ISSA Certified Personal Trainer Review | Learn: Your Fitness Business Resource

ISSA Certified Personal Trainer Review

There are many factors to consider when deciding which personal training program is right for you. Not only are there dozens of program options, but the information about these programs can be overwhelming. This review gives you what you need to know about the ISSA certified fitness trainer certification and if it's the right fit for you.

Tyler Spraul is the director of UX and the head trainer for He has his Bachelor of Science degree in pre-medicine and is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist. He is a former All-American soccer player and still coaches soccer today. In his free time, he enjoys reading, learning, and living the dad life. He has been featured in Shape, Healthline, HuffPost, Women's...

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UPDATED: Jun 1, 2021

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  • The International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) offers a Certified Fitness Trainer credential as their personal training certification.
  • They also offer a variety of other advanced specializations and continuing education units (CEUs).
  • There are positives and negatives of the ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer certification.
  • Choosing the right certification is important for a successful personal training career.

Choosing the right personal trainer certification can be a tough decision because there is no shortage of available certifications. The International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) offers a Certified Fitness Trainer credential for personal trainers. They have a variety of study options available for this certification, plus other bundled specialization certifications.

To help you choose the right personal training certification, read this review to determine if the ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer is the right fit for you and your career goals. Are you ready to see how can help you grow and manage your personal training business? Request a demo of our all-in-one gym management software now. 

About ISSA

ISSA logo

The International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) was founded in 1988, is headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, and offers 12 fitness certifications. Their mission is to “bring healthy living to everybody in the world through education and community.”

There are four personal training certification options offered by ISSA. They all include the Certified Personal Trainer certification, but three add additional specialization certifications.

These four options are described in greater detail in the next section of the article. The table below has a list of the ISSA Certified Personal Trainer certification options.

Name of CertificationCostObjectives
ISSA Fitness Coach$948Certified Personal Trainer plus one additional specialization
ISSA Elite Trainer$999Certified Fitness Trainer, Sports Nutrition certification, plus one additional specialization
ISSA Master Trainer$1908Certified Fitness Trainer, Sports Nutrition certification, plus four additional specializations
ISSA Certified Personal Trainer$828Certified Personal Trainer, Nutritionist certification, CPR/AED certification,

ISSA also has ten advanced specializations. They can be bundled with the Certified Personal Trainer as noted in the table above or can be done stand alone for CEUs. The advanced specializations alone cost $799 each and count for 20 CEUs.

The advanced specializations are:

  • Bodybuilding Specialist certification
  • Corrective Exercise Specialist certification
  • Exercise Therapist certification
  • Group Fitness certification
  • Nutrition certification
  • Senior Fitness certification
  • Specialist Sports Nutrition certification
  • Strength and Conditioning certification
  • Transformation Specialist certification
  • Youth Fitness certification

The ISSA website also has a blog with numerous informative articles on strength training, performance, nutrition, weight loss, and more. They also have support members of the military and veterans. The website also has some exercise videos that anyone can access.

Fitness Coach, Elite Trainer, and Master Trainer Certifications

The Fitness Coach, Elite Trainer, and Master Trainer certifications include the Certified Personal Trainer credential but also add additional specializations. These are options for those who are looking to deepen their knowledge and increase their expertise with one or more of the specializations. These certifications are offered for a bundled and discounted price.

The Fitness Coach certification is $948 and includes the Certified Personal Trainer plus one additional advanced specialization. The Elite Trainer certification costs $999 and includes the Certified Personal Trainer, plus the Sports Nutrition specialization and one other advanced specialization. The Elite Trainer would be a better deal than the Fitness Coach because they are the same price, but the Elite Trainer has the Sports Nutrition specialization included.

The Master Trainer is $1908 and includes the Certified Personal Trainer, the Sports Nutrition specialization, plus four additional advanced specializations. For the additional advanced specialization(s), the individual can choose the one(s) they are most interested in from the options available.

About the ISSA Certified Personal Trainer Exam

The ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer exam requires candidates to be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or equivalent before taking the exam. The CPT exam also requires CPR/AED certification prior to taking the exam. The ISSA provides an online CPR/AED program for $49.

The ISSA Certified Personal Trainer program was recently accredited by the NCCA (National Commission for Certifying Agencies), which means it has met the same quality standards as other professional organizations like ACSMACENSCA, and NASM.

ISSA uses Fitness: The Complete Guide as the main study material. Purchasing the ISSA CPT study package includes:

  • Online practice exams and quizzes
  • Audio and video lectures
  • Online study guide and workbook
  • Online student forum
  • Take-at-home CPT exam
  • Free NCCPT accredited exam
  • CPT education Bootcamp
  • New Trainer Guide to Success

The package comes with a free Fast Track Program, which allows you to be certified within four weeks. Those who pass the exam also receive their own website and unlimited support from ISSA.

