There are many programs that offer personal trainer certificates. You want to make sure you are getting the best value for your money, so you should choose a program that has a strong pedigree.
All programs are led by respected fitness institutions. They combine cutting-edge fitness science with distance learning. Many include internship placements, professional guidance, and other support to help you get out of the classroom quickly and into your first position as a personal trainer. Let’s take a look at the top personal trainer certifications.
1. International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA).
For students who need distance education, the International Sports Sciences Association may be another option. ISSA is “the trainer’s coach” and offers self-paced distance courses on a wide range of fitness-related topics. For those who are interested in expanding their knowledge, they offer an Associate’s Degree in Exercise Science.
Although the Personal Trainer Certificate is not an undergraduate degree, it provides trainers and instructors with the necessary skills to offer comprehensive fitness training.
- Curriculum. The ISSA personal trainer certification is based on the scientific and philosophical aspects of fitness, such as anatomy, health assessment, movement principles, and how to apply those skills in a daily, practical environment. The curriculum includes sections on marketing and business management, and tailoring programs to clients’ needs. Students can work at their own pace and have a student success coach who is available to assist them when they need it.
- Prerequisites and eligibility requirements. You will score no points if you complete the self-paced curriculum in practice quizzes. All quizzes must be completed. Candidates must be at least 18 years old, but they do not require a high school diploma. A valid CPR/AED/First aid certification is required for students. This certification can be obtained online through ISSA.
- Testing. ISSA exams are an online, untimed, open book test. ISSA offers a free retest option if you fail the first time. Download the Certification Course Booklet to learn more about courses and testing.
- Continuing Education and Career Resources. Students who pass the final ISSA exam receive a free professional website that will help you market yourself as a fitness and health pro. ISSA offers many continuing education courses and certifications that cover everything from nutrition to coaching online.
2. The National Council on Strength & Fitness
The National Council on Strength & Fitness is a recognized international organization for professionals in the field of exercise. The program is recognized in the USA (NCCA) as well as Europe (EA), and offers certification at more than 1000 testing locations in 83 countries. Personal training, strength and conditioning, as well as nutrition for sports and fitness can all be specialized in by exercise professionals. You can take the accredited programs online via the NCSF easy-learning platform and remote testing platform. The certification programs can also be obtained through hundreds of universities and colleges across the U.S. Internationally, the certifications can be used in countries that have register systems for exercise professionals, including the United States, Canada and Europe.
- Curriculum. Curriculum. The Job Task Analysis for personal coaches is used to develop the curriculum. It reflects both international and U.S. standards. This program uses self-guided or guided instruction (online, training schools and colleges) to teach the curriculum. It includes testing and physical evaluations, result-based training methods, various programming models, nutrition and weight management, as well as advanced instruction in resistance training and corrective exercise, flexibility, aerobic fitness, and other topics. The certification exam is a series of logically-sequenced learning modules that include interactive videos and study tools. This helps students develop their skills and knowledge.
- Prerequisites and eligibility requirements. To take the NCSF–CPT exam you must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or equivalent. Once certified, CPR/AED must be completed.
- Testing. Online or in-person examinations are possible through the organization’s online testing service.
- Continuing Education and Career Resources. NCSF provides a career center, placement assistance through corporate partners, and trainer’s tools via the NCSF App. The NCSF offers online courses and workshops for continuing education. A Certified Personal Trainer can also become a Certified Strength & Conditioning Coach or Nutrition Specialist.
3. Fitness Mentors – Online Personal Training Certifications and Personal Training Training Classes
Fitness Mentors leads the industry in training trainers for the new, modern fitness landscape. It is vital that trainers are able to understand the differences between online and in-person training. This option is ideal for trainers who want to train clients in the gym or online. It also includes 100% online testing. We recommend the Ultimate Online Training Bundle for trainers who know they want to train online. It includes their Online Personal Training Certification and Virtual Nutrition Coach Certification.
- Curriculum. Personal Trainer Certification and Online Training Certification focus on exercise science principles that can lead to effective fitness programming. This will help clients reach a range of health goals, including fat loss, muscle gain/hypertrophy and strength improvement for athletes. Their emphasis on business, marketing and sales techniques is what I find most distinctive. They will show you how to set up and run an online personal training or personal coaching business. You can work at your own pace and have a personal trainer to help you through the course.
- Prerequisites and eligibility requirements. While the standard CPR/AED certification must be obtained before you can earn your certification, you can take the test prior to getting CPR/AED. The program is self-paced so students can take the exam as soon as they feel ready. However, Fitness Mentors offers a four- to eight-week study schedule for maximum exam preparation.
- Testing. Both the Online Trainer and Fitness Mentors CPT Certifications can be taken online. The CPT has a 120-minute time limit for the 100-question exam. With a pass rate of around 85% for first-timers, the CPT has one the best in the industry. You can get a free retest if you purchase their Pro Package. You can find out more about the test at this webpage.
- Continuing Education and Career Resources. The Fitness Mentors Curriculum’s Facebook and Instagram Success module is one of the most valuable resources. It covers how to reach clients via these platforms. FM is the only certification that offers this module, and it’s not available elsewhere. FM is the market leader in Online Client Acquisition. Fitness Mentors offers many additional certifications to trainers who want to specialize in nutrition, sports nutrition and nutrition coaching. They also offer business and sales certifications, as well as training for pain management, group fitness and coaching.
