6 Best Nutrition Certifications

6 Best Nutrition Certifications

Are you considering getting a nutrition certification but don’t know which program to go with?

Not sure what the differences are, the advantages of each, the pros and cons, study parameters, and other insider information? 

Today you are in luck. Below, we have compiled some insider information to help aspiring Certified Nutritionists make the best choice for them. And that last comment there — “best choice for them” — is an important one. The best nutritionist certification is the one that is best for you. As you’ll see below, there are a number of factors that need to be considered before landing on a certification.

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How to Become a Certified Nutritionist

Step 1: Knock Out Your Prerequisites

Before you begin your nutritionist certification course, you’ll want to ensure you have the prerequisites needed to be eligible. Unlike the process to become a personal trainer, the prerequisites to become a certified nutritionist vary greatly from company to company.

Most companies that offer personal training certifications along with nutrition certifications require the below before you can sit for the final exam:

    1. 18 years or older
    2. High school diploma or GED
    3. CPR/AED certification

However, the certifications that are not associated with major fitness bodies such Precision Nutrition or Primal Health Coach do not have prerequisites in place. 

The ACE Health Coach seems to have the most stringent prerequisites in place, including the above three requirements as well as proof of a current NCCA-certification, an associate degree in a wellness related field, a completed health coach training and education program approved by the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaches (NBHWC), or two years years of documented work experience in wellness-type programs.

Bottom line: if you are serious about a specific course, check out their prerequisites to ensure they work for you.

Step 2: Find the Best Nutritionist Certification for YOU

As mentioned earlier, there is no “best nutritionist certification,” only certifications that are the most highly recognized. Nutrition education isn’t one-size-fits all, it’s up to you to determine what the best course is for your career and weigh all your options.

Further, consider how you learn best and how the options presented fit into your learning process. Another important consideration is time; how quickly do you want to get certified? Some options may be quicker than others and that may impact your final decision.

Step 3: Prepare for Your Exam & Pass!

Don’t overlook the importance of scheduling your final exam for your nutrition certification. Putting this off may result in long term procrastination. Still, you have to be realistic with your final exam date and your study timelines.

Once you knock out the exam and get certified, you are on your way to training with clients

Step 4: Start Landing Nutrition Clients

Now that you have a fancy certification next to your name and have learned about how to work with clients and various nutrition goals, you can master the art of helping your clients achieve their goals.

Without further ado, let’s learn about some important considerations you should be aware of as you choose the best nutritionist certification for you!

6 Best Nutrition Certifications

Best Nutrition Certification: An Objective Look into 5 Key Criteria


The majority of the nutrition courses on this list are priced in the same ballpark. The cheapest option at the time of this writing was the ACE Health Coach “Basic” package for $599. They also have a “Plus” package for $749 that includes a hard copy and audiobooks. 

The Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification, NASM Nutrition Certification, and ISSA Fitness Nutrition Certification are all $799. The AFPA has a discounted 100% online course for $649 in addition to the ebook and textbook course that costs $849.

Primal Health Coach does not display pricing information on their website, however, we found a page that shows the course is $2,995, making it the most expensive option on this page. The rationale for the price of this course, and the others, may be suggested in the following section on focus of education.

Primary Focus of Education​

The below information was taken straight off the websites of the certification bodies.

ACE Health Coach Certification: ACE places it’s education focus on business practices and how existing personal trainers can make more money selling this complimentary service. 

AFPA Nutrition & Wellness Consultant Certification: As the AFPA course name entails, this cert is a blend of nutrition and wellness principles rolled into one. It delves into the basics of diet planning, understanding nutrients, vitamins and minerals in one’s diet, and how to use food as energy. In addition to the understanding and planning aspect, this course also helps you build essential skills for consulting clients and developing protocols. Further, there is an educational element geared towards prevention and how food can treat or reverse disease.

ISSA Certified Nutritionist: ISSA’s Certified Nutritionist certification trains you on the ins and outs of nutrition but also places emphasis on the psychology of eating well and making good dietary choices. These principles can help coaches understand and plan based on their clients’ needs, according to the program.

NASM Certified Nutrition Coach: In addition to learning what NASM calls “cutting edge nutrition information,” this course incorporates general nutrition knowledge with program design around building muscle and losing fat. These skills focus on mental plateaus as they relate to diet and nutrition as well as psychological principles that trainers can use to help their clients get results. 

Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification: Often compared to a college level course, the Precision Nutrition certification simplifies complex diet and nutrition information so that you get a full understanding of the fundamentals and diet-planning that you can pass on to your clients. The program also focuses on designing programs that help clients integrate dieting alongside fitness programs to help them set attainable goals.

Primal Health Coach: The Primal Health Coach platform is rooted in evolutionary health science and what they call “learning how to reprogram genes to direct optimal cellular function.” You’ll be able to teach clients insightful combinations of functional fitness as well as efficient fat burning methods and the lifestyle behaviors that are best for them. The health coaching component is rooted in psychology so you’ll also understand the how’s and the why’s of shifting client behavior.

Expected Study Time

ACE Health Coach Certification: Exam is good for 6 months from the purchase date of your study program.

AFPA Nutrition & Wellness Consultant Certification: As long as you need but you need to complete the exam within six months from enrollment.

ISSA Certified Nutritionist: Study at your own pace. 3-5 hours per week, expected to take 4 months. Must sit for exam 12 within 12 months of registering. 

NASM Certified Nutrition Coach: Around 60 hours of total study time. 

Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification: As long as you need. 3-5 hours per week, expected to take 4.5 months.

Primal Health Coach: 60 to 100 hours.

Number of Test Questions

ACE Health Coach Certification: 150 Questions (125 scored and 25 experimental questions)

AFPA Nutrition & Wellness Consultant Certification: 250 Questions

ISSA Certified Nutritionist: 363 Questions

NASM Certified Nutrition Coach: 100 Questions

Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification: 180 Questions

Primal Health Coach: 500 Questions

Popularity of Certification

ACE Health Coach Certification: 7,227 students [*]

AFPA Nutrition & Wellness Consultant Certification: No posted results

ISSA Certified Nutritionist: No posted results

NASM Certified Nutrition Coach: New certification without statistics

Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification: 70,000 students [*]

Primal Health Coach: New certification without statistics

FAQs About Nutrition Certifications

You don’t need to be a personal trainer to get a nutrition certification. However, some nutrition certifications, like the ACE Health Coach Certification, have a prerequisite that you have a NCCA-accredited certification in fitness, nutrition, healthcare, wellness, human resources or a related field. Check with the specific certification beforehand to understand the prerequisites. If you are considering becoming a personal trainer first, check out the highly regarded FM-CPT.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics nutritionists have a median pay of around $60,370 per year, or $29.02 an hour.

The typical online nutrition certification can be completed in six months or less. Many of the programs are self-paced, so it is entirely up to the student in terms of how quickly they prepare and pass their final exam.

Yes, nutrition certifications don’t require a four year degree. While some programs can be obtained within a college setting, many certifications are available online without a degree. Just be sure to check the specific certifications’ prerequisites before enrolling for their respective requirements.

There really is no “best” nutrition certification as the decision is highly subjective. The best nutrition certification is the one that has the best course curriculum, price, and potential skill sets for your professional goals.

A certified nutritionist is a great career for those who love to help others meet their nutrition, health and wellness goals. If you are passionate about people and food, this low stress, high work-life balance job could be a great career for you.

Nutrition Certification Takeaway

A nutrition certification is an ideal option for those who want to help clients understand their health and wellness through food. Whether as a standalone career or as an add-on to your personal training or health career, the knowledge you gain can help others achieve their personal goals. 

The future for certified nutritionists looks bright as the industry is projected for continued growth as more people place an emphasis on the healing and preventative powers of food. As long as there is a trend for people wanting to improve their overall health, there should always be a strong demand for professionals who can help them.

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How to Become an Online Personal Trainer in 2019


How to Become an Online Personal Trainer in 2019

For fitness professionals, becoming an online personal trainer is one of the most sought after approaches to get more clients and make more money.

Chances are, if you are considering this niche you are attracted to it because there is no income ceiling. Online personal training works while you sleep, doesn’t care how many hours there are in a day, and doesn’t put you in a box that forces you to focus on time as an income limiting factor.

Simply put, online personal training as a business model is scalable. 

Creating online training service offerings that help people achieve their fitness and health goals, but do not require a ton of time, allow you to gain back that ever so important personal and financial freedom. 

So, this sounds fantastic doesn’t it? Of course it does, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. 

Today we will learn how to become an online personal trainer, the six different types of online personal training business models, touch on some online personal training revenue streams that you may want to consider, and learn a little about online personal trainer software.

But first, let’s define exactly what an online personal trainer is.

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What is an Online Personal Trainer?

An Online Personal Trainer is someone who enhances the health and fitness of others through internet-based technological mediums.

The definition of an online trainer is very broad, and to be frank, it is supposed to be. Online personal trainers can do the things that are normally associated with personal trainers — improve fitness levels, body image, health, and performance — all online.

With today’s technology, trainers can literally train anyone, from anywhere, at anytime. This gives every personal trainer an additional medium to earn money and increase their personal and financial freedom by creating an online personal training business.

But before you train clients using online mediums you first have to become an online personal trainer.

4 Steps to Become an Online Personal Trainer (the right way)

There is a logical path that exists for you to become an online personal trainer. In fact, we’ve created an entire course around it. Let’s discuss how to become an online personal trainer while also assuming you are already a personal trainer.


Transition Your First Client Over to
Online Training

Before you go head first into online training, my recommendation is to transition one of your in-person clients over to what is called the “hybrid personal training model.” The hybrid model is a blend of traditional personal training (in-person) along with online personal training (more on the online personal training business models below).

This gives you some experience working with clients online and allows you to begin to develop additional revenue-generating programs in the process. For example, you can take an in-person client and create a PDF workout plan for them to follow and interact with them via online mediums. In between in-person workouts you allow your client to follow your guide and regularly check-in with them via email, text message, phone, or some other method that allows for tracking and accountability.

If you like the freedoms this hybrid method of training affords you, you will likely want to learn how to scale it.


Get an Online Personal Training Certification to Help Structure and Scale Your Online Business

Let’s get something out of the way as it concerns becoming an online personal trainer. You don’t actually NEED any special certification to sell or provide personal training services online.

But, and this is a strong but, would you trust a doctor that didn’t have a proper educational background? Would you let a dentist with no dental education work on your pearly whites?

A professional with credentials is important to the consumer, as it builds credibility and trust, and therefore it should be important to you as well. Earning an online personal trainer certification provides you insight into assisting your clients online, understanding business and program creation, scaling your business, and provides you with credentials that were created to enhance the lives of your clients while protecting their safety. In short, in helps to maintain the integrity of the personal training industry as a whole with a set of principles, guidelines, and recommendations that help both you and your clients succeed using this great medium.

