Welcome to the Trainer Academy breakdown of how much it costs to become a personal trainer. 

The cost of personal training certifications varies. We highly recommend that you take our helpful quiz to find out which one is best for you for the price.

In this article, we’ll dive into the following areas that affect personal training certification costs:

  • Factors Affecting Certification Costs
  • Choosing the Right Certification for your goals
  • The top choices for affordable personal training certifications

By the time you finish this article, you’ll know exactly how much you need to spend to kickstart your career as a personal trainer. 

With that in mind, let’s dive in.

Which personal trainer certification is best for you?

We created this essential quiz to help you choose the perfect certification for YOU based on your goals, learning style, and more.

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What Factors Affect the Cost of Personal Training Certification?

Various elements drive the cost of a personal trainer certification, however, it mostly averages around $500 – $700. 

When choosing a personal trainer certification, you should focus on the quality of the certification rather than just the cost. 

Choosing a quality certification, although more expensive, will set you up for success early in your career and will save you money in the long run.


When choosing a personal trainer certification, always check if they’re accredited. 

Accreditation ensures that the certification has gone through the necessary steps to provide quality information to the consumer.

Why does this matter? 

Most gyms won’t even consider you for job openings without an accredited personal trainer certification.

The certifying agencies to keep your eye on are the National Commission for Certifying Agencies and the Distance Education Accrediting Commission. 

The NCCA is the most sought-after accrediting agency.

However, the DEAC is still reputable and recognized by the Secretary of Education. 

Accreditation will increase the cost of your certification but assures you that what you bought is legitimate and not a bogus scam on the internet. 

Name Recognition 

Quality will always trump cost as a personal trainer, including your certification. 

The certifying agency you affiliate with can get your foot in the door and progress your career faster. 

Like I said earlier, most gyms won’t consider you for a job without an accredited certification, and the same is true for your chosen certification. 

A quality brand can separate you from the competition on paper and practice. 

There is name recognition in the fitness industry because these agencies have set the standard for personal trainer education. 

Name recognition will come with a cost, but there are great name-brand certifications that won’t break the bank. 

Study Materials

Most, if not all, personal trainer certifications offer a variety of packages that include different levels of study materials. 

These study materials can make or break your first few years as a new trainer. 

If you’re comparing the different packages based on study materials, you should consider the following: 

The number of study materials you choose to purchase will affect the cost; however, not all study materials were created the same. 

Some organizations will provide excellent materials even at their base level, while others may only offer a textbook.

Certification Exam

The certification exam is the barrier to entry as a fitness professional. 

Without passing this exam, you can’t call yourself a certified personal trainer. 

You may be asking how does the certification exam affect the cost? 

Here’s the deal usually, the more challenging the certification exam, the more valuable the certification. 

The certifying agencies understand the value that their certification programs hold. 

The research, time, and effort put into creating these exams ensure the professionals taking them are serious candidates. 

Suppose certifications provide easy exams for a low price. In that case, everyone could become a fitness professional and decrease the quality of coaches. 

A challenging and sometimes expensive exam deters the wrong coaches. 

Instead, it promotes the fitness professionals who will push the fitness industry forward.

Recertification Costs 

Recertification is necessary to keep your certification eligible. 

Most certifying bodies will offer students 2 to 3 years to recertify through continuing education credits. 

Not only will you need to pay for the continuing education credits, but most organizations will require a fee for recertification. 

This cost can vary anywhere from $99 to $200 or more. 

Certification Focus

Personal trainer certifications are often geared toward a specific population or focus – older adults, athletes, nutrition, or groups.

We’ll dive into training populations in more detail in a later section, but population focus can still affect the cost of fitness certification.

Certifications like the NSCA CPT have a heavy focus on exercise science and will prepare you better for training athletes.

The ISSA or the NASM certifications are better if you prefer general population clients.

While the ACE CPT focuses on the health coach side of training.

Each certification program may focus on a specific population, affecting its study materials and exam.

Choosing the Right Certification for Your Goals

When choosing their first certification, new personal trainers should work backward when thinking about their careers. 

This means thinking about how, where, and who you want to train in the next 1, 3, and 5 years. 

Long-term career thinking will help you decide what certification you should choose rather than the first certification you encounter. 

The point here is to save money and insert yourself into an organization you believe in and trust. 

Let’s look at a few factors that will help determine the proper certification for you and your goals. 

Continuing Education

Continuing education is paramount for personal trainers. 

Certifications require you to get continuing education credits. But in an ever-changing field, education is necessary to keep you at the top of your game. 

Continuing education can be anything from an additional certification to renewing your CPR and AED certification or even a webinar on a niche topic in your population. 

When deciding on your certification, research how many continuing education credits you need and how often you need to do them. 

The average time to complete continuing education requirements for personal trainer certifications is 2 years, although the amount varies. 

This will add costs every year, but education is necessary to push this field further and make you stand out in the crowd. 

Exam Difficulty

To become a certified personal trainer, you need to take and pass the certifying agency’s final exam. 

When choosing a certification, you want to pick one that is respectable in the community but not one that you have a hard time passing! 

It’s sort of a catch-22 as a good certification will usually have a challenging exam. 

