Now that you’ve decided to become a certified personal trainer, what comes next?
Well, one of the first things you’ll want to do is to get your personal training certification.
A certification indicates that you meet a certain standard within the profession and it adds a bit of credibility to your name.
While there are many different professional certifications one can pursue, the most fundamental and essential is the Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) certification.
The CPT provides the basic knowledge needed to start training clients and programming workouts to help them achieve their fitness goals.
What Can You Specialize in as a Personal Trainer?
The CPT is one of the best launching pads to an exciting career in personal training, which can take you in many exciting directions.
Some fitness professionals yearn to instruct Yoga or kickboxing, while others may wish to work exclusively with the elderly or obese populations.
This is where specializations come in. You can earn credentialing in countless other disciplines within the fitness coaching industry.
Some of the other specializations and types of fitness certifications available include:
- Weight loss specialist
- Strength and conditioning coach
- Senior/youth fitness specialist
- Spinning/Indoor cycling
- Zumba instructor
- Pilates instructor
- Yoga instructor
- Martial arts instructor
While an experienced trainer often holds multiple certifications and/or specializations, we recommend that you pursue specializations like these only once you’ve nailed the CPT certification.
Where Do I Sign Up?
As you can see from the list above, there are a ton of specializations available to fitness professionals. However, it’s important to note that certifications will often be offered (marketed and sold) by multiple organizations with their organization/company name attached.
Even after narrowing down the certification or specialization you’d like to pursue, with so many certifying organizations, it can still be overwhelming to decide which one to invest your hard earned money into!
Some of the most widely recognized CPT programs in the industry are offered by the following:
- National Association of Sports Medicine (NASM)
- American Council on Exercise (ACE)
- American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
- National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association (NESTA)
- National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
- The International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA)
So, how do you know which personal training certification is best for you?
The good news is that most of these “big name” certifying organizations have been around for a while and have a strong industry reputation behind their programs.
It’s a good idea to check whether a certification program has been accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). The NCCA is an independent agency that sets the standards for and accredits certification programs.
We’ve summarized the general info in the table below:
Non Profit or For Profit
What’s in a CPT Certification Program?
At the end of the day, you will find that all CPT programs are very similar in terms of content. It’s just science, after all!
A typical CPT program will cover the following areas:
- Basic exercise science, anatomy and nutrition
- Client assessment and program design
- Exercise technique and instruction
- Client relationships and coaching
- Professional development and responsibility
- Business basics
That sure seems like a lot to learn!
Even if you’re completely new to personal training, keep in mind that the CPT is designed with beginning to advanced students in mind. The really advanced and complicated stuff is saved for the specializations.
Packages and Pricing of a CPT Program
Most CPT programs offer a variety of packages to accommodate a range of budgets and study preferences.
Typical package offerings include:
- Basic self-study package
- Intermediate study package (some extras)
- Advanced study package (a bunch of extras)
The lowest price self-study packages typically have all you need to pass the exam and become a certified personal trainer. This generally includes:
- Online course and digital study materials
- CPT exam
- Practice CPT exam and questions
The 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.
Below is a comparison of the most basic self-study package available from each organization.
Digital Course & Content
Hardcopy Text Book
*Denotes that the price represents the exam only. Additional study materials may be purchased separately.
The CPT certification program isn’t cheap and will run you a few hundred bucks, but it is an important investment into your career and development as a fitness professional.
Compared to the price of attending a full-time university program, getting certified is a bargain!
If you’re looking to save a bit and study on the cheap, most of the certifying organizations allow you to purchase just the exam, at a cheaper price. However, the savings isn’t always worth it considering how much study material is included in a self-study package.
Additionally, you can often find the textbook and other study materials through Amazon and other online retailers.
Exam Eligibility Requirements
Eligibility requirements to sit for the Personal Trainer Certification exam are typically as follows:
- At least 18 years of age
- Have a high school diploma or GED
- Hold a current cardiopulmonary resuscitation / automated external defibrillator (CPR/AED) certification
Requirements may vary between organizations, so be sure to check with your CPT program before signing up.
Prior to taking the exam, 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 major providers such as the American Heart Association and American Red Cross, as well as smaller licensed and approved CPR/AED providers, as long as there is a hands-on component of the training.
Taking and Passing the CPT Exam
Now that you’ve studied and filled your brain with all the personal training material you could contain, it’s time to take the CPT exam.
You can typically take the exam either online or at a live testing center. Keep in mind that the online exam will be remotely proctored or monitored to prevent any testing misconduct.
You’ll generally receive your exam results (pass/fail) immediately upon completing your test. If you pass, a certificate of completion will be mailed and/or emailed to you.
Industry data shows that the average CPT pass rate is about 70%.
If you do not pass the exam on the first attempt, don’t fret. You can typically retake the exam for a nominal fee.
Do your best to study vigorously so that you can avoid the headache and hassle of taking the exam more than once.
Recertification and Continuing Education Requirements
As with any profession, personal trainers are expected to sharpen their skills and to stay on top of the latest industry trends and best-practices.
This is achieved through ongoing study and the completion of Continuing Education Units (CEUs).
CEUs represent the number of hours spent learning the topic and help to expand your expertise within the profession
On average, every two years you will need to complete at least 20 hours of continuing education to keep your certification current.
You can obtain CEUs directly through your certifying organization or any of their approved course providers. The price of continuing education courses varies depending on the topic and course length.
We believe that all professionals should always strive to learn more, regardless of a textbook requirement to do so.
You Should Know
Most get their personal training certification simply to land their first job, open new career opportunities and to add the letters “CPT” to their name. However, on-the-job knowledge and hands-on practice will provide you most of the skills required to become a successful trainer.
Once you’ve got a strong grasp of the fundamentals of movement science, nutrition and training, the rest comes down to your marketing and ability to land clients.
It’s rare that a client will ask you which certifications you have, but a potential employer almost always will.
While most gyms will accept the many common certifications, be sure to check with the facility in advance to be sure.
Some of the CPT certification programs offer a free trial. For example, here is the link to the NASM free trial. The free trial should allow you to evaluate the course content and study materials, to make a well-informed decision.
While there’s no “best” or “easiest” personal training certification, we like the National Association of Sports Medicine (NASM) CPT certification as it is one of the most commonly accepted personal training certifications and is often considered “the industry standard”.
Deciding to become a personal trainer is the first step, and getting certified is the next. A personal training certification adds credibility to your experience and helps to open more doors in your career.
Whether you’re interested in traditional 1 on 1 personal training and weight loss programming, or you prefer to focus on bodybuilding and strongman training, there is a specialization out there for you.
With all of the choices and CPT programs available, you could be a Certified Personal Trainer in just a matter of a few short weeks. So, be sure to sign up today!