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Top 7 Fitness Certifications You Should Know

If you're looking to start a career in the fitness industry, it's important that you know about these seven types of certifications and what they can do for your career and schooling.

Eric LeClair
October 15, 2021
Top 7 Fitness Certifications You Should Know
If you're looking to start a career in the fitness industry, it's important that you know about these seven fitness certifications.
fitness certifications
tness Photographer: Alonso Reyes | Source: Unsplash

Fitness instruction or personal training is unprecedentedly popular due to the level of awareness about and responsibility for health and fitness. Health junkies are no longer seen as extremists or outcasts. Therefore, the demand for personal trainers or fitness instructors is very high; there has never been a better time to be in the fitness business and earn one of many fitness certifications.

Till today, no law requires anyone to obtain certifications to be a fitness instructor or trainer but clients know a lot due to the abundance of information available. Hence, the demand is higher than ever with clients demanding their instructors or trainers to be properly trained.

To be ahead of the immense competition in the fitness industry today and impress your clients, one of the best things you can do is to get certified. In fact, the first thing most clients will ask (especially top-end clients) before they ask what you can do is your training or certification.

Fortunately, numerous certifications are available for fitness instructors or personal trainers. As good as it is to have these options, it poses a challenge of choice. Which of the instructor certifications are worth going for in 2021, especially the ones clients look out for? If you are looking for instructor certification, the top 7 are:

Top Fitness Certifications


American Council on Exercise (ACE) certification is one of the most widely accepted certifications therefore can be easily carried over to new States or cities. It is highly recognized in the US, providing a wide range of Fitness specialties.

Having received this training, you can either begin as a group fitness instructor or a personal wellness coach. It will boost your portfolio massively such that getting a gym to work or expanding your clientele won’t be a problem.

Recertification is required every two years. The costs of the different packages range from approximately $700 to $800, including the exam cost.


The American College of Sports Medicine is one of the oldest and most reputable organizations offering fitness certifications. Top-end clients trust this certification because of the commitment towards continuous learning, showcased by the need to earn 45 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) to maintain the certification. This means you always have to be on top of your game.

A merit of the certification is that it allows you to take online workshops in preparation for the exam. Frankly, the exam is well-driven, as acknowledged by top fitness instructors, hence it is imperative to give it all. This, in fact, adds to the credibility.

Despite the impressive reputation, the fees are very good. Renewal is required every three years.


The American Professionals Fitness and Associates (AFPA) is an excellent certification option for people who want to be certified for both personal training and advanced personal training. The combination of both basic and advanced certifications can give you an edge in the competition.

AFPA is not as widely accepted as ACE but if your objective is to become an independent personal trainer, this will not be a problem at all.


The International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) is another highly recommended certification for fitness instructors. They equip trainers with all that is needed for success in and out of the gym. Like ACSM, trainers are required to earn Continuing Education Credits (CECs), 20, to maintain their certification for two years before renewal.

A money-back guarantee is offered for this certification, backing their claim that getting work wouldn’t be a problem after the certification. They also provide exposure to how to get the best of your business skills in expanding your clientele. It’s not enough to be a certified and excellent fitness instructor or personal trainer, you must know how business works and use it to move to the next step.

ISSA presently costs approximately $800, with trainers allowed to take their exams (open-book quiz) from anywhere they choose, including their home. These flexibility and convenience are very important features to have especially for trainers who have a lot doing.


Next up is the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). It is a widely accepted certification, recognized by virtually all gyms in the US. Hence, many people looking to become personal trainers prefer NASM. Guaranteed job placement is offered by the organization within 90 days of completing the certification, another key factor for its popularity.

Kits for exam preparation costs between $599 and $1,400, depending on the materials you seek. Recertification is required every two years and trainers must earn 20 CEUs. Different programs contribute to this unit hence trainers can focus on different topics.

However, CPR/AED certification is required and not all providers of this certification are accepted by NASM. Live class including CPR practice is also provided. NASM is a top drawer.


The International Fitness Professionals Association (IFPA) is another excellent option. Just like NASM, CPR practice-backed certification is required. The minimum age requirement is 18 and at least a high school diploma. Varieties of certifications are provided hence it is the perfect opportunity to showcase your knowledge and skills.


Finally on this list is the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). They emphasize personalized approaches and tribes must be at least 18. In-person CPR/AED class participation is also required. Earning CEUs is not limited to NSCA's materials only.

A high-level exam is expected to be taken in person a year after the registration. The exam is $436 for non-members while members pay $300. Once certified, recertification is required every three years.

It is cheaper and fewer exams are taken.

Note: these top 7 certifications are in no particular order.

Considerations In Choosing From These Fitness Certifications

  • State of practice: usually, different certifications are accepted in different states. Therefore, it is important to get the certifications acceptable and highly rated in the location(s) of your targeted clients. However, there is always the possibility that you move to another state or city hence certifications that are widely accepted are better.
  • Cost: The costs of Fitness instructor certifications vary from organization to organization. While you want to go for the best certification, you also have to consider what you can afford.
  • Work guarantee: some organizations offer a money-back guarantee or surety of getting working within a certain period. This helps to allay any fear of the tendency of not getting work after the certification, especially for people who are not the best marketers of their skills. Classes or lessons are also offered on how to leverage business skills.
  • Credibility: the credibility of an organization will contribute to how useful the certification will be. All certifications above are very credible and recognized by most people.


Fitness Certifications place you ahead of the intense competition in the industry, positioning you for the best clients. There are different types of certifications hence you can have more than one certification depending on your services and the size of clientele you are targeting.

Eric LeClair

Eric LeClair works on the Marketing Team at PushPress. Eric has been a CrossFit Affiliate owner for 16 years. He's built three separate gyms and developed over 20 staff members to run operations at those facilities. He's a Veteran of the US Army, married with two little kids, and spends lots of time with his two boxers backpacking and exploring new adventures!

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