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June 12, 2022
Have you been looking to change careers and make your living guiding others to their fitness goals? Then becoming a personal trainer may be right up your alley.
You want to advertise yourself as a certified PT to gain recognition, increase income or land a job at any major health club.In that case, you typically must pass a PT test.
To help out those interested in getting certified, we have done the research and created a list of 9 of the best personal trainer certification programs available.
Personal training certifications are programs that educate and prepare you to guide people from various backgrounds toward their health and wellness goals. The best personal training certification for you should improve your skill level, come from an accredited certifying body, and fit your time commitments.
You can think of a personal training certification is comparable to a college degree in the sense that it is a piece of paper that proves that you have passed the required test(s) to pass and earn your new title as a CPT.
NCCA stands for National Commission for Certifying Agencies. The NCCA is one of the most respected certifying agencies in the US. Accreditation of personal training certifications is focused on the program's quality, validity, reliability, competency-based assessments, and ability to separate unqualified individuals from practicing in a given profession.
Why are certifying agencies important?
Earning a certification from an accredited program verifies that you have learned something from a high-quality institution. Gaining an accredited certification confirms that you have met the criteria to work as a professional and train clients with full effectiveness.
Most of the nation's top respected individuals in the health and fitness space believe that out of the number of certifying agencies, the NCCA is the best accrediting body for healthcare, fitness, wellness, and other occupations. The NCCA has been accrediting certification programs based on the highest quality standards in professional certification since 1977 to ensure the programs adhere to modern standards of practice. When searching for personal trainer certifications, make sure you look for the NCCA seal of approval.
We have put together the following factors to help aspiring personal trainers choose the best personal training certifications and found as much data as possible so we could accurately layout our research:
**This post may contain affiliate links where we earn commission on purchased items.**
SUMMARY OF FOCUS
ISSA stands for the International Sports Sciences Association and was founded in 1988. They offer a personal training certification that is an excellent balance of all aspects of fitness, nutrition, and exercise to prepare potential personal trainers for success.
The International Sports Sciences Association offers five NCCA-accredited Exams:
However, the online ISSA CPT exam is not NCCA-accredited. You will have to take the accredited test at a proctored test center.
The International Sports Sciences Association's personal training certification programs include knowledge based on the latest exercise science and fitness research and development within the course material. Each course consists of an online textbook, workbook, audio lectures, practice exams, learning modules, and fantastic trainer support. Unlike other options on the market, there is no option for live instructions in the base packages. Please don't fret, though; the study materials and guides are thorough, well-organized, and for most people, more than enough to help them pass the final exam.
The personal trainer certification program can be completed in as little as four weeks with their fast track program. So if you are eager to get started as a trainer, this is a fantastic option. Most ISSA students take 10 to 12 weeks to complete their self-guided study regimen. This is a very manageable time frame if you keep up with the studying and quizzes. Don't have an abundance of free time to study? Not a problem; you have up to six months from the date of your certification purchase to complete your final personal trainer exam.
In terms of test length, you have two options. The online option is a 200-question multiple-choice exam that is an open book, and you have unlimited time to complete it. This is great for people who don't have much free time and aren't good test-takers. However, this option isn't NCCA accredited, so in our opinion isn't worth taking.
The other option is the NCCA accredited personal trainer exam that features 140 multiple choice questions, in which only 125 are graded. The extra fifteen are considered pre-test questions and aren't tallied into your final grade. This option has a two-hour time limit, is a closed book test, and is proctored to ensure no cheating.
The International Sports Sciences Association online version of the PT exam is relatively simple; they have done away with the short answer questions and the long essays. It is now 200 multiple choice questions that are an open book, and you can don't even have to finish the test in one sitting. You could technically look up all the answers to the questions if you wanted to, but we wouldn't recommend that as it isn't an excellent way to test your knowledge.
The NCCA accredited test is far more problematic as it is timed, and no books or notes are allowed. It can be compared to an ACT or an SAT because it tests your knowledge and makes a better judge of your training ability.
The cheapest ISSA personal training certification is 988 dollars or $72 per month for a year. If you want to take the proctored NCCA-personal trainer certification, that will run you $599. If your test score is below 70%, you will have to retake the test. The retake fee is 99$. If you have to retake the NCCA version, it will cost you $599 again, so make sure you study!
