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Which 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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Best Low Cost Option: NCSF

COST
SUPPORT
CURRICULUM
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DIFFICULTY
OVERALL

PROS

thumb_up_line Best cert for training online thumb_up_line Lowest cost cert thumb_up_line Best customer support

CONS

thumb_down_line Not as well known as other certs thumb_down_line No in-person exam options

Summary: 

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Starting at $828

Prices listed are non-promotional, full-price, non-member prices.

We at Trainer Academy agree in our NASM review that the National Academy of Sports Medicine is an excellent choice and covers most of the material needed for new personal trainers, using exercise science principles you can use to help your clients get great results in their training sessions.

They use the OPT model (Optimum Performance Training) model, which takes you through the many phases you might put your clients through, covering stabilization, strength endurance, hypertrophy, maximal strength, and power.

Additionally, they include special population and behavioral instruction, along with basic business skills you might need in your career. 

On the negative side, the NASM personal trainer certification does not include much nutritional information, unless you are specifically getting their NASM Nutrition Certification. Their OPT model is also a bit restrictive and you might find that you can’t use it in every situation with your everyday clients. 

It’s not listed on their website, but here is the current NASM CPT exam info: the cost of taking the exam without any prep course is $599. 

Their courses cost anywhere between $699 for the basic study package up to $2024.

The exact pricing of these courses may vary depending on whatever deals are available at the time, but he’s a breakdown of the different options they provide:

Self Study ($699)

Premium Self Study ($1049)

Guided Study ($1349)

All-Inclusive ($2024)

Although the NASM exam by itself isn’t the most inexpensive, NASM does have some tempting packages that include multiple certifications.

A specialization certification is a great bonus to add on to a CPT cert as it will enable you to work with different populations (groups, athletes, etc.).

This gives you more job opportunity, the ability to make more money right away, and it separates you from other trainers out there.

NASM is currently running a deal, the Elite Trainer bundle, which includes 6 different certifications at a much reduced rate.

This could be perfect for anyone looking for that extra gear to propel them forward in the fitness industry so go NASM’s website to see if it’s still available.

The exam pass rate is 60% for first time test takers, which can look daunting to some. If you’re serious about doing well on this one, make sure to study for at least a few months and master a NASM practice test because the retest fees are expensive as well ($199).

NASM’s study materials are excellent, like ACE. Their website is a little less intuitive to operate if you compare NASM vs ACE and some of the NASM video modules feel a bit outdated. You may want to consider an additional NASM study guide to help you pass the test because it’s always good to have as many resources as possible.

After you pass your exam, the certification is valid for 2 years. During that time you have to complete at least 2.0 continuing education credits along with a $99 recertification fee if you want to hold onto your certification.

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Which 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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Best overall: ISSA

COST
SUPPORT
CURRICULUM
flag Created with Sketch Beta.
DIFFICULTY
OVERALL

PROS

thumb_up_line Best cert for training online thumb_up_line Lowest cost cert thumb_up_line Best customer support

CONS

thumb_down_line Not as well known as other certs thumb_down_line No in-person exam options

Summary: I’ve weighed factors such as accreditation, price, curriculum, CEU requirements and more to provide this review of ISSA. With all of these factors considered (and more weight placed on certain factors such as cost and curriculum), ISSA is our current top pick for the best personal training certification for 2023. 

Their certification provides a job placement guarantee, sets you up to train in-person and in online environments, and is the most highly rated certification as indicated by third-party reviews on this list.

View Current Offers
Starting at $828

Prices listed are non-promotional, full-price, non-member prices.

ISSA stands for The International Sports Sciences Association. Founded in 1988 by a team of fitness experts and exercise scientists, their personal training certification is recognized worldwide.

Once a student takes and passes the ISSA exam, which covers a wide array of fitness topics, you are qualified to offer fitness and personal training services. Exam topics include Anatomy & Physiology, Kinesiology and Biomechanics, Health and Physical Fitness, Nutrition, and General Fitness.

The ISSA CPT is my top pick for a personal trainer certification program compared to other options available for a number of reasons.

