What’s the Best Personal Training Certification?

I want to be a personal trainer, someone said to me recently. “Whats the best personal training certification” they asked.  This is probably one of the biggest questions people ask when they decide that they want to be a personal trainer. It makes sense because there are so many different organizations out there that your head would spin trying to figure them all out.  For example, just a few fitness organizations include, AAAI/ISMA, ACE, ACSM, AFAA, ISSA, NSCA and NASM to name a few.  Also, each organization has different certifications that have cool names like  Health Fitness Instructor, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, or Exercise Specialist.  Which is right for you?  This is what I want to talk about. After you’re done here, do read my step-by-step guide on how to be a personal trainer.


What Is The Best Certification?

People often ask what’s the best personal training certification?  To that I often reply that there is no such thing as “the best cert”.  Trust me on this.  A certification only means you know the “minimum requirements” needed to be a personal trainer.

You should not believe anyone who says “this is the best fitness certification”. People who say this stuff are just repeating what they have heard others say.

For example, many people say that  American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) as “the best” organization to be certified by, but if you attempt to get this cert, you will probably have to learn all sorts of metabolic calculations to pass the test.  Believe me when I say that if you work in a gym or are self employed, you will NEVER have to do those types of calculations.

I’ve been told the ACSM still teaches body fat testing using skin fold calipers. Again, while that is good to know, most big chain health clubs never use this method because of the liability associated with people touching people.  Gyms have been sued over trainers doing things perceived as inappropriate.


I hear a lot of people say ‘the NASM is the best”.  It’s a fine cert and people who have this certification usually know a lot about joint angles and stuff like that. But I’ve noticed that when those people take the AAAI/ISMA test, they usually fail it!

I know this is true because I’ve graded their tests.

For more information on NASM see this post on how to pass the NASM Test


I’m telling you the fact that there is no “best” personal training certification because I don’t want you to get caught up in what I sometimes jokingly call the fitness industrial complex.


Fitness certifying organizations are businesses. They want to make money. There is nothing wrong with this (we all need to make money). The marketing of organizations however are often so good that they convince people that their cert is the “best,” which is simply not true.  Trainers who are already certified by these organizations are often biased that their cert is the best also. Sometimes this is because their fitness organization is the only one that they have been exposed to.

For more about this see my review of the NASM TV commercial.


Always remember that Exercise is drug.  Personal trainers prescribe exercise and the benefits of exercise are many.  This is why fitness trainers need to know what they are doing so they can prescribe the right dosage of exercise.

Focus on knowledge – not just a fitness certification.  Be holistic in your approach to fitness and don’t be dogmatic and think that “my cert is the best”. No fitness organization is the best.

Some people ask if personal trainers need a license? For more insights on this, read about the differences between a personal training license and certification.


How To Pick A Fitness Certification

Let me now give you some things to think about to help you pick which personal trainer certification might be best for you.

1.  As a personal trainer, do you want to specialize in any particular group?  In other words, do you see yourself working mostly with with athletes, seniors, kids, people with medical issues?  Think about this and investigate what fitness organizations might make it easiest to help you to eventually get to that goal.

If you are just starting a career in fitness, you may not have any idea who you like to work with.  This is ok.  Eventually you will.  Stick to a well rounded, recognized  fitness organization rather than one that specializes in any particular area. See my guide on how to be a personal trainer for more info


2.  If you want to work at a particular gym, go to the gym and ask them for a list of fitness training certifications they accept.  All gyms have a list of personal training certifications they accept.  The General Manager or Fitness Director of the gym usually has this list.


3.  What about online personal trainer certifications?  Do your homework first if you are considering an online personal trainer cert.

While they can be an advantage for some people, a downside of some is that some gyms will not accept online personal training certifications.   This is why you need to do some homework before committing money.

Here’s my review of online certifications for more information.


4.  Sometimes gyms will have their own “personal trainer certification”.  The certs are sometimes taught by the gym staff.  What I can say about these also is be careful. Someone once told me they paid a gym over a thousand dollars or their “cert” only to find out later that no other gyms accepted it.

For more on this read my review of fake personal trainer certs.


5.  You need to have a CPR and AED certification in addition to your fitness certification.  When you apply for a job, most gyms will ask you for this.  Save yourself time and get it before you apply.  Having this can also help you command more money from a gym.  Gym owners want an educated staff just in case an emergency happens (and they do…).  If you are certified in both AED and CPR, they want to keep you around.  This gives you bargaining power when you negotiate your rate of pay and incentives.


6.  Don’t fall for any organization that says you are a “Master Personal Trainer”. There are Master Personal Trainer certs out there but lets face it, nobody is a “Master”.  Heck, I’m not a master – and I’ve written 6 books!

Nobody knows everything and we all can learn from each other.

For example, take this short test that I gave you in What is a Master Personal Trainer? Better yet,  ask the “master personal trainers” you know these questions and see if they know the answers.

I wrote my personal training book to teach people what they really need to know to be a personal trainer – the science – and the real life info  – that never makes it into textbooks. Here is my book on Amazon also.


7.  Are you forced to take a lower level certification before you are allowed to take the personal trainer cert? Some organizations make you jump through hoops and make you obtain a certification before you are allowed to take a personal trainer certification. The organization may say its to “prepare” you for the higher end cert but I think it’s just to suck more money out of you.

This was the case a few years ago with the ACSM. I don’t know if they still do this but be sure to ask about this no matter what organization you settle on.


8.  How hard is it to get re-certified?  Once you have your cert, do you have to get recertified every year, every 2 years?  Also, what do you have to do to get recertified?  Ideally it should be pretty easy to get recertified as a personal trainer.


9.  Ask your friends who they are certified by AND also ask them what they like and don’t like about their organization.

For example, if you ask me:

What I like about the NSCA, I’d say:

  • Well respected organization


And, if you asked me:

What I do not like about the NSCA :

  • I don’t like it that anybody with a ANY college degree can now take the CSCS exam. When I became a CSCS, you had to have a college degree in a health related field. Now, you can have a degree in accounting and obtain the CSCS certification.  I understand many like this but in my opinion, this water-downs the quality of the cert.
  • The NSCA says writing a book counts as the same number of continuing education units (CEUs) as writing a magazine article.  Baloney! It takes me over 2 years to write a book and about 2 hours to write a magazine article.  They are NOT the same.  The NSCA also groups books and magazine articles in the same category. This makes it harder for me to get re-certified.  Again, this is baloney!
  • The NSCA has been getting very friendly with the supplement company EAS over the last few years.  As someone who writes about dietary supplements, I find the association too cozy for my tastes and gives the impression to NSCA members that EAS supplements are “the best”.


Everybody always asks me how to get certified. Why doesn’t anyone ever ask me how to get qualified?  A certified personal trainer is not a qualified personal trainer.

There is no best personal trainer certification.  Get certified and strive to be qualified  – and not just certified – and you will be OK.  For a more insights on this issue, read my review of how to be a personal trainer.

What do you think?


  1. Craig Welch says

    I would only choose a trainer who could ‘walk the walk’. For example, no-one would choose a trainer who smoked, or was over-weight. But I would seek demonstrated capability in at least one sport. Preferably my sport, but not necessarily. This is partly to demonstrate that their qualification isn’t all just ‘book learning’, but based on real world experience.

  2. Joe Cannon says

    For a sports trainer I can definitely see having real world experience. Ive passed along clients to other trainers because they had greater knowledge in some issues than I did.

    Not smoking goes without saying – I do remember seeing an aerobics girl taking smoke breaks at a fitness convention in New Jersey a few years ago – bizarre but true!

    I can understand a trainer who was a little overweight though especially if they were marketing to people who were overweight. I have been told by several people that they did not want a thin, in shape personal trainer with “6 pack abs” because they didn’t feel the trainer could empathize with their needs and wants. This “reverse discrimination” by clients to “in shape” personal trainers doesn’t get talked about much but I think it happens more than people suspect.

  3. Alan Fuchs says

    I was looking over your website and noticed that you oppose online certification. I totally agree that for anyone starting a career it’s not the road to go. However please consider it may work for people like me who have no intention of using it. I’m unable to hold a job.

    I am a 100% homebound disabled Veteran (service connected). I can go out with the use of my power chair, and I can ride my bike for 10 miles as long as I take it slow. I can also do a 2 hr workout with light weights. I am not a para or an amputee, but I am at least two years past my end of service life.

    I lost 48% of my heart muscle to 5 heart attacks, and 6 years post prostate cancer. I have congestive heart failure and an ICD implant. I’m 6 years past a triple bypass. Often the cardiology dept at the VA (Veterans Hospitals) calls on me to speak to my fellow veterans about exercise.

    All I do is to try to encourage them to exercise. The staff (highly qualified medical professionals) figures they would listen to me since I’m one of them, and the only one who exercises. So for me the online cert would help, and is something I can afford. I just wanted to express another view.

    You have a great website, and you are very qualified in the education dept. That is to your credit and I highly respect you for that.

  4. Joe Cannon says

    Hi Gwen
    There are good things to say about a lot of fitness certifications. If I had to choose, I like a certification that has the following “ingredients”
    1. is widely recognized
    2. makes it easy for you to get re certified (not much red tape)
    3. is affordable.
    4. Gives newbies the ability to interact with someone who is a persona trainer -i.e., not just a study and take a computer test cert.
    5. teaches you not only exercise science but how to apply the science. Most certs fall short on this because they are too hung up on teaching the basics.

    In the end think about what you want to do as a trainer and what are the things that are important for you.

    Gwen, I saw you left a website but it didn’t make any sense (didn’t go to any webpage) so I took it out. If you have a website, leave it again and post it for you.

  5. Tom Boruff says

    I am certified through ISSA. I loved the class and learned alot from it. I took it online. Is this going to bite me in the rear? I have been working with friends but have not yet pursued it professionally. I want a job at a gym to basically build my confidence and knowledge but I have to say that I am afraid that my taking the course on the internet might limit my opportunities. I am also not financially stable enough to pursue college at this time. I am finishing a nutrition class through ISSA right now as well. I am CPR/AED certified too. I was just wondering if I wasted my time and money.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Tom, I dont think you have wasted your money or time. The people who were ISSA certified that I have met, I felt they were smart. Some gyms frown on ISSA because it is a test you can take at home / online but that in itself does not mean its not good. People who are serious about being a personal trainer -which sounds like you are one – probably put a lot of effort into doing this. That means a lot to people like me. If you ever do run into people who say “we dont like ISSA” then ask them to put you through your paces. Invite them to ask you questions to gauge your knowledge. And then you ask them a few questions (I suggest you ask them about rhabdomyolysis – 99% of trainers in the world dont know what it is).

      Fact. nobody but other personal trainers / gym managers will ask you “who are you certified by”. As such, the idea of being certified by this or that certification is moot in my book.

      Believe in yourself and keep gaining knowledge and you will be ok.

      • Kurtis Lee says

        Hi there!!! this website is freaking amazing!!! thank you so much for your unbiased wisdom….it really does help!!

        i am a 23 year-old fitness/nutrition fanatic!! I started working out in my junior year of high school, and fell in love!! Now i want to pursue a career in personal training;I feel it is the opportunity for me to share my passion with other people, and to also make a positive impact on peoples lives everyday!

        I want to contribute to ending the Trend of obesity. I want to help people reach their. ideal weight goals! i want to help people to make the right food choices, and to be able to succeed and say “i can do this!!”

        I want to learn EVERYTHING I CAN in order to BE the best i can be, so that way i can HELP OTHERS to be the best they can be :) so here are my questions….

        1. I was wanting to get my certification (to start out with) through ISSA (their personal training certification). please tell me EVERYTHING you can regarding their reputation and good/bad points. i want to get my foot into the fitness world properly, so it is crucial for me to make the right decision and i trust your opinions!

        2. what are some books you can recommend to me regarding personal training as a whole? and also marketing/sales books pertaining to personal training? yes…..even your own books included lol

        3. is having more than 1 certification more beneficial in the long run? if so…..what do you recommend certification wise?

        4. Any other advice/helpful words you can give me? I want to help change the world in a big positive way!! anything to help towards that is a must for me!! it would he nice to start having awesome professional connections right from the starting gate.

        thank you again! i am a huge sponge….i want to soak up as much knowledge as possible, so PLEASE PLEASE send whatever you can my way :-)

        • Joe Cannon says

          Hi Kurtis, that’s much I’m glad my website is helping you! let me try to answer your questions one at a time
          1. the ISSA cert. I have never taken the ISSA cert but I understand it has a lot of essay answers. While Some gyms may not accept ISSA because it is an exam people take at home, I will say I was impressed with the knowledge of those I met who were ISSA- certified. I mentioned ISSA when I looked at Anna Kournikova, the tennis star who became a personal trainer. here is the link:


          It’s been a few years since I saw their textbook but I remember disagreeing with some of the things that were said about dietary supplements. I’m not sure if you know but I also run supplement-geek.com which is all about supplements.
          I think like all certs, we get out of it what we put in. those I knew with it, obviously put a lot into it.

          2. books. there are many great references out there, so much that it would make your head spin! that said, These are some of the books I have that I think will help you as a personal trainer.

          the essentials of personal training

          the essentials of strength and conditioning

          the nsca’s guide to sport and exercise nutrition

          the acsm’s guidelines for exercise and prescription

          Because some of these books can be a wee bit technical at times, I do recommend my personal training book, personal fitness training beyond the basics. If you like my website, you’ll love this book. It’s as much about me -and the stuff /lessons I’ve learned as about the science of personal training. my book is on amazon but if you get it from my website, it has a 30 day money back guarantee (ive never had a book returned to me)

          3. Nobody likes me to say this but I think most certs are pretty much the same in what the teach people. that said it’s good to have a cert that is well known and accepted at gyms (gyms ask about certs – your clients hardly ever do). as I mentioned in my training book, some gyms will pay you more if you have more certs but that’s because they perceive that to mean you have more knowledge.

          The downside of multiple certs is that the more certs you have the more money you pay those organizations each year or two to maintain those certs.

          if you ever wanted to work with college athletes then I think getting the nsca cscs cert is best. Other than that,I think you can learn everything from reading/studying, taking classes at college or online and / or taking one day classes offered by companies lick cross country education

          4. I think it’s great you are on fire to help others! Id say just keep learning and you will be fine. if you do that you will be so far ahead of most trainers that they can’t see your dust!

          Moving forward I’d also suggest you get your own website. I’m writing a free ebook right now that will take you step by step how to do it for cheap and how to do it so you rank in google (so others can find you). if you are on my newsletter list you will know when it is released.

          I hope some of that helps Kurtis. have a terrific day!

  6. James says

    Hi Joe,

    I came across your site and read a lot of your writings. I finished a one day seminar with AAAI and I’m pretty positive I passed with flying colors. But, here is my question(s). Is AAAI an accredited for their certifications? Because I am quickly finding out that there isn’t a gym in the state of Ga that accepts the certification other than some bally’s and most LA Fitness’s. I got my BS in health and Fitness and even that added on to this certification seems to be good for nothing. I even was laugh at by one gym for even applying as a cpt with my AAAI cert. It’s kind of disheartening to say the least….

    That old saying seems to be my worst nightmare…. “What’s in a name?” I guess a lot it….

    • Joe Cannon says

      James, really sorry to hear about your plight. What were the names of these facilities you applied to in Georgia?

      Your words reinforce to me that there is a type of “certification bigotry” going on at some gyms. Did the gyms you applied to try to push you to any particular certification? Ive heard that some certification organizations give kickbacks to gyms that send them people. Your degree in health and fitness puts you light years ahead of most trainers so I dont know what those people were thinking in not hiring you.

      AAAI/ISMA has been around since 1985 and I believe most trainers in the US are certified by 3 organizations – AFAA, AAAI/ISMA and I think ACE. They are 3 of the biggest organizations in America.

      The idea of “accreditation” has been around for a while and let me give you the scoop on it. It means nothing. Basically these are organizations that are trying to certify the certification organizations. They want to do this so they can make money doing it. Currently there is no formal acceptance in the fitness industry of any organization that seeks to accredit a fitness organization. Often these organizations make the fitness org jump through hoops, asking to come into the home base of the organization and inspect their books and they even make demands such as making sure the organization orders refreshments and lunch for the visiting “dignitaries” Im not kidding about this. I have seen the paperwork for at least one such accrediting organization.

      A few years back I taught a prep course for one such organization, called the NBFE – national board of fitness examiners. This was a course to prepare personal trainers to take the NBFE accreditation exam (which I think cost about $300 to take). The material I covered during this prep course was no different than what I cover in the level 1 and master personal trainer classes I teach for AAAI/ISMA. If the NBFE became the big dog on the block, then they would make a LOT of money “certifying” fitness organizations. I don’t know if they are still around.

      If you call AAAI/ISMA they can explain all this accreditation stuff much better than I can, but what I can say is don’t worry about it. The material covered in a AAAI/ISMA exam is not significantly different than what you’d see on exams for ACE, NSCA or other organizations.

      I remember about 5 years ago a manager at LA Fitness once told me that they did not accept the NSCA certification that I had. This was told me during a AAAI/ISMA class I was teaching at the club. So LA Fitness at that time would not have hired me if I applied for a job there – but I was the person teaching all their trainers! LA fitness now does accept NSCA. Ive heard similar stories with other organizations like WITS. To get that cert, people go to school for at least 6 weeks.

      When faced with morons who try to tell you that your cert doesn’t matter, I always tell people to fire back “what is rhabdomyolysis” when trying to show them the inferiority of THEIR cert and knowlege. You see, most certification organizations – and even colleges – don’t discuss this. 99% of fitness trainers don’t know about it. If you saw my post on rhabdo you know how serious it is. By putting these small minded people in their place you might help open their eyes to the real world; its not the cert that counts, its the knowledge.

      I share your frustration James and I do have faith that in the end things will work out for you. Will you please keep me posted on your progress?

  7. Carlos del Castillo says

    Hello, I am a college student and football player. I am going to school for exercise science, but I want to start training people now. I have lots of knowledge on strength and alternative training. My goal is to work with athletes and model my gym somewhat after Joe Defranco’s. What certification would be best suited for this without having a college degree

    • Joe Cannon says

      Carlos, that’s great that you are in college for exercise science. The info you learn in college will definitely help you down the road. Since you mentioned Joe Defranco’s gym it sounds like you ultimately want to get into the speed,power and sports conditioning aspects of training. If fhats the case, ultimately I’m going to recommend the NSCA CSCS cert which you probably already heard about at college. They will let you take that exam when you are close to graduating (but wont tell you how you did until after you graduate) if I remember correct.

      As for right now, there are a few certs that you may want to take a look at. Those who study for the ISSA cert often know a lot about the science of exercise. It is a take home exam (some view this as a drawback of the cert) but as I understand it, the test is mostly essays and I believe there is also a video portion as well. To me being able to answer essays usually demonstrates greater knowledge on an issue. It is about $600 also which I think is. pretty steep esp if your in college.

      Another option, down the road is the NASM certification. I mention this because its very biomechanics oriented. That’s important stuff to know when with with people who are lifting very heavy or doing speed work. I would do the CSCS first but if also had the NASM background, that would be a great asset to you.

      Since you said you wanted to do something “right now”, you can also opt for several of the one day certifications such as AAAI/ISMA, IFTA, IFPA etc. Technically if you pass the test you could be certified in a day or two (depending on how many days the teaching portion of the class is. Check each organization’s websites to find out). With your exercise science background much of what these certs cover should be things you may have already seen in college (depending on what year you are in at college).

      You might also want to contact Defrancos gym and speak to Joe himself about what background he feels you should have. I noticed on his website there is an “associates” page that lists the websites and emails of other trainers in different states. You might try reaching out to several of these people and asking them the same question you asked me and try to get a consensus as to what they all feel is most important.

      In the end, for me it really is all about the knowledge not the cert. I think your on the right track with your college background and your desire to keep learning. After you decide what route you took, would you write back and let me know. That might help others who are wondering about the same thing.

  8. Maile says

    Thanks for all the information on your website here. I am debating what type of certification to get at the moment–I am interested in personal training with a focus on women (and possibly a more specific focus on health and fitness during pregnancy). I’ve been considering getting certified by NASM and furthering my nutritional knowledge by going back to school and becoming a registered dietician. Most of my recreational passion in exercise veers towards regular gym sessions as well as hiking/backpacking and watersports. Since I am just beginning on the technical/certification side, do you have any programs you would recommend I begin with?

    • Joe Cannon says

      Maile, thanks for your nice words. since you mentioned water sports you might look at the AEA certification. I think its AEAwave.com. Given what you said you were interested in why dont you pick up a copy of the ACE manual and the ACE clinical exercise specialist book (check craigs list and ebay to see if you can get them cheaper). Since you said you were just starting out, I will also suggest the book I wrote which is geared toward personal training in the real. It will also help you understand what the other books discuss as well. Another idea is to go on the facebook pages of the other orgs and ask questions and see what people say.
      hope this helps Malie, let me know if you have any other questions :)

  9. says

    I just wanted to stick up for ACSM as an educating body. I feel the single best thing I did was to go for their Health/Fitness Specialist certification when I was starting out. That and my degree got my foot in the door. It does require a health-related degree, and is their more advanced personal training cert (I can’t speak to their lower level cert). It specializes in populations with special conditions (guess who makes up a huge portion of your customers), and the information you learn from these can truly be applied to programming for anyone. Everywhere I’ve gone, the comments I’ve heard is that that cert is too technical for most trainers, which may be true; it’s true you have to be able to do some math, but it’s just plug and chug. For someone with basic reasoning skills, which you need to be a decent trainer, it should be no problem.

    I feel I learned quite a bit, and ACSM does get a lot of respect; they are visible in public health and clinical settings. The other ACSM people I’ve met have been more cerebral types like myself, which I can’t say is true for certs like ACE (side-note: I hope no one, especially trainers, learns exercises from ACE’s exercise library). I’m also pretty sure the ACE certs are diluted versions of the ACSM, and ACE bases their recommendations on ACSM’s. I’ve also kept and used their manuals for reference, and they’ve served as a good jumping-off point.

    I would also put forth that the cert is way less important than the person behind it. I came in with a good knowledge base, and I’m constantly learning new things from a lot of different directions.

    In any case, I don’t think you can go wrong with an ACSM cert, from an employability perspective (for training the general population). NSCA is where it’s at for sports, though NASM’s PES is getting some notice. NASM’s CES is also quite respected, but that’s a more specialized thing; still, I’d expect any serious trainer to know the content it teaches, if not beyond. Some chains also like the basic NASM cert, though I’ve been less than thrilled with their materials outside of the CES cert.

    ACSM is good at the health aspect of exercise, but they don’t even pretend to be good at sports performance. Not their thing.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Adam, you make a lot of good points and I’m sure others are very glad you spoke the words that you did. Good website by the way. work. rest. repeat. I like that motto :)

  10. Fitz says

    Hello ,
    I am currently working for my ACE Certification and its a lot lots of studying. I am working full time and also going to the gym religiously … I’m both a member of 24hr fitness and LA Fitness… I did come across about AAAI/ISMA fitness training which I have signed up for, for $200 bucks.

    I figured I’m studying for ACE what hurts to have more certifications. But heres the catch, Its starting to bother me that AAAI is very limited as far as working on other gym.. 24hr fitness will not accept this as part of your certification.

    I wonder does AAAI/ISMA cert allows you to train other people outside the gym.. An individual or small group ?
    Can i even host a little bootcamp with this certification? Please help.

    • Joe Cannon says


      Good question but let me ask you this question first. AAAI certs are only $99 so who did you pay $200 to for this cert? As far as I know, nobody should be charging you $200 for the AAAI/ISMA cert. Did you register with AAAI or some individual person? Since I work for AAAI I know they dont charge you $200.

      AAAI is accepted at most gyms etc but there are some gyms who think that one or a few certs are “best” and as such they only accept those certs. I can tell you that if you were in a class I taught that I would cover things ACE -and most others – do not (e.g. see my post on rhabdo).

      If you are certified – by anybody – you can do personal training outside of a gym (I want you to have your own liability insurance if you do). you can one-on-on training or small group training. I recommend a group fitness cert if you do small group training because its often harder to work with groups than just 1 person. The same goes for bootcamps too.

      I still feel there is no “best” cert. Id rather you focus on knowledge and not certifications. If you do take the AAAI test, you can use your ACE book to prep for it. the science doesn’t change from one organization to the other.

  11. Danny says

    Thanks alot for your website its very helpful, I just wanted to ask several questions regarding the different certs out there…
    1.Which certifications are widely recognized?
    2.Makes it easy for you to get re certified ?
    3.Give you the opportunity for one on one interaction with other personal trainers ?
    4.Teaches you not only exercise science but how to apply the science?

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Danny, thanks, Im glad you have found my website helpful to you. Let me see if I can shed some light on your questions

      1. There are a lot of certs that are widely accepted by gyms. In no special order they include ACSM, ACE, NSCA (who I’m certified by), NASM, WITS, NPTI, ISSA, IFTA, AAAI/ISMA, AFAA and many others. This is a short list. Im sure there are others I have not mentioned. Each differs in price, difficult of test etc.

      2. When you say “makes it easy to get certified” do you mean which one has the easiest test or which makes getting certified easiest? There are organizations that have seminars that occur in 1 or 2 days after which you take a test. for example, I do seminars for AAAI/ISMA which is like that. IFTA is also similar. AFAA I believe is a 2 day cert. That doesn’t mean you learn all you need to know in the lecture portion. you must study prior to the lecture and test.

      Remember that being a personal trainer means you need to know a lot of of stuff. No certification can guarantee you know everything. Passing a cert test only means you have demonstrated that you know the minimum requirements needed to be a personal trainer. It doesn’t mean we know everything. Learning after passing the test is the most important thing you can do. I know you know this, I just wanted to say it in case anybody else reads these words.

      3. well I know pretty much everybody who teaches for AAAI/ISMA and IFTA are either personal trainers now or have been trainers so they would give you good chances to interact with other trainers. I believe also the same is true for AFAA and ACE (you can ask this on their respective Facebook pages to know for sure). People who teach for WITS and NPTI are also in the same category. Im pretty confident that any organization that has a class where you learn, has people teaching it who are trainers now or who have been.

      4. My hope is that all organizations help you understand and apply exercise science but I must say I have heard stories of some people who dont do this and rather just read from a book during their teaching. I dont like that. This is the main reason why I wrote my book about Personal training called Personal Fitness Training Beyond The Basics. No matter what organization you opt to get certified by, I recommend you get a copy of my book because I do teach you the real life stuff about exercise science that most other books dont do. Here is a link to my book on Amazon http://www.joe-cannon.com/PFT-book
      My book is the book I always wish I had. It did not exist for me and so I created it.

      As a rule, I dont like online certs. Technically they would be the “easiest” but because of the high cheat factor, many gyms dont accept them. In the end, remember that none of your clients will probably ever ask you “who are you certified by” and because of that I usually recommend that people aim for a cert that’s accepted at gyms, to get their feet in the door and then after that learn, learn learn all they can. I recommend that people get the books from the other organizations and study those. For example, even if you dont have the NSCA cert, you can still buy the NSCA books for your personal training library. that’s what I do :)

      I hope that helps Danny. let me know if you have any other questions

  12. Andrea says

    Your website is very helpful!! I am very interested in working with young adults at health camps. I also am getting my certification on personal training over the summer at my gym. I want to be credible and im scared that getting a certification is not enough. I am thinking of pursuing a career in Health and Science but i am currently in Business. Would it hurt to just focus on getting certified and start gaining experience rather than switch my major to health and science?

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Andrea, thanks for your kind words. Im glad you are finding my website helpful! Ultimately its up to you what you “feel is right for you” but if you are already into several classes into your business degree i see no reason why you cant just get your certification and get experience. You can always switch later on if you like. Getting the experience of being a personal trainer will also help you see if this is the right line of business for you too.

      I do think your business background will help you as a trainer. Down the road you may even want to start your own personal trainer business website! If you do, let me know and Ill help you spread the word :)

  13. donnie says

    hello joe… i am a 49 year old male who enjoys working out and just now looking into being a trainer… what do you think about the age and any advice….

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Donnie, I dont think your age would be a factor. I actually think your age would help you because people will assume you know more because of your age. This can help you a LOT in your marketing. Also, because you have more life experiences, you will have an advantages in interacting with people. Ive written about “older personal trainers” Here is the post

      Do you have a specific fitness certification you are thinking about? Let me know and I can try to offer some advice on that. Since you are just starting out, I do recommend you get the book I wrote called Personal Fitness Training Beyond The Basics. Its the book I wish I had! I wrote it to be easy to read and to be “real life.” A lot of the books about personal training are bogged down in “science” and dont discuss the real life things fitness trainers should know.

      Here’s a link to it on Amazon and you can also get it from my site and Ill mail it to you personally

      let me know if I can be of any other help to you Donnie!

  14. Karl says

    Hi, Joe,

    Many thanks for this page. I’m strongly considering becoming a personal trainer. I have my undergraduate degree in English and my Master’s in ‘Professional Writing’, so I don’t have a health degree.
    As far as any sort of specialty, at this point, I’m mainly interested in helping those who are either looking to lose weight or strengthen up – I also have an interest in diet implementation.

    I’m not very interested in working with elite athletes (I would prefer working with a person 1-1 or perhaps with a few people at most – not large classes) – also, I think it would be more fulfilling (for me) to work with people with weight issues and/or those who want to build muscle/get stronger – whether young or old in age.

    Is there a specific certification that would address the fact I want to help a broader range of people?



    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Karl, Most certifications will teach you the basics about how to be a personal trainer, the science etc. Most of that information will help you when you work with the groups of people you are wanting to help. I do believe ACE has a cert that is called the “clinical exercise specialist” that may be something to look at. One thing to consider is that some organizations will make you get the personal trainer cert before you take “higher level” certifications. I believe this is the case with the ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine). I’m not sure if thats the case with ACE or not so be sure to ask. That said, getting a good personal trainer cert can only help you.

      Hope that helps Karl. let me know if I can help more :)

  15. daric says

    Hey, Joe, love how you break down the certifications worth as it pertains to were your trying to work at. I’m a fitness instructor (Spinning, Zumba) and studying now for my personal certification from ACSM. I’m interested in working with the youth so what cert dealing with young kids should I be looking at and what have you heard about IYCA?

    • Joe Cannon says

      Daric, thanks I apprecaite that! I have not heard of the IYCA. I looked them up and their website looks good but I could not find a facebook page for them. I thought if they had one you could ask questions on their FB page and get impute from others. Is there cert an online cert? I checked and it looks like its $197 for their level 1 cert.

