NFPT Personal Trainer Certification Review
Congratulations on your decision to become a personal trainer! You’ve picked a gratifying career that will change lives.
However, this exciting decision can quickly become overshadowed by the daunting task of wading through the 300+ agencies to choose for your certification. How do you know which agency is for you?
You’ve come to the right place! Below you’ll find a complete review for one of the top CPT certifying agencies: the National Federation of Professional Trainers.
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What Is the NFPT?
In 1978, U.S. Marine Staff Sargeant Ron Clark was shot in the arm and wrist during a tragic training accident. He was sent back to his Indiana hometown for rigorous therapy and rehab recovery. It was during this time that Clark found his passion for the dedication of physical training, launched his career as a personal trainer, won multiple bodybuilding titles, and opened his own fitness clinic.
But Clark wanted to do more to help others. He began the National Federation for Professional Trainers (NFPT) in 1988 to provide foundational, comprehensive, and applicable education for individuals seeking a personal training certification.
NFPT’s mission is “to lead the personal training certification industry, through quality education and credentialing, into a future of public and government respect, trust, and confidence.”
That’s an admirable goal worth embracing!
Personal trainers didn’t always need to be formally educated. Prior to 2005, trainers could simply be exercise enthusiasts who worked at a gym and charged for consultations, private sessions, and services. But this disorganized system endangered the safety of the public, as trainer education was varied and unregulated.
In 2005, the International Health, Racquet, and Sports Club Association strongly encouraged gyms and health clubs to require their trainers to be formally educated and certified so clients would receive safe and regulated instruction. The recommendation was widely accepted and over fifteen accrediting bodies were formed, each supervising multiple certifying agencies.
But what exactly is accreditation, and why is it important? Watch this video to learn more:
Accreditation is an external audit that ensures the education provided by institutes and programs meets satisfactory quality standards. For fitness certifications, this means the educational requirements protect the health, welfare, and safety of the public.
There are a number of accrediting bodies, but one of the most prestigious is the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). NFPT has been reviewed and accredited by the NCCA since 2005.
Because most gyms and health centers prefer personal trainers certified under the gold standard of the NCCA, most personal trainers seek certification through an NCCA-accredited program as it almost guarantees employment.
Before we examine the CPT program more closely, let’s look at the benefits of choosing the NFPT certification and the basic requirements for application.
Benefits of NFPT
Every certification program has its perks, and NFPT is no exception.
Since NFPT was founded by a U.S. Marine, the military and civil servants are deeply intertwined with the organization’s passion. Military, civil servants, and club staff receive regular discounts on their certification costs.
NFPT also offers free Continuing Education Courses for as long as you recertify with NFPT! We will discuss this in more detail below.
As a family-owned-and-operated organization, NFPT prides themselves on taking care of their trainers like family. The smaller staff assists their trainers personally with questions or concerns about certification, continuing education, renewing your credentials, and more!
NFPT also offers its CPTs a business plan template, communications and marketing recommendations, and affiliated discounts on insurance, events, courses, and more!
- The applicant must be at least 18 years of age.
- The applicant must have a high school diploma or GED.
- The applicant must adhere to NFPT’s Code of Conduct.
Although it’s not required, NFPT strongly recommends at least two years of fitness-related experience, as this will make the study material come alive to candidates with their personal real-life examples.
Unlike most certifying agencies, AED/CPR training is not required in order to apply. NFPT reasons that every CPT needs an AED/CPR certification upon hire and lack thereof shouldn’t be a barrier to CPT certification. While it’s not a requirement for NFPT application, AED/CPR certification before applying is to your educational benefit. You will need to get an AED/CPR certification in order to be employed.
NFPT offers a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) certification but offers many other Specialist Certifications as Continuing Education courses to enhance your knowledge and value as a trainer.
Certified Personal Trainer (NFPT-CPT)
CPT is the baseline certification for personal training. CPTs have a working knowledge of human anatomy, fundamental principles of functional exercise, and basic nutrition. They tailor, design, and administer individual and small group exercise programs to fit the needs and goals of their clients. They also motivate clients to achieve their goals and modify exercise programs as needed.
A CPT can work with a range of individuals, such as fitness enthusiasts, competitors, athletes, the elderly, children, and more!
