Personal Trainer Certification
So you have decided that you want to be a personal trainer… Awesome! I can tell you that personal training is one of the best jobs available. It forces you to stay in shape. You have the creativity to design your own workout programs. You meet new people everyday, and you can truly make a difference in another’s life. Choosing the best personal trainer certification program can be difficult because there are so many organizations to choose from. Wasting money and time with the wrong personal trainer certification can significantly setback the start of your career, so make sure you are well-informed in “marrying” an organization that will keep you certified sufficiently for years to come. The key is to make sure your program is NCAA (National Commission for Certifying Agencies) accredited if you want to be a serious trainer.
American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
The gold standard personal trainer certification program is by no doubt the ACSM. When you start applying for jobs, I doubt any employer will send you away because of a lack of a reputable certification. In addition, the ACSM offers excellent continuing education opportunities and is the leader training guidelines. The CPT (Certified Personal Trainer) exam will run you $279. Add in the workshop and textbooks and the total cost is $800. Recertification every 3 years will cost $800. Trust me, the cost is well worth it, and you will make this money back easily.
American Council on Exercise (ACE)
ACE is also a top certifying agency, which is also NCAA accredited. ACE is neck to neck with ACSM as far as being reputable. Also, you will not get turned away because you have this personal trainer certification. I prefer ACSM a bit more because the continuing education is more “scientific” if you will. ACE can sometimes publish mainstream information, which is less professional. However, you will save a little money with the CPT exam running $219 and study materials running from $150 to $580 depending how much you purchase. Recertification is $400 every two years.
National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
The NASM would probably be third tier in the mix with other certifying agencies. You probably won’t get turned away from employers, but the ACSM and ACE are stronger certifications. The exam alone is more expensive at $549, but study packages are much cheaper at $50 to $200. Recertification every two years is more expensive than other options at $700.
National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
If you want to work with special needs populations, the NSCA is the personal trainer certification to choose. Unlike other certifying agencies, the NSCA has certain training programs that focus on training those with disabilities, in addition to, regular personal training courses. Because of the extensive amount of information, the exam tends to be notoriously one of the most difficult. As far as cost is concerned, exam fees range from $235 to $405. You must re-certify every 3 years for $500.
International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA)
So, you are not the hard core trainer, but want a personal trainer certification to write, counsel or just need to “be certified” to have a particular job. While I will say to try to get a top certification, an ISSA certificate is the next best thing. You must know that ISSA is not NCAA accredited, but is still well recognized in the fitness industry. However, when it comes down to competing for a job, the NCAA accredited trainer will win out. The exam and materials cost $595 and a $600 recertification is required every two years.
Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA)
The next best mentionable non NCAA-accredited certification is the AFAA, which is similar to the ISSA program. Again, if you want to be competitive, you should choose a higher level certification. The entire program and exam costs $469 and a re-cert is required every 2 years for $600.