Update 7/12/19. As I write these words, there are over 100 different fitness organizations that certify personal trainers. For many people wanting to get certified, choosing a personal trainer cert is as easy as saying “ACE” or “NASM” while for others, it's paralysis by analysis. There are so many letters (acronyms) out there ―and each organization tries as well as it can to make itself out to be the best certification ―that it's hard to decide. Further complicating all this is the growing interest in online personal trainer certifications. Are online personal trainer certifications worth it? Is there a best online personal training certification? My goal with this review is not to say one cert is better than another, but rather to give you insights – and questions to think about – so you can make a more informed decision about which might be right for you. Leave comments at the end if you have any questions or want me to address anything.
Fitness Certification Reviews
- AAAI/ISMA Review
- ACSM Review
- ACE Review
- NASM Review
- NASM vs. NSCA Review
- PTA Global Review
- WITS Review
- PTA Global Review
Certificate vs. Certification
When I searched for “online personal trainer certification” one thing I noticed is that not all programs are offered through the official certification organizations (like ACE, for example). In other words, some of the online courses offered through colleges prepare people to take an organization's certification exam.
The thing to remember is that a certificate of completion (or diploma) is not the same as a personal trainer certification. There is a difference between a personal trainer certification and:
- Certificates of completion
A Certificate of Completion only shows that you completed the program. The same is true for a diploma from an online school. While these are good if you have them, I don't think most gyms accept a certificate of completion (or a diploma) as evidence that a trainer is “certified.” This is why online programs often pay for graduates to take personal trainer certification exams.
Think about it, if the certificate was as good, why do these online schools also pay for the certification? It's because they are not the same thing.
On the plus side, a certificate of completion or diploma can add value to those who are already certified. It says to employers that you care about your career and are willing to invest time – and money – to further your education.
With that in mind, let's now take a look at a couple of such certificate-type programs.
US Career Institute
For example, the US Career Institute offers a self-paced personal training program. Basically, they send you all the study materials (including tests) and you complete the quizzes and tests at your own speed and send them back to the US Career Institute to be graded.
Those who go through the program and graduate are issued a certificate of completion by the US Career Institute. In addition, the Institute also pays for people to take the personal trainer certification offered by the National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF).
Tip. The US Career Institute issues the certificate while the NCSF issues the certification (if you pass the NCSF test).
The US Career Institute pays for the NCSF test and all study materials for those who go through their program (On their website, they say the NCSF cert costs about $300). The US Career institute program is $887 and includes all textbooks etc.
Here are the NCSF books on Amazon for those who are interested and want to read reviews of others:
An advantage of going through a program like that offered by the US Career Institute and others is people are able to interact with instructors and have access to a greater depth of learning, than if they just read the books on their own. This can make the difference between passing – and not passing – a certification test.
As I was researching for this review, I noticed that the National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF) shows up as the certification program at several online schools. At Ashworth College, their certificate program was $955 when I called them.
Like the US Career Institute, this is also a certificate of completion program. Those who complete the course are provided with the study materials needed to take the NCSF test. People must still pass the test, however.
Action Personal Trainer Cert
The Action Personal Trainer Certification (formally the ACT Certification) bills itself as a completely free certification. According to their website, after people sign up for the certification, they can download the .pdf version of their manual and study to pass the exam. If you fail the test, there is a $35 retesting fee.
For those who want extra help such as live instruction and teacher support, the cost is $65. If you want a hard copy of the book, they charge $29.95.
Here is the Action Personal Trainer Book on Amazon
From what I was able to gather from their website, there appear to be two versions of the Action Personal Trainer cert. Those versions are:
- The online test
- Certification exam
The certification exam is taken at a PSI/LaserGrade testing center. To take this certification exam, the testing center has a $60 testing fee. So, at the very least, this free certification will still cost people at least $60.
While ACTION says that both certifications are the same, they also say:
“Many people will elect to use the online exam as a warm up for the full certification exam.”
Notice that they used different words (“online exam” and “full certification exam”) to describe both programs. That makes me wonder if the online test might not be a certification test (Hey ACTION, please correct me if I am wrong about this).
Based on what I see on the ACTION website, it appears to be the online version of the ACTION trainer test is a certificate (not a certification). As such, those who want a certification in personal training through ACTION would still have to take a certification test at a PSI/LaserGrade testing center (which has a $60 testing fee).
One thing I wondered about with ACTION is where are they located? Is there a physical building? If there was, I couldn't find it on their website. I couldn't even find a phone number for ACTION. They appear to prefer email for communication.
ACTION Trainer Cert Contact Info
Update: here is the ACTION trainer cert contact info:
David Williams: 340 S Lemon Ave. #4620 Walnut CA, 91718
Phone number: 213-290-0993
The address on South Lemon street is the same as Virtual Post Mail (VirtualPostMail.com). This is a company that scans mail and adds it to a virtual post office box in the cloud.
Even when getting re-certified, ACTION wants trainers to submit re-certification documents (along with a $65 recertification fee) via a link they provide on a pdf documented available at their website.
Modesto also says there are no refunds once a purchase is made.
Expert Rating fitness certification is completely online personal trainer certification for $69.95. While some might think of Expert Rating as only a personal trainer certification organization, the company actually offers a BUNCH of other fitness-related certification programs including but not limited to:
- Sports Nutrition Certification
- Weight Loss Certification
- Life Coach Certification
- Senior Fitness Certification
- Youth Fitness Certification
Online Personal Trainer Certification and get 50% discount in combo
With the personal training cert, the process described on the website looks like this:
1. Buy the program
2. Log into the expert rating website with your password/username and go through the coursework
3. Take the certification exam at your leisure. You have 1 year from signing up to take the test.
You learn the results of the test as soon as you complete the test. Those who pass the test are mailed a personal training certification.
The American Fitness Institute
According to the American Fitness Institute (AFI) website “you can become an AFI certified personal trainers in as little as 8 weeks.” The website states that once you sign up “You can study the course at your own pace, ask us any questions you have along the way and then take the test when you’re ready—whether that’s in 2 weeks or 6 months. (Most trainers take the course within 28 days).”
One thing I noticed was on the “About AFI” page of the website, they don’t tell anything about the company. I was curious about which gyms accepted AFI, how many people were certified by AFI and how old the organization was. Unfortunately, I could not find that information.
The AFI website was registered in 2005 so I'd guess the organization dates back to at least then. There is a video on the About AFI page and that’s where I learned that the founder of the company is Evan Chacker. The Evan Chacker Linkedin profile notes that he has degrees in business and computer science.
The AFI personal trainer program is totally online and costs $499 and includes a CPR an AED certification (some gyms may not accept online CPR/AED certs).
You have 180 days (6 months) from the time you purchase the AFI program, to take the exam. If you fail the exam, the cost of the program includes 2 retests for free.
I could not find a contact phone number. On the contact Help Center page, people to submit their questions via email. For me, I did not like this.
International Sports Science Association
The International Sports Science Association (ISSA) is probably one of the best known self-paced/online personal trainer certifications out there. The entire program can be completed online. You have 8 months to complete the program after you sign up for the ISSA test. They say it takes the average person about 10 weeks to complete their program.
When you sign up for the ISSA program, you gain instant access to all the course work, and ISSA also ships you hard copies of the books, etc.
Here is the ISSA personal trainer book on Amazon.
