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ACSM 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.

Last Updated: April 25, 2024

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

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

What Is ACSM?

Founded in 1954, ACSM is a worldwide organization that unites over 50,0000 sports medicine and exercise science professionals around one goal: helping people live healthier through science, education, and medicine. Its strong focus on driving health and exercise research sets ACSM apart from similar groups.

About the ACSM Personal Trainer Certification

The ACSM certification helps personal trainers lead both healthy clients and those with existing medical conditions to their health and fitness goals.

If you want the flexibility to work in health clubs, medical centers, gyms, corporate events, and more, this course’s blend of practical skills and science-based curriculum is designed to get you there.

Whether you end up as a freelance trainer running your own business or an instructor working in many locations, ACSM strives to help you succeed. The ACSM Personal Trainer Certification program offers an exam content outline, resource books, quizzes, online practice tests, and study flashcards.

Pros & Cons of ACSM

To help you weigh the options of becoming a CPT (certified personal trainer) through ACSM, we summarized our ACSM certification review findings into pros and cons.


  • The American College of Sports Medicine is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).
  • The 3-year certificate provides more time to complete continuing education credits (CECs) before needing to recertify.
  • This program offers the most robust focus on special education certifications, behavior modification skills, and non-profit personal fitness initiatives.


  • Courses are on the expensive side compared to other programs.
  • The curriculum lacks in-person teaching and experiences.

Vital Facts About the ACSM Personal Trainer Certification


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

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

*Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) / Automated External Defibrillator (AED)


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

  • ACSM Member Candidates: $299
  • ACSM Non-Member Candidates: $399
  • Re-test fee: $199

Specialized Certification Programs

ACSM offers niche training for those who have clients with special health needs. These programs require NCCA accreditation to enroll.

ACSM offers:

  • Exercise is Medicine® (EIM)
  • Autism Exercise Specialist
  • ACSM-ACS Certified Cancer Exercise Specialist
  • ACSM/NCHPAD Certified Inclusive Fitness Specialist
  • CSM/NPAS Certified Physical Activity and Public Health Specialist

Continuing Education and Recertification

Your ACSM personal training certification is valid for three years. To recertify with ACSM, you’ll need to complete 45 CECs or retake and pass the certification exam. Recertification fees range from $45–$65, and you will need proof of CPR/AED certification.

Personal trainer adjusting a workout to fit an older client.

What You Can Do as an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer

Insurance Canopy recognizes ACSM as the best program for personal trainers seeking non-profit or special education certifications. ACSM knows success is in the details. That’s why they help craft specialized programs and let trainers customize their certification study plan.

Specialty certifications help trainers confidently coach clients with varying fitness abilities due to medical needs. If empowering people with cancer, chronic illnesses or diseases, autism, or physical, sensory, and cognitive disabilities to achieve their fitness goals is your calling, ACSM certification puts the most tools in your toolbox.

Boost Your Credibility With Insurance

Whether you teach online, at multiple locations, or in 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 fitness instructor insurance policies include general and professional liability insurance and offer add-on coverages like tools and equipment or cyber liability insurance to personalize your plan. Get started in 10 minutes or less today!

Frequently Asked Questions About the ACSM Personal Trainer Certification

How Do I Get an 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.

Is ACSM NCCA Accredited?

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

What Ongoing Support Does ACSM Offer for Professional Development?

Personal trainers looking to stay current can pursue ACSM continuing education through free exercise professional resources. Industry news keeps trainers informed about new programs and fitness trends. Blogs, exercise technique videos, and forms cover topics from virtual training to business management.

Premium content for members of the American College for Sports Medicine includes extra training and discounts on continuing education and ACSM events.

How Does ACSM Certification Curriculum Address Trends and Advancements in Exercise Science?

ACSM makes changes regularly to reflect new findings in the fitness field and logs training material updates for members and students.

How Long Does it Take to Get ACSM Personal Training Certification?

Finishing ACSM CPT coursework and scheduling the exam generally takes 10–12 weeks or about 3 months. Since the program doesn’t include in-person teaching, you control the pace.

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