Nope, Not All Personal Trainer Certifications Are Made The Same …

PT certifications

….and why you should care WHERE your Personal Trainer is Certified.

There are literally hundreds of Personal Trainer Certifications out there. Did you know that? Go ahead and Google, “personal trainer certifications” and find out what happens.

I’ll wait right here.

Crazy, huh?

Then how in the world does an aspiring personal trainer know where to go to be certified?

And how does someone who is looking to HIRE a personal trainer know where to look for a good fit?

Unfortunately, personal trainer certifications have not been standardized yet.  There is a lot of good stuff out there and there is a lot of junk out there.  The requirements to be certified can range from months of studying to take  a proctored exam all the way to a weekend seminar that ends with an open book exam.

In comes the NCCA to the rescue!  The NCCA (National Commission For Certifying Agencies) is an agency that basically has pretty high standards for who they will put their seal of approval.  The process is rigorous and the certifying that come out on the other side with the stamp are the top of their fields.  And the people who get certified by NCCA approved agencies are also the top of their field in the knowledge.

Well, that’s all fancy.  What does that mean?

It means that if you want to be a personal trainer you need to go with an organization that is NCCA approved.  That way you know that you are getting a top notch credential that you can carry just about anywhere.

(Note:  There are personal trainer certifications out there that while they appear flashy, awesome, and affordable you can’t use them in every gym.  You could find yourself stuck with nowhere to go.)

What are some NCCA approved Personal Trainer Certifications?

Here are the top FOUR (in no particular order): (Source: Best Personal Trainer Certification)

1) ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine)

ACSM tends to be more on the clinical side of exercise science and is well-known by other organizations for their research. These other organizations often cite ACSM research in their own documents. The test is to be taken very seriously because it is tough to pass.  ACSM is the oldest certifying agency for personal training.  Unfortunately, ACSM is also the most expensive certification.

2) ACE (American Council of Exercise)

ACE is the biggest and the most widely accepted certification out there.  ACE and NASM are pretty much the same in level of acceptance.  ACE provides a very wide base of knowledge which is good starting out.  You can then choose to specialize later.  The test is not the hardest out there but still requires you to study.

3) NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association)

NSCA was the first organization to be certified by NCCA and it leads the charge in cleaning up the personal training certifications industry. NSCA is very good for someone wanting to work in sports conditioning and training.  NSCA also offers the CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist) which requires people to hold a bachelor’s degree before even taking the test.  They aren’t playing around.

4) NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) <–That’s ME!!

NASM is mostly known for their focus on corrective exercise and their OPT model (Optimum Performance Training) for exercise and workout plan design.  You learn how to do a top notch screening process of clients to find muscle imbalances and then how to design a program to fix those problem areas.  NASM is preferred in most gyms and it has one of the hardest tests to pass.  The test is a proctored exam in a private testing facility and that, in my opinion, only increases its credibility. You also go in depth about how to train special populations like the elderly, pregnancy, youth, and healthy limitations.


There are other NCCA approved certifying organizations out there but the four above are the TOP four. Go hang out at each of their sites to learn more about each program, costs, methods of studying and testing, and specializations.   You can’t go wrong with any of those to BECOME a personal trainer or to HIRE a personal trainer.

Questions?  Feel free to comment or message me!! 🙂

Looking to HIRE a personal trainer?  Go check out my PERSONAL TRAINING SERVICES page for more information!!


Nope, Not All Personal Trainer Certifications Are Made The Same …