The most common personal trainer certification final from ISSA is the online option. It is not as difficult as a NASM, or ACSM exam, as the general pass rate hovers near 80%. However, the NCCA accredited option is drastically different, and the pass rate drops drastically. The pass rate falls into the same 60-70% range as the NASM and ACSM tests.
ISSA trainers are required to renew their personal trainer certification every two years. This process is relatively straightforward as it consists of a $99 renewal fee, updated CPR/AED certification, and documented proof stating you completed 20 Continuing Education Units (CEUs). Continuing education units are equal to one contact hour of instruction. All 20 hours must be taken through ISSA, and ISSA Continuing Education Provider, or other ISSA-approved continuing education activity. We recommend completing another certification, as they count as 20 CEUs, and earning another credential to your arsenal.
According to the ISSA website, the median annual salary for an ISSA-certified personal trainer is $40,510 annually. The top 10 percent of ISSA-certified trainers earn more than $76,550.
Overall the International Sports Sciences Association offers one of the best personal trainer certification programs as it continues to be one of the most popular options for aspiring professional trainers.
SUMMARY OF FOCUS
The National Academy of Sports Medicine is an incredibly well-known personal training certification program that teaches you the skills you need to be a great personal trainer and on corrective exercise with scientifically accurate information. They have been in the industry for 30+ years and have developed some of the most successful personal trainers. The personal trainer certification is NCCA accredited and is only offered in-person as a proctored exam.
The guided-study option is a fantastic option if you already have experience in the fitness industry or have taken other courses. It includes their online course, exam fee, digital textbook, learning videos, practice exams, audio chapters, exercise library, resource library, and practice exam. This great package will set you up for passing the final exam and as a thriving PT.
The all-inclusive option includes everything in the self-study package. It has additional study materials, guided study courses, gym internships, recertification for life guarantee, and the possibility for CPR/AED certification online.
The NASM Optimum Performance Training (OPT) model seamlessly allows you to progress clients from the beginning stabilization phase through a variety of periods in training, finally leading to focus on power and performance training. The OPT model also includes behavioral change, special populations training, corrective exercise, and basic business skills.
The standard NASM certification program is a 10-week online course, but potential trainers can also participate in a hands-on, live workshop in addition to the online system to better prepare for the final exam. Test takers can expect to invest roughly 10-12 weeks in completing the online modules to prepare for the exam. This time frame includes the two-hour NASM final exam with 120 multiple-choice questions.
As of 2022, the NASM personal trainer certification final test is 120 multiple choice questions that span over six sections. The six sections range in scope, covering topics like professional development, behavioral coaching, training instruction, and program design. You will have two hours to finish the exam, which is proctored to ensure nobody is trying to cheat.
With all the options NASM gives you for learning the material, it ultimately comes down to your drive and ability to understand the material. They also provide plenty of practice exams so you can learn the test layout and the best ways to study for the final exam.
NASM is an accredited test, making it more difficult as it is timed, and no books or notes are allowed. You will have to know your material in order to get above a 70% on your exam.
NASM has multiple study options for up-and-coming trainers, which boil down to choosing the one that works best for you. NASM, at the time of this article being written, has four premium study options to choose from:
Retake Final Exam: Roughly $190. Their website states that you would be required to call the member service team, where they have three options regarding pricing and limitations.
Each option offers progressively more study guidance, extra benefits, and assets to help you pass the test. The National Academy of Sports Medicine CPT course is one of the most expensive options of all the major certification bodies, but when you factor in that NASM is also considered the most popular of these brands. So a certain level of prestige goes along with their certification.
The NASM, the National Academy of Sports Medicine, Personal Trainer cert is one of the top personal training certification programs in the industry and is notoriously one of the hardest to pass. NASM purposely makes their tests difficult to pass because they are trying to raise the standard for the knowledge that personal trainers start with. The average pass rate for the last several years sits around 63%. This adds up to one in three people who will fail the NASM exam. Make sure to study, and you shouldn't have a problem.
The National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer certification must be maintained every two years to ensure that NASM personal trainers stay up-to-date with current best-practice guidelines and develop more skills. To re-certify, trainers must earn 2.0 NASM-approved continued education units, or 20 contact hours, every two-year certification period. This does include the 0.1 CEUs from the required CPR/AED certification.