      I dont know if the ACSM has a “kids cert” but I think your ACSM cert will help you working with kids, at least the science information you learn will help. Instead of the cert you can always just get the books of the ICYA and learn from those and other youth training books. With your ACSM cert Im not sure if a “youth cert” would help you more unless you would be working at a fitness center that values kids-oriented certifications. If you decide to get the IYCA cert let me know what you think of it.

  16. Coach E says

    Joe- stumbled across you web-site as I was digesting all of the “Why this Certification” from a variety of different web-sites. First of all, I appreciate your transparency and your genuineness in your responses. I followed a couple of the links that were suggested to the books you have written, and have purchased one already.

    I am a High School Coordinator of Athletics. I am currently conducting Strength & Conditioning Camps each Summer with our Student-Athletes. I have no certifications. Working on experience alone right now. My vision is to continue working with Middle School and High School Athletes developing Sport-Specific Strength & Conditioning in our camps, but I would also like to train both Youth and Seniors in a one-on-one or small group setting.

    I have a Business Degree from Baylor as well as a Masters in Education. I worked with Ray Wilson for 6 years out of college in the Health Club Industry; however, I am certain I need both the credibility and the competency that a certification will provide.

    Here’s where I am at: ISSA’s Master Training Program encompasses all of the “areas” that I am focused on; NSCA’s CSCS seems to be extremely reputable, and NASM’s PES and CES also seem attractive; and also we incorporate a lot of CrossFit’s principles in our camps and I noticed that they offer certification.

    So, is there a detriment (or benefit) to getting all of the certifications from one organization? Would it be wise to have a variety from different credible places(i.e. kind of like not getting a Masters and Doctorate from the same institution)?

    Digesting all of the information… can you please make suggestions on what you feel would be the best direction to take?

    Your insights are greatly appreciated.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Coach E, glad you found my website and I do hope you enjoy my book too! I think both NSCA and NASM are reputable organization. While Im not certified by NASM I believe that they have a different take on things that might compliment the NSCA. With your background you are able to sit for both NSCA -CSCS and the NSCA-CPT exam. I have both of them and I dont think its hurt me but I can see the benefit of having a blend of ideas from different organizations (NASM does have a different way of progressing people I understand).

      Given the groups of people you want to work with Id say CSCS would be a good cert to have especially if you ever want to work at the college level (I understand colleges often look for CSCS). If you were to combine that eventually with either PES or CES, I think that would give you a good well rounded background on things.

      I dont think the Cross Fit cert is necessary unless you really want it. I’d say save the money and just read up on fitness boot camp training and training small groups of people and just get the knowledge. Unless you want to do a cross fit program/business, I just dont feel its necessary to have at this time.

      Hope that helps !

  17. Ryan says

    Hello, I am in the army and I am an MMA fighter and I like circuit type conditioning, gymnastic rings, Olympic lifts, etc. I want to train other fighters (already very fit) and some other beginners new to fitness altogether but I’m more geared toward athletes. No college degree so CSCS is out, but as far as personal training goes, which certification would you reccommend? NASM, NSCA, ACSM or what?

    • Joe Cannon says

      Ryan, of the groups you mentioned, Id say NSCA-CPT. I feel its the most well rounded. Dont worry about not being able to get the CSCS. just get the book and study that. Same goes for NASM and ACSM. I value knowledge more than certs anyway. If you do that, you’ll save money on certs that can sometimes be very expensive too.

        • Joe Cannon says

          Hi Sammy, good question and I’m working on a blog post about this at this very minute! If you sign up to my RSS or newsletter you will know as soon as I publish it.

  18. Steve says

    Joe, great website and very informative. I recently earned my BA in English over the summer of 2011. I have lifted weights since I was 16 and am currently 26. Though always passionate about exercise I never considered it as much more than a hobby until recently. I have been researching different education programs and I don’t want to get on the hook for an exercise science degree which could end up costing around $40,000 at a minimum.

    I happened upon a CPT prep course that is entirely online and prepares one for the ACSM certification exam. It is about $2,000. I think it is run by ed2go. This is feasible, but in the long run, do you think it would be worth it?

    I would like to find a marriage of something that would best prepare me for the exam and the career as well as something that would be as cost effective as possible. My long term goals do include a BS in exercise science and possibly grad school for physical therapy. This would occur when I am in a better position financially. I would like to be able to help healthy and at risk people get in better shape. Thanks for any help you can provide.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Steve how much does acsm charge for their prep course? 2000 sound like a lot to me. are they accredited by acsm? personally would not do it either way. Ive never heard of that company.

      why dont you get a cert to get your feet wet, work as a trainer, get the acsm books , study them then take their cert later. i dont think the acsm cert costs $2000

  19. Jay says

    I found this website and the comments quite helpful but here is my dilemma and I would like to know what you think. I graduated in 2007 with a BS in physical education, health and safety and have not done any work related to that sense. The recession caught up with me soon after graduation so I had to take on jobs to pay the bills and got stuck.

    Anyway now I’m looking to do what makes me happy. For the first semester of college I did athletic training but I quit because the teachers and upper levels didn’t want to help or teach. They made it seem like we as perspective athletic trainers were a nuisance. I keep wishing I hadn’t quit, because I liked being around the athletes. Do you think since I haven’t done anything related to health or exercise in 5 years that I could (with some studying of course) sit for thr NSCA-CSCS or should I start with the NSCA-CPT? I like being around college aged athletes and I feel like I’d more related to them.

    • Joe Cannon says

      jay, if you have your notes from college classes you took – and i hope you do – start studying them now. then get the CSCS book and study that. i recommend the CSCS for you since you want to help athletes.

  20. Rosie says

    Hi Joe-

    Thank you for all your knowledge here on your site. I had a few quick questions, which certs are internationally recognized, good for freelance personal training, working with older adults and/or younger children? I’m just starting out in this field.

    I work at a corporate job now, but our corporate wellness trainer has been mentoring me for almost a year now. She is close to 60, VERY knowledgeable and does not have a college degree or certification. She is a freelance trainer and has been mentored herself by many professionals.

    She thought it would be a good idea for me to get a cert, learn the details of anatomy, etc. I’m willing to learn all I can and get into the field. Any recommendations for me? I am 26 and have a BA in Communications, probably isn’t relevant unless I go for the NSCA.

    Thanks for your help!


    • Joe Cannon says

      hi Rosie, sorry its taken so long to get back. I’m typing with one finger for a few weeks .

      as for certs, i think ACE is well respected and has very good -and in-depth manuals (in depth is both good and bad as it can overwhelm people). the NSCA
      -CPT cert is also very well respected. I’d look at those.

      i teach for AAAI/ISMA which is a one day cert which can give you a good idea of what you should know as a trainer. the IFTA is another such cert i like. these are often less expensive than ACE ect too. while they are often one day classes , you get a bunch of info in a short time. if you record the class you can make it into an mp3 and save it to your ipod ect and listen again in the future.

      Eventually get a copy of the ACSM guidelines book, which is boring to read but has a lot of useful information to help work with the people you mentioned. it may be a wee bit overwhelming to read now but it will make a good resource for you eventually.

      i think your communications degree will help you more than you think as a trainer. communication is often overlooked in fitness but i think its crucial to your success.

      no matter what cert you opt for, since you are just starting out, i do recommend the book i wrote personal fitness training beyond the basics. its here and on amazon. its the book i wish i had. trust me.

      hope that helps Rosie :)

  21. Stephanie says

    Hi Joe! I have been extensively researching certs for a while now, looking for the one that would be the best for getting my foot in the door in the fitness industry. I am a single mom of 3 kids under 10 who has personally lost over 100 lbs through training and clean eating.

    I absolutely love the fitness business and have decided to put my experience and enthusiasm to work by getting certified. My question to you is this: On July 14th and 15th AAAi/ISMA is doing a workshop for both a Personal Trainer Cert and Nutrition Cert near me.

    Do you think this is a good cert to go for when one is just getting started? Also, when I looked at booking, the website talked about studying that needed to be done beforehand but I didn’t see where it said what books to purchase and study before the seminar.

    Since you teach for them, I thought you might be able to tell me the absolute best materials to study and how much I should really know before attending the cert workshop. My goal is to work either at my LA Fitness or another local gym while my kids are in school.

    Anything you could tell me would be of great help. Every trainer I ask at the gym has a different opinion/answer and 100 reasons why the cert they got is best. I’m totally overwhelmed trying to decide what’s right for me. Look forward to hearing from you. Take your time…typing with one finger can’t be easy!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hey steph,

      yes /i think that would be fine.

      I’m not teaching those classes (it might be mike rickett) but I can help you. to prep for the sports nutrition cert, AAAI uses the book I wrote called Nutrition Essentials.You can get it from them, here on on my site or amazon

      I dont know if you saw it but Ive written a post on how to prep for the AAAI personal trainer test,

      they have two books to prep – the personal trainer book and studies in exercise science. study the personal trainer book first.I also recommend the personal training book I wrote. I’m biased but I wrote a very easy to understand book that puts you light years ahead of most other trainers. just trust me.

      yes everybody likes to think their organization is the best, its enough to make anybody’s head spin! I think there are strengths and weaknesses to all of them. most trainers just get certified and never keep learning. if you keep learning, you wont have anything to worry about.
      hope that helps!

      I really think I m getting good at 1 finger typing 😉

  22. Stephanie says

    Thanks so much, Joe!

    One more question: Would I be OK studying your books “Nutrition Essentials” and “PFT Beyond the Basics?” I’m trying to save money where I can and the “Studies in Exercise Science” book is $55.00 on Amazon. I haven’t yet looked at “Personal Trainer,” but, I got the feeling from your post that your 2 books might be enough for pre-cert study. What do you think? Also, it is Mike that teaches the class I am going to. Does he have a preference regarding study materials? Thanks!

    • Joe Cannon says

      hi stephanie, I dnt think muke has a preference and yes my book will prep you well for the class, test – and life as a personal trainer.
      Tell mike I said hi when you see him :)

  23. Dee says

    Hi Joe, Have you heard of NHE for training certifications? I recently received an email from them about career opportunities after posting my resume on careerbuilder.com. I have never heard of them and I’m trying to do some research on them.

    I was an AFAA certified trainer for almost 10 years and worked for a small gym near my home throughout college and for some years after. I graduated with a Health and Physical Education degree and was working as a teacher in the public school system for the last 10 years. My certification expired during that time.

    Now I am no longer working as a teacher and would like to pursue a training career again. The interview for a position with NHE looks promising but I’m not sure how recognized they are, if at all. Any advice?

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Dee, Ive never heard of them but I did go to their website and saw that their level 1 personal trainer cert is $2300 – thats a LOT!! their website doesn’t tell :
      me who they are
      how long they have been in business
      or how many people are NHE certified

      Their website also looks very basic to me.

      Is this an online cert? I could not tell from their website.

      I did a Google search for their address – 95 Argonaut, Aliso Viejo, CA 92656 and their website didn’t show up and when i tried to find them in Google maps, I still could not find them. when I tried to “search near by” in Google maps, for their address, I still could not find them.

      That doesn’t mean they are not good but it doesn’t give me a good feeling. try calling local gyms and ask if thy accept NHE personal trainer certs. That can give an idea if they are well known in your area

      either way, $2300 is more than I would pay for a cert I’ve never heard of. That’s more than ACSM I think! You already have a college degree which Id value more. I say study /reread your text books and college notes and / or AFAA books / notes (i hope you still have them) to refresh your memory, then get a cert thats not as expensive, yet is accepted at local gyms. Remember, your clients will be more impressed with your degree than your certification.
      /i saw they have a dietary supplement cert for $485. I give you that info for free on my supplement-Geek.com website

      hope that helps Dee:)

  24. Will Ashcraft says

    Hi Joe! I am a ex heavy guy who has the lost weight,and I want to take my passion for fitness and health to the next level! I have a 26 year background in Taekwondo and teach 5 classes a week. I also help lead a outside bootcamp workout during the warmer months. Long story short I would like to get a certification to expand my knowledge . Obviously there are a million certs out there,and so I need a point in the right direction ! HELP! lol Will

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Will,
      as you know there are many fitness certs out there. while you have a great martial art background, I;ll assume you are just starting out as a personal trainer. here are some things to think about

      1. look at these certs – ACE, IFTA, AAAI, NSCA, IFPA. there are others out there but i dont want you to get overwhelmed by this. look at each and weigh them against
      the cost of the cert
      how well the are accepted at gyms (all of these certs usually are)
      how long it will take to study/pass the test
      how easy it is to get recertified
      is the test given close to you
      how ,ong does the cert last
      where you see yourself, in say, 5 years.

      make a spreadsheet to help you easily sort these out. I think if you do this youll be able to find a cert that is best for you

      2. when you do get certified, get personal trainer insurance if you already dont have it. since you teach classes outside its possible you may not be covered.

      3. right now I dont know good / accepted “bootcamp certs” are so thats why I recommend the sure victory bootcamp business package which was created by someone who runs a successful bootcamp business

      4. since you currently do bootcamps, please read my review of exercise-induced rhabdomyolysis if you already have not. you need to know about this very real and dangerous condition (read the comments too!)

      5. Since you mentioned expanding your knowledge, Ill also recommend the book I wrote called personal fitness training beyond the basics. this is the book i wish i had, a fact based easy to understand book about personal training – the science, guidelines and real life things that I have had to know. Its on this website and amazon too. Just trust me on this. I wrote a very good book.

      i hope that helps Will. if you have any other questions let me know

  25. Jennifer Bianchi says

    Hi Joe! I just ordered your book as I was reading comments, thanks for the link. I just became certified through W.I.T.S. and passed the written with a 90% and the practical with flying colors (so the tester said). I did an internship, which many do not have, and the course was heavy on science.

    I have a nutrition degree and private business with 12 years experience in nutrition counseling so I thought this would be a good marriage between the two careers. I just got a job this week at a local gym (sister gym to the one I did my internship at) and the fitness director said the only reason she hired me, a new trainer, is because of my nutrition degree yet I look around and see several who are new (and men) and do not have nearly the life experience I have.

    I am almost 47 but look younger. I was also told by the fitness director that NASM is “the best certification” but admitted not knowing much about WITS stating NASM is accredited, then I said WITS is accredited too but her responding comment was that New York only takes NASM. Well I live in Washington state so who cares what New York is doing:)

    I was supposed to shadow and be shadowed by her for a few days but she came up to me and told me I was free to go about the gym on my own, this proved to me that my course did teach me what I needed to know, but more importantly it is not just the course as you said earlier but the continuing education. I always research exercises and am always wanting to learn more.

    Thanks for the great info!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Jennifer, thanks, I hope you enjoy my book! WITS actually used my personal training book for one of their classes last year.
      Not sure if you noticed, but I also have a site devoted to dietary supplement reviews. That might save you time if you are asked about these things,as I’m sure you are.

      As for the gym, It’s amazing to me the certification bigotry that goes on in some gyms. With WITS, you went to school for 6 weeks if I’m correct. Ive always thought WITS was a fine cert. It sounds like the fitness director is drinking a little too much of the “NASM kool aid” if you ask me. Yeah really, who cares about NY if you are Washington state lol. too funny.

      Your nutrition background will definitely be an asset to the gym and I agree the marriage between fitness and nutrition is a good one. I’ve had several RDs in classes Ive taught over the years so I know your not alone in that thinking. Maybe you can even set up a program there where the trainers funnel you nutrition clients for a nutrition program to run? Then you could get paid per head in those classes? Just a thought that occurred to me.

      I like your snazzy website too BTW and as a 48 year old man, I can say you do look younger than 47 😉

  26. AnJanette Green says

    Hello Mr. Joe Cannon,

    I stumbled upon your website and I am so grateful that I did. I find your insight to be trustworthy as you seem to be unbiased and present a well-rounded opinion that give substance. Thank you so much!

    Since being let go in Dec 2011 without the benefit of savings, neither does it appear that I am re-hirable.

    I think I have the–unemployable syndrome. Must start my own business to make money to live. Rather than sitting around eating stuff..LOL. I have devoted myself to what I love…children! My passion has been for working with kids. I have been told by many, I have a gift that I should be utilizing to motivate and educate children.

    I hold no degrees, but currently have been volunteering as the fitness and recreation facilitator at a youth center. creating and developing my own curriculum, teaching sportsmanship, problem-solving skills, as well as many body developing techniques as learned from my track and field and dance days.

    Although many things have changed since the 80‘s, but I have seen positive changes in the children at the center. The old still works. The feedback from the children are great!!!

    Two parents who witnessed me working with their children asked if I would present my class after hours because they liked what they saw and wanted to participate (aerobic hip hop).

    *I promise not to toot my horn since not being properly licensed or certified but one of my students who I believe is 7 or 8 years of aged asked for my DVD so she can have her mom buy it, says she really had fun and she wants to be and look like me.

    other students have asked me to come more than my one day a week. It is said milk does the body good…but not like inspiration from young minds and hearts.

    Joe, please help me choose a good program, I am so confused because of the many choices being offered. I want to make a right choice for the sake of those I am working with and of course for me too.

    I have looked into ISSA, considered IYCA, and due to my financial status leaning towards ACE.. I desire to lead and teach children the joys of fitness but also want to have nutrition as part of my extensive knowledge…which would you choose?

    Oh, and must I have a personal trainer certificate prior to youth fitness certification?

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi AnJanette,

      I think ACE is a fine cert in and Id rate it higher than ISSA and IYCA (i have not heard of IYCA).

      if money is an issue here is the ACE personal trainer book on amazon

      maybe its cheaper on amazon?

      depending on where your located, also look at these certs :

      WITS they off =er 6 week courses at colleges

      IFTA they actually use my book about personal training as their textbook

      AAAI/ISMA. the advantage here is its just $99 and one day. i teach for them

      At the very least my book on personal training is just $25 and I packed more in it than ACE and others. I’m also easier to understand than books too. just a thought if you are on a tight budget.

      Different organizations have different regulations. some want you to do personal training before youth fitness while others dont (AAAI/ISMA doesn’t for example) but I do recommend yu get it first. while there are differences between kind and adults, all of the personal training cert is applicable to kids for the most part.

      I hope some of this helps. keep me posted on your progress or if you have other questions!!

  27. Willie says

    Hi Joe
    I was reading your website about which certification are the best and I really found it useful. I am 26 have been working out since
    high school and just love being in shape and physically fit.

    During this time I have researched and soaked up any and all information that I could find about training, exercises, nutrition, etc. I love being in the gym atmosphere and want to look into a career within the fitness industry. I have a couple of questions to ask you if you don’t mind.

    I have a business degree and I was wondering if you needed a BS in a health related field to have much success in the personal training industry along with whichever certification you choose?

    I want to work with the general population in weight loss and exercise and general fitness but also would like to work with some athletes too; what do you think would be the best cert for this?

    I am going to purchase your book off of amazon as I think it would be beneficial to my future in the industry.

    Thanks in advance for any info

    • Joe Cannon says


      I think your business degree will help you more than you know esp if you ever go in business for yourself

      There are a lot of good certs out there. Given what you said I think either the CSCS or NSCA-CPT certs would be best for you. the CSCS is more geared to athletes but its still good for non-athletes too.
      I think you’ll like my book as I wrote from the heart, telling the science as well as my own experiences too. It’s a very user friendly book.

  28. Ben says

    Hi Joe,

    Like many others I came across this site by looking for the best possible certification I could find to become a trainer. Enjoyed reading this article and getting to see your views on things.

    I’m currently in the military and after 4 years in I’ve come to a conclusion that this is not what I’d like to do with the rest of my life. I have a real passion for fitness. I’m 28 now and have been lifting since high school. I plan to leave the military next year to pursue something in the fitness field. I would love to become a strength and conditioning coach some day and be able to work with athletes at any level (high school all the way up to professional if there’s even a chance at that). So my questions for you are:

    1. Is my best route to go through NSCA? Should I start off with the CPT or should I go right into the CSCS?

    2. I have a bachelor’s in Criminal Justice. Is a degree in Exercise Science necessary to achieve a certification through NSCA? If not, would it be more beneficial to pursue one anyway (GI Bill will pay for additional schooling so finances won’t be a problem)?

    3. If additional college is the way to go, I was thinking trying to work part time at a nearby gym would be beneficial. How are NSCA certs generally accepted? Would a CPT cert be better to have at that point than the CSCS or would it matter?

    4. In addition to NCSA, what other books, certifications, and things of that nature would you recommend for someone like me looking to be a S&C coach and working with athletes?

    5. Any addtional advice that would be beneficial for a new guy like me hoping to break into the fitness world?

    Sorry, I know that’s a lot of questions. My mind is just swimming. Any help is greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Ben,

      When I took the CSCS the NSCA required college degree in a science field. They have since relaxed that and only require a college degree. it can be in any field.
      given what you said, Id go for the CSCS cert. The NSCA -CPT is good but if you ever work at the college level Ive been told , some colleges require the CSCS. Ill soon be writing a how to pass the CSCS test so look for it.

      I don’t think a degree in ex phys is needed to pass the CSCS test. they have a good ex phys section in their text book. It can be a bit intense if you have no previous background so I would recommend my Personal Training Book since I’m easier to understand.

      The NSCA is very well respected. I’ve never heard of a gym in the US that did not accept NSCA certs. The CSCS still counts as a personal trainer certification. Id be surprised if anybody required a CPT cert if you had the CSCS already.

      There are a lot of good fitness resources out there. I do like the ACSM Guidelines book because everybody else pretty much follows them (NSCA too). its only drawback is that it’s a bit boring and clinical to read.

      Since you have time before you get out of the military, start with my book; it’s a lot cheaper and a LOT easier to understand.

      I really appreciate you putting yourself out there to help the US Ben. There would be no USA if it were not for you and other selfless people like you. Do let me know if I can help further.

  29. David T. says

    Hey Joe I am so glad i found your website it is full of so much information. I also like the fact that you respond to everyone’s questions and in such great detail too.

    I have been reading for a few months now numerous different books on fitness, nutrition, and etc. I have also been working out and making my own workouts now for years (a lot of trial and error), I also have a boxing background on a semi-pro level.

    I have 5 kids, 4 of which are teenagers and 3 of them being boys. They are now becoming interested in bulking up, cardio, eating healthy and etc. so this is really why I have been doing so much studying.

    I consider myself a well educated person, so I do not want to give the wrong advice/guidance to anyone especially not my kids. Now that I have been doing all this research and studying to help my family with there fitness journeys… I am very interested in pursuing a career in the personal trainer field.

    I live in San Diego, Ca so there is a hands on 6-month school here NPTI, there website makes it all sound good but I’m not sure. I was also thinking about taking the NESTA certification online (which you have to go take the test at a testing center), but I have heard quite a bit of mixed reviews and some on which were terrible.

    So.. now I am thinking is ACE a good one? I read through their website as well and again it all sounds good. I’m just not sure… Lets be realistic here and take into consideration how much time and money is put into these websites and there information.

    It is ALL designed to look and sound good, right? lol They probably spend more money making all there programs “shine” and “sparkle” than they actually do on anything else, cuz that is what people see first. I am very very skeptical of which direction to go.

    I think the hands-on training course at NPTI sounds good, it says on there website they offer 300 hours classroom and 200 hours of actually real-time PT experience. (at worlds gym)

    I would like you opinion on what direction seems the best or maybe you might think none of them that I have mentioned are a good way to go. Just any advice or help will be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks, David T.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi David,

      Yes the websites of the different organizations do make them all sound great! I’ve heard good things about NPTI and have known people who teach for them. I like the idea that it lasts several months. The only “drawback” that some have with it is that its expensive, costing about $5000 I think. If I remember correctly NPTI uses the manual of the NSCA – the NSCA is another fitness organization.

      Another organization you may want to look at is world instructor training schools (WITS). It lasts 6 weeks.

      I’ve always felt ACE was a fine cert and Ive always been impressed with their textbooks. I think ACE is about $500 if I remember correct. In case you missed it here is a review of the ACE certification.

      I think this all comes down to how much time and money do you want to invest? ACE is a well respected organization and I have no problem with them. You can always get the ACE cert and then invest in books of the other organizations and study those after you are certified. Just study the books – dont get those other certs. I’m certified by the NSCA but I have books from ACE and ACSM. they are good for reference because none of us can remember everything :)

  30. Tyler R. says

    Hi Joe, First off I’d like to say your website is awesome I have found so much useful information on here!

    Just had a question about certs/ degrees. About two months ago I decided I wanted to be a personal trainer. I’m working an average of 60 hours a week right now so I decided that I could really only do something online. I’m going to be completely honest and say I didn’t really do a lot of research on my options. I filled out a form online looking for colleges and 3 days later I was enrolled with pinnacle career institute for an associates degree in personal training and nutrition applied sciences. Along with the degree comes all the ace study material and a paid-for ace certification test.

    My first question is if ace is a good cert? I want to get a job at just a regular gym like LA fitness or golds gym, and then move to my own business after I get some experience(I’m only 21).

    My second question is about the degree. I see that exercise Science is a big degree in the fitness world, Is applied Science something I’d be proud to put on a resume?

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Tyler,

      I have no problems with the ACE certification. In case you missed it here is a review of the ACE personal trainer test

      ACE is accepted at most gyms so I dont think you would have a problem getting a job.

      As for your other question, Applied science isn’t the same as exercise science (sometimes its also called Kinesiology). My question for Pinical is will your associates degree say “associates degree in personal training and nutrition applied sciences.” if it says personal training and nutrition in the degree thats good thin in my book. If it just says “applied sciences” then I might not like that too much from a resume standpoint.

      I dont think you need a BA or BS degree in exercise science to be a personal trainer. I still value knowledge more than a college degree. Since you said you ultimately wanted to go in business for yourself, Id also take a business class and a marketing class as this will help you.

      If you dont already know how to make a website, taking a class on that is also a good thing and will save you money. Look for learning “wordpress” thats what I use to make this website. Its not hard and Im actually writing a free ebook on how to do it now.

      Its hard to go to college and work at the same time. I did it too. I mostly worked as a security guard in college because it gave me time to study. That might be something to think about if possible.

  31. Alex says

    I’ve read through your site and taken in about as much knowledge as I can handle while I sit here at work and wait for five o’clock to roll around. I’ve seen the list you give of certs that you think are pretty good. You mention ACE a lot, and I must admit they do make a fine bandage. You’ve also said that you’ve never heard of a gym in America that doesn’t accept NSCA, and that’s kind of what my question revolves around. Is there one cert that is pretty much universally accepted by gyms?

    Also, if I pick a program that doesn’t involve in-person class learning (but rather simply studying books), will that inhibit my ability to find a job at a gym? Taking the exam at a testing center doesn’t count as “online” does it? I see that that seems to be frowned upon, so I’d hate to do the wrong thing.
    Thanks for this great site and all you help and advice!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Alex thanks. Taking a test at a testing facility is not the same as taking a test online in the privacy of your home so a cert like ACE will not raise any red flags to anybody. The only downside to a cert like this is that you often dont have access to somebody in a class room setting who can answer your questions and take you beyond the textbooks. Many certs do have active facebook pages which can help to a degree though.

  32. Josh says


    I’m interested in teaching a group “insanity” type class that will help my clients lose weight and feel great. I’m also wanting to cover nutrition also. Is there a certification program you’d recommend for more group type programs like insanity?

    Possibly in the future I’d consider doing more personal training in a gym, but for now that’s the direction I’d like to go. Any advice would be great. Thanks so much!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Josh, I’d just say get a good well rounded personal trainer cert. that will give you a good background of exercise science and the the type of info you’ll need as a personal trainer. Id also take some group classes – spinning, crossfit etc and see what the instructors do. Ask them questions and try to gain some practical info about group classes. Since you specifically mentioned Insanity, do re-read my post on rhabdomyolysis as I think its possible anytime people take part in high intensity programs.

  33. Abegail says

    Hello Mr Cannon,
    I’m so happy that I stumbled upon your web site, you are truly a blessing to us who are entering into the fitness field, I got so much information from you, my head was swimming trying to figure out which way or cert to go after.

    I’m 53 and was wondering if I was to old to start in the fitness world, but then I read the whole link you had on it, and was relieved to hear all of the good feed back stories. But now which cert, I almost enrolled in this school for fitness called (Heritage Institute in Jacksonville FL. For 18mths to get a degree in Personal Training Occupational Associate Degree, would that be any good for the money or just a cert and as you said keep reading on your own, and do plan on getting your book from this web site, not amazon…LOL, but for the price of $20,000.

    Student loans that I don’t need right now. I people frown upon online certs, and I also think I would miss out on something not being in the class room, but the ISSA cert do have 3D animation on proper used of the equipment and they have a 2day course in different states with 1st day in lectures and 2nd day doing hands on the equipment and you can also take the exam there onsite with procters.

    You did say that their students seemed to be well informed, but it was the taking the test from home that raises the red flag. So sorry for being so long with this, but I know you can steer me in the right direction. I’m really interested in Seniors being that I live in Florida. Help me please, please
    Thanks in advance.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Abegail, glad you found me! Ive never heard of the fitness program offered by Heritage Institute in Jacksonville. FL. Im sure its good but as you say its going to cost a lot and I dont think you need to take out a lot of money in loans.
      Here are some things that Id suggest
      1. get a CRP/AED certification. You can find out where the CPR certs are offered by going to The American Heart Association website.

      2. go to local gyms and see what certs they accept. Don’t just go to one gym, go to 2-3 gyms. Get those lists.

      3. Investigate the certs that are in your budget range (most certs range from $99- $500. books are extra usually)

      4. Ask questions on the facebook pages of each of these organizations. see how fast they and others respond to your questions (that helps if you have questions during studying).

      5. Decide which one you feel is best for you, the people you want to work with, and your bank account

      WITS (world instructor training schools) does offer a 5-6 week course at local community colleges. Again some gyms may not accept it (I dont know why..) but I do like the idea of 5-6 weeks in a classroom – and there is practical/gym experience too.

      yes I’ve met some ISSA trainers who I felt were pretty smart. Again, its what people put into the studying process. I still feel the “take-home test” aspect may be a problem at some gyms. Some gyms accept it while others dont. Last time I saw their book (few years ago) I disagreed with some of the dietary supplement advise they had (you may not know but I also have a website where I review supplements – Supplement-Geek.com

      There is a cert offered by the Senior Fitness Associationn. I dont know a lot about them and I dont know if its an online cert or not but you may want to get some of their materials down the road to add to your personal training library.

      There is a lot of information to digest when you are just getting started. Follow the steps I listed and that should help you from getting overloaded.
      if you have any questions along the way just ask

      If you get my book from my site Ill autograph it for you 😉

      • Abegail says

        Thank you Joe for responding so fast, and please forgive all the typos I had, I was typing in the dark and having hot flashes at the same time….LOL

        Thank you for the advice, I will research your suggestions and I will get back to you on what path I will take. I will order your book within the next week or so. Thanks again.