So, while you can skip getting an online personal training certification, I highly recommend you start here before establishing yourself as an online personal trainer.

This portion of your education will also help to transition you into a larger role as an online personal trainer while also allowing you more personal and financial freedom, the hallmarks of the online personal training industry.


Start Building Additional Online Training Revenue Streams

If step one taught you how to gain experience using online training and the hybrid model, step three will be the part where you really scale your online business. In the Fitness Mentors Certified Online Personal Trainer certification (FM-COPT), you’ll learn the various assets you can build to help you sell personal training online. 

Online personal training really weighs heavily on business structure, and understanding how to structure your business from start to finish is very helpful for new online trainers. For example, learning how to leverage online PDFs, video libraries, client management platforms, and integrate them into your website are all educational paths you can learn the hard way or the easy way. The FM-COPT will show you how to start building these assets as well as your new online business model based on the six kinds of online business models I’ll explain more below.

After you begin to build out these additional revenue streams, it’s all about getting more clients online.


Get More Clients Online

At this final stage of becoming an online personal trainer you’ve now learned some of the ins and outs of online training with your experience with a hybrid model, you’ve gotten a certification that helps set some structure and shows you how to build assets out to sell more services, and now all you need to do to be more successful is to get more clients online. 

Notice I did not specifically mention marketing here as that is not the only way to get online personal training clients. There is an opportunity for you to bring your existing in-person clients over to your online suite of services and that is probably an easier transition than marketing itself. While marketing will eventually become an important part of scaling your business, I recommend using existing relationships to truly kickstart some of your online training while you laser focus your online business.

If you want some insight into marketing your business, check out our blog on personal trainer marketing and specifically some of the ideas that relate to websites or online services.

Read on to learn about the types of online personal training services can you offer.

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Online Personal Trainer Business Models: The 6 Different Types of Online Personal Trainers

Coaching and training clients online can happen in countless unique ways but the starting point always remains the same: your goal is the focus on improving the health of your clients.

The way you set yourself up as an online personal trainer will dictate the ways you can make money online. It also will determine the amount of clients you can have.

These methods include:

  1. Private Personalized Online Training 
  2. Non-Personalized PDF Fitness Programs 
  3. Non-Personalized Video Fitness Programs
  4. Hybrid Online and In-Person Personal Training
  5. Live Video Chat Workouts Online 
  6. Online Group Personal Training

Let’s take a closer look at each variation to see how they create an online personal trainer business. As you read through these think about how they fit into your style of training and your personal interests for business development.

1. Private Personalized Online Training

The personalized element of personal training is retained in this type of online training, but the difference is this method is that the trainer does not work with the client in-person. Using various communication methods — phone, email, text, and especially software — the trainer provides their clients the tools and program needed to achieve a specific fitness goal. Using some of these same technological resources, the trainer is able to track client progress and ensure client success and retention.

2. Non-Personalized PDF Fitness Programs

Non-personalized PDF fitness programs are created by trainers for general or specific population types. These premade programs usually live on a website and are made available for download. This type of online training requires zero client interaction, but strong online marketing to help drive attention to the program and convince clients to make purchases. 

3. Non-Personalized Video Fitness Programs

Like the above PDF programs, these video programs also do not involve direct client interaction. Instead, trainers provide clients access to a video or a series of videos in which they can follow on their own.

4. Hybrid Online and In-Person Personal Training

The hybrid model is a mix of in-person personal training combined with online resources that allows trainers to provide hands-on services and reinforce them with online tools. These programs usually are more cost-effective for clients as they usually only see a trainer in-person a handful of times each month, and then are free to use the online resources to maintain their workouts on their own. This approach is a good starting point for trainers who are looking to transition clients from 100% in-person to a combination of in-person and online.

5. Live Video Chat Workouts Online

Live video chat or in-person online streaming is a form of training that allows a trainer and a client to see and interact with each other from their computers or mobile devices. A trainer who uses this tool can provide immediate feedback to clients on form, demonstrate exercises, and answer questions in real time. 

6. Online Group Personal Training

An extension of the above, innovative personal training software company gymGO also allows trainers the option to do one-on-one live streaming sessions or train and interact with larger groups of clients, all online. For example, trainers can hold a yoga, pilates, or other group fitness class and have the option to live stream it, record themselves and make their workouts on-demand via memberships. This potentially opens up the door for much larger revenue opportunities for trainers and this online training opportunity has been proven by Peloton with much success.

If you are looking at the above and are wondering if you can combine them together, you absolutely can. Just like in traditional in-person personal training there is nothing stopping you from adding additional services to your offerings. You just have to learn how to find the appropriate channels in which to deliver your services, market your business, and leverage software to your advantage.

In case you want some other ideas for how to monetize your online personal training business, consider some of the following to set yourself apart from other personal training businesses:

  • Nutritional Programs
  • Phone Consultations 
  • Weekly Phone Calls 
  • Email Support and Check Ins 
  • Online Assessments 
  • Memberships 
  • Affiliate Programs
  • Accountability Services
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Considerations for Online Personal Trainer Software

If you are considering expanding your personal training business online one of the investments you’ll want to make will surely be software. Software will help manage your clients, help to deliver programs or services, automate specific tasks, house your documents or videos, and can even help with billing and payments.

