When just starting out to become a personal trainer, one of the first things you’ll want to do is to get certified. One of the first programs that comes to mind is the National Academy of Sports Medine (NASM) CPT program.
A certification indicates that you meet a certain standard of competence in the profession and can provide you with a competitive advantage in the job market. A certification provides credibility.
Many different certifications are available to fitness professionals. The most fundamental and essential is the Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) certification. The CPT is one of the best launching pads to gain entry into the exciting world of personal training.
Ask around a bit and you’ll find that most gyms, fitness studios and personal trainers will tell you that the NASM CPT Certification is perhaps the most widely accepted personal training certification and often regarded as “the industry standard”.
The NASM CPT program is what I selected to get my own start as a trainer many years ago.
Read on to learn more about how the NASM CPT may be the right fit for you.
NASM CPT Certification Review
For over 30 years, NASM has helped fitness professionals to become more knowledgeable about their profession while boosting their careers.
NASM offers a long list of certifications, including the CPT, which is their “bread and butter” certification.
Other specialization certifications include Advanced NASM fitness certifications include Performance Enhancement Specialist (PES), Weight-Loss Specialization (WLS) and Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES). Although, it’s usually recommended that you save specializations like these for later in your career after obtaining your CPT certification.
What I really like about the NASM CPT program is its easy-to-follow content, relevant and accurate information and handy study materials. The program comes with everything you need to successfully nail the exam.
You can tell that the people behind NASM are academically sound in the material and the info is presented in a manner that reinforces and encourages learning.
NASM also does a great job of organizing the material so that it is beginner friendly yet rigorous enough to challenge those who’ve already got a bit of hands-on experience under their belt.
Further, NASM is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), which is an independent agency that accredits certification programs. This serves to reinforce the strong reputation NASM has in the market.
What’s In The NASM CPT Certification Program?
NASM’s CPT certification program model was designed with entry-level to advanced students in mind. The CPT program covers these six key areas:
- Basic exercise science, anatomy and nutrition
- Client assessment
- Program design
- Exercise technique and training instruction
- Client relations and behavioral coaching
- Professional development, responsibility and building a business
The NASM curriculum is built around its proprietary Optimum Performance Training (OPT) model. The OPT model is a science-based program that progresses an individual through five training phases:
- Stabilization Endurance
- Strength Endurance
- Maximal Strength
On a fundamental level, the OPT model makes sense as you’d begin training a client’s stability and endurance
before moving on to more challenging strength and power movements. As in practice, you certainly wouldn’t have a client start out with a fully-loaded Olympic-style snatch before they could perform a stable body weight squat.
The OPT model is versatile and can be applied to professional and recreational athletes alike – whether to increase performance, decrease body fat, build lean muscle mass, or improve overall health.
In other words, the OPT model works on just about all client populations.
Studying and applying the OPT framework enables you to build a replicable program to produce reliably consistent results for your clients.
For more detail on the topics covered, be sure to check out the official NASM CPT Exam study guide here.
Packages and Pricing of the NASM CPT
NASM offers four CPT packages to choose from based on your budget and study preferences.
The basic Self-Study package (priced at $699) has all you need to pass the exam and get certified as a personal trainer, including:
- Online course
- CPT exam
- Digital textbook
- Video content and modules
- Exercise library
- Practice CPT exam and questions
The other three higher-tier packages offer everything found in the Self-Study package along with additional premium content. However, keep in mind you’ll end up paying quite a bit more for these extras. Extras include:
- Exam Retest – Failed the first time? Take it a second time without paying a fee.
- Hardcopy Textbook – Many students prefer the ability to flip through pages and highlight important text.
- Job Guarantee – NASM guarantees you’ll find a job within 90 days of obtaining your CPT certification, or your money back. (Rules and restrictions apply. NASM will verify your job search before sending a refund for this portion only).
- NASM EDGE CPT Software – A handy smartphone app to systematize the whole training experience for you and your clients.
- Gymternship – NASM will attempt to place you in an internship with one of their partnering facilities. You’ll receive hands-on experience and learn from expert trainers.
Premium content varies based on the package selected. Package features are summarized in the table below.
Online Course & Content
NASM Edge CPT Software
The NASM CPT program costs a pretty penny and certainly isn’t cheap, but it is an important investment into your career and self development as a fitness professional.
The hardcopy textbook can be purchased directly through NASM for $199, or, you can usually find the latest edition (6th edition JBL) at a lower price through Amazon.