CPTs aren’t limited to a gym or fitness center and can work in a variety of settings. NFPT suggests these work environments for their CPTs:
- Apartment Complexes
- Community Centers
- Online Training
- Outdoor Boot Camps
- Corporate Wellness
- Resorts and Cruise Ships
- Athletic Performance Centers
- Client’s Home
- CPT’s Own Home Gym
Between the variety of clientele and work settings, employment opportunities are endless for CPTs! The options make personal training an exciting and rewarding career that helps both trainers and clients lead more fulfilling lives.
NFPT-CPT is a credible certification due to its NCCA accreditation. The education provided by NFPT is geared towards foundation-building exercise science concepts. This is ideal for a start-up trainer who may not have as much experience in fitness, exercise science, or kinesiology and is not ready for the details and difficulty of a more in-depth certification.
Preparation for Certification Exams
NFPT offers a few study options that allow flexibility and personalization for everyone. If you are currently a CPT and choose to utilize non-NFPT study materials, there’s also an Exam Only option!
There are two study packages for CPT: Standard and Premier.
|Certification Exam||Standard Package, Plus...|
|Exam Content Outline||2 Practice Tests|
|Trainer Manual||Exercise Animations|
|Workbook||Client Assessment Videos|
|Online Learning Quizzes||Expert Support|
The Standard Package covers the bare minimum knowledge needed to pass the NFPT exam. The study materials included in the Standard Package are the Trainer Manual, study guide, and review quizzes, as well as an exam outline to use it as a subject checklist. The Trainer Manual course objectives include:
- Familiarization with Human Anatomy
- Understanding Principles of Human Physiology
- Applying the 5 Fitness Components
- Ability to Develop, Implement and Modify Exercise Training Programs
- Recognizing Professional and Communication Skills”
After purchasing the package for $279, students have one year to study and pass the exam. Otherwise, the student must re-enroll by purchasing the package again in order to take the exam.
Study materials are available online and take about 60-90 days to complete. There’s no additional fee to take the exam, as the exam fee is embedded in the package price. Upon successful completion of the exam, you will be given a certificate and NFPT member card.
Experienced personal trainers caution that this package truly is a “bare-bones” package, which could be a challenge for students with no fitness experience. NFPT seeks to have its trainers learn (and keep learning) from many sources, so NFPT warns that their exam questions are not derived from a specific book or resource. This is again a reason to have at least two years of fitness-related experience before studying and taking this exam.
The process, objectives, and study materials for the Premier Package are identical to the Standard Package with the addition of these study materials:
- Assessment videos
- Two practice tests
- Exercise videos
- Expert support
Considering the minimalism of the Standard Package, the Premier Package may be the difference in you passing or failing the exam. At $379, the Premier Package is only $100 more than the Standard Package. This additional $100 is less than a re-test fee ($119) and could save you the heartbreak and inconvenience of re-testing.
Learn everything you need to know and more from a fitness expert in a hands-on workshop! The workshop takes place over two days; 16 hours total with eight hours each day. Half of the teaching is done in a classroom setting, and the other half transforms your new knowledge into skills as you perform hands-on activities and exercise training. Watch this video to learn more:
After the workshop, you can sit for the exam and get certified! The workshop is also offered for CPTs to earn all their CECs for their recertification period.
There are four workshop options to fit your needs and schedule:
- Workshop only: Only the classroom and hands-on education.
- Workshop only + CPR/AED: A great way to get CPT education and CPR/AED certified!
- Workshop + Certification: Participate in the workshop and sit for your certification exam at your convenience.
- Workshop + Certification + CPR/AED: Do everything at once and be fully certified for employment as a personal trainer!
Workshops include all Premier Package study materials, plus the workshop study guide and presentation slides, client assessment reference guide, online quizzes, and a CPT toolkit with a tape measure, skin-fold caliper, organizational folder. All these additional materials make the workshop the most comprehensive study option.
Workshop prices vary from $329-$778 depending on which workshop you select. Check out NFPT’s workshop location schedule for more information!
Exam-Only (Test Out)
Perhaps your co-worker has the NFPT Trainer Manual, you have a degree in kinesiology, or you’re already a CPT and want to add to your professional value by getting certified through another agency. There could be many other reasons to skip out on purchasing a package, so NFPT offers an exam-only option to become certified.