  34. Ruesta says

    Joe: Thanks so much for this extremely informative article. Just wondering if you’ve heard of Personal Training certification with NCSF and your thoughts about their program? Thanks so much.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Ruesta, Ive heard of NCSF but dont know a lot about them. If you are thinking about this cert make sure its accepted at local gyms.

  35. Blain says

    Hi Joe,
    I’m so happy I found your site. I usually don’t comment or ask questions on sites but this site felt so helpful so I said what the hell.

    I’m a 30 year old veteran who has just came back from Afghanistan and lost 45 pounds and has always be in love with working out. I have been in football, track and field and just getting a work out in whenever and how ever. I have came back home to see my family in a over weight slump and I have been helping them lose weight since I been back (since July 2012) .

    I found the passion to change lives in their body and in their life, because once they got the body they wanted it felt like the world is their oyster…love life, job, just having the energy to play with their kids or do random things that weight and laziness has plagued them with.

    With that said I have no degree of any kind just military workout, MMA fighting, and a awesome book I read called ” The Truth about Six Pack Abs”. I just a want to help people and make a very good living doing that. I have no idea where to start…I want to change lives from young adults to older individuals ( 60 and below).

    Can you help me where to start? Don’t want to waste time and money… I appreciate the time and effort you put in your responses.

    Humble and Very Thankful,

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Blain, First off thanks for battling the bad guys for us in Afghanistan! I dont think any of us can imagine what you and others like you have seen and been through. That said, since you said you were basically starting from scratch, here are some pretty cheap ways to learn more:

      1. I tunes university. open I tunes and then go to the Itunes store. you will see I Tunes U at the top. These are 100% free college course on nutrition, exercise etc. you name it, its there. Some of them may be a little advanced but just listen to them while your working out. you will start to pick stuff up. There are also some fitness podcasts in Itunes too that can help

      2. youtube has a lot of fitness videos so look through those

      3. If you have XM Radio, there is “Doctor Radio” and “Reach MD” both are medical /health related channels. Reach MD is doctors talking to doctors so its a little advanced at times but if you go to ReachMD.com you can sign up for free and then search through their podcasts. There are health, nutrition etc podcasts that you can listen to and put on your ipod -all for free.

      4. Local community colleges have health and wellness classes – and some even have 6 week classes on personal training.

      5. If you are not yet CPR/AED certified, get that. you’ll need it for most fitness certs. go to AmericanHeart.org to find classes in your area.

      6. Some fitness certification organizations may give you a discount because of your military service so do look into that when you decide on a cert.

      7. Here are some names of some Fitness certifications to look into

      American Council on Exercise (ACE)

      American Aerobics Association International (AAAI/ISMA)

      Interactive Fitness Trainers Association (IFTA)

      National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)

      National Personal Trainers Institute (NPTI)

      World Instructor Training School (WITS)

      There are a LOT of fitness organizations – so many that your head would spin. Thats why I only listed a few of them to get you started. Most organizations have facebook pages so you can ask questions about them there too.

      Hope that helps Blain!

  36. Joe says

    Hi Joe,
    Thanks for the wealth of information on your website. I am yet another military member considering a post-military career in health & fitness. I am passionate about fitness, but have non-fitness related degrees: BS Social Sciences & MS Organizational Leadership. Seems like these degrees are essentially worthless in the world of fitness and I kind of have to start over.

    So, before I jump onto this new path, I’m hoping to get your opinion. Ultimately, I would like to train recovering cancer patients who have been cleared for exercise. Right now, I’m thinking of pursuing the ACSM CPT cert, followed by ACSM Cancer Exercise Trainer cert.

    – Should I be going back to get a BS Exercise Science first?

    – I’ve seen some college programs that prep you for certain certifications (eg. Cal U works with NASM). Do you know of any schools that might work closely with ACSM?
    Thanks in advance for your help!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hey Joe, I really think your background would help you in the fitness world. Fitness is all about “social” and your background in social sciences will be an asset! Given who you want to work with – cancer patients – I think ACSM is a smart move. I believe they will accept your BS degree (I think ACSM may require a college degree for some of their certs – not sure – but I do think your degrees will be fine with them. call to make sure).

      I dont think you need a degree in exercise science before getting ACSM. If you feel weak in the sciences, try taking a few courses at community colleges. If you did that, Id recommend
      exercise science (there are classes on this at colleges)
      clinical exercise science (there are usually classes on this also at colleges)

      That should help you understand some of the ACSM materials better. Do discuss all of this with them on the phone first to get their impute.

      I seem to remember that some colleges in California had ACSM affiliations. I think Schools in San Diego did but ACSM will know this for sure so do ask them.

      I hope some of this helps Joe and kudos for wanting to help cancer survivors! Very nice :)
      Feel free to ask if I can help further too.

  37. Joshua Widner says

    Hey Joe,
    I was researching your site and I have to say, this has made me very interested in pursuing my PT certification. I have a BS in Psychology w/a Biology minor, and wanted to find a suitable certification that can allow me to work as a PT at a gym for a while, with the eventual goal to work with athletes in a college/pro setting. Any recommendations of whether to go with the NCSA now (I do love the strength and conditioning aspects) or just choose either the NASM or ACSM now? Thanks so much!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Joshua, you have a lot of options since you have a degree. ACSM tends to be more clinical and while its a very good certification, since you mentioned you like strength and condiioning, Id look at either NSCA or NASM. did you see my comparison of NSCA vs NASM? Heres the link : Whats better NASM or NSCA?

  38. Joshua Widner says

    Thanks Joe for the advice, I really appreciate the help for someone trying to break into bring a PT! Now as much as I grit my teeth to ask, I would like to know if there is much money to make as a personal trainer? I love to workout, I love nutrition, and it is definitely something I am interested in pursuing. I would just like to know if it is a struggling type lifestyle?

    • Joe Cannon says

      Joshua, There is money to be made but it will take some hard work. Most trainers at big box gyms may not make much – and if they do they usually have to work their butt off. I think to make a very good living, one option is to eventually go in business for yourself. That way you dont have to split anything with the gym.

      I think one factor in being successful is knowing more than your competition. Thats usually not as hard as you might think because there are so many people out there who call themselves “personal trainers” who really shouldn’t. A sad fact is that most personal trainers spend way too much time in the gym – and not enough in the library.

      Having a passion for not only working out but learning, will make you unbeatable because you’ll eventually get a reputation and then people will seek you out.

      Do get a website whatever you do because it will open lots of doors for you (I’m writing a free ebook to show people how I did it step by step. keep your eyes open for it)

      I know there is money to be made in this industry. Most of us have to pay our dues at first, but for the people who hang in there, it can be done.



    • Joe Cannon says

      David, If they referred you to me, I’m guessing its about the AAAI/ISMA personal trainer cert class that I teach. If yes, Here is a review of the AAAI/ISMA test that you should look over. that should answer your questions. All the classes I do are listed on this page and for a list of ALL AAAI certs, check out the AAAI/ISMA website

      I also recommend you join my newsletter list so I can send you news and other updates on fitness.

      I dont know your background -fitness wise – so I do recommend you also read through my website. There is a LOT of personal training information here.

      if you have any questions just email me.

  40. Erika says

    Hi Joe,
    Thanks for all of the great information on your site. I have a question that may have been answered in the past, so please bear with me. I am a chiropractor, and even though we learn much of the science, etc. that would be useful as a personal trainer – what would be the best training or certification for learning the most current exercise science and how to develop effective routines? I feel like both my personal workouts and reading are haphazard.

    I would like to focus on efficiency (get in, get out, get results) for the average patient, but also performance enhancement for working with athletes. I was a gymnast, swimmer, dancer and diver in school and have been in gyms since my teens, so there is a decent amount of familiarity with that world. I would like to diversify my practice to include training, so any input would be appreciated. Thanks a lot!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Erika, based on what you said, I’d say take a look at the NSCA (national strength and conditioning association). its very science oriented and their “CSCS cert” is geared toward athletes too.

  41. Seth says


    I don’t believe that the Personal Trainer Certification program offered by the Cooper Institute has been mentioned in this discussion. Are you familiar with Cooper’s program and, if so, do you have an opinion on the cert? Thanks in advance for your time.


    • Joe Cannon says

      Seth, Copper Institute is a well respected certification. Ive never taken it but those Ive known who had, said it was good.

      if I remember right, Dr Cooper was the guy who popularized the aerobic movement in the 1970s-80s

  42. Shane says

    hi joe,
    so i am about to take this personal training class through w.i.t.s education. What do you all know about wits? have you ever heard of it before? is a a good place to get certified?

    • Joe Cannon says

      Shane, Ive always thought WITS was a good cert. your going to school for about 6 weeks if I remember. In my book, thats a good thing. I knew at one point WITS used my personal training book for some of their events but they dont think they do anymore. I’ve heard that some gyms (LA Fitness) didn’t accept WITS at one time but they do know as I know of a few WITS trainers there.

  43. Erika says

    Hi Joe,
    I have been enjoying reading all of the information on your website. I recently graduated from college with a degree in child development. However, my real passion is fitness. Becoming a personal trainer is something I have thought about for a long time and I’m finally ready to take the first step in starting my career.

    Ideally I would like to start out training individuals and leading group fitness classes at a gym. Once I gain more experience and build up my clientele though, I would like to break away from working at one particular gym and work more specifically with women.

    I have been looking over the array of certifications available and I’m beginning to lean towards ACE. Do you think that would be a good certification program for me?

    Since I work part time and I’m a new mom I would like a program where most of it can be done at home. However I think it’s important for the program to be hands on and interactive as well.

    Also, I have been researching personal training job opportunities in my area and have noticed that most gyms require that you not only are certified but have experience as well. How would you suggest I gain experience so that I can be considered for the job after getting certified?

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Erika, dont worry about the experience part of the job because if they are interested in you, they will train you. If they dont, do insist that you “shadow” some of their current personal trainers for several weeks before you start dong the job yourself.

      Everybody has to start somewhere and I understand that “getting experience” can be a challange. So many trainers get tossed into it too soon. I think following around other trainers will give you insights that will help you. Alternatively you can also call local self employed trainers and ask if you could be their “intern” that way you could follow them.

      I think ACE is a fine cert. i will tell you that their text book is about 500 pages and can seem daunting to some. As a less expensive option, why dont you pick up a copy of my book called Personal Fitness Training Beyond The Basics. I am a LOT easier to understand than most books (I write like I talk) and I cover the stuff that you need to know -the stuff that those other books just never discuss (I dont know why). I do it in 200 pages too. If you know the info in my book, you can understand the rest – and pass those other certifications too. Just a suggestion.

      Another option is that local community colleges sometimes have 5 week course through an organization called WITS. there is a “practical” portion where you go to the gym and learn about what goes on there. Its not home-based but rather you are in college for 5 weeks. thought Id mention it since some community colleges have day care.

      I hope that helps Erika :)

  44. Joe, Clark NJ says

    Hi Joe,

    I’m a newbie here but after reading this entire blog, I can clearly see your experience and professional attitude.

    I’ve had just about enough of corporate life and hundreds of daily emails. I’ve worked in the HVAC industry for 20 years and am thinking about a career change.

    I’ve worked out with weights for the past 20 years. I also monitor what I eat on a daily basis. By no means am I ready for a bodybuilding competition but friends and family have always said what very good shape I’m in. I do take a lot of pride in staying in shape and eating right.

    As a trainer, I would like to focus on helping people gain strength, good physical fitness and nutrition. I have many overweight people in my family and always enjoyed helping them eat properly when asked.

    My questions are:
    Of all the certifications out there, which one would be a good starting point?

    Do you know of any programs that don’t require re-certification every year or two?

    I’m a very motivated individual and would like to start off working on my own right away. Would you recommend that initially?

    Sorry for all of the questions…I look forward to hearing from you.


    • Joe Cannon says

      Hey Joe, let me try to answer your questions.

      1. most certification organizations do require you to re-certify every 1-2 years. it varies from organization to organization. Getting re certified criteria also varies but generally isnt too bad overall. they often give you ideas on what they accept and dont accept.

      2. for a cert to “get you started”, why dont you do this: pick up a copy of the personal training book I wrote called Personal Fitness Training Beyond The Basics. Its very easy to understand (I write like I talk) and its a lot less expensive than most certs ($25). In that book Ill explain the science of personal training as well as address the questions you’ll need to know. If you know whats in that book you can understand all the other books and pass almost any cert out there.

      If you’d rather opt for a cert to get your feet wet, you try certs offered by IFTA, AAAI/ISMA and AFAA. These are by no means “starter certs” but they do let you get exposed to a certification in 1-2 days if you pass their respective tests.

      Look through my website too. I do a LOT of writing about personal training.

      I hope some of that helps Joe. let me know if you need any other help.

  45. Andrea Viola says


    I took AAAI/ISMA PT Cert with you…and Im a full time trainer group ex instructor. What Ive found is this when I apply at gyms or corporate locations they do not recognize my cert and even though I have passed the tests given (all questions correct, heck one facility told me I was the only one to score 100% on the test the gave me out of 20 applicants) they will not hire me bc of my cert.

    So in other words people who have a “higher” cert than me will get the job even tho they do not have the experience I do. I have to upgrade so Im thinking of ACE. Thoughts???…also would you please advise people on why they need to carry their own insurance and possibly get an LLC

    • Joe Cannon says

      Andrea, its very sad that “certification bigotry” occurs at some gyms. As for ACE, I can tell you I think its a fine cert but just to show you how crazy some gyms are, at the place I worked at years ago, they literally laughed when somebody certified by ACE applied. They did not take ACE seriously and only accepted NSCA, NASM or ACSM certifications.

      Its amazing that you score 100 on “their test” and yet they pass you over for a goober who scored less than you did. I’d try to get that in writing and sue the gym for that. I’m serious.

      As for liability insurance, if your self employed you may be covered by the gyms liability policy. if you are self employed its good to have your own. The LLC can also be a good thing because it offers some protection if you were ever sued. Its my understanding that in that case, those suing you would be prevented from going after your personal assets. They could only go after those of the company.

      Sorry you are having such difficulty Andrea. If you are thinking about ACE, do read the review of the ACE personal trainer test and also take a look at the NSCA-CPT test as well.

  46. Andrea Viola says


    Thanks so much for the reply. What I think Im going to get a cert that u suggested. As far as the insurance goes…I carry my own insurance and cover all the gyms, facilities and private clients I have. I do this because its better to be safe then sorry. The LLC on the other hand is a good investment bc your personal assets are covered.

    I now always ask the question when I start at a new gym/etc…how am I covered under your insurance and what happens if I decide I want to take a client or teach a class outside (ud be surprised sometimes once you cross out of the gyms dorway your not covered under any circumstances).

    I’ll see you soon….looking forward to s supplements seminar!!!

  47. Malissa says

    Joe, I am thinking of studying for an associates degree in fitness science, with ISSA! Do you have any advise or opinions on this option! I was wanting to become a group fitness trainer and personal trainer and wasn’t sure if getting the degree would be a better career move! Thanks Malissa

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Malissa, I didn’t know ISSA offered associates degrees! Is it the same as a college degree? I have no problems with ISSA but some gyms might only because the testing for ISSA certs are taken in your home. Is that what happens with ISSA associates degree? if yes, some gyms might have a problem with that (because of the “cheat factor”).

      I do think an associates would help you and give you a leg up over others who dont have a degree.

      How does the ISSA associates program work? Do you attend a college?

      • Malissa says

        Issa states that it’s an accredited program! I believe it is like any other online college program degree! Just so confused on what to do!! I currently work as an EMT and not in college! Is there other things you can do with a degree in fitness science??? Thanks again, Malissa

        • Joe Cannon says

          Malissa, sure there are lots. I think a lot of personal trainers limit themselves to only doing “personal training.” I think one of the best things you can do is start a website and start blogging! Its a great way to get noticed. In case you missed it here is my step by step guide to making your website:http://www.joe-cannon.com/install-wordpress-register-donain-name-tutorial-step-by-step/

          you could also do lunch time lectures to corporations.
          you could write an ebook and sell it on amazon etc – or on your own website.
          you might also be able to teach personal training at colleges or for fitness certification organizations.

          As for ISSA, yes they say its “accredited” but that really just means they jumped through some hoops. Accredited doesn’t necessarily mean its accepted at gyms and that’s because people take the tests in their home. Do call ISSA and ask them how they deal with people cheating on tests that they take in the privacy of their homes. If they have a way to prevent it (or severely cut down on it) then thats a big step in the right direction. I dont know the answer to this right now.

          That said, if your plan is going in business for yourself, then I have no problem with ISSA because you wont have to deal with gyms. Regardless of what cert you get, your EMT background will help you A LOT as a personal trainer. you are vastly better able to deal with medical emergencies than most fitness trainers.

          Have you ever looked at the NSCA? they are also “accredited” and are always accepted by gyms. I think they cost less than ISSA also.

  48. says

    Hi Joe,

    I noticed that you are awesome at responding quickly to comments and very thorough in your responses so I figured I would get your opinion as well. We just met via twitter, and I can’t stop reading your blog now. =) My husband is an NFPT-CPT and we have recently built our own website which we are slowly but surely trying to expand and grow and many of our friends are using the programs that he has created with great results, including me.

    I am looking to get my personal trainer cert now too, but have spent the last couple of months reading and re-reading websites of the various certifications, talking to other trainers, etc. trying to find which one is best for me.

    I am leaning towards ACSM as they are very well received most places and seem to accept CECs from a wide range of programs which will be useful in recertification. I love to read and learn about new things and am especially passionate about reading and writing about fitness.

    I have a BA in Liberal Studies, and an MA in Education and currently work part time teaching SAT/ACT prep classes with Kaplan. As a mom to two young kids I am really liking the idea of working as a personal trainer and since I love both teaching and fitness this seems to be a good fit for me.

    Also, I write for our site and so the more I can learn in the industry, the better content I can provide to my readers. I also would like to add certifications focused on training women as part of my continuing education.

    I am pretty much looking between NASM, ACE, and ACSM for my basic CPT. Any help you can give is much appreciated. Sorry for the lengthy comment and thanks for your insight!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hey Twitter buddy Kimberly :)
      Since you said you also write for your website, I would choose either ACE or ACSM. NASM is good but I think its heavy basis in bio-mechanics might limit the wide range of topics you would learn if you opted to do ACE or ACSM.

      ACSM is pretty heavy duty. There is a LOT of math in that cert – math you are unlikely to ever run into in “the real world.” Still, that can be good blogging material as it will give you a greater insight into exercise physiology.

      ACSM is also pretty expensive. Do they offer the ACSM exam near you? Call them and ask. They often test at universities so you may call their ex phys department and ask them if they host ACSM certs.

      Another thing about ACSM is that I believe that they make you take “lower level” certs before they let you take their personal trainer certification test (call them to confirm this). If thats true, then ACE may be a better option since I believe they let you take the ACE personal trainer test without jumping through the hoops of other certs first.

      Hope some of that helps Kimberly :)

      • says


        Thank you so much for the information. I have been leaning towards the ACSM but I will look into those considerations that you mentioned. It is really helpful receiving the input of a fitness professional who understands the real-world implications of holding any of the various certifications and can show me the advantages to obtaining one over another.

        I appreciate your willingness to openly share your experience and knowledge. I also ordered your book on personal training and it is due to arrive Tuesday. I look forward to reading and learning the wealth of information that you have offered. Thanks Joe!

  49. Todd Demsky says

    Hi Joe. Thanks for posting about this important topic. You have provided a lot of great feedback. I am currently ACE certified and formally AAAI certified. I took a class or two by you at Gloucester County Community College. In addition I have the NASM textbook and I follow their OPT Model for program design. I am also getting re-certified as a Mat Pilates instructor through AAAI.

    My question…I am looking into a Masters degree from California University of Pennsylvania in Exercise Science/Health Promotion and choosing the Performance Enhancement track. I would like to expand my knowledge base and work with athletes. I also am looking for more stability with my career. Possibly working in a wellness clinic at a business or hospital to make a steady income and possibly benefits.

    Do you think this is a good option/program? Any feedback is greatly appreciated. Here is a link to the program. I have an undergraduate degree in Business Marketing.


    • Joe Cannon says

      Todd, it looks like a fine program. Is it an online program? How much does it cost? Will the degree contain the name of the college or “NSAM.” How much does it cost? There is a contact email on that website. see if you can speak to former students to see what they thought of the program and if they feel it helped them in their career goals.

      One thing that I would really take a hard look at is creating your own website. Most fitness people I see don’t have a website. It’s easy to do this – so much so that here is my step by step guide :


      These are the steps I take when I make a website. This is important because once you get your website it lets you help people all over the world – and if you do it right, you can make money from your website too.

      If you get into that college program, the information you learn is all good material for your website. If I were in college today, I would be doing this.

    • Tyler says

      Hey Todd I stumbled upon this article and found all of Joe’s information to be informative and awesome (Thanks Joe!!) But I also am looking into the Calu Masters Exercise Science Program after I graduate from UT. Just wondering if you learned any additional info since your post on October about the program?

      • Joe Cannon says

        Tyler, thanks glad you found me. I dont know anything about the Calu Masters program. maybe somebody else does.

      • Ryan says

        I was looking into Cal U’s online Master’s in Exercise program and found some information here: exercise-science-guide.com/online-masters-in-exercise-science-degree/

        I believe it’s accredited and also affiliated with the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

        • Joe Cannon says

          Ryan, Yes I looked it up and they say they prep people to sit for the NSAM test. This does not mean you will pass the NASM cert.

          What I didn’t understand though is that the website you linked to was not to “Cal U” but another site called “exercise-science.com.” I looked this site up on Whois.com and the address listed is a PO Box in Colorado. Cal U is california university.

  50. Blain says

    Hey Joe,
    I’m back with another question and hopefully get your input because I’m so knew at this I have no one else to ask. Well first I want to say thank you for your book it was very helpful and has me getting prepared for my journey into personal training and it touched on the question I have here..

    But I wanted to know if you have any input on trying to be a self employed personal trainer and not work for a gym? I have a few gyms around me and they aren’t the kind of places I want to work and the trainers they do have there are poor and I kind of don’t want to be associated with them and feel I can offer more on my own.

    I want to be on my own and put my self out there and build my own client base.

    My question is how do I go about doing that? I have a lot of people and friends I meet all the time asking me if I would train them just by the way I look because I bust my ass in the gym/home.

    I would like to be a great personal trainer and make a good living for my family. I wish there was a step by step on how to be a self employed personal so I know the do’ s and Don’t. Any advise you have is always appreciated Joe.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Blain, great! Glad my book is helping you!! since you said you wanted to be self employed, here are some things that I think you should look at and do.

      1. get personal trainer insurance. I use fitness and wellness insurance but others are out there. You’ll have to be a certified personal trainer before you can get the insurance. You should also be CPR/AED certified also. Check out the American Heart Association for places in your area that you can get CPR/AED certified.

      2. you should form an LLC to protect yourself legally. Check out the resources page of my site for info on how to do this as well as other business related things.

      3. You should have some business cards so you can give them to people you meet on the street. I like Staples for this because I think they are pretty reasonable.

      4. You should have a website. Your in luck because here is my step-by-step guide that will give you a website in about 1 hour. Its not hard. Just do what I do in the steps and you’ll be fine. The website will help you get noticed not only by your clients but also by the whole world!

      5. If you want to be self employed, will you be going to clients or them coming to you? either way you’ll need some fitness equipment if you dont have it already. check resources page on my site for good places to get, balls, bands weights etc from.

      6. One of the easiest ways to get yourself out there is to put a free ad on craigs list. Before you do this though, please have your website up first. That way people can click over to your site right from craigs list. People like to do this. Don’t put your cell # in the ad or kooks will call you at 3AM.

      Right now I think the best first steps to do are getting certified and getting your website up.

      I’m also working on a free ebook – steps to being a successful personal trainer. It should be up on my website soon.
      hope that helps Blain. keep me posted on your progress :)

  51. Todd Demsky says

    Hi Joe,

    Thanks for your quick and informative feedback! I will look into building a website. Sounds like a great idea! I am looking into financial assistance for the Cal U Masters. I believe it costs about $15,000. It is a 1 year program that would say Masters from Cal U instead a Nasm cert. The program is online. Will keep you posted on my decision and update on my professional progress. Thanks Again!!

  52. Trisha says

    Hey Joe,

    Thank you for your input on all the certifications that are available!! When I first looked into getting certified I was a bit overwhelmed. I still am I suppose. I saw you emphasized on a few above. What about AFAA? Do you think this is a good certification all in all. I’m looking to do this part time and I don’t really know who to go with!! I don’t want to spend a crazy amount of money especially if its wasted on stuff I do NOT need!!

    When you look up personal trainer and classes/courses a million thing come up. So as a newbie I just do not know which way to go. I was looking into taking the AFAA course which is about 500 bucks when you are said and done.

    This certificate caught my eye cause they actually have three day seminars/classes/courses to teach students hands on. Do you know of any others that do this too? That are well known?

    I just don’t want to spend the money on something that is not the best for me. Any insight would be great.

    I live in Florida between Jacksonville and Orlando so I am willing to drive. The only one I really saw for classes though was AFAA( I didn’t see you really touch base on this one in blog/post so I didn’t know if it was a good one). Thanks for any input.


    • Joe Cannon says

      Trisha (thats a cute email by the way 😉 Ive never heard anything bad about AFAA and as you said, its a 2-3 day course that covers a lot of different information. One thing you might do is go to the AFAA facebook page and see what the people there are talking about and ask questions about the cert. See what others who took it think of it. Yes I think its about $500. You might also check local community colleges and see if they offer the WITS cert course. WITS is world instructor training school. its a 5-6 week class. Im not sure of the cost of WITS. If you are thinking about using this in a gym, do go to local gyms to ask if they accept WITS. they should but Ive heard stories about some gyms that didn’t – probalby because they dont know of it.

      let me know what you decide to get and if you have any other questions :)

  53. Kim says

    Hi Joe,

    I have really enjoyed reading your article as well as the comments and your responses to them. I also appreciate you taking time responding to all of the comments. So here is my situation and I’d love to hear your opinion/advice:

    I have a BS degree in Exercise Science, and am a Certified Athletic Trainer. I worked as an ATC for a couple of years but quit to be a stay at home mom. During my pregnancy I got PES and CES certs from NASM. I thought those certs plus my degree would, on paper, qualify me to be a personal trainer at a gym. My problem is that I don’t have much practical experience.

    For several months I taught an exercise class at my church but I just created a circuit-type workout each week for the small group of women.

    I applied for a job, and not only did they tell me straight up that they couldn’t hire me because I am currently pregnant, but that I should become a CPT as well. So I guess my question is: Do I really need the CPT?

    • Joe Cannon says

      Kim, thanks for writing. With your experience I say you DO NOT need a certified personal trainer cert. You already have a fantastic background in my opinion. Shocking that the guy said he wouldn’t hire you because your pregnant! Im sure his pregnant members would like having a pregnant personal trainer!

      It should come as no surprise – based on your experience with that gym – that most of the people who do hiring at big box gyms are idiots and have no real business sense or and idea of what they can do and not do.

      Don’t let this be a hindrance to you Kim. if you are close to a YMCA or Jewish Community Center, I say apply there. Also look at Curves too. Y’s JCCs and Curves tend to pay more than most gyms and I think they would value what you bring to the table more than big box gyms.

      When you do get a job, tell them that you want to “shadow” their best /smartest personal trainer for a few weeks. then you can see what they do/dont do. This will help you a lot when you do train people. That said, you already know more than you think. Creating a circuit program for the women in your church is more work than you know so dont underestimate yourself.

      You have a great background Kim. I think with your education you can help a lot of people -and do it from home. Think hard about making a website like mine. Here is step by step guide on how to make a website. The beauty is that eventually you can make money from your site – I do – and then you can earn a living while staying home with your kids. Most fitness trainers dont have a website (because nobody told them how they can earn a living from it while helping others). Do consider this Kim. If you like to write and help others, it may be just be the answer you are looking for.

      Keep me posted on your progress Kim and let me know if I can help more :)

  54. Kristen says

    Thank you so much for the info that you have here. I think I am still a little confused as to which program I would like to go with. Originally I had thought of going with ISSA as it is supposedly well recognized.

    It is all online though but is around a 10 week program not something you can do on a cell in a parking lot Ha! Then I was told by several PT folks I know that I should go with NASM…but I did not like to hear that there is a high fail rate in the exam.

    THEN I was told ACSM so this girl over here is a tad overwhelmed but I want to get started asap! My goal will be to operate mostly on my own with women but could involve being employed with a gym in the beginning. Thanks for any additional insight!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Kristen, you said you wanted to start ASAP but if you have no formal background in personal training I recommend you work in a gym for a bit and learn the ropes. At the very least, after getting certified, reach out to self employed trainers and ask if you can “shadow” them for a few weeks. If you worked at a gym first you could ask to do this with their smartest trainer. There is more to being self employed than getting certified. If you opted to get a cert from WITS (world instructor training schools) they have a practical/hands part that lasts a week I think. its taught at many colleges.

      Don’t focus on getting started ASAP but rather focus on learning all you can now BEFORE you get clients. then you can help them best when you are certified. focus on learning as much as you can right now. Here are several fitness resources Ive put together to help.

      As for NASM, its fine but most of those trainers cant pass the AAAI/ISMA test (the org I teach for). Focus on knowledge not the cert.

      Not to muddy the waters more, can I suggest you look at NSCA. they have an NSCA-CPT cert that might work well for you. I think that might be best overall for you and its less expensive.

      no worries I changed the name to mine 😉

  55. Brittany says

    Thanks for all the info you have provided! I have a few questions though. I would like to get certified as a personal trainer and I would like to take the courses online.

    I am currently an undergraduate student so I would need it to be online. I saw several options that take 2-3 months but I am not sure.

    Two programs looked good to me were NCSF and AFAA what do you think? Also, do I need any background/experience working in a gym?


    • Joe Cannon says

      HI Brittany, what are you getting your degree in? is it exercise or health? Yes you should have some practical experience and gyms will ask you about this. Some may be willing to teach you if you have a cert. Regardless, spend a few weeks “shadowing” their smartest personal trainer before you take on clients. The smartest trainer is not always the person who makes the most.

      If you are dead set on getting an online cert, go to local gyms and ask them if they accept the online fitness certifications you are interested in. That can save you a lot of money. I do recommend my personal trainer book because I do a very good job at teaching you real life personal trainer knowledge that you likely wont get in an online class- or in most other books.

      Also look through my fitness resources page too. I’ve listed a lot of things there that will help you learn more and be a better personal trainer.

      I hope this helps Brittany. :)

  56. Shane says

    Hi, Joe

    Great site and really informative article. I am still extremely new to looking into getting certified and as someone mentioned above, it is very overwhelming when faced with the seemingly many, many options at certifications.