This isn’t the case for every certification. 

You’ll want to choose carefully based on your test-taking abilities and experience with training and fitness education. 

These will help you decide whether the top certification is necessary for your long-term career. 

Job Placement

After you complete your certification, getting a job tends to be the goal of most new personal trainers. Some may opt for entrepreneurship, but most want to first gain experience under their belt.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the personal trainer job outlook is expected to blossom throughout the decade.

There are so many different types of exercise science careers in demand.

The average personal trainer salary is roughly around $45k per year or more, depending on various factors, such as educational background, experience, and location to name a few.

Some personal trainer certifications like the NASM CPT can provide new personal trainers with a job placement guarantee. 

You could be in an area where the supply of personal training jobs is low.

This fact could be the reason you get the job over another applicant. 

Population Focus

As I mentioned earlier, certification can be geared towards specific populations. 

Certifications like the ISSA and NASM will focus on general population clients.

The NSCA emphasizes athletes and strength training. 

The ACSM focuses more on the medical side of exercise and training. 

Thinking of your career, who would you like to work with most? 

Unfortunately, as a new trainer, you will not have the ability to choose right away and instead should build experience. 

But thinking about your long-term career and the population choice should still be in your head when choosing a certification. 

Continuing education credits can fill in gaps and allow you to specialize in populations over time. 

But knowing which certifying body will set you up to make money as a personal trainer can help you decide. 

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The Top Choices for Affordable Personal Training Certifications

Before you decide on which personal trainer certification is best for you, we’ve compiled a list of the best and most affordable personal trainer certifications

Based on this list’s recommendations and information, you’ll decide which certification is best for you. 


The ISSA CPT is an affordable, NCCA-accredited certification that will teach you everything you need to excel as a personal trainer. 

The ISSA CPT has many certification bundles available, but their certified personal trainer package costs $69 per month for 12 months or $828 in total. 

The ISSA is one of the first certifications to provide payment plans for new coaches, which can help if you aren’t working yet. 

Delivered as an online course, the ISSA CPT is self-paced and can be completed in about 3 to 6 months. 

Your certification includes the ISSA online study materials: a 715-page textbook, practice quizzes, workbooks, lectures, the take-home exam, and a free professional website. 

You can even access some ISSA exam information via Trainer Academy.

The ISSA does provide various bundles, where you can get your CPT and 1 to 2 other certifications, such as the ISSA Nutritionist.

These bundles obviously increase the price, but you have the opportunity for more education. 


The National Academy of Sports Medicine, or NASM, is one of the most recognized organizations in the fitness industry. 

NASM has over one million certified fitness professionals and provides students with a highly credible education. 

The NASM certification is NCCA accredited, and costs approximately $800, depending on the study materials you choose. 

In my NASM vs. ISSA comparison, I’ve noted the NASM personal trainer certification cost is hefty compared to ISSA, however, it is the certification that most gyms request their personal trainers to obtain. 

The industry recognition alone will increase your chances of an interview.

And that fact alone far outweighs the NASM cost.

The NASM training education focuses on corrective exercise via their OPT model.

It will also emphasize how to build a long-lasting and lucrative personal training business.

The NASM CPT does have a challenging exam, but with suitable study materials, like the Trainer Academy NASM CPT MVP Study Package, you should feel confident taking the exam.

You can also access a free NASM study guide and test your knowledge with its respective NASM practice test.

Let’s see what you’ve got!


The American Council on Exercise, or ACE, certified personal trainer program is one of the most popular certifications a new fitness instructor can choose. 

As an NCCA accredited certification, the ACE CPT is another highly sought-after certification in gyms. 

The price ranges from $509 to $899, depending on the study materials purchased.  

However, third-party study materials like those from Trainer Academy can save you money and prepare you just as well for the exam. 

The ACE CPT isn’t as expensive as the NASM but can still prepare you for the demands you’ll find as a personal trainer.

But aside from the cost of personal trainer certification and study materials, you can read more in-depth comparisons in my NASM vs. ACE article.

The ACE study guide goes hand-in-hand with the ACE practice test and certainly prepares new trainers to train clients the minute they pass their exams.

It also emphasizes the health coach side of training rather than corrective exercises and sports training. 


The American College of Sports Medicine is one of the oldest and most influential certifying agencies for personal trainers. 

The ACSM CPT is NCCA accredited but offers one of the more challenging certification exams with a pass rate of 66%. 

The ACSM exam costs $349, and the study materials range from $400-$1,000.

The price for study materials is so steep because the ACSM doesn’t offer bundles, so everything must be purchased separately. 

To get adequate materials without breaking the bank, I advise you to look into third-party resources like the Trainer Academy ACSM MVP CPT Study Package, which includes flashcards, study guides, practice exams, and an exam-pass guarantee! 

Suppose you’re looking to focus on exercise physiology or clinical populations.

In that case, the ACSM CPT can help you with its extensive history in the science community and a niche focus on special population training.  


The NSCA, or the National Strength and Conditioning Association, is one of the top certifying agencies for personal trainers and strength and conditioning coaches

With a background in research, the NSCA CPT provides new trainers with industry-leading science and practical application methods.