Before you decide on a software you should first determine what features you need to run and operate your business. If there is one mistake I see too many trainers make it’s purchasing a software solely based on brands that they’ve heard of rather than features that they need.

Fitness Mentors’ view on online personal training software is that you should focus on finding something that saves you time. Having time allows you to scale your business and potentially make money while you sleep.

Another aspect of online personal training software to consider is how it will play into the evolution of personal training. For example, a recent article in the Wall Street Journal highlighted the trend in fitness for online training and on-demand and virtual, live streaming classes. Many of the existing online personal training softwares don’t allow trainers to leverage this, while newer technologies like gymGO are keeping up with the trainer of the future.

The point is, consider the services that you want to deliver, the demands from clients, the state of the personal training industry as a whole, and how software can help integrate all these aspects to help you scale your business. 

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How to Get Hands-on Training to Build Your Online Personal Training Business

Starting an online personal trainer business has its challenges. Deciding where to put your efforts for the best chance of success and developing strategies can be a bit overwhelming. 

This is why the Fitness Mentors Certified Online Personal Training certification was created. This program, which is also offered as a Week Mentorship, will provide you the insight into creating the business that works best for you while revealing the best strategies for transitioning to a full or part time online personal trainer. 


We encourage this through 5 Major learning sections: 

  • Prepare Your Business – Learn the necessary tasks needed to prepare your business and create services for online success. 
  • Take Your Business Online – Discover the strategies that transition your business to the online space. 
  • Generate Leads to Grow Your Business – Learn the marketing, advertising, and outreach techniques used for attracting an abundance of clients. 
  • Convert Sales – Dive deep into defining your sales personality and use it to set efficient pricing and close sales. 
  • Care for Your Clients – Understand the best practices for supporting your clients and retaining their business to provide yourself with financial freedom and consistent income. 

Choosing to take this path toward creating the career that you envision is an envious task. Your passion for success will shine through as you learn every step toward becoming a successful online personal trainer. 

This passion will allow you to establish yourself as a leader in this new and fast-evolving industry. 

You will be backed by and supported by the quality education provided in this certification course, with the credential to assist thousands of people in improving their health, performance and overall happiness. 

Give yourself credit for taking this step and mentally prepare yourself for the commitment of completing this course and creating the life you want. 

Learn more about the Fitness Mentors COPT today.

Best Personal Trainer Certification

Best Personal Trainer Certification

To help aspiring personal trainers choose the best personal training certification, we’ve decided to put together a list of (mostly) objective criteria we believe trainers are most concerned with. While there really is no “best personal trainer certification,” there are different factors that may better resonate with certain people.

Related: Personal Trainer Courses: 5 Ways to Become a Trainer

Thus, we put together the following factors based on feedback from existing personal trainers and found as much data as possible so we could quantify our research:

  • Accreditation: most gyms only accept personal training certifications that are NCCA, NBFE or DEAC – recognized so this is an important factor for aspiring trainers. These certifying bodies are considered the gold standard for fitness certifications.
  • Price: includes the cost of the test and the cheapest study materials.
  • Pass Rate: the total test takers divided by the passers.
  • Expected Study Time: this is the time you have to take the exam from the time you purchase the study materials.
  • Number of Test Questions: all tests are multiple choice, and we report on the amount of test questions for each exam. We also cover the total time allotted as well as the minimum passing score.
  • CEU Requirements: amount of Continuing Education Units required to maintain certification.
  • Popularity of Certification: indication of the amount of people who have a cert and take the test every year.
  • Primary Focus of Education: while this topic may surprise some, each program varies slightly in what their education process concentrates on teaching you. This information is pulled straight off their catalogs.
  • Average Income: average annual income by certification based on actual user feedback from reputable website Payscale.com.
  • Retake Fee: if you fail the exam the first time, the price to retake the exam again.

Personal Trainer Certifications we Analyzed (with links to websites)

  • NASM – National Academy of Sports Medicine
  • ACE – The American Council on Exercise
  • FM – Fitness Mentors
  • NSCA – National Strength and Conditioning Association
  • ACSM – American College of Sports Medicine
  • NESTA – National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association
  • NCCPT – National Council for Certified Personal Trainers
  • NCSF – National Council on Strength & Fitness
  • ISSA – International Sports Sciences Association
  • AFAA – Athletics and Fitness Association of America
  • NFPT – National Federation of Professional Trainers

Check out our infographic that covers the objective items mentioned above. Below the image is a list of all the items with a breakdown.

Best Personal Training Certification: An Objective Look into 10 Key Criteria

Below we summarize the data contained in the infographic, diving into highlights from each section, explaining why some companies vary so much, and giving an honest assessment of why each of the companies ranks where it does.

We also include a “Personal Trainer Takeaway,” from me, a longtime personal trainer who has worked in almost every facet of the business (big box gym, one-on-one, group fitness, business owner, etc.). This section is a bit more subjective, but will help you consider some things that a purely objective analysis might not.

In some instances, we were not able to find data for each of the certifying bodies and we made estimates. This estimated data is not presented in the infographic but we make mention of it here.

Let’s clear up some Personal Trainer Certification FAQs before diving in.


1: How do you get certified to be a personal trainer?

To be eligible for most certified personal trainer exams, you typically need to meet the following criteria:

  1. Be 18 years old
  2. Have a high school diploma or equivalent certification
  3. Have a Emergency Cardiac Care (CPR) or Automated External Defibrillator (AED) certification

These requirements may vary from certification to certification, but these are the basic guidelines for a CPT. From there, you simply register for an exam, study, pass, and begin your career.


