Personal Trainer Certification Overview
Personal Trainer Certification and School Resource Guide
Combine your passion for fitness and health with your talent for motivating others, and you have the makings of success as a personal trainer.
What does the field offer in terms of personal trainer certifications, and what educational requirements does each one involve? Consider these well-respected certification options, and find a personal training school that will help you find a certification that's right for you while keeping in mind that personal trainer certification requirements are constantly changing.
American Council on Exercise (ACE)
Personal trainer certification through American Council on Exercise (ACE) entails a program and exam that focus on five main areas of study:
- Foundational science knowledge – Including physiology, anatomy and nutrition
- Exercise program design – Including implementation and progression
- Fitness assessments – Including tools and implementation
- Risk-factor screening – Including tools and process
- Professional ethics – Including client/trainer relationships and health recommendations
ACE offers test-taking tools, workshops and seminars to help candidates prepare for the exam.
ACE Eligibility Requirements
You must be 18 years of age and hold an adult CPR certification at the time of the exam.
Estimated Time to Complete the ACE Program
The ACE program usually takes anywhere from three to six months to complete.
Cost of the ACE Program
- $219 for the paper and pencil version
- $249 for the computer-based test version
American Fitness Training of Athletics (AFTA)
Depending on age and experience level, candidates can select American Fitness Training of Athletics (AFTAs) online personal trainer certification course or the home study course. You can choose to take the exam online or in a proctored setting. Here is a breakdown of both course options:
Online Course (newcomer)
Home Study Course (experienced trainer)
AFTA Program Topics
Personal training program design, circuit training, risk-factor screening, nutrition and basic anatomy.
Online course topics plus detailed training on setting up and operating a business, exercise science and medical risk factors.
AFTA Eligibility Requirements
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20 years of age; solid background in exercise and fitness equipment.
Estimated Time to Complete the AFTA Program
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Two to six months
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$364.99 (non-proctored exam) or $414.99 (proctored exam).
American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA)
An accredited and nationally recognized credential, American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA) certification covers the following topics:
- Building a personal training business
- Exercise science
- Physical fitness testing and assessment
- Developing physical training programs
- Motivating clients
- Specialized topics on training clients with asthma, heart disease, arthritis and other physical conditions
AFPA Eligibility Requirements
You must be 18 years of age and hold a high school diploma or equivalent. You also need a basic understanding of exercise and fitness equipment.
Estimated Time to Complete the AFPA Program
The AFPA program usually takes up to three months to complete.
Cost of the AFPA Program
The AFPA program costs $335.00.
International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA)
Preparing students for long-term careers in the fitness industry, International Sports Sciences Association (ISSAs) certification covers a broad range of personal training topics:
- Health and physical fitness
- Weight training
- Program development
Students can study at home at their own pace, select an online interactive-learning program or take 2-day certification seminars.
ISSA Eligibility Requirements
You must be 18 years of age and hold a current CPR and AED certification.
Estimated Time to Complete the ISSA Program
This ISSA certification can take up to two years from date of enrollment.
Cost of the ISSA Program
The ISSA program costs $595.00.
Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA)
The Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) offers personal training certification workshops throughout the United States and an online program. Promoting consistent standards of practice for personal trainers, the AFAA matches its course content with job objectives and skills established through the National Boards. The AFAA certification includes five areas of focus:
- Leadership and motivational skills
- Exercise and wellness programming
AFAA Eligibility Requirements
You must be 18 years of age and hold a current CPR certification.
Estimated Time to Complete the AFAA Program
None specified for the online program, but advanced study is required to achieve certification through either the workshop option or online program.
Cost of the AFAA Program
- $149.00 for the online course
- $459.00 for the three-day certification workshop.
National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
The internationally recognized NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer credential indicates that an individual possesses the education and skills to train healthy individuals as well as those seeking to improve their well being through a regimented physical fitness program. Exam candidates should possess a strong knowledge of exercise physiology, program design guidelines, biomechanical concepts and training adaptations.
NSCA Eligibility Requirements
You must be 18 years of age, possess a high school diploma or equivalent and hold current CPR and AED certification.
Estimated Time to Complete the NSCA Program
The NSCA program usually takes three to six months to complete.
Cost of the NSCA Program
- $235.00 for the paper and pencil test ($355.00 for non-members)
- $285.00 for the computer-based version ($405.00 for non-members)
National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
Focusing on innovation and results, National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) strives to teach its members how to empower individuals, motivating and inspiring them to pursue the healthiest avenues toward fitness. Its accredited certification program provides training on designing goal-specific fitness programs, accurately assessing client fitness levels and developing safe and effective exercises, along with exercise science topics, medical risk factors and exercise techniques.
NASM Eligibility Requirements
You have to be 18 years of age and hold current CPR and AED certification.
Estimated Time to Complete the NASM Program
The NASM Program usually takes up to 120 days to complete after enrollment.
Cost of the NASM Program
- The NASM Program costs $599.00.
Set Yourself Up for Personal Training Success
Whatever personal training certification you choose, earning this credential will put you in line for the vast opportunities available in the profession. Lead clients to new levels of fitness, help patients rehabilitate their health, and run your own business—choose your path and make a career out of dramatically changing lives for the better.
- American Council on Exercise, 2008
- American Fitness Training of Athletics, 2008
- American Fitness Professionals and Associates, 2008
- International Sports Sciences Association, 2008
- Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, 2008
- National Strength and Conditioning Association, 2008
- National Academy of Sports Medicine, 2008
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