According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine website, their personal trainers have great earning potential, with most of their personal trainers making between $30,000 and $49,000 per year, with most NASM-certified personal trainers typically making $42,000 in their first year. Plus they state that as trainers develop their specialties and earn more certifications, they can see their income grow by 20%.
All in all NASM is one of the best personal trainer certification programs that's respected across the industry by fitness professionals.
SUMMARY OF FOCUS
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) has a personal trainer certification that is quite comprehensive and includes everything you will need to know to start training clients upon completion. Their personal trainer program focuses on behavior modification and evidence-based science, which sets you up as a compassionate trainer who works to empower their clients to take the lead in their health and wellness journey.
The American Council on Exercise treats its personal training packages with a decent variety of materials and study aids; even the lowest tier package comes with some great value. Every package comes with the ACE University that aids students in staying on track with the course syllabus, practice exams, textbooks in multiple forms, and study companions. This helpful stuff will push your preparation for the final to the next level, allowing you to be more confident as a new CPT. The American Council on Exercise student portal is immersive and user-friendly, making it easy to navigate the different modules.
From the time you purchase your online personal training course to finishing your personal trainer certification exam, you have nine months to complete everything. This is a massive window for you to study, prepare, and take the final exam. You don't have to wait that long to take the test; however, we recommend a more reasonable time frame of three to four months for most individuals. This should give you plenty of time to go about your daily life and find time to study. Keep in mind that the longer you wait, the harder it will be to retain information.
The American Council on Exercise-CPT exam questions are pretty straightforward. It consists of 150 questions that span the various study topics within the four domains of the course material. You will need to score 500 points out of 800 to pass. This translates to correctly answering 90 out of the 125 scored ACE CPT exam questions. Twenty-five of the questions are considered experimental questions and don't count towards your overall score. Make sure to focus, as you will only get three hours to complete your personal trainer final exam.
Just like the NASM final, the ACE final's difficulty comes down to how well you prepare for it beforehand. The more you do the practice exams and study, the easier it will become on test day. Use the provided personal trainer study companion that focuses on multiple levels of learning through a combination of practical applications and questions, which will help you be more informed and confident when test day arrives.
The American Council on Exercise has three packages to choose from; what you choose comes down to selecting the one that works best for your needs.
ACE's options include:
Each option offers progressively more study guidance, extra benefits, and assets to help you pass the test. The ACE CPT course is NCCA accredited, making the price tag make more sense.
The ACE personal trainer test isn't a walk in the park, just like any certification test with an NCCA accreditation. It is one of the more complicated tests to pass, being just slightly more manageable than the NASM certification exam. With a passing rate in the 65% range, you have a decent chance of passing but remember you will need to work hard and study to earn your certification.
The ACE Certified Personal Trainer certification must be maintained every two years to ensure that ACE-certified personal trainers stay up-to-date with current best-practice guidelines and expand their knowledge base. With ACE, you will need 2.0 CEUs, equivalent to 20 active hours worth of credits, and a renewal fee of $129. Don't hesitate to start on your CEUs, spread them out, and try to complete 10 hours each year to make them reasonably easy to manage.
We struggled to find any information on their website stating what their personal trainers typically average in their annual salary. However, we were able to find some info on ZipRecruiter that shines a positive light for those considering an ACE personal trainer certification. Based on our findings, ACE trainers landed towards the top of the PT median income bracket with annual average earnings of $51,467. We believe that the popularity of the ACE certification may be influential on the average earning of personal trainers, as the higher tier options tend to make more.
Considering the average salary and their notoriety ACE offers one of the best personal trainer certification programs around.
SUMMARY OF FOCUS
The National Council on Strength and Fitness, or NCSF, is an organization that has been around for over 25 years in the fitness industry. They aren't quite as renowned as NASM or ACE, but they still do a fantastic job preparing certified personal trainers. NCSF personal training certification covers most of the topics needed for basic fitness training. The NCSF CPT course is NCCA accredited when you take it in a proctored environment.
The study overview on the NCSF website shows eight content units are covered. The units are as follows:
NCSF treats its personal training packages with an average amount of materials and study aids. Every package comes with instructor support, a digital textbook, lesson notes, review quizzes, and instructional videos that aid students in staying on track and setting them up for success as a proper PT. This is all helpful stuff that will push your preparation for the final.
