The best personal trainer certifications are those with a seal of approval from the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). Several of these organizations are listed in the article below.
The workout industry has evolved greatly over the years. Along with the industry itself evolving, so have the certifications required to be eligible to work in the industry. It is important to note that as a personal trainer, you do not need a license to train.
You are also not required to be certified to work as a personal trainer. This may sound odd, but there is actually no legal requirement that states you must have a certificate or license to be a personal trainer.
However, if you wish to work in the industry, be highly eligible for the best jobs, and provide the best care possible, you need to become a certified personal trainer. You will want to know as much as possible about anatomy, kinesiology, and physiology. The more you know about personal training, the more you can offer your clients, and the more chances you have at success.
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What Questions Should I Ask Myself About My Personal Trainer Career Goals?
The best way to decide which trainer certification is best for you is to ask yourself a few questions such as:
- What do I want to do with my certification?
- Do I want to work in a health club or gym or open my own business?
- Do I want a career or just a job?
- Do I know where I want to work?
- Do I want to specialize in any special needs training such as working with the elderly, disabled, or injured?
- Am I interested in attending a school or workshop, or going through the certification process completely online?
Some gyms and fitness centers only accept certain certifications, so if you are intending to work in a certain location you will need to look into that.
What Is the Best Certification Program for Me?
These questions are important to answer in order to find the best certification program for you. For example, certain areas of the country prefer certain certifications. Also, certain employers look for certain certifications. You should educate yourself on what the employers in your area are looking for in a personal trainer.
Also, you can make yourself more marketable if your certifications include specialized training, especially in nutrition. If this is a career choice, you should ensure that the program you become certified in will get you on the right career path.
Your availability also plays a large role in where you get certified. You have to determine if you can attend classes in person or only have the time for a workshop or online classes. The certification programs range greatly in pricing, so you must make the best-educated choice for yourself.
What Is the NCCA?
There are many different schools available that offer certification.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, you should only become certified through a school that is accredited through the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, also known as the NCCA.
The NCCA is the governing body for certifying agencies.
What Are the Most Well-Known Certifying Bodies for Personal Trainers?
There are two certifying bodies that are considered the most well-known:
- The first is ACE or the American Council on Exercise. Through ACE, you can become certified as a personal trainer through a workshop that costs $399 and lasts for two days. It is available in most major U.S. cities and has been around since 1985. You must be eighteen years old to attend and hold a current CPR and AED certification. There are 150 questions on the exam which lasts for three hours. The exam cost is $219 if taken with a pencil and paper or $249 if taken with a computer. It takes approximately three to six months to complete the program, and you must become recertified every two years.
- The second most well-known certification program is the AFAA or Aerobics and Fitness Association of America. Through AFAA, you can become certified as a Personal Fitness Trainer, known as a PFT. The workshop is for two days and is only available in limited U.S. cities. The cost of this program is $389-$489. You must also be eighteen years old and hold a high school diploma or equivalent.
The PFT exam costs $199 and lasts for two hours with 100 questions on it. It takes approximately four to six weeks to complete the program, and you must become recertified every four years.
It is important to understand that the AFAA program is not recognized by the NCAA. Also, the Personal Fitness Trainer certification is not as in-depth or respected as a Certified Personal Trainer certificate.
However, the AFAA program remains one of the most well-known in the industry. Aerobics instructors are usually certified through the AFAA.
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Are There Other Reputable Personal Trainer Certification Programs?
Yes, there are many. The certifying bodies listed below are all highly regarded in the fitness industry. They are also all accredited by the NCAA. In today’s job market, you should make sure that any program you invest your time and money in is accredited unless you know for sure that becoming certified in a non-NCAA accredited program will still provide the career you are working towards.
National Academy of Sports Medicine
The National Academy of Sports Medicine is recognized by the NCAA. Upon completion of the program, you receive your Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) certification. NASM was established in 1987, and education is provided through a workshop that takes two days and is available in select United States cities. The program costs between $629 and $799.
There are 120 questions on the two-hour exam, and the cost of the exam is included in the program cost. However, you must take the exam within 180 days of the workshop. Should you fail the exam, there is a $199 retest cost. Recertification is required every two years at an expense of $500.
American College of Sports Medicine
Another reputable program is the American College of Sports Medicine certification program. The ACSM has been around since 1954 and is one of the most established programs available. Through the ACSM you can obtain your CPT certification.
However, through this program, you also have the ability to receive multiple personal trainer certifications in health and fitness and clinical certifications.
