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.

Hello and welcome to Trainer Academy!

We are going to be going over the ACE Certified Personal Trainer program in detail to help you determine if this is the certification for you.

ACE CPT certification is very popular in the fitness industry, and it is well deserved with a solid CPT certification program like this.

Topics covered in this top-notch ACE certification review include:

  • The basics of the ACE-CPT certification
  • Quality of the study materials offered by ACE
  • Purchasing, preparing for, and passing your certification exam
  • Comparisons with other top companies offering personal trainer certs like NASM and ACSM.

Upon reading this certification review, we promise that you will make a well-informed decision regarding if you should choose the ACE-CPT certification and the right way to begin studying for the ACE personal trainer course.

Let’s dive in and take a look at ACE and its program design in more detail.

We highly recommend that you take our helpful quiz to find the best personal trainer certification for you.

here is an image of the ace cpt review textbook with laptop

ACE CPT Information

ACE CPT Information
9.4/10 Our Score
  • Exam cost: $499
  • Study material cost: $636-$999
  • Prerequisites: High School Diploma, CPR/AED 
  • Exam passing score: 90/125 Scored, Scaled 550/800
  • Exam pass rate: 70% 
  • Average completion time: 2-4 months

Pros
  • Teaches complete skillset to train healthy general fitness clients
  • ACE IFT® Model provides a excellent framework for resistance and aerobic training
  • Mover Model® is excellent for behavior change
Cons
  • Not enough corrective exercise coverage
  • Little to no info on personal trainer sales skills
8.1
Our Score
Exercise Science Foundations7
Behavioral Coaching9
Client Health Screening8
Movement Screening6
Resistance Training9
Special Population Training9
Aerobic Fitness Training9
Trainer Academy Guide
Trainer Academy Guide
  • Complete curriculum study preparation
  • Audio guide, flashcards, and mnemonics
  • 800+ practice questions
  • Highest exam pass rate
  • Exam pass refund guarantee
  • Cheaper pricing than ACE materials
ACE Materials
ACE Materials
  • Curriculum study preparation
  • Video and written curriculum included
  • Textbook purchased seperately
  • 200+ practice questions
  • No exam pass refund guarantee
  • $639-$999 for starter package
Free ACE Study Guide
Free ACE Study Guide
  • Curriculum material overview
  • Complete chapter breakdowns
  • 60 practice questions
  • 130 flashcards and cheat sheet
  • Free from Trainer Academy

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About ACE

A.C.E., or the American Council on Exercise, is one of the most prominent certifying agencies on the planet.

With a strong reputation in its native North American market, ACE fitness certification is also the most globally recognized personal training certification, with testing centers as far afield as Zimbabwe.

Founded in 1985, it has a heritage that dates back to the dawn of modern fitness instruction as we know it today. This makes ACE two years older than NASM, its nearest rival.

ACE training focuses on public health initiatives directed at the general member of the population. through this, it has taken up the mantle to spearhead programs that equip its trainers and the community alike to move more and rethink how they prioritize fitness.

The ACE certification personal trainer program has a very generalized-type approach, producing trainers whose mandate is to improve general health and wellbeing to be a healthier society as a result.

This doesn’t leave ACE fitness trainers out of contention for more specific career options. The quality of education and business support resources allow trainers to branch out into a lot of other fields.

ace certification texbook with notebook and pen

Accreditation

Accreditation is one of the most important considerations when looking at what certification to get when you are becoming a personal trainer.

Accreditation is, simply put, a certificate of authenticity for a certification.

It validates the content of the curriculum and delivery methods of knowledge and education administered by a certifying agency.

It is typically run by a board of experts and organizations in the educational field.

In the North American fitness industry, that being the US and Canada, the gold standard for accreditation is the NCCA.

ACE certification

ACE is a NCCA accredited certifying agency. This means you can expect the highest standards and authenticity with your CPT title.

This correlates with the reputation and popularity of the institution, as you’ll come to learn as we go deeper into this article.

With that said, regardless of whether it is ACE or any other certifying agency, accreditation by the NCCA is not just a seal of authenticity; it can also save you the hassle of trying to avoid scams.

