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NASM Personal Training Certification Review: Pros & Cons

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

In the world of health and fitness, the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) is known as one of the most elite and premiere choices for certification programs—in particular, the NASM personal training certification program.

NASM’s rigorous educational and testing programs create a community of high quality and highly qualified personal trainers. Let’s take a deeper look at what these programs entail and how you can get certified with NASM.

What is the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)?

NASM is an educational program that teaches and certifies millions of fitness professionals in the industry. Their science-based strategies add a unique value to their programs and certifications.

NASM partners with thousands of fitness clubs around the world to help educate and certify fitness professionals in their respective fields. This helps ensure more trainers are properly certified and offer the best services to their clients.

About NASM Personal Training Certification

One of the most popular certifications NASM offers is exclusively made for personal trainers. This exam qualifies you to begin training with customers or start your own personal training business. They also offer educational courses to help first-time instructors and seasoned professionals prepare for the certification exam.

While you don’t have to go through a NASM personal training certification program to take the exam, they do help you prepare for the exam, refresh your knowledge, keep you up-to-date with the latest requirements, and keep you at the top of your training game.

A man sits on the edge of a workout bench next to kettle weights in a workout room as he works on a laptop to receive his personal trainer certification.

Pros & Cons of NASM

NASM-01 NFPT-01 ACSM-01 NETA-01 NSCA-01 AFAA-01 NAFTA-01 FItness Mentors-01 ISSA-01 ACE-01 NAFC-01
    NASM      NFPT     ACSM     NETA     NSCA     AFAA     NAFTA     Fitness Mentors     ISSA     ACE     NAFC
Qualify High school diploma or GED
CPR/AED certified
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
Valid photo ID
CPR/AED certified
Virtual testing equipment
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
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 Self-Study: $899
Nutrition Bundle: $1,798
CPT Essentials Bundle: $2,397
Exclusive Bundle: $3,295
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
Certification program: $499
Textbook: $79
✗ 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
Basic: $675
Plus: $745
Advantage: $975
Self-Study: $499
Self-Study Plus: $649
Exam only: $149
Length 4–25 weeks of prep 60–90 days of prep 3 months of prep 30–45 days of prep 6 months of prep 3–9 months 60–70 hours of prep for GEI 3+ months of prep 2–6 months of prep 3–6 months of prep 2–3 months of prep
Accredited ✓ GEI only ✓ by NBFE
Specialty Certs ✗ CPT only
CECs / CEUs 2 CEUs every 2 years

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

Flexible options:
–Self-tests
–Workshops
–Seminars
–CPR/AED
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:
–Events
–Teaching
–Activities
–Tests
15 CEUs every 2 years

–$99 fee
–Optional one-time $399 fee + CEU discounts
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

–$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.
✓ 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 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.
✓ 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.
✓ 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.
✓ 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 ✗ The proctored exam can be a challenge for some.
✗ Requires a significant time investment to understand materials.
✗ Costly plans.
✗ 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.
✗ Limited to a single option.
✗ Not as widely recognized as other associations.
✗ Materials may not fully prepare you to pass the test.
✗ 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.
✗ 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.

While NASM is a top-rated program, it may not be for everyone. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons NASM has to offer for personal trainers like you.

Pros

  • NASM personal trainers earn more annually than some trainers who certify with competitors.
  • Different levels of expertise allow both beginners and experienced trainers to find valuable materials to help them further their profession.
  • Specialized Certification Programs allow trainers to deepen their knowledge.
  • NASM is recognized and accredited by the NCAA.

Cons

  • There is a lack of specialized focus on athletic performance training.
  • NASM tends to have more expensive certifications than competitors.
  • Because NASM follows a more rigorous curriculum, they have a lower exam pass rate.
  • The hardcopy book and certification retest option is not included in the lowest pricing model.

It’s important to know what you specifically need out of your certification and that your program meets your needs.

Requirements

Beyond having a passion for health and fitness, there are some requirements you need to meet before enrolling in the NASM Certified Personal Trainer program.

