(800) 545-4772
Sign In
ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Which Personal Training Certifications Do Gyms Accept?

Which Personal Training Certifications Do Gyms Accept?

Reading Time: 5 minutes 30 seconds


DATE: 2024-01-10

You don’t have to be certified as a personal trainer to offer fitness services. That said, certification is often required for personal trainers wanting to work in a gym or health club. What type of certifications do fitness employers accept?

Before we talk about that, we want to be clear about what certification means. Then we’ll discuss why it is usually required. After providing acceptable certifications, people often wonder which is best. We’ll share why this isn’t always a good question to ask. From there, we go over what to look at before picking a personal trainer certificate program. Let’s get started.

What Personal Trainer Certification Looks Like

You want to know which personal training certifications are widely recognized. Answering this question requires that you understand what certification means.

A certified personal trainer is someone who has completed a certification program. This program covers many topics relevant to the fitness industry. Among them are:

  • Human anatomy and physiology

  • Exercise science (the study of movement and how the body responds to it)

  • Fitness assessment protocol

  • Program creation and design

  • Effective progression techniques

  • Safety considerations

Being certified also means that the fitness professional has passed a competency exam. They take this exam once the certification program is complete. Administration of the personal trainer certification exam can vary. Some certifying agencies mandate that exam takers appear in person. Others offer the certification exam online. 

CPR certification is typically required first. This certification ensures that you know life-saving measures. (This is important as a personal trainer but also in personal situations.) So, if you don’t already have your CPR certification, you’ll want to get it now. You’ll need it before completing your certification program and exam.

Why Personal Trainer Certification Is Often Required

Having your personal trainer certification says that you have fitness-based knowledge and skills. These are needed to be effective as a fitness instructor. If you can’t get clients results, they’re not going to sell many training sessions. So, you need to know how to create a physical fitness program.

Certification also says that you know how to keep clients safe during a personal training session. This is critical from a liability standpoint. If you tend to have a high level of client injuries, this can be problematic for the employer. It opens them up to lawsuits that they’d prefer to avoid.

Which Personal Training Certifications Do Gyms Accept?

The most widely accepted personal trainer certifications are those associated with the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). NCCA accredited programs certify individuals in the fitness industry.

ISSA’s subsidiary, the National Council for Certified Personal Trainers (NCCPT) offers several NCCA accredited exams which enables ISSA to offer fitness professionals a wide variety of fitness certifications.

Some fitness employers may require you to take an in-house personal trainer certification course. This involves completing a training program offered by that employer. The fitness organization might do this for greater control over the training protocol. It can also be more convenient, especially if hiring several uncertified trainers at once.

If you want to work for a specific gym, ask which certifications they accept. They may provide this information in their job posts, but not always. Some Anytime Fitness posts say that they accept nationally accredited certifications. But they don’t specify which ones. The same is true with Planet Fitness. So, you may have to contact them directly to ask about a specific certification program.

What Gyms Accept ISSA Certification?

A lot! Check out our Preferred Club Partners for a sample of some of the gyms that hire ISSA personal trainers. We’ve partnered with leading gyms who are seeking professional, qualified, and outstanding fitness professionals to hire. Our Preferred Club Partners are eager to assist ISSA students and graduates in their fitness careers by promoting their employment opportunities to curated candidates.

What’s the Best Personal Trainer Certification?

There is no one answer to this question. One reason is differing opinions about the best certification for personal trainers. It’s a designation that is subjective. For example, Fitness Mentors names ISSA as the best personal training certification program. Yet, if you go to other sites, they may list the top certs in a different order. 

There are also differences in the criteria used to assess personal training certification programs. The Balance names ISSA as the best for online certification. If they rated programs solely on in-person training options, ISSA wouldn’t be on that list.

That’s why it’s important to research certification programs yourself. Taking this approach gives you a better idea of how they compare. It also allows you to pay attention to the factors most important to you.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Personal Trainer Certification Program

Once you determine your certification options, the next step is to enroll in a program. Before selecting one, here are several factors to consider:

  • Program cost. Most personal trainer certification courses cost between $450 and $800. If this is outside your budget, you do have options. Instead of paying upfront, choose a program that offers a payment plan. This helps you earn your certification without straining your finances.

  • Learning method. Some certification courses are available in person. Others are taken online. A third option is a hybrid course, which includes both. Which one fits your life and schedule best? Many like the flexibility and convenience of online learning. But it’s about what works best for you.

  • Materials used. A similar consideration to learning method is the types of materials used. Do you have to purchase a textbook? Are your materials available online? Do they include slide shows and video presentations? You might prefer one medium over another. Some programs also offer a live training experience. This gives you the benefit of working with a live fitness instructor. Yet, you retain the convenience of learning online. 

  • Program length. How long will it take to earn your certification? It depends on whether the program has a set training schedule. If it does, you won’t be able to take the certification exam until the course is complete. If it doesn’t, you can learn at your own pace. This is generally found in online training courses. The benefit of this approach is you can go as fast or as slow as you’d like. Some programs, like ISSA certification courses, offer guided study. Follow this program and you can earn your personal trainer certification in 10 weeks.

  • Combined program and certification. Some programs provide instruction only. Others enable students to earn their certification at the end of the program. The latter involves taking an exam once the course is complete. This provides more convenience. And you don’t have to go out and find an exam. They provide it to you. The cost of the exam is also typically built into a combination program. This enables you to make one payment for both.

  • Future certification options. Before choosing a trainer certification program, think about your future. You want to choose a program that fits your career goals. You don’t have to stop with your personal trainer certification. You can get certified in other areas too. This may be desirable if you want to specialize in a specific area of fitness. You could earn your certification in yoga, for instance. Or you might decide to transition from training individuals to group exercise. You can learn how in a group fitness instructor certification course. 

  • Continuing education options. To keep your certification current, you need to earn continuing education credits. This helps you learn more about various fitness topics. It also keeps you current in the field. Check out the program’s continuing education options. The more the better. This makes it easier to find courses of interest to you. 

Consider these factors to find the best personal training certification program for you. This puts you one step closer to starting your career as a fitness trainer.

Ready to Become a Certified Personal Trainer?

If you’re ready to become a certified personal trainer, you can do this through ISSA. ISSA’s Personal Trainer Certification course teaches you how to succeed in a trainer role. And it has a 5-star rating after more than 6,300 reviews. So, you know that you’re receiving training that has helped thousands of professional trainers. If you want a job as a personal trainer - you’ve got one. With your certification, a job is guaranteed with one of ISSA’s 10,000 U.S. gym partners. Start your journey today!

Featured Course

ISSA | Certified Personal Trainer

Start your dream career completely online! Take the course, pass the certification final exam, and be guaranteed a job - or your money back!

Sign Up & Stay Connected

Receive $50 off your purchase today!

I consent to being contacted by ISSA.