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Top 5 Personal Training Certifications

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top 5 personal training certifications logoTop 5 Certifications for Personal Trainers

If you want to break into the personal training industry, certification is a must. Even those of you with an Exercise Science degree from a top university will typically need to get certified.

Now for those of you without a college degree in a health & fitness related field, certification is going to be crucial since you’re going to have to prove even more so to prospective clients or employers that you know your stuff.

Fortunately, there are many great certification bodies available to help fast track you on the road towards becoming a successful personal trainer. I personally hold a few certifications from NASM so I will tell you straight up that I am a little partial to them, however, you honestly can’t go wrong with any of the certifications I’m going to cover here.

These five certifications are what I believe are the top 5 best certifications in the personal training industry. There is obviously room to debate which personal training certifications are the best, however, passing the CPT exam from any of these certification bodies will no doubt show that you are competent enough to be a personal trainer.

#5. ACE

ace fitness logoAmerican Council on Exercise

ACE has been around for many years and are one of the more widely accepted personal trainer certifications available.

ACE has a reputation for being a standard certification and many believe ACE certs require the least preparation. ACE is also one of the cheaper certifications available. For these reasons an ACE cert is desirable for people who want to try out the personal training profession with the least investment of time and money.

Popular Certifications from ACE:

  • Certified Personal Trainer
  • Lifestyle + Weight Management Consultant Certification
  • Group Fitness Instructor Certification
  • Advanced Health + Fitness Specialist Certification

What are your thoughts on ACE certifications? Let me know in the comments!

#4.  ISSA

international sports sciences association logoInternational Sports Sciences Association

The ISSA has long been one of the top personal trainer certification bodies and their certifications continue to be among the top 5 personal training certifications you can get.

Straight from the ISSA website:

“Since 1988, the ISSA has certified and provided continuing fitness education to nearly 100,000 people just like you who want to help others feel better, look better and improve the quality of their lives.

We are unconditionally committed to providing expanded access to the highest quality personal training certification and continuing fitness education programs available, advancing our industry as a whole, and developing greater access to career opportunities for those who share our vision of Creating a Stronger, Healthier World™.”

Popular Certifications from ISSA:

  • Certified Fitness Trainer (Including youth fitness, senior fitness, fitness therapy, and performance nutrition & more.)

What are your thoughts on ISSA certifications? Let me know in the comments!

#3. ACSM

american college of sports medicine logoAmerican College of Sports Medicine

While the ACSM is often considered the most respected personal training certification, ACSM certifications tend to focus more on the clinical side of personal training.

ACSM certifications may be unnecessary for the personal trainer who is working at the local YMCA, but for trainers with college degrees, ACSM certifications are a great way to make use of the college degree because most ACSM certifications require degrees.

ACSM certifications demand a lot of respect for possible employers so they will always be one of the best certifications to get and maintain.

Popular Certifications from the ACSM:

  • Certified Health Fitness Specialist
  • Certified Personal Trainer
  • ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist®
  • ACSM Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist®

What are your thoughts on ACSM certifications? Let me know in the comments!

#2. NSCA

national strength and conditioning associationNational Strength & Conditioning Association

The NSCA has certifications for personal trainers and strength coaches which really focus on keeping the basic principles of strength and conditioning intact.

Strength & conditioning specialists certifications are typically required for any job working with collegiate, and professional athletes. This certification even requires you to possess either a bachelor’s degree or currently be enrolled as a college senior from an institution that is accredited by one of the six regional accrediting associations.

NSCA certification tests are proven to be some of the most challenging personal training certification exams even though the exam takers typically have previous education.

NSCA certifications also must be maintained by rigorous continuing education programs. For all the reasons here, NSCA is highly regarded in the United States and even internationally.

Popular Certifications from the NSCA:

  • Certified Personal Trainer
  • Certified Strength & Conditioning Association

What are your thoughts on NSCA certifications? Let me know in the comments!

#1. NASM

national academy of sports medicine logoNational Academy of Sports Medicine

The NASM has taken a different path from many other personal training certification bodies.

Rather than emphasizing teaching the standard scientific principles of training, the NASM takes current research and the current state of the sedentary adult to create certification which is more relevant to today’s personal training profession.

The NASM offers continuing education for busy professionals working on their online masters degree as well as undergrad programs. NASM is partnered up with various major US universities too.

Any person who is serious about beginning a career as a personal trainer or any client who wants the best service is highly likely to have their expectations exceeded with NASM personal training certifications.

Popular Certifications from the NASM:

  • Certified Personal Trainer
  • Performance Enhancement Specialist
  • Corrective Exercise Specialist

What are your thoughts on NASM certifications? Let me know in the comments!

The Bottom Line

If you’re serious about pursuing a career in the personal training profession, certification from one of the major certification bodies is a must. For many of you, getting one of these certifications is going to be easier than you think, however, even fitness savvy individuals should prepare for lots of reading and studying if they want to pass the test come exam day. This even goes for so called easier certifications from ACE. All in all though, one of these 5 certifications are a great starting point and with proper preparation you should have no problem getting certified. Next step? A rewarding career as a personal trainer!

Author Profile: Mike Behnken

Mike Behnken is a personal trainer who holds multiple NASM certifications and a MS in Exercise Science. Mike loves fitness, travel, and photography among many other interests.

Disclaimer: The views of the author are his or her own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Ask The Trainer.

Comments (2)

  1. Kim says:

    ISSA. Really? They have an online, open book test. I would subtract ISSA and add The Cooper Institute.

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