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The Best Personal Trainer Certification Programs

The Best Personal Trainer Certification Programs

Reading Time: 9 minutes


DATE: 2023-07-26

Are you passionate about fitness? Do you have a desire to help others achieve their health and wellness goals? If so, becoming a certified personal trainer could be the perfect career path for you. In an industry that is continuously growing, a personal trainer certification sets you apart and demonstrates your expertise and dedication to your clients' success.

With numerous organizations offering personal trainer certifications, it can be overwhelming to determine which one is the best fit for you. Selecting the right certification program is crucial, as it will shape your knowledge, skills, and credibility as a fitness professional. That's why we've crafted this comprehensive guide to help you navigate the process and make an informed decision.

Whether you aspire to work in a gym, start your own fitness business, or specialize in a particular area like sports performance or corrective exercise, the right personal trainer certification will open doors and empower you to excel in your chosen career path.

So, let's dive in and explore the essential factors to consider when selecting the best personal trainer certification program. Equip yourself with the knowledge and resources you need to embark on a rewarding journey of transforming lives through fitness and well-being.

Why Take a Personal Trainer Certification Course?

To get fit and remain fit takes time, effort, and for most people, a whole lot of trial and error. A professional fitness trainer helps clients avoid the common mistakes people make when trying to get fit. They come alongside their clients to coach and teach them about the principles of health and wellness. Professional trainers help their clients sift through the false or misleading information they encounter online, in magazines, on social media, etc. Personal trainers inspire, motivate, and educate clients so they can reach fitness goals and live a healthier lifestyle.

To be this kind of leader, a fitness professional must

  • Apply concepts of physiology and kinesiology to design and implement safe and effective fitness programs

  • Understand and apply principles of nutrition to equip clients with the knowledge necessary to make healthy choices

  • Describe why and how specific programs work to help motivate clients to achieve fitness goals and integrate fitness into their lifestyle

However, gone are the days of counting reps and prescribing rigid meal plans.

Today's successful fitness professionals also employ psychological techniques to coach clients to make better decisions. They help clients build competency and autonomy. They create an environment where clients feel connected, challenged, and engaged.

These are common skills among top fitness professionals, but they didn't come naturally. Nor are they static concepts. These skills are learned and must be consistently practiced.

However, the fitness industry is not regulated. There are no requirements to become a personal trainer. There are trainers out there who train based on experience. They probably grew up playing sports and know their way around the gym. Experience is a valuable trait...but it is a weak foundation to build a successful career upon.

Fitness trainers must know the science behind exercise. They need to think critically and give sound advice to clients. What works for one person may not work for another. That is why it is best to take a personal training certification course. That is also why many certification organizations require their fitness trainers to take continuing education to maintain certifications.

A formal education is the best way to gain the skills necessary to be a successful personal trainer. There are many options available, which we'll discuss in this article.

Although the fitness industry is not regulated, many top employers require their fitness trainers to be certified. A certificate means you're more than just a fit body with a heart to help people. Becoming a certified personal fitness trainer means you have the requisite knowledge to support clients on their fitness journey. And if you want to work as a personal fitness trainer, a certificate boosts your competitive edge.

Types of Personal Trainer Certification Course Providers

To become a certified personal trainer, you have several options for where you can take a course. Here are some common avenues to consider:

Online Certification Providers

With the continued popularity of online learning, several organizations offer personal trainer certification courses that can be completed entirely or partially online. This option provides flexibility, allowing you to study at home and at your own pace. However, it's important to ensure that the online certification provider is reputable, accredited, and recognized within the fitness industry.

Colleges and Universities

Many colleges and universities offer degree programs in exercise science, kinesiology, or related fields that include personal trainer certification as part of the curriculum. If you prefer a more comprehensive academic approach, you may consider enrolling in such a program. These programs often provide a blend of theoretical knowledge and practical experience.

Fitness Centers and Gyms

Some fitness centers and gyms offer their own in-house personal trainer certification courses. These courses may be tailored to their specific training methodologies or philosophies. While these certifications may be more limited in their recognition outside of the particular gym or fitness center, they can still provide a solid foundation and potential employment opportunities within that specific organization.

Learning Style: What Personal Trainer Course Features Help You Learn Best?

Choosing the best personal training certification course based on your learning style is crucial to ensure that you have an optimal learning experience and can successfully absorb the knowledge and skills being taught. Here are some considerations to help you choose the best certification course:

  • Learning Environment: Determine whether you prefer an in-person or online learning environment. If you thrive in a classroom setting with face-to-face interaction and hands-on practical sessions, an in-person course may be the best fit. On the other hand, if you prefer the flexibility of self-paced learning and the convenience of studying from home, an online course may be more suitable for you.

  • Curriculum Delivery: Evaluate how the course delivers the curriculum. Look for a format that aligns with your learning preferences. Some courses may realy solely on textbook reading, while others may incorporate additional study materials such as multimedia resources, video lectures, interactive modules, case studies, or group discussions. Consider what methods resonate with you and enhance your learning experience.

  • Practical Experience: Determine the level of practical experience provided in the certification course. Hands-on training, including practical sessions and real-life scenarios, can be invaluable for developing your skills as a personal trainer. If you learn best through doing and practicing, prioritize courses that offer ample opportunities for practical application.

  • Learning Materials and Resources: Assess the learning materials and resources provided by the certification course. Look for comprehensive study guides, textbooks, video tutorials, practice exams, and supplementary resources that complement the learning experience. Having access to well-structured and organized materials can support your understanding and retention of the content.