You work at your own pace through several quizzes. After you have completed the quizzes (there are a total of 33 quizzes in the program), you are allowed to take the final exam. All 33 quizzes must be completed before the final exam can be taken.
According to the ISSA website, the personal trainer exam has 2 sections:
Section 1 is 100 questions: 50 questions are multiple-choice and 50 questions are true/false.
Section 2 consists of 60 practical questions (this refers to how to do exercises the right way), multiple-choice, and matching questions.
Section 2 of the test also contains 2 case studies. In these types of questions, they give you a hypothetical client and you have to answer questions about how you would train that person safely and effectively. Section 2 also contains 6 long essay questions. The final exam can be taken online or at home and mailed back to ISSA to be graded.
The ISSA test is not timed and is open book.
Tip. Don't assume the ISSA will be easy. Essay questions tend to be complex and often require you to “put 2 and 2 together” to get the correct answer. The answers are not always in the book. It's my experience open-book tests are usually harder. When I looked into this program, there was no video portion (so you don't have to video yourself doing exercises, etc).
Read my interview with Martin McLoughlin for more on the ISSA test.
When I checked, the ISSA personal trainer program cost $599 plus $25 for shipping the materials to you.
AFAA Online Cert
The Aerobic and Fitness Association of America – AFAA – also has an online personal training cert. This program is composed of 14 interactive videos that comprise the AFAA personal trainer textbook which is sold separately. The online course is $499.
There are both written and practical portions to the AFAA online test. People have 1 year to complete the test after registering, although if you want to postpone the date, they can do so for a fee of $40.
AFAA also requires those who take any of their certifications to also hold CPR and AED certifications. AFAA does not accept online or home-based CPR /AED certs
Update. AFAA is now owned by the same company which owns NASM. They now call themselves AFAA/NASM.
NASM Online Cert
The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) offers a CPT Online Classroom program that is $999. The program includes the test, practice test, NASM textbook as well as an online exercise library and much more.
See their online cert page for more information
The NASM has a 30 minute TV commercial for its online cert. See my review of the infomercial for more information.
See how to pass the NASM test for more insights (read the comments too).
NCCPT Online Cert
The National Council for Certified Personal Trainers (NCCPT) has a Certified Online Delux package for $495 which includes:
- Online access to the NCCPT personal training manual
- Online access to CPT videos
- Online access to a sample CPT test
And several other items. One thing that was not clear to me when I looked at this program was whether people could take the certification test online or at home? I believe both are possible so but make sure before you purchase if this is important to you. People need a valid CPR and AED cert prior to taking the exam. The exam must be taken within 6 months of purchasing the program.
Here's the NCCPT Book on Amazon
There is an additional fee for those who need to retake the test. Only 2 attempts to retake the test are can be purchased within 1 year of enrolling. Enrollment in the online course expires 1 year after purchasing it (so people have 1 year to study and take the test).
The NCCPT also gives you the option of just taking the test for $299.
Groupon also has deals for NCCPT which may be less expensive.
Here is a review of the NCCPT test for those who want more information.
AFPA Online Cert
The American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA) organization offers, for $395 an “online testing option.” Clicking this link takes you to the page of their website that discusses what option entails.
They also have a “Shared Program Plan” where 2 people can share the costs of the AFPA cert. Each person shares the course materials and each person gets a different test. The test is mailed back to AFPA to be graded. This option was $695 when I checked.
NESTA Online Cert
The National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association (NESTA), through Wexford University, offers an online personal trainer cert for $675. There are several payment options available.
NSCA Online Cert
The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) does not have an “online cert.” Rather, you study on own and travel to an assessment center to take the test on a computer. As such, this is not really an “online” certification. I wanted to mention this in case anyone was confused about it. For more on the NSCA read these:
NAFC Online Cert
According to the website (nafctrainer.com), the National Association for Fitness Certification (NAFC) was created in 1992 to “to provide scientifically-based, standards-focused education and training for Group Fitness Instructors, Personal Trainers, and Wellness Consultants.”
From what I could determine, the website was registered by whose LinkedIn profile states is the Executive Director of the NAFC. Michael Leboss is also the owner of ME Fitness Center in Oregon (update: no longer in business). I called NAFC and they told me there are about 10,000 people certified by NAFC.
The NAFC personal trainer certification has 2 options:
1. There is a cert that is 100% taken online and costs $399.
2. There is also the option to take a 3-day class that includes hands-on, practical information and that option is $599.
The locations of the 3-day workshops are available on the NAFC website or you can call them to find out.
There are 4 textbooks that people need to study prior to taking the test. They are:
- Weight training (227 pages)
- Lifestyle Consultant (250 pages)
- Practical Application (36pages)
- Fitness Assessment (158 pages)
All textbooks are ebooks that people download after you pay for the course. You can also bundle the personal trainer cert with the NAFC nutrition cert. The cost of this bundle is $699.
The NAFC website states 95% of people pass the NAFC test. That does not necessarily mean the test is super easy.
When I called the NAFC, I was told you should study 2-3 months before they take the test. I was also told you should expect to spend 20-30 hours studying each manual.
The personal trainer test actually comprises 4 different tests. There is a test for each of the 4 NAFC textbooks. Each test is 100 questions and has a 90-minute time limit. The format of the test is multiple-choice and true/false.
You must have a computer with a webcam and you must also submit a copy of your photo ID to NAFC. This is to ensure that people do not cheat on the test and to make certain that the person who signs up, is the person who actually takes the exams.
If you don’t pass, you only have to pay $25 to retest. You can do this as much as you like until you pass, although if you do not pass the practical portion in 2 attempts, the NAFC will recommended you sign up for an actual class that has a hands-on component.
The personal trainer cert is good for 2 years (24 months) from the date at which the cert is issued. Personal trainers who want to recertify need to accumulate 2.7 CEUs (continuing education units) before their cert expires. For the nutrition cert, its 1.8 CEUs.
You can take other NAFC courses to recertify. NAFC also accepts courses from other organizations like ACE and AFAA as well.
To contact the NAFC call 800-324-8315. I found their customer support very helpful.
ISTA Online Certification
ISTA stands for the International Strength Training Association. The ISTA website does not give an address of where they are physically located but from what I was able to determine, it is in Texas.
The website was registered (and presumably created) in 2013, by Matthew McDonald who is the Founder and CEO of ISTA. He holds an MA in Health Sciences and a BS in Social Sciences.
When I looked at the ISTA website (istacertified.org), they offered 2 different certifications:
- Personal trainer cert for $299
- Fitness nutrition specialist for $249
There was also a package where you could purchase both online certs for $499.
ISTA also states there is the option of a 2 day workshop. The website gave no details on the cost other than to say what was covered (which appears to be a lot) and that the workshops require a minimum of 10 people and only currently occur in the Houston TX area.
For those who can't afford the cost, ISTA does say they can stretch the payments out for 4-6 months without interest if necessary. After people purchase a course, within 2 business days they are emailed a link that contains the study materials and exams.
The ISTA personal trainer test has 100 questions consisting of multiple choice and true/false. You have 90 minutes to complete the exam. Upon successful completion of the ISTA test, the personal trainer certification is emailed to you as a pdf document. My opinion. For $300, they should at least mail you an actual cert.
On the ISTA homepage, I saw the motto “Convenient, Affordable. Recognized.” On the “Industry Recognition” page of the website, they list that they are recognized by the NBFE.
