Last Updated on January 22, 2024

Personal training certifications are essential. This is especially true if you are interested in achieving financial freedom from the lucrative personal trainer business.

But with literally thousands of different personal training certifications out there how are you to know which one is the best and can offer you the knowledge, training and the chance at the greatest personal trainer salary?

Well, that’s what we’re going to help you do here. We have researched the most common personal training certifications available today and have provided you with unbiased reviews. You can choose the best personal training certification that fits to your individual needs.

AFPAAmerican Fitness Professionals & Associates (AFPA) Personal Training Certification

AFPA (American Fitness Professionals & Associates) personal training certification is a practical and current personal training certifications course that is based on current exercise science, sports medicine and nutrition guidelines. The AFPA has 17 different personal training certifications in the main fields of personal training. This helps you determine what certification program is the most appropriate for your needs and goals.

While the AFPA personal training certification does not require any pre-requisites they do suggest that it would be to your benefit to have some education in the field of human anatomy. Some of their more specialized personal trainer certifications do require that you have a minimum of a 400 documented hours of one-on-one personal training experience.

The AFPA personal training certification also provides many “continuing education credits” for many of the better personal training certifications courses. This is one aspect that all of the top personal training certifications require to keep training certifications current. In order to keep your personal trainer certifications up to date in both knowledge and training ability, you must maintain current certification by submitting “continuing education credits”.

Usually your initial personal training certification is valid for approximately one or two years. You then need to obtain extra credits during this two year period and submit them in order to prove that you are up to date in the personal trainer industry and to retain your personal training certification. The AFPA personal training certification makes this easy regardless of what personal trainer certifications you currently hold.

nesta-logo-blackNational Endurance & Sports Trainers Association (NESTA) Personal Training Certification

NESTA certifications for personal training have been around since 1992 and are growing rapidly. They have currently certified over 8,000 top personal trainers in more than 20 countries. The NESTA (National Endurance & Sports Trainers Association) personal training certifications have been around since 1992.

NESTA does have some minimum qualifications you need to meet before you can be accepted, they include: A minimum age of sixteen and possess good reading skills; You should have some basic resistance training, aerobic, martial arts, or yoga experience; You need to be familiar with resistance equipment and exercise machines.

NESTA does require CEUs for recertification of its personal fitness trainers. NESTA requires 4.0 CEUs or 40 contact hours every 4 years to maintain certifications. The majority of personal training certifications offered by NESTA are inexpensive when compared to others. NESTA also offers an extremely large number of diverse personal training certifications. Chances are that if you are looking for very specific personal training certifications you’ll find it with NESTA. Personal trainer organizations like NESTA do follow a code of ethics and have high standards. This is very important because some just send you on your way after you pay a large certification fee.

nasmlogo newNational Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Personal Training Certification

The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) offers many certifications including the CPT or Certified Personal Trainer which is becoming one of the most popular and respected personal trainer certifications in the world today.

issa-logoInternational Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) Personal Training Certification

ISSA (International Sports Sciences Association) personal training certifications are recognized worldwide and are given very high level of respect. Fitness trainers, athletic trainers, aerobic instructors and medical professionals in every field of health care covet the ISSA personal trainer certifications. The ISSA personal training certifications also set the standards for other certifications for personal training in the fields of exercise assessment, nutritional planning, fitness instruction, sports medicine practice and post rehabilitation training. Certain aspects of the ISSA certifications for personal training are also taught in numerous colleges and universities around the world.

In addition to the tens of thousands of personal trainers worldwide who hold ISSA certifications for personal training, hundreds of physicians, chiropractors, coaches, physical therapists, athletic trainers, and health & fitness professionals have various ISSA certifications for personal training.

Another big benefit of the ISSA certifications for personal training is, unlike other certifications for personal training, there are no extra or hidden fees that you have to pay after you enroll. In addition, during and after you complete your personal trainer certifications course or courses, you will still receive unlimited personal training technical support. This will help you if you have problems with any study material, client questions, training questions or other problems or questions you have related to personal training.

Along with your ISSA personal trainer certification course, you also get training and information on how to open and run your own personal training business. This is an important and very valuable extra benefit because this is the area where you can earn a huge personal trainer salary. Some gyms will only pay you $10 an hour or so but if you have your own personal training business you can charge anywhere from $75 to $500 per session.

Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of the ISSA personal trainer certifications is that Charles Staley, B.Sc., MSS is the Vice President of Program Development. If you don’t know who Charles Staley is then you need to find out. Mr. Charles Staley is one of the foremost authorities in the health & fitness business and his personal training programs are among the best and most successful. Here is a little bit of information about Mr. Staley to better understand why the ISSA certifications for personal training are at the top.

Charles I. Staley, B.Sc., MSS, is a sports conditioning specialist and Vice President of Program Development for the International Sports Sciences Association. Mr. Staley is also an Olympic weightlifting coach, as well as a master’s level track and field competitor. He has coached elite athletes from many sports, including martial arts, boxing, track & field, football, Olympic weightlifting, and bodybuilding.

Staley has written over 150 published articles, and has lectured extensively on the topics of human performance and sport training. He has recently authored a text on conditioning for the martial arts, and has several other books in the planning stages. Staley’s award-winning site, is ranked among the top 50 in the world in the health & fitness category. With the ISSA certifications for personal training and the fact that Charles Staley is involved, you can be confident that you are getting the best.