The NCCA accredited exam costs a hefty $435 for non-members, however, this price can change for members and students.

The NSCA’s study materials add an additional $435 to $1,000. The NSCA, like the ACSM, doesn’t offer lucrative bundles with its study materials. 

The NSCA is well known for its CSCS, but its CPT certification is still an industry standard. 

If you want to become a strength and conditioning coach, then I highly recommend you read through the CSCS study guide and apply your knowledge to its CSCS practice test.

The NSCA CPT emphasizes exercise science foundations and resistance training but lacks behavioral coaching and motivation, which you can find in other certifications like the NASM. 

In fact, breeze through my NASM vs. NSCA comparison article for a more in-depth review.

If you have a bit more money to spend on your certification and are hoping to excel in exercise science, the NSCA CPT is an excellent choice for you. 


The National Exercise and Sports Trainer Association is an affordable and accredited personal trainer certification. 

The certification costs between $349 and $477, making it one of the least expensive on this list. 

The NESTA CPT also focuses its trainer education on sales, marketing, networking, social media, and other resources to help jumpstart your career as a trainer. 

Their emphasis on social media and online resources is especially helpful if you want to become an online personal trainer.

The NESTA is a newer certification meaning it is not as established in the industry but is still NCCA accredited. 

The NESTA certification is easier to pass than others, so it’s something to consider when choosing a certification. 


The National Federation of Professional Trainers offers another low-cost, entry-level personal trainer certification. 

The NFPT certification will only cost around $199 to $499.  

One of the significant benefits offered by the NFPT is they never charge you for continuing education credits. 

While most certifications will charge between $20 to $200 for continuing education, the NFPT will provide them to you as long as you’re active. 

This does come at the cost of recertifying every year instead of every 2 to 3 years like other certifications. 

Unfortunately, the NFPT certification won’t provide students with the best material to start their journey. 

You may need to invest more into your education as you continue. 

The NFPT certification isn’t the best you’ll find in your search, but it is a low-cost certification that can still get your foot in the door of a gym and start your career.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is becoming a certified personal trainer worth it?

Personal training is a great career option that can provide trainers autonomy, high earning potential, and the ability to make a real difference in the lives of others.

How much does it cost to get certified as a personal trainer?

The average cost to get certified as a personal trainer is $500 – $700. There are options, though, that can increase or decrease the price. It depends on what you want from your certification.

Is the personal trainer exam hard?

Personal training exams can be difficult. However, exams can be very straightforward with the proper study methods, study time, and experience.

How can I make money as a personal trainer?

The primary source of income as a personal trainer is by completing sessions with clients in a gym setting. Once you’ve gained enough experience, you can explore different avenues like semi-private training, online training, nutrition coaching, etc. 

How much does a personal trainer cost? 

The cost for Personal trainers will vary depending on your state, but the national average is around $60/hour. A session will cost close to $30/hour on the lower end, and on the higher end, $100/hour.

How long does it take to become a certified personal trainer? 

The amount of time it takes to become certified varies from person to person. We recommend the average amount of study time to commit is 3 months to be adequately prepared to take your exam. Some of you may need more time, and some may need less.

What are the pros and cons of being a personal trainer?

There are many pros and cons to becoming a personal trainer. Some pros include the ability to make a difference in someone’s life, freedom to set your schedule, freedom from desk and cubicle life, and potential uncapped earnings. The cons include you’re only paid for when you work, early morning or late nights, depending on client schedules. It can take a long time to build a reputation.

What is the hardest personal trainer certification?

The hardest personal trainer certification on this list is the NSCA-CPT. It has highly technical material and is created with the expectation that the potential passee has knowledge in exercise science.

What skills do I need to be a personal trainer?

There are many skills that personal trainers need to develop throughout their careers. Examples include programming, movement assessments, motivational interviewing, behavior change, time management, and writing. These are just a few that come to mind, but each skill will be developed over your career. The most important skill is effectively leading clients towards their fitness goals.

How do you get 6 figures as a personal trainer?

6 figures earnings as a personal trainer are challenging but possible. Unless you can charge a high hourly rate, you’ll need additional sources of revenue to hit the 6-figure mark. Online coaching, products, e-resources, branding, or writing are other avenues but take time and experience.

What can a personal trainer do?

A personal trainer provides strength training and weight loss programs to clients and leads them through safe and personalized training sessions. Personal trainers can provide nutrition and mental guidance to clients to guide them through behavior change to set up better lifestyle habits.

How do you get certified to be a personal trainer?

To become certified as a personal trainer, you need to take a personal trainer exam through an accredited organization. Once signed up, you need to study and then pass your exam.


Plenty of factors will affect the cost of personal training certifications, but that doesn’t mean they need to break the bank. 

Depending on what you’re looking for, on average will cost around $500 to $700. Most certification prices will increase depending on the number of study materials you choose. 

This isn’t to say you need to pick up those materials, as there are plenty of cheap third-party materials out there. 

Your journey doesn’t stop there when you decide which personal training certification is best for you based on price.

Study hard and make sure you don’t add any unnecessary costs on top of the exam and study materials. 

Good Luck!

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