2: How much does it cost to get certified as a personal trainer?

We cover the specifics of how much each certification body charges for the exam and study materials below, but the range is between $399 and $799.

So, you can figure it will cost you around $500 to get certified as a personal trainer for most certification bodies.


3: How long are personal training certifications good for?

The personal trainer certification length is good for life provided you keep up with continuing education requirements of your certification. Another way of explaining this is that you’ll have to understand that each personal trainer certification company has different requirements for their trainers to maintain their certifications. The general rule of thumb is a certification must be renewed every two years and is done so by taking continuing education courses. See our chart and description below to learn more about each certification.


4: What is the cheapest personal training certification?

The Fitness Mentors Personal Trainer Certification is the cheapest personal training certification at $399 including the digital textbook, 8 types of study materials, and the exam. This option is completely online and therefore does not have some of the unnecessary costs associated with the others.


5: What is the easiest personal trainer certification?

This is very subjective question, however, ISSA is generally considered the easiest CPT as the test is taken online in your own home and has no time limit.


6: How long does it take to become a personal trainer?

There are five basic ways you can become a personal trainer and each will vary in the time it takes to start the process to get your certification. You can theoretically get a personal trainer certification in as little as a few hours, but this method, available through unaccredited online companies, would be unlikely to help you get a job or equip you with any real knowledge. Furthermore, this method is not recommended by Fitness Mentors.

The other options and general timelines to get certified are:

  1. Self-study: Certification via Accredited US Company — 6 months +/-
  2. Certification via Vocational College — 30 to 42 weeks
  3. Certification and Degree via University Programs — 4+ years
  4. Certification via Gym Program (usually unaccredited training programs, not certifications) — 90 hours +/-
shutterstock CPT Prep
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Accreditation standards are developed by several third-party credentialing organizations to maintain a level of professionalism within the fitness industry. These designations showcase that a certification body has created a high-quality program that ensures the safety and wellbeing of the public. Fitness certifications that wish to be accredited have to submit their programs and final exam to be evaluated on an individual basis. This ensures that they meet the highest standard and validates that the aspiring trainer has the competency for entry level employment.

With the exception of AFAA and ISSA, every personal training certification body on this list has the option for a National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) accredited exam, which is the gold standard for fitness certifications. This is important to trainers because most gyms will only accept personal trainer certifications that are accepted by an NCCA-accredited body. So, if you are like many trainers who want to jumpstart their career by working in a gym, you may want to avoid a cert that is not NCCA-accredited.

If you are looking for a more entrepreneurial route other than working in a gym, the FM-CPT is known for having the most business emphasis in their education. AFAA is currently rebuilding their program so that they will be accredited, but their main emphasis is their group fitness certification. ISSA does have accreditation with Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) and National Board of Fitness Examiners (NBFE), and is accepted at most gym chains.

Personal Trainer Certifications with the option for NCCA Accreditation:


Personal Trainer Certifications with National Board of Fitness Examiners (NBFE) Affiliation


Personal Trainer Certification with DEAC Accreditation:

  • ISSA

Personal Trainer Takeaway:

Be sure to check with your top employment options to find out which certifications they accept, as that may limit your certification choices. For example, if you have a friend that works at 24-Hour Fitness and says he can get you a job if you get certified, get a list of the certifications they honor so you know you’ll be a shoe-in.

Similarly, if you plan on working at a smaller shop with other personal trainers, inquire with them first if they will accept the personal training certification you are leaning towards. Bottom line, determine where you want to work, then see if those places have requirements on the types of PT certs they accept for employees.


The Price includes the cheapest study package and test.

Most of the personal trainer certification bodies sit around the $500 price range for the exam and the study materials. Fitness Mentors is the least Expensive at $399, and ACE ($599), NSCA ($712.80), and NASM ($699) are a full $100 to $300 more expensive.

For ACE and NASM, this is likely due to the popularity of the brands, while the NSCA seems to be expensive in general for these upfront costs as well as the Retake Fee (more on that below).


Personal Trainer Takeaway:

You should determine what matters most to you: prestige or cost? If you want to go with a more recognized name in the industry (NASM, ACE) it will cost more. If you only need an inexpensive, accredited certification for quick employment, look toward the less expensive certifications (Fitness Mentors, NFPT, NESTA).

However, also consider CEU requirements, income, as well as the above accreditation factors before you pull the trigger. While price may be the most important factor to you, all the factors on this page may influence your final decision beyond your initial investment.

Pass Rate

The cert with the best pass rate is ISSA at 89.9%, while ACSM, at 54%, sits on the bottom end. The ISSA has the best pass rate because it is the only open book exam out of the bunch, and there is no time limit on the exam.

There is no data on the Pass Rate for the AFAA because they are rebuilding everything to get NCCA accredited.


Personal Trainer Takeaway:

Some tests are much harder than others. If we use pass rate as our main reference point, it would appear that ACSM, NSCA, and NCSF have the most difficult tests. This can mean these tests are the hardest to pass or the educational experience provided is not sufficient in preparing students for the subject matter on the test.

Or, it could mean these tests tend to focus on more difficult subjects like anatomy, physiology and biomechanics. The study experience — books, study guides, practice exams, access to instructors, etc. — from fitness organizations can vary widely. The feedback from students is that some study curriculum does not fully prepare a student for a final exam as well as it could, while others find that the preparation materials provided fully prepare them for the final exam. This is why students often use third-party educators like Fitness Mentors to provide education for multiple certification exams like NASM and ACE.

