How to get your personal trainer certification!

Home >> Blog >> Fitness >> How to get your personal trainer certification!

Are you a personal trainer or looking to become one? If so, you’ve probably heard that it’s important to get your personal trainer certification. “But what’s the point?” you say to yourself as you mix your protein shake, “Aren’t my knowledge, experience, and skills enough? I already know how to get people the results they’re after, and plus, getting certified is a nuisance and costs money.”

Yes, it does take time, effort, and forking over some extra cash to become a certified personal trainer. However, after reading this article, I think you’ll agree that the pros far outweigh the cons.

Your Big 5 compound lift numbers may be solid, but after delving into what we’ll be discussing here, the foundation of your business as a personal trainer will be solidified as well

Strap on your lifting gloves and chug your pre-workout drink because we’re about to break your personal trainer business plateau for good!


There are several good reasons why you may want to get certified as a personal trainer before embarking on a career of coaching folks to become the best versions of themselves physically.

First and foremost, you will earn more money.

You can earn a median annual salary of $38,160, according to a survey done by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2016. That’s roughly $19/hr to start – not bad!

The same survey found that the demand for personal trainers has been growing by 10% between 2016 and 2026, which is faster than the overall job market

Between 2016 and 2026, it’s estimated that an additional 31,000 personal trainers will join the market looking for clients, so it’s important to distinguish yourself with a personal training certification so that you can stand out from the crowd.

Another key reason to get certified is social proof. By positioning yourself as an expert, you draw more clients in and encourage them to put their trust in you and your experience.

This will, in turn, make them feel more comfortable investing in your training program because they believe they can get stellar results if they are being coached by someone who knows their stuff

Try posting a picture of yourself holding up your certificate on social media – at PocketSuite we routinely see trainers that are doing six figures use this strategy to show they are licensed professionals to current and prospective clients!

Additionally, more options regarding financing and payment processing will be open to you if you are certified because these institutions will trust your business more and in turn provide you with better rates and faster service.

Some of the online training institutions will even help you with the business side of things – they have courses on finding clients, marketing and advertising, and maintaining a full schedule of lessons and coaching classes.

Another great reason for being certified is liability. Yes, believe it or not, you can be sued by clients for several reasons, and if you’re not certified, it is nearly impossible to find insurance to cover you.

To protect yourself from legal issues arising from client dissatisfaction, injury, or alleged misconduct on your part, it’s important to become certified so that you can qualify for personal trainer insurance in the first place.

Between making more money, protecting yourself from lawsuits, and winning the approval and the business of potential new clients, how many more reasons do you need?

In the next section, we’ll talk about specifically how to go about getting your personal training certification. As it turns out, there are several nuances to keep in mind, so stay tuned.


There are a ton of certifications available in the field of personal training. Here are just some of the acronyms that you can add to your bio: CPT, CEP, CSPS, CIFT

Which one should you choose and what’s the difference?

The first thing you need to understand is that there’s a commission for certifying bodies that’s called the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).

This is the organization that makes sure the certification that you receive is legitimate.

Within that organization are four major certifying bodies

  • American College of Sports Medicine
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine
  • American Council on Exercise
  • National Strength and Conditioning Association

Certifications cost between $200-$600 with $300 as the most common price

Continuing education requires between 20-60 hours of continuing education credits (CECs) every 2-3 years with costs ranging from $45 to $129.

There are also typically a few prerequisites (things you need to do before taking the class), such as:

  • Being at least 18 years old
  • Having your high school diploma or GED
  • Passing a CPR class

Here’s an official list of the only legitimate agencies out there. If you’re going to get certified, make sure it’s with one of the following:

  • Academy of Applied Personal Training Education (AAPTE)
  • ACTION Certification (ACTION)
  • American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
  • American Council on Exercise (ACE)
  • International Fitness Professionals Association (IFPA)
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
  • National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF)
  • National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association (NESTA)
  • National Exercise Trainers Association (NETA)
  • National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT)
  • National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
  • PTA Global, Inc. (PTA Global, Inc.)
  • The Cooper Institute (CI)

Check here for a detailed list of these certifying agencies, the actual certifications you can get, as well as the requirements for each

Most of these associations can share guidance on exactly how to meet your certification requirements by searching for them on any search engine. Here is a great example of ACE’s guide on how to get certified.

NASM provides another guide that includes tips on passing the exam as well as requirements you should consider before moving forward.

The ACSM provides the same type of guidance and also offers workshops, textbooks, and an online test prep platform called PrepU.

You can also get an Associates, Bachelors, or Masters degrees in the areas of kinesiology, exercise science, and/or personal training from various colleges around the world.

Here are the career concentrations that you can focus on:

  • Exercise Physiologist
  • Sports Nutritionist
  • Group Exercise Instructor
  • Corrective Exercise Specialist
  • Strength And Conditioning Coach

Enroll in a training program (such as an online school) to explore your options and determine which one is best for your niche.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the step-by-step instructions to get certified:

  1. Choose a school or entity for certification
  2. Search for them on any search engine to find their website
  3. Follow their guides for becoming certified
  4. Take the exam
  5. Pass the exam
  6. Collect your diploma – now you’re certified!

It really is that simple.

Here’s a quick and dirty cheat sheet for choosing your certification entity, if you’re tired of wading through articles on each one:

  • Average “I just want to get in shape” clients – NASM
  • Athlete clients – NSCA-CPT
  • Medical/clinical patients – ACSM

Now that you’re armed and dangerous with the knowledge you need, it’s time to get certified.

However, once you receive your diploma, that’s just the first step. What do you do once you’re certified?


If you’ve already got your certification, the next step is to get clients!

PocketSuite can help you manage those clients with features like online booking, accepting credit cards, payments, class scheduling, selling packages, offering subscriptions, messaging, taking deposits, enforcing cancellation policy, sending e-contracts/waivers, completing online forms, and a whole lot more.

If you’re already using PocketSuite, here’s how to set it up for your Fitness business.

Lift your business to new heights and take your income growth to the next level by trying out the Premium plan today!

You may also enjoy our article on the Best Communities for Personal Trainers.

Like this article? You’ll love our guide on how to generate leads for service businesses in 2022, and of course our Frustrations with Square article!