ACE vs. NASM – Get the Inside Information on these Phenomenal Personal Training Certifications

Are you considering the idea of becoming a personal trainer? 

If so, you will need some excellent credentials to get the ball rolling for your business.  That’s where ACE (American Council on Exercise) or NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) become your best friend. 

Both ACE and NASM are highly regarded in the fitness industry.  They are listed as the top two certifications you can acquire for personal training. 

Why is that?  We’ll explain all of the details of each so you can decide which is suitable for you in the NASM vs. ACE debate.

What Should I look for in a Personal Trainer Certification?

It’s an excellent question. 

If you are new to personal training, you might not have the first clue what elements are critical to a superb personal training certification. 

If that’s the case, we listed some items you need to look for within a certification course.

Price

If a certification is too inexpensive, there is a reason.  It probably isn’t great, and sometimes it won’t be accepted by future potential employers. 

Both ACE and NASM offer a variety of courses that are all priced differently. 

Find the course that works best for you and invest in your trainer studies.  That investment will come back to you five times over once you are rocking it at a local gym as a trainer. 

Since this is an ACE vs. NASM article, we should mention that ACE is less expensive than NASM.

Credibility

Remember how we just mentioned that some employers might not accept certifications that aren’t great?  It’s true. 

You want to ensure your personal training certification is NCCA (National Commission for Certifying Agencies) accredited. 

We’re happy to report that both ACE and NASM are NCCA accredited training programs.

Education Materials

How do you receive your study materials?  This is important because some people need hands-on study materials like textbooks, while others prefer online learning. 

Depending on what type of person you are will determine what training program you pick.  Regardless of materials, the interface should be easy to use and self-explanatory. 

All certifications use different training models.  NASM uses an Optimum Performance Training model (OPT), while ACE uses its own ACE Integrated Fitness Model (IFT).

Exams

Oh, how we love an exam!  Are we right?  The difficulty and length of the exam will likely influence your choice. 

Both ACE and NASM give thorough, tough exams to ensure you have developed a wide range of knowledge as a personal trainer. 

Don’t freak out. 

As long as you put in the work and effort, you will do just fine.  Some reviews suggest that the NASM exam is a little more complicated as you have to pass with at least a 70%.  For the ACE exam, you need 62.5% to pass. 

ACE does have more questions on their exam than NASM, in case that sways you either way.  

Employment Opportunities

Like we stated in the credibility section, you need a personal trainer program that is highly respected in the fitness industry.  Why is that so essential? 

It’s because your certification will dictate your employment opportunities once you are certified. 

Both ACE and NASM are highly reputable in the fitness industry.  You can’t go wrong with either one when applying for a job.

NASM – National Academy of Sports Medicine

We’ll say it.  NASM is a little more popular than ACE.  However, that doesn’t affect your job opportunities when it comes to NASM vs. ACE. 

Both are highly respectable.  NASM is better known for its certification in teaching corrective exercises and certain specializations within the field.  It offers an online training program with four different package options. 

NASM uses the OPT model that is a scientifically proven effective method of fitness training.  It’s based on five principles that build on each other–stabilization endurance, strength endurance, muscular development/hypertrophy, maximal strength, and power. 

All of these phases work together to give you an excellent training program that has certified over one million personal trainers worldwide. 

Also, the average income for a NASM personal trainer is $41,598.  Not too shabby.

How to Become a NASM Certified Personal Trainer

NASM Courses and Products | Personal Trainer Certification

With a Personal Trainer Certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine, you’ll master the necessary skills to start training clients and the tools required to help them see results.

$599 $899 $300 OFF

See Course Packages

Before you can be certified by NASM, there are specific criteria that you must meet. 

You must hold a high school diploma or equivalent and you must already hold a current CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) certification. 

In addition to that, you must hold an AED (automated external defibrillator) certification. 

Finally, you just need to choose one of the courses that NASM offers and get started.  Let’s go through what courses are available now.

Self-Study Course

NASM Courses and Products | Personal Trainer Certification

With a Personal Trainer Certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine, you’ll master the necessary skills to start training clients and the tools required to help them see results.