Expected Study Time

The expected study time is inferred from the time the certification bodies give you when you buy the study materials until the time you have to take the exam.

NCCPT: As long as you need. 80-100 hours recommended study time.

Fitness Mentors: 6 Months with 80 hours of recommended study time.

NESTA: Study as long as you need but must complete the test within 90 days of requesting the exam voucher.

ACSM: 3, 6, 12, or 24 month options.

ACE: Schedule test before 6 months of purchase ends but can take it before 9 months.

ISSA: 6 months to complete.

NASM: Must complete in under 6 months.

NCSF: Must complete in under 6 months.

NCSA: 120 days after purchasing exam.

NFPT: 12 Months after purchasing exam.



Personal Trainer Takeaway:

The timeline you have to complete the test matters depending on your situation. Are you currently unemployed and need a training job as soon as possible? You would then want the shortest study time and easiest test. Are you looking to become certified without the need for immediate employment? Maybe a longer study time would be needed since you are less motivated for immediate results. Also, keep in mind how much time you have to put toward your studies? If you only have two hours a week, you may not be able to complete your studies in the allotted time.

The main takeaway here is to not just look at the exam with the least amount of study time and say, ‘that’s for me!’ Instead, take an honest assessment of your current financial situation and the certification you really want and make the best decision for your future.

Number of Test Questions

Below: Number of test questions / total test time / minimum passing score

NASM: 120 questions / 120 minutes/ 70% or higher is passing

ACSM: 120 questions / 120 minutes / 68.75% or higher is passing. 800 points available based on scaled questions, 550 points needed to pass

Fitness Mentors: 100 questions / 120 minutes / 70% or higher is passing

AFAA: 120 questions online exam / 120 minutes / 70% or higher is passing

NFPT: 120 questions online exam / 120 minutes / 70% or higher is passing

NESTA: 125 Questions / 120 minutes / 69% or higher is passing

NCCPT: 140 Questions / 120 minutes / 72.7% or higher is passing

NCSF: 150 questions / 180 minutes / 62% or higher is passing

ACE: 150 questions / 180 minutes / 62.5% or higher is passing. 800 points available based on scaled questions 500 points needed to pass

NSCA: 155 questions / 180 minutes / 70% or higher is passing

ISSA: 160 questions / unlimited time / 75% or better is passing


Personal Trainer Takeaway:

What type of test taker are you? A confident test taker will not need to worry about the length of test or number of questions. Someone whose mind goes blank because of testing anxiety may want to consider the shorter test like Fitness Mentors, NASM or ACSM. Or, if you have an extreme fear of tests consider Fitness Mentors or ISSA as the tests are open book. Just make sure your potential employer approves this certification.

CEU Requirement

The NCSF has by far the least amount of CEUs required at 10 credit hours. At the other end, NSCA trainers are required to obtain 60 CEUs. However, these numbers alone don’t tell the whole story, you should also consider the time periods in which these hours are required, as well as the costs to recertify.

NCSF: 10 hours of CEUs and $50 to recertify every 2 years

AFAA: 15 Hours of CEUs and $99 to recertify every 2 years

NASM: 20 hours of CEUs and $99 to recertify every 2 years

Fitness Mentors: 20 hours of CEUs and $99 to recertify every 2 years

ACE: 20 hours of CEUs and $129 to recertify every 2 years

ISSA: 20 hours of CEUs and $99 to recertify every 2 years

NCCPT: 20 Hours of CEUs and $75 to recertify every 2 years

NESTA: 40 hours of CEUs and $149 to recertify every 4 years

ACSM: 45 hours of CEUs and $30 to recertify every 3 years

NFPT: 10 hours of CEUs and $50 to recertify every year

NSCA: 60 hours of CEUs and $50 to recertify every 3 years


Personal Trainer Takeaway:

Recertification is required by all certifying bodies. The process of recertification varies slightly, but one common ground is that they require you to continue your education and show proof of this newly obtained knowledge via CEUs or Continuing Education Units.

Also, there are typically 1,000s of courses to choose from to continue your education and we have compiled a list of our favorites here. Another consideration is that the more CEUs that are required by a provider the more money you will spend on recertifying (roughly $20 per contact hour) which makes NSCA (60 hours) and ACSM (45 hours) less appealing financially. Hopefully, this will not matter if you are successful in your personal training career. To ensure that you are successful check out this highly recommended business and sales course for personal trainers.

Popularity of Certification

The popularity of a certification is based on the number of trainers with a specific cert in the field as well as the number of test takers per year. Not reported in the graph is the number of tests taken per year.

NASM is by far the most popular of all personal training certifications at over 22,000 attempts per year. NSCA, who is also the second-most expensive certification, has the least amount trainers with their cert. This is a bit odd considering NASM, a brand with lots of interest, can justify this interest by charging more.

AFAA said they have 350,000 certified but for a different group fitness certification. Thus, we didn’t include it on the reporting of the infographic.

The number of tests taken per year is provided below:

NASM: 22,304 attempts per year

ACE: 13,103 attempts per year

ISSA: 10,696 attempts per year

ACSM: 5,226 attempts per year

NFPT: 2,684 attempts per year

NCSF: 2,455 attempts per year

NSCA: 1,529 attempts per year

NESTA: 1,515 attempts per year

Fitness Mentors: 565 attempts per year

NCCPT: 355 attempts per year


Personal Trainer Takeaway:

The way that we look at this statistic is mainly by determining the recognition for each certification body. It is assumed that the more people that take a certification the more well-known that certification is. Popularity can be seen as a reputation builder meaning that more people trust that company, but it also can be determined by the volume of marketing and advertising a company puts in.

