Personal Trainer Certification and Requirements

Everyone has seen them at the gym -- those super fit trainers who are helping clients, either one-on-one or in a group setting, to get and stay physically fit. Whether it's working towards a personal fitness goal or training for athletic competition, clients look to fitness trainers for fitness and nutrition guidance, feedback and advice. Their responsibilities can include showing clients how to do specific types of exercises, supervising them as they do techniques while providing them with tips and pointers, and measuring their progress toward completion of a goal or program.

Personal trainers may also provide advice to clients about nutrition, lifestyle and weight control, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov). In fact, a steady demand for fitness experts is expected from 2012 to 2022. This is due to a growing Baby Boomer population staying in better shape and businesses that are starting to prioritize health and fitness -- even offering wellness incentives to employees. Depending on your career goals, varying education is needed to enter the field. Usually a diploma or associate degree can provide the basic knowledge and skills, but certification can be helpful to finding employment opportunities or to showcasing skills to clientele.

Educational requirements for personal trainers

An associate degree may be helpful to entering the personal training field, according to the BLS, but a wide variety of degrees are available that range from a two-year degree in exercise science to a bachelor's degree in health and fitness. Even master's degrees in areas like health and fitness or exercise science and health promotion can be found. However, you can also find personal trainer programs available at the diploma level, often through a community college or career-oriented school, that can also supply you with personal trainer skills and knowledge. Often, at the undergraduate level, this education focuses on business management, fitness assessment, kinesiology, nutrition, and exercise program design. An externship will often be part of these programs, enabling you to gain hands-on skills working with clients, or beside a personal trainer who is already certified, in a fitness facility.

Benefits of personal trainer certification

Certification from a fitness organization may help showcase your potential to work with and successfully train clients. One of the top reasons to become certified, according to the BLS, is that employers may look to hire certified personal trainers over those who are not certified. However, there are many different types of personal trainer certifications available and you may want to find the certification (or certifications) that best attest to your skills and experiences or that a facility or gym may want to see before hiring. At the very least, most people entering the field have a high school diploma or a GED, and to sit for a certifying exam, typically need to have CPR and automated external defibrillator (AED) certification. Below are some personal trainer certifications that are available:

  • American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM): A variety of health fitness, clinical and specialty certifications are available through this organization, founded in 1954, that include certified personal trainer (CPT). Certification testing is available at Pearson VUE sites across the country, and ACSM has study guides and review materials available to help testing candidates.
  • American Council on Education (ACE): Four fitness certifications are available through ACE, including personal trainer, group fitness instructor, ACE health coach, and advanced health and fitness specialist, as well as nine specialty certifications ranging from fitness nutrition to therapeutic exercise. Computer exams are available at sites across the country, but in some cases paper examinations may be available.
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM): For more than 20 years, this organization has offered certification, continuing education, and health and fitness tools to personal trainers and others interested in fitness. NASM provides a personal fitness certification as well as performance enhancement and corrective exercise specializations.
  • National Exercise Trainers Associations (NETA): More than 130,000 fitness professionals have been certified through NETA since its founding in 1977. A variety of certifications and specializations are offered, including CPT certification that can be taken either by registering for a two-day preparation workshop or by registering online to take the exam at one of more than 500 Comira testing sites.
  • National Federation of Personal Trainers (NFPT): This organization has offered certified professional trainer (CPT) credentials to entry-level trainers since 1998, and has testing available at more than 350 locations across the country. The exam has 120 multiple-choice questions based on nine content categories.

All of these fitness and personal trainer certifications require continuing education and renewal that may be needed later anywhere from one to three years. There is a cost for both the initial certifying exam as well as the renewal exam, and the training and educational materials typically have a cost associated with them as well.


ACE Certification Exams, American Council on Education, http://www.acefitness.org/certificationexams/default.aspx

Associate's Degree in Exercise Science with an Emphasis in Personal Training, International Sports Sciences Association, http://www.issaonline.edu/ces/health-fitness-sciences/personal-training.cfm

CPT Exam Information, National Academy of Sports Medicine, http://www.nasm.org/become-a-personal-trainer/personal-trainer-certification-exam

Fitness Trainers and Instructors, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/fitness-trainers-and-instructors.htm - tab-4

Get Certified, American College of Sports Medicine, http://certification.acsm.org/get-certified

Personal Fitness, Keystone Technical Institute, http://kti.edu/diploma-programs/fitness-trainer-diploma/

Personal Trainer Certification, National Exercise Trainers Association, http://www.netafit.org/certification/personaltrainer.htm

Personal Trainer Certification, National Federation of Personal Trainers, http://www.nfpt.com/certification

Personal Trainer Schools

Refine School Matches
Hide filters
  • SUBJECT Clear All

    See More


    See More



    Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.
            Results open in new window

            Searching Searching ...

            Matching School Ads
            Personal Training Certificate

            • Originally founded in 1916 as the Swedish Institute of Physiotherapy, it is one of the oldest continuously operating massage therapy institutions in the country.
            • Features a public massage clinic where students can get real-world experience.
            • Nationally accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
            • Programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

            Show more [+]
            • Accredited
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            Personal Trainer
            • It's never too late for a fresh start. With programs ranging from business administration to HVAC technology, there's an opportunity for you at Bryan University to transform your skills into a career.
            • At Bryan University, you'll have access to career services including practice interviews, resume prep, job referrals, and career development classes that can help you along your path to success.
            • Here at BU, we supply you with the tools to succeed including access to one of largest online content repositories in the world, so you can use research to gain industry insight.
            • With a degree from Bryan University, you'll receive personalized instruction from experienced faculty, course scheduling that fits your life, and career and academic resources to help you succeed.
            • Campus locations include Columbia, Rogers, Springfield and Topeka as well as online. Experience the flexibility and hands-on training Bryan University offers and take a step toward your career today!
            Personal Fitness Trainer/Health and Wellness Professional Program
            • Offers training in various types of massage therapy, physical therapy/sports rehab, and personal fitness training & wellness.
            • Teaches in an environment that promotes learning and encourages empathetic and compassionate therapists.
            • Career service professionals work directly with students from the start of their program, and help them pursue employment in day spas, luxury hotels, cruise ships, and other locations.
            • Students can work in the SOCHI Massage Clinic to gain experience and build their career skills.
            • Financial aid representatives help students develop a personalized financial plan to finance their tuition.
            Show more [+]
            • Financial Aid
            Associate of Science in Sports Medicine and Fitness Technology

            Since 1977, Keiser University has maintained a practical, hands-on approach to career education to help our students achieve their personal and professional goals.  Our student-centered approach remains at the foundation of the Keiser University mission and continues to attract students who prefer a more personal learning experience. 

            Fitness Specialist
            • Morning, afternoon, evening and weekend classes are available.
            • Offers lifetime career assistance services to graduates, including resume and cover letter assistance, employer networking, and one-on-one employment counseling.
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET).
            • 8 campuses located across California, with 3 additional campuses in New Hampshire and Maine and online options.
            Show more [+]
            • Accredited
            • Financial Aid