Becoming a certified personal trainer (CPT) can be a career-booster if you are ready to advance in the fitness industry, as being certified by an accredited organization shows employers and clients that you have proven your ability to create training programs that meet established standards of safety and quality.

But if choosing to get certified is the easy part, the hard part may be deciding what certification exam is best for you. We researched three of the top CPT programs to get the inside scoop on what makes them worthwhile and how the exam works. All of these certification programs have been accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies and are widely accepted in the fitness industry. Check the details to compare them and see if one of these may be a good match for you and your career goals!

ACE Personal Trainer Certification Exam

What is it?

The American Council on Exercise offers a personal training certification program based on their Integrated Fitness Training® Model that focuses on the development of personalized programs for one-on-one and small group fitness training. The ACE certification is popular among fitness trainers and is widely accepted by the fitness industry. This program is useful for individuals who are starting out in the fitness world and seeking out entry-level jobs because it provides a well-rounded foundation in personal training program development. There are three certification programs in addition to the personal trainer program that build on relevant experience and can be pursued after you earn an initial certification.

The personal trainer certification exam is made up of 150 multiple choice questions on topics such as client assessment; program design and implementation; program progression and modification; and professional conduct, safety and risk management. Candidates have three hours to complete the exam and are scored on a scale of 200 – 800 points with 500 points required to pass. Depending on the study program package you purchase, the exam can be retaken at a cost. Certification must be renewed after 2 years with 20 hours of continuing education credits (CECs).

Requirements for Exam

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Valid CPR and AED certification
  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Purchase a study program package ranging from self-study at $699 to the premium plus package at $899

How to Prepare

The study package program you choose will come with a manual and study guide along with access to ACE Study Coaches who can answer questions you have about the material or the test itself. You can also visit their Exam Prep Blog to find information that will help you stay on track with studying and answer commonly asked questions. If you want more information about the certification program and the exam before making a final decision, you should read through the Certification Candidate Handbook for details about ACE, the certification exam and preparation.

NASM Certified Personal Trainer Credential

What is it?

The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) offers a certification that focuses on their evidence-based Optimum Performance Training model. It draws on scientific research on physical performance and injury prevention, which makes it ideal for those who plan to work with athletes, clinical populations (people with orthopedic or musculoskeletal issues) or personal fitness clients. It is a widely recognized credential in the fitness industry as well as in the field of sports medicine, and it has a focus on corrective exercises and injury prevention, which can be helpful for anyone who may work with specialized populations or wants a more comprehensive certification that is oriented towards sports medicine.

The NASM CPT exam covers seven subjects that include: basic and applied sciences; assessment; exercise technique and training instruction; program design; considerations in nutrition; client relations and behavioral coaching; and professional development, practice and responsibility. It is a two-hour exam made up of 120 questions that requires a scaled score of at least 70 to pass. Depending on the study program package you purchase, the exam can be retaken for free or at a cost. Certification must be renewed after 2 years with 20 hours of continuing education credits (CECs).

Requirements for Exam

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Valid CPR and AED certification
  • High school diploma or GED equivalent
  • Purchase a study program package ranging from self-study at $699 to an all-inclusive program at $1799

How to Prepare

To prepare for the NASM certification exam, you should start by reading their Candidate Handbook to learn about the test-taking procedures and rules. In addition to the NASM CPT guide that will come with your study package, you can utilize resources provided on their website like the downloadable study guide or you can get the NASM CPT Pocket Prep app that allows you to create and take practice tests on your phone to track your progress and chat with support staff within the app.

ACSM Certified Personal Trainer Exam

What is it?

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) offers a personal trainer certification based on their research-based fitness guidelines to develop and modify personalized fitness training programs. The ACSM Certified Personal Trainer certification is well-respected in the fitness industry and offers candidates many resources leading up to and after the exam including online continuing education opportunities, workshops, a publishing platform for article submissions and CECs. This may be a good choice for anyone who may want to build upon their fitness training career and expand into more public or clinical settings down the line.

The Certified Personal Trainer exam tests candidates in the following subjects: client consultation and assessment; exercise programming and implementation; exercise leadership and client education; and legal and professional responsibilities. The exam is 150 questions with a 165-minute timeframe for completion. The scoring is on a scale of 200 – 800 with a 550 needed to pass. The exam can be retaken for $175, and recertification requires 45 hours of CECs every three years.

Requirements for Exam

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Valid CPR/AED certification
  • High school diploma or GED equivalent
  • Pay exam fee of $349 for non-members and $279 for members

How to Prepare

As with the first two programs, if you are considering the ACSM CPT exam, you should read through the Candidate Handbook for important details about the organization, the certification, requirements and the exam itself. ACSM offers three textbooks that are available in print or digital formats to prepare for the exam, and there are workshops and webinars that candidates can attend to get additional information and access ACSM exam support staff with questions.

 

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