NBFE is the National Board of Fitness Examiners. The NBFE is basically an organization that “certifies” that the other fitness organizations are teaching quality information. That said, I have no evidence that NBFE “accepted” organizations are better than others who don’t have the NBFE stamp of approval. As such, I personally pay no attention to the NBFE.
ISTA says they are “recognized” but as I point out in my review of how to be a personal trainer, the best way to see if a cert is recognized is to ask your local gyms if they accept it or not. Just being recognized by NBFE does not mean your local gyms will recognize it.
Trainers do not need a CPR/AED cert before taking the test although ISTA does say it is ‘highly recommended”.
See gym emergency procedures for more info on this.
ISTA certs are good for 2 years. They also state for those just starting out that it may take 1-2 months to prepare for the ISTA cert as well as gain hands-on experience. They don’t tell people how to get hands-on experience and I personally feel 1-2 months is not enough for those just starting out.
Before I took the NSCA-CSCS cert, I studied for 4-6 months -and that was already having a BS degree in chemistry and biology. People looking for a cert with a hands-on component may want to look at the WITS certification. That cert includes an internship.
Refund policy. Currently, the ISTA does not refund the money paid to them for certs. All purchases are non-refundable.
For more information email ISTA via its website istacertified.org.
Online Certs Refund
I have heard stories from people who purchased online certifications, but later changed their minds―and asked for a refund. They never took the test. They have told me some organizations charge a “restocking fee” for online classes when people ask for refunds.
Restocking fee? What are they restocking if it's an online course?
I was told the NASM does this for online classes (see the comments in that post). It's possible other programs charge a restocking fee as well. Be sure to ask about this before you purchase any online class or online program. I don't like restocking fees. It's a way companies try to suck money from you. My recommendation. Avoid any organization which has restocking fees for online courses.
Advantages of Online Certs
- Good for people who live in remote areas (or are in prison)
- Good for people who are afraid of taking a traditional fitness test
- Good for people who are self-motivated to study on their own
Disadvantages of Online Certs
- Some gyms may not accept them
- High-end health clubs may not accept them
- Some online programs can be more expensive than the actual certification exam
- Usually easy to cheat on the test
This last point ―being easy to cheat on the test ―is one of the big challenges many online fitness certifications face. It's because of this I think some gyms may not accept online certs.
One way to try to get around this is to do what I believe ISSA is doing: adding essays to their exam in an effort to increase difficulty. Having a very difficult test can compensate, to a degree, for those who say that: Because the certification is taken at home, it automatically has to be easy to pass.
While there is some wisdom in adding essays to make the test harder, I have seen people online seeking help with ISSA essay test questions. On the plus side, the people who cheat, probably will not be in the industry very long after they are only cheating themselves and discover that getting certified was the easy part. Getting clients – and keeping them – is the hard part.
What's The Best Online Fitness Certification?
In the world of fitness and personal training, there is often a “my cert is better than your cert” mentality. Trainers often feel whichever organization they are certified is the best. This is short-sighted because it often gives into word of mouth. The organization which is better at marketing is often seen as best. For example, at one time NASM had 30 minute TV infomercial extolling the virtues of their organization.
As I pointed out in my guide on how to be a personal trainer, I think the best first step is to ask local gyms for a list of certifications that they accept. Once you have that, see if any online certs listed? If they are, great. If not, then check if online personal trainer certs are accepted at any other local gyms.
From there, decide which cert offers the most for the money―and fits within your budget. No matter whether you get an online certification or a more traditional cert, remember that the key is to be qualified ―not just certified. The only way to do be a qualified personal trainer is to keep studying after you get certified. If you do that, then you will be fine and it doesn't matter if you have an online personal trainer cert or not.
Here's EVERY personal trainer textbook on Amazon
I recently purchased the NAFC Personal Trainer program. However, I’m concerned that the company is not legitimate, and I won’t be able to obtain my national certification if I complete the course. Can you provide any new information on them? Also, do you know if their supposed accrediting agency is reputable? NBFE? It seems all other programs are accredited through NCCA.
If they are not legitimate, I’m comparing other programs now. I’ve just started looking at ACE, ISSA & NASM. I’d like the program to not only be national but potentially international, as I may be going overseas in the next couple of years. Though I want to have my own business long term, right now, I believe I would start off in a local gym to obtain the experience.
Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated! Thank you so much!
orNicki, so NBFE is the national board of fitness examiners. They have been around for I think 20 years I believe. They are one of the organizations that accredit fitness certs (the other one being NCCA, which is what ACE and NASM are accredited by). So I’ve already said my feelings about accreditation. While Im not a fan of it, if you will be working at a gym at the start, call local gyms, ask for their owner/fitness manager and ask which certs they accept. Im sure ACE and NASM will be on that list. See if NAFC is too.
Between ACE and NASM, Id go with ACE (or ISSA if you like them better). The NASM textbooks I’ve seen are way too technical. One thing I can say about ACE is their textbooks are top-notch. ACE is a non-profit organization. NASM is a for profit.
If you have any other questions, just ask 🙂
Thank you again, Joe! So much information!! I can’t express how much I appreciate your time and detailed thoughts.
Happy to be of assistance Nicki 🙂
I’m trying to decide still
NASM vs ACE vs Action
I’m not planning to go in to business myself at this time
Nor Really gym focused
Although, I’m open 🙂
I’m interested in working/helping at a clinic, senior center, Hospital or maybe a fitness wellness center
With are aging population, I do feel this is my calling
To give back and help
I’m addition, I’m really focused on the Nutrition as a speciality or Health Coaching
So what would you recommend ?
Action is the least expensive
Maybe start there , then go to one of the other?
ACE offers payment plans as well
Lots of special programs
Similar, slightly more expensive
I’m just confused
I’m open to other organizations you listed as well
Thank You kindly
Hi Troy, thanks so much! Im glad you found my review helpful.
If you are starting from scratch, I’d grab a copy of my personal trainer book – Personal Fitness Training Beyond The Basics – Its less expensive than certs, easy to understand and it covers a lot of what you will need to know as a personal trainer. This is the book I wish I had when I was just starting out.
You make a good point starting with the ACTION cert. I don’t want you to go into debt to become certified. While a senior center may be ok with ACTION, hospitals / clinics may require a more well known cert. For your next step, Id go with he ACE certification. I feel ACE is more well rounded than NASM.
Eventually, if you really want to focus on clinical settings like hospitals, the ACSM cert something to look at.
I do think working at a fitness center is a good place to start. They will also likely require something like ACE, NASM, NSCA etc. I like starting in fitness centers because they give you insights on working with a wide range of different people and give you exposure to a bunch of different types of fitness equipment. I recommend trying to work at either a YMCA or Jewish Community Center (JCC). Planet Fitness is another option too. These organizations wont put pressure on you to make money as some big-chain gyms can.
Because you want to work with older folks / those with health problems, you are already ahead of many trainers who dont know what their focus is. The fact you want to work whit older groups will make you in demand at fitness centers. Many trainers dont know how to work with older adults or are afraid to.
Fitness centers sometimes need trainers who specifically deal with older populations. Your desire to work with older people will help you a lot moving forward. I know. my oldest “client” was my 104 year old grandmother 🙂
So to summarize, this is what I’d suggest
1. read my book -It really is that good
2. do ACTION and then ACE (or just start with ACE if you like. ACE has great textbooks too)
Here’s a review on how to pass the ACE exam
Heres another ACE exam review too
I hope this helps Try. If you have any other questions, just ask 🙂
Thank You Joe!