Unfortunately, they don't offer anything as polished as the ACE/NASM student portal. They offer packages with 2-days of workshop instruction packages so you can get some hands-on experience. They also offer exam preparation clinics to help learners pass the exams relatively easily.
The time it takes to complete your certification varies depending on the package you purchase. You can get it done as quickly as 2-3 months if you are motivated to finish it or choose one of the home study options. Whereas if you take your time or choose one of the workshop options, it can take up to six months.
The NCSF certified personal trainer exam is pretty straightforward. It consists of 150 multiple choice questions that span ten sections. Most tests accredited with the NCCA follow this pattern of having 150-200 multiple choice questions, so the NCSF is no exception. Make sure to prepare for the test, as you will only get three hours to complete your personal trainer final exam.
If you're an individual who stresses out and isn't a strong tester, then the NCSF may be the perfect personal training certification. Based on our experience and reviews, as long as you pass the practice tests with a passing score, you should be decently prepared for the final. You only need a 70% score to pass the NCSF personal trainer final exam.
NCSF has four personal trainer bundles to choose from, and in general, their pricing is among the cheapest that we have found.
NCSF's options include:
*Keep in mind that various promotions are going on that may impact the price of these packages.
Each option offers progressively more study guidance, extra benefits, and assets to help prepare you to pass the test.
The NCSF, the National Council on Strength and Fitness, offers personal training certification programs that are on the easier side of the spectrum in the fitness industry and should be pretty manageable to pass with some studying. NCSF has a rough 75-80% pass rate according to 2019 data, bringing it in at the higher range of pass rate. Don't take the test lightly; if you don't make sure to study, there is a chance that you will fail it.
Like other accredited certifications, the NCSF requires you to complete continuing education credits to keep your certification current. You will be required to complete 20 CEUs every two years, which aligns with other programs like ACE or NASM. Which shouldn't be a problem as NCSF does give you a great deal of flexibility in choosing your CEUs by allowing you to use their own approved options or by completing third-party approved courses.
According to the National Council on Strength and Fitness, their certified personal trainers average $24.54 per hour, with an annual salary of over $31,000. This seems to put their trainers at the lower end of the earnings scale. However, with more experience and specialization, your annual income can go up significantly.
The NCSF delivers an acceptable personal training certification for those that desire to become a fitness professional.
SUMMARY OF FOCUS
The National Strength and Conditioning Association, or NSCA, is a non-profit organization founded in 1978 that offers one of the best personal trainer certifications focused on strength and conditioning within the fitness industry. Its mission is the global enhancement of strength and conditioning, and the empowerment of dedicated sports medicine professionals to provide top-notch scientific knowledge. As of 1996, they were the first to have their personal trainer certification accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. Their certified personal trainer program is top-notch and easily one of the best out there.
The National Strength and Conditioning Association treats its personal training packages differently as their study materials aren't included with the test, so they must be purchased separately. The study material packages are pretty straightforward. They all come with the "Essentials of Personal Training" textbook, a study guide, and over 200 practice questions.
The textbook for the CPT certification has 25 chapters that are spread over 600 pages. From the research we have done, it seems to be one of the best layouts for a personal training textbook, with each chapter being quite in-depth and well thought out. However, we believe they could do more to provide learning materials for their students.
Depending on how eager you are to learn and complete your final exam, you could get it done as quickly as three months. However, if you aren't in a hurry or need that extra time to study, then it will take longer. According to their site, some individuals can take up to nine months to prepare themselves if they don't have an exercise science degree or practical experience.
The National Strength and Conditioning Association-certified personal trainer exam is comprised of 140 scored questions and 15 non-scored questions that will test your knowledge, skills, and abilities. All 155 questions are multiple-choice, and the questions cover the four domains of client consultation/fitness assessment, program planning, techniques of exercises, and safety & legal issues. The NSCA-CPT test has at least 25 video or picture CPT test questions mixed in with the 155 questions total. You will be given three hours to complete the final exam.
To pass the NSCA-certified personal trainer final exam, you will need to get a minimum of 98 questions correct out of 155, which equals a 70% on the graded questions. Work hard, study diligently, and this test shouldn't be too difficult to pass.
There are four different options to purchase, one being strictly an exam-only package, and the other three are different study packages that do not have the exam included. So remember that you will have to purchase the study materials and exams separately.