To give a brief example of this, NASM advertises on TV and radio in our local area. This leads to more people in general recognizing the NASM brand and name. When trainers say they are NASM-certified, their clients typically recognize the brand name because of the abundant advertising and that makes the trainer more reputable, even though the client knows nothing about the quality of education NASM provides.

On the other hand, some progressive companies, like Fitness Mentors, have introduced a relatively new certification. For this reason, they don’t yet have the same number of tests taken as organizations that have been around for dozens of years. The benefit of some of the newer certifications, however, is that they are able to fill voids where some of the older organizations lag. Fitness Mentors is 100% online, boasts more study materials than many of the other certifications, offers personal mentorships, and provides access to instructors. ISSA is also a 100% online option, rounding out the more progressive companies that are keeping up with modern demands of trainers who capitalize on online learning and test-taking.

The question you must ask is ‘do I care if my clients recognize the name of my certification?’ If so, choose a certification with more popularity. Just keep in mind that most clients don’t know and don’t care what certification you have, but employers do so make sure your chosen employer accepts the cert.

Primary Focus of Education

This information was taken straight off the catalogs of the certification bodies.

NASM: Exercise Technique and Training Instruction

ACE: Behavioral Modification for Fitness Goals

Fitness Mentors: Fitness Program Design and Business Success

NSCA: Techniques of Exercise

ACSM: Exercise Leadership and Client Education

NESTA: Business Applications

NCCPT: Exercise Application

ISSA: Program Design

NCSF: Exercise Prescription and Programming Considerations

NFPT: Goal-oriented Program Design in User-friendly Format


Personal Trainer Takeaway:

Most of the certifying bodies will be very similar in their balance of educational topics, due to the NCCA regulation that forces companies to do a Job Task Analysis. This Job Task Analysis determines the most important knowledge to have to be successful in the field and is typically the same across the board. Therefore, each company is required to have the same topics of education. ISSA is the outlier here as they are not required to stick with NCCA’s guidelines, but the balance of educational topics does not stray too far from the others.

Average Income

While the personal trainer certification bodies don’t publish this information, we are able to average data from self-reported data on reputable websites.

At the top tier of income is NASM and ACE, at $41,598 and $41,546, respectively. NCSF comes in at $35,061, the lowest of incomes we were able to find data on.

For NESTA, NCCPT, and ISSA, we were unable to find data but are able to estimate based on the popularity of each certification and the income reported for that cert. We estimate that these individuals, on average, make:

  • NESTA: $37,531
  • NCCPT: $35,101
  • ISSA: $36,235

Personal Trainer Takeaway:

These incomes are averages of about 30+ different people holding the same certification working as fitness professionals. We know trainers that make $200,000 per year as well as $20,000 per year all of which have the same and/or different certifications. Your success as a business person is determined by your drive, knowledge of key business and sales techniques, location and various other things. To find out how to optimize your success we recommend this online course.

Retake Fee

Should you fail the exam the first time around, all the certifications bodies charge to retake it. NSCA, the provider with the most expensive retake fee ($435), charges almost eight times more than the cheapest provider Fitness Mentors ($50), while the bulk of the other providers are in the $100 to $200 range.


Personal Trainer Takeaway:

The takeaway here is to prepare for whatever test you take, and make sure you pass the first time around!

Who to Pick for the
Best Personal Training Certification

Again, choosing a personal training certification is a very subjective decision and certain factors may weigh more heavily with specific individuals. For example, if price is a factor, then NASM may not be the best option for you. However, when you look at income, NASM personal trainers tend to make the most, showing that this is likely the best investment in your future.

If you are a terrible test taker, the Fitness Mentors CPT exam may be appealing to you as it is open book and has a nearly 80% pass rate.

The amount of CEUs required, as well as the recertification fee, are also an important consideration as this is required by all the certification bodies.

The point is you should be objective in your selection and determine what factors are most important to you. Talk to some other trainers and ask them what cert they have, if they like it, and if they’d recommend it to you. But remember, any trainer you ask advice for will likely be partial to whatever certification they have.

If you are interested in two personal training certifications for the cost of one, the NFPT and Fitness Mentors have partnered to provide the best education experience in the industry with the power of earning two CPT Certifications at once.

I hope that this post has helped you make the decision to choosing the best personal training certification for you that much easier. If you have any questions, or would like to see anything else added to this list, please leave a comment below.

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How to Start a Personal Training Business: The Ultimate Guide

How to Start a Personal Training Business:
The Ultimate Guide

The Ultimate Guide

With over 330,000 personal training jobs forecasted in the US by 2026 and a growing body of fitness-conscious individuals, it seems now, more than ever, is the best time to start a personal training business.

However, without a strategy or a sound personal trainer business plan, you’ll make the process of becoming a self-employed personal trainer harder than it needs to be.

To help you start a personal training business that has the greatest chance of success, we’ve put together this ultimate guide so you can avoid common pitfalls, save money, and understand how to put a business plan together that works.