$599 $899 $300 OFF

See Course Packages

It’s in the title, but this NASM course is 100% online and is all self-study.  It’s normally $899, but right now they are offering it for $599. 

We love an excellent deal and this sure gives you enormous value for your money. 

This course includes an NCCA accredited exam, a state-of-the-art digital learning platform, learning videos, audio chapter summaries, an exercise demonstration library, handouts/resources library, practice exams, and virtual coaching.  We told you that was a whole lot of value for your money. 

We don’t tell lies.

Premium Self-Study Course

Ooh, self-study got an upgrade! 

In addition to all of the fabulous features offered in the self-study course, also get a job guarantee.  Say what?  That’s right. 

NASM guarantees that you will get a job working as a personal trainer within 90 days of completing their exam or refund you the job guarantee cost. 

Another nice add with the premium self-study is a one-year subscription to the NASM EDGE Trainer Plus.  It’s an app that allows you to continue training and keep your certification fresh. 

At $839 (usually $1,199), get you some premium education.

Guided Study Course

NASM Courses and Products | Personal Trainer Certification

With a Personal Trainer Certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine, you’ll master the necessary skills to start training clients and the tools required to help them see results.

$599 $899 $300 OFF

See Course Packages

Are you seeing how these are building on each other?  The guided study includes all of the premium options and then some. 

Study on your own and receive unlimited access to NASM fitness experts to guide you through any of the curriculum. 

If you like hands-on study materials, you’ll love the guided study option as you receive the NASM-CPT hardcopy textbook.  Sometimes old school is the best school. 

This option also comes with a bonus course called Motivational Interviewing for Coaches.  That might come in handy once you are out applying for jobs.  Are you ready for the best part? 

The guided study curriculum comes with a certification retest option.  If you don’t pass the certification exam the first time, you can retake it at no extra cost.  Sometimes nerves get the best of us. 

This is an excellent way to get those nerves out of your system and receive another chance.  The cost for this is $1,119 (normally $1,599).  Again, the savings are incredible with NASM.

All-inclusive Course

It’s the mack daddy option, ya’ll.  The NASM all-inclusive curriculum gives you all of the guided study features.  Of course, then there is more. 

Receive even more study help with the NASM Edge CPT Exam prep.  We’re talking flashcards and over 600 practice questions to ensure you are ready for the real deal. 

Are you ready for an internship?  Because you can have one with the Gymternship that allows you 80 hours of hands-on experience training alongside a professional trainer. 

Learn your trade in real-time.  Recertify for life with this option.  NASM requires recertification every two years, and with the all-inclusive NASM option, you never have to pay additional fees to recertify. 

If you’re not already CPR and AED certified, this option allows you to get certified in both online before you take your NASM exam.  Pretty groovy, right? 

The all-inclusive curriculum is $1,889 (normally $2,699).

NASM Exam Information

Once you sign up for one of the NASM curriculums, you need to take the test within 12 months. 

The exam is 120 multiple choice questions with a two-hour time limit and requires a 70% to pass.  The pass rate is 64%, so study up, and you will do fine. 

If you do fail, there is an option to retake the exam for an extra fee.  Of course, if you purchased the guided or all-inclusive options, you already get to retake the exam free of charge. 

The scores of the exam are immediate, so you can celebrate your success without waiting.  You receive your NASM certificate within four weeks of passing.

NASM Courses and Products | Personal Trainer Certification

With a Personal Trainer Certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine, you’ll master the necessary skills to start training clients and the tools required to help them see results.

$599 $899 $300 OFF

See Course Packages

Pros:

  • Great for specializations and fixing muscle imbalances in clients
  • Study materials are easy to use.
  • Guided study is available
  • The curriculum is scientifically based

Cons:

  • NASM certification is more expensive than ACE

ACE – American Council on Exercise

NASM had its time to shine.  Now it’s time to focus on what an ACE certification brings to the table. 

Ranked just as high as NASM in the fitness industry, ACE is known for its focus on general health and fitness. 

They deliver the information to you via a new ACE personal trainer study program that is science-based and fits any learning style. 

With over 90,000 professional ACE trainers globally, it’s no wonder ACE is at the forefront of personal trainer certifications.