    I see that you feel AAAI is a good one and most of the big gyms in my area accept it. I’m with you on the fact that the knowledge is more important than the cert and I want to do it right or not at all.

    That said, I can’t figure out from the AAAI website how I would go about obtaining it. I live in Orlando, if that helps. Can it be done online?

    Do I have to physically attend a program somewhere? Where should I begin? Also, should I go ahead and knock out the CPR cert before starting anything? Thanks for any help you could offer!


    • Joe Cannon says

      HI Shane, I would get the CPR first. Heres a link to the American heart website to find CPR classes in your area.

      Here is a link to AAAI/ISMA website where they list classes. click the “states” button and choose florida. not sure if 2013 dates are on the website yet but they soon will be if they aren’t already. You can always call them if you have questions too – 609 397 2139.

      Did you see my post on the AAAI test? if not read it also as it will answer a lot of questions.

  57. Jim Stacey says

    Thank you so much for such a good site. Very informative, and the fact that one may get a personal response is priceless, and some personal guidance is what I would kill for.

    I just turned 70 ten days ago; I don’t look it (or so my wife says) and I don’t feel it. I am not a “natural born athlete” but I have pushed myself to be fairly good at the physical side of life, having biked 171 miles in one day, run a survival program, been an EMT, canoed the Bowron Circuit in Canada by myself….you get the idea.

    This may seem ridiculous to young folks but I am looking for something to do in my “retirement” and helping others stay young would be great (and keep me young). I thought about taking the NASM program here in North Carolina at the community college but the commute is a nightmare and I have to dogsit while my wife is in school, so the on-line stuff sounds like an alternative but then it also sounds too thin, shall we say.

    Should I be content to go fishing? Or build birdhouses? Hey, I built a log cabin by myself this summer. So, do you have any thoughts on this.

    Any thing I haven’t thought of, other than the fact that I will indeed get older? Thanks a ton! Two tons!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Jim
      I think thats a great idea and I do feel you will have an advantage over “younger personal trainers. See my post on Am I too old to be a personal trainer for more insights on this.

      The NASM books tend to be pretty difficult to understand for a lot of people. I suggest before you actually sign up for the NASM test that you get the NASM books and read them.This is because if you sign up first and then decide that your not ready to take the test at the time you signed up for, the NASM will charge you extra to reschedule it to a later date. See the resources page of my site on how to get the NASM books for maybe a little less.

      You have had GREAT success exercise wise Jim. One thing that will let you help even more people than being a personal trainer is to make a website where you can tell the world what you do to stay healthy and fit. Here is my guide to how to get your website up and running in less than an hour. Basically these are the steps I did to make this website. Its a step by step tutorial where you follow along with me as I make a brand new website.

      As a personal trainer you are limited to working with only 1 person (or a few) at a time. the website lets you help thousands (if not millions) all over the world every day.

      Another fitness certification organization that may be closer to you is the Interactive Fitness Trainers Association (IFTA). They are based in North Carolina. They are also less expensive than NASM and will give you a very good idea of the stuff (science and practical info) you would need to know as a trainer – and the teachers will explain it better than just reading the NASM book.

      Also see my post on NASM vs NSCA for more info as well.

      I hope some of this helps Jim. Do let me know if I can help more :)

      • Jim Stacey says

        Joe, you knock me over with your generosity! I will indeed follow your instructions in days to come. I have already ordered the NASM textbook for the class that starts in January, and my wife worked out a way that I can attend said class, so all signals are go. You are a catalyst for change! Thanks a million.

  58. Theresa says

    I am a NASM-CPT, as well as hold a B.S. in Sport Management. I previously was WITS certified. I have been a trainer for over 7 years yet have not ever worked in a gym, only to shadow a trainer when I got WITS certified.

    I started my own business going to clients’ homes, performing strength training classes several days a week renting spaces. I struggle to get clients. I have many people who say I am “smart, qualified and a great teacher” yet they don’t come to class.

    I also struggle to get paid what I feel I am worth. Zumba is all the rage and that’s where people are going. It’s frustrating to me because what I offer is sound nutrition and the perfect workout but no one wants it.

    What can I do? How can I get interest? Should I get certified as a P90X coach or Crossfit in order to get clients? It seems people gravitate to what’s on TV not qualifications. Thanks and love your discussion on this page.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Theresa, have you ever placed an add on craigs list? Ive had very good success with this. If you have not, write your add in bullet form so people can easily scan it. focus on what you offer and your education.

      Do you have a website? if not make your website before the craigs list ad so people can check you out first. Making a website is very easy. Follow along with me in this post as I make a website from scratch. Making a website has been one of the best things Ive ever done because it lets me help thousands of people all over the world. There are also several ways to make money from your website too, which means you dont have to train as many clients. Im working on an ebook on how to do this. look for it soon. The post I linked too will get your website up and running so your ready to take it to the next level when my ebook is finished.

  59. Zachary says

    hey Joe…I was wondering if this groupon deal going around now called National Council for Certified Personal Trainers and says it is nationally accredited is worth it to grab.

    Reading your article I agree that not many people are qualified that has certifications. I went to school for sports nutrition and have been involved in the fitness industry since 16.

    I live in Las Vegas and it seems like anyone can be a trainer out here if you have a cert. I just don’t want to throw $500 away if I can grab this for $148 and it works. I have the experience so I just feel like I don’t want to waste so much money on a cert to get in somewhere if I don’t have to.


    • Joe Cannon says

      Zachary, Ive heard of the NCCPT but don’t know anybody who obtained that cert. Ask your local gyms if they accept that cert.

  60. sonny says

    I took certs course from WITS and just send out my internship paperwork however no gym really care about WITS CERTS at all honestly they don’t even know.
    I feel like I have wasted my money if it is not known to gyms
    What do you think about WITS?
    Thank you

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Sonny, I’ve heard about this issue before but I personally like WITS. You went to school for 5-6 weeks didn’t you? Lets compare that to me who is NSCA certified. Basically I studied for several months – on my own – and then showed up and took a 4 hour test in a big room that had a few hundred people in it. NSCA is usually said to be one of the “best” out there but YOU went to school for several weeks! I’m pretty sure you learned a lot in those weeks.

      One issue is that gyms often hire people as managers who have very little fitness experience (except for maybe their own certification organization). Other gyms hire “fitness managers” who have ZERO fitness experience or certifications! Fitness managers are sometimes just sales people. They know sales, not fitness. Same thing goes for “personal trainer managers” at some big box gyms too. At big box gyms they are often hamstrung by what the corporate office says are acceptable certs.

      WITS has been around since at least the 1900s that I’m aware of. I don’t know why some gyms don’t accept it. Have you tried calling the WITS corporate office (I think they are located in VA Beach) and ask them about this. If you do this, can you let me know what they say. I’m going to reach out to a WITS instructor I know and see if I can get him to comment on this as well. Stay tuned.

      • says

        Hi Joe and Sonny,

        I am in my 6th week of WITS training, they have 2 different levels of courses that I am aware of. The course I am taking is 8 weeks total, every Saturday for 2 hours we are in class and then we go to Powerhouse Gym for a 2 hour lab. The 9th week we will have 2 hours to take a 100 question test and then we will have to perform a practical.

        Before we can get our cert, we then need 30 hours of internship. I am hoping that this will be the best course for me, I do have an advantage as I have been a licensed physical therapist asst. for 12 years. The education I am receiving is very good, and is good review for what I have been practicing for over a decade.

        My course ran $700. Some might think that is a lot but for what I am getting in return, the hands on training and textbook, I am so far happy with my education. My reasoning for taking the course was based on the premise, “why should I hire a personal trainer, when I can be one?” My goal is to work with overweight women that feel uncomfortable in a typical gym and the older population. I’d like to have my own small gym. Good luck with your choice Sonny.


        • Joe Cannon says

          Cheryl, thanks for the feedback and it sounds with your PT background that you will be a very well rounded personal trainer! Continued success with your goals!!

  61. keegan says

    Hey Joe,

    What a great comment string you have. It is very informative, and exactly what I have been searching for over the last week.

    I am interested in getting a pt cert., but am conflicted about which to shoot for. I have a BA in Anthropology- focusing on physical and medical, and plan on continuing my education in Medical Anthropology after a two year stint I will be doing with my wife in the Peace Corps.

    I am interested in getting a pt cert. because I am a huge supporter of physical and mental health, and am interested in how people deal with stress through exercise and physical work.

    I would also like to be more equipped to keep myself and my wife in good physical and mental health while we are abroad ( we will be doing mostly yoga/ plyometrics / body weight exercises) while also sharing physical health knowledge with the community we will be living in because we will be health and education volunteers. I also would like to work as a personal trainer to help pay for grad school upon our return.

    I live an extremely active lifestyle and have been fortunate enough to have had great conditioning and athletic training so far, and have a working knowledge of human anatomy and physiology.

    Is it worth getting a certificate considering my interests? Is there a particular certification or education program you might suggest for my interests? I am only interested in the knowledge, but recognize the perks of having a certificate. We leave in two months.


    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Keegan, based on what you told me, I would look at ACE personal trainer cert or the NSCA personal trainer cert (NSCA-CPT). Both are well rounded programs and have excellent study materials. I would first look at ACE as I think you might like this best. I don’t know if you could study and pass either of these certs with only 2 months to prepare.

      You can always get the books and study those at your own pace. I have several books and other tools on my personal trainer resource page. You might also want to become a member of IDEA. Its a fitness education company.

      They have a very good journal that they send out monthly to members. Their website is IDEAFit.com

      Good luck and glad you found me :)

    • Joe Cannon says

      HI Kirstie, at the risk of self promotion, the easiest way would be to read/study my book on personal training.http://www.joe-cannon.com/my-other-books/ I wrote it so you would know what I know. I purposely focused on real life issues. I didn’t just give the facts – I showed how to use those facts.

      For example, how many personal trainers know that really bad burning in the calves upon walking may be a sign of heart disease? That’s some of the stuff I showed you in my book.

  62. Chris says

    Hi Joe,
    Thank you for your article and I apologize if my questions are every where on the map, but I would like to ask which would be the best school to apply for CPT, ACE or ISSA? Or which schools have the best Sports oriented fitness or conditioning? You mentioned you are certified with NSCA. Have you heard of NESTA? Have a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to your family and you!

    • Joe Cannon says

      HI Chris, I have heard of NESTA but don’t know much about them. For sports conditioning, between ACE and ISSA, Im not positive but Im inclined to say ISSA (a problem is that some gyms may not accept ISSA because its a test you take at home if I remember). If its between ISSA and NSCA, Id say NSCA. NSCA even publishes their own peer reviewed journals that cover sports /fitness and conditioning as well as other things. I think NSCA is less than ISSA also. Everybody pretty much accepts NSCA also.

      Those are my 2 cents Chris. I hope it helps. do some digging on your own on this (go to their Facebook pages and ask the same question). Let me know what you decide and if you have any other questions. Have a great Christmas right back at ya Chris 😉

  63. Luke says

    Hi Joe,

    I am currently a junior in college studying physical education and along with being a P.E. teacher I plan on coaching. I was thinking about getting certified in personal training not only to look good on a resume but as something to do in the summers as a side job. My question to you is do you think this is something that I will be able to do or will my lack of time make it too hard for me to be a personal trainer on the side.


    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Luke, I think your studies in physical education will help prepare you for most certification exams. I’m guessing you have or soon will have the ACSM guidelines for exercise testing and prescription to be used in at least one of your classes. Most organizations follow ACSM guidelines so knowing that stuff will put you ahead of the game.

      As you are studying for your college tests, you are also prepping for the certification exam because the info in college is likely going to show up -in one form or another – on the personal trainer test.

      The big difference is in college they are not training you to be a personal trainer so as you study in school, try to put the information in the context of personal training – in other words would that info ever show up in real life as a trainer or on an exam.

      Since you are in college now I recommend either the NSCA CSCS cert (you need to be a senior in college or have a BS to take it) or the NSCA-CPT cert. Another option would be ACE but I think the NSCA will help you the most on the job, and on the resume.

      Ive put a lot of books and other certification materials on the personal trainer resource page of my site.

      Hope that helps Luke and good luck!!

  64. Juanita Rogers says

    Hi Joe,

    Wow, I am impressed to find this blog with a professional, who literally responds to those interested in personal training or the like. I am an educator at a local state college with a Masters in Educational Leadership; an ACE certified personal trainer and Health Coach; and, I completed required live training sessions for certificates in SilverSneakers (for 65 and older) courses (YogaStretch, Cardio Circuit & MSROM). I had already completed my CPR/AED first.

    My journey began in the spring of 2010, when I couldn’t rise from bed without feeling tired and weighted down. I weighed 185 pounds. My normal weight range is between 115 and 140, and I’m 5 ft. 5. I knew I had to do something. I lost 20 pounds within six months by simply cutting unhealthy carbohydrates and other sugars from my diet. Then, I hit a wall and couldn’t lose another pound. Of course, I needed to add one important element: exercise. I started attending a local gym five days a week. First, I walked on the treadmill for an hour. Gradually, I built up to running an hour until I was running five miles a day. Then, I began a two day a week “Power Flex” class, which concentrated on strength and toning. Additionally, I spinned twice a week at home for an hour each session. I lost 2 to 3 pounds a week and reshaped my body. This gave me the confidence to know that I controlled my own health and fitness.

    Two years later, I have methodically planned how I will use my success to educate others about good, quality health and fitness. I recently visited a local branch of the YMCA. I spent two hours just exploring the facility, discussing with it’s director all it has to offer its members. I worked out with a group of senior citizens and got to know trainers and other employees. I left knowing this was where I wanted to volunteer and shadow other trainers. I have an agreement to begin volunteering and learning for a period of time before, hopefully becoming employed their part-time. My goal is to ultimately branch out on my own to teach others how to gradually make lifestyle changes that will improve their overall health.

    Most of all, I want to thank you, Joe, for sharing your expertise with others who care about health and fitness. Your generosity is important to someone like me, who dedicates everyday to educating and helping others to live their best life. I will seek out your books and other learning material for use with my own clients.

    Happy Holidays to You and Your Family!

    ps: I am 50 and fit. My ultimate goal is to help others in my age group reach their full potential with health and fitness.

    • Joe Cannon says

      HI Juanita, that sounds great. It also sounds like you have a great story to share with others. I know this will help you immensely with others when you work with them as a personal trainer. you are an inspiration! I think YMCAs are great places to learn. I often recommend them to people over big box gyms. I used to work at a YMCA and enjoyed the experience very much.

      Since your goal is to help others, do give serious consideration to making a website/blog like what I have. This way you have the ability to help people all over the world. This can also help you get publicity (you never know who will find you on the web). It’s not hard to do this and you can have a website up in less than an hour. here is my website tutorial. It’s here for you when you are ready.

      I’m glad you found me Juanita. Have a great Christmas and keep me posted on your progress as a personal trainer :)

  65. Joshua Moore says

    Hey Joe,
    I am happy I found your blog while I am making my decision. My current job as an E.R. tech has become, for lack of a better term, unbearable, and I was looking at recerting my NASM CPT which I had about 5 years ago, but stopped when I moved away from the gym I had been working for.

    The recert test is not expensive but I would have to buy the new additions of the books that NASM uses as well which I know can get a bit expensive.

    During my search I noticed that ISSA is being recognized by the Department of Education and could be transferred to a good amount of colleges for college credits. As an exercise science and hopeful DPT that very much interests me.

    The only thing is that it is a bit more expensive than the recert, and I am not sure what the ISSA offers as far as actual in gym opportunities and general education.

    I know you are high on NSCA. Do you think that that would be worth spending the extra money over NASM recert or ISSA? I am big on NASM and the education I felt it brought me, but I am willing to learn any and all new information.

    Hope your holidays have been great so far. I look forward to your advice.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Joshua, glad you found me! I think if its less expensive to recert with the NASM then Id stick with that rather than getting certified by NSCA. Ive listed a lot of books etc -including NASM and ISSA materials – on my resource page http://www.joe-cannon.com/resources/ do see if its less expensive than going through NASM etc themselves.

      Yes with ISSA, I know they were approved by the DEP and that’s good. I didn’t know you could get college credit for them too. thats good as well. I have heard some gyms may not accept them because of the nature of their test (you take it in your home) but most “good” gyms will likely guage your knowledge in the interview (or even give you their test) to see how much you know, so I dont know how much the nature of the ISSA test matters (go ask local gyms if they accept it anyway just to be safe if you go with ISSA).

      I know all this often comes down to price so just do what is less expensive. I have no real issues with NASM and they are accepted pretty much everywhere so if that’s less expensive, just stick with them.
      Hope you had a great Christmas Joshua and let me know if I can be of any other service :)

  66. Thomas Johnson says

    Hey I have a quick question. I am a already NASM-CPT should I seek out a CSCS certification as well?
    I am a pharmacist transitioning into personal training.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Tom, Since you’re already NASM certified, I don’t think you need to. I do think its worth joining the NSCA to get their strength training journals. That will help you keep up to date with research.

  67. joanna says

    hi Joe!
    i found your page because i’m interested in taking the WITS course but a little skeptical, so in search of honest reviews.

    i know nothing about personal training, other than my own experience keeping myself in excellent shape and planning my own workouts. i recently had a baby and ironically am in the WORST shape of my life, but looking to enter into a new field which will give me some flexibility.

    i love that WITS offers classroom instruction because i don’t think i could study on my own, and i LOVE the price and short duration of the course. it does sound like a rather unknown and not very respected cert though. based on your knowledge of the WITS program, would you consider it a good way to become educated enough to take (and pass!) another, better respected certification? i’d love to hear your opinion. thanks for your help!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Joanna,
      several people have asked me about the WITS certification and honestly, I don’t have any problem with them. I’ve been aware of WITS since the 1990s. Ive always liked that the cert involved several weeks of classroom education and I also believe there is a internship as well. Ive heard that some gyms might not accept WITS but why I never understood.

      I’m going to find a WITS certified trainer and interview him/her to help people get a better idea of the certification etc. Do ask your local gyms for a list of certs they do accept before you opt to get a certification. Also be very careful of online certifications as most gyms dont accept them. Also be VERY cautious of any gym that has their own cert. here is my take on gym-owned fitness certs.

      Joanna, since you said you have experience with personal training – other than training yourself – can I suggest you pick up a copy of my book Personal Fitness Training Beyond The Basics. I really wrote that book so that people would be able to not only easily understand the science of personal training but also be able to apply it to the real world. For example, if and older client told you how he/she had really bad burning in the calves after walking for more than a couple of minutes, that can be a sign of heart disease. Most trainers never get taught this in other books about personal training. My book is the book I always wanted to have! Check out the chapters here http://www.joe-cannon.com/my-other-books/

      I also have a resource page where you can get a lot of personal trainer materials that can help you be a better trainer http://www.joe-cannon.com/resources/

  68. Tricia says

    Hi Joe,
    Wow, such great information. I am somewhat overwhelmed. I started my weight loss journey back in 2007 and have fallen in love with fitness and nutrition. I have helped several friends and family with their fitness and health, just coaching and sharing what I have learned and what worked for me. I attend a bootcamp class 2-3 time a week and work out at home.

    I am wanting to get a personal training cert. but am overwhelmed at all that is out there. I am just wanting to get my feet wet. Desiring to work from home, having clients over to discuss nutrition and set up a workout that they can do at home or with me. I am interested in possible teaching bootcamp classes too. Can you help!

    I have heard that ACE is bottom class, to go with NASM, but I feel that is way to much for someone with NO previous education in fitness. Thanks for anything you can share. I am a mom to 2 sweet girls, one who has CP, she is one of my main motivators to being healthy and fit. I would need to do an online course too. Can test at a location. HELP!!!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Tricia, Glad you found me! I don’t think ACE is a “bottom course” in fact I think they have some of the most well rounded fitness books out there. Here is the ACE book on Amazon if you want to check it out.

      I agree with you about NASM, I don’t feel its a course for beginners. Ive looked at the book and I feel its overly complicated. I recommend the book I wrote about personal training over NASM (I’m not just being biased – my book IS easier to understand – and less expensive).

      I understand the challenges with having kids but if I can get you to take a day-long course that will at least help you understand the science you would need to be familiar with to be an effective personal trainer. I teach classes for AAAI/ISMA and the other cert I also like is IFTA

      I know online courses are easier to take schedule-wise but I don’t feel that just getting an online personal training cert is the right way to go. They are less expensive but I don’t feel you will learn what you need to know to be a personal trainer. Also, I know you said you want to be self employed but I don’t think online certs prepare you for that. I do feel you should spend at least a little time working in a gym (I prefer YMCAs or JCCs) to get your feet wet. Most gyms don’t accept online certs.

      Im not aware of a certification that will specifically prepare you to teach boot camp fitness classes. That is a specialty area of fitness. There are boot camp certs out there but at this point I don’t know if of them are better than others. That said, here is a person I know who shows people how to create a fitness boot camp business. She shows you how to do it at home.
      If you do eventually start your own boot camp business, I recommend shadowing another person who has been doing boot camps for a while, so you can get some practical boot camp experience (taking the classes is different than running the classes).

      As an aside, also read my review of exercise-induced rhabdo. This is a thing that potentially can happen when trainers work bootcampers too hard.

      Having said all that, let me offer some advice.

      1. Get my book first. Its 200 pages and a LOT cheaper than certifications and I will show you the science and real life stuff that personal trainers need to be aware of. Check out the chapters in my book here .

      2. Then, if you think this is something you want to do, try to take a 1 day certification class such as those offered by IFTA or AAAI/ISMA. One day is not a huge investment in your time (I know with kids it can be). If you pass that certificaiton at least you have a cert under your belt.

      3. Check out that bootcamp program I mentioned above. its a self study course and she designed her program so you could run boot camp programs like she does.

      4. Find a boot camp trainer you know and trust and see if you can help them for a few weeks, setting up classes, interacting with students etc. See what you like and dont like about how they run things. this will help you with your program.

      5. Follow the stuff Georgette outlines in her program on how to market your boot camp program.

      6. Give it time and keep learning. Learing is the key to being successful in this business.

      I hope some of this helps Tricia! Keep me posted on your progress or if you have any other questions :)

  69. Mohamed says

    Hi Joe,
    I’m from Egypt,and i’m going to sing up this week for the ISSA personal training certification,i will take the course in Gold’s gym academy,and i’m moving to USA this year,so i want to ask you,will i have good opportunities with this certification or not?

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Mohamed, I hear that Golds Gym accepts the ISSA certification. Other gyms in the US do but I am not sure which ones do. Some gyms in the US might not accept ISSA certifications.

      Like all fitness certifications the “opportunities” are based on you and how well you can network yourself, set yourself apart from other trainers and what areas of fitness you specialize in.

      I’m not an expert in ISSA since I have not taken the cert, but many of the people I have met who had this certification were bodybuilders. I’ve heard from some that ISSA focuses a lot on bodybuilding also (ISSA trainers let me know if this is true). If this is true, then you need to know that unless you plan on focusing on bodybuilders as clients, most of your clients should not be trained as “bodybuilders.”

      Because personal training is “personal” you will need to tailor the exercise prescription to the person you will be working with. Research shows that most of the people who hire personal trainers are women who are at least “middle age.” I hope they mention these facts in the ISSA course you will take at Golds Gym.

      The bottom line is that I think people can get a lot out of the ISSA cert but just relying on ISSA is a mistake as is just relying on any fitness certification. As I see it, the key to “opportunities” in the fitness world is being the most educated you can be. If you remember this fact, you will be ok. I’ve listed a lot of things to help you stay educated etc on my personal trainer resource page.

  70. Mohamed says

    And i have a personal experience about training and nutrition because i read a lot about fitness and nutrition!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Sounds good Mohamed, remember fitness is different than personal training somebody else. As long as you keep learning and strive to be the very best personal trainer possible, I think you will be ahead of at least 90% of personal trainers in America.

      • Mohamed says

        Thank you,you made me more motivated..so why would i be ahead of the other personal trainers in America,they do not like to know more or what,because i don’t know how is the system going in America.

        • Joe Cannon says

          Hi Mohamed, I can only speak for what I have seen and what I see is that a lot of personal trainers are intellectually lazy. They spend a lot of time working out but they do not read. If they do read its magazines devoted to the general public or bodybuilding. They want to get clients but they think that the way to do that is to be bigger or more defined. Sure that can help – and if your very lucky – it can even get you on TV – but looks without knowledge is in my opinion a big mistake. If you have the looks AND the knowledge, its a winning combination that is hard to beat.

  71. Jordan says

    Hi Joe,
    This may sound a bit outside of the box, but bare with me… I am currently a Master’s student working on a degree in Rehabilitation Counseling, which is a field of counseling that focuses on individuals with disabilities (physical, medical, cognitive, psychiatric, developmental, addiction, etc…).

    A year ago I began my own fitness journey and have since developed a passion for fitness and nutrition as well as an interest in personal training. I would really love to be able to combine my passion for working with individuals with disabilities and my interest in fitness and personal training.

    I am a firm believer in the body/mind connection. In your opinion, is there a market/possibility for something like this? I would like to pursue personal training certification over the summer while I’m completing my internship, but was unsure if there was a specific organization that might have something that fits my interests (or if this route is even feasible).

    I’d really appreciate any guidance/information you could provide me with!


    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Jordan, yes I think there is a big market for what you are trying to do. I work with a high functioning quadriplegic and we are always talking for example how little fitness equipment makers etc consider people with disabilities. At the LA Fitness I go to, I see people who are legally blind and in wheel chairs. Only one of the personal trainers there is qualified to work with them in my opinion.

      While I’m not aware of any cert that focuses on people with disabilities, exercise science is exercise science. the ACSM does have a book that deals with disabilities so I would recommend that.

      Since people with disabilities do represent a special population, I think the ACSM certification would fit well with what you want to do. Other certs like NSCA can also work but Id at the least suggest joining the ACSM or signing up to get their newsletters etc.

      I hope some of this helps Jordan.

  72. Ivette says

    Hello Joe,

    I have a dilemma. I was wondering if you can help me? I was so excited to start a personal training program at my community college, but I have never heard of WITS certification. I was wondering if the certification is national and if WITS is accredited. The program is 9 weeks and requires that I also do an internship. What drew my attention to this program was that I get to have the best of both worlds the theory and practical hands on training.

    According to the recruiter at the college WITS works closely with BALLY Total Fitness, Golds Gym, Lucille Roberts just to name a few; but when I contacted the several gyms named above and spoke to a hiring manager they had little or no knowledge of this WITS certification.

    Can you please provide some information regarding the WITS certification program? How long they been around and whose best fit to get this certification. I would greatly appreciate any information you can provide to me. The program begins on February 9th, 2013.

    Cheers, Ivette

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Ivette, I’ve heard of WITS. they have been around at least since the 1990s that I am aware of. They often do classes at community colleges. Ive heard that for whatever reason, some gyms don’t know about them. Whether this is due to a lack of effective marketing to gyms or the fact that big box gyms often hire salesman -and not fitness people – as fitness directors, I’m not sure. Just because a gym has not heard of them does not mean WITS is not good a good cert though.

      Having said, here are some questions I recommend you ask:

      1. does WITS help you get an internship? I’ve heard they only give you a list of gyms. Ask for that list up front and then call the locations and ask if they are accepting WITS interns.

      2. What is the background of the person teaching the class? are they a personal trainer or have they been in the past? Ask to speak to them. Do they have a website? if yes check them out there. Ask if the teacher just reads from the book or whether he/she actually “teaches.”

      3. Ask to speak to people who have gone through WITS. what do they like and what didn’t they like about the class. They do have a facebook page so you can check that out also.

      If you do take the WITS cert, Id be interested in knowing what your thoughts are.

  73. Ivette says

    Hello Joe,

    I want to thank you in advance for responding so promptly to my request. After applying the questions you recommended to me in my research. I have come to a decision. I am happy to inform you that I have registered for the WITS Personal Fitness Trainer Certification program and classes will begin in two weeks. Upon completion I will gladly share my thoughts with you. Thank you so much for all the information you put on your website and on this forum it is very helpful. I am so excited!

    I will be in touch soon with my thoughts until then.

    Take Care,

  74. Christina says

    Hello, Joe

    First, thanks for all of the information. I have have made up my mind to become a personal trainer. I have no experience but my own personal workouts. I will do my research and find a certification that fits my needs but what is your opinion on someone with no experience wanting to become a personal trainer. I’m becoming a trainer not only for the individual I will train but for myself as well.

    I want to motivate of course with fitness but also with motivational speech. The first thing I will access will be their thought process than their experience and goals. I want to be a guide in staying healthy and fit and doing it the right and safe way with a positive attitude and outlook on life and ones self.

    But I have no experience… What can I put on my resume? Have you heard of AAPT? How can I prove myself in being a trainer?

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Christina, I think once you get certified and begin working with people your resume will grow as well as your ability to work with people. Right now lets just focus on getting certified. I have not heard of AAPT but looked them up. looks like it may be a solid organization from what little I saw when I looked at their website. I’m not sure how long they have been around so again before you take it make sure gyms accept this organization.

      Since you said you wanted to help get inside peoples head, I recommend you also get a website because this will help you more than you know in so many ways. You’ll be able to populate your website with your knowledge and wisdom and use it to help people when you are not around. Also, your website will be one of the best “business cards” you will ever have. This is how I made my websites. its not hard

      Ask the AAPT if there is an internship involved with their program -and if they help you get the internship. I think this is very important since you said you didn’t have any first hand experience of being a personal trainer. I believe an internship is something all new personal trainers should do. Another option is, if you can, seek employment at a YMCA or Jewish Community Center. They are more about teaching and helping than hounding you about how many personal training sessions you did this pay period. I think you’d get a lot out of either a YMCA or JCC.

      I hope that helps Christina and let me know what you find out about the AAPT :)

  75. leslie says

    Your article was very informative. I have been tossing the idea around of becoming a personal trainer. I am currently a practicing MSN nurse working within a cardiac surgical intensive care with 21 years of experience. I see daily the insults to people’s bodies due to poor lifestyle choices. My spirit tells me to move towards preventative care. I would like to do this as a fitness nurse.

    I see their are numerous organizations just as in nursing that offer certifications. I am currently certified in my current profession, so I am aware of what’s involved with maintaining one’s certification.

    My question to you is which organization would you recommend that focuses on the science of health promotion and would most benefit one who is in the medical field?

  76. Bryant says

    Interesting article with helpful and informative info. I’m a little lost as to what certification I should get from ACE, and what will benefit my clients as well as myself since I want to do this full time. How can I decide what is right for me? I have a decent mindset from training in Martial Arts, Collegiate Wrestling and working in law enforcement for a while.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Bryant, ask yourself who your clients will be. Will you be directing your marketing and education to working with highly fit people, women, kids etc. If your thinking about ACE then their regular personal trainer cert will be fine for you. if you dont know who you want to work with, then after you get the cert then, work with everybody for a while and eventualy you may get an idea of who you enjoy working with the most. Then lean all you can to be an expert in that population of people.