  • Support and Guidance: Consider the level of support and guidance offered throughout the certification course. Determine if the course provides access to instructors or mentors who can answer questions, provide feedback, and offer guidance during your learning journey. Additionally, check if the course offers a community or forum where you can interact with fellow learners to discuss concepts, share experiences, and seek support.

  • Assessments and Feedback: Understand the assessment methods used in the certification course and the feedback process. Determine if the course provides opportunities for formative assessments, such as quizzes or assignments, to reinforce your learning. Additionally, consider if there are practical assessments that allow you to demonstrate your skills and receive constructive feedback for improvement.

  • Learning Pace and Flexibility: Consider your preferred learning pace and the flexibility of the certification course. Some courses may have strict timelines and deadlines, while others may allow you to progress at your own speed. Evaluate whether the course structure aligns with your ability to balance your studies with other commitments.

Everyone has unique learning preferences, so choose a personal training certification course that aligns with your learning style and needs. By selecting a course that supports and enhances your learning experience, you'll be more motivated, engaged, and successful in gaining the knowledge and skills necessary to excel as a personal trainer.

Future Career: Where Do You Want to Work When You Become a Certified Personal Trainer?

Where you want to work and the clients you want to serve should be major factors in choosing the right program. Certified personal fitness trainers can work at many different locations:

  • Large or small gyms

  • Group fitness studios

  • Resorts

  • Cruise ships

  • Local park and recreation programs

  • In-home fitness studios

  • In clients' homes

  • Online

Pursuing a Bachelor's degree in sports medicine or athletic training further broadens your career opportunities. You can work for:

  • Local school athletics programs

  • College sports teams

  • Professional sports teams

  • Clinical practices

  • Hospitals

How Long Does It Take to Get Your Personal Trainer Certification?

How much time can you dedicate to learning a new skill? How soon do you want to become a certified personal fitness trainer?

Look for certification programs that fit into your lifestyle and get you to your goal in the timeline you're comfortable with. For some, an open-ended course offers the freedom they need to fit studying into their busy lifestyle. Others need the added accountability of a structured course, like a 6-month or 12-week study program.

What are the Prerequisites to Get Your Personal Training Certification?

What kind of experience and knowledge are required for you to enroll in the course?

If you are interested in taking a specialized course to train, for example, seniors or pre-natal women, are there courses that you need to take before you enroll for the specialty course?

Many programs offer stand-alone courses that will teach you basic requisite knowledge and then move on to specialized instruction. However, college courses are structured differently, and you may need to take certain courses before choosing a specialty. For example, you may need to take an anatomy and physiology class, then a bioenergetics class, before being allowed to take a course on athletic training.

How Much Does It Cost to Get Your Personal Training Certification?

The cost of obtaining a personal training certification can vary depending on several factors, including the certifying organization, the level of certification, the study materials provided, and any additional resources or workshops offered. Here are some general considerations regarding the cost:

  • Program Fees: Most certified personal trainer programs range from around $500 to $1,000 or more, depending on the organization and the level of certification (entry-level or advanced).

  • Exam Fees: To obtain the certification, you will need to take and pass a certification exam. The cost of the exam is usually separate from the program fee and can range from around $200 to $500, depending on the certifying organization.

  • Renewal Fees: Personal training certifications are typically valid for a certain period, often one to two years. After this period, you will need to renew your certification by fulfilling continuing education requirements and paying a renewal fee. The renewal fees vary by organization and can range from around $50 to $200 or more.

  • Optional Add-ons: Some certifying organizations offer additional resources, workshops, or specialty certifications that can enhance your knowledge and skills in specific areas. These optional add-ons may come with an extra cost, so consider your interests and career goals before investing in them.

It's important to note that the cost of obtaining a personal training certification is an investment in your professional development and career advancement. While it's important to consider the financial aspect, it's also important to assess the reputation, credibility, and recognition of the certifying organization and the quality of the education and support provided.

The Best Personal Trainer Certification Course Based on Reviews

Customer ratings and reviews are also important take into account when choosing a personal trainer certification course. Look at the customer ratings of the organization. Based on a five-star scale, where do they fall? Are they below three or four stars? That's not good.

Why? People are two- to three-times more likely to rant about bad experiences because it caused them pain. Psychologically-speaking, we tend to analyze experiences that hurt so we can learn from them. Then we share those experiences so others don't get hurt. Since there is no pain in a positive experience, people simply don't share. Apparently, it's a "survival" trait.

What drives a customer to leave a five-star review? Research suggests that the really great reviews come from people who purchased a product or service more than three months ago. This means they've had the opportunity to fully engage with the product or service.

But that isn't enough to leave a five-star review. Think about the last coffee mug you bought. You probably didn't leave a review even after you'd been drinking from it for a few months.

When someone leaves a shiny, five-star review, it's because the product or service impacted their life beyond reasonable expectation. In other words, the experience was so extraordinary, they felt an intrinsic desire to help others feel amazing, too!

According to an Inc.com article, it takes four five-star reviews to make up for every one-star review. And it takes 40 positive customer experiences to generate enough five-star reviews to cancel out the one-star review. If a course has anything less than four stars, their positive-to-negative customer service experiences are tipping the scales the wrong way. You may want to keep looking.

Are You Ready To Become a Personal Trainer?

International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) is proud to be the top rated and reviewed personal training certification program in the nation. And we can help you learn, grow, and prosper in your new career in health and fitness! Explore our Certified Personal Trainer programs.


  1. Thomas, A. (n.d.). The secret ratio that proves why customer reviews are so ... - inc.com. Inc. https://www.inc.com/andrew-thomas/the-hidden-ratio-that-could-make-or-break-your-company.html 

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