Even though it may be tempting to attempt the exam without studying, the exam should still be taken seriously. Only those with extensive experience or access to an NFPT Trainer Manual should consider opting out of a study package for the exam-only option.
The certification exam voucher costs $199.
The Certification Exam
Once you’ve chosen a study option, completed the package or workshop, and feel competent in the material, it’s time to take your certification exam! Watch this video for tips on overcoming any anxiety with taking the exam:
You can register to take your exam any time you feel proficient in the material. You can also take the exam without purchasing a study package, but this is recommended only for individuals with a degree in kinesiology or are currently a CPT through another agency.
In comparison to most certifying agencies that require examination within six months of purchasing the voucher, NFPT allows 12 months. Even though NFPT allows a longer stretch of time between voucher purchase and examination, committing to intentional study is the best way to thoroughly comprehend the material instead of studying sporadically. Most candidates find 60-90 days is adequate preparation.
Register for your exam at a computer-based test (CBT) location that is convenient for you. There are even locations available in Canada and worldwide! If there’s not a registered CBT site in your area, you can arrange for a local proctor to administer the exam via paper and pencil. These arrangements must be made directly with NFPT.
If after registering you decide not to take the exam, you can request a refund within the first two weeks of your original application and before to the exam date. NFPT will provide a full refund minus a $50 application processing fee. The refund amount will decrease by 25% every two weeks, with no refund provided after 8 weeks.
Exam Day: What to Expect
Arrive at your testing center at least fifteen minutes early to sign in and verify your identity with a valid I.D. such as a driver’s license or passport. Personal and other outside items like purses or handbags, cell phones, notes, or textbooks are not allowed in the testing area. Secure storage areas are provided for personal items.
The exam consists of 120 multiple-choice questions with a time limit of two hours. 20 of these questions are written strictly for statistical purposes and won’t count towards your final score. 750 out of 1000 points are needed to pass the exam. The exam has a pass rate of 72%.
The exam is broken down into these sections:
|Training Program Development, Implementation and Modification||33%|
|Principles of Human Anatomy||20%|
|Principles of Human Physiology||19%|
|Professional and Communication Skills||5%|
You will receive your scores instantly after completing the exam and a printed copy of your score. Detailed test results will arrive in the mail two or three weeks after the exam. If you submitted a paper copy of the exam, your pass/fail result and a detailed summary will arrive within two or three weeks.
If you passed, congratulations! You will be mailed a certificate of completion and a wallet-sized membership card. You can begin seeking employment as a CPT!
If you didn’t pass, you’re allowed to reschedule one re-test within the one-year test eligibility period. An exam re-test is $119. If you don’t pass the exam on the second attempt, you must wait one year from your first exam attempt before re-applying to the program.
Maintaining Your Certification
Congratulations on passing the exam and earning your NFPT-CPT certification! After ensuring you have a current AED/CPR certification, you can begin your career as a CPT.
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Like many health professions, you must recertify and successfully complete a designated number of continuing education hours to maintain your certification.
In order to maintain their practicing credentials, NFPT-CPTs are required to recertify with NFPT every year. Recertification ensures that practicing professionals are in compliance with current NFPT practice standards, ethics, and code of conduct, and are growing in their field by keeping up with trends and new data.
To be eligible for recertification, you must submit proof of earning 2.0 Continuing Education Credits (CEC) and pay an $85 fee. Don’t be fooled by the apparent low CEC number! NFPT has an unusual conversion system for their CECs: each participation hour counts as 0.2 CEC. This means you need 10 CEC participation hours every year.
That being said, recertification through NFPT is one of the easiest to complete. As this video describes, NFPT’s goal is for its CPTs to have an open, always-learning mindset, so they accept almost any educational format towards CECs.
NFPT doesn’t require CECs for the first recertification period, as you’re still getting your feet wet in the personal training profession. If you’re recertifying for the first time, you don’t need to complete any CECs and simply need to pay the $85 renewal fee! You should begin keeping track of your CECs after your first recertification, as you’ll need proof of completing 2.0 CECs from then on.