First off, the ISSA’s certification program places a strong emphasis on both theoretical and practical knowledge in the personal training field. This includes an extensive curriculum that covers topics such as nutrition, program design, exercise science, and business principles.

Moreover, the ISSA’s certification program is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC), which is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Such an accreditation may lend additional credibility to the certification in the eyes of prospective clients or employers. The CPT also provides an opportunity to get a certification by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), the gold standard in certification bodies.

Furthermore, the ISSA provides a range of specialized certifications in areas such as corrective exercise, strength and conditioning, and fitness nutrition. This may appeal to individuals who seek to develop their skills and knowledge in a particular area of personal training.

Finally, the ISSA offers ongoing resources and support to its certified personal trainers, such as access to a network of professionals in the fitness industry and opportunities for continuing education. Such assistance can enable trainers to remain current with the latest trends and research in their field and may contribute to their success as personal trainers.

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Which 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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Which 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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The Trainer Academy Editorial Process


Here at Trainer Academy, we take pride in providing the most up-to-date and correct information. That is why we have a rigorous editorial process to fact-check and review all content on our site. We only provide up-to-date and accurate information that comes from relevant and trustworthy sources. If you would like to learn more, check out our editorial process here.

Our MVP enrollments are backed by a Pass Guarantee. Complete our program and we assure you'll pass your ACSM CPT exam. Should you not, we'll refund your entire payment and cover the $199 (whether you fail one or both sections) exam retake fee with The American College of Sports Medicine.

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How does it work?

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Simply forward an email to [email protected] with your full name (which must correspond with the name and email address from your Trainer Academy purchase) and attach the proof of failure issued by the ACSM.

What happens next

We will verify your successful completion of the program through your account. Upon confirmation, we will promptly process a full refund (you will be notified via a separate email) and transfer $199 to you for the exam retake fee.

Our MVP enrollments are backed by a Pass Guarantee. Complete our program and we assure you'll pass your NSCA CPT exam. Should you not, we'll refund your entire payment and cover the $300-$435 (whether you are an NSCA member or not) exam retake fee with the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

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How does it work?

To claim

Simply forward an email to [email protected] with your full name (which must correspond with the name and email address from your Trainer Academy purchase) and attach the proof of failure issued by the NSCA.

What happens next

We will verify your successful completion of the program through your account. Upon confirmation, we will promptly process a full refund (you will be notified via a separate email) and transfer $300-$435 to you for the exam retake fee.

Our MVP enrollments are backed by a Pass Guarantee. Complete our program and we assure you'll pass your NASM CPT exam. Should you not, we'll refund your entire payment and cover the $199 exam retake fee with the National Academy of sports medicine.

Close

How does it work?

To claim

Simply forward an email to [email protected] with your full name (which must correspond with the name and email address from your Trainer Academy purchase) and attach the proof of failure issued by NASM.

What happens next

We will verify your successful completion of the program through your account. Upon confirmation, we will promptly process a full refund (you will be notified via a separate email) and transfer $199 to you for the exam retake fee.

Our MVP enrollments are backed by a Pass Guarantee. Complete our program and we assure you'll pass your NSCA CSCS exam. Should you not, we'll refund your entire payment and cover the $250 - $475 (whether you fail one or both sections) exam retake fee with the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

Close

How does it work?

To claim

Simply forward an email to [email protected] with your full name (which must correspond with the name and email address from your Trainer Academy purchase) and attach the proof of failure issued by the NSCA.

What happens next

We will verify your successful completion of the program through your account. Upon confirmation, we will promptly process a full refund (you will be notified via a separate email) and transfer $250 - $475 to you for the exam retake fee.

Our MVP enrollments are backed by a Pass Guarantee. Complete our program and we assure you'll pass your ACE CPT exam. Should you not, we'll refund your entire payment and cover the $249 exam retake fee with the American Council on Exercise.

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How does it work?

To claim

Simply forward an email to [email protected] with your full name (which must correspond with the name and email address from your Trainer Academy purchase) and attach the proof of failure issued by ACE.

What happens next

We will verify your successful completion of the program through your account. Upon confirmation, we will promptly process a full refund (you will be notified via a separate email) and transfer $249 to you for the exam retake fee.

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