I emailed you some info ( good Action stuff ) and a Thanks as well
Troy, anytime, glad to help – and thanks, I will be on the look out for your email 🙂
modesto talavera says
I would like to make a comment on the “Action Personal Training Course” So far the material looks good and I have not received the textbook yet. But I am not happy. In one day they billed me the initiation fee of 44.95 three times. I have sent and email and have not received a response yet.
You can get no refunds once you make the purchase. There is no physical address or phone number but After a little research this is what I have come up with. This can be of help to others in the same situation as me:
340 S Lemon Ave. #4620
Walnut CA, 91718
Modesto, thanks so much for posting the contact info for Action Training cert. Ive updated the review with your information. Sorry to hear you have had such a hard time communicating with them. Can you contest the 44.95 bills with your credit card company? I’d think they would help you out with this.
Let me know how all this plays out.
modesto talavera says
Hey Joe, I called Amex and they explained the breakdown of the charges and it turned out that I misunderstood and they did not charge me three times. That is my fault, So Rebecca did fix the problem like she said.
I owe Action an apology and I did sent them an email doing so. I think they are just starting out and they are really understaffed. So I am going to try to help them as well. I ordered your book. I will be receiving it by tomorrow. Have a great day Joe!
Hi Modesto, thanks for the update and so glad things were not as bad as you originally said. That was very nice of you to apologize to Action. Im sure they appreciated you doing that.
Let me know how you do on the test and I hope you enjoy my book too 🙂
Hi Joe! Thanks for all the great info that you put out. I’m planning to do Expert Rating and to then prepare for one of the more widely accepted certs. I just want to get some good knowledge and my certification and start training. I have a lot of drive to always keep
learning, so I’m not too concerned with which cert I have. I just don’t want one that will not teach me much of anything or that is looked down on! I’d love your thoughts.
Joe Cannon says
Hi Brandon, Ive not taken the Expert Rating certification myself so I’m not sure whats involved. I am not sure how widely it is accepted in fitness centers (if you plan on working in a fitness center this may be something to consider). I know it does not cost much so that is good for people on a budget.
I do feel education is more important than certifations but I do understand the importance of getting a cert, as it levels the playing field, in theory, on what a personal trainer should know.
If you do opt to take the Expert Rating cert, let me know. I’d be interested in interviewing you for this site. you could help others who are considering it
May I also suggest the book I wrote – Personal Fitness Training Beyond The Basics. I do a very good job at showing you the info that trainers really do need to know. It’s the book I wished I had. It didn’t exist – and so I wrote it.
First of all, thanks a lot for your time and help.
I am in between ACE and ISSA. What is your opinion?
Joe Cannon says
Hi Celine, I feel both are fine organizations. Let me ask you this question. do you think you will be going into business for yourself or do you think you will be first working in a gym setting? what you say may change the answer I give you.
I’m also between ACE & ISSA, as I have been speaking with NASM but after reading your article it seems like one of the other 2 choices may be better for me. Eventually, I want to be in business for myself but would probably start off in a gym to gain experience. I’d love to hear your thoughts! Thank you so much!
Hi Nicki, I like both ACE and ISSA. I’m not sure if either has in classroom /virtual sessions to help the learning process but I think either would be good for you since you are eventually planning on going into business for yourself. You might consider looking over the textbooks for each first and deciding from there. That will save you money in the long run. Here are their textbooks on my resources page.
Another option is to go with whichever is less expensive and remember learning never ends so whichever you go with, make sure to find a niche your most passionate about and trying to become the expert in that field.
Hi again Joe,
Thank you once again for your amazing feedback! I’m still debating between ACE & ISSA, as I have a long term goal of being able to travel and work overseas. If that wasn’t a goal, I’d definitely purchase ACE as I love their website tutorial of the program and since everyone recognizes NCCA more so than DEAC… though I do love that ISSA has a university where you can add to a CPT by becoming a Master Trainer or pursing an Associate’s or Bachelor’s Degree. However, my most important goal for a CPT program is receiving a well rounded education, as I want to be able to work with everyone, not a certain type of person.
Most of the gyms I’d be applying to after receiving my certification, only state Nationally Certified, so I’m not really sure if NCCA or DEAC really matter based on where I’m located. Only that I’ve completed a Nationally Certified Program.
Once again, thank you so much for your time and assistance. Should you have any more wisdom to share, please do.
Nicki, if the gyms don’t have a list of certs they accept -and only stipulate “national accredited” -then you should be ok either way you go. With respect to being a master personal trainer, that’s more of an unregulated title. Many fitness organizations have a master personal trainer certifications. As I mentioned in my review of becomming a master personal trainer, the real thing is to stay educated after you get certified. I have an MS in exercise science and I’ve never called myself a master trainer. There is always room for us to grow and learn from others.
If you want to pursue a degree that’s great. Another option which may cost less is to just take the relevant classes -biology, exercise science etc – and dont worry about the courses that arent specifically relevant to the art and science of personal training. Then you’d have the knowledge, just not an official degree. At the end of the day, its what you really want to do and what’s important to you.
Anything on the ASFA Certification for CPT yet? I scrolled through the feeds, and Did not see a reply from you. I have had previous training experience, and have a strength and conditioning certification, The ASFA prompted me to take a “pass or don’t pay exam” for a “Master Personal Training Certification, so for general refresher I took the exam, I passed with a 88% passing grade is a 70%. It has now asked my payment. it is $275 for a one year cert, and $675 for a lifetime cert….. My question to you is, “Is this Legit?!” Thanks,
Joe Cannon says
Hi Pat, I have not yet looked at them in depth. That said, all certifications have to be renewed periodically -usually every 1-2 years. Re-certifiation usually costs money and time on your part to do the things needed to become recertified.
When they asked for $275 was that just for the cost of the cert? How much does it cost to recertify and what does someone have to do in order to recertify with ASFA?
Ive never heard of a “life time cert”
Here is what they offer… In other reviews across the internet I’ve read that their Certs are about as useful as “A three dollar bill” that nearly no one recognizes their certifications… Too much gray area for me, so I’ll pass for now and just wait a few weeks to set time aside and just got through NSCA (who I have Strength & Conditioning Cert through anyway) Thanks for your feed back, and I hope this helps someone else on the fence about ASFA
Joe Cannon says
Hi Pat, Thanks for that. since you already have the CSCS cert, do you need the NSCA-personal trainer cert? I have both CSCS and NSCA-CPT. Since you already have the CSCS, why not just study the NSCA-CPT book. Then you would have the knowledge without paying for the extra cert. Just a thought.
Here’s my book on how to pick a certification.
Hey Joe, Jimi actually asks “where you going with that gun in your hand?” I took poetic license 🙂
I have to admit that I’m really looking forward to your book. I read what was available on the Amazon preview and was bummed I had to stop at page 12.
I’m curious to know as to why the NCFS cert doesn’t seem to be among the more popular certs. It seems to stack up pretty well, and is one of the more difficult exams to pass according to some information on another site I found.
What sealed the deal in my decision was talking to my gym’s manager (ISSA certified) about different certs. Coincidentally, she is going to take the NCFS workshop offered at Florida International University on the advice of a colleague. NCFS is also based in Coral Gables, FL which is about a 25 minute drive for me…which is cool
I plan on training at local gyms, and eventually out of my home/studio, or at client’s homes, so big chain gyms won’t influence my decision. NCFS is/was also running a promotion for both a CPT and SNS certification at a reasonable price, including materials and exams…I jumped on it. So perhaps in a few months I’ll gladly give you a review or interview if nobody chimes in before that. But I will definitely take the time and post my honest thoughts about it.
