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ACSM Personal Training Certification Review: Pros & Cons

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

When a personal trainer wants to work with special needs clients, they turn to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). Their science-based certification program helps prepare trainers to bring the benefits of health and fitness to more clients who need specialized care.

Let’s take a deeper look at ACSM and what their programs can offer to personal trainers like you.

What Is The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)?

Despite the name, ACSM is not a traditional college where you may earn a degree. ACSM is a worldwide association with more than 50,000 health and fitness professionals working in the sports medicine and exercise science industry. They advance and integrate scientific research to provide educational and practical applications for fitness instructors, like personal trainers.

About ACSM Personal Trainer Certification

ACSM’s certification is designed to help personal trainers become passionate about their work and learn how to lead clients toward their health and fitness goals. It combines practical skills with a scientific-based curriculum to prepare you to start a career at a variety of fitness facilities—such as gyms, health clubs, medical centers, online, spas or retreats, at events or corporate offices, community centers, schools, and more.

Whether you end up as a freelance trainer running your own business or an instructor working at multiple locations, ACSM strives to give you the tools you will need to succeed as a personal trainer. The personal trainer certification program will provide you with an exam content outline, resource books, quizzes, online practice tests, and study flashcards.

An online trainer is sitting on the ground of her home propped up against the side of her couch where she is looking at her client's information on her laptop and writing out notes to make a personalized training plan for them.


To qualify for the ACSM personal trainer certification program, you must:

  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Have a high school diploma or the equivalent
  • Hold a valid adult CPR/AED certificate


The ACSM CPT exam cost will vary based on membership. Pricing is as follows:

  • ACSM Member Candidates: $279
  • ACSM Non-Member Candidates: $349
  • Re-test fee: $175

Specialized Certification Programs

ACSM offers more niche training for those who may work with clients with special health needs. You must have NCAA accreditation to enroll in these programs. ACSM offers:

  • Exercise is Medicine (EIM)
  • Autism Exercise Specialist
  • Certified Cancer Exercise Trainer
  • ACSM/NCHPAD Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer
  • CSM/NPAS Certified Physical Activity in Public Health Specialist

Continuing Education & Recertification

The ACSM personal training certification is valid for three years, after which you will need to recertify. This can be done by completing 45 Continuing Education Credits (CECs) or retaking and passing the certification exam. Recertification fees range from $45-$55, and you will need to also show proof of a current CPR/AED certification.

Pros & Cons of ACSM

To help summarize the findings of our ACSM certification review, we have created a list of pros and cons.


  • ACSM is NCCA accredited.
  • The personal trainer program comes with a 3 year certificate, so you have more time to complete your CECs.
  • They offer the most robust focus on special education certifications, behavior modification skills, and non-profit personal fitness initiatives.


  • The courses are more on the expensive side.
  • There is a lack of in-person teaching and experiences built into the curriculum.
A personal trainer watches an athlete do jumping exercises over small hurdles in a private training gym.

How ACSM Certification Benefits You

Insurance Canopy recognizes ACSM as the best program for personal trainers looking to focus on non-profit or special education certifications. These speciality certifications do a great job at helping trainers work with clients who have special medical needs with varying fitness abilities—such as cancer, chronic illnesses or diseases, physical sensory or cognitive disabilities, and autism.

ACSM knows success is in the details, that’s why they help craft specialized programs and let trainers customize their certification study plan. Insurance Canopy believes you should also have the chance to customize your personal trainer insurance coverage.

Whether you teach online, at multiple locations, or a private health center, you need a protection plan that works with you. For as low as $129 a year, you can buy, customize, and manage your personal trainer insurance entirely online with Insurance Canopy. Our policies include general and professional liability insurance, as well as offer a variety of optional coverages like tools and equipment and cyber liability insurance. Get started in 10 minutes or less today!

Frequently Asked Questions About ACSM Personal Trainer Certification

To get an ACSM personal trainer certification, you must enroll in the certification program online, prepare for the exam by completing online courses, and meet the minimum passing standard score of 550.

Yes, ACSM is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).

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