Two personal trainers posing in the gym

Guide to Personal Trainer Certifications

Whether you’re a young professional looking for the right fitness job or someone with years of experience helping individuals get in shape, finding the best personal trainer certification is key. However, with so many online personal trainer certification programs available, it can be hard to know which to choose.

That’s why we compiled this brief personal trainer certification comparison. Read through our list of the top programs available today and visit the organizations’ sites to learn more about their specific personal trainer certification requirements. Educate yourself and decide which is the best personal trainer certification program for you!


American Council on Exercise (ACE)

The ACE personal trainer credential is arguably the most widely known and most popular certification program among fitness professionals. ACE is the largest non-profit health and fitness certification organization in the world and has more than 75,000 health and fitness professionals, health coaches, and allied health professionals as members.

ACE’s online personal trainer certification program offers a well-rounded curriculum accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) and costs between $699 and $999.


National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)

Founded in 1989, NASM is a world-renowned non-profit organization that has certified/recertified nearly 200,000 personal trainers in the last decade alone. NASM courses were developed using their proprietary Optimum Performance Training™ (OPT™) model, which offers a comprehensive training system based on evidence-based research.

There are several options for individuals pursuing NASM certification, ranging in price from $559 to $1999 with regular discounts offered.


Personal trainer working with two older clients


International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA)

With 12 different types of certifications and an associate’s degree program, the ISSA is one of the leading fitness education providers. Since 1988, more than 200,000 trainers in 91 countries have earned ISSA certification. One key differentiator for the ISSA is their money-back guarantee. If you aren’t hired as a personal trainer within 60 days of earning your ISSA certification, you may qualify for a refund.

For $799, you can enroll in the ISSA’s personal trainer certification program and also get a free nutrition certification course and a free CPR/first aid course.


American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)

The ACSM represents more than 70 occupations within the sports medicine field and boasts more than 50,000 members and certified professionals from 90 countries. The only personal trainer certification requirements needed to be eligible for the program are a high school diploma and CPR certification. You also must be 18 years or older.

As far as online personal trainer certifications go, the ACSM program is one of the most cost-effective. Members pay as little as $430.68 ($500.68 for non-members).


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National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)

Another non-profit organization, the NSCA is dedicated to supporting its 45,000 members and advancing the strength and conditioning profession around the world. To further their mission, the NSCA shares research and practical knowledge through its certification programs, research journals, career development services, and continuing education opportunities.

While preparation materials can cost up to $506.70, the NSCA personal trainer certification exam is only $300 for members and $435 for non-members.


Two bonus credential opportunities to consider: National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT), American Fitness Professionals & Associates (AFPA)


Now that you’ve reviewed iHireFitnessAndRec’s personal trainer certification comparison, decide which program makes the most sense for you and pursue your dream to become a personal trainer!

By Freddie Rohner, iHire | February 19, 2019
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