You must have a…

  • High school diploma (or equivalent)
  • Current cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification
  • Current automated external defibrillator (AED) certification

Cost

Within each of NASM’s certification programs, you can find different levels of learning. Depending on your needs, the NASM personal training certification costs are as follows:

  • Self-Study: $44/month or $899/year
  • Premium Self-Study: $44/month or $1199/year
  • Guided Study: $57/month or $1599/year
  • All-Inclusive: $144/month or $2699/year

If you are pretty familiar with the curriculum already and just recertifying, you can choose a self-study option. If this is your first time learning the material, it’s recommended you go with one of the guided study options.

You can compare the NASM personal training certification costs for each program type here on their website.

Specialized Certification Programs

NASM understands many trainers specialize in different areas of expertise and need more specific educational courses. A Fitness Specialist Program is an advanced credential program that can supplement your knowledge. NASM offers:

  • Nutrition Certification (CNC)
  • Certified Sports Nutrition Coach (CSNC)
  • Certified Wellness Coach (CWC)
  • Corrective Exercise Specialization (CES)
  • Stretching and Flexibility Coach (SFC)
  • Weight Loss Specialization (WLS)
  • Performance Enhancement Specialization (PES)
  • Home Gym Design Specialization (HGD)
  • Virtual Coaching Specialization (VCS)
  • Behavior Change Specialization (BCS)
  • Group Personal Training Specialization (GPTS)
  • Women’s Fitness Specialization (WFS)
  • Senior Fitness Specialization (SFS)
  • Youth Exercise Specialization (YES)
  • MMA Conditioning Specialization (MMA)
  • Golf Fitness Specialization(GFS)

NASM’s fitness specialization can help you earn Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for recertification, open the door to new fitness careers, and increase the amount of clients you can work with.

Continuing Education & Recertification

You will need to renew your NASM personal training certification every two years. You also need to have earned 20 contact hours, or 2.0 CEU credits, during those two years. Part of this requirement is completing a mandatory CPR/AED certification.

This helps to ensure you are up-to-date with the most current guidelines, in line with the correct safety tactics, and gaining the skills you need to keep up with other professionals in your industry.

A young woman lays on a yoga mat in her home and is propped up on her elbows as she uses one hand to scroll through the curriculum of her personal trainer certification course.

How NASM Personal Training Certification Benefits You

Insurance Canopy recognizes and recommends NASM as the best certification program for personal trainers who would like to specialize in performance enhancement.

NASM’s Optimum Performance Training Model (OPT) is a detailed, scientifically-based fitness training system. The OPT model is created by and unique to NASM. Personal trainers can use this training system to help their clients more effectively reach their fitness goals.

Overall, the NASM personal training certification is a top-rated, quality program. You can be sure you are getting a comprehensive certification from one of the best in the business. You also feel confident knowing your certification will meet or exceed the certification requirement for most health and fitness centers you choose to work at.

However, even if you are certified with NASM, you may be required to show a Certificate of Insurance. Personal training can lead to a lot of client injuries if you are not careful. Plus, waivers don’t have much of a legal standing and cannot offer any financial support if you were to receive a claim. Not being insured prevents many trainers from getting hired at health and fitness facilities or partnering with private businesses.

With Insurance Canopy, you can receive top-rated personal trainer insurance for a low cost. Our liability coverage can help you pay for claims, insure your gear, and meet most insurance requirements—all for as little as $15 a month. Being both certified and insured shows gyms and clients you take yourself seriously as a personal trainer.

Prepare for your career with NASM, and protect your career with Insurance Canopy.

Frequently Asked Questions About NASM Personal Training Certification

The NASM personal training certification cost can range from $44/month or $899/year, up to $144/month or $2699/year.

The NASM certification program can take anywhere from 10–12 weeks to complete. This includes finishing your online courses and preparing for the exam.The program you choose and any CEU’s you add can impact the amount of time the certification takes to complete.

A NASM certification is an educational program to receive knowledge and skills in a chosen field of health and fitness from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. NASM certified fitness instructors are recognized as being trusted, highly educated professionals.

To be NASM certified, you must complete 10–12 weeks of online courses and pass a 120 question exam focusing on topics such as anatomy, physiology, and fitness basics.

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