How Long Does it Take to Get ACE Certified?

The ACE personal trainer certification usually takes 4-8 weeks to complete, depending on your background, time dedicated to studying, and how well you can learn, retain, and recall the information in the ACE curriculum.

There is an innumerable number of quick-fix certs floating around on the internet. They promise instant certification and the highest standard of education. 

Most of these are not accredited, so always use that as a judgment call. Your experience may be positive, but, ultimately, an accredited certification gets you further than these other options. 

ACE CPT is a nationally accredited personal training certification.

Gyms and other employers prefer to hire trainers with NCCA-approved certifications, so having one helps you get your foot in the door, so to speak. 

Check out other highly recommended certification programs in the links below.

Cost of Study Packages

The ACE-CPT online personal trainer certification is available in 3 study plan tiers.

The first one is Basic, which costs $849, Plus is next, going for $999, and finally, we have Advantage, costing $1499.

This places ACE on the pricier end of the scale.

Is ACE worth it?

The ACE CPT is worth it if you value a research-based certification with an emphasis on behavioral change and quality study materials. ACE’s NCCA accreditation also means you have a good ability to get a job after earning your certification.

It’s fair to assume that with the quality and reputation they front, they can place a relatively higher premium on their value.

With that said, this online personal trainer course certainly is a powerful bargaining chip.

It’s one of the most widely accepted online fitness trainer certifications out there.

ACE personal fitness trainers also have been shown to have the greatest flexibility when working with the average fitness consumer.

With all things considered, what you end up paying, despite the high price tag, is totally worth it. It may not be one of the cheapest personal training certifications, but ACE has some of the most thorough and modern study material.

The ACE personal trainer manual, or study companion as it’s also called, is very useful in your studies.

Use the link here to get updated on the current price of ACE.

Quality of Study Materials

ACE treats its study packages with a decent variety of materials.

Even the lowest tier “Basic” package has some great value when it comes to reliable materials and fitness courses.

Essentially, a good study package will have the course textbook as a standard without fail, along with some form of self-assessment material.

Those are the basic considerations and don’t really merit any special mention. 

The quality of study packages lies in the support and complementary material. 

ace certification study with notebook

This is the stuff that will push your prep to the next level, allowing you to eliminate doubt and have a more realistic guarantee of success.

As mentioned, the ACE personal trainer certification online program has done a decent job of providing good amounts of supporting study material to complement the standard stuff. 

Study Material

Let’s take a look at what each package brings to the table!

ACE BasicACE PlusACE Advantage
ACE University ACE University ACE University 
ACE Certification ExamACE Certification ExamACE Certification Exam
ACE Practice Test (1)ACE Practice Test (2)ACE Practice Test (3)
ACE Personal Trainer TextbookACE Personal Trainer TextbookACE Personal Trainer Textbook
ACE Personal Trainer Study Companion ACE Personal Trainer Study Companion ACE Personal Trainer Study Companion 
ACE Answers (Basic) ACE Answers (Plus) ACE Answers (Advantage) 
Exercise Science 101 Exercise Science 101 
Dedicated Advantage Team

Looking at this, it’s easy to see why ACE-CPT can be considered a top-tier cert.

The breadth and depth of the range of study packages will help you stand a fair shot, even with the Basic option.

The layout of the study materials and resources is also something to talk about.

The ACE student portal is immersive, interactive, and user-friendly with great videos which take you through the content.

This allows us to give ACE study materials a clear 7/10.

Going a step further, I’ll be introducing to you the free ACE personal trainer cert study guide with its simplified method of learning and the practice exam to help you get a feel of the real exam environment.

Using a combination of study resources can help you pass the ACE exam in less time. 

Exam Layout and Passing Grade

The ACE-CPT exam questions are as straightforward as they come.

It consists of 150 questions that span the various study topics.

You will need to score 500 points to pass.

The exam will require you to focus on certain aspects more than others to really guarantee success.

Let’s have a look at which parts of the exam warrant more attention and which require less.

ace cpt exam layout table of contents

Exam Focus Tips

ACE, as you will come to learn, is a general certification aimed at the average member of the population.

