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AFAA Personal Training Certification Review: Pros & Cons

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

When it comes to finding an affordable, quality fitness instructor program, the Athletics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) is a preferred choice.

So, what do they have to offer for personal trainers like you? Let’s take a deeper look at what these programs are and how you can get certified with the AFAA.

What Is The Athletics & Fitness Association Of America (AFAA)?

The AFAA is an educational program for new and returning health and fitness professionals. They offer certification programs to allow trainers to learn more about a given field and learn more about specialized topics.

AFAA believes that by giving trainers a strong educational foundation, they can help trainers better connect with and understand their clients. For over 35 years, it has been AFAA’s goal to help advance the lives and careers of fitness professionals—and allow that to help them improve the lives of their clients.

About AFAA Personal Trainer Certification

Being the first to release nationally standardized guidelines for fitness professionals, the AFAA prides itself on having a robust, trustworthy curriculum for personal trainers. AFAA certifications cover topics such as anatomy, exercise physiology, behavior modification, communication skills, fitness screening, injury prevention, and the basics of nutrition and weight management.

A young man sits on the floor of a fitness room in his home with his back resting against the side of a couch. He is reading his weekly curriculum on his phone for his personal trainer certification.

Pros & Cons Of AFAA

AFAA-01 NFPT-01 ACSM-01 NETA-01 NSCA-01 NAFTA-01 FItness Mentors-01 ISSA-01 NASM-01 ACE-01 NAFC-01
    AFAA      NFPT     ACSM     NETA     NSCA     NAFTA     Fitness Mentors     ISSA     NASM     ACE     NAFC
Qualify 18 years of age
Valid photo ID
CPR/AED certified
Virtual testing equipment
18 years of age
High school diploma or GED
Adhere to NFPT’s Code of Conduct
18 years of age
High school diploma or GED
CPR/AED certified
18 years of age
High school diploma or GED
18 years of age
High school diploma or GED
CPR/AED certified
18 years of age
High school diploma or GED
CPR/AED certified
First Aid certified
valid photo ID
18 years of age
High school diploma or GED
CPR/AED certified
18 years of age
CPR/AED certified
High school diploma or GED
CPR/AED certified
18 years of age
High school diploma or GED
CPR/AED certified
Valid photo ID
18 years of age
High school diploma or GED
CPR/AED certified
Costs Certification program: $499
Textbook: $79
Standard: $299
Premier: $349
Exam only: $199
Member Price: $299
Non-Member Price: $399
Exam only: $349
Self-Study Workshop: $599
Self-Study Standard: $549
Exam only: $499
Member Price: $300
Non-Member Price: $435
✗ No prices available Starter: $399
Plus: $699
Pro: $899
Ultimate: $1,499
Fast track: $99
CPT: $994.30
Fitness Coach: $999.60
Elite Trainer: $1,256
Master Trainer: $1,749.70
Self-Study: $899
Nutrition Bundle: $1,798
CPT Essentials Bundle: $2,397
Exclusive Bundle: $3,295
Basic: $675
Plus: $745
Advantage: $975
Self-Study: $499
Self-Study Plus: $649
Exam only: $149
Length 3–9 months 60–90 days of prep 3 months of prep 30–45 days of prep 6 months of prep 60–70 hours of prep for GEI 3+ months of prep 2–6 months of prep 4–25 weeks of prep 3–6 months of prep 2–3 months of prep
Accredited ✓ GEI only ✓ by NBFE
Specialty Certs ✗ CPT only
CECs / CEUs 15 CEUs every 2 years

–$99 fee
–Optional one-time $399 fee + CEU discounts
2 CECs every year

Flexible options:
45 CECs every 3 years

–Option to retake and pass CPT exam
–$45+ in fees
20 CECs every 2 years

–6 CECs must be from NETA
–$75 fee
1–6 CEUs every 3 years

Flexible options:
15 CEUs every 2 years

–Limited information
–Varies by the program
–Workshops available
2 CEUs every 2 years

–$99 fee
–CPR/AED certification
2 CEUs every 2 years

–CPR/AED certification
–No fee for ISSA CEUs
2 CEUs every 2 years

–CPR/AED certification
–One-time Recertify for Life available
–Renewal fees
2 CEUs every 2 years

–$129 fee
–CPR/AED certification
–CEC Power Pass available
2 NAFC credits every 2 years