Thanks again, Joe. Keep doing what you’re doing!
Joe Cannon says
Hi Andy, yeah I wondered about that with local gyms and NCSF as well. The politics of fitness centers and certifications can be weird at times. Ill look forward to hearing your thoughts on NCSF. Yeah I noticed the poetic license.. all good and do enjoy my book too 🙂
Hey Joe, what you doing with that Cannon in your hand? Sorry, I love me some Jimi Hendrix.
Seriously though, thank you for this incredible site. It has really cleared some things up in my search for the right cert for ME. I’ve found the comments section very helpful as well. Reading through what others have experienced, along with your thoughtful and honest replies, have steered me clear of potential issues.
I’m on the cusp of committing to NCSF but, I would love to get your thoughts on the organization first. I saw the page that mentions US Career Inst. providing classes and voucher for the NCSF test. I’ve also found the resources page with links to NCSF books and guides. But I haven’t found an actual review page for them…perhaps I missed it?
So again, a most sincere thank you for all the work you’ve put into this invaluable resource site for all of us aspiring to be not just certified but qualified personal trainers. Also, I have your “Beyond the Basics Book” arriving very soon!
Joe Cannon says
Hi Andy, so glad you are finding my website helpful (please share on facebook etc) and you are the the first to say that Jimmi Hendrix line to me 🙂
Ive been wanting to do an interview with someone who passed the NCSF cert for sometime but dont know anyone. I’ll put out some feelers again and maybe find someone. If anyone reading this is an NCSF trainer, send me an email and lets do an interview!
For what its worth, I like what I’ve seen from them in the people Ive met who had the NCSF cert. If you take it, let me know. Id be curious to hear your thoughts.
I hope you enjoy my book! I always say The Beyond The Basics Book is what I always wished I had. 🙂
Binayak Dasgupta says
First of all thanks a lot for the wonderful article. I stay in India and have been into weight loss and fitness business since the last 15 years. Personally I do free hand exercise regularly and I am with normal BMI. I read articles about nutrition and diet on regular basis and have very satisfied clients who are getting results and also giving me referrals. I fully believe in what you say that being qualified is more important than being certified.
However in keeping with times I have been planning to take an online certification due to time constraints and thinking about ISSA after reading your article.
What do you suggest ? I do travel a lot and don’t have much time to get practical CPR/AED certification and want to take ISSA as it seems that they offer those online too.
Finally the purpose of getting ONLINE CERTIFICATION is to service my existing clients better and not employment. I have 100+ centres across 12 states in India servicing 1000+ monthly clients on weight loss and fitness. It would be wonderful to learn a little bit more officially about what I practice daily as these days some of my clients ask from where I am certified. I don’t simply have an answer to that.
Looking forward to get a reply and guidance. The reputation and global acceptance of the certificate is what I would want more with online ease.
Joe Cannon says
Hi Binayak, I like the ISSA certification and for someone like yourself with limited time, I think its a fine option. I didn’t know they also had online CPR/AED certifications. If you can, I would advise you to try to take an actual CPR/AED class at some point because it will give you hands-on experience performing CPR and using an actual defibrillator. Online classes can give you the information on these things but I believe doing it will be better, especially if you have not done it before. Here’s my review of online CPR/AED certifications in case you missed it.
It sounds like you are keeping pretty busy with clients, which is wonderful. I had no idea personal training was so popular in India. That is fantastic! 🙂
hi joe i’m looking to take the ISFTA or AFAA at home certification i live in new york price is great and i can study at my own pace, what do you think about them is it highly recognized by gyms.
Joe Cannon says
Hi Judy, I think the best advice I can give you is to walk into various gyms in New York and ask them which certifications they accept. Gyms are funny in what they accept. Sometimes they accept everything and sometimes its only certain certs. The fitness director, owner or general manager are the people who can usually tell you which personal trainer certifications they accept.
Let me know what you turn up.
Samy Ann Moore says
First I wan to thank you for all the information you have provided in your articles. At the moment I am currently looking for a way to become a personal fitness trainer after I stop breastfeeding at the end of June.
Due to previous college attendance and a house fire, I am no longer eligible for financial aid so I am trying to find a cheap but most educational and certified certification to take.
I am more of a hands on learner and am hdhd but so far I haven’t found a place to attend near Hanoverton, Ohio except online classes. I was wondering what you would consider if you were in my shoes.
Joe Cannon says
Hi Samy, so sorry to hear about your house fire! I cant believe nobody will take that under consideration as you apply for financial aide. I know WITS has classes at many community colleges. I do have a review of WITS if you want to see it. They usually run 700-900 for the 6 week program. Because I’m not a fan of going into debt, Id say save up for it rather than putting it on a credit card.
AFAA has a 2 or 3 day program that has a hands on component to their test. Also take a look at AAAI/ISMA (which I teach for ) and IFTA (IFTA-Fitness.com). they may have classes in Ohio.
let me know if you have any other questions or issues and I will try to help you.
Thanks for the reply. I am very interested in it. Could you please give me their number so I can ask a few questions before purchasing the exams. I’m more towards working as an entrepreneur and reaching out to clients myself. I will definitely let you know if I decide on going with NAFC.
Joe Cannon says
Hi Mason, I listed the number in the review. Just scroll up and you can see it as well as how they do their online testing too.
I’m thinking about going with NAFC through groupon. It’s 100 bucks which is super cheap.. Do you know if this is a good deal? You did state that this is a certification online so i technically won’t be certified correct?
Joe Cannon says
Hi Mason, I’ve heard of NAFC and do have a section on them in this review, but dont yet know much about them other than what I posted above.
I would be interested in interviewing an NAFC certified personal trainer so if you do this, let me know. $100 is certainly less than many organizations but one thing Id do before you do this is go to local gyms etc and ask if they accept NAFC. If you think you might be working at any of those gyms, its good to know ahead of time, if they will accept it. $100 is a lot less than the price I quoted in the NAFC section of this review.
Again, if you get certified let me know and we can do an interview to help others.
Hi again Joe,
I was told the NAFC was not actually accredited. Per their website they are accredited by NBFE, but when speaking with another organization, they stated they didn’t see NAFC as being legitimately accredited. Can you shine any light on this? I’ve already purchased their program but am concerned their not a good company to use.
Thanks so much!
Nicki, so I have some thoughts on this. In my opinion, the idea of “national accreditation” is a scam. Organizations like NBFE and NCCA that “accredit” fitness certs are not associated with the federal government. You can have a fine cert that is not accredited. That said gyms have bought in the idea that accredited certs are better. So, if you are going to work at a gym, ask to see a list of certs they do accept as this may make your seeking employment easier.
Certification organizations sometimes pay thousands of dollars to get accreditation and continue to do on a regular basis to maintain accreditation. This is why they are often more expensive.
As for NAFC, it’s pretty expensive if it’s not accredited. I dont know anyone at the company but why dont you ask local gyms you might work at, if they accept NAFC.
Thank you for getting back to me so quickly and being so thorough! I truly appreciate your guidance!
You got it Nicki, glad to help 🙂
Joe ,thank you for saving me time and money for something I don’t need!!
