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ACE Personal Training Certification Review: Pros & Cons

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Workout equipment is placed on a blue background with the words "ACE Personal Trainer Certification Review" written over top of the image.

Last Updated: April 5, 2024

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) has long set the standard on what’s considered the “right” way to train in the fitness industry.

The research and insights ACE provides are made available through certification programs that help fitness professionals propel their careers forward, offering respected accreditation and a wellspring of tried and tested methods to help their clients get optimal results.

Those who complete the ACE certification program are recognized for their knowledge, skill, and talent in their respective fields—but what does it really take to get certified, and is it worth it for your goals?

About the ACE Personal Trainer Certification

ACE is a nationally recognized nonprofit organization aiming to build healthier communities by certifying fitness professionals who provide leadership and expertise in their fields.

ACE uses evidence-based research to help the public achieve healthy, sustainable lifestyles and lower the risk of chronic, inactivity-related diseases.

What Is the ACE Certification?

When it comes to certification, ACE is known for their science and research-based programs. They set the highest industry standards in fitness education and can help you build a career that transforms the lives of your clients.

The ACE personal trainer certification program is built on rigorous, methodical material—giving you the knowledge and skills you need to succeed. It is centered around the ACE Integrative Fitness Training Model that helps you learn how to create specialized training programs unique to those you will be working with.

Pros & Cons of ACE CPT Certification

To see if ACE is the right fit for you, here’s a list of the pros and cons we found with the ACE personal trainer program.

Pros

  • ACE certification programs and exams are NCCA-certified.
  • The longer you stay with ACE, the lower your cost to recertify.
  • Certified fitness professionals can join an exclusive social platform to connect with over 9,000 ACE Pros.
  • You can enjoy discounts for top organization and association memberships, athletic apparel, training equipment, and software to help you grow your business.
  • You can be added to the USREPS Directory and receive digital credentials.

Cons

  • If you don’t enroll in the top program package, you have to pay to retake the test if you fail.
  • Business skills and nutrition training courses aren’t included in the most basic program package.
  • ACE is not accredited by REPs, so you won’t be qualified to work in the UK.
  • There are minimal in-person teachings, which can make it difficult to learn proper exercise forms.

Not sure ACE is the best option for you? Check out our full list of the best personal trainer certification programs to find a better fit.

A personal trainer watches an athlete do jumping exercises over small hurdles in a private training gym.

How Do I Get ACE certified?

To get ACE certified, you must complete 3–6 months of academic courses and pass a 150 multiple choice exam in three hours.

How Much Does ACE Certification Cost?

You can take the ACE PT certification exam for $499, but this is just the cost for the test alone and does not include the price of other materials like the ACE Personal Trainer Manual (around $150) or application fees, which can range from $75 to $225 depending on your membership status.

The ACE PT exam has a pass rate of about 65%, which might sound like decent odds to some. However, It’s recommended that prospective trainers invest in ACE preparatory materials to maximize their chances of passing. ACE offers three main PT prep packages:

  • ACE Basic Study Package ($675): This package includes ACE University, the ACE Certification Exam, one ACE Practice Test, the ACE Personal Trainer Textbook (digital only), the ACE Personal Trainer Study Companion, and basic ACE Answers.
  • ACE Plus ($745): This package includes everything in the ACE Basic package, along with a hard copy of the ACE Personal Trainer Textbook, an additional ACE Practice Test, ACE Answers (plus), and the Exercise Science 101 Digital Course.
  • ACE Advantage ($975): This package includes everything in the ACE Plus package, as well as Facilitated Study Groups, a dedicated Advantage Team, and a third ACE Practice Test.

How Long Does the ACE Certification Take?

Most people take between 3 and 6 months to finish the ACE personal trainer certification. This includes completing the online program and passing the 150 multiple-choice exam. 

The ACE study course is self-paced. This makes ACE certification a worthwhile goal to pursue in your free time when you can commit to studying and necessarily means that some people might complete it faster than others.