–20 hours of NAFC CECs
–Compete a recertification application
Pros ✓ CPT is good for 2 years.
✓ The program is fairly priced.
✓ Subsidiary of the highly regarded NASM.
✓ Good for trainers wanting a self-paced course.
✓ Best for understanding group and general fitness.
✓ CPT is good for 1 year.
✓ Receive materials to help you start and run a PT business.
✓ Free and low-cost CEC courses.
✓ No fee to submit recertification.
✓ Free online retest for the exam.
✓ Specialty CECs.
✓ CPT is good for 3 years.
✓ Known for a robust focus on special education certification.
✓ Best for trainers planning to work with clinical populations or special needs clients.
✓ Free CPT Facebook group.
✓ CPT is good for 2 years.
✓ Hands-on experience through workshops.
✓ Accessible for those without a degree.
✓ Programs cover a wide range of fitness and health topics.
✓ Self-taught curriculum.
✓ CPT is good for 3 years.
✓ No fee or limit to the number of times you may attempt the exam.
✓ Known for a good curriculum and practical application for real-world use.
✓ Best for trainers looking to enter the field of strength and conditioning.
✓ GEI is good for 2 years.
✓ Good for trainers looking to get certified in Group Exercise Instruction (GEI).
✓ Largest provider of CECs in the world.
✓ Best for trainers wanting diverse and affordable specialty CECs/CEUs.
✓ CPT is good for 2 years.
✓ The exam is easier than other programs. Only a 70% is needed to pass.
✓ Large focus on online fitness.
✓ Free resources and study materials for other CPT tests available.
✓ Best for virtual trainers.
✓ CPT is good for 2 years.
✓ Online CPR/AED certification.
✓ Unlimited exam time and 90% of people pass.
✓ Free retests on the CPT exam.
✓ Job placement guarantee.
✓ International recognition.
✓ CPT is good for 2 years.
✓ Most specialty courses and certifications are for CEUs.
✓ State-of-the-art digital learning platforms.
✓ NASM is highly recognized and respected.
✓ Comprehensive course materials and diverse specializations.
✓ CPT is good for 2 years.
✓ Certification bundles available.
✓ Known for a focus on behavior change and a client-centered approach.
✓ Great for new and experienced trainers.
✓ Online learning offers flexibility.
✓ CPT is good for 2 years.
✓ Job placement guarantee available in the Plus Program.
✓ Earn dual certifications.
✓ Count CECs to multiple certification renewals.
✓ Course material is hyper-focused and detailed.
Cons ✗ Limited to a single option.
✗ Not as widely recognized as other associations.
✗ Materials may not fully prepare you to pass the test.
✗ Less emphasis on advanced fitness concepts.
✗ Mostly geared toward first-time trainers.
✗ Only focuses on personal training.
✗ Lack of in-person teaching and experiences built into the curriculum.
✗ Separate costs for study materials and exams.
✗ Study materials are limited.
✗ The exam-only option is expensive and lacks study materials.
✗ No practice exam.
✗ Study materials range from $435 to more than $1000.
✗ CEU recert process can be confusing.
✗ No CPT is available, but there are some PT-focused CECs.
✗ Limited information about the programs is available.
✗ Not as recognized as other programs.
✗ A small list of CECs and niche career focuses.
✗ The ultimate plan may not be worth the cost.
✗ Not all programs are NCCA accredited but are by the DEAC.
✗ Some of the most expensive CPT programs available.
✗ The proctored exam can be a challenge for some.
✗ Requires a significant time investment to understand materials.
✗ Costly plans.
✗ Business skills and nutrition training courses aren’t included in the most basic program package.
✗ Not certified in the UK by REPs.
✗ Curriculum is only self- taught, which may not be best for all learning styles.
✗ Courses start at an intermediate level, not a beginner level.

After looking through AFAA reviews and AFAA certifications, we have created a list of the pros and cons we found. Let’s take a look at what the AFAA can offer personal trainers like you.


  • The AFAA is NCCA accredited, so you know you can trust the education you receive.
  • They are a subsidiary of NASM and host some of their certification programs through them.
    AFAA is a low cost program that doesn’t lack in quality, making it a great alternative.
  • You have the option to recertify for life, which could potentially save you a lot of money throughout your career.


  • The curriculum covers mostly fundamental topics, it doesn’t target super niche trainer certifications.
  • The AFAA is not as widely recognized as other associations.
  • Some online AFAA reviews suggest the test questions are not based on study materials or practice exams, making the test harder to pass.


To enroll in the AFAA Personal Fitness Trainer certification program, you must:

  • Complete your program within 1 year of enrolling
  • Show a valid government issued ID
  • Hold a current CPR/AED certification
  • Have access to virtual testing equipment (webcam, microphone, internet connection)


Depending on the type of fitness instructor career you want to pursue, there are a few different types of certification packages available. The most popular AFAA certification costs are as follows:

*These prices do not account for any discounts or sales.

Specialized Certification Programs

AFAA recognizes that some trainers may specialize in different areas of expertise or want more niche educational courses. These specialized certifications are an advanced credential program that can help to supplement your knowledge. AFAA offers:

  • Group Fitness (CGFI)
  • Indoor Cycling (G.E.A.R.)
  • Personal Trainer
  • Nutrition Coach (NASM–CNC)
  • Sunrise Yoga

Continuing Education & Recertification

Like most other certifications, you will need to renew your AFAA certification every two years. This requires you to complete 15 continuing education units (CEUs) and comes with a $99 recertification fee.

However, the AFAA offers a unique lifetime recertification. You will still need to complete your 15 CEUs every two years, but you only have a one time charge of $399. For professionals who plan on making a career in health and fitness, this is a great opportunity to save time and money. Plus, you get a discount on AFAA continuing education courses, workshops, and more!

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How AFAA Certification Benefits You

Insurance Canopy recognizes and recommends the AFAA as the best certification program for group fitness instruction. If you’re a personal trainer who prefers working with small groups, such as private family or friend sessions, or large groups, like at corporate events or health centers, then this program is sure to give you all the education and tools you need to succeed.

The AFAA does a great job of helping trainers know their next steps after certification. They even help teach you the importance of having insurance, since accidents will not be completely unavoidable during your career. However, the AFAA only recommends one type of personal trainer insurance policy. Not every trainer is the same, and not every insurance policy offers the same coverage options and limits.

Insurance Canopy rivals the AFAA’s suggested policy with a lower price, higher limits, and a plan made to be customized to your needs as a trainer. Our online application makes it easy to buy a policy, tailor your coverage options, and instantly download a Certificate of Insurance. And for as little as $159 a year, our coverage can’t be beat. Just like the AFAA, we know how to offer a high quality product without the heavy price tag.

Frequently Asked Questions About AFAA Personal Trainer Certification

Yes, the AFAA’s Certified Group Fitness Instructor program (CGFI) is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).

An AFAA certification is an educational program to receive knowledge and skills in a chosen field of health and fitness from the Athletics & Fitness Association of America. AFAA certified instructors can receive valuable and hands-on training from experts in the fitness industry.

15 CEUs are required for AFAA renewal every two years, with at least two of those units being completed through AFAA.

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