Personal Trainer Certification

Personal trainer certifications are offered by many sports and exercise organizations, used to show that a trainer knows the latest methods and techniques (1).

Many large gyms will only hire trainers with certifications. By getting certified, you can increase the number of job opportunities available to you, as well as increase your earning potential. Personal trainer certifications are also useful for those interested in teaching group classes (2).

This is one of the most effective ways of increasing the amount of money you make per session and expanding your client base. Furthermore, personal trainer certifications allow you to specialize in specific areas, such as strength training and physical therapy; which can be useful as you try to attract new clients. 

Best Personal Trainer Certifications

1. NASM Personal Trainer

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NASM Personal Trainer Exam Prep is our #1 pick. This study guide for the 2020 National Academy of Sports Medicine exam for Certified Personal Trainers highlights everything you need to know to pass the CPT (Certified Personal Trainer) exam. This guide even allows you to have access to additional resources on their website, including exam breakdowns, blogs, videos, and other helpful tricks.

The NASM Personal Trainer Exam Prep also includes quick reference pages. This will allow you to go to specific areas of focus each time you prepare and review your weaker subjects. It also has the formulas and conversions you will need to prepare for the exam. For these reasons, it’s our #1 pick.

2. ACE Certified Personal Trainer

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This study guide for the 2020 American Council on Exercise CPT exam offers everything you will need to pass your exam. It comes in Kindle and paperback format so you won’t have trouble studying on the go.

The ACE Certified Personal Trainer Exam Prep: comes with 50 practice questions that can enhance your knowledge and allow you to prepare for the exam. Like NASM, the practice questions all come with answers that will further your knowledge. These answers are fully detailed so that you will learn and grow from your mistakes.

3. Ascentia’s ACE Personal Trainer Manual

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The Ascentia study guide offers a quick and comprehensive course preparing you to take the CPT exam for the American Council on Exercise. It covers subjects like exercise science, nutrition, exercise technique, program designs, assessment, client relations and coaching, program design, safety and risk management, and professional development ad responsibility.

This prep course includes 2 complete practice tests, so you will be fully prepared and confident on the day you sit for your certification exam. It includes digital flashcards and study sheets with 35 tips and tricks for preparing for the test. These help ensure that you pass your test the very first time.

4. Newstone NASM

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This study guide includes over 200 test questions to ensure you are confident and prepared when you take the National Academy of Sports Medicine’s (NASM) Certified Personal Trainer exam. It covers basic and applied sciences, nutrition, assessment, designing programs, instruction and training for exercise techniques, behavioral coaching, client relations, and plenty of questions and answers.

It is very recently updated, so you know it contains all of the most recent information for the new test. Although being long and very comprehensive, this exam prep is easy to understand and covers every single detail and minuscule topic.

5. Action Personal Trainer Certification

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This textbook is the official course material for anyone who is pursuing a Personal Trainer Certification from ACTION. The subjects include exercise science, program design, biomechanics, nutrition, client assessment, special populations (like kids, elderly, and injured clients), how to start your business, and legal issues you may encounter.

The book also includes the ACTION system that helps you learn common tasks that personal trainers will need to learn.

6. Ascentia ACSM

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These flashcards are for the ACSM Personal Trainer Certification exam. The prep review offers over 300 flashcards for students who need something a little simpler than a textbook to learn before they write their exams.

They include information about the legal, professional, business, and marketing aspects of your career. They also cover client consultations and assessments, designing and implementing programs, leadership and education, and more.

7. ACSM Personal Trainer Certification Audio Review

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This ACSM Certified Personal Trainer is a great test prep program for people who learn better by hearing rather than by reading and for those who may be visually impaired in some way.

The program includes program design, information on resistance training and cardiorespiratory training programs, the guidelines for designing programs that are flexible and can meet individual client needs, sequencing programs, programs for special population needs (like elderly, kids, and injured clients), and more. You also get the small added bonus of your purchase being tax deductible.

8. Trivium’s ACE Personal Trainer Certification

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The American Council on Exercise offers a Certified Personal Trainer exam that this book will help you prepare for. This guide will help raise your score so you can pass the first time you sit for the exam. This study program includes free online resources like practice questions, flashcards, study sheets, and multiple test taking tips for your big day. 

The guide is designed to maximize your time instead of taking more of your time. You will learn the same concepts much faster. This review is comprehensive but can be done quickly. It covers everything tested on the exam and offers real examples. These materials are available on your phone or tablet to be able to study with convenience.

9. ACE Personal Trainer Manual

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This manual helps you study for the ACE Certified Personal Trainer exam. It comes with a guarantee that it will raise your score thanks to the comprehensive reviews, proven strategies for test day, and practice questions and answers.