  77. Bucky Henry says

    I have taken the 9-week WITS course. It includes a classroom session followed by a practical session every week. I found this very helpful, as they taught you material from the book and then expected you to demonstrate it right after, during the practical part.

    Also, it requires a 30-hour internship which gives you hands on experience. WITS however did not set me up with my internship although the gym where we worked the practical part of class offered several students internships. I found my own internship at the Virginia Beach Tennis and Country Club under Lynn Conkwright, a bodybuilder who worked with Jim Weider and who participated in the first few Ms. Olympia competitions.

    After reviewing my books provided by WITS and seeing the program they put me through, she was very impressed. I suppose my WITS certification worked well as I was offered a job once I return from college come summer. This is my experience with the WITS certification.

    I was somewhat scared when I realized that there were other more prestigious certifications out there, but WITS teaches you what you need to know to become an effective and well-knowledged trainer. I’m sure that ACSM and NASM are great too, but what would you rather do? Study for months and take a 4-hour test? Or take a 9-week class and take a 1 to 2 hour exam? I think WITS is more practical and more effective.

  78. Catie says

    Hi Joe,

    Like many others above, I am so grateful to have stumbled up such an active comment feed and a wonderful resource for real people with real questions. So, thank you!

    After reading through your article and all of the above comments, I really tried to think on my own about what might be a good certification match for me. But, I still feel utterly lost and so, I’m hoping you can share some of your wisdom to shed light on my situation.

    I just graduated from college 6 months ago with a BA in Anthropology. I am currently working overseas teaching English. I was a Varsity athlete in high school and was went to a pre-med focused charter school, but then left sports and my pre-med interest to focus on other studies in college. 4 years and about 60 lbs later I was miserable.

    I dropped 25 over my senior year and for the past 6 months of being isolated overseas, I was lucky enough to find a gym and got to work putting my healthy life back together. I lost all of my weight gain and then some, and I’m feeling fabulous. But even after leaving my aspirations of pre-med in college, I keep feeling drawn back to a career in health.

    Since I have been enjoying my fitness journey so much and have been successful getting back to a healthy state, I have decided I want to pursue a career in health and fitness.

    I love working with children, so I’d like to pursue an eventual career in children’s health and fitness. But that’s pretty specialized, and I’m assuming it’s something I won’t be able to jump into right away.

    I have looked into ACE and NSCA for their CPT certs. As I am currently living oversees for another 6 months, I would like to use this time to study so that I can ideally take the exams as soon as I return stateside. Based on the information I have provided, do you have a suggestion for me of which organization might be a better match?

    Down the line, I am thinking it would suit me to go back to school for a graduate degree to pursue children’s health and wellness work. Do you think it sounds like I have the right idea, or am I totally off base?

    Also, based off what I have read online it sounds like starting out as a CPT is best done through getting into a gym. Is this true? I will need to find work right away, as I have student loans I’m paying on. But I’d almost rather take a different part-time job and start out my work as a fitness professional the RIGHT way rather than to get into a bad environment.

    Thanks for reading my long comment. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Catie, I think either ACE or NSCA would be fine certs to go with if you want to work with kids. Both are well rounded and I have no problem with either of them. Both have very good study materials. I list there books and other materials (which may be a wee bit less expensive) on my resource page. Look at which one is cheaper and which will let you take the test in your area when you return from over seas. In addition to their text books, Id also get their practice tests as well. I don’t think you need any other materials (audio lectures etc) given your pre-med background.

      I do think now is a good time to study. I remember when I was in college I taught myself organic chemistry one summer while working as a security guard. I got an A in organic chem because of that summer spent studying :)

      Yes I do feel that spending sometime in a gym is a good way to get your feet wet. Some of it is grunt work but if you look at it as “what can I learn from this” I do feel it will help you in the future. I like YMCAs/YWCAs and Jewish Community Centers best because they are more teaching oriented than most big box gyms.

      Since you said that student loans were piling up, one thing I really recommend is to make a website and start blogging about a topic you are passionate about. Not only is a great way to reach out to others and help them (heck that’s how you found me!) but its also something that can help you pay off your loans etc. You can make money from your website. It doesn’t happen over night, but it can happen. I’m living proof of this. I’m writing an ebook on this topic now but till that is done, here is my guide to create your website in about an hour.

      Do consider it Catie, I think this can be one of the best decisions you will ever make as a personal trainer.
      Take care!!

      • Catie says

        Thanks for your advice Joe. I will definitely look into starting a blog website for the intention of making a profit. I currently maintain a blog for fun about my time overseas, so it’s definitely something I will consider.

        As far as my certification question. After scouring the web, I’ve decided to go with NSCA. But instead of the CPT, I think I might want to go for the CSCS. The cost is quite similar, and it seems the that the CSCS is a certification that holds much more clout in the industry. What are your thoughts on this?

        I have a 4 year degree, it isn’t in Exercise Science, but I do have my dusty high school pre-med knowledge. I know that it is a harder certification to earn, but that’s why I’m interested in it. I have 6 months to study before I’ll be stateside and can even take the exam. Would you suggest one cert over the other for me?

        Also, I’m having a hard time gauging the amount of materials I should purchase. My pre-med high school education has left me familiar with health terms and a good sense of the body, but I in know way feel that I have retained a working knowledge of the technical stuff.

        Originally you suggested just buying the exam textbook and then the practice tests. Do you stick to this suggestion knowing the changes I have made? I certainly don’t mind forking out the money for useful materials, but I also don’t want to spend tons of money on things that won’t really help me.

        Lastly, the NSCA CSCS Exam Textbook is available via eBook. It’s a good option since I’m overseas, but do you think having a hardcopy is better?

        Thanks so much!

        • Joe Cannon says

          Catie, I have both the CSCS and NSCA-CPT certs and I only used the text book and the practice tests. I don’t think you need anything other than this but I had a degree in biochem when I sat for the CSCS test. They do have audio CDs but those that I did hear, I thought were boring but that may be different now. I think they basically record presenters at their conventions and sell them.

          If you are looking for a free way to learn exercise science check out ITunes University. If you have Itunes on your PC/Mac just open the Itunes Store and “Itunes U” should be on the top of the menu. I Tunes U gives you 100% colleges courses in exercise science, nutrition, anatomy, physiology etc.

          Ive never seen the ebook of the NSCA textbook. There may be some advantages to an ebook if it links to studies, other materials etc. Id call NSCA and ask about this. If you dont mind studying a 600 page ebook then Im fine with it.

          keep me posted on your progress Catie and how you do on the CSCS exam. I’m pulling for you :)

  79. Marie says

    I have a question Im trying to become a personal trainer but I don’t know which I should do I want to work in a gym as a part time job I was thinking ISSA since its online and since I’m a mom and I’m busy online is better plus they have a 1 day seminar to teach you what you learn for those 10 weeks can you please tell me if this is a good decision or should i do WITS since I’m reading so much about them or if you recommend something else for me.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Marie, first thing is ask your local gyms if they accept ISSA or WITS. Since you are saying you want to work at a gym, this will tell you which might be worth it for you. Also ask the gyms how much they pay trainers and compare that to what each cert costs, do some math and see how long it will take for the part time job to “pay” for the cost of the cert. let me know what cert you decide on.

  80. says

    Hey Joe!

    I will make this short. :) I am a neuromuscular therapist/nutritional therapist and I am breaking out into the fitness world! In my current clinic we recently hired a chiropractor/MPT who has brought along a small gym. I am working with him now and plan on developing a weight loss/rehab program to further help our patients. I will just be using his gym for now so I won’t be applying for jobs per say. And I know the anatomy/physiology of the body and am of course CPR and first aid certified.

    So what I’m really looking for is the knowledge of actual exercises and how to develop programs for our patients. Any advice you have would be much appreciated! Thanks in advance!

  81. Gil says

    Hey Joe, Great stuff!
    I have one simple question, what do you think or have you heard of NPTI (National personal Training Institute). Its a 6 month, 500 hours Personal Fitness Training program. There cert. is with NASM. Thank you for your TIME!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Gil, thanks. I’ve heard good things about NPTI. The downside is the cost which is about $5000 or so. I recently heard that NPTI uses the NASM textbooks. Im curious,is the cert you get an NASM cert or an NPTI cert? if you go to NPTI and the cert says NASM, then I’d say save a bunch of money and get the NASM certification. NASM costs maybe $1000 or so? I really have to look deeper into this to figure out whats gong on with NPTI and NASM. Its only recently I’ve heard of a relationship between them. I’ll see what I can dig up and if you find anything before me, please do educate me on this.
      Thanks :)

  82. David says

    Hi Joe and Gil,
    Thanks for posting these questions Gil as I was also wondering about the connection between NPTI and NASM. I was looking into attending NPTI for their 6 month course. The actual certification is the NASM cert. It is basically 300 hours of classroom time and 200 hours gym/hands on training time. They also require a internship but I am not sure of the time frame.

    NPTI offers exams every two weeks to gauge progress. A couple of draw backs was the cost which was $6,6600 for the 6 months program, the actual NASM cert test is not offered at the schooling site (but is included in the tuition). After reading this article, it sounds like the success rate of passing the NASM exam is rather low. Do you think that is because people are studying independently using the $1,000 course offered on the actual NASM website? Lastly, do you think having actual classroom and gym time would greatly improve the success rate of obtaining the NASM certification? Any information or guidance would be awesome.

  83. says

    Hello Joe,
    I look forward to meeting you in a few weeks at the AAAI PFT Certification Workshop in Sewell, NJ. In the meantime, I would appreciate any feedback you might have on the California based NHE fitness certication organization > nhecertification.com. As with the ACSM and NASM, their curriculum looks very intense and science based as opposed to AAAI which stresses more practical PFT information. Thank you!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Steve, I looked them up and wow, $2300 for their level 1 personal trainer cert! I wasnt sure if it was an online cert or not. Im sure people probably learn a lot with that cert but just Id just stress that people should make sure gyms accept it before they opt for it, esp if that would be the only certification they get.

      Oh there’s a LOT of science in the AAAI/ISMA personal trainer cert. You’ll see in a few weeks 😉

      • Lauren says

        Hi Joe!

        Okay, so I’m currently a 500hr yoga teacher, and a mentor for men and women with eating disorders (definitely no certification there, but I do consider myself very qualified!). I’m looking to expand my career so I can better help this population (Disordered eating often includes eating way too much, not enough as well as zero exercise and or excessive exercise).

        I have always worked alongside the client’s therapist and or nutritionist). Id like to know much more about the science behind the body as right now I seem to be mostly with mental issues and not so much with the physical issues *(which seem so incredibly important). Some need to gain, some need to loose, and often there are issues that coincide with the eating disorder, ie: metabolism issues due to years of malnourishment etc.

        At the same time I definitely do not want to limit myself to this specialty! Id like to be able to generally help anyone who is struggling with weight gain, loss, and or strength. In other words, I don’t really have any desire to work with people who are already in perfect health.

        Also, I have considered obtaining a cert in nutrition to help me out a bit but am feeling they are a scam, as there is no regulation. What do you think?? How can I pair my degree in psychology, my yoga cert with personal training, and nutrition for the best well rounded knowledge of wellness?

        Im well aware the best route would be a masters in nutrition/kinesiology/etc and other higher credentials, but at this time that is not possible for me.

        I thank you so much for giving out your advice here, reading your articles really shines light on these subjects!


        • Joe Cannon says

          Hi Lauren, few thoughts that might help.

          1. I can understand how a degree in nutrition etc might be out of the question but what about auditing some of the classes that would be in that degree. This would cost a LOT less than the degree and you could just take the classes that are most important. Local community colleges likely offer these classes for a lot less than universities. You might also be able to take some of these classes online. Human kinetics also has online fitness-specific classes on nutrition and exercise that you can watch from your computer.

          2. On Itunes, there is an entire semester of nutrition etc taught at a college. its free. you can listen in your car, pc, treadmill etc. There is also helpful info at the National Weight Control Registry website.

          3. some books to take a look at include
          ADA Food and Nutrition Guide

          Dash Diet Weight Loss

          ACSM Guidelines book

          Exercise Nutrition and Behavior

          For more books etc, also take a look at resources page I have on this site as well as my other site – Supplement-Geek.com

          In the end I think its all about education. Knowledge is what its all about. While degrees are often synonymous with knowledge there is no reason why that knowledge cant be obtained with personal self study and hard work.

          hope some of this helps Lauren :)

  84. Nicole says

    Hi Joe!
    Let me start off by saying that I’m extremely impressed with the level of engagement you have with others on this website. I’m often hesitant in leaving questions/comments on these threads for fear of being ignored.

    With that being said, let me give you a brief history of my situation. I’m currently in a transitional point in my career. I’ve struggled with my weight for a good part of my life, but have maintained a healthy weight for the past 4 years. I was bitten by the “Zumba bug” and became a certified instructor in 2011 , shadowing under my instructor for about a year and a half.

    I took a hiatus because I felt as though Zumba wasn’t completely fulfilling — dancing is second nature to me and as much as I love the energy and camaraderie that Zumba offers, I got to a point where I wanted to challenge myself physically. Also, I was moving more in a direction of nutrition – as we all know, nutrition is a huge part of being fit.

    I became a vegan in 2012 and I feel like a new person. I get more out of my workouts, feel energized, and receive praise from Family, Friends and co-workers. I view the world differently. I look at children and how they are totally unaware of how they are harming their bodies. I look at the lack of physical activity in this world and what a lazy nation we have become. I look at the way people search for “fad diets” and “quick fixes” for their vacations, as opposed to every day. People always ask me for advice and honestly, it comes naturally to me. I love the fact that I’m able to inspire others with ease, and not in a self-righteous type of way.

    I don’t know where to start Joe. I want to incorporate my love of fitness, nutrition and being somewhat of a counselor into a business for myself. I’m overwhelmed by all of these accreditation programs!!! I recently saw something for the National Council for Certified Personal Trainers- I’ve tried doing research but to no avail.
    Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. I thank you so much!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Nicole, thanks for the kind words, Im happy you were able to find me. let me try to help answer your questions

      It sounds like you have a unique background and I love how you want to help others! I feel one of the best ways – and often overlooked by fitness people – is to get a website and start blogging about the topics you are passionate about. Nicole, I have written 7 books and none of them have given me the voice that my websites have! Focus on people and answer their questions and eventually people will find you (as you found me). I know “a girls gotta eat too” and yes, while you are giving away your good info away for free, there are many ways to make money from your website. In this way you can help others all over the world while your website provides an income for you and your family 24/7. To help, here is how I created my websites http://www.joe-cannon.com/install-wordpress-register-domain-name-tutorial-step-by-step/ Do think about it Nicole as I feel it will be one of the best moves you will ever make.

      In terms of accreditation, it can help but I’m not sure if its always necessary. have you looked at local community colleges to see if they offer any accreditation or certificates on nutrition etc? The Human Kinetics website has online nutrition courses and books that can help you so do check these out. I saw a lot of nutrition stuff on there when I checked the last time.

      If you want to be a personal trainer, remember that Zumba and personal training are pretty different – in some ways personal training is easier than zumba but the info needed to get certified will be greater I feel. If you don’t have any books on personal training, I will suggest as your first book, the book I wrote – personal fitness training beyond the basics. I say this not to make money (get it from amazon – they pay me next to nothing when I sell a book there) but because I do a good job at explaining the science of exercise without a lot of the technical jargon – and when I do use it, I explain it too. Other books can help too. There are many certs out there so, if you plan on working in a gym at some point, ask them for what certs they accept. while ACE, AFAA and NSCA etc are good choices, can I suggest you get your feet wet with a one or two day cert as theses are often less expensive and will, in 1-2 days expose you a BUNCH of info that you’d need to know as a trainer if you decided to look at other certs also. Look at some of these organizations: IFTA AFAA, AAAI/ISMA

      I have heard of the National Council for Certified Personal Trainers (NCCPT) but like you I dont know much about them and I have not met anybody who were certified by them. Do they have a facebook page? Have you tried to find them on Linked in? I just posted something on Linked in to see if I could find a trainer certified by them. If I find somebody Ill interview him/her to see if I can help answer peoples questions about them in the future.

      Does any of this help Nicole? Do you have any other questions? Just ask :)

  85. Christina says

    How do you think ISSA compares? I have been looking into ISSA and NSCA. When certified the main clientele that I would like to work with are runners…so conditioning. NSCA seems best for this? But I’m not sure.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Christina, I think they are both fine but I’m more familiar with NSCA materials than ISSA so between those, I’d say NSCA. They do publish a journal of exercise conditioning which I think would help you regardless of whether you go with NSCA. Remember you can always get one of the certs and get the books of the other organization.

  86. says

    Hey Joe! Ash here. Outstanding blog post. Yes, exercise is indeed a drug. I forget this sometimes.

    I’m teaching group fitness full time (around 20 classes per week) and want to supplement the group fitness class teaching with some personal training. I have a wide host of group x certs and experience. Which personal training cert would you recommend for me? Would ACE or AFAA suffice?

    Also, you didn’t mention the National Personal Trainer Institute. What do you think about that?


    • Joe Cannon says

      Hey Ash! I think NPTI is a fine cert. The only draw back that people often mention is that its very expensive – about $6000 for a 6 month course. I think ACE or AFAA would be fine additions to your other experience and education. Ive listed the books etc for both ACE and AFAA on my resource page Think about who you want to work with as a personal trainer. Is there a specific group (middle age women, kids, older adults, athletes etc) and if there is a group contact the org and ask them questions about well their cert would prepare you to help those people who you want to help. I know ACE has a pretty active facebook page so you can also try posting these questions there. AFAA also has a FB page but Im not sure how active it is.

      Hope that helps Ash :)

  87. says

    Great article Joe! I am certified through NASM but I do not think it is by any means the greatest cert. I am looking to get another cert soon and I was wondering what you thought about this NESTA cert? From my research It looks pretty good with an emphasis on using technology to help progress clients. Do you think It is all just a bunch of hype? I fully agree that the goal should be to get qualified and not just certified.

    • Joe Cannon says

      HI Tyler, right now I don’t know a lot about NESTA. I wonder if anyone else reading this does? What I would say is that you can always save the money on the cert by just getting the NESTA books and studying them. Interesting website you have BTW. Much success with it :)

  88. Iris says

    Hi Joe,
    I am in doubt as to which is the best of which personal training certification. Does is matter if I take the exam online or in person? Does the marketplace prefer one to the other?
    Thank you

    • Joe Cannon says

      Iris, usually gyms dont like online certs – esp those that pay more – because its so easy to cheat with an online certification. I feel its best to get certified by an organization where the test is proctored.

  89. Tonai says

    Omg just called on price for this school and its $6,199 I see why ppl go to onlune classes instead. Is the normal price for schools?

    • Joe Cannon says

      Just saw your other comment. Yes NPTI is the most costly of all fitness certs. Personal trainer certifications are mostly a LOT less than NPTI. NPTI costs more because its more of a school than a cert. I believe after you complete the course, that you get a diploma. I believe-but not sure – that you also get a certification by the NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine). There is a relationship between NPTI and NASM but Im still not totally clear on the nature of the relationship. Look at the comments here. I know its come up before.

      Why don’t you look at these organizations
      ACE -American counsel on exercise
      NSCA – national strength and conditioning association
      NASM – national academy of sports medicine

      There are lots others I could say but I thought Id just give you these 3 so not to overwhelm you with information.

  90. Tonai says

    Hello Joe! First I would like to say I’m excited and thank you thank you. I pray that you continue to use your insight to help others. Ok now for the get down….:) I’m in Houston I would like to do workout videos/and another idea (can’t let that secret out yet). So I’m guess I fall under the category as a self employed personal trainer. I read ur comments on that..check! I know my focus is everyday people wanting them to be healthy and to decide whats best for them. Also I see myself working with kids…check! I saw a school in Houston for NPTI 500 credits couldn’t find a price but ill call.

    They said that after the course u will receive your cpr/aed license. Is that ok or should I still take a separate course on that. Also I know I’m new so I will take your advice on shadowing someone.

    I don’t see myself in a gym but I don’t know where the Lord might lead me in this so I’m asking also what school do u think is best for me. I don’t mind doing some homework if u name some that u know of ill look them up. Thank u again keep up the good work! :0))

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Tonai, Im really glad you found me! NPTI costs about $5000 but do call them to make sure. I hear they may have a course that costs a wee bit less (maybe $3000) but Im not sure.

      I usually recommend people have their CPR/AED cert before they take their fitness certification exam but with NPTI its possible that they do it all. Again, if you are sure you want do do NPTI, ask them about this. Im sure they have a facebook page too so check that out as well. Let me know if they do that for you too. Im curious.

      yes it is always interesting where the Lord leads us. Im proof of that!

      Good luck with your exercise videos!

  91. Zhivi says

    Hi Joe,
    Thank you for the great advice. I am looking into become a certified personal trainer and nutritional. You mentioned NASM and ACSM. These are the two people have suggested I look into. I have also read your comments about the two of them as far as people saying they are the best. I don’t have a degree or nor have I taken classes in this area. If you had to pick between the two of these, NASM and ACSM, which would would you suggest someone become certified in?

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Zhivi, based on what you said, Id choose NASM. Both are very difficult certs to pass but of those two ACSM is the hardest. Id eventually recommend you be a “member” of the ACSM because they have good materials to help you keep up to date on health and fitness. I have many NASM materials on my resource page also.

      • Zhivi says

        Thank you Joe. I was going to do the ACSM because they will have a 3 day class here I can go to. I also need hands on. I teach online class and just doing the work in my own is not going to help me.

        • Joe Cannon says

          Zhivi, if you take that 3 day ACSM prep class, ask lots of questions. while the ACSM is good, they talk like scientists (because they are) in their books and this can be hard for people to understand sometimes. Make them break things down and not assume people know anything.

  92. says

    Thanks for the information, Joe! I’ve been working in the fitness industry for a few years now, and I’ve been learning about fitness most of my life. I’m a certified Stott Pilates Pilates Instructor Level 1 in Matwork and equipment, I’ve done courses ranging from NASM, Power Plate, Pre- and Post-natal Fitness, Kettlebell, and Zumba. I believe continuing education is extremely important, so I’m always looking to improve my knowledge. I also completed the NASM CPT internationally, but I didn’t get recertified this last year as I was told I had to pay extra fees as it was completed internationally and I’m now in the U.S.

    the next step I want to take is creating fitness DVDs. What certifications, liability insurance, and otherwise, would you recommend having? Do you think I should recertify with NASM, another organization, or am I good to get started?

    I appreciate your input! Thanks!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Christina, Its always good to have personal trainer liability insurance. Ive enver made a fitness DVD so do ask them about this if you get insurance. I use Fitness and Wellness Insurance. A friend of mine Debra Mazda http://www.debramazda.com/ has made fitness DVDs so she might be a good person to ask about this.

      Interesting the NASM wanted you to pay extra to recertify because you were outside the US. Id hate to say get certified by another organization since you are already NASM certified. I think I’d just cough up the extra money since its less of a pain than going through getting another cert. How much more do they want?

  93. Daniel says

    Hi Joe,

    I’ve just read all the comments and your replies about choosing a cpt school, and a couple of times you mentioned that knowing who you want to work with should be a consideration when choosing a school. I’m a healthy, active 64 year old and would like to work with people my age and older. Any idea which school or schools might be appropriate for my goal?


    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Daniel, there is an organization called the Senior Fitness Association . I don’t know much about them. When I said to consider who you want to work with, I was referring to personal trainers who are already certified should think about the groups of people they like to work with the most – and then to focus on those groups almost exclusively. I don’t think its necessarily important to think about those people with considering which organization to get certified by. As a rule, exercise science is exercise science no matter what organization you are certified by, but I applaud you for knowing in advance who you want to help :)

      if you get certified by the senior fitness association, let me know what you think of them. I’d like to know :)

  94. Andain says

    Hi Joe,

    What do you think about PROPTA and their certs? They do require obtaining several certificates before a PT can get their “Master” Pro PT cert. But! They also require one year of experience as a PT before getting a Level 2 PT cert. They require a completion of a practical exam hands on proctored by a PROPTA director professional athlete examiner in a gym atmosphere and 20 clinical hours prior to the practical exam. It creates some credibility because hands-on experience is very important in the weight lifting and fitness field.

    Thank you.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Andain, Ive never heard of them but I did look up PROPTA – Professional Personal Trainers Association. On their website they list “Danny Bonaduce” (of “the Partridge Family) as one of their personal trainers! On their website, I see references to bodybuilding which makes me wonder if its a bodybuilding-specific certification? Their “compare us” page looks incomplete or not up to date (some of the info for they list for NSCA was not what I know it to be). I do agree hands on info is very important and I do like the 20 hours of in the field learning. If you think you might ever work in a gym as a personal trainer, ask your local gyms if they accept this certification.

      • Andain says

        Thank you, Joe. Do you know which certificate provides more practical knowledge in connection with recent research and information on nutrition, creating work-outs programs for gaining muscles or body fat loss, and proper techniques for using free weights and gym equipment: CSCS or ACE’s health coach cert? I’ve been training for several years on my own and with experienced coaches. I’ve done a lot of research. I do not want to go through a lot of general ed. I want to gain more knowledge that is actually applicable while training clients.

        • Joe Cannon says

          Andain, take a look at the ACE cert. They have pretty well rounded materials. They also have a pretty active Facebook page so you can go there and ask questions about what you would learn and not learn from their materials. I have the materials for most certs etc. on my resource page.

  95. Zhivi says

    I have another question. I noticed on the NASM website you can become a Fitness Nutrition Specialist and a Women’s Fitness Specialist (there are a total of 9 different specialists) do you think it is beneficial to become a specialist in a certain area? I mention these two because these are the two specialty areas I am interested in.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Zhivi, if there is a textbook for those subjects, I’d just get the book and study it. That way you save the money on the extra cert.

  96. says

    I decided to take the leap and file a DBA with Los Angeles County. I am seeking to become a certified trainer and offer health and fitness services. I’ve been unofficially involved in counseling/training friends and family for nearly a decade with my acquired knowledge. Now i want an acronym that clearly represents that knowledge. My true goal is to train athletes in performance as well as strength and conditioning. I came to love the sports training field as a basketball player.

    I have a peer who started his basketball skills and training business out of necessity when his previous venue went belly-up… all his clients with no place to train them. He gained his certification through NASM. 24 hour fitness covered his certification costs as “tuition assistance”. 24 hour fitness also accepts several other certifying entities’ credentials. NASM seems to be the way to go from what i know so far. But i’m essentially lost (hard to pull off) between NASM, ISSA, ASCM, NESTA, NSCA, etc… can i buy a vowel?!

    Could you possibly help me narrow down which associations and accreditations would be more appropriate for my services?? I have a certain amount of money that i intend to invest in my education.

    • says

      before you answer… I looked into it more. It seems that NSCA and NASM would be the two most appropriate entities to certify with, NSCA having the edge here. I would’ve loved to be eligible for a CSCS but I was unable to finish my college education. What are some clear differences in philosophy and knowledge used between NSCA and NASM?? Considering my focus on training athletes, nutritional advice, etc.

      • Joe Cannon says

        Brandon, Id agree that based on what you said previously that Id opt for either NASM or NSCA.
        I do have a post NSCA vs NASM whats better so check that out also.

        the biggest difference I see is that NASM puts a lot of emphasis on bio mechanics (how to properly do the exercises) which is very good. NSCA does that also (to a lesser degree than NASM) and also discusses other aspects of exercise science. Without knowing anything about you, I would recommend you get copies of the NSAM book and the NSCA book and look at them. Both of them give good information. Ive been told by several that they felt the NASM book was very technical (I’ve also been told that about NSCA but I didnt think so myself). The NSCA does publish exercise journals that focus whcih you get when you are an NSCA member (you can be an NSCA member without being NSCA certified).

        The Resource page of this website has the books, practice tests etc of most fitness organizations including NSCA and NASM so check that out also.

        I do have a post written by someone who is NASM certified called How to pass the NASM test so look at that if you go NASM.

        I hope some of this helps you.

        • says

          A peer of mine also had me consider NESTA due to the 4 year re-certification window. NESTA does dip into the sales and business aspect of TRAINING. But like any of the certifications, I’m not sure if it’s appropriate for my goal of training athletes and what the education will be like. In a field that I enjoy like this, I feel like a chicken without a head.

          • Joe Cannon says

            Brandon, I understand. its normal especially when you are brand new to the field. I would stick to your original ideas. As for sales, you can always buy a book on that stuff.

  97. Luis Daniel says

    Hey Joe! I have been reading some articles about this topic and this one was one of the best. Really great post!

    Well, I was interested in getting a personal trainer certification mainly because I wanted to have the knowledge to putting in practice for myself, and I saw a really good deal of 150$ for a NCCPT certification.

    So, my questions are: what do you think about NCCPT? Should I take it the deal ? if not, what other certification or resource should I take?

    I want to have a very good knowledge in nutrition and training, so I thought that with a personal trainer certification I should have the best for that, and also if in the progress I really like it I could look for a job or something.

    Really hope you can answer me. I would really appreciate it.

    Thanks and regards, Luis.

    PD: Sorry for my English, I know is not the best.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Luis,
      Thanks, Im glad it helped!

      I have not met anyone who was NCCPT certified so I don’t have any first hand experience with it. If all you want is the knowledge then, Id guess its fine . That said, if you plan on being a personal trainer, its best to ask local gyms etc if they accept NCCPT. If they don’t accept it, then you’d have to get a cert, gyms do recognize.

      your English was great! :)

  98. Jodi says

    Thanks so much for all the great information. I wrote down a bunch of notes. I taught aerobic classes for a few years about 15 years ago, and about 5 years ago I taught Spinning class for Soldiers in Iraq when we built ourselves a gym.

    Over the years, I have helped people begin a fitness schedule and use proper form, and educated them on eating better, etc. I have done this unofficially with no certifications. I love learning different ways to become fitter and healthier for an all around better lifestyle. I like crossfit, sports conditioning, CXWorx, and eating clean without having to count calories and use all your fingers to do math. 

    I want to emphasize on Seniors and Youth (I have seen too many certified PT and fitness instructors put older or injured people in harmful predicaments because they care more about the dollar than the person and what they need) and nutrition.

    I would like to get a certification that fits me best. I have looked at the top 9 certs you listed on the website. I have read the comments, but I still need some guidance. I eventually want to build my website and become more marketable. But I want to be able to “walk the walk” as well as talk it.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Jodi,
      Based on what you said, Id say ACE, ACSM or NSCA. They all offer something that would help you work with kids and older adults and their textbooks are top notch (ACSM is overly technical so you might want to get their books and take a look at them before you plunk down any money on the ACSM certs).

