This website uses cookies to enhance your experience. By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies. Learn more


The 5 Best Personal Trainer Certifications in the Fitness Industry

By PTP 0 comments

Welcome to the complete breakdown on the best personal trainer certifications in the fitness industry. This list includes the top 5 certifications in the world for launching your personal trainer career.

As part of our research, we consulted with Tyler Read, the founder of PTPioneer, a website that has helped thousands of personal trainers excel in their fitness careers by providing expert guidance on the best certification options and career tracks for becoming a successful fitness professional.

From health clubs to commercial gyms, the certifications we look at in this article include the top personal training certification companies and non-profit certification providers.

By the time you complete this review, you’ll have the inside scoop on the fitness certification market and be ready to choose the right personal training certificate for your career.

Now, let’s begin!


Coming in at number one on our list is the National Council on Strength and Fitness Certified Personal Trainer certification (NCSF-CPT). The NCSF CPT is a comprehensive NCCA-accredited personal training certification program offered by the National Council on Strength and Fitness.

In terms of it’s content, the NCSF is among the most comprehensive certifications in the industry. The content is dense and ensures you come away with a strong foundation in all areas required for successfully working as a personal trainer. The pass rate of the exam varies year-to-year, but you need to score at least 70 percent overall to earn your certification.

Additionally, the NCSF offers competitive pricing for all of its packages, especially given its degree of coverage on the personal training topics.

About the organization

The National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF) has had a presence in the fitness industry for over two and a half decades.

The influence of the NCSF extends to more than 160 different countries and nations and encompasses over 280,000 certified students. The organization's core goal is to encourage individuals to maximize their potential as fitness professionals.

The NCSF offers three primary training certification programs: the NCSF certified personal trainer (NCSF-CPT), the NCSF Certified Strength Coach (NCSF-CSC), and the NCSF Sport Nutrition Certification. The two specializations from the company reaffirm the NCSF commitment to advancing the quality of certified fitness professionals and fitness instructors and are great options to boost your resume and increase your salary by growing your training business clientele.

Both the NCSF CPT and NCSF CSC training certifications are NCCA-accredited, meaning they have passed a rigorous process of expert development to ensure the curriculum meets the needs and demands of science-based coaching.

Getting certified as an NCSF personal trainer is also a great way to ensure you get a high compensation per session if you put your skills to proper use. Regardless of your coaching niche aspirations, the NCSF offers an excellent platform to start your successful fitness career.

Certification requirements

Aspiring NCSF personal trainers must be 18 years of age or older, have a high school diploma or GED.

What it covers

The NCSF CPT curriculum spans 17 chapters, which break down as follows:

  1. Introduction to Personal Training
  2. Functional Anatomy and Training Instruction
  3. Kinetic Chain Function and Corrective Exercises
  4. Human Physiology
  5. Evaluating Health and Physical Fitness
  6. Physical Activity And Risk for Disease
  7. Resting and Active Fitness Assessments
  8. Understanding Nutrition
  9. Exploring Dietary Supplements
  10. Body Composition
  11. Weight Management
  12. Exercise Program Components
  13. Anaerobic Resistance Training
  14. Cardiorespiratory Fitness
  15. Flexibility
  16. Introduction to Exercise Programming
  17. Working with Special Populations

In terms of exercise science, the coverage ensures you have a solid working knowledge of the human body as it relates to personal training.

You'll learn about muscles and the nervous system and how these systems function within the body. This is key knowledge for exercise professionals to appropriately design workout programs through a functional understanding of the human anatomy.

The NCSF covers kinesiology and how it applies to functional screening to ensure clients are ready to participate in a resistance training program. The early coverage of corrective exercise is great since fitness trainers need to implement these protocols early into a client’s training program.

They do well in listing the various factors that influence fitness levels and life quality. The screening process is taught well and includes sections that deal with identifying past injuries that may affect a client's future training.