4. American Council on Exercise (ACE).
American Council on Exercise (ACE), empowers trainers and fitness professionals with one goal: Get people moving. This simple foundation is the basis of the training course and its resources. It offers teaching that suits clients’ needs, no matter if they are looking for a stroll in the park or a triathlon.
This singular mission appears to be paying off: the personal trainer program has over 53,000 graduates and over one million sessions with clients all around the world. ACE offers different certification programs for Personal trainers and Group fitness Instructors. Health Coaches and Medical exercise Specialists. The personal training program includes the following:
- Curriculum. Curriculum. The ACE Integrated Fitness Training(r), which emphasizes personalized training programs that meet individual goals and challenges, is the basis of personal trainers’ curriculum. Each program has four phases. They are function, health and fitness. Performance is the training cycle. Each phase focuses on different aspects of health, including mobility and stability training as well as aerobic exercise and endurance training. Trainers can earn the ACE certification to be able to place clients in one of four phases and create a tailored training program that meets each client’s needs.
- Prerequisites and eligibility requirements. Candidates must have a valid CPR/AED certificate at the time they register for an exam. Candidats must be at least 18 years old.
- Testing. Learn more about the Certification Exam Candidate Handbook.
- Continuing Education and Career Resources. ACE has a wide range of resources available to certified trainers. These include recertification programs and a career center. They also offer online courses, workshops, events and live webinars.
5. National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).
The National Academy of Sports Medicine is a respected association of fitness and sports professionals. The academy offers training and resources to fitness professionals for over 30 years. Its goal is to provide a science-based, elite approach to personal trainers.
They have produced over 190,000.0 personal training certificates in the past 10 years thanks to their extraordinary pedigree. This makes them one of most loved programs in the industry.
- Curriculum. The NASM model of Optimum Performance Training ™, which is the basis for certification, is used. The program uses the most recent scientific research to explore a variety of fitness and wellness predictors including core stability, flexibility, strength, power and cardiorespiratory endurance. NASM offers self-guided or guided instruction programs. It includes a digital textbook and video lectures, practice questions, exercise library, and study guides. These are designed to assist fitness professionals in creating training routines that use evidence-backed research.
- Prerequisites and eligibility requirements. To become a NASM CPT, candidates must have a high school diploma, GED or current CPR/AED certification.
- Testing. Testing. For more information about NASM-CPT testing please refer to the Candidate Handbook.
- Continuing Education and Career Resources. NASM certifications are available to personal trainers. This program gives them hands-on experience and allows them to secure a permanent position at a gym. The Advanced Specializations program allows certificate holders to continue their education. This includes courses in Fitness Nutrition and Weight Loss Training, Senior Fitness, Women’s Fitness, and many other areas. NASM hosts workshops live and an annual conference for professionals.
* American College of Sports Medicine
The American College of Sports Medicine is a respected professional organization for fitness professionals around the world. ACSM has chapters in over 90 countries and boasts a membership of more than 50,000 fitness professionals.
ACSM holds itself and its candidates to what it calls its “gold standard,” which the organization describes as “setting the bar a little bit higher” than other professional organizations/certifications. The organization has a scientifically-minded bent, encouraging members to drive fitness science research forward.
- Curriculum. ACSM’s personal training certification programs prepare students for various fitness settings such as universities, gyms, and other facilities. This curriculum combines scientific research and practical knowledge, allowing students to design individual training programs for people from all walks of life.
- Prerequisites and eligibility requirements. To take the ACSM PTC Exam, you must be at least 18 years old, possess a high school diploma or equivalent, and have an adult CPR/AED Certification.
- Testing. Pearson VUE schedules all exams. It covers the information in the Personal Training Exam Content outline.
- Continuing Education and Career Resources. ACSM offers many opportunities to learn and grow professionally, such as recertification programs and regular events and conferences. There are also several specialist certificates that can be used for working with specific populations.
* National Strength and Conditioning Association
The National Strength and Conditioning Association focuses primarily upon strength and conditioning training. The CPT program prepares future fitness professionals for assessing, motivating, teaching and training clients in a personalized approach. This certification, which is supported by research, is an excellent choice for anyone who wants to make a career in fitness training.
- Curriculum. The NSCA CPT exam covers four major areas: Client Consultation/Fitness assessment, Program Planning and Exercise Techniques. Safety/Emergency issues are also covered. These topics include how to assess client requirements based on their health history, nutrition, and fitness level. Students learn how to create a comprehensive training program that uses client goals as a guide. They address special needs clients and teach students how they can train clients to be safe and how to handle emergency situations.
- Prerequisites and eligibility requirements. Candidates must be at minimum 18 years of age and have a high school diploma, or an equivalent, in order to take the NSCA CPT test. Candidates must also have current CPR/AED certifications.
- Continuing Education and Career Resources. There are many opportunities to continue your studies at the NSCA, including additional training programs for Certified Strength and Condition Specialists, Certified Special Population Specialists, and Tactical Strength and Conversion Facilitators. Regular publications and journals are also produced by the foundation. The NSCA membership gives you access to a job board as well as career development resources.