NFPT has the most frequent recertification period on the market, which can be inconvenient to keep track of. However, NFPT is one of the only agencies that doesn’t seek to make a profit off their CECs. That’s right: NFPT-CPTs get free CECs for as long as they renew their certification! All you pay is the yearly $85 renewal fee! Some of these free CECs include:
- Fitness Flop or Fact?: A monthly mini-quiz where participants identify if a fitness scenario is performed or instructed incorrectly.
- Self-Tests: Bi-annual tests that quiz participants’ knowledge from NFPT CE articles.
- Trainer Refresher: An online self-assessment test that covers each of the 19 chapters of the Trainer Manual
- Article Contribution: Members of the NFPT blog are awarded CECs and a waived membership fee.
But CEC options are not limited to the selection above. As stated earlier, NFPT’s goal is to have its trainers seize every educational opportunity to contribute to their knowledge and skill set. Some of the most popular ways NFPT-CPTs earn CECs are:
- Courses / Classes
- CPR/AED Certification
- Proof of Insurance
- Content Contribution
- NFPT Self Tests & other FREE CE sources
Proof of completion is easy: submit documentation (such as a certificate of completion, transcript, or confirmation letter) through your online NFPT account, snail mail, or even take a picture with your smartphone and send it through email! NFPT doesn’t want to overcomplicate the system; as long as you provide proof of completion, NFPT will award the credit!
If you want to increase your competency, knowledge, or skillsets, NFPT has courses for a steal of a price:
- Resistance Training – 2.0 CECs for $135
- Endurance Training – 2.0 CECs for$145
- Anatomy Fundamentals – 2.0 CECs for $109
- Plyometric Training – 0.75 CECs for $50
- Stretching Principles – 0.5 CECs $45
- Core Training – 0.75 CECs for $54
- Running Mechanics – 0.5 CECs for $45
- Lead Management for Sales Goals – 0.5 CECs for $49.99
While it’s commendable that NFPT offers free CECs (especially since they require recertification every year, saving you hundreds of dollars a year!), they also offer a number of specializations that count towards your CECs and your paycheck.
Earning a specialization is an excellent way to increase your knowledge, expertise, and value as a personal trainer while getting the CECs you need to stay certified. Check out the specializations NFPT offers:
- Fitness Nutrition Specialist: Learn the basic synergy that ties eating and fitness together through this in-depth course on digestion, internal chemical processes, energy provision and conversion, and nutrient requirements. 2.0 CECs for $105.
- Cancer Recovery Specialist: Learn appropriate exercises and precautions that help recovering cancer patients return to a life of wellness. 2.0 CECs for $159.
- Breast Cancer Recovery BOSU Specialist: A BOSU® balance trainer allows a greater ability to work with breast cancer patients during and after cancer surgery and treatment. 2.0 CECs for $195.
- MS Fitness Trainer Specialist: Aid individuals with MS discover enjoyable and effective ways to stay active! 2.0 CECs for $179.
- Functional Training Specialist: Learn the foundation and science behind functional training, the importance of testing core strength, and how to incorporate dynamic core training for every client. 2.0 CECs for $109.
- Master Fitness Trainer: Three advanced knowledge courses (Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Resistance Training, and Endurance Training) that take your expertise and paycheck to the next level. Earn 6.0 CECs (that’s three years of recertification!) for $305.
Have more questions? Learn more about recertification and earning continuing education credits here.
What’s the Verdict?
We’ve explored just about every aspect of the NFPT, covering the certification process from beginning to end, and the specific requirements for recertification. Let’s recap the pros and cons before coming to our final conclusion.
1. NCCA Accreditation
Possibly the most important factor in choosing your certifying agency is if it’s accredited and by whom. NFPT is at the top of the pack with its NCCA accreditation. While not as popular as other big certifying agencies like NASM or ACE, NFPT is accredited by NCCA just like NASM and ACE.
2. Educational Foundation
The NFPT exam forces you to apply their material beyond rote memorization. This method of studying makes you a better CPT in the long run, as you will be able to apply your knowledge in real-life client situations.
3. Affordable Certification
Depending on which study package or workshop you choose to prepare for the exam, NFPT is one of the cheapest certifications on the market. This makes NFPT-CPT a great option for individuals wanting to gain experience in the personal training field while making a little extra than a gym assistant.