NCSF covers nutrition for fitness settings with a detailed chapter that includes the fundamental principles of nutritional science within the personal training scope of practice. The content includes macronutrients and micronutrients in-depth to ensure NCSF certified professionals understand basic nutrition.

In terms of resistance training techniques, the NCSF CPT covers the major movements in resistance and aerobic training, including the proper biomechanics and application of each within program design.

Missing components that could be a part of the NCSF curriculum include behavioral coaching and business skills for personal trainers. These topics are often covered in other top personal trainer certifications. With that said, you will generally hone these skills on the job or through CEU options.

What it costs

The NCSF pricing is very straightforward overall.

You have two choices that are close in price.

The first is the NCSF Home Study course, which includes the entire online education curriculum for $399.

The second is the Home Study Plus, which is the same as the first package but includes a hard cover textbook for $449.

The next tiers of the NCSF include multiple NCSF certifications, with the first package including the CPT and Sports Nutrition Specialist certification for $649.

The final package includes the CPT and the Certified Strength Coach for $699.

These bundles are good options if you want to stack multiple high-quality certifications on top of one another for your career advancement.

Study and exam prep materials

The NCSF materials include the following:

Overall, these materials give you virtually everything you need to pass the exam.

Recertification requirements

The NCSF CPT requires 10 continuing education credits (CECs or CEUs). Of these, 2 are completed by renewing your CPR certification. 1 of the CEUs will relate to Ethics and Professional Practice, and 7 of the CEUs can come from a variety of seminar, home study, and/or conference options in various topics that you can select based on your career goals.

What we like

Overall, the NCSF CPT stands out for several reasons. The first is the high quality of its study materials. The online portal comes stacked with virtually every resource you could need to pass your NCSF exam.

Second, the curriculum is very in-depth and comprehensive, ensuring any NCSF certified trainer is fully prepared for the demands of the job.

Finally, the pricing for the NCSF is insanely competitive, with the $399 price giving you access to all digital materials.

This price structure also eliminates the need to sort through the multi-tier pricing offered by other certifications where you have to compare and contrast what materials you think you might need. With the NCSF, you get everything in one highly affordable purchase.

If you are a hard-cover textbook type of person, then you can opt to pay the extra $50 for Home Study Plus, which again, is super reasonable.

What we don’t like

The main thing we dislike about the NCSF certification has nothing to do with the certification or curriculum itself.

Rather, the NCSF is just somewhat less well known and marketed than some of the other big names. This isn’t usually a major issue, but its worth confirming that the gym where you want to work accepts the NCSF certification for their new hires.

Given its NCCA accredited status, you shoudn’t have major issues with this, but it’s worth mentioning.

Overall rating

We rate the NCSF as a 9.5/10. It basically hits the mark on everything from curriculum to cost and accreditation. The only minor downside, as mentioned, is the somewhat lower name recognition.


The National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer (NASM CPT) certification may be the best-known personal training credential in the industry. It equips its students with a profound understanding of the human body and the solid hands-on capabilities necessary to train clients for improved health and fitness within modern gym environments.

The NASM CPT credential is widely recognized and respected across the globe, and it generally accepted anywhere personal trainers are hired. The higher tiers of NASM even offer a job guarantee, which is testament to NASM's commitment to quality education and training.

About the organization

The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) is recognized as a leading authority in the realm of fitness certifications. Established in 1987, NASM's foundation is firmly rooted in evidence-based exercise principles, ensuring that its certified professionals are well-equipped with the most up-to-date knowledge in fitness training.

NASM's reputation extends well beyond the boundaries of the United States. It commands immense respect among employers in the fitness industry and fitness professionals across the globe. This esteem is due, in part, to the rigorousness of NASM's certification and examination process. You can take the NASM exam either online or at an in-person testing center.

The comprehensive exam ensures that certified professionals possess a high level of expertise in their field, underscoring the value and reliability of having a NASM certification.