      Congrats on your ingenuity in Iraq!!

  99. Paulette says

    Hi Joe,

    Although I appreciate all of the much needed information on your website, the question I have is: You mean to tell me there isn’t ONE good online school you would recommend? If not, what would you recommend? Would you suggest I take physical classes instead of online? I do agree with something you said when you stated that we should be more focused on how to become more qualified than certified, but how do we go about doing this? Please respond with some insight. Thank you.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Paulette, thanks for writing. When I advise caution with online certs, it’s mostly because most gyms don’t accept them. They don’t accept them because of the high cheat factor. Who cant cheat on a test when you have access to the whole internet etc.? Also, how would we know you personally even took the test? There may be organizations that use special software to disable computers and monitor how the test is taken -and that would put them ahead of others in my opinion – but Im not aware of any at this time. That said, if someone really wants to get an online fitness certification, I highly recommend they go to local gyms first and ask them if they accept certs from that particular organization they are thinking about. Most gyms etc will have a list of certs they accept.

      Granted if you are far from where physical classes / testing is held, then I can see an advantage to an online cert or even a cert that has a take home test. If you don’t plan on ever working in a gym, then the idea of an online cert may not matter, as long as that organization adequately prepared people to be a personal trainer. One option is if the organization has a textbook, it may be good to get the book first and read it to get a feel for what its like – do you understand it etc – before you pay a lot of money for the certification exam.

      As for being qualified (and not just certified) the answer is simple: just keep learning after you get certified. That can include:

      1. attending fitness seminars

      2. taking online courses (see my resource page for a list of of some online classes etc

      3. reading/studying the books of other fitness organizations

      4. taking a health related class at local colleges (even online colleges)

      5. listen to the exercise science and nutrition podcasts at ITunes University

      6. Listen to the medical podcasts at ReachMD.com

      7. read respected health websites /blogs such as ExerciseBiology.com and Dr.BillofHealth.com

      8. Get a website and start blogging to help others. To write effective blogs, means people will have to research the topics they write about. this will lead to a greater understanding. Here’s my guide on how I made my websites if you want to do this. http://www.joe-cannon.com/install-wordpress-register-domain-name-tutorial-step-by-step/

      Paulette, I think when it comes to being “qualified” it’s all about the knowledge. Committing to knowledge puts people light years ahead of most others and goes a long way to achieving that “qualified” status.

      Hope that helps. feel free to ask if you have any other questions :)

  100. Paul Mudd says


    Would any specific certification be better for a more outdoor orientated personal training?

    • Joe Cannon says

      Paul, good question. I’m really not sure about that. Id look at each and go to their facebook pages and see what people are saying. ask them questions via FB and see how well they and others answer your questions.

  101. Robert Little says

    Hey Joe,
    This is some really great insight for me! But If you have the time, your opinion would really go a long way!
    I’m 19, and though I am young and still growing as a weightlifter, weightlifting really helped create me physically, mentally, and spiritually, and so it is that I decided my goal is to build my own gym, have my own personal trainers, and eventually have my own following.

    This is a faraway stretch from the present, but I know where I have to begin, as a Personal Trainer. My questions to you are; where should I go to be certified and, should I wait and gain some more experience? With only 5 years under my belt, and still believing I have only scratched the surface of knowledge in this field.

    Thank you,

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Robert, at 19 you can study to be a personal trainer. Do you have an idea of the groups of people you might like to work with? Why dont you get a book about personal training and study that and see what you think. There are some good books about personal training out there. I link to a lot of them on my resource page. Some are more complicated than others. I do recommend my book as Im pretty good at taking the science /practical info without being too “over the top” but another well rounded book is by ACE. Id say study a book first to get a feel for the science before you plunk down money on a cert. Some organizations charge you extra if you dont take the test when you say you are going to so if you study a book first and then sign up, you wont be under as much stress.

      hows that sound?

      • Robert Little says

        I want to be an all around personal trainer if I can be, my goal is to help anyone in their pursuit to be stronger, and healthier.

        And this seems pretty good man, I’ll take a look at these books and at yours!

  102. says

    your knowledge seems to be intense. if you are really interested in being on the certification board to structure an exam let me know, we can bring you on to help others.

  103. Dave says

    Hey Joe,
    For quite some time I’ve been looking into getting certified as a personal trainer. Now, in this article that you wrote, which was very informative and had some great points, one being how exercise is a drug. I have been working out (running, lifting, swimming) for 8 years consistently now and have along the way helped many friends reach fitness goals they wished to accomplish.

    That being said, the whole point of there being no “best” certification seems very much true for it just like in much of the fitness world, IMO there are hardly any “bests” because everyone’s bodies react differently to every stimulus. I am beginning to digress. So here is my dilemma.

    I am actively seeking to achieve a personal trainer cert to work at local gyms and even the one I attend. However, I am currently serving in the Marine Corps and spend almost all of my time off in the gym, either working out or helping others. With that being said, it is physically impossible for me to attend in the flesh actual classes to obtain a certification. This is due to constant changes in post standing and me being “elsewhere” for prolonged periods of time. I read in you’re article that one should never obtain his or her certification online. I was wondering if this is absolute; and if not which I very much hope so, would you have any suggested places I could if I had to get certified online?

    Much thanks

    -Cpl Forbes

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hey Dave, thanks for writing! For someone like you, I can see the merits of getting an online personal trainer cert. Here is what I suggest. Go to the gym you think you might eventually want to work at and speak to their fitness director. Ask him/her for a list of certs they accept and ask if any of those certs are online certs. If they have online certs they accept, then take one of those. If they don’t accept any online certs, then ask if they accept the ISSA Cert. While its not really an “online cert” the International Sports Science Association (ISSA) is a test you can take wherever you are located.

      You take the test at home and mail it back to them. I believe the test comprises a bunch of essays and its not easy people have told me. There may also be a video tape portion but I’m not sure. If the gyms where you are accept ISSA then that may solve some problems. ISSA does have a facebook page that you can check out and ask questions about the cert. You can also call them and speak to them.

      I think that might solve your problem.

      Thanks for your service Dave. I know everybody appreciates your sacrifice in helping to protect all of us from the bad guys that are out there!

  104. Danielle says

    Hey Joe!
    I am looking at becoming a Personal Trainer but I am pretty overwhelmed by everything I am seeing online. I would like to be a trainer at a gym near or on campus this Fall in West Palm Beach and so I don’t have a specific group I would like to focus on. Any ideas? Thanks!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Danielle, do you have a background in exercise (are you an exercise science major in college?)?

  105. Lindsey says

    Hi Joe!

    I am so amazed at the time you’ve taken to answer everyone’s questions and I hope you might be able to help me, also. I want to pursue becoming certified in personal training because I am hoping to start a life coaching practice where I work with people to balance their lives. I’m hoping to cover everything from finances to spirituality to bench presses. I’m currently in divinity school, but have the summer free to pursue this certification. I was a NCAA volleyball player and an athlete my whole life, so I do have a lot of fitness experience.

    I’m just so lost sorting through this alphabet soup and trying to figure out what certification will work best for taking on personal clients, probably mostly adult women. I’m also interested in having the credentials to do some fitness/nutrition/spirituality programming for underprivileged communities. I don’t see myself working in a gym, but suppose that’s always a good option to have!

    I was checking out NESTA, which certifies you for 4 years. I live in New York City. Any thoughts? I so appreciate you.

    Shine on,

  106. Abby says

    Hi Joe,
    Very informative site, you have been bookmarked! I live in Trinidad, W.I., originally from NYC and I have a youth organisation to reduce at-risk behaviours such as crime and early-sexual initiation. One of the programmes I would like to develop for young adults as a crime prevention initiative, is a personal training prog where they can come and be trained to become certified and qualified as personal trainers over a 2-month period.

    Our staff will take our time to go through the curriculum and offer practical experience in the gyms as well as in our community health centres. Soccer, cricket, cycling and swimming are the sports that are big in this country and so I can see a good number of youths being interested in getting into a profession like this. I also see it as a job development programme that will enable our young men the opportunity to make an honest living while doing something in sport and fitness.

    As far as the costing for study materials and exams, my organisation will cover that. I just expect the participants enrolled in the programme to pay for the CEUs that we would offer through linking with an organisation that has web based CEUs. With this said, I have 2 questions:

    1- What would be the preferred certification programmes to use for a situation like this? We have trainers that are ISSA certified here and I’m ACE certified but for a region like this, I would like them to be best prepared so that if they wanted to pursue a degree at our local University, they will be well prepared.

    2- What are the organisations that offer CEUs online?


    • Joe Cannon says

      HI Abby

      question 1 is hard to answer. ISSA likely might be the best answer. You might want to post this question on the Facebook page for ACE and see what they can offer you.

      as far as online credits Human Kinetics offers some classes that may qualify for CEUs for various organizations

      also take a look at the Center for Health and Fitness They also have online and home study CEU programs for ISSA ACSM NSCA etc.

      IDEA Health and Fitness is another option as well for CEUs

  107. Hollis says

    Reading your article was a wonderful resource to fall into, since lately I’ve been trying to decide which association to pursue a certification in. My current goals for my education would be to expand my knowledge of nutrition, body mechanics any anything else that might be provided through a course and find employment in the southern California area. My current knowledge base is mainly from trial and error on myself based on what I’ve read in magazines and websites which I have combined and recombined until results were attained.

    You mentioned that you don’t recommend pursuing a certification through online sources, but does that also include from such companies that you’ve mentioned such as NASM, ACE, and so on. The instruction is online based, with text books and other materials at your disposal. I am not sure if the final exam is online or performed onsite somewhere, but would that really discredit the certification from such high standing places if it is online or would it still hold its value as long as the knowledge is retained?


    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Hollis, so glad you found my website! When I say I usually dont recommend online certs, I mean a certificaiton test that you are able to take in your home. ACE and NASM have locations where people travel to to take those exams. As such they dont have the “cheat factor” that cheap, online certs have. So they are ok.

      It is ok however to get continuing education credits (CECs) online. These are credits that are needed to maintain the fitness certification. Different organizations (ACE, NASM, NSCA etc) require people to maintain their certs by getting CECs on a regular basis (usually every 1-2 years). You can get CECs and ongoing education at many places including:

      Human Kinetics

      My Resources Page has a lot of other stuff that can help too

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi D’Sena, Here is a review of the WITS cert at my other website. I randomly interviewed some people who took the WITS cert.

      Update: If this link doesn’t work – it probably didn’t – its because I moved the review to this website. Use the search box to search for it and if you have any problems let me know.

      Let me know if you have any other questions :)

  108. says

    I was thinking about going for an NSCA certification and I was searching around the internet for what people thought. I found this article very helpful and informative.

    I have to take issue with your claim that the NSCA accepting any degree as a prerequisite for certification waters the certification down. It is possible that an individual can acquire knowledge without paying a school for a degree. Any educated person should be able to pick up a textbook and learn the content sufficient to pass an exam. All the NSCA is doing is a favor to people like me who are more than capable of learning information on their own. They require clinical hours for the special populations certification, which I think is a much better requirement than “must have a health-related degree”.

    Additionally, most of the MDs I know know nothing about training. Most of trainers I know with exercise science degrees have no idea what they are talking about. They permit significant lumbar extension for clients with lumbar extension and rotation syndrome, for example. They cannot tell when a client is demonstrating a compensatory recruitment pattern and they don’t seem to care. Injury avoidance or rehabilitation play no part in the programming of the overwhelming majority of trainers I have seen. I am thoroughly unimpressed by medical degree holders when it comes to training in general.

    This is not a cut at you at all – I am sure you share my dismay at the state of your field. I just think that you and I both know that a piece of paper from a college doesn’t always mean as much as we think it does.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Mephicide, thanks for writing. I hear what you are saying and I think we agree more than disagree on this issue. Glad you were able to find me and find my words useful :)

  109. mke says

    Hey , Joe
    Im looking into becoming certifed what do u think about ISSA,I want to work with all ages

    • Joe Cannon says

      Mke, I have no problems with ISSA. Some gyms might because you take the test at home but those Ive met with the ISSA cert were pretty smart. If you think you may be working in a gym, check the gyms in your area to see they accept ISSA first.

      • Dean says

        Joe, I recently became certified through ISSA and you have the option with them to take the exam at a seminar where the exam is proctored and closed-book. I took the final exam just three weeks ago in a proctored setting at the end of a two-day seminar taught by an amazing instructor, Dr. Jack Barnathan. The seminar itself was pretty great in how it brought together a lot of the course material and provided a lot of examples of how to effectively relate to and coach clients, as well as proper technique and safety with various exercises that are often poorly performed.

        I chose to take the exam there b/c I agree with you that taking an exam at home invites cheating and lessens the prestige of the certification.

        • Joe Cannon says

          Dean, thanks for that information. I had no idea people had the option of taking a proctored ISSA test. I really appreciate you telling me this!! :)

  110. Tom says


    I have a multidisciplinary bachelors in health sciences. I started out for a Masters in OT but it was too hard. I am not good in Math. I would like to work with a population that is health related meaning rehab, or disease related like diabetes, cancer patients or stoke victims.

    What do you think is a good start for me. I am very intimidated by taking a test but want a good PT cert to start.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Tom, the obvious/easy answer would the ACSM cert since its very clinical – but it also involves math. The NSCA is starting a special populations certification but until they get a better manual I dont recommend it at this point.

      ACE has a clinical exercise specialist cert and thats what Id recommend at this point.

      I will recommend the ACSM book on chronic diseases and conditions. It gives the guidelines on how to work with many special needs groups. There is no math in the book.

      • Tom says

        The specialized certs like clinical exercise specialist all require the physical training first. I think I could can use one ofthe PT certs as a prerequisite. which is the easiest test that is accredited

        • Joe Cannon says

          Tom, yes many organizations review the PT cert first. I think this is a smart idea for the most part also.

  111. James says

    Hey Joe,

    Stumbled across your blog while trying to find information on becoming a personal trainer. This is by far the most informative, well written, and sensibly source of information I have found yet.

    I believe I have decided to attempt to get certified through NSCA!

    Yet while looking on CICE, I noticed their accreditation is almost up.

    “Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT), Accredited through 10/31/2013
    Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Accredited through 10/31/2013” -from CICE website

    Im pretty sure its safe to assume they will be recaccredited through a later date soon, but just wanted to hear it from someone more knowledge before I begin the process through them.

    Thanks, looking forward to your response.


    • Joe Cannon says

      James, glad you found me! Im confident that the NSCA will renew their accreditation. They are too big not to. I would not worry about it. They have been around and respected since the 1980s. I say go for it! :)

  112. Ivan says

    Hi joe… do you know anything about the NCSF certification? How do you feel about it? I have a buddy who is a certified personal trainer and he said this is a good organization to get a cert through. Thought I’d get your opinion on it. Thanks in advance.

    • ivan says

      I forgot to mention that I don’t have any certs or experience in training but I am interested in eventually training athletes.

      • Joe Cannon says

        Ivan, I think if you are considering pro or college athletes that the NCSF is good but I would also get the NSCA certification as well. College /pro teams I hear often look for the NSCA cert.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Ivan, I have heard of it and the few people Ive met with that cert, I thought they knew their stuff. Make sure your local gyms accept it. Some dont.

  113. alyssa monaghan says

    hi there!

    i love your article and it has given me a lot of information that i was looking for, however as many of the commenters above i am a little overwhelmed. I am currently 22 years old attending school for business. My ultimate goal is to run my own force of personal trainers that do mostly in home or group sessions at local parks or households.

    I do not intend to work in a gym unless its to get started in the experience. since i am a full time student I do not know how possible it would be for me to become certified in a classroom like setting. however if i decided that i did have the time for that at some point, how would i know where to look?

    i ultimately want to work with children and adults and possibly young sports teams as i was an athlete my whole life and love teaching what i know. fitness has just recently become a huge part of my day to day and every day im learning knew things and want to help others.

    i eventually want to have a website and a blog where i can share my information and answer peoples questions. im big into supplements and eating clean and im still learning but i have a decent knowledge base to at least go off of.

    for someone like me who wants to run my own personal training business per say, by doing in home or at a parks or teams, do you suggest any organization that would be best suited for me?


    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Alyssa, let me try to answer your questions one at at time

      1. You can get a website right now – and I encourage you to do so because you are in college now. Here is how I made my websites
      http://www.joe-cannon.com/install-wordpress-register-domain-name-tutorial-step-by-step/ Follow along and youll have it up in about an hour or less. If you start blogging about health and wellness etc you can eventually try to make money from your site. This can help you pay for college, save up for certs etc. Everybody in college should have a blog becuase it might help keep you out of college debt. Its what I would do if I were in college today!

      2. Since you said you were into supplements, Im not sure if you saw my site Supplement-Geek.com. I review supplements there. Its on of my passions.

      3. I do suggest you get experience working in a gym – even if its the gym at the college. Since you mentioned sports teams I’ll recommend the NSCA (national strength and conditioning association). Since you are in college now you are able to sit for their NSCA personal trainer exam. After you graduate you can sit for their certified strength and conditioning specialist exam (CSCS).

      There are a lot of other things that can help too on my resources page http://www.joe-cannon.com/resources/

  114. Ali says

    I am a dietetics major with a degree in culinary arts, and I was looking to get the trainer background as well. I just wanted to know what your thoughts are for the directions I should go, whether that be a personal trainer cert or just a minor in exercise? Thanks

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Ali, if you are close to graduation Id say just get the cert, rather than take several other classes to fulfill a minor in exercise science, if you are in the middle of college, take a few key classes like exercise phys, muscle phys, clinical exercise phys. While that may not get you the minor, you’d at least have the knowledge. Another option is to grab the textbooks those classes use and keep those and study them after you graduate.

  115. Lisa says

    Thanks for providing insight to certifications. Can you give me any info or opinions you may have on the NPTI (Nat’l Personal Training Institute)? Very pricey, but gives you 300 hours classroom education and 200 hours personalized gym-time. They state it’s a diploma program, not exactly sure how that differs from a certification other than more hours? I’m considering this program in the Tampa, FL area.


    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Lisa, I’m looking at finding some NPTI trainers to interview in the near future. What I can say, having talked to a few NPTI trainers already is that when you get NPTI certified you don’t get a cert but rather a diploma. The NPTI course preps people to take the NASM certification exam (I believe you get to take the NASM cert for free).

      Honestly I find this very odd because if I am right it means that NPTI is basically making themselves irrelevant. NASM is about $1000 while NPTI is about $5000-6000. I’m sure people will learn a lot more going through NPTI than those who just got NASM certified but for those on a budget, going right to NSAM and bypassing NPTI is going to be an option.

      Ask NPTI about this before you plunk down money and let me know what they say. Im really curious about all of this.

  116. Carla says

    It sounds like my situation is a bit different then most persons who have made comments. First of all, I am no 19 year old spring chicken. I am currently a 43 year old police officer who is looking for a career change. I have worked out all my life and love reading about anything fitness and health related. I always try to keep up with the most recent exercise/ health related information that is out there. What I mean is that I don’t do all the latest trends, I just try to keep current with what is out there.

    I have a Masters Degree in Holistic Nutrition and Natural Health. I use the degree every day in my life. I have a 4 year old (yes I did say 4 yr old) which eats very healthy. I have a husband who I drive crazy with dictating what foods my son can and cannot eat.

    People come to me all the time for nutrition based advise. I love to share my knowledge with them. Once in awhile people come to me for exercise related questions too. I am one of these people that gets upset if I go to a gym and see people doing exercises incorrectly. I want them to get the most out of the exercise they are doing, but most of all I don’t want them to injured doing it.

    Needless to say I bought a large gym set for my basement so I don’t have to go to the gym anymore. In college I helped my roommate get onto a fitness program which helped her to lose weight. I love helping people. I once ( a long time ago) worked as a Nautilus and Free Weight instructor in a gym in my area. I can tell you that I absolutely loved that job. I should have stuck with it back then.

    The bottom line is that I truly would love to pursue being a personal trainer at this point in my life. Do you think I should give up on this dream because of my age? People tell me all the time that I really don’t look my age. But honestly, will a gym ever hire a 43 year old trainer?

    I also want to know what company you would recommend being certified through for just a basic trainer? I would love to work with just the general public. I don’t care if they are young or old. I just want to teach people how to work out to either lose weight or to just maintain good health. I know you don’t want to endorse any certain one, but just steer me in the right direction please.

    My city has both an AFAA and a ACSM three day certification workshop coming up in the next couple months. I am not sure if i should take one of those or if I should just wait and travel to another state to get a certification from NSCA or a different agency.

    I read what you said about ACSM using a lot of math calculations for hands on caliper testing. I don’t really want that if gyms don’t use that anymore. I used the calipers on people when I worked in the gym as the Free Weight instructor and didn’t feel they were all that accurate anyways.

    Thank you so much for your article, it was very helpful. I am going to go out and grab your book on my days off. Thank you

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Carla, I say go for it! It sounds like you have a very good background to be a personal trainer already – esp passion! Contrary to what you may think, I feel your police background may actually help you (you have interpersonal skills the ave personal trainer may not have – I was actually just saying this to another police office who emailed me today about being a trainer).

      Since you wanted to stay local, of AFAA and ACSM, I’d say go for AFAA, but get a few ACSM books. AFAA follows the ACSM guidelines for exercise, but having the ACSM books will be even better. I recommend these books:

      ACSM Guidelines for Exercise Testing & Prescription

      ACSM Guidelines for Chronic Diseases & Disabilities

      You can get them anytime you like. They are not needed for the AFAA cert. If you decide AFAA isnt right for you and you want to travel a bit, I’d say either ACE or NSCA-CPT would be appropriate.

      Another thing I would also recommend for you is to start blogging about holistic health, nutrition, fitness etc. You can do that right now. In case you missed it, here is how I created my websites http://www.joe-cannon.com/install-wordpress-register-domain-name-tutorial-step-by-step/

      I think you will find blogging very fulfilling as you help people all over the world. Your website can also help you to get clients. this is something that doesn’t occur to most personal trainers.

      Hope that helps :)

  117. Artem says

    Hi Joe,

    I’m 20 .
    I have 2 years experience in Boxing.
    1,5 year in Wrestling and 2 years in Bodybuilding.

    I’m choosing between ACE and NCSA cert.
    I heard people say that NCSA requires a lot of MATH calculations.
    I’m having a lot of trouble with math since I was a kid and I’m worried what if it will be too much for me and I end up failing it.

    I’m currently studying managerial precalculus in college and even that basic math course makes my life hard.

    I would like to ask you if you can provide me with any information on how difficult math on NSCA exam might be.
    (I might prefer NSCA because it seems like it’s more respectable )
    Your answer will be greatly appreciated!


    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Artem, there is not much math on the NSCA tests. I’ve taken both their CSCS and NSCA-CPT exam and while that was many years ago, I also was just helping somebody prepare for the NSCA-CPT test and we were working through the NSCA-CPT practice test and there was not much math.

      The math you may have to know will mostly have to do with nutrition (calculating calories if you are given grams of proteins carbs and fats). If your test has more than 3 questions that require math Id be surprised! I was also told you cant bring a calculator to the test. That’s another hint that any math you do, wont be too difficult.

      The CSCS has a lot of cell biology in the first 2 hours of the test if that helps. The NSCA-CPT I felt was very realistic in that it tested what personal trainers are likely to face in “real world”

      Take their practices tests as they will help you. On my resources page http://www.joe-cannon.com/resources/ I link to a lot of NSCA tests etc. check them out if you have not done so already.

  118. Misty says

    Hi Joe
    I have been interested in fitness for a while now I help my friends and family workout and stay motivated so I was looking into becoming certified and becoming a personal trainer so I can make a business for myself. I mainly focus on a lean bikini ready body through plyometrics training. I’m a stay at home mom and I live in a small town so I wanted to get certified online! Can you help me find a place that you think would suit me I’m overwhelmed when I look online and I don’t want to get scammed!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Misty, I believe NASM has some online certifications (I think!) but be careful if you do those as some have told me if they change their mind that NASM has a “restocking fee” for online classes – crazy!

      ISSA (International sports science association) is a test you study for at home and take at home. that might be another option for you. There is a $59 dollar online cert called Expert Rating but I don’t recommend that cert.

  119. alyssa says

    hi joe!
    thanks for responding to me earlier this week, i recently purchased your book personal Fitness training, Beyond the basics, and Im so excited to dig in and start reading.

    After reading this article and after a lot of individual research i have conducted, I have become interested in the ACE and taking their CPT course and exam. The reason being is it offered a lot for the money and from what I read it was a well known certification. what is your opinion on this, for someone like me who is 22 and just jumping into the fitness business and looking to start personal training in a gym and eventually as an individual trainer working for myself.

  120. Nathan says

    Hey Joe,
    ive been looking into certs for a while now and havent been able to make up my mind. With the recent growth of crossfit, what is your opinion on their certs?

    • Joe Cannon says

      Nathan, Ill admit that Im not an expert on Crossfit but from what I hear its $1000 and the test is about 50 questions. Crossfit teaches people to teach Crossfit classes. It doesn’t teach them to do personal training. I have not seen the Crossfit manual but I have had people who have taken classes I teach even though they are Crossfit certified. I think “to cross fit or not crossfit” depends on what you want to do. If your goal is to teach CrossFit classes then I think its a good idea to be CrossFit certified. If you will be doing personal training as well, then its good to have a personal trainer certification too.

      Since you mentioned Crossfit, do read my review of Rhabdomyolysis as its a possibility from any intense exercise program (cross fit or otherwise).

  121. Nathan says

    Thanks Joe, i was offered a job at a cf gym and was asked to get a cert. I have been olympic/powerlifting for 16 years and dont think the material covered in cf would expand my knowledge. just worried that my $1000 will be wasted and i wont learn as much as if i went through the CSCS program. Thanks again for your time.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Nathan, I would have have paid 1000 for cross fit if you were offered a personal trainer job. See if you can get a refund and then opt for the NSCA or ACE program or even take a day or weekend certification program like IFTA, AAAI or AFAA if time is of the essence (study for those cert tests also).

  122. Eugene says

    Hi Joe, just noticed u recommended ACE to someone in the comments, aren’t they a online school? Are there some online schools u think are good?

    • Joe Cannon says

      Eugene, ACE isnt an online cert that Im aware of. people study on their own and take the ACE test at a testing center. The test is taken on a computer but its proctored I believe. Im still looking into online personal trainer certs. Im still searching for those that Id have faith in.

  123. Reese says

    Hi Joe!!!
    I want to become a certified PT. What do you do of AFPA? Or even the AFAA? What cert is the most highly regarded?

    I have a background in weight training as well as running track for 12 years on various levels(high school, college, and even the military). I am trying to prep for a figure show later this year as well.

    I want to work with people to reach goals from losing weight and body transformations.
    Please share you thoughts…

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Reese,

      Its been a while since Ive looked at the textbooks of either organization, I think both AFPA and AFAA are for the most part pretty much the same (I’m sure both orgs would disagree with me lol). See if each have Facebook pages and see what others are saying about it.

  124. Heather says

    Hi Joe,

    I just stumbled upon your website while doing research on different personal training certifications and what would best fit my goals. I am 29-years-old, a lifelong athlete, and would like to finally become a CPT. I would like to either train at a corporate workplace facility (I have noticed an increasing number of corporations are hiring CPT’s to train their employee’s at their on-site gyms) or work in a medical/healthcare setting.

    I have checked out NASM and ACE. I have heard that most people do not pass the NASM exam and that the book is too jargon-y. I am open to obtaining additional certifications once I have my standard PT certification to hone a more specialized focus.

    I am a highly intelligent person, but I struggle with testing due to anxiety (and these exams are WAY too expensive to fail!) Any and all suggestions are very much appreciated!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Heather, take a look at ACE. Their books are very good and in my opinion better overall than NASM textbooks. ACE also has a book that focuses on special populations (heart disease diabetes etc) that may come in handy if you work with these people. the NSCA also has a fine personal trainer cert that is highly regarded. I agree most certs are very expensive. Since you said you have testing issues you might want to get your feet wet, so to speak with another organization that is a one or 2 day certification. For example, look at IFTA, AAAI/ISMA or AFAA.

      These are also fine organizations but they have a classroom component. Basically you study before the class, take a day long class (or two day long class) and at the end take a test. That will give you an idea of the info you’d need to know for other organizations (ACE etc). Many of these other organizations don’t cost as much either ($100-$300 or so).

  125. Katie says


    I am very interested in becoming a Certified Personal Trainer. I found an online course that has classes and all kinds of training and course work. It takes about four months and they will pay for your certification at NCSF. I have looked into tons of other places like ACE and AFAA with both of them it’s books, study, exam done. I really want to know the ends and outs. I am worried that I may fall victim to a scam college. The online college I am looking into is U.S. Career Institution. Have you heard of them at all? Any advice would be great!!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Katie, Ive never heard of the US Career Institution. If you are interested in the National Council for Strength and Fitness (NCSF) why not just get that cert and bypass the US Career Institution? Id guess its less expensive to just get the NCSF cert? Have you contacted NCSF to see if they think about the US Career Institute? they may be able to tell you if they are associated with each other.

  126. Chelsea says

    I have been considering starting a career as a personal trainer, but don’t know where to start. I enjoy weight lifting correctly and safely. I am really into sports and staying in shape so I’d like to have job around this area. I’m not sure who I want to work with age group wise specifically, but kids or teenagers would be the general area. A gym wouldn’t be bad either, just want to know what the best well rounded qualified cert would be for my area of interest. Thanks for the help.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Chelsa!
      on my other site HelpForPersonalTrainers.com I have written a step by step guide on how I would be a personal trainer if I had to do it over again here is the link

      Update for others reading this: Im in the process of moving that review to this website so if the link doesn’t work -it probably didn’t – then search this site and if you have any problems let me know.

  127. Carla says

    hi Joe
    my name is Carla,I’ve been in the health and fitness world for years now. Being a mother of three working out has become a passion and is of great importance to me i am excited to share this passion by helping other moms lose post baby weight and also helping our youth stay fit. I’ve been struggling with a school to go to for group and specialty certification. also which certification is widely accepted with great recognition. I am in Abington,PA area are there any schools that you know of in that area or near by for group fitness certification and that is well respected or what online certification schools would you recommend? I also in the future plan on opening my own small group fitness center so im trying to keep that in mind while searching for certification that best suits my needs but again i am lost due to the many certifications out here.Your knowledge is greatly appreciated

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Carla, from the other side of the blue route 😉 I would say any group fitness cert from a recognized organization would be fine. once you have that you can specialize in what you want to do. Im not aware of any schools for group /specialty certs (if we say a school is a place like a college where you take classes). When you say group classes are you taking boot camp like classes or group exercise classes like aerobic classes? Either way you can also try to shadow group fitness instructors for additional hands-on knowledge after you get the group cert.