4. Free or Affordable CECs and Specializations
It doesn’t get much better than free CECs! This factor alone puts NFPT over the top on being the most affordable CPT certification on the market. If you want to pay for other CECs or specializations, NFPT’s courses are extremely affordable compared to other certifications. You get to keep more of your paycheck, gain knowledge that increases your value, and makes you more eligible for a higher salary!
5. Quick Certification
Most candidates feel prepared to take the exam after a 60-90 days period of intentional study. This is exceptionally quick compared to the average of six months preparing for other certification programs. If you attend a workshop, you can take the exam as early as your testing center’s schedule allows, and you can be an NFPT-certified CPT in a matter of days!
1. Recertification Every Year
Although NFPT sends an automated reminder to renew your certification, it’s one extra thing to do. Like most of us, many trainers like to have extended time between renewals and not feel like they have a perpetual “to-do” list for their certification.
2. Educational Foundation
Wait, isn’t this in the list of pros? Yes, it is, but NFPT’s educational foundation can also be its downfall.
Because NFPT wants its trainers to consult multiple sources and not base all of their knowledge off of the Trainer Manual, the Trainer Manual only offers a minimum foundational education. This means you may need to spend unexpected time, money, and stress searching out answers in other books.
This is especially problematic if you’re new to personal training and purchase the Standard Package where the primary educational tool is the Trainer Manual (if you’re already a CPT, the Standard Package is a suitable review). There may not be enough material to prepare you to pass the application-style exam.
If you’re new to personal training, you should consider purchasing the Premier Package or attending a workshop. However, these are more expensive. So while the claim that NFPT is the cheapest certification is true, this is really only the cheapest if you’re already a CPT and purchase the Standard Package to review materials before taking the exam.
3. Not as Popular
While prospective employers may appreciate your hard-earned NFPT certification, your clients might not. The NFPT-CPT exam is attempted only 2,684 times a year, compared to NASM at over 22,000 attempts per year.
When a client is selecting their personal trainer, they may pass over you simply because they didn’t recognize the acronym. This phenomenon is similar to buying the most popular phone because everyone has it, not necessarily because it’s the best.
4. Not as Advanced
NFPT-CPT is geared towards individuals with little to no fitness background. While this is great for the beginner CPT, it might be an employer’s second choice to a more educationally-advanced certification. However, NFPT-CPTs can quickly add to their value by successfully completing the specializations NFPT provides.
The Final Word
The good news is there’s no right or wrong answer to choosing which certification agency suits you best (as long as it’s accredited!). Many factors must be taken into consideration, such as your budget, test-taking skills, learning style, recertification requirements, and more. Only you can order these according to what you value most, and what’s right for you may not be right for another CPT.
NFPT has about as many pros to cons. NFPT-CPT is a less popular certification, which may result in fewer employment opportunities or less income. It’s also an application-style exam that may be difficult to pass without spending a bit more.
However, NFPT is one of the quickest ways to be certified and the cheapest certification to maintain. Always-free CECs are a huge advantage to an NFPT certification! Despite it being a less popular certification, NFPT has earned the NCCA accreditation which will always get a nod of approval from employers.
Our final word: NFPT is a good choice for an individual who wants to start a career in personal training without being overwhelmed by details and dedication of a more advanced certification, or for an already-certified CPT who wants to add on an extra credential. It may not be your lifelong or leading certification, but with its free CECs and minimal upkeep cost, NFPT-CPT is a great place to start or add to your CPT value!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Is NFPT nationally accredited?
Yes! NFPT is accredited by the NCCA, the top accrediting agency in the country.
What specializations does NFPT offer?
NFPT has a huge variety of specializations: Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Cancer Recovery Specialist, Breast Cancer Recovery BOSU Specialist, MS Fitness Trainer Specialist, Functional Training Specialist, and Master Fitness Trainer.
Are personal trainers in demand?
Yes! Personal trainers are in high demand and the job market for CPTs is expected to grow 10% by 2026!
How often do NFPT personal trainers have to recertify?
NFPT-CPTs must recertify every year. They must pay an $85 renewal fee and show proof of 2.0 CECs (which is the equivalent of 10 participation hours).
We hope this review has been helpful in deciding where to receive your CPT certification!
Whichever agency you decide on, remember that Exercise.com’s All-in-One Business Platform boosts your success and allows you to fully engage with your clients. Book a demo today to learn more!