Adding further to its credibility, the NASM CPT certification is fully accredited by the NCCA.NASM is also well known for its many specializations including the Performance Enhancement Specialization (NASM PES), Corrective Exercise Certification (NASM CES), and the NASM Certified Nutrition Coach (NASM CNC). You can also get a great deal on personal trainer insurance through NASM.

Certification requirements

NASM requires all CPT candidates to be be at least 18 years old, have a GED or high school level education, and hold valid CPR and AED certifications.

What it covers

The NASM Personal Trainer Certification is broken down across six sections and 24 chapters.

The sections are as follows:

  1. Section 1 – Professional Development and Responsibility
  2. Section 2 – Client Relations and Behavioral Coaching
  3. Section 3 – Basic and Applied Sciences and Nutritional Concepts
  4. Section 4 – Assessment
  5. Section 5 – Exercise Technique and Training Instruction
  6. Section 6 – Program Design

NASM excels in its explanation of critical concepts related to resistance training, including training adaptations, acute variables, resistance training systems, safety guidelines, and exercise techniques. The instructional videos detailing the correct execution of major exercises are particularly beneficial, as is the extensive focus on functional movements.

In terms of program design and resistance exercise techniques, NASM introduces students to its signature Optimum Performance Training Model (OPT Model). This evidence-based exercise training methodology is versatile and applicable to a range of fitness goals, from bodybuilding and powerlifting to wellness and rehabilitation.

The OPT model provides specific progressions for various exercises, allowing trainers to help clients advance from beginner to more advanced levels of fitness and performance.

These progressions include stability and balance training, training for the feet, hips, legs, knees, shoulders, spine, and plenty of progressions that offer many benefits to clients with different training needs and goals.

Within its curriculum, NASM provides substantial guidelines for working with special populations, including seniors, youth, pregnant women, and clients with lifestyle-induced or genetic disorders.

Such knowledge is invaluable, given that many clients require modifications based on their specific needs or conditions.

The OPT model also incorporates an effective strategy for integrating aerobic training into a client’s fitness training program. This individualized approach ensures that various clients' fitness programs can successfully incorporate aerobic training.

All in all, the NASM OPT Model serves as an exceptional framework for trainers, equipping them to help clients progress from deconditioned to a fit. As you gain experience, you will adapt and modify this model to best suit each client's unique needs. With its holistic and science-backed approach, the NASM-CPT curriculum truly stands out in the fitness industry.

What it costs

NASM offersa range of packages for the CPT program, each coming it at a different cost depending on the included materials. The basic level NASM Self-Study program costs $764 and includes a fairly broad range of study materials that should be sufficient to prepare you for the exam.

If you need additional materials, you can purchase the Premium Self-Study for $1,104, All-Inclusive for $1,444, or the Elite Trainer Bundle for $2,209, the latter of which includes the NASM Corrective Exercise Specialization, Certified Nutrition Coach, and Performance Enhancement Specialization.

Overall, we find the NASM offerings somewhat confusing. They seem to focus on upselling you materials you should not really need for passing the exam.

The base level package itself is pricey at $764, but that is the cost you pay for the NASM name.

One final note, you can sometimes find a periodic sale on the NASM CPT materials depending on when you visit the site.

Study and exam prep materials

At the base level, the NASM coursework and materials consist of the following:

While expensive, these materials certainly give students of various learning styles a variety of options to study from.

Recertification requirements

NASM requires 20 hours of continuing education every 2 years, in addition to a recertification fee.

As with the other CEU requirements, this includes 1 hour of CPR/AED recertification. You can take NASM specialization courses to enhance your training skillset as well as third-party CEUs to complete the requirement.

What we like

The NASM OPT Model is among the most effective systems for giving a previously inexperienced individual the framework and toolkit to design basic programs for a variety of health and fitness goals.

Compared to other certifications, the OPT model stands out due to its broad coverage of periodization but simplicity in application.