You can also purchase a membership which is a great value to consider, not just for the discounts but also for the fantastic benefits you get after certification that may help advance your abilities as a PT.
Exam Only Package:
NSCA-CPT Essential Package:
NSCA-CPT Essential Plus Package:
NSCA-CPT Digital Package:
Their pass rate was 72% for first-time candidates that attempted the NSCA-CPT exam in 2019. You will want to make sure you are as prepared as possible for this exam, as the questions have been known to be quite difficult.
Getting your personal trainer recertification for the NSCA is slightly different compared to other companies. They operate on a three-year time period for getting re-certified. In those three years, you will need to complete two CEUs, which must be earned through NSCA-approved organizations. Those two CEUs break down to roughly 20 hours of class attendance. This process is complicated even further by having to report the hours to the NSCA for approval. The NSCA does offer its own CEU courses that you can look into.
The NSCA states that their average personal training salary per year is around $48,584, depending on if they work for a gym or are privately contracted.
If you aspire to be a fitness professional with a focus on strength and conditioning then NSCA might be an ideal personal training certification for you.
SUMMARY OF FOCUS
The American College of Sports Medicine was founded in 1954 and is one of the fitness industries leading NCCA accredited certifications for people interested in obtaining a personal trainer certification. ACSM strives to advance and integrate scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine. To prepare you as an ACSM-certified personal trainer, they will provide you with the practical and scientific knowledge to work in various settings within the health and wellness industry.
The American College of Sports Medicine was able to put together a visually pleasing textbook that is easy to digest and is overall pretty decent. If you have a small budget, the textbook should be more than enough to prepare you for the final exam.
If you need more study materials, there are plenty of options. For individuals struggling to grasp the information, ACSM does offer a prep course through PrepU. They have practice tests and flashcards that are great for helping you to identify areas you need to improve.
Receiving your ACSM personal trainer certification depends on you passing the final exam. Depending on your knowledge and speed of learning will be the most significant factors in how much time it will take to prepare for the test. According to the ACSM website, if you don't have physical fitness, physical therapy, or exercise specialist education, you should expect between 4 to 16 weeks of studying and test preparation.
The American College of Sports Medicine-CPT exam has a time limit of two and a half hours. The test consists of 135 items, of which 120 are scored and 15 are non-scored. The test covers four domains: initial client consultation and assessment, exercise programming and implementation, exercise leadership and client education, and legal and professional responsibilities.
To pass the American College of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer final exam, you must get a score of at least a 550 (scale of 200-800). Unlike taking other personal training exams where you need to get a certain percent of exam questions correct to pass, ACSM uses a compensatory scoring model. This means that an exam candidate's total number of correct answers must add up to a predetermined passing point; this ensures that candidates will be graded reasonably regardless of which exam form is taken.
The ACSM offers several different exam preparation resources for the certified personal trainer test. Each of these materials must be purchased individually from the exam fee, which costs $349 for nonmembers and $279 for members. Retaking the test costs $175.
ACSM's study aid options include:
According to the ACSM website, in 2020 out of 1,892 candidates, 69% passed it on the first go. You have a good chance of passing the test on the first go if you take advantage of the study aids and read the textbook.
Continuing education units are crucial to growing as a personal trainer and keeping yourself up to date with research. Virtually all certifications require them, and ACSM is no exception. For ACSM recertification, you must complete 45 CEUs every three years. You can choose from various CEU options, including accredited courses from the ACSM and approved third parties. We recommend using your CEUs to learn new specializations that benefit you and your clients. You must also maintain your CPR/AED certification and pay the $55 recertification fee.
The ACSM personal trainer's average annual salary is around $49,000. It really depends on the state you're working in and your employment status.
As far as personal trainer certifications go ACSM skews towards people who want to incorporate more scientific understanding to provide thorough explanations to clients in their personal training business.
SUMMARY OF FOCUS
The National Federation of Professional Trainers, or NFPT, is an accredited fitness trainer certification program that has been operating since 1988. NFPT strives to inspire new personal trainers and offer them an understanding of fundamental exercise principles for safe and effective fitness training regimens. NFPTs education gives trend-free, back-to-basic teaching to fitness enthusiasts to provide the perfect foothold for entry-level personal trainers.
