you’ll have to get your certification renewed and what other requirements must be fulfilled for each of our top 5 personal trainer certifications.
The American College of Sports Medicine is one of the most respected online certifications in the personal training field. The only requirements to receive a ACSM certification for personal trainers is that you be 18 years of age, have a high school diploma and receive an adult CPR/AED certification. ACSM was Founded in 1954, and they claim to be “the first organization to certify health fitness professionals.” To take the 150 question test it requires you to pay $219 if you’re a ACSM member candidate, $279 for non-member candidates and $150 for a re-test.
The American Council on Exercise claims to be the largest non-profit certification body and is highly respected in the fitness community. ACE is a member of Coalition of the Registration of Exercise Professionals (CREP), Accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) and accredited by the European Health & Fitness Association (EHFA) a distinction ACSM and NASM can’t claim. You do not need to have a high school diploma but you must be 18 years of age. They offer many study resources and require you recertify every two years.
The National Academy of Sports Medicine has been around since 1987 and is one of the recognized leaders of the fitness industry. As a for profit certifying body it’s no surprise the training certification package is somewhat expensive ($1,999 for the Associate Personal Training Experience), but it comes with a money back guarantee that states “if you don’t land a job in 60 days after you pass your exam, we’ll give you a refund.” Like the ACE certification you do not need a high school diploma but must be 18 years of age and be CPR/AED certified. It also requires you to get recertified every 2 years.
The National Strength and Conditioning Association’s certification to become a personal trainer is the most rigorous of the five listed. NSCA states that their certification helps their trainers establish “safe and effective exercise programs, provide the guidance to help clients achieve their personal health/fitness goals and respond appropriately in emergency situations.” The certification checks all the necessary boxes when it comes to requirements (18+, high school diploma, and CPR/AED certified) as well as accreditation and memberships (same as ACE). It is also one of the more affordable certifications costing only $300 for members and $435 for nonmembers, which covers all practice resources and test fees.
The National Federation of Personal Trainers is one of the more affordable options and is still one of the more highly regarded certifications in the industry. The NFPT specializes in curtailing their certification processes for personal trainers only (many others offer group, nutrition and advanced options) and requires a high school diploma and a CPR certification. They also provide ample resources, videos and hands-on training in your area. Be prepared to renew every year however, that will run you $85 per test.