So compared to other personal trainers programs, the emphasis is on providing health solutions for common goals or concerns.

One such issue is postural alignment and deviation.

Most people have a postural misalignment in some form and to a certain degree, and ACE will test you on this.

Another key area of focus is Chapter 7.

Understanding how to assess and address the biomechanical functionality of your clients is a big deal in the exam. 

Make sure you hone in on this chapter in the textbook and all supporting material.

Next, we look at a few things you should spend less focus on, not because they are not important, but as far as the exam is concerned, very little focus is placed on them.

The first thing to save your time and study efforts on is muscle actions. As an essential part of your knowledge as a trainer, it is important to be familiar with this topic.

However, out of the 150 questions, you will find only 3 questions in the ACE-CPT exam actually deal with this concept.

It’s important to master the biomechanics of muscle action, but work on that ability as a separate effort to your exam prep.

Lastly, chapters 12 and 13 are ones to avoid spending too much time on. They are pretty dense with info in the textbook, which may lead you to believe them to be prominent in the exam.

To simplify the study process for you, there is a premium study package from Trainer Academy that addresses the areas of concentration and guides you to the right topics to study, alongside the study technique to apply for better assimilation.

You won’t regret using the ACE MVP Study Package. Give it a try today! At Trainer Academy we also have some more ACE CPT Exam Info.

Exam Difficulty and Pass Rate

The ACE personal trainer test is no walk in the park; however, it’s not going to rattle your brain to the same extent as something like the NSCA CSCS certification.

Is the ACE Exam Hard?

While ACE is not the hardest personal trainer exam in the industry, it is still not an easy exam. You will need adequate preparation to ensure you can answer each exam question within the roughly 80 seconds allotted time per question.

With a pass rate of 65%, you stand a fair chance on the ACE certification exam, but you will be tested, so don’t take it lightly; a 35% chance of failure is no joke either!

But you also have to consider that the passing grade is a mere 65%. Most other certification exams require between 70% – 75% to pass.

That means for it to have that pass rate with a considerably lower required passing grade means the ACE personal trainer test is overall one of the most difficult.

Certainly harder than what the NASM CPT exam has to offer!

Looking at the previously mentioned focus tips will certainly put you on a path to victory, so focus on those as well as absorbing as much of the supplemental material as possible.

If you really want to boost your odds, we suggest you grab some third-party study materials such as the ones we offer here at Trainer Academy.

That’s because these materials have been designed by an expert who has gone through the works, taken the exam, and passed with flying colors.

Who better to guide you on the difficulties of this cert exam than people who’ve already Aced ACE?

Use this link to access ACE MVP Study Package ASAP.

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Retake Fee

Since your odds of failing the ACE-CPT exam are reasonably high, you might need to retake the exam if the results don’t go your way.

The retake policy will require you to pay a fee of $199 each time you fail and wish to try again.

Taking that into consideration, our advice is to prepare and study well so you can avoid hefty expenses by having to retake the final exam multiple times.

Certification Popularity

As we’ve already mentioned, the ACE-CPT program is one of the most popular fitness certifications out there. 

In fact, it so closely rivals NASM, the other most popular cert agency, that it’s often hard to distinguish which of the two ultimately wins.

They have similar stats across the board in any category you choose to look at.

But instead of going on, let’s actually take a look at those stats and see where ACE sits.

First of all, let’s look at enrollment figures. This tells us how many students actually sign up for the course and is a solid metric for popularity.

For ACE, that comes to an average figure of 13,103 test-takers per year. It comes second only to NASM, which obliterates with an enrollment figure of over 22,000 candidates!

Still, this places the ACE exercise specialist in the top two when it comes to how many people end up buying the course and sitting for the exam.

Another useful figure to look at is google search data. This shows us what the popularity of ACE-CPT is amongst people just like you. People scouring the internet for answers and guidance.

In this case, both ACE and NASM are tied at 1600 daily searches on Google.

One big advantage NASM has, which may also couple with its astounding enrollment rates, is the fact that it is a marketing juggernaut.

With that said, it makes sense that its enrollment figures are nearly double while having the same search data as ACE-CPT.