Joe Cannon says
Juan, you are VERY welcome 🙂
I have studied a Health and fitness Bachelor degree in my country of origin (Spain). Right now i got hired to start working in the US and they got to know me and knew etc so they are happy with my background etc.. and they know i know what i am doing.
The issue is that recently they told me that i need to have a US certification to work with them and that they do not mind at all which one it is as long as it is a US certification.
Please can you help me to save time and keep my job and tell me which will be the easiest / fastest online certification that has also the CPR online that i could apply.
Thank you very much in advance !!!
Joe Cannon says
Hi Juan, yes most gyms in the US will require a fitness certification even though you have a college degree in health and fitness. Take a look at the Expert Rating personal trainer certification. Its online and I dont think it costs too much.
Hey Joe kindly help me with your suggestion about expert rating certification.. it is good or worth.. will it help in any matter.. I’m confused between expert rating and ISSA.. ISSA is much costlier.. kindly suggest..
Joe Cannon says
Aman, I think one factor to consider is this: if you plan on working in a gym, you should first see which gyms accept each cert. that, more than anything else will be a short term factor in whether or not you can get a job. If Expert Rating helps you get your foot in the door, then I’m ok with that PROVIDING that you do not only rely on it. See my post How to Be a Personal Trainer for more info on this.
My experience is that I think more gyms accept ISSA than Expert Rating but do look into this yourself. Your area may be different or they may be equally valued.
That said, remember to not be confused by the idea that getting this cert or that cert, is all that’s needed to be an effective – qualified -personal trainer. That’s just not so. I think law makers are wise to this too because as I write this Washington DC is trying to pass regulations on who can be a personal trainer. No matter what happens in DC or elsewhere, the primary goal for people is always strive to increase their knowledge.
Knowledge is more important than certification. I don’t know if expert rating will teach you all you need to know to be a safe and effective personal trainer because I have not gone through the program (I keep trying to find a trainer to interview about them. hopefully I’ll find one) but if after you make your goal to keep educating yourself, you will be fine no matter what cert you get.
If you do get the Expert Rating cert, let me know so I can interview you about it.
Hi Joe! Thanks for all these reviews. I am currently deciding which certification would be best for me. With some research, I figured ACE was one of the best. But it’s all online. I’m more of a hands on learner and the only certification I could find that had actual classes is NPTI.
So I’m stuck because I don’t know which would be better- ACE for 700-800$, most well known, but may not pass because its only online, or get lucky and pass but not actually know what I’m doing. Or NPTI- $6600, way more expensive, but hands on so I’d actually learn the material. And you can take the NASM cert with NPTI. Any suggestions?
Or even if you know any other hands on classroom certifications that I don’t know about would be very helpful! Thanks.
Joe Cannon says
Hi Victoria, have you looked at WITS – world instructor training schools. Its a 6 week course taught at many community colleges. there is a hands on component. I like WITS although Ive heard some gyms might not accept it (I dont know why??).
While I like NPTI, If you dont have $6000 to spend I dont recommend you go into debt. I wish NPTI would get their own cert -rather than piggybacking on NASM (which I’m not generally not a fan of because of their over the top marketing)
I had no idea ACE was all online! if you are afraid of failing ace, take a look at AFAA, IFTA and/or AAAI/ISMA. I believe they are less than ACE (I know AAAI is) and getting that first can give you some of the hands on info that you can use to help you with ACE should you decide to go after it afterwards.
How does that sound?
I never heard of WITS, I will definitely look into that one and even the other ones you said. When I was looking up ACE, I think some community colleges have classes for it, but the one at my college isn’t having it this fall and I want to get it by winter. So the only way to do it would be online.
There was a groupon for NCCPT for real cheap, and some people like it some don’t from what I’ve read. But I figured I’d try that, since its online, and if I do well with the online stuff then maybe I can do ACE, but if not then I won’t waste so much money lol.
Thank you SO much, such a big help!! I’m so happy I found your page because it’s really hard finding which ones are good and would work best for you. And I don’t know anyone who would have the answers to my questions so really, thank you for making this page and responding!!
Joe Cannon says
Victoria, you are very welcome. Do keep me posted on how you are doing and if you have any other questions
Here is my review of the NCCPT cert in case you missed it.
I have taken and completed the W.I.T.S course and have only the internship required left to gain my CERT but all the gyms listed by W.I.T.S as gyms that take interns from them have declined saying they do not accept them.. I am frustrated and need some advice on what I should do.
Joe Cannon says
Michael, oh my goodness. Have you reached out to WITS about this? What did they say? Where are you located? Maybe I can try to find a gym that accepts WITS.
Here is my WITS review in case you didn’t see it
Hello Joe, I have but I have not heard back. The last time they said this is the most current list they have on file. I am located in Union County in New Jersey. I would greatly appreciate it if you can help me find a gym that accepts WITS.
Joe Cannon says
Michael, I posed this on my facebook page and will pass along anyone who says they will take you on as an intern. Does the internship have to be at a gym? I’m wondering if they would accept an internship with a self-employed personal trainer? If they would, then Google “personal trainer + your zip code” and call those trainers in your area up and explain your problem.
Can you also post your WITS internship question/problem on my WITS review. I WITS instructors monitor that post. They may chime in and be able to help you. Here is the WITS review:
Joe Cannon says
Michael, after I posted your problem on facebook, I heard back from Martin Mcloughlin at Extreme Fitness in Levittown PA. He said his company accepts WITS internships. That is a bit far from you but its something. Here’s his information
Extreme Fitness Personal Training. 6 Headley Pl, Levittown, PA 19054 (267) 799-5622 http://www.extremefitnesspa.com/
I interviewed Martin previously. Here’s the interview.
I’ll keep you posted if I get any more replies. 🙂
Anything so far on ASFA?
Joe Cannon says
Stephanie, I’m still looking to interview an ASFA personal trainer. What specific questions would you like to know about them? List them here and Ill see what I can dig up.
What about ASFA (American Sports and Fitness Association) certification?
Joe Cannon says
Stephanie, I’ll see what I can find out. I’d love to interview an ASFA personal trainer too.
Wilfred Mentis says
ASFA is a good certification if you are looking to be independent and HAVE PRIOR TRAINING EXPERIENCE. I would not advise this certification for new trainers. I was certified through them once only because at the time I couldn’t afford to go through a nationally accredited program. Do they hurt the value of the certification? I believe they do when it’s some Joe Schmo coming off the streets to get the cert. for the sake of having it. But if I’m a trainer that has the knowledge and just doesn’t have the money to get the right program, then it’s a good TEMPORARY certification.
Very late to the the the game on this post but I have the same situation. I let my legit cert expire by accident and did not want to pay a ton of money to re cert.
Since I already had a job this meets the bare minimum requirements to keep my job.
Kemi RealHouses OfAtlanta says
I had joined the Action Basic plan, but never went Pro for $49.95. They’ve now increased it to $129. I think that’s outrageous, so I decided to reach out to you for an opinion.
I have issues with the fact, as you stated in your blog, that I cannot even find a phone # for Action. That is a major strike for me, as I’m big on customer service. Now that the price has increased, I asked them for leniency, and got an email that I should join them on social media since they’ve been promoting the increase for weeks. Unfortunately, FB shouldn’t be my only method of communication from this company, especially when their posts never show up on my timeline, what with thousands of posts coming thru per hour, it’s easy to miss a random post from them which they only post once or twice a month.