Along with an effective and practical training model, the NASM brand itself is widely-known across employers in the fitness industry, meaning that you can usually get a good personal training job if you get certified through NASM.

What we don’t like

The NASM price point is the hardest thing to stomach about the certification. NASM has effectively leveraged their name recognition into charging a hefty fee for becoming certified.

For someone who may not be in a strong financial position looking to start their fitness career, the base level price can be a bit steep. Furthermore, the additional package tiers seem a bit overkill for passing the exam and may lead you to spend even more money than needed.

Overall rating

NASM comes in at an 8.5/10 in our overall rating. The OPT model and name recognition are excellent for making a solid start in the fitness industry. With that said, the hefty price tag and hard upsells do detract a bit from the value.


The NSCA CPT is a personal trainer certification developed by the National Strength and Conditioning Association, a leader in advancing the field of athletic performance. The NSCA CPT is known for its rigorous certification exam that gives even the smartest people a run for their money.

However, the NSCA CPT is a great launch point for success as a personal trainer, especially if your eye is towards athletic strength and conditioning.

About the organization

The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) is a non-profit certification organization that centers its efforts on the research and training of athletic performance.

Since 1977, over 60,000 fitness professionals in the US have earned a personal trainer certification from the NSCA, as per data from NSCA itself.

As a global pioneer, NSCA excels in research, practical implementation, ongoing education, and providing networking opportunities for both personal trainers and strength and conditioning coaches. Their other offerings include the famed NSCA CSCS certification as well as the NSCA TSAC-F credential.

When it comes to credibility, the majority of gyms recognize and accept the NSCA personal training certification.

Certification requirements

While you do not need a background in exercise science for the NSCA CPT, you must be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma, and hold a valid CPR/AED certification to be eligible for exam registration.

What it costs

The pricing structure for the NSCA is as follows:

If you choose only the exam without including study materials, it will cost $435 for non-members, while members are charged $300.

Opting to order the Digital Package alongside the exam costs $636.40 for non-members and $452 for members.

The NSCA-CPT Essential Package, which includes the exam, is priced at $749.45 for non-members and $555.55 for members.

If you select the NSCA-CPT Essential Plus Package along with the exam, it will set you back $976.50 if you're a non-member or $779.75 if you're a member.

The NSCA membership costs $130 per year for professionals, but a discount is available for students, who pay $70 per year.

As you can see when you run the numbers, in all cases you actually save money with the discounts by becoming an NSCA member, which is both a nice incentive for becoming an NSCA member and does make the prices fairly reasonable.

Thankfully, the income you will make from becoming NSCA certified can definitely offset the upfront cost.

What it covers

The NSCA curriculum has excellent lessons on the basis and foundations foundations of exercise science, positioning the organization as one of the best compared to other personal training certifications.

Beyond just covering the basics, the NSCA adds valuable insights into additional areas like nutrition and strength and conditioning, giving you much more than just the basic exercise science topics.

The textbook dedicates 8 chapters in its exercise science modules, making it a crucial area to focus on when preparing for the exam.

The NSCA also emphasizes client health screening, including acquring the necessary medical clearance documentation for various situations personal trainers may encounter.

This textbook also includes plenty of information on proper fitness assessments and exercise technique, along with an in-depth guide on the appropriate selection and administration of these movement screenings.

The textbook goes into exceptional detail to describe correct technique for many different exercises. On top of that, the NSCA provides the entirely separate Exercise Technique Manual for learning a wide range of exercises.

Due to NSCA's close relationship with strength and conditioning, athletes receive special focus in this CPT certification, showing how both forms of training should be conducted.

The NSCA's CPT certification splits its special population training into six different chapters, covering personal training for seniors and many other special population groups.

Overall, the NSCA curriculum covers all the basic topics trainers will likely encounter with their clients, including weight gain/loss, dietary choices, and supplementation topics. This certification may even inspire trainers to pursue further specialization in nutrition.