  128. Winnie says

    Well that “accounting” portion is offensive. Sorry that I didn’t choose a health-related major of study in school, and that I genuinely care for fitness to learn more and help others feel great about their body.

    Nonetheless, this was a helpful post. Thank you for the tips!

  129. Christina Etri says

    Hi Joe:
    Although I’ve always been active in running, weight-lifting, cycling, yoga and other team sports, I recently discovered a passion for triathlons. I was laid-off from my non-profit job and after doing a lot of soul-searching about what I’m passionate about, I decided to pursue personal training.

    What is your opinion on ACE? They seem to offer a more well-rounded program and offer a Youth certification which appeals to me as a mom of 2. I have also checked out the Cooper Institute (in Dallas) and their programs. Although I don’t have a degree in a health-related field but, at 42 years old, I have a lifetime of personal experience.

    What do you think is the best route for someone like me to follow? Thanks!

  130. Chris Lee says

    Hi Joe!

    Love the article. Thanks for posting. I am interested in Nutrition and Supplementation more than anything. Can you make a recommendation on Certification specifically?



  131. Sara says

    Hi Joe,

    My name is Sara and I am a college student in Gainesville, FL. I am very interested in becoming a personal trainer. My goal is to work with special populations, especially post-pregnant women. I wanted to ask you about your opinion on the PTA Global certification. I am surprised nobody has mentioned it. It is fairly new and I have heard good things.

    Thank you so much for your help,


    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Sara, Ive heard of PTA Global but I really don’t know much about them. When it comes to special populations, does PTA global have a special populations certification? the ACSM has a book devoted to just special populations. Here is the book on Amazon if you want to check it out.

      ACE also has a special populations book. Here it is on Amazon. Id recommend both of these for anyone who wants to work with special populations as a personal trainer.

      If you think you will ever work in a gym, ask if the gyms in your area accepts PTA Global personal trainer certs. If they do then thats great.

  132. Sativa Salas says

    HI Joe,
    I love your article and I too am looking into becoming a personal trainer and then eventually getting a Nutrition degree. Should I go to school first or just get certified and then go to school. I am a little confused on how I should go about trying to reach my goals. I love everything about health and fitness and the only experience I have is my own and recovering from my broken knee. I work out hard 6 days and week and want to be able to help people.

    I guess another question I have is, is it better to get a degree in fitness and then get certified or can you just get certified? Any advise you could provide would be great! Thanks so Much!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Sativa, degrees are great but they tend to be expensive. If you have the time and money for a degree, I say go for it! The other option is to get the knowledge. lots of knowledge plus the certification will help you make a living as a trainer.

      There are a lot of books that can give you that knowledge. check out my resources page for a lot of books that can help you get that knowledge. Just a few that I like include:

      ACE Manual for special populations

      Essentials of Strength and Conditioning

      Another idea is to look at the classes you would take if you would get a degree -and see if you can just take those classes. You get the knowledge without the degree. You also get to take the classes that are most applicable to being a personal trainer. Also look at local community colleges where you can get those classes for less.

      I hope some of this helps.

  133. Sara says

    Hi Joe,

    My name is Sara. I am very interested in becoming a personal trainer. I am a current student at the University of Florida and I have heard good things about the PTA Global certification. What are your thoughts on this one?


    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Sara, Ive heard of PTA Global but don’t know much about them. Id ask your local gyms if they accept the PTA Global certification. I think thats an important first step if you think you might ever work at those gyms.

      Are you in college for exercise science? If yes, what certs do your teachers think are good? Colleges are usually all about the ACSM but there are others out there.

      • Sara says

        Hi Joe,

        Thank you so much for your insight. I am in college for Exercise Science and will ask my professors! Have a good day!

  134. Abbie says

    I’m 20 years old and passionately want to become a personal trainer. Two years ago I lost 70 pounds and kept it off. I would love to help other people. Where I live it would be over an hour trip to a school that offers a PT cert. so I am looking into an online program as I see many other commenters are.

    What I can not find online however is if an associates degree in Exercise Science with an Emphasis in Personal Training through ISSA would be better than just being certified and if I do attain a degree would I still need to get certified?


    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Abbie, congrats on losing 70 pounds!!! :)

      If you think you might ever work at a gym (most trainers start out at gyms) then they will likely require you to have a personal trainer certification even if you have a college degree. Not all do this but most do. Also, if you are going to be self employed Im pretty sure all personal trainer insurance companies require you to be certified also -even if you have a degree in exercise science.

      You will likely learn more if you have an associates and a cert than just a cert alone so that is an option. The ISSA is an attractive option also if traveling is an issue.

      If you go with ISSA, contact your local gyms and make sure they accept ISSA. most gyms do but I want you to be sure, if you think you might ever work at those gyms.

      If you have any other questions, just ask :)

  135. Jeff says

    Joe, loved the article. Fitness, powerlifting especially, runs deep in my family, over the last year and a half I got back into fitness and dropped 40+ lbs and am working my way towards elite status powerlifting totals. My success in the gym has inspired me to help others.

    I’m looking to start training folks on my own at my house with my own equipment. I already have a good number of people that allow me to do their programming and are wanting to get serious about their fitness and are requesting that I train them. As well a friend of mine and I are working towards some community-wide programs and he suggested I get certified. How do you suggest I go about choosing the right cert in my case?

    My friend has the NASM cert, but a Physical Therapist friend of mine suggested I do the CSCS. Any thoughts?

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Jeff, if you have a college degree, you can sit for the CSCS exam. If not, then the NSCA has a personal trainer cert that does not require a college degree. Between NASM and NSCA, Im say the NSCA. Some may say I’m biased because that’s who Im certified by but thats my 2 cents.

  136. WonderWoman says

    I def had my cup of Joe for the morning! :) Mr. Joe its people who promote knowledge that let me know that this is the field for me! I love fitness and love knowledge and you have incorporated both! Thanks and please keep giving knowledge!

    • Joe Cannon says

      WonderWoman, thanks for the nice words, that’s very kind of you to say – and I will!

      cup of Joe -I like that :)

  137. Jim Offel says

    Joe, Glad I find your site (and this post). Here’s my question. I’m an “old fart” (54), fifteen year cancer survivor who is looking to start a life coaching practice with an emphasis on working with long term cancer survivors to find the blessing(s) within the curse of cancer.

    For me personally, getting (and staying) in shape so that I can enjoy a lot of outdoor activities I love (skiing, SCUBA, whitewater rafting) has been the key keeping a good mental attitude.

    I want to add in personal training to my life coaching practice because I think taking care of your body is so important to achieving whatever else you want to achieve in life. So the population of people I’m going to work with are not going to be young men looking to do powerlifting, but rather (likely) older adults looking to be as healthy as they can be.

    Based on this, any recommendations about certification? (I will check with my local YMCA here in Berkeley, CA to see what Certs they accept since I may end up doing some training there).


    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Jim, based on who you want to work with, Id say take a look at ACE (American counsel on exercise). ACE also has another cert called clinical exercise specialist which helps trainers work with special needs individuals (arthritis, heart disease etc).

      Here is a post on the ACE cert written by somebody who passed the test.

  138. Neil says

    Hi Joe,

    What do you think about W.I.T.S. Personal Training Class?

    If not, what other certification or resource should I take?



    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Neil, I personally have no problems with WITS but some of the people Ive spoken to have said that some of the WITS instructors were better than others. Id say investigate who will be teaching your class. They probably have a website also where you can learn more about them.

      I think if you stick with an organization that is recognized by most gyms, you should be ok. A few examples, include ACE, NSCA, NASM and ISSA. They all make themselves out to be the best but think about which groups of people you might want to work with as a personal trainer. that might help you narrow the certs down to those which fit your interest best.

  139. Yeghia says

    Hi Joe
    Hope your doing fine
    thanks a lot for the great info and for all the help and support you provide for better knowledge. well i have some questions for you. i was interested in fitness and exercising back long years ago, first time i enrolled in a gym i was 16 years old. i met too many trainers and i have seen too many people talking and giving advices, but none of them actually seemed to be able to provide quality information that showed some quality changes.

    2 years ago i decided to build my own scientific knowledge so i enrolled in CPT course of ISSA, as it was new for me i learned so many quality information, then i heard about the NASM and i took several courses with them like the CPT, women’s fitness specialist, MMA conditioning specialist, weight loss specialist and fitness nutritionist.

    i have followed the advices and tried workouts of so many trainers like, Mike Chang, Peter Carvell, jim stoppani, Hugo rivera, each one of them thought me something,.

    lately i decided to become a qualified personal trainer like you mentioned, so i have designed and implemented my own workouts to lose weight, gain muscle manage postural imbalance and i have seen great results.

    But my question is that at a point i thought that NASM certification could be the “best” now after reading your article i have the feeling that i am way too far from the best.

    So if i need to add some quality information and hold a qualified certificate that is the most accepted what would you advice for me??? because now i feel im lost, i don’t know if all those certificates i earned are useless or useful.

    i would really appreciate your help, and sorry for making you read this long message. :)

    • Joe Cannon says

      Yeghia, Id say that you are already doing very well with not only getting ISSA certified but also taking classes with NASM. I would say stick with the ISSA cert you already have and just keep learning, as you have been. As long as you have never run into a gym that did not accept ISSA or had any trouble getting a job with the ISSA cert, I say thats fine. As long as you keep learning you are doing exactly what a qualified personal trainer should do!

      Its easy to feel like you are lost listening to all the other personal trainers out there but I think you have already been doing more to further your education than most of them have been. Keep doing what you are doing and I think you will be just fine :)

      On my resources page I list a lot of books etc that can help you further your education\

      You’re doing great!! :)

      • Yeghia says

        Hi Joe
        thanks a lot for your support, i have already downloaded your ebook and will start reading it very soon.
        so you think ISSA CPT certification is better than the NASM CPT?
        thanks a lot

        • Joe Cannon says

          Yeghia, I think having a fitness cert that is accepted by gyms in your area – coupled with on going education is what is important. NASM does a very good job at marketing themselves as the best but in my very humble opinion, I have seen deficits in the overall knowledge NASM trainers who took classes that I teach. I say this not to take a shot at NASM but rather to say that there is no best certification. I also realize I don’t see a lot of NASM trainers so my observations may not represent the majority of them.

          If you have never had a problem with ISSA before then I say keep with it and keep doing what you are doing. If, you find yourself in an area where gyms do not want to accept ISSA (some gyms are funny about this), then it might be time to look to another organization and if that is the case, I would recommend either ACE or NSCA. At this time though, I see no reason for you to take on another cert, if all is going well for you.

  140. Vicki says

    Hi Joe,

    Great read with some insightful info. I do agree that no one cert is better than the other, but since you have much more experience than I do I will ask for some advice. I have a bachelors in health science, I’m finishing up physical therapist assistant program so I have plenty of experience in therapeutic exercise and am very knowledgeable in anatomy/kines/biomechanics.

    I’m an avid runner and work out frequently, and find myself being asked for advice at the gym in terms of workouts, proper form etc…I’d like a certification that would help expand my skills. Ideally I will be working in an orthopedic setting as a PTA and would like to train on the side.

    I was considering CSCS but I’ve heard that’s mainly for individuals who want to work with teams and focus on performance rather than training people for weightloss or other reasons.

    Being that I have an athletic background and have worked with various populations and instructed my patients in therapeutic exercise, my main focus so far has been on that. I want to get a certification that I could use in conjunction with my current clinical skills. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Vicki, you can do personal training with a CSCS certification. I do and I have that cert. Id think with your background that a good amount of the info you likely already know. the NSCA also has a personal training cert which is different than the CSCS cert. I think either the CSCS or the NSCA-CPT cert would be a fine addition to your already strong arsenal of knowledge. Take a look at the NSCA-CPT cert and see if that might suit your needs better. :) Let me know what you decide.

  141. Teresa says

    Howdy Joe!

    First, I love that you are involved in your post and you reply back to people with helpful information. I too would greatly appreciate your insight.

    I was considering NASM before I read your article. Perhaps you can help guide me in the right direction. I would like a cert with a strong emphasis on nutrition, aerobic conditioning and flexibility (yoga/callasetics). Combined I know all of these components work together well. I also would like the options to take continued cert. courses for various areas of study; for example water aerobics or fitness classes.

    I’m not concerned with the best out there, just the best for me. I know I am a product of what I preach so I know once educated/certified I will be qualified. Getting started is the hardest part.

    Thanks for your feedback!


    Teresa from Texas

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hey Teresa from Texas! that might a toughie! I am not sure I know of any personal training cert organization that combines nutrition, aerobics flexibility etc in the same cert. While all certs usually have sections in their textbooks on these topics, the cert obtained would just say “personal trainer.” The test for those certifications would likely ask you questions on all those areas. As such those who obtain the cert, it would be understood that the person has an understanding in nutrition, flexibility, aerobic conditioning etc. People can of course go on and take additional continuing education classes on just nutrition, or just flexibility for example. there is an organization called Exercise ETC that does very nice one day lectures on many of these topics for those who want to know more.

      With that in mind, I think any well known organization would give you what you are looking for. Look at the “biggies” and see which ones might suit your needs best. Ill often point people to NSCA and ACE because Im pretty sure they will be accepted by any gym but you can also look at NASM which you have expressed an interest in. Since you are just starting out, Id advise you not to go into debt getting any certification.
      Does this help?

  142. Julie says

    Hi Joe,
    I just finished reading all of your very informative comments and advice that you’ve giving all of us. I have recently graduated from a four year university this past May and I have been in the fitness mindset for the past two years. I studied Health Sciences and finished all of my pre-requisites for my Master’s in Physical Therapy. I am currently employed in a PT office along with gym as a front desk associate and I’ve always been interested in potentially receiving my personal training certification.

    Since I will be starting school soon and working two jobs, what do you think would be the best cert for me? I am knowledgeable in anatomy & phys, along with working as an assistant to a personal trainer. I don’t know how much time I will have to go to a personal training course or maybe not even a test center but depending on the best suited for me I am willing to go.

    Please let me know any insight that you might have for me. I know I am young and new to the health related fields buts am always willing to learn and become more knowledgeable in this field. I hope you can help!!

    Thank you so much for your time!


    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi julie, since you have a degree already why dont you take a look at certs that have a one day “attend a claass and take a test” format. Take a look at IFTA and AAAI/ISMA and IFPA. One of those might suit your needs.

  143. Mike says

    Hi Joe! Thanks for this very informative article. I am a currently incapacitated (somewhat) person with a torn acl. I have read some of your former replies and realize that the NSCA and NCSF are good for athletic trainers. I’m just wondering about the actual class and what would I have to do. Specifically if I would have to do demonstrations exercises in order to pass the course(s)? And if that’s the case would I have the ability to do so in my current condition?

    I also have a dilemma-while I want to work with athletes I would also like to work with the everyday person who is just into general fitness-does getting one of the certs I just mentioned reconcile with general fitness goals?

    And also, should I go back to school and get a degree in exercise science? Maybe take some classes (I’m 25 by the way)?

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Mike, if you want to work with athletes, look at the CSCS cert offered by the NSCA. You’ll need a college degree in anything to take that test. there is no practical portion so dont worry about demonstrating exercises. If you dont have a degree then check out the NSCA-CPT cert.

      A college degree can only help you if you want to work at the pro-sports level but I dont think its always necessary. If you take classes at the college level without getting a degree, that will help you too.

      • Mike says

        So would that cert work for general fitness? More specifically for women?

        Sorry for the questions.

        And by the way I have a college degree. So that’s not an issue. Sorry I was not clear.

        • Joe Cannon says

          Mike, yes I use the CSCS cert for general fitness. its a very well rounded cert. if you are not sure about it, opt for the NSCA-CPT cert or the ACE cert. both of those are also fine certs for general fitness. Dont worry about being specific for women as women and men are basically the same as far as personal training is concerned. muscle fibers from men and women are not different.

  144. Brianna says

    Hi joe,
    You have a great ammount of honesty in your posts. I have a couple questions. I was a gymnast for 6 years then stopped due to an injury. I am almost 23 and stopped when i was 16. I have always kept an interest in fitness and the correct way to excercise and recover. I, like most Americans, fell off track and got lazy. I enjoy telling people the importance of stretching and eating right and working particular muscle groups.

    I have recently gotten back in the gym about 2 hours a night 5 days a week. That being said, i have been back and forth between restaurants and bartending trying to make ends meet. While i love the fast cash, i worry about not even being able to save up money for a “cushion”. I need to start seriously thinking about a career, not something to “get me by”. I thought i wanted to become a physical therapist but have nowhere near enough funds or credit to get a loan for schooling. I also know i dont have the patience.

    Ive been looking into becoming a Personal Trainer because while its not “cheap” the cost of the 6 week course is obtainable for me. I need a career that i can start soon and not struggle to find a job.

    The best option for me is GTCC the W.I.T.S program. Any word of advice would be much appreciated.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Brianna,
      Since money is tight, have you considered a less expensive cert such as IFTA, AFAA or AAAI/ISMA? You can get the less expensive certs and a few really good books about personal training (like say the NSCA-CPT book) and you will be certified and have spent less money.

      I want you to be able to recoup the money you spend on a cert as quickly as possible. Many of the larger gyms dont pay as much as people think. I dont want you go to into debt and from your words, it sounds like WITS might be a bit much to bite off right now. You can always go back and get WITs later after you are making more money if you like. If already sounds like you have the passion to get into personal training and be qualified not just certified and so I have no problems advocating a less expensive cert for you because I know whatever you do, that you will keep learning after the cert anyway.

      No matter what cert you opt for, make sure local gyms accept the cert you are considering. Start with the gyms, get their lists of certs and then decide what cert is right for you

      Now, for the most important advice I can give you. If you take this advice, it WILL change your life! No matter how much earn – bar-tending, as a waitress, personal training etc – save 1/2 of your age in a savings account. For example, since you are 23, save 12% of everything. When you are 30, save 15%. when you are 40, save 20%. If you do this, by the time you are 50 you will probably be a millionaire! Try this for 1 year as an experiment. you will be shocked at how much money you have. Start with your next paycheck :)

      I hope this helps Brianna. Do ask if you have any other questions :)

    • Joe Cannon says

      Cameron, I think the best course of action is to ask local gyms if they accept the AFI cert. some may. I personally dont know much about it but will look into this further.

  145. Jack says

    good article. I like your papers. I got a lot of information.
    I want to be a Jumping rope trainer. I am good at jumping rope.
    Could you give me advice which certification is right for me?
    Thank a lot.

  146. Chris says

    There is a National Personal Training Institute near me and I was wondering what you thought of their Diploma versus a certification? I understand the price is extreme, but from what they teach I am wondering if long term the knowledge alone will be worth it. I have searched around but there are too many conflicting reviews. Any help would be appreciated, thanks!

    • Chris says

      I apologize, in addition to the Diploma you receive the NASM certification upon completion as long as you pass the test, at least that is what they have told me. I should rephrase and ask this: Based on the course costing close to 7000 for a Diploma and NASM certification, do you think there are better options in which I can learn the same information? Knowledge and being qualified as you stated are more important to me than the cost.

      • Joe Cannon says

        Chris, do you get the NPTI diploma ONLY if you pass the NASM exam? Im not sure either way. While I am sure there is good info in the NPTI program, personally, I would get save the money and get the NSCA cert and then after you have tat cert, get the NPTI books (I think they use NASM textbooks but in the past they used the NSCA textbooks) as well as books from other organizations (ACSM, ACE etc). You’ll save a lot of money and with the NSCA, you get a cert that is respected and accepted almost everywhere.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Chris
      Funny you should say this. Ask the NPTI if they have a “certification” also. Ive heard that they have a cert as well as a diploma. Ive heard that people who go through NPTI are prepared to take the NASM certification exam but Ive also heard that NPTI has its own cert. If you get an answer let me know.

      if you have any other questions, just ask

  147. kate says

    Hello! I have a few questions.. I am very interested in nutrition but I don’t know if I want to be a personal trainer, what are my options? I don’t want too be a dietitian but will I need the same four year education? Basically I want to be a fitness nutritionist. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Kate, it may come down to the state you live in. Some states may allow only RDs to give out nutrition information so I would check your local state government. If you are allowed to give nutrition info without being an RD, why not take nutrition classes at local community colleges/universities. that way you get the knowledge without the degree. There are many good nutrition books also as those I listed on my Resource Page http://www.joe-cannon.com/resources/

      Any other questions?

  148. Subu says

    Hello Joe,

    I have read through this entire article including all the questions/comments people have had on this and I am very impressed by the passion that like-minded individuals share on the topic of personal training.

    I would like to ask you a couple of questions myself and I would appreciate it you could share your valuable thoughts on it.

    First a little bit of myself (sorry if it gets too long and boring). I am 35 years old, happily married with a beautiful 6 year old daughter who is in 1st grade now. Professionally, I am a Director at a technology company in the Silicon Valley. I have been working out at various gyms since last 13 years to keep myself lean and fit, irrespective of how my work schedule is. Honestly, this is the only other thing that I do besides my work and my family. I have always wanted to do something in the health industry (perhaps training industry), but not sure so far as to what it is.

    I have tried to keep myself aware of training and health standards by doing some own research on the Internet. I was thinking about starting with becoming a personal trainer (part-time) to help the people in my community (that I come across at my local gym).

    Seeing that most of the people who have posted on this article seem like youngsters just graduating from college, I suddenly feel out of place. Am I doing the right thing at this age? Does it feel weird to you that I am thinking about this at all? I am not even sure whether I should be getting into this now, so any advice for me?

    Thanks for your time.!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Subu, While I would never say quit your day job to do this (at lest not until you make as much as you do now at your current profession), I see no reason why you cant do something in the health /fitness field. 35 is NOT old or too late to start by any means. Ive written a review on age and personal trainers here

      As I say there, one advantage you will have over younger trainers is that people will take you more seriously. People who can hire trainers tend to be over 40 and Ive been told several times that they prefer someone closer to their age. They feel they know more and have similar life experiences as they do.

      • says

        Hi joe,
        I have been working as a personal trainer for five years. I was certified with nasm in 2009. I did the necessary practical work to get recertified in 2011, but discovered in 2012 that my cert had expired because nasm never received my $99 fee.

        I thought I had paid the fee, and never received any letters or emails that there was a problem with my recert application. In fact, I discovered the problem upon trying to sign up for my next nasm ceus. I emailed and called for months to no response.

        When I finally got a hold of someone, I offered to pay the $99 dollars plus any late fees. The woman basically told me I was shit out of luck. She said she would talk it over with the board but that I was most likely going to have to pay $500 to take the test again. I asked to speak to her supervisor, who I also didn’t hear back from for a month. She had the same uncaring response and told me that I’d receive a formal letter explaining the board’s stance on the matter. I never received a letter.

        I initially liked and promoted this certification and the people who teach for them. But I was so turned off by this experience and their lack of empathy and understanding that I can’t justify paying them any more money.

        Being that I have an established career and have and continue to work at a number of high end gyms, do you think it makes sense to get a relatively inexpensive cert like AAAI and pursue specialty certs from other leading organizations?

        Sorry to ramble–the nasm experience was very disappointing and made me realize what a silly money scheme this can all be.


        • Joe Cannon says

          Katie, I’m so sorry NASM treated you that way! I looked at your credentials on your website (nice site by the way!) and you have a very good background. I say get a cert that is accepted at your local gyms and just roll with that. Pay the least you need to for a cert that is accepted at the gyms you work at. Your experience will speak for its self. I know there are AAAI certs held in NY and I’m sure the same is true for other organizations like ACE also. For what it’s worth, I know that AAAI would never have treated you that way NASM did.

          If I can be of any other help, just ask.

  149. Michael says

    Hey, just found this site and it seems interesting.

    Just a question, but I’m considering getting a personal training certification. I just turned 22, and live in a rather rural area, so I was thinking I would go to the ISSA to do so, but I’ve been reading some bad things about online courses in general [EG, they’re not worth the paper they’re printed on etc]. Is this true? I’ve not got a lot of mobility right now, so I can’t really go to an out of town location to learn anyway.

    Also, while I’m thinking of a long term focus in martial arts training and conditioning, I’m not qualified to teach any martial arts at this time [I have a Green belt in a style of Kung fu, and a yellow in Karate, but have fallen out of contact with the instructors]. Given that, would it be better for me to switch to a different focus in the short term, or should I just work with general exercises until I get to the point where I could teach MA specifically?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Michael,

      I dont know much about martial arts but I personally dont have anything bad to say about ISSA except that some gyms may not accept that cert because it is online. some do but some may not. Always best to check local gyms and ask them.

  150. says

    Hello Joe:
    My family and I recently relocated from Chicago to Greenville, SC as my wife was offered a fantastic career opportunity.

    I am 43 and had a construction business in Chicago. I have always been active; played soccer collegiately and professionally, played basketball regularly the past 8 or so years as well as paddle tennis during winters. I have also been doing CrossFit the past year and really enjoy it.

    I am thinking about becoming a personal trainer and opening a home gym for my clients. First of all, which certification would you recommend securing and second of all, do you think this is a crazy idea? I’ve been involved in sports my entire life and have a passion for fitness. I am thinking this might be an opportunity to redirect my energy to something I really enjoy.

    Thank you.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Morry, If that is what you are passionate about, I dont think you are crazy. I think any major cert will help you attain your goals – ACE, NSCA, ACSM ISSA, etc. I would steer you away from NASM based on what people are telling me (read through the comments for some of that stuff). ACSM is good but its very technical. Id recommend you get the ACSM books and study those rather than getting the ACSM cert. Take a look at ACE or NSCA. I think either of those would serve you well.

      I have listed a lot of good info -books etc – on my Resource Page so check that out also.

  151. Whitney says

    Hi! Great site here! I’m learning alot from the comments alone! I am a pretty serious athlete and coach and am trying to figure out how to actually get certified for sports nutrition consulting. I have found a few Cert websites but sometimes I end up with more questions than answers. I just want to be able to consult with athletes as my second job in the state of CA legally. Is there a “best” website or Cert program for this? Any other advice on the subject? I don’t know what I don’t know!

    Thanks for such a great site!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Whitney, thanks, glad you are finding my site helpful. Another site you may find useful is HelpForPersonalTrainers.com that is a site I do with a friend. I have a tutorial on how to be a personal trainer, step by step on that site.

      You might try contacting your local CA gov to see what requirements they stipulate for you to consult as a sports nutritionist. This can vary from state to state. once you know this, this can give you an idea of a cert in sports nutrition is worth it or not. For example, some states require people to be a registered dietitian (RD). In other states, their may be no requirement at all.

  152. Tina says

    I am interested in personal trainer education…not to work in the field, but just for my personal interest. Do you think any courses make sense or would you just read books and check out online information?


    • Joe Cannon says

      Tina, if you dont think you will ever work as a personal trainer, Id say just get a book and study that. There are some good online courses on the Human Kinetics website and my resources page has several personal training books also.

      Some books can be expensive so if you are looking for a book that speaks in plane english, I will recommend the book I wrote. I write like I talk so you should be able to understand what Im saying. My book is also much less expensive too. Here is my book on Amazon and you can get it at my website too. I personally mail all books.

      Another option is to take a course in exercise science at your local college /community college. They may have classes for non-exercise science majors, which means they will focus on the big picture of being healthy rather than beating down all the science stuff most people dont need to know.

      Still another option is to sit in on a certification program that lasts 1 or 2 days. that way you have the opportunity to ask your specific questions to the person teaching the class and they can address them. Take a look at these certification organizations

      Any other questions, just ask :)

  153. says

    Hey Joe great site, thx for the useful info.

    I purchased the NASM pt course and failed it miserably the first time and failed by 4 pts the second try…what now? I would have to spend a couple hundred bucks for a re-test

    Do I just go another route?

    I’ve been into fitness since I was 14,and am now 42. I am not the book smart type…more common sense type smart.

    I did well on all the exercise questions and nutrition etc, but this course is so overly science based and hard to pass. any suggestions as to my next course of action? Thank you kindly.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Frankie, that’s one of the things I dont like about NASM (and a few other organizations) – they charge a lot of money to retest if people fail. Given that many first time personal trainers are working in a gym and NOT making a lot of money, I think the cost is too much for my taste.

      Any fitness certification you decide to get will have a test that is going to be based on exercise science so this is something you will have to learn. That said, from what I’ve seen NASM makes the science a lot harder to understand than it has to be.

      I think its up to you and you have 2 choices:
      1. pay the money and retake the NASM test
      2. Opt for a lesser expensive cert and attempt to pass it.

      There are certs that only cost about $100 or so, so that would save you some money. You’d still have to get the book of that other organization to study.

      On the plus side you already have the NASM books and I wouldn’t recommend using their books to study for another organizations personal training cert.

      Do you know any other people who want to take the NASM test? maybe you all could form a study group to help learn the material?

      Why did you decide to go with NASM?

      • says

        Hey Joe,

        Thank you so much for the response, I truly appreciate it.

        I went with NASM, because I had heard it was one of the best from a few people and read that on a few sites and in some articles.
        Too bad I didn’t visit your site before making my decision, it def would have helped.

        I’m not sure where to go from here, I think, like you said, I might be better suited taking a less costly course for now…then perhaps re-testing for the NASM at a later date.

        Any suggestions as to one or two that I could take? Preferably one that’s a bit easier. Thanks again Joe!


  154. Erin T. says

    Hey there! Quick question after reading your piece on online certs. What are your thoughts on Expert Rating? They seem budget-friendly, I can ‘bundle’ several certs to save money, and it’s pretty quick. Are they reputable? Would this certification be widely accepted by gyms? And if not, could you please recommend a program that is pretty budget friendly, fairly quick, done online and most of all, widely accepted? Thanks so much!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Erin, My best advice is to go to your local gyms and ask them if they accept Expert Rating. Some gyms will while others will not. I’m not sure which gyms accept Expert Rating. Finding a cert that is budget friendly and quick and accepted at many gyms AND done online can be a challenge because they are often at odds with each other. I dont know if a cert exists that fits all of your criteria. The online cert that is mostly accepted is ISSA as far as I know. Its not $59 like Expert Rating is however. It costs more.

      If you are willing to leave out the online aspect, and have a budget that can go a bit higher than Expert Rating, I’d say take a look at these organizations




      I also think you will have to weigh your desire to get certified inexpensively with the mandate to provide quality fitness instruction to your future clients that is also safe. Sometimes those two dont always go hand-in-hand. Committing to learning all you can after getting certified will ensure this.