NFPT treats its personal training packages with an okay amount of materials and study aids. These two personal trainer certification packages come with a copy of their personal trainer manual, workbook, chapter quizzes, how-to's for online training, and essential fit pro-forms & documents. Their premium packages offer a couple of practice exams and additional study aids. This is all stuff that will help you to prepare for your final. Based on research we have done and reviews we have read, the book could use some work, as it doesn't stack up to other courses' CPT textbooks.
Receiving your NFPT personal trainer certification depends on you passing the final exam. Depending on your base knowledge and speed of learning will be the most essential factors in how much time it will take to prepare for the final test. According to the NFPT website, the average preparation and test completion time is 60-90 days. You will have an entire year from the time you applied to complete the CPT exam.
There are 120 multiple choice questions, with each question having four options to choose from. Twenty of the questions are pre-test questions and aren't graded. The ungraded pre-test questions are written strictly for statistical purposes and will not affect your final score. You will have a two-hour time limit to complete your exam.
To pass the NFPT-certified personal trainer final exam, you will need to get at least 750 points out of 1000, or 75%.
The NFPT offers only a couple of different exam preparation options for the certified personal trainer test. They kept their options straightforward and relatively inexpensive compared to other companies.
NFPT's options include:
Their packages also include the final exam making NFPT one of the cheapest options for accredited personal trainer certifications.
According to some survey reports and reviews on the NFPT exam, they offer one of the most accessible accredited personal trainer certifications on the market. Most people breezed through the textbook, did an overview of the reference manual, and took online practice exams to prepare for the final exam. According to the NFPT website, 72% of exam takers pass it on the first attempt.
NFPT-certified personal trainers must stay up-to-date with current knowledge and maintain their certification by completing CEUs yearly. To earn your required 2 CEUs, there are plenty of opportunities to do so. Unlike most companies, a handful of their CEU options are free, adding a ton of value to your initial package cost.
Besides the NFPT workshop, there are several ways of renewing certifications with NFPT.
The NFPT personal trainer certification will prepare you to make a median income of roughly $35k and up. This puts them close to earning what other trainers with more expensive certifications will make.
Although the NFPT personal training certification isn't as well known as other certifications, it does offer a solid base for those just getting into their personal training career.
SUMMARY OF FOCUS
The Fitness Mentors is a relatively new company in the fitness industry that is on a mission to make your dreams of a successful fitness career come true in an efficient and timely manner. They are huge believers in the FORM style of training (Form Over Resistance Model) and are NCCA accredited.
The Fitness Mentors certification program is on par with ISSA, NASM, and ACE. One of the most significant factors setting them apart is their strong belief in the FORM program design model, which gives similar programming abilities to the IFT and OPT models. Their curriculum covers a wide range of topics across thirteen chapters like business, exercise physiology, and even nutrition components. Regarding content quality, reviews state that the study material was more than enough to prepare them for the final exam.
Their base CPT package includes a copy of their personal trainer CPT certification exam, digital textbook, lecture video presentations, audiobook lectures, study guide questions, chapter quizzes, two practice exams, and a Facebook support group. Their plus packages include everything in their base packages and offer an additional certification, bonus learning videos, flashcards, interactive learning activities, and study aids. The pro bundle offers everything in their plus package, an additional certification, access to a personal fitness mentor, and a pass guarantee. Lastly, their ultimate bundle has six certifications and everything in the pro bundle.
According to the Fitness Mentors site, if you have three hours per day to study, you should be able to complete the certification in less than a month. If you only have one hour per day, five days per week, it will take roughly 3-4 months to complete.
There are 100 multiple choice questions, making this one of the shortest tests on our list. You will have two hours to complete the exam, which seems to be around the industry standard for the time allotted to take the personal trainer exam. If you fail the CPT Exam, you must purchase an exam retest.
Exam-wise, the Fitness Mentors CPT final exam seems to be relatively easy. You only need a 70% score to pass, and based on reviews on their site, this appears to be quite manageable for most individuals.
The Fitness Mentors offer four pricing options for the CPT Exam and other bundles, including the CPT with different certifications.
Fitness Mentor's options include:
Overall, the Starter and Plus bundles have the best value if you just want a CPT, without going overkill with the ultimate bundle.
Fitness Mentors doesn't publish their official pass rate data. Still, the reviews from individuals who have taken multiple other CPT exams indicate that the Fitness Mentors option is one of the easier options to pass.
