Personal Training Certification: Everything You Need to Know to Get Certified As a Personal Trainer

You’re on your way to having a successful personal trainer career, but if you want to attract and retain clients one of the best things you can do is to obtain your personal trainer certification.


If you plan to start your professional career as a personal trainer, you’ll want to become a fitness trainer with who is certified. Why? Personal trainer certification gives you credibility with your clients. Yes, you might already know everything there is to know about fitness, but now you’ll be able to prove your experience and knowledge. And who knows, you might even pick up another skill or two.

Keep in mind, you’ll also need to have hands-on training in CPR and using AEDs (automated external defibrillators) before you’ll be able to sit for your personal trainer exam. This makes sense; exercise can be hard on the body, so if your client has a health event you want to be able to keep them stable until professional help can arrive.


What are the Benefits of Obtaining a Personal Trainer Certification?


A personal trainer certification can be a good way to boost your credentials with your potential clients. It's also required when applying for a job as a personal trainer in the gym, all together with an associate's or bachelor's degree in kinesiology or other fitness-related fields. It can also help you make more money throughout your personal trainer career, as you gain more credibility and win the trust of potential clients or partners.


In their Occupational Outlook Handbook, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the median personal trainer salary at $39,210, although some trainers earn up to $74,520.


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Why Does Certification Matter for Your Personal Trainer Career?


The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that fitness instructor and personal trainer jobs are slated to grow 10% between now and 2026.


In short, personal trainer jobs have good growth potential and offer stability over the next decade.


Which Physical Trainer Certification Program is Right for Me?


How do you get personal training certification? First, make sure you only look at organizations that are accredited. Why does this matter? You don’t want to spend the time, effort, and money to get certified by an organization that doesn’t know what it’s doing. If your program is accredited, that guarantees that it meets certain standards.

To help you decide on the best personal training certification program, here are a few popular accredited options, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Some offer in-person classes while others are online personal training certification programs.


How to Plan a Training Session with Your First Time Client – And Keep Them Coming Back for More


| ACE (American Council on Exercise): This non-profit accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCAA), which is often called the “gold standard” of personal trainer accreditation. ACE is one of the most widely recognized certification programs, which will be helpful when you’re looking for a job. They use digital and hard study materials and have study resources online. You’ll need to sit the exam in person, but ACE offers lots of locations to choose from.


| ISSA (International Sports Sciences Association): This for-profit, online personal training certification program is good for those who need the flexibility of learning from home – you can even take the final exam in your living room. Its personal trainer accreditation is by the DEAC (Distance Education Accrediting Commission).


| AAPTE (Academy of Applied Personal Training Education): Unlike the other organizations on this list, the AAPTE offers in-person classes as part of their personal training curriculum, believing a hands-on approach is always best for learning. They offer in-person classes for the Chicago and New York areas (or online courses for those who live out of the area). They have stricter requirements than the other certifying programs on this list. In addition to having hands-on AED and CPR training, you need to take a human anatomy class prior to sitting for their exam. They are accredited by the NCAA.


| ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine): This non-profit is also accredited by the NCAA. Their well-known personal training certification program offers online quizzes, webinars, and physical textbooks to prepare you for the exam, but they don’t have guided courses to become a personal trainer.  If you don’t think you’ll require a lot of exam preparation, this might be a good choice for you. Exams are offered in person at over 5,000 test centers around the world.


Types of Certification in the USA and Canada


There are dozens of personal trainer certification programs to choose from, so you’re certain to find one that works for you. When you’ve become a fitness trainer, this can be a stepping stone to more advanced careers. Consider your future career plans when you decide on the best personal training certification program for you.


| ACE: They offer a wide range of certifying programs for personal trainers, group fitness instructors, health coaches, and medical exercise specialists.


| ISSA: In addition to personal trainer certification, they offer certifications in group fitness, nutrition specialist, senior fitness, CPR, and more.


| AAPTE: They offer personal trainer certifications only.


| ACSM: They offer certifications for personal trainers, group exercise instructors, exercise physiologists, and more.


How To Become A Personal Trainer: An Ultimate Guide To Personal Training As A Career


Costs of Personal Trainer Training


You have two options after you decide to pursue your personal trainer training. You can either take the certification exams on their own, or you can also pay for study courses which will help you prepare for the exams, offering you a better chance at success. You do not have to take the courses to sit for the exams.

Thus, depending on the program you choose, your personal training courses cost anywhere from $300 to $1,200. This might seem expensive, but remember that your personal trainer salary will increase after you become certified, making this a worthy investment. But which are the best courses to become a personal trainer? Read on and decide for yourself.


| ACE offers different fitness trainer courses ranging from $699 to $999 – these prices include the exam fee. If you sit for the personal trainer exam separately, the cost is $399.


| ISSA personal training courses cost between $599 to $1,199: they offer online instructor-led courses for $1,199 or online guided study courses at $599. The exam and a free re-test are included with both options. If you choose to take only the exam, the fee is $499.


| AAPTE offers an in-person fitness trainer course (exam included) for $975. The exam-only fee is $295.


| ACSM doesn’t offer guided courses, but they do have supplemental workshops, webinars, and textbooks for an additional price. Optional in-person two-day workshops are held throughout the US ranging in price from $129 to $375, for one to three days. If you choose to only pay for the exam, the fee is $349.


In the end, you’ll have to decide which physical trainer certification program is right for you – but don’t forget that personal training certs alone won’t make you a successful trainer. That might help bring new clients in the door, but you’ll have to keep them coming back for more. You’ll need to be able to build great relationships with your clients using your skills, passion, and experience in order to succeed and keep those clients loyal for years to come.


See also: How to plan a training session with your first-time client - and keep them coming back for more


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