Study and exam prep materials

The NSCA provided materials and tools for exam preparation include the following:

You can also attend an NSCA live exam prep clinic for an in-person, guided study experience.

Each page of the NSCA textbook is jam-packed with all types of information, however it is fairly dense as well, so be prepared to take notes.

Recertification requirements

The continuing education requirements for the NSCA CPT are somewhat more stringent than other CPT programs. You must complete a number of CEUs from various categories.

These categories are as follows:

You can earn these CEUs directly from the NSCA or from various organization partners that offer CEU courses.

What we like

The NSCA CPT has a heavy base in scientific training principles. The NSCA does not impose any external or proprietary methodology, and essentially pulls its recommendations directly from the scientific studies themselves.

This means that trainers who learn the curriculum and pass the NSCA exam will have a deep understanding of the various methodologies and the science backing them. We consider the NSCA CPT to be among the most academically-minded certifications.

What we don’t like

Unfortunately, the way the information is structured in the NSCA CPT can make it more difficult to apply. Many of the recommendations and programming guidelines are presented in siloed chapters with reference to the specific studies backing each guidelines.

This makes it somewhat more difficult to piece together a broader training program with a simple template that way you can with the NASM OPT.

In practice, this means there is a bit more of a learning curve to actually design and implement programming from the NSCA CPT.

With that said, when you get over that initial experience hurdle, you will have more comprehensive knowledge that allows you to customize your programs in a better way than the cookie cutter template provided by the NASM OPT or ACE IFT personal trainer certifications (discussed in the next section).

Overall rating

In terms of popularity, the NSCA CPT ranks fairly well in the industry. We rank it third on our list with a rating of 8/10.

It’s standard of scientific rigour puts it high on the list in our eyes.

However, compared to other certification products it does not provide as easy of a framework to train clients compared to the NCSF CPT or NASM CPT, meaning you need to acquire more real life training experience to apply the knowledge.

#4 - ACE CPT

The Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) certification offered by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) is a cost-effective credential that encapsulates the necessary skills for the personal training profession.

The ACE personal trainer certification approach to client assessment and program development is pragmatic, and the training material allows you to infuse substantial variety into your training programs with ease.

The ACE Integrated Fitness Training (IFT) Model also makes putting together comprehensive programs incredibly straightforward, although it is not quite as good as the NASM OPT Model.

About the organization

Unlike many other personal trainer certification organizations, ACE operates as a non-profit entity that provides a variety of fitness credentials. This non-profit status boosts their reputation among academic institutions like colleges and universities. This is one of the key aspects, among others, that lands the ACE CPT as #4 on our list.

Since its inception in 1985, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) has certified more than 80,000 personal trainers. The organization commands respect and offers an impressive range of resources for fitness professionals, encompassing workshops and certification programs for training.

The ACE CPT is widely recognized and accepted by many gyms and fitness establishments.

However, it should be noted that the ACE examination is reputed to be relatively easier, which leads to it being slightly less esteemed than its NASM and ISSA counterparts. However, ACE still instills an incredible mind for fitness professionalism into its graduates.

Certification requirements

Like most personal trainer certs, you need to be 18 years of age to be eligible to take the ACE CPT program. You also need to be CPR/AED certified and have a high school diploma.

What it covers

Overall, ACE excels at educating on the fundamental principles and abilities required for personal training.

The comprehensive ACE Integrated Fitness Training Model (ACE-IFT) equips you with the framework necessary to design programs for clients of varying fitness levels and objectives. ACE also provides an extensive exercise library, featuring hundreds of exercises with detailed descriptions and video demonstrations. These are organized according to the stages of the IFT model. This resource not only includes safety pointers for proper technique but also covers a wide range of exercises that can be performed using floor space, machines, free weights, and any other amenities your gym might offer.