The FM CPT requires 20 hours (2.0 CEUs) of continuing education every two years and a recertification fee. They offer some free options for earning CEUs, which is a pretty excellent option. You can choose from various continuing education credits, including accredited courses from the Fitness Mentors and approved third parties. We recommend using your continuing education units to learn new specializations that will broaden your mind and benefit your clients.
With Fitness Mentor being the new kid on the block, there isn't enough data to find any salary data. With nowhere near the brand recognition of other organizations like ISSA and NASM, not all gyms might be open to an FM certification. It should still be pretty safe to say that having your personal trainer certification through Fitness Mentor shouldn't hurt your earning potential and should fall in line with similar credentials.
SUMMARY OF FOCUS
NESTA/Spencer Institute, or The National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association, has been around since 1992 and is an international organization with an NCCA accreditation. They offer a unique way of preparing coaches through coaching, personal development, and extra focus on the business aspect of personal training. They emphasize sales, referrals, and marketing, which are important considerations for any personal trainer. Personal trainers will need business skills like marketing, sales, and referrals to succeed.
The 14-chapter textbook NESTA offers is slightly shorter than most other certification companies, but it is also considered more concise in its teachings. It covers a wide range of topics like business strategies, exercise physiology, flexibility, biomechanics, components of nutrition, and other similar topics. Depending on the package purchased, you can receive additional study materials like video training, review quizzes, and lifetime access to their business suite.
Receiving your NESTA personal trainer certification depends on you passing the final exam. So depending on your base knowledge and speed of learning will be the most essential factors in how much time it will take to prepare for the final test. According to the NESTA website, the average preparation and test completion time is 30-90 days. They offer a study at your pace option, so you can take more time than stated above.
The National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association personal trainer final exam has 125 multiple-choice questions and is a proctored exam. They offer an online proctored exam option, which is an excellent choice. The test has a two-hour time limit, which seems pretty standard in the industry. The exam must be taken within 90 days of requesting your exam eligibility ID. This is the only personal training certification we know is valid for four years once completed.
You must achieve a 71 or above exam score to become an accredited Personal Fitness Trainer through NESTA. Keep up with your studying and do the practice exams; you shouldn't have a problem passing if you put in the effort.
The National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association offers three packages for their CPT Exam and other study bundles. We believe that the complete package is the best value since it includes practice exams and chapter review quizzes.
It is not as difficult of an exam as NASM, with its 71.1% pass rate, but there is still no guarantee of a pass. If you purchase the Complete package, take advantage of the unlimited practice tests to learn what you need to focus on for your final exam.
To renew your four-year certification, NESTA requires its certified personal fitness trainer to complete 4.0 Continuing Education Units over a four-year period. Each 0.1 CEU is worth one hour of study time or one contact hour in a live training format.
You can choose from various continuing education options, including accredited courses from NESTA and approved third parties. We recommend using your CEUs to learn new specializations that will broaden your mind and benefit your clients, especially since they offer unique specialization options like Muay Thai Fitness and Sport Yoga.
Since they are an international organization, it can be challenging to set the average salary that their personal trainers make. To give you guys a rough answer, according to the Bureau of Statistics, the average salary of a personal trainer is almost $40,000.
Absolutely. Most fitness clubs or healthcare facilities require an NCCA-accredited personal trainer certification to be employed in their clubs as a personal trainer. If you want to work for yourself, being accredited as a CPT can help you get affordable liability insurance and make it easier to advertise yourself as a qualified trainer.
International Sports Sciences Association, or the ISSA, is a personal training certification that balances all the essential aspects of fitness, nutrition, and health for most general population groups. The ISSA-certified personal trainer program is well recognized in the fitness community, and most gym owners will accept it. Therefore in our opinion, the best personal training certification is from ISSA.
This one is a no-brainer. The ACSM is the cheapest option that we would recommend on our list, but they have an odd pricing system that includes different member tiers that have varying discounts. The standard price constantly fluctuates due to periodic deals and discounts, so make sure you know the current cost for inexpensive personal training certifications. If you're looking for the cheapest exam, then the NFPT has by far the most affordable.
Do your research to ensure that the personal trainer certification you're interested in will fit your needs, your budget, and help develop you into the best trainer you can be.