The workshop lasts one to three days at a cost of $129 or $375 depending on the program. There is also an additional material cost of $125. The workshops are available in major United States cities, and the completion of the program takes between four and nine months.
In addition to the workshop and materials fees, there is also an exam fee of $279. The exam lasts two and a half hours and contains 125-150 questions. There is a $150 charge for retesting. Recertification costs $800 and is to be completed every three years.
ACSM offers the most diverse programs for personal training. You can become a:
- Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist
- Registered Clinical Exercise Specialist
- Certified Cancer Exercise Trainer
- Physical Activity in Public Health Specialist
These specialty certifications require a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology, exercise science, or other exercise-based degree programs.
National Council on Strength and Fitness
The National Council on Strength and Fitness offers a two-day workshop or extended school option. The NCSF program is also reputable, and upon completion, you can also acquire your CPT certification.
The program is available in most U.S. major cities for a cost of $309. It takes anywhere from four to six months to complete the program. However, there are no prerequisites for this program, unlike the others which require the student to be at least 18 years of age and already be certified in CPR and/or AED.
Another benefit of the NCSF program is that it is available in Spanish. The program is offered to Spanish speaking individuals in North, South, Central America and the Caribbean.
For those who are eligible, the NCSF allows military and ex-military personnel to complete the program by using funds from the G.I. bill.
The program requires taking a three-hour exam which contains 150 questions at a cost of $199. Retesting fees are $135. Testing is available in 400 locations. CPT’s must become recertified every two years at a cost that ranges from $400-$800.
National Federation of Professional Trainers
An additional program for CPT certification is through the National Federation of Professional Trainers program which was established in 1988. The workshop lasts two days and is available in major U.S. cities.
The cost is $425 and is not as highly recommended as the other programs. It takes approximately two to six months to complete the program. However, NFPT does require two years of experience in the fitness industry prior to attending the workshop.
Sitting for the exam takes two hours and is offered at 300 testing locations worldwide. You have one year to take the exam which costs $44 and contains 120 questions. There is a $60 charge to retake the exam. Recertification is required every year at a charge of $85.
National Strength and Conditioning Association
The National Strength and Conditioning Association, established in 1993, provides NCAA certification as a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT). The workshop lasts for two days and the workshop availability is extremely limited.
There is no program cost, but materials can run you up to $468. It takes approximately four to nine months to complete this program. One of the benefits of the NSCA is that it offers certification in personal training for those with special needs. This makes it especially valuable and respected in the industry.
The exam for the NSCA is considered one of the most difficult in the industry. It takes three hours and includes 140 questions. The cost of the exam varies depending on whether you are taking it online or on paper and whether or not you are already a member.
To sit for this exam, it can cost you anywhere from $235-$405. Retakes depend on the same and run $185-$355. Those looking to get certified through this program must take the exam within one year of the workshop. The exam is offered in major U.S. cities.
Recertification for the NSCA program is required every three years at a cost of $500.
International Fitness Professionals Association
Also accredited by the NCAA, IFPA provides the opportunity to become a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT). A two-day workshop is offered in major U.S. cities for a fee of $399-459. The program takes two to six months to complete.
One benefit of the IFPA certification is that the exam cost is included in the program cost. The exam has 100 questions which take two and a half hours to complete. You must take the exam within six months of attending the workshop. To retake the exam, you will incur a fee of $79.
Another benefit of the IFPA is that it offers specialized certifications. In addition to becoming a CPT, you can also become certified in low back disorders, sports medicine, and sports nutrition.
The program requires recertification every two years at a cost of $339.
Are There College or Trade School Programs for Personal Trainers?
Another way to become a personal trainer is to attend a trade school, college, or university. These programs prepare you to take various certification tests such as ones offered by NASM and ACSM. By going this route for certification, you can also prepare yourself to take the Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist certification through ACSM.
Bachelor of Science degrees or Associate of Science degrees are also obtained if you choose a certification program through a trade school, college or university.
An additional benefit to becoming certified through a college program is the opportunity to do all of your classes online rather than in a workshop. The length of the program varies greatly from a short course that lasts one week to a program that lasts four years. Many schools even offer night and weekend options.
What Happens After I Receive My Personal Trainer Certification?
Once you receive your certification, you will want to establish an organizational method that will help you keep track of your clients’ progress. We’ve built an online training platform that will allow you to train more clients, schedule appointments, sell merchandise, and more! Request a demo today to learn more.