Most Recognized Personal Training Certifications


If you are a mom wanting to lose weight or you are considering a career as a personal trainer, you want to make sure you get certified by an industry-respected organization. For example, some personal training certifications carry more weight than others. Having certification shows that you understand not only what to train but how to go about it so you can help your clients avoid injury.


Compared to other industries, the personal fitness industry is young. Many leading organizations began in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1985, the American Council of Exercise (ACE) was established. In 2010, this non-profit organization reported more than 50,000 personal training professionals holding an ACE certification, making it one of the most recognized certifications. Another leading organization is the the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). In 1996, its Certified Personal Trainer program became the first accredited personal training program for the industry.


In 2008, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in its Occupational Employment Statistics that an estimated 229,030 people work in the personal fitness and aerobic instructions industry. Since the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) began accrediting programs for personal training in 1996, most businesses expect applicants to have a current certification in order for consideration as a potential employee. People who want to hire a certified personal trainer will also expect their fitness trainer to have some type of current documentation.


Personal training certifications can be accredited or non-accredited. The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) recommends individuals select an accredited program. To earn accreditation, an organization or program must undergo evaluation from a qualified third party, such as the NCCA, and pass the evaluation. Some programs will provide a complete education whereas others will certify participants in a specific area, like yoga or step aerobics.

Personal Training Levels

While many organizations, like the NASM, offer one general certification program, you may want to consider additional courses. With ACE, you may decide to continue your education after you obtain your personal trainer certification. ACE’s specialized certifications allow you to work with children or seniors. You can also specialize in topics like nutrition and weight management. Aerobic and other fitness instructors get certifications specific to their classes and do not usually get personal trainer certifications.

Certification Organizations

Several organizations offer personal training certification; however, some organizations have national recognition for their programs. These include ACE, NASM, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), NSCA, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) and the National Personal Trainer Institute (NPTI). While nationally recognized, each program varies in what it offers. Some offer hands-on training while others provide subject matter and test program participants on the material.

Expert Insight

Professional organizations like Bally Total Fitness, Life Time Fitness, 24Hour Fitness and Gold’s Gym often have preferred certification organizations. This means the fitness centers will recognize some personal training certifications as carrying more weight than others. 24 Hour Fitness lists certification from ACE, ACSM, NASM or NSCA in its company job descriptions for personal trainers. On its personal trainer job description, Life Time Fitness lists more options, including Cooper Fitness certification, NATA and NPTI.

Photo Credit

  • fitness trainer image by Andrejs Pidjass from



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