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 2020, and of course our Frustrations with Square article!


Best Communities to Help Personal Trainers Succeed

Being an independent health and fitness professional can feel lonely. You don’t have co-workers, you don’t have any team – it’s you and your clients. As fitness-focused groups and communities have grown online (on top of what already exists “offline”), fitness, health and wellness professionals are starting to take advantage of the vast wealth of knowledge and benefits out there. Being a part of a group or community won’t just help you get more clients or help you learn tips/tools from successful peers, but they can also act as your psychiatrist – helping you connect with fellow fitness and health professionals across the world relating to your daily frustrations, questions and concerns.

We’ve spoken to thousands of personal trainers, wellness professionals and yoga instructors to get a sense as to the most powerful communities (online and offline) to help them get the upper hand when it comes to building their own small business.

LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn Groups can help your fitness business in two ways:
(1) Shed light on great educational resources
(2) Connect with peers to help your sanity

LinkedIn Groups focus around fitness, health and wellness businesses are hyper-targeted and can add hyper value to your business. Groups that were recommended to us include Fitness Trainers and Coaches (52,815 members), Health & Fitness Industry Professionals (21,507 members), and The Health & Wellness Networking Group (60,790 members).

These groups are best described by a summary from Fitness Trainers and Coaches. “Allowing professionals in this industry to network, gain knowledge and share techniques among other group members so that the common objective of improving the lives of our clients, can be achieved along with the advances in technology.

LinkedIn Groups are great because the members of these communities share training tips. They share useful blogs and they share tech tools that will help their peers succeed. The fantastic thing about these communities is the professionals don’t consider each other competition. Members are open and happy to be helpful to other professionals – it’s not a zero sum game in this community…everybody can succeed together.

LinkedIn is also a great way to connect with peers to help vent any frustration. On top of public communication feed, you can create direct and private relationships with other trainers on the platform. You can share stories, experiences and advice (public or private). Advice based on any working situations or experiences you’ve had with clients. You can decide if you’d like act as social media shrink doling out advice to peers. Act as the patient with a sea of eager fitness, health and wellness entrepreneurs who are willing to help.

Certification Programs

Don’t get me wrong – getting a 3rd party certification as a fitness trainer or health professional is work. Discovering the program that will benefit your business, analyze its benefits, pay money for the certification, and then actually prepare and take an exam to complete certification. The return on this investment can be huge for a variety of reasons.

Popular certification programs include ACE Fitness, IDEA Fit, and NASM. Becoming a part of these certification programs is great because it not only opens you up to a network of other professionals, but allows you to leverage the network for benefits. Things like employment listings, exposure within a client-facing directory, liability insurance discounts, product discounts and more. Here’s a great comparison table detailing the variety of benefits across certification programs.

Communities like these are more active and force you to do work. In return the amount of work you put in can yield tremendous dividends. About 100,000 trainers across the U.S. are part of these certification groups.

Twitter Influencers

There are a lot of these “influencers” on Twitter that dole out useful tips, tricks and advice. Especially relevant within the fitness and health industries that thrive off it. Typically most of these people cater to consumers who are looking for D.I.Y. advice. This is not as relevant to eager entrepreneurs looking to build their own business. Similarly there are many influencers you can follow on Twitter who talk about broad or niche topics that you will find interesting. Therefore, you can then pass on to your clients in the form of consulting advice or enhanced services.

Adam Bornstein (@BornFitness) provides great content and articles around a whole host of educational fitness topics. Meaghan B Murphy (@meaghanbmurphy) is an ACE certified trainer and also provides useful tips focused on training integrated with a healthy lifestyle. Jen Sinkler (@jensinkler) has a hyper focus around female heavy lifting (niche industry for some trainers). Bobby Strom (@BobbyStrom) is known as the “trainer’s trainer” with must-read tips revolving around not just fitness but medical help as well. Bob Harper (@MyTrainerBob) is meal oriented and clearly one who is friendly with food-conscious celebrities. Point being, there are all types of fitness and health personalities you can follow. To further your entrepreneurial career, depending on your business needs.

Twitter communities keep you and your specific industry in-the-know on a variety of topics. Never let any trends, topics or tips slip under the radar – turn this knowledge into power by improving your client relationships and services.