Which Personal Trainer Certification is Best

Gordon K., August 4, 2021

Home   »   Blog  »   Which Personal Trainer Certification is Best

In the past articles, we have talked about business practices and how much money a personal trainer can make. We have also talked about certifications, but not in-depth with the different types that a trainer can obtain. We plan to cover the details and variety of organizations that offer certifications for personal training. This article can be useful whether you are aiming at offering sessions physically at a gym or if you’re wondering how to start an online personal training business.

Being certified is a great investment for your career, and can give you a boost for the duration of your career. The team here at Persona has personally researched and handpicked our list of 5 certifications for Personal Trainers, you don’t want to miss out on this!

What Personal Trainer Certificate is Most Respected


To start off the list ACE or the American Council on Exercise offers a fantastic fitness program to get certified. They even have their own school- ACE University, which according to the website offers, “Interactive digital study experience featuring multimodal learning through online learning activities, video lessons, reading assignments, quizzes and more.” With the basic fundamentals, you will be ready and prepared to ace that exam. At the time of writing this article, prices range from $269 to $449, with 3 tiers of packages- basic, plus, and advantage.

To save our readers time, the packages are pretty similar but do have differences. The most expensive one, which is the advantage package ($449) compared to the others, offers a retest voucher, expanded ACE university, as well as more practice tests.

The plus package ($359) offers similar items except there will be fewer practice tests, and you will have to pay extra to retake the exam. Lastly, the basic package ($269) offers the basics, but compared to other plans will not come with a hardcopy handbook, as well as the other features previously mentioned. There are over 90,000 ACE-certified pros and you can potentially be one of them through this program.


Also known as the Athletics and Fitness Association of America, has been in business for over 35 years. Their certification exam is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies or the NCCA for short, so you know you are in good hands throughout the process. According to the website, the program covers topics such as foundations of nutrition and healthy eating, business skills and professional responsibilities, essentials of exercise and physiology, and many more.

The course curriculum consists of 4 sections of modules and a final exam to be certified. Now the most important part, the price and how much this certification will cost you. At the time of writing this article, there are 4 different plans- basic, self-study, premium self-study, and all-inclusive + virtual coaching being the most costly one. For time’s sake, we will be going over the most expensive and the lowest cost plan. The two plans both include the basics which are the online course, NCAA accredited exam, digital textbook, and the practice exam and quizzes.

The most expensive plan includes all of the features previously mentioned plus a job guarantee, exam retest, a hardcover textbook, the ability to recertify for life, and virtual coaching. It is up to you whether these features are worth it or not, but luckily the AFAA offers payment plans. These payment plans range from $25 to $80 per month. Just wanted to add that you will have 120 minutes for the final exam, and to pass you need to get 70% or more of the questions correct. Good luck and get to studying!    


A very reputable name in the fitness industry and founded in 1987. the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) offers different types of certifications, but their personal training certifications seem to be its best-seller and can be completed in as few as 4 weeks.

NASM has helped over 1.3 million fitness professionals become educated and has 10,000+ partnerships with gyms and health clubs all over the world. Now the most important question of the century, how much does it cost to be certified? On the NASM website, there are 4 different types of plans ranging from basic to the best value.

The basic plan costs $629 and the best value plan with a lot of features costs $1,889. Don’t worry about the big price tags, there are interest-free payment plans as low as $55 a month. Now let’s compare the best value plan and basic plan because the price difference is a little more than doubled. With the best value plan ($1,889) you are guaranteed a job within 90 days upon successful completion of the certification. You can read our full article about the best life coach certification.

NASM believes in their products and professionals and is willing to refund you the fee of the job guarantee if a job is not found within 90 days. Another one of the many features that come with the best value plan is allowing test retakes and the ability to recertify for life. Every two years NASM requires its certified trainers to recertify in order to maintain credentials. With the best value plan, there is no charge for recertification, but on the other hand, the basic plan does not cover that cost. With over 4 plans and a lot of possibilities, you can choose the one that fits the most with your budget.       


Or the National Federation of Professional Trainers offers certification in personal training. Their program is also NCAA accredited, and prices range from $199-$349. NFPT offers a unique opportunity, you can pay them just to take the certification exam and potentially test out. This option saves a lot of time especially if you are very knowledgeable in the field. Just a heads up this does not include any study materials. Also in order to take the exam- you need a high school diploma, a government-issued photo ID, and be over the age of 18. NFPT seems to be really straightforward with their program and at the time of writing this article is offering $100 off their certification. 


Which is also short for the American College of Sports Medicine is a non-profit organization based in Indiana. They were founded in 1954 and have more than 50,000 members and certified professionals in their network. Their website is very simple and straight to the point, similar to their prices of certification. Exams cost $279 for ACSM members, and for non-members, it will cost them $349. The retest fee is $175 and you do have to pay a recertifying cost of $45 every 3 years. Both of these costs are not bad at all and seem to be the lowest compared to the other organizations we have talked about in this article.

Unfortunately, the testing material and textbooks are not included with the price, so you do have to add that to the cost of the exam. Also upon looking at their website, they do not seem to have a payment plan for their certification process. All fees are due upfront, but they do offer a free certified guide for beginners.

The ACSM is very transparent with its practices and actually has a chart on its website which compares itself to the other certifications companies. They are doing our jobs, but we aren’t the only ones comparing the different types of certifications. If you want to go with an organization that is straight to the point, the ACSM might be the way to go.  


Now you are probably wondering which organization is the best to get your certification from, or you skipped straight to this part. No worries, sometimes I love to get straight to the point and find out which one was the best result. The beauty of the personal training certification is that there is not a one size fits all approach. Some companies charge hefty prices for their packages and offer payment plans while others do not. If you prefer to pay monthly vs the whole amount at once the AFAA, ACE, and NASM seem to be the best option for your budget.

The NFT offers the ability to pay half the price upfront and the other half later. Also if you are a very knowledgeable personal trainer and have many years of experience, you can utilize the test-out method from NFT and get your certification fast. Another factor in finding the ideal certification is confidence in your test-taking abilities. If you do not think you can pass the test the first time, you would want to choose an organization that has a low retest fee. In that case, the ACSM would be the best fit, the retest fee is the lowest of them all at $175.

Regardless of what you choose these are all great accredited organizations, and we wish all of you great luck in the process! 

Persona is the #1 management platform for independent business owners. it's 100% free, download it now.


Persona is the #1 management platform for independent business owners. Download it now, it's 100% free.