Certification renewal is every 2 years and requires updated CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and AED (automated external defibrillator) information and the completion of 20 hours of Continuing Education Credits (CECs).

Is the ACE Certification Worth It?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for a personal trainer in the U.S. in 2022 was around $45,000. This number varies depending on the market at your location, any specialty training you offer, and how many hours you work.

There is also some data to suggest that certified trainers might make up to 34% more than non-certified trainers.

From a purely monetary perspective, it would seem that if your goal is to train others professionally and maximize your income, investing in ACE certification can well be worth your time.

A young woman sits at a desk in a fitness room while she works on her personal trainer certification program from her laptop.

Additional Info You Need to Know About the ACE Certification

Requirements

In order to be enrolled in the certification program, you must:

  • Be 18 years or older
  • Have a high school diploma (or equivalent)
  • Hold a current CPR/AED certification with a live skills check
  • Present a current government-issued photo ID with a signature

Specialized Certification Programs

ACE certification programs currently offered are Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor, Health Coach, and Medical Exercise Specialist. However, you can stand out in your field by enrolling in a specialized program. This helps you further your knowledge and skills in a particular area of expertise, helping you further your career.

The following are ACE Fitness Specialist programs:

  • Behavior Change
  • The BioMechanics Method
  • Cancer Exercise Training
  • Fitness Nutrition
  • Functional Aging
  • Functional Aging Group Exercise
  • Functional Training
  • Orthopedic Exercise
  • Pain-Free Movement
  • Pilates Mat
  • Senior Fitness
  • Sports Performance
  • Weight Management
  • Youth Fitness

Continuing Education & Certification Renewal

Every two years, you must renew your ACE personal trainer certification. This helps you maintain an up-to-date certificate, refresh your skills, and deepen your knowledge in the health and fitness industry.

Here are the requirements to renew:

You can either earn your CECs through ACE’s offered courses or complete credits at an outside college or educational institution approved by ACE.

What You Can Do With Your ACE Personal Trainer Certification

Any personal trainer looking to take their career to the next level can greatly benefit from the ACE Behavior Change Specialist Program specialization. It allows you to familiarize yourself with the common roadblocks your clients face when trying to start a more healthy and active lifestyle.

You will learn how to help clients set goals, make lasting changes, and build a foundation for success that will ultimately increase the positive outcomes you see in your training with them.

Once you have your ACE certification complete, and before you can begin working at most gyms, private facilities, or community centers, you will need to obtain personal trainer insurance.

Insurance Canopy insures thousands of fitness professionals each year—including hundreds of ACE certified trainers—who work in a variety of industries and locations. We can even cover trainers who work online or out of their homes! 

It’s easy to get started—simply submit an application online in minutes and have instant access to your Certificate of Insurance. Our coverage starts at just $12.50 a month, making it one of the most competitive policies on the market.

Start your career with the protection of Insurance Canopy today.

Frequently Asked Questions About ACE Personal Trainer Certification

How does the ACE personal trainer certification compare to other certifications?

The ACE (American Council on Exercise) CPT Certification is often compared with the NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine), ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine), and ISSA (International Sports Sciences Association). ACE is generally considered more applicable to the general public, emphasizing mobility, strength, and cardiovascular health. Our comparison of the best PT certifications explains more.

Are there any ongoing educational requirements or re-certification processes?

ACE typically requires 20 hours of continuing education in a 2 year period, completed by attending in-person workshops or conferences or through online classes. ACE also requires adherence to a strict code of conduct while certified and a recertification fee of about $129.

What specific career opportunities or advancements can ACE-certified personal trainers expect?

ACE-certified personal trainers have various career opportunities and paths for advancement, largely due to the broad recognition and respect for ACE certification in the fitness industry. ACE PTs can expect career opportunities like working in a gym or as a private personal trainer, health coaching and nutrition, or various specialized training programs.

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