You have six months to complete the Certified Fitness Trainer course and exam from the date you purchased the materials. If you do not complete it within six months, you can request a two-month extension at no charge. If you still do not complete the course in the two-month extension, you can request one more extension for $99. After that, you must re-enroll in the course.

Exam Content

The ISSA Certified Personal Trainer exam contains 200 multiple-choice questions covering the six sections of study material:

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Kinesiology and biomechanics
  • Health and physical fitness
  • Program Development
  • Nutrition
  • Fitness for All

The ISSA Certified Personal Trainer exam is taken online, untimed, and is open-book. You can complete a paper and pencil exam and mail it back to ISSA, but they recommend taking it online.

Exam results are shared via email after completion of the exam and certificates are mailed within three weeks of completing the Certified Fitness Trainer exam. If you do not pass the exam, you are allowed one re-take of that portion of the exam free of charge. Each re-test after the first re-test costs $50 per re-take unless you purchased one of the study plans with unlimited re-tests.

ISSA fitness trainer


The ISSA CPT requires you to recertify every two years and costs $99 to do so. You must have maintained a current CPR/AED certification when you recertify. To recertify you must obtain 20 CEUs (continuing education units) in the two-year period. One hour of instruction equals 1.0 CEU.

ISSA has a number of CEUs available online. They have a nutrition professional development option that includes 10 courses for a total of 20 CEUs. The price for that bundle is $399.

ISSA also accepts personal trainer continuing education courses from other organizations. Before taking a course from another organization, be sure that it is accepted by ISSA.

The advanced specialized certifications also count for CEUs. Most of those are 20 CEUs and cost $799 per specialization.

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The Positives

The ISSA Certified Personal Trainer certification and exam have some positives and benefits. Here is a summary of the positives of the ISSA exam:

  • The ISSA Certified Personal Trainer exam is taken online, so no need to travel to a testing center or pay an extra testing center fee.
  • The ISSA certification exam is an open book exam, so less stress of having to memorize all the concepts.
  • No other certifications offer one free re-take as the ISSA offers to its candidates.
  • The ISSA certification is recognized outside of the United States. It is recognized in numerous countries across the world.
  • The price of the ISSA Certified Personal Trainer exam is comparable to other personal trainer certifications.
  • There are numerous advanced specializations available to add to your expertise or for CEUs, including a nutrition and sports nutrition specialization which would pair nicely with the Certified Fitness Trainer credential.

The Negatives

The ISSA Certified Personal Trainer credential is not as well-known as some of the other CPT certifications available that are accredited by the NCCA. The ISSA credential is sometimes considered one of the top five certifications but is not in the top three.

See the table below for a comparison of those certifications with the ISSA certification.

Accredited by NCCAYesYesYesYes No
For-profit or NonprofitNonprofitNonprofitNonprofitFor-profitFor-profit
CECs or CEUs (contact hours) Required 45 (every three years)20 (every two years)60 (every three years)20 (every two years)20 (every two years)
Year Established19541985197819871988
Exam Cost$349$399$435$599$599+
Exam Retake Cost$175$199$435$199First retake free then $50
Recertification Cost$45 (every three years)$129 (every two years)$75 (every three years)$99 (every two years)$99 (every two years)

The Bottom Line

The ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer has numerous positive aspects, as well as a few negative aspects. This certification might be a great fit for some individuals, especially if the open-book exam or flexibility of not having to travel to a testing center is appealing.

The video below is an ISSA certification review testimonial from one certified professional.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the best personal trainer certification?

It depends on your experience, prior knowledge, budget, time commitment to study, and career goals. There are a number of different personal training certifications to meet a variety of needs. It’s important to take some time to review the personal trainer certifications available to find the best fit for you.

What are the requirements to take the ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer exam?

You must be 18 years of age, have a current adult CPR/AED certification or obtain one before the exam, and have a high school diploma (or equivalent).

Why do personal trainers have to re-certify and earn continuing education units (CEUs)?

It’s important to always stay updated in the field you are working in. Would you want a personal trainer who passed their exam twenty years ago but had not learned anything new about personal training in the last 20 years? Of course not. Continuing education courses for personal trainers help ensure the integrity of the certification.

Do all fitness professionals need personal training certification?

A personal training certification is not required to be a personal trainer, but most gyms and fitness facilities require their personal trainers to be certified before hiring them. A personal training certification gives an individual the credential needed to be respected in the field.

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