The study guide includes a quick overview and general test taking strategies in its material, as well as covering every aspect of the exam and including practice questions with detailed answers to help you learn from mistakes.

10. American College of Sports Medicine Certification Review

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This study guide is the official guide of the American College of Sports Medicine. This makes it an ultimate authority when it comes to passing the ACSM Certified Personal Trainer exam. You can learn everything you need to know directly from the source.

The ACSM review tool allows you to identify your areas of strength and improve upon the weaknesses. This means that by test time, you will be confident and prepared.

How We Rank

There are a few different certifications that allow you to practice business as a Certified Personal Trainer, but there are a ton of different programs that claim they will prepare you for the career. The material in these study guides is all geared specifically for one of the 3 top certification programs in the country, so it will set you up for a legal career as a CPT. 

One company not included that may be a surprise is CanFit Pro. CanFit Pro is probably one of the first certifications that pop up on your google search. Although it may seem as though it’s one of the top options, CanFit Pro is not a certification that is well recognized in the field. The appeal of the program comes with its cheaper price and accessibility however we have come across situations where employers explicitly outline that the CanFit Personal Training Specialist program is not an acceptable certification. For that important reason, it did not make sense to include it in our list as even at the end of receiving the certification and paying the money you may still not be able to get a job.

We wanted to make sure that each of these programs was comprehensive and that they were going to set you up for future success. They all cover everything that you will need to know to pass their respective tests. On top of that, they come with multiple practice questions and a couple of practice exams which are key for solidifying your knowledge. Many of these programs even include 24 hour customer service that will help better educate you if there is any material you don’t understand in your textbook.


1. Personal trainer certifications can increase the number of job opportunities. There are many trainers who operate without a personal trainer certification. Although this may work for those who have private clients, it can be difficult to get a job training at a gym without the proper certification (3).

A personal trainer certification can increase the number of job opportunities, making it significantly easier to find clients at major gyms. Although there are upsides to training clients outside of a gym, you won’t get the same benefits that you’ll get from working at a major gym. 

Gyms are also one of the best places for new trainers to start out and build their own private client base. Once you have enough clients, you can strike out on your own and use the experience to run your own training gym. 

2. Personal trainer certifications help you get more clients. It can be difficult to establish your reputation as a trainer and get enough clients to train fulltime. Without any certification, you may not have the credentials needed to attract a large clientele. 

A personal trainer certification can boost your career by giving you the credentials you need to expand your client base and grow your training business. You can also use your certification program to meet new clients and network with other trainers. 

3. Personal trainer certifications give you the option to teach group classes. One of the best ways to expand your client base and make more per hour is to teach group fitness classes. However, many gyms will only hire trainers who are certified, and it can be difficult to teach classes without the infrastructure provided by a major gym. 

By getting a personal trainer certification, you can increase the number of job opportunities at major gyms, opening the door to teaching classes. By training multiple clients at once, you can increase the amount of money you take in per session. 

Group classes are also one of the best places to meet new clients and book private lessons. Many of them will then bring their friends and relatives to classes, allowing you to continue to expand your client base. 

4. Personal trainer certifications increase your knowledge about training methods. If you are a personal trainer interested in specializing in one area, certification programs are one of the best ways to pick up new skills. There are a number of programs that let you focus on certain types of training, such as strength training or physical therapy (4).

This can help you attract more specific clients and develop a reputation in one area. Many large gyms will also hire trainers who have more experience working with specific training methods, so you can increase your job prospects by getting a specialized certification. 

You can find programs that specialize in strength training, athletics, physical therapy, and training for elderly people. This allows you to find a program that targets your specific clientele.

5. Personal trainer certifications increase your earning potential. The market for personal trainers is competitive, making it difficult to get a job at an established gym. Although there are some benefits to training clients independently, trainers with certifications are more likely to have a range of job offers, increasing their earning potential. 

Many gyms will also promote trainers who have received high-level certificates, meaning you can work your way up to higher-paying positions when you receive certification as a master trainer (5).

6. Personal trainer certifications give you a broad range of training methods. One of the main benefits of getting a personal trainer certification is that you will learn a variety of new training methods and techniques. New trainers can pick up a range of exercises to use in their day to day work. Experienced trainers can update their exercises and make sure that they are current with developments in sports science. 

7. Personal trainer certifications help you connect with experts. Many personal trainer certifications are provided by the nation’s most well-respected sports and exercise associations. By getting your certification through them, you can connect to a network of some of the nation’s leading trainers. 

This can improve your day to day work, as you pick up new methods and techniques that you can use with your clients. Furthermore, you may get a number of job opportunities by connecting with experienced trainers. 