I reached out to you on Facebook, and you were kind enough to provide me lots of great tips and direction on other certification programs. You are awesome, Joe. Thanks so much for that valuable info. I wasn’t aware of the conferences or classes coming to my area. I like the layering concept, which would only make me a better trainer down the line. I’m always open to more education, so that’s right up my alley.
I was mad that I didn’t upgrade to the Action Pro pan for $44.95, but now I’m determined to pass the test without all the flash cards and stuff they were offering anyway. That was what made me so hesitant in the first place. I really only wanted access to the the multiple choice questions, since I thought it would help me pass the test better. But perhaps I can find that elsewhere. I don’t need flash cards or videos.
I refuse to plunk down $129 to them, when they don’t even have a phone number. I have been writing Action, and the only person in support who keeps responding is named “Rebecca” and she’s extremely short and rude. It’s made me glad I haven’t given this shady company 1 penny.
She responds with such attitudes like “No, the price is $129”. Then I write back, and she says “We can put you on a payment plan, $35 down, and $10 a month until you reach at least $129.” I will not pay them a dime more than $44.99, and at this point, I will probably switch to another company you mentioned in your website, Expert… I would rather give them $65 than give Action a dime.
I replied back to her that the fact that I cannot even call your company on the phone and you want me to spend $129 is a completely ridiculous! I’m very glad that I haven’t paid them, Joe. That’s all I can say.
Sometimes hesitation pays. Something just made me feel that they were somewhat of a ponzi scheme. I also hesitated when I saw that I’d have to keep paying annually to recertify. That’s not really what I’m looking for. They also do have a lot of upsells on their website. Every minute they’re trying to get me to upgrade, upgrade, upgrade, with exaggerated promises about how great their videos and flashcards are… I will just keep reading the manual.
Lastly, I think for this company to pull a bait and switch, encourage a lot of people to join them, and then start raising their fees is unconscionable. They also have this lifetime recert pricing now, which is around $250. I would not recommend them to anyone!
Joe Cannon says
Kemi, thanks for sharing all of that. I’m sure your experiences will help others. Do keep me updated on how things are going for you as you study to get certified.
modesto talavera says
I am dealing with the same issues and I feel like kicking myself in the head. I am going to finish the course and run as fast and far as I can. But I found an address an phone number and I posted it.
Wolverine Xmen says
Hi Joe, thanks for the article, very informative. Was wondering, what is your take on the ACT/Action Personal Training Certification Program? Would it be worth it, mainly price wise if one is not financially there, and looking to get into the Personal Training area?
Looking over the website and seeing that they are now NCCA Accredited by taking the test at a test center as well as online, that it seems legit.
And was looking at the Expert Rating and some online review says that it’s a scam and wanted to know your thoughts on that. Thanks Joe!!
Joe Cannon says
Wolverine, I have not taken either the Action Personal Trainer cert or Expert Rating so I cant speak personally. I would love to interview people who have went through either program for my site. If you know anyone, send them my way! That said, here’s what Id suggest. Go to your local gyms – those you think you might end up working at or want to work at – and ask them if they accept either of them. If they do, great. if they dont, then you are one step closer to finding a cert that might be right for you. That said, I’m sure both of them will provide you some knowledge and a decent background to help you prepare for any other cert that you are thinking about getting. Whether a gym accepts them or not, exercise science is exercise science, anywhere you go.
Any other questions, just ask 🙂
I looked at the deal Groupon had for AFI, it’s $95. would you pay that amount, is it worth it to you? Also they do have a number 1855 AFI CERT. Great article. I am still torn and would like you opinion on whether I should go through them, I’m on a budget. ( Already in school full time for exercise science).
Joe Cannon says
Hyp. Ask yourself if you are trying to get certified so that you can work in a gym. if yes, go to the local gyms that you think you might want to try to work at, and ask them if they accept the AFI cert. If yes, then it may be worth it. If they say no, then I’d say don’t get it. If you are doing this because your college degree program requires you to get certified, then it may be worth it as it fulfills college requirements. I’d think with your background you would probably do well on their test.
If you do get AFI certified, let me know. I would love to interview you for my website to help others who are thinking about AFI also.
Any other questions, just ask 🙂
I just read this wonderful review you posted about all these different online personal trainer certifications. I am in the process of deciding which program would be a good fit. I do already know about A.C.E. and NASM, but I really took interest in expert rating because the prices were so inexpensive. What do you currently think about this company. Have you found out any additional information on whether the certification received is accepted in the U.S.?
Also do you know if this online company or any of these online company are scams? I’ve read many reviews on various companies and some people have said to be scam. I really want to start an online course but first want to make sure that gyms accept them.
But overall I just want to know if you know more any information on expert rating’s online personal training certification and whether its a scam or not.
Joe Cannon says
Dangelo, so happy you found my review of online certifications helpful. As for Expert Rating, I have met some trainers who have had that cert over the years but not well enough to judge their competency as a personal trainer. I know that Expert Rating is accepted at some gyms. I believe it is accepted at Golds Gym Fitness 19 and Ballys.
I think the best thing to do is go to local gyms and ask them for a list of certs they accept (Some may immediately say NASM but most accept more than that, so ask for a list and if they can’t give you the info there, call their corporate office).
Their website lists offices in the US, India and the UK but I didn’t see any phone #s. I would like to interview an Expert Rating personal trainer for a more better understanding of the test and what people learn so if you do take it, let me know what you think of it.
The good thing is its relatively inexpensive so if you do it and you don’t feel you learned enough, then, you are not out a lot of money. Also, what you learned will be of help to you if you decide to go after another cert (ACE etc.). Because its all online it probably wont totally prepare people as a personal trainer. I believe there are somethings best learned hands-on. So if you do get it, and get a job at a gym, I think its best if you shadow other personal trainers for a few weeks.
I see from your email you are at a college. If you are in the exercise field then some of your classes will help you prepare for the cert. If you are not in that field, you might try reaching out to some of the teachers in that department to get their thoughts on this.
Either way, let me know what happens and if you go after the cert or not.
I recently got Certified with National Council for Certified Personal Trainers (NCCPT). I purchased the course on Groupon back in March 2014. It was good for my budget as it was only 169 I believe. They actually give you 6 months to take the test and also I was given 3 attempts to retake although there was a $60 fee each time so i wound up paying about $320.
I could have went the ISSA route which was suggested to me because it is open book but I really wanted to be unique and get a different Cert plus paying an additional $500 for a brand new stuff didn’t make sense.
Anyway just wanted to say thanks for your review and I do agree that no matter your Certification, being qualified is the ultimate goal.
Joe Cannon says
Rodney, thanks for that information. Really appreciate it and keep me posted on how things are going for you in your career!
Louise So says
Thanks for your article, Joe! I am curious about your take on the importance of NCCA accredited fitness organizations as compared to respected organizations such as AFAA and AFPA who are not NCCA accredited. I am in a position where I am advising Exercise Science and Personal Training Students at a community college, and up until now, my assumption was that NCCA was the stamp of approval our students should seek when evaluating organizations to affiliate with.
Thanks in advance for your input.
Joe Cannon says
Hi Louise, My current thoughts -which probably aren’t politically correct – are that if the organization is doing a good job, then I dont think they need a 3rd party organization to “certify” that they were good. I know the NSCA, who I’m certified by, is NCAA accredited but that didn’t factor into my decision to go with the NSCA. They had a good reputation and that was good enough for me. I would have went with them regardless of NCAA. AFAA and AFPA have been around a long time so I’d think they must be doing something right. If that’s so, why would they need NCAA?
