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Top 3 Best Personal Training Certification Programs


Becoming a certified personal trainer (CPT) opens career-changing doors for anyone passionate about fitness and helping others develop a healthy lifestyle. If you enjoy empowering others to create a powerful fitness routine and have a competitive work ethic, you will succeed in the industry of personal training. The first step towards a career as a CPT is to find a certification program to teach you the foundations of exercise science, coaching, and developing training programs.

Earning recognition from an accredited CPT program will establish you as an expert and allow you to train others on a professional level. There are many program options available to earn NCCA (National Commission of Certifying Agencies) accreditation, so research well to ensure the program you choose fits your learning style and interests.

To get you started, the following are what most people generally agree to be the best personal trainer certification programs on the market.

American Council on Exercise (ACE).

If there is one program that has become the gold standard of personal training in recent years, it is the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

ACE is one of the most established training programs in the country with an extensive range of specialization options available in conjunction with your CPT certification. In this program, you’ll receive a well-rounded understanding of personal training with an emphasis on program development.

ACE is a competitive option because of its affiliations with well-known gyms such as Gold’s, Crunch, and more. Recognition from these gyms can lead to job opportunities for ACE graduates and future entrepreneurs alike, since name-brand recognition can help land trusting clients.

ACE has successfully trained over 75,000 personal trainers and re-certifies most every two years. ACE offers three price bundles from $699-899 with varying payment plans and price points of $110 and $399 for the ACE manual and exam, respectively.

ACE’s program foundations are online, giving you the ability to prepare for and ace your CPT exam with flexible online learning at your own pace. Test prep, practice tests, and study tools such as flash cards are available to support your studying. You will mainly learn from the ACE manual provided and can opt in for additional add-ons such as weekly check-ins with staff, an Interview Guarantee option, fitness math curriculum, and a re-test voucher. ACE offers the most study support and accountability for students looking for expert mentorship.

National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).

If you are especially interested in the science behind exercise physiology or already know you’d like to specialize in a certain area of personal training, the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) will be the ideal certification program for you.

NASM follows their Optimum Performance Training Model (OPT) to supplement their personal training curriculum, which is where foundations are covered along with physiology and exercise science. The emphasis on science makes NASM a rigorous program, but a refund is offered if you complete all Exam Pass criteria and still do not pass your CPT exam.

Specialty courses and certifications offered by NASM include youth personal training, golf fitness, and more. NASM price points range from $699-1999 with varying packages and course delivery methods. Singular purchases range from $199-599 for options such as workshops, a self-study online course, and the CPT exam alone, respectively.

NASM boasts the most curriculum delivery options than its competitors, with live workshops, interactive peer discussions, or self-study online options. The self-study course is a 9-week online course you can opt in for if you are already familiar with personal training or need specific hours for your studies. NASM supports your studying with flash cards and the option for in-person classes to prepare and ask specific questions. The 9-week course is ideal if you’d like to learn the foundations of CPT from NASM, but their offerings for additional certifications are not necessary if you have not yet decided on a specialty or are new to personal training.

International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA).

ISSA provides the foundations of personal training along with curriculum to supplement your course with business and job search tools to enhance your post-certification career path. ISSA administers a multi-method approach to learning for its foundational course with the option to complete steps to take advantage of programs with additional support.

The philosophy behind the ISSA program is on positioning you for successful employment shortly after your test completion. Offers to promote this include a Job Promise guarantee which offers refunds if you’d like certainty of employment in a gym after you pass your exam. This guarantee is contingent on your participation in all criteria, such as applying to jobs within the allotted time period. ISSA offers this course for $599, with payment plans available and the upgraded option for recertification every two years.

ISSA caters to different learning styles by offering a variety of curriculum delivery tools. The course is completely online, but you can break up your learning methods with their DVDs, practice tests, lectures, online classes, and job application resources. There are not in-person workshops or classes, but support staff are available to students online when needed.

ISSA supplements your post-certification job search whether you are looking to be self-employed or find a job in a well-known gym. You will have access to a free website as well as marketing and business curriculum if you have no previous experience with the business behind personal training.


Each of the above programs have earned national recognition for their strengths and quality of preparation their graduates feel after passing the CPT exam. Choosing the best option for you requires understanding your learning preferences and how you’d best use the unique benefits of each program.

Students excited about self-employment may benefit from the ISSA marketing and business courses. You may feel confident in your interest in a specific specialty or exercise science and choose NASM with the hopes of developing your niche. ACE can provide you with a well-rounded foundational understanding of personal training with connections to renowned gyms.

Research these programs well and remember that becoming a certified personal trainer through a nationally recognized program will allow you to help others live healthy lives while enjoying a rewarding career you love.


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