How to Become an ACE Certified Trainer

If the ACE certification program is for you, let’s get you started. 

First, you must be 18 years of age or older, have a high school diploma or equivalent, hold a current CPR and AED certification, and provide a current government-issued photo id with signature. 

Once you get all of that out of the way, you need to purchase an ACE curriculum option, study, register for the exam within six months, pass the exam, and keep your certification.  Easy peasy.

ACE IFT Curriculum

Functional Training Certification | ACE

As an ACE Functional Training Specialist, you will help your clients move more—more efficiently, more effectively and more often.


Choose Your Study Program

What does the ACE IFT curriculum have to offer? 

First and foremost, it teaches you the ethics and responsibilities of a personal trainer.  Then it helps you foster your future clients by teaching about setting goals, eliciting behavior changes, and instilling the proper teaching techniques. 

With an ACE certification, learn how to maintain health and fitness and develop successful programs for your clients. 

Develop the skills to guide clients through modifications based on various diseases, conditions, injuries, and different stages of life. 

Finally, ACE teaches you how to build and maintain your business from a professional side of things.  Insurance, record keeping, and risk management might not be the most fun side of being a personal trainer, but it’s necessary.

Basic Course

There’s nothing basic about this course, but we’ll let the name slide.  With this curriculum, access ACE University for all of your learning and the ACE practice test to ensure you pass the real deal. 

Get a digital copy of the ACE personal trainer textbook and the ACE personal trainer study companion. 

Also, get the ACE answers to all of your questions to not miss any answers on your test.  The basic course is $424 (usually $849).

Plus Course

This ACE curriculum offers all of the features of the basic course with some excellent extras.  Instead of one practice test, this option provides two. 

This option features a hard copy of the ACE personal trainer textbook and the ACE personal trainer study companion if you need more hands-on study materials.  The ACE answers get an upgrade with this option and offer live question and answer sessions. 

Get your questions answered in real-time.  The plus course offers Exercise Science 101, so you can learn all of the physiology and anatomy information you will need for your clients.  This course is $549 (usually $999).

Advantage Course

The most expensive option comes with all of the fun stuff.  Trust us on that.  Receive the audiobook version of the ACE personal trainer textbook and take the ACE practice test up to four times. 

The ACE answers now come with a facilitated study group.  Work with others who are training just like you and get more out of your training. 

We like friends, right?  The advantage course gives you dedicated one-on-one help from an ACE advantage representative. 

You get all of the help you need to ensure you pass your exam and are successful in your personal training career.  This option is available for $899 (usually $1,499).

ACE Exam Information

After all that studying, it’s time to slice and dice that exam.  The exam consists of 150 multiple choice questions with a three-hour time limit.  A passing score is 62.5%.  With a passing rate of 65%, the odds are excellent that you will pass after all of that studying. 

If you don’t pass, you are done.  We are kidding!  You can retake the exam for an extra fee. 

Recertification is required every two years for a price of $129.  Keep in mind that you’ll get your money back once you start building your clientele. 

The average ACE personal trainer makes $41,000.  The investment in the ACE certification is well worth it.

Functional Training Certification | ACE

As an ACE Functional Training Specialist, you will help your clients move more—more efficiently, more effectively and more often.


Choose Your Study Program

Pros:

  • ACE certification is less expensive than NASM
  • The ACE certification is excellent for general fitness and coaching techniques.
  • Scientific and evidence-based teaching
  • Thorough self-study program

Cons:

  • Not as focused on corrective exercise or muscle imbalances

Ace or NASM – Have you Decided?

We’ve done our homework, and we are happy to say that NASM and ACE are both excellent options for your personal trainer certification. 

While they offer different aspects to personal training, they are both NCCA accredited, feature excellent learning opportunities, and ensure you will be well-respected in your professional career. 

Stop thinking about becoming a personal trainer and do it.  ACE and NASM are ready for you, and you can’t go wrong with either one. 

Now which one to choose?

Kristen holds a bachelors in English from Louisianna university. With a longstanding passion for fitness, she owns and operate her own gym and is a certified jazzercise instructor.

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