I think some of this alignment with NCAA may be out of fear that one day fitness trainers may be required to have a license. The idea is those who are aligned with some company might do better than non-aligned organizations. Right now I just dont see that happening.
While NCAA accredited organizations are fine, I dont think they necessarily guarantee making more money as a personal trainer. I think better idea is find an organization that is widely accepted (in case they ever work in a gym), reputable and does not cause them go in to credit card debt.
Recently i got certified in CPR/AED and I just purchased your book Personal Fitness Training ( which i am looking forward to reading) what are your thoughts on ISSA or NASM, as I am looking at both courses to figure out which one i want to take to become a Personal Trainer?
Joe Cannon says
Mike, fantastic about getting CPR/AED certified! This will make you much more marketable and valuable to gyms -especially the higher end gyms.
Since you are already certified, Id recommend saving your money on other certs (they can be expensive) and just getting the textbooks of the different organizations. Just study those books and you will have the knowledge. For your clients, the knowledge is most important.
I’ve met people who were ISSA certified and they knew what they were talking about so I have no problems with them. I know some gyms may not be fans of ISSA because they are online so that is something they will have to work through over time. I know some people try to cheat their way through ISSA, having seen their questions about the test posted on websites. Here is an interview I did with an ISSA Personal Trainer that may shed some light on it.
As for NASM, I think they are over rated. I believe people often think they are the “best” because they market so much. They are the squeaky wheel of fitness. Here is my review of the NASM TV commercial. They were the first fitness organization to do a 30 min infomercial, which again goes to how good their marketing is. I think NASM is over priced and they even have a “restocking fee” for online classes – what is there to “restock?” If you are thinking about NASM, I’d say first buy their textbook and study it and see what you think. Some have told me its very technical. Here is an interview I did with an NASM trainer about the NASM test.
As I often say it doesn’t matter to me who somebody is certified by as long as they know what they are doing. Since you have already the big step in getting CPR/AED certified I’m sure whatever cert you choose you will be ok.
Thanks for ordering my book and I hope you enjoy it!
Thank you for the useful information.
I would like to know what you think about NAFC. Would you look into them for me?
The URL is http://www.nafctrainer.com/offerings/personal-training-certification
Also, if possible, I would like to have your advice.
Currently, I’m more into nutrition sides. From your article, it seems that Expert Rating has a few classes, such as herbs and supplements. Is there any recommendation or resources about nutrition or health studies?
Joe Cannon says
Hi Lilly, sorry it took a little longer than expected to get back to you. I wanted to learn more about NAFC. If you go back to my review, you’ll see that I have now included a section about NAFC. If you dont see it, hit the refresh button on your browser and it will show up.
The NAFC nutrition book was written by their advisory board and is an ebook. I have not seen it. I can only assume that it has all the basic info that other nutrition books include. My resources page on this website has a nutrition section that includes books etc that I like.
The resources page of SupplementClarity.com – my other website – has several other books as well. that site is about my reviews of dietary supplements, something you may find interesting.
I’m very much into the studies myself.
If you have any other questions, just ask 🙂
I need to get re-certified in personal training. It has been several years since I took your course. Can I still sign up for a class and get certified with out taking the test? Do you have any classes at GCC this summer that would me the requirements.
Joe Cannon says
Patrick, since we are talking about AAAI/ISMA (which is not an online cert in case anyone wondered, Here is my post on the AAAI/ISMA re-certification process. It should answer all your questions.
Hi everybody. Just a heads up that I updated this review with info on the American Fitness Institute (AFI). If you dont see it, hit the refresh button on your browser.
If you want me to add any other online certs to this review, just email me the name of the organization and I’ll be glad to look into them for you 🙂
Do you know anything about W.I.T.S. I completed this certification about 10 years ago but at the time found not many gyms accepted it. They do now expect you to complete an internship as well along with the certification, but I have also found that many gyms do not have the time for that.
Overall what are your thoughts about the Expert Rating Online Programs, very financially affordable it sounds.
Joe Cannon says
Amanda, I have not met many who have went though Expert rating but I agree they are affordable. What I’m not sure about them is how many gyms accept Expert Rating? I do wonder about how easy it is to cheat on their tests as well.
Ive been aware of WITS for a long time and Ive always liked the notion of going to school for 6 weeks. I have a review of WITS I’ll be posting here in the near future. I interviewed a couple of people who went through their program.
Are you still WITS certified? What do you think about them?
Unfortunately, I never kept up with my credits, and that is why I am asking to attempt to get re-certified. Now I can retake the exam through WITS, but they are encouraging me to take the class again,(do to many changes) however for me I do not really have the time to do the internship piece of it.
Any thoughts on how I can accomplish this without going through the entire program again. My big thing too is that I have misplaced my hardcopy certification and WITS will not give me another one since I never kept up with my credits.
As far as WITS they were good, classroom setting and good knowledge base as well hands-ons and practical component
Joe Cannon says
Amanda, your not alone. I think not keeping up with when certs expire is one of the biggest issues I see with trainers. I always advise people to take note of when it expires and to put a reminder in your calendar (google, outlook etc) so that it pops up at least 6 months before it expires. that way you’d have the time needed to maintain it.
That said, I think there are few things to consider if you stick with WITS:
1. how much does it cost to just take the test again (No class)
2. how much does it cost to go through the whole WITS program again?
3. Do you think you can pass the WITS test again if you dont do the class?
I assume they will not make you do another internship since you have already gone though the program yes?
As for taking the class again, I dont think exercise science has changed so much since when you took the class before. If you have not been keeping up with the field then you will get a good refresher on things but If you have been keeping up, I dont think there would be any big revelations in the class the second time around.
If you decide to take a less expensive route (like Expert Rating) make sure first that any gyms you work at accept it. If you are self employed then this does not matter as much.
There are also other options out there besides Expert. just a few include
These organizations would allow you to get a certification in 1-3 days assuming you pass their test.
What do you think?
I have talked to a WITS rep and was told to just retest would be $125.00. I have been working in the field so I agree that not much has probably changed, I think I will talk to them again about possibly taking the class again and waive the internship.. I appreciate your insight into other options though.
Joe Cannon says
Amanda, sounds good and do keep me in the loop on what happens. I hope you will also leave a comment on my WITS review when I post it soon.
Mike B says
Joe what is your opinion of SFA ( American Senior Fitness Association). I believe they are out of New Smyrna Beach, Florida. I am seriously considering a certification as a Senior Fitness Personal Trainer. I wanted to get your opinion of the school. Thanks Joe
Joe Cannon says
Mike, Ive heard of the Senior Fitness Association (SFA) but honestly dont know much about it and didn’t know until now that it was an online cert. I looked at their website http://www.seniorfitness.net/sfaspt_2.htm and it does look like its a test you take at home. It did say “certificate.” I dont have an opinion either way on them except to say if its your only cert then make sure local gyms accept it.
Kudos to you for wanting to work with older adults. The 2 references I have that have helped me over the years include
ACSM Guidelines for Special Populations Book
ACE Clinical Exercise Specialist Book
Do take a look at the ACE clinical exercise specialist cert too as it deals with older adults as well as other special needs as well.
I’ll also try to see what I can dig up about Senior Fitness Association. you got me curious about it.