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nsca logo

National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA) personal training certification

The National Strength & Conditioning Association has 2 certifications. The CSCS or Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and CPT or Certified Personal Trainer. The NSCACPT certification is known to have one of the most challenging exams of all certifications. NSCA certifications require a 4-year college degree.

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National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT) Personal Training Certification

The National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT) was founded in 1988 and their certifications for personal training are now among the top certifications for personal training worldwide. The NFPT currently has over 100 professional testing sites in the United States, Canada, Mexico and elsewhere. The NFPT provides: Affordable, convenient, comprehensive, and applicable personal trainer education; Credentials for consumer recognition of competence; Provides certified affiliates with ongoing education; Has a network of support and provides professional & profitable services to each certified trainer; Facilitates and encourages the exchange of ideas, knowledge, business experiences, and financial opportunities between all fitness administrators internationally, and a very informative and up-to-date member magazine.

ace logo e1412502135584American Council on Exercise (ACE) Personal Training Certification

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) personal training certification has a reputation of being easy to obtain. Not much worth saying here.

acsmAmerican College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Personal Training Certification

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is highly respected. However, its applicability is not suited for the gym, as the material is more clinical than for the use of majority of gym users. Some ACSM personal training certification require a college degree to be eligible to sit for the exam.

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propta logo

Private Trainers Association (PTA) Personal Training Certification

The Private Trainers Association is a certification program that has been around for almost 30 years. The uniqueness of PTA is that it is the certification that is supported by the most IFBB pro bodybuilders. To become certified by the Private Trainers Association you must hold a HS diploma, or an Associate or Bachelor’s degree, or you must be a competitor and belong to an association like the IFBB, NPC, AAU, ABA, NBA, WABBA, INBA or the PNBA. Two certifications are available. Private Trainers Certification and Nutrition Certification.

Level 1 & 2 Private Trainer and PPTA offers specialties such as Professional Private Trainer Certification. The Professional Private Trainer Certification is geared towards Trainers that want to advance in education and experience. This Certification Program features cutting-edge information, at a university level, its taught by university teachers and doctors. The PTA Professional Trainers Certification Curriculum includes, human anatomy, physiology, chemistry, kinesiology, microbiology, food nutrition and diet therapy, sport medicine, secrets and short cuts for faster results and recovery on a professional level, all aspects of weight training, strength training, dealing with all athletes, from basket ball players, to long distance runner, Olympic weight lifters, to gymnastics, self defense, cyclists, golf, aerobics, martial arts, wrestling and so on. This program teaches the Trainer a theoretical approach needed to excel and apply his knowledge as a Professional Trainer.

Certified Professional Trainer: This certification is made available to bodybuilding competitors that have earned a title through competition, and anyone that holds a bachelor degree related to health , fitness and nutrition. A weekend seminar, along with written tests and practical exams. Nutrition Consultant Certification: To obtain this certification, students must be certified private trainers, and must pass a required exam given for that specific advanced certification.

This Certification is available for online study. The PTA doesn’t accept credits from other organization such ISSA, NSCM, AFAA. The certification also requires 40 hours volunteering of clinic time during the course in atmosphere, as in a vitamin store, hospital, clinic or nutrition department. After students pass all the requirements for this certification, they have the right to use “CNS” after their name. Certified Nutrition Sub specialties are also available, such as: PTA Olympic Weight Lifting Coach Certification, PTA Dance Instructor, and Youth and Fitness Coach Certification.

Long Distance Certification. Students are able to get certified via the internet after completing the required amount of credits via the internet, required classes and written exams along with practical exams. The PTA Online Private training course allows students to self study at their own pace. All exams are taken online and the curriculum uses graphics and soon, a mixture of audio and video programs to compliment the textbook, lectures and practical application, videos that compliment the books for online study, which are available for purchase. Academy Training.

The Private Trainers Association Academy is an intensive 6 week, weekend-only, course with a curriculum divided among practical application training and in-class study comprised of lectures, class discussions, and guest speakers that include IFBB professionals, business managers, nutritionists, lawyers, and doctors affiliated with the Private Trainers Association. Although PTA academies are predominately in southern California they have been growing recently and expanding worldwide. Current academy locations include: California: Venice, West Hollywood, San Diego, Palm Desert, Orange County, Nevada: Las Vegas, Missouri: St. Louis, Florida: South Beach, Lebanon, Germany, Kuwait, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Poland, Russia (coming soon), Spain (coming soon).

PTA requires continuing education. All students must obtain 10 credit units throughout the year as required ongoing education (ROE). Classes are offered in scientific principles, anatomy, physiology, human sciences, energy, human performance, nutrition, food & diet therapy, business, conduct, adult health & fitness, and youth health and fitness. Costs at the time of article publication (May 2009) are $50 per unit. Personal training certification students are able to obtain ROE via the internet, by taking classes geared toward their education advancement. Internship programs are available. Students can attend and observe any director or examiner on work site while training clients to gain the knowledge and learn proper movement, proper application, proper spotting, program application, business, and communication.

While attending the internship program the student will earn a 2 credit units for every 4 hours spent with the director or examiner. Current locations can be seen by going to the website at

Other Benefits. The PTA is the only personal training certification trainer accreditation company that has established this FREE first-of-its-kind Insurance Services Division, comprised of independently licensed financial and insurance consultants and advisers. The US Private Trainers Association (PROPTA, USPTA, PTA) is accredited and approved by the Bureau for Private Post Secondary and Vocational Education (BPPVE), effective July 14, 2006.