This intuitive method of incorporating exercises into a program is especially beneficial for novice trainers. Moreover, the ACE-IFT exercise library simplifies the process of finding alternate versions of exercises, making it easy to adjust existing programs depending on the situation. You can conveniently assign repetitions, sets, and other program variables based on the current phase of the client's IFT.

ACE also provides a foundational understanding of coaching for behavioral change.

With the combination of the IFT and behavioral change models, the ACE-CPT equips even the most inexperienced personal trainer with all the essential skills to start a successful career.

However, a noticeable shortfall in ACE's certification is the lack of emphasis on sales skills in the business section. Understanding concepts like sales funnels, leads, prospects, and other sales terminologies is crucial for converting potential clients. Without the ability to close sales, you won't have clients to train

The top personal trainers must be skilled at selling their services. Sales skills are the key that allows you, as a trainer, to put into practice the IFT coaching programs you diligently studied. To be an exceptional fitness trainer, sales knowledge is essential.

Fortunately, many top-notch gyms will offer sales training as part of their employment package.

On the downside, for those intending to be self-employed trainers, getting ACE certified alone won't sufficiently prepare you to establish your own fitness business.

onetheless, ACE offers excellent preparation for the tasks of screening clients, designing programs, and guiding clients through safe and effective workout techniques.

What it costs

Second only to the NCSF CPT, the ACE CPT is one of the most affordable Personal Trainer certifications and training courses that still maintain significant credibility in the industry.

The examination fee alone is $499.00, excluding any study materials.

However, if you opt for the Basic package at $675, it encompasses full access to the ACE study portal and the digital textbook. Considering this, it may not be the most practical choice to pay for the exam alone. At some point, you'll likely need the ACE study resources, and the textbook tends to cost more when bought separately.

Even at $675, the ACE CPT represents excellent value. What's more, it offers financing options starting as low as $38 per month.

For those looking for a more comprehensive set of study materials, there are higher-tier study packages available:

These packages include everything in the basic package plus extra resources like webinars. If feasible, we would recommend scheduling a webinar and a tutoring session.

If you're seeking a more structured study package for the ACE CPT, the ACE MVP Prep Course from Trainer Academy could be worth exploring. This package includes flashcards, practice quizzes, and more. Furthermore, they provide a 100% money-back guarantee if you don't pass on your first attempt.

You can also start studying immediately with our free ACE study guide and ACE practice exam.

Recertification requirements

The ACE CPT requires 20 continuing education units every 2 years to maintain your certification. You can pursue additional ACE certifications such as the ACE FNS (Fitness Nutrition Specialist), ACE Group Fitness Instructor certification (ACE GFI), or third-party CEUs to maintain your certification.

What we like

One of the biggest pros of the ACE CPT is the IFT® Model. This system is an excellent framework for resistance and aerobic training programming. Additionally, the ACE exercise library is organized around which phase of the IFT Model each exercise falls under.

This makes the entire ACE Certification a truly-plug-and-play methodology for training clients. We really like this for new trainers who may not have the intuition and experience prior to their certification course that would help them guide programming.

What we don’t like

The biggest issue with the ACE CPT is that across the industry, most employers and fitness professionals with knowledge of the industry know that the ACE exam is comparatively easy, so it is overall less respected.

Other cons of the ACE CPT are the lack of business skills and that the relatively simple curriculum does not integrate more advanced training knowledge suitable for experienced clients. However, in most cases, the IFT Model is sufficient for the average general fitness client.

Overall rating

The ACE Certified Personal Trainer program scores a 7.5/10 and comes in at #4 on our list. ACE is a great option for many trainers looking for a straightforward exam that covers a solid framework for program design with plenty of exercise techniques to choose from.#5 - ACSM CPT

The American College of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer (ACSM-CPT) is a specialized personal training certification that heavily emphasizes scientific principles but has less of a comprehensive framework for developing fitness programs.

However, it’s an excellent stepping stone for individuals looking to pursue a career in exercise physiology or clinical training environments.