Expected Study Time

From the time you purchase your online personal training course to the time you write the personal trainer certification exam, you are granted 9 months.

This is the window in which you are expected to study, prepare for, and take the test.

However, it is by no means the amount of time necessary to successfully prep everything and pass.

If you’re wondering how long does it take to become a certified personal trainer with ACE, we consider a generally reasonable amount of prep time before completing a final cert exam to be roughly around 3 months.

That gives you a comfortable amount of time to live a normal daily life while also studying enough to retain information for a fresh, sharp take on the actual exam.

If you really want to optimize your study time with ACE-CPT, look no further than our amazing ACE MVP study package.

Our MVP package includes a study blueprint and cram guide, guaranteed to knock time off your study hours and improve your odds of passing drastically.

Don’t forget that it comes with a money-back guarantee offer.

You may also like an ACE personal training exam cheat sheet.

Average Income

The average personal trainer income you can make from certification is a very important metric.

After all, this is your career, and you are aiming to earn a living at the end of the day.

That means looking at salary potential should be one of, if not the first thing you look at.

However, such statistics are hard to come by, especially with an accurate and current take on the situation, as there are different ways to make money in fitness.

Fortunately, we did manage to dig up some useful stats with regards to ACE, and the numbers tell a positive story.

That’s because, based on our findings, ACE trainers sit in the top income bracket when looking strictly at personal training certifications.

Of course, there are so many details to look at when it all comes down to it. 

The annual average earnings for ACE-CPT certified trainers is $41,546, second only to NASM, as you may have guessed.

The popularity of the cert may just be as influential on average earnings as average earnings are on the popularity of the cert.

What we mean by that is the level of popularity of the cert by trainers and employees probably leads to more favorable, higher-income career options. 

And those circumstances create a feedback loop that captivates more to enroll.

It might also be the case that the price of the certification may have some influence. 

Because it’s considered an expensive certification upfront, it might mean that everyone who can typically afford to enroll with ACE may have the resources to accelerate their careers and income levels with a good future personal training.

Primary Focus Of Certification

According to the majority of ACE personal trainer reviews, ACE’s primary focus as an organization is the improvement of public health.

They believe the most important step towards achieving this is through inspiring people to move, and this is achieved by resetting mindsets.

If you actually read their mission, it simply states, “To get people moving.”

Many people avoid movement on a daily basis, which leads to physical and mental decline. Over time, the lack of exercise can even lead to diseases like obesity and conditions like high blood pressure. 

Change psychology forms a big part of ACE’s focus.

By focusing on getting people to change their habits around health and exercise, the rest will naturally follow.

ACE Trainers are equipped to deal with the general fitness concerns of the everyday person in the gym.

This is through using evidence-based, science-backed principles, of course, so you can help your clients improve their body health and composition.

While you can most certainly apply the principles learned in the coursework to a vast array of special populations groups, there are CPT certs out there more ideal for that.

For example, NASM CPT would be more suitable for an elite performance population group than ACE due to the difference in their training programs.

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ACE Focus

That’s simply because NASM and its OPT model hone in on the performance-optimizing methodologies necessary for athletic success. 

If you want to go even deeper in that direction, the NSCA CSCS is the definitive athlete performance cert, although it can be a little daunting to learn all that information so you will want to pick up a CSCS study guide and CSCS practice test.

ACE is primarily aimed at improving the quality of life both for individuals and for society as a whole.

This push for the upliftment of public health is another strong feature in ACE’s ethos as an organization.

This is also why the information, knowledge, and skills learned by ACE trainers are designed to be easily understood by the layman, helping the public learn about health just as well as the fitness professionals.

Once clients change their lifestyle habits and choose healthier options, they can build a sustainable life, reduce stress and improve overall happiness. 

People often concern themselves with “the ideal workout,” but often the best workout is the most sustainable one. If you choose too heavy of a weight or too much volume, you can cause injury.

If you, as a trainer want to focus on other more specific aspects of fitness and health, keep in mind that there are other certs out there.

For example, you may want to look into a nutrition certification if you want added content on how to become a nutrition coach. Look into our Precision Nutrition review for info on one of the better nutritionist certs out there with some of the highest nutrition coach salary potential.