8. Personal trainer certifications make your training sessions more effective. Personal trainer certifications are more than just a piece of paper. They require you to study the latest training methods and techniques, helping you expand your repertoire of exercises. This can make your sessions with clients more productive and helps them get better results from training. 

9. Personal trainer certifications take control of your career. One of the main benefits of personal training is that it allows you to take charge of your career, setting your own schedule, and building a personal brand. Personal trainer certifications are a great way to launch your training career, giving you the credentials you’ll need to stand out in a crowded market. 

10. Personal trainer certifications reduce the risk of injuries. Although it’s possible to train clients without certification, there is always an increased risk of injury if you don’t have the proper training. Many personal trainer certification programs emphasize safety and teach you a range of exercises that you can use with your clients without risking injury (3).

11. Personal trainer certifications allow you to study at your own pace. Most personal trainer certification programs are designed so that you can study at your own pace, taking the exam when you feel ready. This means you can cram the program into a tight schedule, taking time when you have it to study. You can continue to train clients as you prepare for the exam, so you won’t have to sacrifice income to get your certification. 

If you take a class to prepare for the exam, you can find a number of programs that offer night classes so that you won’t have to take time off work. 

12. Personal trainer certifications help you stand out from other trainers. There are a number of different certification levels, meaning you can continue your education and help yourself stand out from other trainers. 

Most major certification organizations, including the American Council on Exercise, offer different levels of trainer certificates, all the way up to master trainer. You can continue to learn new methods and put yourself in position for promotions if you work at a gym. 

If you run your own training gym, you can distinguish yourself from the competition by getting a higher level of certification. 

13. Personal trainer certifications help you work with athletes. Many trainers hope to work with athletes, but lack the proper background and experience needed for sports training. There are a number of personal trainer certification programs that focus on sports, teaching you the techniques needed to train high-performance athletes. 

Furthermore, trainers with the skills to train athletes often command higher asking prices, meaning you can significantly boost your per-session fees by getting the right certification. 

14. Personal trainer certifications can help you find internships. Many gyms want to hire trainers with past experience, either training private clients or working at an internship. Personal trainer certification programs often offer internships at gyms and training complexes, offering you the chance to get the experience you’ll need to get a full-time job at a gym.

Side Effects

1. Personal trainer certifications can be expensive and time-consuming. It can take a significant amount of time to study and prepare for the certification exam, and you’ll also have to spend money on fees. For some trainers, the certification may not be worth their time or money. 

For example, trainers who run a private business with a large number of clients may benefit little from official certification. Unless they plan on working for a major gym or are trying to attract specific clients, such as athletes, then certification may not be worth the added effort and investment.

2. Some personal trainer certifications offer little value. If you choose to get certified, make sure that you pick an accredited, well-respected program. There are hundreds of programs that offer certifications, with no official governing body that regulates all of them. That means there are some programs that will do little to boost your professional career. 

The American Council on Exercise and the National Academy of Sports Sciences offer two of the most well-respected certifications you can get. They are accepted by most major gyms, and they are widely recognized for their quality. You can find a number of local organizations that offer certification programs. Although these may teach you new skills, they won’t always be recognized by major gyms, especially in other parts of the country. 

Recommended Dosage

There are dozens of different major certification programs offered by large sports organizations. They vary in terms of reputation, with some carrying more weight than others. The right program for you will largely depend on what type of clients you train and where you work. If you are looking to learn specific skills, you may benefit from a tailored program that focuses on one key area.

However, if you are looking for a general personal trainer certification that teaches you a broad range of skills, you will benefit more from one of the programs offered by the American Council on Exercise. This is one of the most widely accepted certifications, so it’ll benefit you more if you plan on working at a major gym.

Before you get your certification, you’ll need to complete basic safety programs. Most personal trainer programs require that you are CPR and AED certified. You can find a number of day programs that will certify you in both. Most organizations will have you take a certification exam before you can be accredited. You can choose to study on your own or take a class with material based on the exam you’ll have to take. Once you’ve completed your certification, you may have to retake the exam after a certain number of years if you want to stay accredited.


How long does it take to get a personal trainer certification? The time it will take to get a personal trainer certification will largely depend on where you choose to get it. Many programs have a variety of schedules to accommodate those who work full-time, so you can choose the one that fits your needs. 

There are also a number of different types of personal trainer certification, so the time it takes to get yours will depend on what type you select. 

Are there different types of personal trainer certifications? Yes. Not all personal trainer certifications are made the same, with some programs focusing more on athletics, while others are designed more for general training. 

There isn’t one single governing body that controls all certifications, so you’ll have to choose the one that suits you and your clients’ needs best. 

For example, the International Sports Sciences Association provides a certification that is designed for trainers who work with athletes. You can also find a number of specialized organizations that offer training tailored to rehab and physical therapy. 