About the organization

The American College of Sports Medicine is a non-profit organization committed to championing and facilitating research in the fields of fitness and exercise science.

It collaborates with numerous researchers with a view to pushing the boundaries of our understanding of fitness.

Educational institutions, including universities and colleges, hold the ACSM certifications in high esteem. Since 1990, the ACSM has certified over 100,000 personal trainers.

Furthermore, a considerable amount of the research that forms the foundation for other organizations' Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) programs is conducted by the ACSM.

Thus, the ACSM continues to be one of the most impactful organizations for shaping the standards of contemporary fitness training.

Certification requirements

The ACSM requires all candidates hold a valid CPR/AED certification, be at least 18 years of age, and complete a high school education.

What it covers

In terms of content, the sections on exercise science and anatomy offered by ACSM are truly first-rate.

The depth of information provided by ACSM exceeds what is typically required for a personal trainer.

However, understanding the fundamental science that informs effective fitness training is valuable, particularly if you're working with clinical populations. Moreover, this knowledge serves as excellent groundwork for careers with a strong focus on science, such as exercise physiology.

Other notable sections within the ACSM curriculum include coaching for behavioral change and health screenings for clients, with a commendable emphasis on client safety.

In terms of client safety, the ACSM's coverage of these topics surpasses that of any other Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) certification we've encountered.

Unfortunately, ACSM doesn't quite hit the mark when it comes to sections on program design and exercise techniques. It lacks a robust system for creating long-term exercise programs and for efficiently selecting exercises for each stage of training.

While the section on aerobic training is slightly superior to the resistance training section, it still lags behind the highly structured methods found in training models like the ACE IFT or NASM OPT.

ACSM does excel in the areas of special populations training and business skills, offering more comprehensive training than other certifications.

Nonetheless, it's challenging to make up for a weak resistance training section, no matter how thorough the rest of the content may be. Without a solid understanding of resistance training, it's impossible to be a proficient trainer.

In conclusion, ACSM certification is a great choice if you're aiming to steer your career towards a more clinical path.

What it costs

If you choose to sit for the ACSM examination without buying any study resources, it will cost you $399.00.

There's a variety of study materials and study guides available for purchase, including:

When you acquire all the study options directly from ACSM, the cost is comparable to the packages offered by ACE or NASM. However, the ACSM's webinars could be a worthwhile investment. The depth of scientific knowledge they offer can even surpass that of some university courses.

Recertification requirements

The ACSM requires 45 CEU credits every 3 years to maintain your certification. This includes holding a valid CPR certification and completing separate courses either directly through the ACSM or through third-party organizations. ACSM’s Group Exercise Instructor certification is among the options you can choose.

What we like

One of the big pros of becoming ACSM certified is that it provides an excellent career track for clinical exercise physiology. Additionally, if you want to pursue research in the fitness industry, the ACSM is second only to the NSCA in terms of its credibility and resources for advancing the field of fitness.

What we don’t like

The main con of the ACSM is that it lacks a comprehensive programming framework. While this is also somewhat true of the NSCA curriculum, the ACSM curriculum has even less assistance when it comes to designing comprehensive, periodized workout programs and coach proper exercise technique.

Overall rating

The ACSM CPT gets a 7/10 and comes in at #5 on our list. This is not bad in the grand scheme of the fitness industry. However, it is not our top choice if you want a certification to launch a standard personal training career. Nevertheless, the ACSM community and fitness experts are respected, and many job board listings include the ACSM CPT as an option.


  1. The Top 7 Best Personal Trainer Certification Programs in 2023
  2. 10 Best Personal Trainer Certifications 2023 – Cost vs Value
  4. 5 Best Personal Trainer Certifications to Become an Industry-leading Personal Trainer
  5. 5 Best Personal Trainer Certifications: The Indisputable Expert’s Guide to the Best
  6. Personal Trainer Certification: Here Are The Best Programs In America


Sign In or Register to comment.