If you’re picking between ACE or NASM for training, know that NASM will have more detailed correctional exercise content for learners.

Using corrective movements helps prevent possible injuries to the knees, hips, shoulders, and the muscles around these joints. You can also fix posture issues in clients that are so common these days. 

Is NASM worth it? Is ACE worth it?

If you compare NASM vs ISSA or ISSA vs ACE, you’ll see that the ISSA CPT teaches more about good business skills as a trainer.

ACE teaches you about anatomy and physiology, but not to the extent of other training courses. 

For those looking for the most complete pre-exercise assessments, most certifications do a good job, including ACE, but the NSCA CPT is one of our top picks. Assessments determine what exercises are appropriate, where clients are at, along with forms that determine risk with things like the PAR-Q. 

Looking at ACE vs ACSM we see that ACSM contains in depth material on exercise research science, while ACE strength lies in the subject of exercise psychology. If you are considering one of the exercise science careers, then ACSM would be perfect.

All of these certifications give you a primer on how to train the muscles in the body through workouts using free weights, machines, and other equipment. 

ACE gives you the most complete motivation techniques. 

So, your choice will depend on what you want.

If you do pick NASM make sure to get a personal trainer practice test and NASM flashcards to prep for the exam.

Back to ACE!

In a nutshell, ACE’s objective and impact are three-fold:

  • Move The Profession: by equipping trainers and fitness enthusiasts with the right tools to grow their careers while being a benefit to society
  • Moving Behaviors: by changing attitudes, mindsets, and behavior towards health and fitness and it’s importance in modern society
  • Moving The Public: by pushing ACE as a community-driven institute in collaboration with other sectors of public health and wellness.

These three aspects are implemented through ACE’s training model called The Mover Method. 

This method of training inspires clients not only to follow programming instructions but also to take the initiative for their health.

ACE believes this is the best way to introduce changes or patterns of behavior that will ultimately lead to healthy habit formation.

The Mover Method is engaged through the A.B.C. model, which looks like this:

  • Asking open-ended questions
  • Breaking down barriers
  • Collaborating.

This form of cooperative fitness instruction means your clients are not just recipients of a service; they are also the architects of their own success.

Having this sort of approach places more value on the outcomes and increases the likelihood of adherence to a goal.

Click the link to access these study materials and get started right away.

CEU Requirements

CEUs or continuing education units are time-based credits you need to renew your certification.

Every two years or so (depending on the certification), you will be required to renew your certification.

This is in an attempt to keep your knowledge and skills current with trends and advancements in research.

CEUs are earned during the validity period of your certification, to be traded in along with a recertification fee for you to renew your cert.

When it comes to ACE, you will need 2.0 CEUs, which is equivalent to 20 active hours worth of credits, as well as a fee of $129.

This is due every two years, meaning you can break down your CEU needs to 10 hours each year.

This should be fairly easy to manage as long as you keep it on your list of priorities.

But how exactly are CEUs obtained, you may be wondering?

CEUs are exchanged for time and effort used in the participation of academic or practical activities related to your field as a fitness professional and preferably by an approved provider. They show that you are focused on your development as a fitness professional.

Providers include educational institutions, classes, workshops, professional organizations, or any other relevant event.

These education credits give you new knowledge you can then use in applications with your clients. 

ACE has several CEU earning opportunities you can access directly through them.

You may also earn CEUs from obtaining other credentials, like a group fitness certification.

Many certifications offer continuing education units: everything from strength and conditioning, pilates, yoga, or corrective exercise specialization. 

Adding an extra certification or specialization to your belt provides numerous career benefits. With more knowledge, you can help clients reach fitness goals earlier, whether they want to focus on weight loss or strength training. This allows you to add more variation to a routine. 

An added certification means you can also work with a larger population, and balance your session time between different sorts of clients. 

You can even purchase CEUs on the ACE website for easy recertification.

With all that considered, recertification happens in 3 simple steps.

These are:

  1. Log in to your My ACE Account
  2. Complete required CECs
  3. Click on the RECERTIFY NOW button and follow the on-screen prompts

Pros and Cons

The following are the overall pros and cons of the ACE-CPT certification.

