The Top 10 Personal Training Certification Progams


Although changing careers may be daunting, becoming certified as a personal trainer is well worth the hard work. It is highly recommended that a personal trainer become certified through a reputable certification agency. The best personal trainer certifications require cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and/or automated external defibrillator (AED) certification, examinations and continuing education credits.

American College of Sports Medicine

  • The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has two non-clinical health and fitness certifications. In order to sit for the Certified Personal Trainer exam, the individual must have a high school diploma and adult CPR certification. The Certified Health Fitness Specialist must have an associate or bachelor’s degree in a health-related field, but beginning July 1, 2011, the minimum requirements will be bachelor’s degree in kinesiology or exercise science.

    American College of Sports Medicine
    401 West Michigan St.
    Indianapolis, IN 46202

National Strength and Conditioning Association

  • The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) has two fitness certifications. Before taking the NSCA-certified Personal Trainer exam, an individual must be at least 18 years old with a high school diploma. Although a college degree is not required, knowledge of exercise physiology, biomechanics and anatomy as well as program design are encouraged before taking the exam. Individuals must have a bachelor's degree or a chiropractic medicine degree in addition to a current CPR and AED certification before taking the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist exam.

    National Strength and Conditioning Association
    1885 Bob Johnson Dr.
    Colorado Springs, CO 80906

National Academy of Sports Medicine

  • The National Academy of Sports Medicine has three certifications. To sit for the Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) Certification exam, the individual must be at least 18 years old. CPR and AED certification are required as well.
    If a personal trainer wants to work with professional athletes, the Performance Enhancement Specialist (PES) will provide training techniques designed to enhance athletic performance with an optional in-depth training program. An exam is provided at the end of program. Prerequisites include either a current NASM-CPT certification or other health and fitness certification that is accredited. A four-year college degree in a related field will suffice as a prerequisite if a personal training certification is not available.

    A Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES) certification is available as well. This certification provides injury prevention techniques for the personal trainer. The main focus in the in-depth CES training program is musculoskeletal impairments and muscle imbalances. Prerequisites are the same as PES.

    National Academy of Sports Medicine
    26632 Agoura Rd.
    Calabasas, CA 91302

Cooper Institute

  • In order to sit for the Cooper Institute Certified Personal Trainer exam, the individual must be at least 18 years of age and have a current CPR certification. The Cooper Institute was established by Kenneth Cooper, M.D., M.P.H. Cooper is known for his interest in preserving health through exercise and coined the word “aerobics.”

    The Cooper Institute
    12330 Preston Rd.
    Dallas, TX 75230

American Council on Exercise

  • To be eligible to sit for the ACE Personal Trainer certification exam, the individual must be at least 18 years of age and carry a current CPR and AED certificate. Additional certifications, such as Lifestyle & Weight Management Consultant, Advanced Health & Fitness Specialist and Peer Fitness Trainer, require additional prerequisites to take the exams. Depending on the certification, holding a NCCA-accredited personal trainer certification and/or bachelor’s degree are required. The Advanced Health & Fitness Specialist requires 300 hours of documented experience developing exercise programs.

    American Council on Exercise
    4851 Paramount Dr.
    San Diego, CA 92123

Additional Certification Programs

  • Altough accredited, some personal trainer certifications are not as easily recognized as the agencies listed above. The lack of familiarity may be partially due to lack of marketing for the agency and/or preference of the local fitness centers. It may be helpful to call local fitness centers to find which personal training certification is preferred prior to taking the exam.
    Additional agencies that offer personal training certifications are The National Federation of Personal Trainers (NFPT), International Sports Science Association (ISSA), American Aerobic Association International/ International Sports Medicine Association (AAAI/ISMA), American Fitness Professionals & Associates (AFPA) and National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association (NESTA).

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