However, if most of your clients are only interested in general fitness, you may gain more from a certification through the American Council on Exercise, which focuses on exercises for people of all ages and athletic abilities. 

Can I make good money as a personal trainer? With obesity rates on the rise, the need for individuals in the health industry is higher than ever. For those with an entrepreneurial spirit, a career as a personal trainer can be lucrative. On average full-time, personal trainers make about $50,000/year with potential to make upwards of $130,000/year.

How much does a personal trainer certification cost? It depends on the certification. There are a number of organizations that offer programs for trainer certifications, so the cost will depend on the amount of instruction you need and the length of the program. 

Many entry-level certifications will cost around $500, whereas more advanced programs may run over $2,000. You can also find a number of programs that focus on specific areas, such as strength training. These certification programs often cost around $500. 

Programs will often offer optional supplemental study materials to help prepare you for the exam. These materials vary in terms of costs, with some exceeding $1,000. 

What’s the best personal trainer certification? There is no one certification that will be right for all trainers, as programs vary in terms of their main focus. The certifications offered by the American Council on Exercise and by the National Academy of Sports Medicine are two of the most widely accepted, and they are excellent for trainers who want to train a mixed clientele with people of all ages and athletic abilities. 

If you want to focus on sports training, you can also find a number of programs that are targeted at athletic trainers. 

Do you have to take a class to get certified? It depends on the certification. Many certifications only require that you pass an exam, which you can study for on your own without taking a class. Other certifications may require you to take a class before the exam, while some will sell study packages that prepare you for the exam. 

Can certifications be done online? It depends on the program. Many personal trainer certification programs will offer online study materials in classes, and then have you take the exam in person. Some, however, will allow you to complete the exam online as well. Check the details of the specific program for further details. 

Do gyms only hire personal trainers who have been certified? Although gyms vary widely in terms of their hiring policy, they generally only hire trainers who have the proper certifications. Most major gyms want trainers who have been certified by one of the major sports or training organizations, including the American Council on Exercise or the National Academy of Sports Sciences. 

What skills should you learn before taking a certified personal trainer certification? Skills you should learn include providing complete nutrition and workout tracking systems, how to guide new clients through their assessments so you have all the information you need about their medical history and movement patterns, and in turn how to use this information to build customized programs for their individual needs.

Do certifications need to be renewed? It depends on the program. Many certifications last for fixed periods, and you’ll have to retake an exam or take extra training classes to stay accredited. However, you can also find other programs that offer one time certifications that don’t expire, although gyms often won’t accept certifications that weren’t completed within the past few years. 

What degree do you need to be a personal trainer? It can vary. Some employers may require you to hold an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in fitness-related fields, such as exercise science or kinesiology. A period of hands-on instruction with an experienced trainer is usually required as well, and certification may be helpful if not always required by the employer.

Why are practice questions important for personal trainer exams? Practice questions will help solidify your knowledge and put the pieces of what you learned into real life scenarios. These practice questions also give you insight into the way the exam will be formatted and worded to provide you with all the tools and confidence necessary to ace it on the day. Practice manuals also include detailed answers and explanations so you can learn from your mistakes and make sure that you are on the right track.

Can you be a personal trainer without a certification? Personal trainer qualifications are not universally recognized. Every gym and almost every personal trainer will have a specific qualification they say you must have. The fact is, there are no degree programs in the United States for personal training, and there are no licenses, only certification.

Do personal trainers need a business license? Register your business name with your state’s department of revenue, too. Note that tax and registration requirements vary from state to state. Next, obtain a business license. Although no licensing regulations exist for personal trainers, you still need a business license to operate as an independent business legally.

What insurance do personal trainers need? As a personal trainer, you need insurance that will keep your business in good shape if something goes wrong. Public liability insurance is the key cover for many personal trainers, as it can protect you if you’re faced with a compensation claim for injury or damage from a client or another member of the public.


Personal trainer certifications are an effective way of boosting your career and expanding your client base. Many certifications are accepted by major gyms, increasing the number of job opportunities, and also raising earning potential. Personal trainer certifications make it easier to get a job teaching group classes, which increases the amount of money that you can make per session. Groups classes are also one of the best places to find new clients. 

You can also find a number of personal trainer certifications that focus on a specific area, allowing you to gain specialized experience and attract a core group of clients. There are programs in strength training, physical therapy, athletics, and training for the elderly, allowing you to find one that suits the needs of your clientele. Furthermore, many of the best training programs connect you to expert trainers, helping you learn the best methods and techniques, as well as network and find new job opportunities. 

However, they may not be right for all trainers, as they do require a significant investment of time and money. For example, more established trainers with private businesses may not benefit as much from a general certification. 

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