What we like:

  • Accredited and popular certification internationally
  • The mover method and ABC model make studying effective
  • 3 Study packages to suit any student’s needs

What we didn’t like:

  • The retake fee is higher than other companies
  • Challenging exam compared to similar companies
  • Business and nutrition skills are lacking compared to the competition

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Which Personal Training certification is most respected?

This is mostly down to personal or employer preference, but there are some things that help make things stand out and work in favor of varying certifications. This can be things such as accreditation by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies or simple popularity among certifications in the fitness industry.

Do personal trainers make good money?

Personal training as an industry is growing steadily in the current health and fitness industry. On average, according to the ACE Salary Report for Health and Fitness Professionals, you can expect an ACE-certified personal trainer to make about $52,000 each year. This makes it a great career to go into, and when considering that adding other certifications and specializations will make the trainer more money, it is quite a worthwhile career move. It is a solid job and certification and requires a high school diploma to start the program. The other requirements are a current CPR/AED certification. 

How many hours do personal trainers work in a week?

Personal training is a unique field of work where you may be only training people individually for 25 – 30 hours a week. But, there will still be time after those sessions where you work on scheduling, invoicing, working out, promoting your business. This makes for a somewhat full week but it is filled with different jobs to get done.

How long does it take to get ACE certified?

From the time you purchase your course to the time you write the exam, ACE-CPT grants you 9 months. This is the window in which you are expected to study, prepare for, and take the test. However, it is by no means the amount of time necessary to successfully prep and pass. We consider a generally reasonable amount of prep time before taking a final cert exam to be roughly around 3 months.

Is ACE nationally accredited?

Ace is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), much like the other top companies like NASM and ACSM. In addition, it is recognized globally as a quality certification to ensure knowledge in personal training. Not all personal training certifications are accredited, so this makes the ACE personal trainer certification stand out on everyone’s lists.

Is the ACE exam difficult?

The ACE final certification exam is somewhat difficult compared to other certifications offered by other companies. It doesn’t compare to the intensity of the CSCS from NSCA, but it is harder than the personal training certs from the likes of NSCA and NASM. The ACE personal trainer exam pass rate is 65%, which means you are more likely to pass than to fail, but the lower pass rate means you should nail down the information. It can be a good idea to go with other outside ACE personal trainer study guides and practice tests. You could even join study groups to get more support. 

How much does the ACE exam cost?

The ACE-CPT exam cost is approximately $499 if it is your first time, and for a retake, it will cost $249.

What other study materials do you recommend?

Through Trainer Academy, we offer these items: an ACE PT practice exam, study guide and items within our study guides like our ACE CPT audio guide, flashcards, mnemonics, and much more.

Certification Take Away

ACE certification reviews tend to always be positive, as the ACE-CPT is a highly recommended certification in our books!

And what’s great is that someone can easily obtain this personal training certification online!

Its reputation precedes it, and its trainers are clearly among the most successful. ACE’s group exercise certification is also on of the best out there, so if you want to become a group fitness instructor in a class setting, ACE is definitely the way to go.

The study materials included with ACE are also the cream of the crop, easy to comprehend and cover all the necessary basis as far as good study prep is concerned.

Make sure to look into the ACE fitness coach webinars and ACE CPT practice exam, too.

At face value, it is a rather pricey certification, but with all things considered, it is most certainly worth every penny.

References

  1. Ahmed S, Rashid M, Sarkar A, et al. Fitness Trainers’ Educational Qualification and Experience and Its Association with Their Trainees’ Musculoskeletal Pain: A Cross-Sectional Study. Sports. 2022;10(9):129. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/sports10090129
  2. American Council on Exercise (ACE) Hourly Rate | PayScale. www.payscale.com. Accessed November 28, 2023. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Certification=American_Council_on_Exercise_(ACE)/Hourly_Rate
  3. Seward S, Ramos J, Drummond C, et al. Inter-Individual Variability in Metabolic Syndrome Severity Score and VO2max Changes Following Personalized, Community-Based Exercise Programming. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2019;16(23):4855. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16234855

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