Thinking about becoming a trainer… which certification should you get?

Which Personal Training Certification Should I Get?

Dear Friend,

I get this question all the time: “Which personal training certification should I get, Stu?”

In this post, we’ll break down the top 5 certifications and what their focus is.  That way, you’ll be able to choose the certification that’s best for you.

The Top 5 Personal Training Certifications

Based on my 15 years in the industry, here are the iron-clad, top 5 certifications that you can’t go wrong with:

  1. ACE
  2. NASM
  3. ACSM
  4. NSCS
  5. CSCS

Each of these certifications will get you a job just about anywhere, but there are subtle differences you need to know about.  Let’s take a look at them.


The ACE certification is a more general certification.  It was one of the first certifications in existence, and has a strong reputation.  It’s a great certification if you plan on training a diverse demographic and “general” demographic.  By that I mean people that aren’t athletes and just want to get into overall better shape.

I personally have the ACE certification and it has served me very well.

As a note, the certification gets you started, but the continuing education really helps develop you into a diverse and knowledgeable trainer.


NASM & ACSM get into a bit more depth of knowledge than ACE.  These certifications cover more physiology material having to do with the inner workings of muscles and other more advanced anatomy.  They’re a bit harder, but can pay off with the extra knowledge (and maybe confidence) you get from the depth.

I would hire someone with an NASM or ACSM certification without question because they’re difficult enough that they weed people out who aren’t serious about training.

I also know that a trainer with one of these certifications is going to know enough about the body that they won’t injure a person, and they’ll probably be a pretty effective trainer.


These certifications are way more in depth.  These are the certifications you should look at if you plan on working with athletes and building a business or reputation around sports medicine, rehab, or therapy.

These certs are very specific and you will gain a tremendous amount of knowledge in a more athlete-focused curriculum.

This certification is probably overkill if your planning on training the general population.  You’d do better to choose one of the other three I’ve discussed.

Still, having this certification will show any potential employer that you’re extremely knowledgeable and serious about your profession.

One Thing To Consider:

Even though your certification is important, it won’t guarantee you a job.  You still need to be marketable and hone your business skills so that you can interview well and demonstrate how you’ll be an asset to a potential employer.

And that’s why I created my e-class… to make sure when you get certified you get a job at any gym you want… and… you get clients right away!

In fact, most of my students end up making $4,000 a month within 6 months!

Remember: the certification is just the first step… it’s what you do afterward that determines your level of success.

13 thoughts on “Thinking about becoming a trainer… which certification should you get?”

    1. Stu @ TheSixFigureTrainer

      Hi Chedi!

      In regards to an online course? I’m not sure what you’re referring to. If you’re asking if the Personal Training Certifications offer online courses, they probably do.

      If you’re asking if this website is an online course… currently it is not, but I am considering creating a course if there is enough interest. Let me know what you’re referring to and if I can help you!


  1. In your opinion is it worth it to pay nearly double the price in order to get all the learning materials from ACE for one of their courses rather than just registering for the exam ??

    1. Stu @ TheSixFigureTrainer

      Hi Dalia!

      I’m not sure I understand your question exactly?

      Are you asking if you should pay double to get study materials for ACE vs. just taking the exam and studying on your own?

      If so, then that depends on how well and fast you learn. I personally bought the ACE manual and read it cover-to-cover over the course of a month and was able to pass, but I’m a really good student/learner.

      The reason a person would pay more for the learning materials or courses is so that they pass the first time around.

      Let me know if I answered your question, and if you want me to clarify.

      You can find the ACE manual on line for a fair price, and there are numerous companies that offer prep-classes for the exam that can be worth-while.


    1. Stu @ TheSixFigureTrainer

      Hi Holly!

      In my opinion… ISSA is just OK. Here’s what I mean…

      If you were trying to get a job at a gym or health club, and other candidates had the certifications I mention above… they will probably get the position before you do.

      The ISSA certification process isn’t as rigorous or in-depth as some of the ones I mention, so you might find that it limits your options.

      That being said… if you already have an ISSA certification, you can definitely use the information I provide here and in my course, but there’s a slight chance you could run into a hurdle along the way and you should be aware of that.

      It’s better to be certified and take action than it is to wait to get a “perfect certification.”

      I hope this helps! Leave any other comment or question!

  2. Hi Stu,

    I’ve been considering purchasing one of the ACE programs, but I’m a little hesitant that the prices are so high. Which of the three (Pro Advantage, Pro Plus, and Pro Essentials) do you think gives you the best bang for your buck and do you think it’s worth the $700.00 it costs? Thank!!

    1. Stu @ TheSixFigureTrainer

      Hey Ty,

      I actually just got the manual off Amazon and read it cover-to-cover… however, I am really good student.

      But… here’s an Amazon link ( so you can see what they have (for a lot less!) and then you can look for 3rd party “prep courses” that would probably be about half the cost… Let me know what you find!


  3. Hi Stu, I have a few questions. First, I recently passed the ACTION Personal Trainer Certification, and I am very interested to hear your thoughts on how “good”/ reputable this certification is compared to the other main certs mentioned in this article? Also, I read your article on choosing the right type of gym, and you said that you believe privately owned gyms are the best bet for beginner trainers. Do you still think this holds true even if I have a certification that is less well known, or do you think I would have a tough time getting hired with all of the competition in this industry?
    Thank you, Sebastian.

    1. Stu @ TheSixFigureTrainer

      Hi Sebastian!

      I have never heard of the ACTION personal trainer certification. In my opinion, many gyms probably won’t have heard of it either.

      But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a job at a good gym… the kinds I mention. In fact, I teach how to get ANY gym to want to hire you in my online course.

      When you know what to say and how to demonstrate your value… they will look past your certification.

      Here’s why… a lot of it has to do with your attitude… at the end of the day the gyms want to know their members are going to be happy… and they want to make money!

  4. Hi Stu, Thank you for your feedback, I greatly appreciate it! I have been reading the articles on your website for a little while now, and I am very interested in your online course. Is there any idea when the course will be available?

    Thank you, Sebastian.

    1. Stu @ TheSixFigureTrainer

      Hi Sebastian!

      We are working around the clock right now… and it should be available in about a month… I will make sure to send you a message and let you know when it’s about ready!


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