It honestly depends on you and your goals. If you want to work with the general population and make personal training an excellent side hustle, then ACE will suffice. However, if you're going to focus more on different aspects of health and wellness, make it a full-time career, and have one of the most recognized certifications, then NASM is a better option.
The NCSA certification for personal training is, in our opinion, one of the most challenging options listed above, as its contents are quite technical and require a solid background in anatomy, physiology, and physics.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is equally as difficult. With only 69% of first-time test takers passing.
NASM is easily one of the most well-known programs, as they focus on corrective exercise and teaching students the basic skills they need to be successful personal trainers. NASM offers many different options regarding study materials, including a self-study option, a premium self-study option, a guided study program, and an all-inclusive option.
NASM is also accredited by the NCCA and recognized by all major gyms and clubs. The cherry on top is that they have great reviews online from those who have completed the certification, and reviews mention their excellent customer service quite often.
There are a couple of common ways of becoming a personal trainer, and each will vary in the time it takes to finish your certification. You could theoretically earn a personal trainer certification in as little as a couple of hours. Still, these certifications are usually only available through unaccredited online companies and would be unlikely to help you get a job or equip you with any valuable knowledge. The more realistic options will take anywhere from a month to almost a year to earn your certification.
Technically yes, as no states currently have a law requiring personal trainers to have an official certification. However, use caution; you will have a more challenging time finding clients without a certification. The fitness industry is massive and continually growing. So consumers have plenty of options regarding trainers, and they are unlikely to settle for an uncertified personal trainer. For most trainers, word of mouth and good reviews help greatly, but missing a certification is a huge deal-breaker for most.
There are also liability issues. You risk hurting a client, hefty legal fees, and simply being unable to find work. For example, what happens if a client is working out with you and gets injured? You can be held liable and be sued because insurance companies are less likely to provide you with a policy if you're not certified. So you can get started without one, but certifications, for these reasons, are an essential investment if you want to be a successful personal trainer.
The NCCA is the gold standard for third-party personal training certifications, and some of the biggest certifications with these accreditations are NASM, ACE, Fitness Mentors, and ISSA. The personal trainer certifications with an option for NCCA accreditation are the most respected and accepted industry. Most big gyms won't even consider hiring you unless you have one.
The average personal trainer certification length is good for life, provided you keep up with the continuing education requirements of your chosen certification. Remember that each personal trainer certification company has different requirements for their trainers to maintain their certifications. A great rule of thumb is that your personal training certification must be renewed every two years and is usually done by taking continuing education courses.
The short answer is yes, but really it depends. Proper professional trainers should be fit and strong enough to demonstrate each exercise they require from their clients for extended periods of time. Although it helps to be fit to be able to do exercise and routines throughout the day, it certainly isn't a job requirement. If a personal trainer cannot perform the exercises requested, it not only makes it hard for the client to complete the task correctly and reach their fitness goals but doesn't reflect well on you as their trainer.
This can be tricky to answer because a client's expectations for their trainers can vary. Some want their trainer to look fit and role model their profession. Another client may think a lean physique is the best determination of fitness levels. In contrast, another person will only want a personal trainer who looks like they're ready to compete in a strongman event.
Professional trainers are mentors, role models, and excellent motivators. But being fit isn't the only factor that will help you become a personal trainer. A combination of attitude, education, fitness level, empathy, and other attributes creates the perfect recipe for an amazing personal trainer. At the end of the day, you want to be as fit as the clients you plan to work with.
Most personal trainer certification programs reviewed give you the option to take an NCCA-accredited exam, and will provide you with a decent understanding of fitness training, program design, behavior modification, nutrition, and best practices to become a personal trainer. It will usually take four weeks to six months to prepare for the exam depending on your prior education and experience. Some fitness certifications like NFPT or ACSM offer in-person seminars or workshops and will provide study guides and other relevant study materials so you can work in your own time.
Each company has many options regarding study packages and ways to prepare for the personal training program exam. Some personal training certifications allow you to register for the exam without purchasing the study guides, while others will require you to buy the entire package. Your total financial commitment ranges from $120 to $2,500, so choosing one that aligns closely with your goals and career aspirations is best. Always do your research and invest in the best personal training certification for your situation.
Have more questions about the best personal trainer certification options that we didn't answer in this article? Make sure to leave them in the comments!
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