      • Erin T. says

        Thanks for getting back to me, Joe! I think I misrepresented my intentions in my original post. I was mainly curious your thoughts on ER as it seemed legit, but it’s not that I’m opposed to spending the extra money. At the end of the day, I want to be a good, solid trainer. We travel and move often, so checking what various gyms accept isn’t really feasible a lot of the time. I was more so just curious of which ones are most reputable, most widely accepted, etc. After talking with several trainer friends, I believe I’ve narrowed it to NASM and ACE. Thoughts on either? Pros and cons? Thanks again!

        • Joe Cannon says

          Erin, I’d choose ACE over NASM any day of the week. ACE is more well rounded and from what people tell me the ACE books are easier to understand. Another idea is to get the ACE cert and then, if you like, buy the NASM book and study that. Then you have the NASM knowledge without spending money on the cert. If you look at my review of NSCA vs NASM whats better, read through the comments to see what people have thought of NASM.

          There are a few gyms that may prefer NASM over ACE but I feel that’s more about NASM being better at marketing themselves to gym managers as “the best” than anything else. If you are looking for a cert that will be accepted pretty much everywhere, I’d go with the NSCA personal trainer certification.

          I also have a review of the NASM personal trainer cert also written by someone who took the cert and passed so do read that as well if you go with NASM.

          Let me know which cert you eventaly go with and when you pass, also let me know what you thought of the cert. I always like to hear from people about these things.

          If you have any other questions, just ask :)

  155. Kimberly M. says

    Hello. I have a son who is in prison in WA State. He will be there until sometime in 2017. He wants to get his PFT certification while he’s there. He is very excited and motivated to go forward with his education. He has to get his AED and CPR certifications before he can become certified by ISSA.

    He will have six months from his release date to get them. ISSA is the only organization that I have found so far that he can do from a prison setting. He does not have access to online/video/phone communications. He will have to communicate strictly through the mail to get any questions answered. The cost is around $500/$600.

    Is there anyone else who just does hard copy materials to obtain this certification? Can you give me any other suggestions/ideas in this situation? Thank you so much for any help that you can provide.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Kimberly, I think if he has the ISSA textbook and other hard copy study materials, he should be ok if he communicates his questions via mail.

      As I think about this here is an idea that may help. If you can talk to him on the phone, he can tell you his questions and you can email ISSA those questions and get a response -via email – and then relay that back to him over the phone. That might be a bit faster than sending questions via the US mail.

      Another option – and I’m not sure if ISSA does this – but I wonder if it would be possible for ISSA to teach a prep class at WA State prison? I do believe they have prep classes taught by ISSA instructors. Call ISSA and ask them about this. It may take going through some red tape with the prison and ISSA but this might be possible. The first step is to contact ISSA and see if this is something they do, and finding out what they might need to do to teach a class at the prison.

      Kimberly, if you look into this, do let me know what happens. You got me thinking about this and I’m now curious.

  156. paul (DJ) says

    Hey Joe, I Am Currently In The Military And Looking To Get Certified Before I Get Out And Continue My Education. I Was curious If I Should Get My ACE Cert Now And Nsca Later Due To Time Restraints And A Hectic Work Schedule. Or If I Should Just Take The Extra Time And Get The Nsca And not Worry About The ace Cert At All.

    Right Now I Just Want To Get In The door. Money Is Of No Concern Do to My Gi bill. Your Site Is Full Of Information And I Appreciate Everything You’re Doing Here.

    As A Member Of The Army I Know The Benefit Of Good Physical Condition. Any Suggestions Or Recommendations Would Be Greatly Appreciated Especially Ifyou Think I Should Go A Different Route. Thanks In Advance! -Pfc Frisby

    • Joe Cannon says

      Paul (DJ), There are advantages to both ACE and NSCA but I’m not sure one exam is harder than the other or takes more time to prepare for. The NSCA-CSCS is a 4 hour test (it was 400 questions when I took it in the 90s) and the NSCA-personal trainer test is 200 questions and is a 2 hour test (when I took it). I’d think either NSCA or ACE could help suit you as a personal trainer. I know more about NSCA so I’d lean a bit more toward them, but I respect ACE as well.

      I took about 3-6 months to prep for the NSCA certs and that is what I recommend people do as they study for the exam. I’d think ACE probably takes something similar. Here is a review of the ACE exam in case you missed it.

      Whatever cert you get, eventually I recommend you get a website and start blogging about fitness, health and wellness to help others – without any thoughts about how it might benefit you personally. I’ve written 7 books and none of them get me as much attention as my websites do and so that is why I recommend you do this also. Here is my guide on how to make a website when yo are ready. You have time to do this so get the personal trainer cert first and think about blogging after you get out of the military.

      As an aside, Supplement-Geek.com is my site where I review dietary supplements. Pass it along to your buddies who take supplements. I look only at the evidence for/against them.

      I hope that helps Paul and if you have any other questions, just ask. I’ll be glad to help you.

  157. Philip Ahmed Grant says

    Hi. Thanks for the information. It has been very helpful since I have been researching becoming certified.

    I am studying Exercise Science at American Military University online. I read that after completing the Exercise Programming and Testing course, which utilizes the OPT Model, I would be prepared to take the CPT exam offered by NASM. I would like to become a personal trainer and eventually open a fitness center. I live in the Virgin Islands and I’m a full time National Guard Soldier. I’m guessing I will have to travel to take the CPT exam. What are your views on this process?

    I was wondering why my college specified NASM over any other cert. Also, I have no intention of working for a gym. I will only work with individuals in my free time.

    I also noticed that the NASM website offered a course to become a weight loss specialist. Do you think this is necessary or would it be something I will be better off learning by experience and through my college courses?

    I know this is a lot, but I would appreciate your input especially since it seems very unbiased.


    • Joe Cannon says

      Philip, I’m not sure why the American Military Academy prefers NASM over other organizations other than to say that NASM appears to be very good at marketing themselves. I did try to do an online chat with the American Military Academy to ask them this question but they were offline when I tried. Give them a call and ask them. if you get an answer let me know.

      As for traveling to take the CPT test, call the Academy and ask them and if they dont know call NASM. If you are taking a class online, I see no reason why you cant take the exam online also. I do believe NASM has online courses that have exams that are online as well. Again, NASM would know best about this.

      Even if your GI bill will pay for it, my personal opinion is that I’d much rather you get the weight loss books and study those rather than investing more money in another cert. You will have to spend enough money starting your own business as it is and there are many good online courses and in-person seminars you can attend that will give you weight loss knowledge.

      Any other questions, just ask. Also thanks for serving in the US military. It takes special people who do that and I wanted to thank you and everybody else. We all appreciate you and what you do.

  158. shannon slattery says

    Hi Joe,
    I am 65 years old and attend gym classes 5 days per week. I would like to work in the senior training business. I worked as a VP of Sales & marketing for 38 years, I am now ready for the second phase of my life. I live in a small town 2 hours from Seattle WA, all I can find is an on-line cert training which does not seem to be the best way to go. What advise can you give me?

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Shannon, I guess you are referring maybe to the Senior Fitness Association (seniorfitness.net). While I have no problems with an online or correspondence course if that is all you can do, I do understand how that may be an issue if you plan on working in some gyms. YMCAs and Jewish Community centers may be good places to reach out to for on-site classes.

      I dont think you have to get a personal training cert that is specific to “seniors” in fact I think any of them will help you, help older adults. Once you get a cert, just focus your efforts on seniors after that.

      Your sales and marketing background will help you immensely as a personal trainer by the way :)

  159. michelle says

    I have been working out for the past year when i started i could barely tie my own shoes. I’ve have a few injuries that have put limitations on me. I’ve come a long way since I started my journey. I’m now at a point where i would like to eventually help others like i was.

    I’m not sure i’m ready to get a personal training cert but i would love to gobble up as much information as i can so when i am ready I will be ready to help others. What would you recommend I look into to further my education. Classes, books, online classes etc.

    I’m just amazed at how fitness has changed my life in the last year.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Michelle, congrats on all you have accomplished! Since you said you are just starting out can I suggest the book I wrote called Personal Fitness Training Beyond the Basics. I only say this because I write like I talk so you you know exactly what I am saying – without a lot of the big science words. When I use a big word, I explain it. That book cuts though the stuff you likely dont need to know and focuses on what you do need to know as a personal trainer in the real world. Amazon Link.” target=”_blank”>Here is my book on Amazon also (I make almost nothing on books sold at amazon so I have no ulterior motive).

      Another idea is to listen to the free university lectures at ITunes University. if you have Itunes you can listen to them now. There is a whole semester of exercise science and nutrition there right now. They can be a wee bit technical at times (because they are college classes) but they are free.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Leroy, the few people Ive met with the ISSA cert, I thought were pretty smart. I guess its like anything else, we get out what we put into it. Like all certs, if you ever thing you will be working in a gym, you should go to local gyms and see if they accept it before spending money.

  160. Bhagat says

    Since NASM is providing Personal Training Certified course for international candidates, so please advice if this is applicable for all asian countries like India & Nepal. Will online certification have the same value as direct exams?

    • Joe Cannon says

      Bhagat, that is a very good question. I think it would be valid in Asian countries. My question is do the gyms in your part of Asia accept the NASM certification? Ask them first. If they do, then I think you are fine. If not, then I dont feel its right for you at this time. Have you asked the NASM this question?

  161. C. says

    Hi Joe,

    First of all thank you for writing about the topics of Personal Training! It has been very helpful for me as I am researching to find a suitable organization to gain my certification with. My question to you is based on content. Currently I work as a Rolfer for a Physical Therapy/Chiro Practice in Vail CO. I see as many as 15 patients a day either in acute injury or maintaining as an athlete.

    While working at the clinic I have noticed that there is a market for port-rehab training. For example, a patient of mine had bi-lateral knee replacement 11 months ago. She has been through PT and released but still sees me to help with alignment issues and works with a Personal Trainer. I see that she is building muscle that will continue to cause imbalances and later re-injure or potentially end up with ankle, hip and low back issues.

    As you can imagine, there are a lot of Personal Trainers where I live but none that focus on post-rehab techniques. Do you have any suggestions for guidance regarding programs that would offer the type of education I would need in order to specialize in the field? I also have a yoga therapy background- not sure if that info is helpful.

    I’ve read through many websites and programs but still don’t feel like I’m understanding program content. Assuming also that I will do a bit of my own self guided studying in order to help each client.


    • Joe Cannon says

      C, I think that would be a great nitch to focus on as a personal trainer – and I do feel your yoga background would be an asset as well. Given that you already work with physical therapists and chiorpractors I also feel you would have a leg up on other trainers who may not be able to as easily network with other medical professionals.

      Based on what you said, I’d say take a look at either NASM or ACE certifications. While I hear that the NASM books are overly technical, they do tend to focus a lot on rehab. the ACE cert has a special populations certification that I think would benefit you also.

      I hope that helps. Let me know if you have any other questions :)

  162. Rachel says

    Hi Joe,

    Thanks for your insight. I’m debating between ACE, AFAA, and NASM. All of these are accepted where i want to start personal training, and all of the exams cost about the same. AFFA offers a 3 day intensive workshop format that includes the exam. This package seems to be cheaper than other options that require the purchase of separate study options, but I can’t find anything that definitively tells me the difference between an AFFA cert and the other two. Any thoughts?


    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Rachel, funny you should mention AFAA. Ive been trying to find an AFAA personal trainer to interview them for this website. I’d love to pick their brain about the test, what goes on in the 3 day workshop etc.

      With that said, all the certs are going to cover the same base of information about exercise science, anatomy, physiology, exercise technique and stuff like that. Some may to into greater dept on that material than others but I honestly think the main difference between AFAA and ACE and NASM is in the perceived value by people. for example, NASM is very good at making people believe they are the “best.” In fact, I saw the NASM TV infomercial this morning which is a testament at how good they are at marketing themselves.

      Here’s what I suggest, since AFAA has a 3 day workshop, do that because you are going to get hands on training. I dont think ACE or NASM has hands on training (or if they do they may charge extra for it.).

      After you pass the AFAA cert, get the ACE clinical exercise specialist book and/or the ACSM special populations book and study those. I list them in my resource page too. If you have the books of the different organizations you don’t need their cert. If you have the books, you have their knowledge – and you just saved a lot of money :)

  163. alyssa says

    Hi Joe

    I have recently decided that I would like to become a personal trainer and was wondering what route I should take.

    I have a BS degree in a non related subject from England. I was wondering If it is possible for me to work here in America with personal training qualifications from England or if I will have to do it again.

    The certification I will receive:

    CYQ Level 2 Gym Instructor
    CYQ Level 3 Certificate in Personal Training
    FAA Level 2 Award in Emergency First Aid at Work (valid for 3 years)
    YMCA Padwork for PTs
    YMCA High Intensity Training
    YMCA Suspension Fitness
    YMCA Business Principles

    I would be grateful if you can advise me if this course is suitable and accepted here, if not what do recommend me doing?

    My aim is to work with obese people

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Alyssa, while I’m not familiar with a CYQ certification here in the US, we do have YMCAs so I’d imagine that YMCAs here would accept those YMCA certs you obtained in the UK. I love that you have an emergency first aid award as I just about to post a blog post on how to prepare for emergencies that happen in healthclubs.

      here is a link to my how to be a personal trainer review

      In that review I recommended that trainers contact local gyms to ask if they accepted certain certifications. That is what I would do in regards to your CYQ certifications. If you know where in the US you would be living, it’s just a matter of googling the name of the healthclub+ the zip code or city and then emailing their corporate offices. Or in the case of a local healthclub (not one of the larger nationwide clubs), emailing the owner.

      I they say they dont accept the CYQ cert, its likely because they dont know what it is. So you might want to provide them with information about that organization, what it entails etc. I think if they understand more about it, they might accept it. You might also offer to do a skype conversation with them also. that way they can learn more about you, than just an email.

      Id do the same with the larger, more well known gyms in in the US. Some of the more well known/nationwide health clubs in the US include, LA Fitness, Retro Fitness, Planet Fitness, Curves and Bally Total Fitness.

      Searching by city, state and zip code should turn up a more specific group of gyms also.

      If you dont plan on ever working in a healthclub, then I dont think this matters. All you would need is personal trainer liability insurance which you can get from many companies such as AIG and the Philadelphia Insurance Company. It only costs about $200 per year. If you work at a healthclub, this might not be needed as the gym would usually cover you with their insurance policy.

      Also consider setting up a website so that you can help people all over the world. You never know who will see you (that’s how you found me! :-) ). Considering the group you want to work with that might be a pretty wise thing to do as some might feel intimidated to join a traditional healthclub. Here is my guide on how to make a website when you are ready:

      Hope that helps Alyssa. If you have any other questions, let me know – and let me be the first to say welcome to the US :-)

  164. Sarah says

    Hi Joe,

    Amazing info – thanks.
    I am a 56 year old woman interested in becoming a personal trainer. I have no background other than what i have enjoyed doing – running, lifting etc… I recently hired a personal trainer and now would like to take this route in life.

    I have looked into many online sites, but hands on seems so important. It would be that qualified vs. certified that you spoke of. I completely agree with that distinction.

    The American Academy of Personal Training is an option for me. It seems to be the gold standard. Do you have opinions about this school?

    I am older but I love this world. Being this age and in great shape is a gift and one I would like to share.

    What is your opinion on such a late start??

    Thank you!


    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi sarah and thanks for your kind words! Im happy you were able to find me! I dont think 56 is a “late start” because as I mentioned in my post “am i too old to be a personal trainer” (click the link to see) your age will be an asset to you. I say dont worry about it.

      Ive never heard of American Academy of Personal Training. Looking over its website, I wasnt sure if it was totally online or if it was a school that you go to. can you tell me what you know about it?
      I did see that it was over $4000, which is a lot.

      Does the AAPT provide a certification or a certificate or diploma? these are not the same thing. Here is my review of various online certs http://www.joe-cannon.com/online-personal-training-certification-review/ where I discuss the difference between diploma vs certification.

      Have you heard of WITS? its the world instructor training schools. its a 6 week program thats offered at many community colleges. it has hands on stuff and its less than AAPT. Here is my review of the WITS personal trainer cert http://www.joe-cannon.com/wits-world-instructor-training-schools-personal-training-certification/

      Let me know if AAPT is totally online or if it has a class room part. if its totally an online program I’ll try to add it to my post of online certs.

  165. Sarah says

    Hi Joe!

    Thanks for the quick answer.
    I c/p’d info below.
    It is 300 hours – 150 hands on and 150 classroom.
    I did find a local WITS program and left a message.
    Thank you for age-related confidence boost! It is difficult and at this point? I do not want to make a mistake!! :)
    Thank you very much for your time –


    AAPT is…the first US personal training school to achieve US Department of Education recognition as a nationally accredited institution
    the only Title-IV, nationally accredited personal training school in the Northeast offering Federal Financial Aid
    100% on-site, instructional, and hands-on
    fewer locations and smaller class sizes
    privately owned and operated
    personalized experience and individual attention
    higher faculty standards resulting in better mentorship
    structured lesson-planning – every classroom minute is value-packed
    industry-relevant course content
    continually current with latest technologies and best practices
    customized career guidance and real industry networking
    90% job placement rate after graduation

    n 2011, AAPT became the first school for personal trainers to achieve US Department of Education recognition as a nationally accredited institution of higher learning. Today, AAPT remains the only nationally accredited personal training school in the Northeast. Unlike the less-intensive NCCA process, the process of accreditation undergone by AAPT is rigorous and comprehensive involving evaluation and approval of every aspect of the school’s operation – from educational offerings to facilities to instructor qualifications to job placement outcomes, and more. This rigorous evaluation is conducted by the COE (Council on Occupational Education), which is an accrediting agency recognized by the US Department of Education. Along with AAPT’s national accreditation, the school is also internationally accredited through IACET (International Association for Continuing Education and Training), licensed by the states of New York, Massachusetts, and Florida, and approved as a member of the NCCA’s parent organization, ICE (Institute for Credentialing Excellence).

  166. Osmin Vanegas says

    Hey Joe,

    My name is Osmin, after graduating High School last year I really got into fitness, bodybuilding, and all those sorts of things. I’m currently not going to go school as I had personal problems to take care of. Since realizing how much I love being healthy and in shape, I’ve realized that I would love a career in this.

    I didn’t really have any other career calling my name so I figured I’d try to do something that I’ll love to do every day. I want to help other people achieve their goals like I’m achieving mine. I’ve had plenty of friends ask me for help to change their lives around as well and I’ve learned that I love to help them.

    My question to you is how should I go about becoming a personal trainer? What place would you recommend or what would you recommend I do first. I’m debating on starting school again this next semester as I don’t know what to study. If i can get myself to start studying to be a personal trainer then that would be great! I’m really stuck and don’t know what to do.I would love your help!

    I don’t have anything in particular that I’d like to specialize in but I do like to work on making my body as strong and effective as it can possibly be. Thanks very much for your time and hopefully you respond! Talk to ya soon!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Osmin, if you are considering taking classes in college, I suggest taking classes in
      anatomy /physiology
      business/marketing (you’ll need this eventually)
      exercise science
      clinical exercise science
      muscle physiology
      fitness testing

      you could take just these classes (without getting a degree) and they would very well prepare you to be a personal trainer. Some of these classes can be taken at community colleges, which can save you money.

      Another option is to get a personal training certification, without taking the college classes. Here are some posts I’ve written that can help you:

      How to be a personal trainer step by step

      Online certification review

      NASM TV commercial

      keep me posted on your progress and if you have any other questions.

  167. Allen says

    Hey Joe,

    The adult education division of my local school system is offering a PT certification from an organization called WITS (World Instructor Training Schools). Do you have any knowledge of the organization? They don’t make any of the “top 10” lists that I can find.

  168. Mohammed Abedeen says

    Hey, I’m taking the ISSA nutrition course. There are 2. ISSA sport specific training and ISSA fitness nutrition. I am a boxer and was leaning towards the sports specific one but was told on the phone to do the fitness one still. They implied the sports one is old and out of date. Also that it’s not as valuable as the fitness one and it’s kinda gonna go through the same things in both.

  169. Sam says

    I’ve been certified through several different companies ACE, AFAA, CFT (Military) to name a few. I have 22 years experience. I disagree with the comments about the overweight and smoking trainers. I believe it’s quite judgmental to presume that PT’s NEVER do anything outside of their profession. Would anyone ask a trainer if they at times eat junk food? Or miss their own workout or even at times loose motivation.

    Should this be a deterrent to hire them and deem unable to do their job? I don’t think so. However, I do believe we should be the best representation of the product we are marketing, but not the ‘perfect’ representation. Especially in the fitness industry, our education provides us with knowledge and awareness on this very subject…trying to reach for perfection and the dangers of it.

    Eating disorders like Ortho/Anorexia, BDD and the list is quite long. I believe it’s important to teach our clients a balance that suits the individual. After all, we are ‘PERSONAL’ trainers.

    • Joe Cannon says

      Sam, I welcome your opposing point of view. however I think there is a difference between eating a big mac and smoking regularly.

  170. Rae says

    Hey Joe!

    Thank you so much for all your insight! I am a 21 year old female who is in LOVE with fitness and nutrition. I am studying nutrition at Uconn right now aspiring to become a RD or go on to get my PhD something ‘nutrition and exercise’ related….

    Anyway! I am in the process of choosing a personal training certification that will be the “best” with regards to learning everything I need to know about training people – specifically people from 16-55ish range. Ive envisioned working with college athletes in the future but for the time being, anyone who is willing to change their life I would like to help!

    I’ve done lots of research and read many of the posts above however I am still not sure which certification I should aim for. I have great knowledge in the nutrition aspect of health and I believe it is important to understand how the metabolism works in order to achieve you fitness goals. I think exercise is definitely a great addition to a healthy life-style but as they all say “you can’t outrun a bad diet.”

    I was wondering if you knew of any certification in particular that emphasizes a lot on the role nutrition plays with fitness?? If you don’t mind, could you break down what the “main” things each certification emphasizes on?? (particularly ASCM, NASM, ISSA and ISFTA) or any other ones…

    I’m sorry, I hope this wasn’t too much to ask for, I really appreciate your time and making this!!

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Rae, Based on what you said, Id say take a look at ACSM. Since you are in college, you may already be using some ACSM textbooks and your teachers may have ACSM certs also. ACE – American Council on Exercise – is another option. While the NSCA (their certified strength and conditioning specialist, “CSCS” cert) may help you a bit more with college athletes, I think ACSM might be a better overall fit and mesh nicely with what you are currently doing in school. While I have not yet reviewed ISTA (I will eventually), here are some reviews Ive written previously that might help shed some light on things

      ACSM personal trainer cert

      NASM vs NSCA

      Online certification review

      Keep me posted on your progress and which one you decide on :)

  171. says

    Hello Mr. Cannon-

    Happy New Year! I really appreciate your engagement on this thread and the knowledge on the subject.

    I am a certified Family Nurse Practitioner (Master’s prepared Registered Nurse, specialization on infants to geriatrics) and interested in obtaining a personal training certificate.

    My initial drive is to learn more on program design for myself, but now, I am thinking of potentially utilizing this in my career. I have been vacillating between ACE, ACSM, NASM, and NSCA. I have read a few of your links you posted above, yet I still feel myself slightly lost in which direction to go.

    I know this much for myself:

    I am not interested in working with athletes on specific sports.

    I do not think I need education on how to land a position.

    I feel I need a review on muscle imbalances.

    I need education on program design and the many types out there.

    I know how to measure body fat with calipers or bioimpedance.

    I know how to calculate macros and calories; and creating nutrition goals.

    I have a Bachelor’s on Community Health Education, however, I would need a small review on behavior management (it has been over 10 years and I am sure concepts have slightly changed with research).

    I thank you for your insight and guidance into this next step in personal goal.

    I wish you and your family a joyous New Year and may 2015 bring many smiles into your life.

    Thank you,

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Jamie, based on what you said, I’d think either ACSM, ACE or NASM might suit your needs best. As I understand it NASM tends to focus a lot on muscles and stuff like that. ACSM is probably the most clinical of the 3 and I believe they do over behavior modification in their textbooks. I feel ACE has some of the most user-friendly textbooks out there and probably also covers behavior modification. My resource page has books on all of these organizations so see that for more info.

      I’ve known several nurses who become personal trainers so you will be in good company. Thanks for the well wishes and happy 2015 to you as well! Let me know if I can be of any further assistance :)

  172. Bree says

    I recently went to an informational hosted by my university in regards to a prep course for the ACE exam. I was planning on taking the NSCA exam because I have already purchased the book and started reading it. I was wondering if taking the prep course specific for ACE would help me with the NSCA exam or if it would just be a waste of my time and money. It’s about 125$ to sign up for the course, and I really need some sort of course to take because I have a degree in Community Health to help me learn the information better.
    Thank you,

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Bree, I think it will help. Both ACE and NSCA use the ACSM guidelines so knowing these will help you with the NSCA test. Exercise science really doesn’t change from one organization to another so this is another reason I think it will help. Your background in community health will also help you with the prep class and the NSCA exam as well. Let me know what you think of the class :)

  173. Cheryl Kelley says

    I am an OTR/L, and recently retired. I have a great interest in a certification In Senior Exercise and fitness. Any suggestions?

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Cheryl, as an occupational therapist I think you have a nice skill set that would mesh nicely with personal training. Do you currently have a personal training cert? if not, I’d suggest you get one of those first. Then you can specialize in older adults. There are specialized senior fitness certifications which you can opt for too, but I wonder -if you made that your primary cert – if some of that would cross over to what you already know? That’s why Id suggest getting a general personal trainer cert and then, later, either decide to specialize only in seniors (which it sounds you are going to do) and/or take a senior fitness cert or attend continuing education courses that are are specific to senior exercise. Any other questions, just ask :)

      • Cheryl Kelley says

        Thank you for your reply. I do not have a personal training certificate, but will look into that. ACE offers a certificate in Sr. fitness which I could use as CEU’s toward my OT license. I have worked with seniors in the past as part of my OT practice, but didn’t know if I had to go through all the expense of getting a general personal training certificate. Thank you so much for your expertise and quick reply. I so appreciate it!

        • Joe Cannon says

          Cheryl, happy to help. With your background you could just jump into the senior fitness cert and might be fine. I’m admittedly being conservative. Some seniors may be more robust than others (no ADL issues etc) so that’s why I suggested the general personal trainer cert first so that you were more well rounded. Do the senior fitness cert first and see what you think. ACE is a well respected organization and I have faith in any course they have.

  174. amanda says

    Okay I have been researching and researching for a couple weeks now, and being off today due to inclement weather: have literally researched and made phone calls about this ALL DAY LONG. To say the very least, my head is definitely spinning and i am EXHAUSTED, and still confused. I love your website and insight from what I’ve read thus far, but have some questions.

    After speaking to counselors from ISSA, NASM, NAFC, NSCA, NCCPT, and AFPA (acsm and afaa still on my list of calls to make, tomorrow). My questions are as follows:

    Have you ever even heard of NCCPT? They are apparently accredited but not one of the more popular ones I’ve seen/heard mentioned. I really liked that they took my degree into consideration and offered a scholarship or discount based on this. (I have my B.S. in dietetics).

    I’m really yearning to put my degree to use, as I graduated with honors but due to the fact that I could not take the time for an internship, have been unable to take the RD exam. So I feel like my degree is in limbo right now. With that being said, and upon the recommendation of my physical therapist, I REALLY want to obtain my CSCS through NSCA. I understand its highly respectable – but also very DIFFICULT to obtain (low passing rate). I do work full time, and am on a fixed budget, but I also aspire to work with high school/college level athletes someday… so would this be the most worthwhile decision? Is it truly as difficult as I’m told? Also – am I able to work at local gyms as a “personal trainer” with my CSCS certification, until an athlete-specific opportunity is presented??

    Please help… asap!! Thanks!


    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Amanda, let me try to help

      Here is my review of the NCCPT cert. Its an interview I did with someone who is certified by them. If you have any questions about NCCPT after reading it, just post questions in that cert and ill try to answer them there.

      As for the NSCA, I held there certs (CSCS and NSCA-CPT) since the 90s. It has a reputation of being difficult but I think that all depends on how well you prepare for it. I dont know the passing rate of the CSCS exam (I’d bet the NSCA does if you ask them) but regarless I would not let that deter me from attempting to pass it. As someone with a nutrition background, you have a strong science foundation which will help you on their test.

      When I took the CSCS, it was a 4 hour test. 2 hours were devoted to exercise science. then there was lunch. after that there was 2 house devoted to exercises -muscles used in exercises, as well as how to perform varous exercises properly. It may have changed from then so posting questions about it on the NSCA facebook page may help.

      If you are going to try for the CSCS, I recommend you get their textbook (essentials of strength and conditioning) and their pack of practice exams (I believe its a pack of 4 tests). that is all I used. the practice tests were very good at predicting whether you pass or not – and if you were weak in a certain area, the tests directed you to the chapters in the book to study up on. Here are many of the NSCA materials on Amazon. they may be less expensive there.

      I think its fantastic that you have a nutrition background. Can I suggest an additional path that you may not have considered – make a website and start blogging. Ive written 7 books and nothing gets me more publicity or lets me help more people than my websites. That is how you found me after all :) It is not hard to do this and here is my guide on how I made mine. If you like to write (blog) this might just be the most fulfilling thing you’ve ever done – and it can help your marketing in ways you just cant imagine yet.

      I hope that helps Amanda. if you have any other questions, just ask :)

  175. Chitwan sharma says

    Hi Joe… I have been training people in group n person both since last 3 years..but now I feel to get certified with an international organization… Though I have been trained n worked under popular n celebrity trainer…who has studios n trainers in lot of countries…will it help to advance my knowledge… N career growth.. Guide me..by the way ur articles n knowledge u have awesome… Total respect

    • Joe Cannon says

      Hi Chitwan, As I understand it, if you are working with celebrities, then getting clients is more of word of mouth than advertising. Once you get in with one celebrity, then they spread the word to their friends. As such I dont think you would be working in a gym. So, finding a certification that gyms accept is probably not something you have to worry about.

      As a personal trainer, are there groups of people you want to work with the most – such as older adults or kids with developmental disabilities? if yes then look to a certification that gives you information about those groups.

      If you don’t have anyone specific in mind, then take a look at ACE. I think its a good organization. A few others to look at include AFAA, AAAI/ISMA and IFTA.

      If you already have a certification, then Id say just grab a copy of my book Personal Training Beyond The Basics. I linked to the 2nd edition, which is the most recent version. I think what I wrote will compliment and add to what you have already learned.

      Any other questions, just ask.

      • Chitwan sharma says

        Hi joe… actually I work with people who r basically unfit n obese due to sedentary lifestyle… few of those have other issues also knee pains back pains cervical n so on… n I focus more on group classes…so basically I work with people to make them fit in terms of weight loss n toning of body….so which organization will be best to get certified..thank u


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