While it is possible to purchase and sit for the CPT exam only, it will still run you $599. The exam-only option is typically excluded from promotions or discounts and comes with nearly the same price tag as the self-study package, so you might as well purchase the study materials that come along with it for the extra $100.
If you’re unable to pay the enrollment fee in full, there are a number of NASM payment plans options – either 4 or 12 monthly payments – completely interest free. That’s 0% interest!
Payment plans can also be combined with any current promotions or discounts, which are run multiple times throughout the year.
NASM CPT Exam Eligibility Requirements
To be eligible to sit for the NASM Personal Trainer Certification Exam, you must:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have a high school diploma or GED
- Hold a current cardiopulmonary resuscitation / automated external defibrillator (CPR/AED) certification
You will be eligible to schedule your exam three business days after signing up with NASM and will be required to schedule your exam appointment at least 72 hours in advance.
At the testing center on the day of, you will be required to show proof of a valid, current, government-issued photo ID as well as your valid CPR/AED certification.
CPR/AED certifications are accepted from most major organizations such as the American Heart Association and American Red Cross, although any licensed CPR/AED provider should be accepted as long as there is a hands-on component of the training.
NASM CPT Exam Passing Score
The NASM personal training certification exam has a 2 hour time limit and includes 120 multiple-choice questions, 20 of which are research “pretest” questions that do not count against your final score.
In order to pass, you’ll need to score a 70% or above on the 100 questions.
You’ll receive your exam results (pass/fail) immediately upon completing your test – on the spot.
The most recent data shows that the NASM CPT pass rate is approximately 66% (i.e. 2/3 of candidates taking the test will pass with a score of 70 and above).
If you do not pass the exam on the first attempt, you may purchase a retest and will be allowed to retake the exam after a one week waiting period. If you’re still unable to pass after the second attempt, you’ll need to wait 30 days before the exam a third time.
After the third unsuccessful attempt, you’ll be required to wait one whole year before trying again, so be sure you study hard and are well prepared!
Recertification and Continuing Education Requirements
As a NASM CPT, you’re required to get recertified every two years.
The recertification process includes obtaining at least 2.0 Continuing Education Units (CEUs).
CEUs represent the number of direct hours spent learning in the continuing education course, with one hour being equivalent to 0.1 CEU. This means every two years you will need to complete at least 20 hours of continuing education.
CEUs expand your expertise within the profession, ensuring you are up to date on current industry trends and best-practices.
You can obtain CEUs directly through NASM or through any of their approved course providers.
Be sure to retain any documentation of continuing education courses completed because recertification audits are performed at random. If your application is selected for an audit, you’ll have 30 days to submit supporting documentation to NASM for review.
Recertifying also comes with a fee of $99, or $399 for lifetime recertification. This is in addition to the cost of the CEU courses themselves.
All fitness professionals should be always in pursuit of more knowledge, regardless of the requirement to do so.
NASM CPT Pros and Cons
There are obviously a number of pros and cons to pursuing a NASM CPT, as is the case with any certification you’ll find.
- Great for beginners as well as experienced trainers
- Useful study materials and practice questions
- In-depth academic content
- Courses are tech friendly and can be accessed on most mobile devices
- Immediately-available exam results
- NCCA accredited
- Can be quite costly, especially for the premium content
- Recertification fees apply every 2 years unless you pay for the “Recertify for Life” option
- Hardcopy textbook is not included in the most basic package
Most people obtain their CPT just to land their first job and open up new career possibilities. However, on-the-job knowledge and hands-on practice is where you’ll learn most of the skills required to become a successful trainer.
Once you’ve got a strong grasp of the movement science, nutrition and training fundamentals, the rest of it comes down to marketing and landing clients.
In most cases, clients will never ask you which certifications you have, but a potential employer will.
While the NASM CPT is accepted by most gyms, be sure to check with the facility you’d like to work with before signing up to be sure.
NASM offers a one-time-only free trial of the CPT online self-study learning tools from the first two modules. The free trial should provide you with a general idea of the course content and study materials, to help you make your decision.
The NASM CPT is highly regarded and recognized within the fitness industry due to its technically-strong personal training framework and supplemental training materials.
The course material is easy-to-understand and great for those who are just starting out to learn the basics of being a personal trainer.
I started my career off via the NASM CPT and would recommend it for anyone looking for a solid choice. It gave me all of the basic knowledge and confidence I needed to kickstart my career as a trainer.
With all of the program materials and comprehensive information available, you could be a NASM Certified Personal Trainer in just a matter of a few weeks. So, stop delaying and sign up today!