In this ultimate guide on how to start a personal training business, you’ll learn:

  • First Steps for Personal Training Business Preparation
  • How to Create a Personal Trainer Business Plan
  • Types of Personal Training Businesses You Can Start
  • How to Become a Successful Personal Trainer

And if you want an even deeper dive into business structure, building your book of business, sales techniques, and more, check out the online masterclass, Business and Sales: The Guide to Success as a Personal Trainer.

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Types of Personal Training Businesses
You Can Start

Today’s personal trainers come from a mixed bag of backgrounds. Some work at gyms, others with colleges or sports teams, many work at community centers, and some create their own personal training businesses.

The businesses that personal trainers can start usually fall into the below categories:

  • Train at a Private a Gym that Allows You to Pay Per Session
  • You Train at Clients’ Homes/Facilities
  • You Train Clients at Your Own Home
  • Start a Personal Training Business Online

Train at a Private a Gym that Allows You to Pay Per Session

In a recent post on personal trainer salaries, we discussed a payment structure where the trainer could bring in their own clients to gyms that they had relationships with. In these relationships, the personal trainer and their clients are independent from the gym’s payroll or clientbase, respectively.

The gym allows trainers and their clients to utilize their facilities and the trainer is able to charge whatever they can negotiate with their clients. The catch is that the trainer will pay the gym a fee each time the facilities are used.

In-home Personal Training: You Train at Clients’ Homes/Facilities

An increasingly popular personal training business is taking your in-person personal training services to the homes or facilities of your clients. If you are interested in this route, there are a few things that you’ll have to keep in mind as you start an in-home personal personal trainer business.

The main question and concern you’ll have as an in-home personal trainer is the type of equipment the client has or that you need to bring. If a client lives within a gated community, condo, or other association with a community gym, then you may have access to some decent machines and/or equipment.

If the training setting is, for example, your client’s living room, you’ll have to get more creative. This may limit the exercises you are able to perform and may impact the results without proper planning.

Regardless, a good trainer can adjust to the equipment on hand and will figure out a way to make the training as effective as possible.

In-home Personal Training: You Train at Your Own Home

In-home personal training in your own homes is similar to training at your clients’ homes with the exception that the training is performed at your home and your clients come to you.

Most trainers I know who train at their own homes have fairly elaborate garages that are built out to accomodate a number of different machines and equipment. This too is a popular form of personal training and can be an ideal business model for trainers who have the space within their homes or who don’t mind clients coming to their personal residences.

Start a Personal Training Business Online

Online personal training is by far the most exciting new personal training business model out there. Compared to the other personal training business models, this model varies in that the personal trainer does not have to meet in-person with a client to create a massive impact on their health. In fact, because of new technology, a trainer can work online from anywhere in the world and change the lives of tens, hundreds, thousands and even millions of people.

So, what is an online personal trainer?

An Online Personal Trainer is someone who enhances the health of others through internet-based technological mediums.

The variety of online personal trainer businesses is broad, but here is a overview of they types of online personal training businesses you can start:

  • Private Personalized Online Training
  • Non-Personalized PDF Fitness Programs
  • Non-Personalized Video Fitness Programs
  • Hybrid Online and In-Person Personal Trainer
  • Live Video Chat Workouts Online
  • Online Group Personal Trainer

Private Personalized Online Training

The private personal online model is most like traditional in-person training. The trainer performs all the tasks of a normal personal trainer but does not work with the client in-person. Through specific software, phone, email and text messaging, this trainer provides all the tools and programming needed to achieve a fitness goal, and the client follows along without the trainer being present.

Fitness Mentors

Non-Personalized PDF Fitness Programs

Premade, downloadable programs are made by the trainer and published online. These non-personalized models involve zero client interaction and are generally pushed over to the client through automated software.

Non-Personalized Video Fitness Programs

Video fitness programs have been around for a long time. However, the advantages for today’s  trainers are the ability to store their premade workout programs online and provide immediate access to a workout video library. Like the PDF programs, there is no client interaction.

Hybrid Online and In-Person Personal Trainer

The hybrid model utilizes the internet to deliver programs to local clients, but also involves in-person training 1-4 times per month. Using a “hybrid” model allows the client to

receive the hands-on training of a personal trainer at a lower cost, since most of

the program is performed on their own. This is a great starting point for trainers

looking to take their business online.

Live Video Chat Workouts Online

Video chats or calls allow the trainer to see, hear, and interact with a client live, but not actually in-person. This allows the trainer, and client, to benefit from immediate feedback on form, exercise demonstrations, and cueing.

Online Group Personal Trainer

The online group personal trainer performs live group fitness classes, records them, and delivers them to as many people as possible. Think of on-demand workout classes — Online Boot Camp, Yoga, Pilates, Etc.– that require membership to access the content. Companies like Peloton have cornered this niche exceptionally well and proven people will subscribe to workout in the comfort of their homes.

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How to Become a Successful
Personal Trainer

Now that you have gone through the foundational steps of getting certified, specializing, launching a brand, and choosing the type of personal training business you want to start, now you’ll need to move on to business development.

We do a deep dive on the below in our Business and Sales course, but here are some talking points you’ll want to include in your personal trainer business plan.

Setting Prices

Every successful personal trainer has to figure out how to price their services for maximum profit and value to the client. As your own boss, you are able to charge whatever you like. Here are some things you should consider:

  • Location- Where are you training? A trainer in Malibu will justify charging more than a trainer in Compton.
  • Economy- Personal training is a luxury item for most. When the economy turns, so does interest in luxury items. Be understanding of this when setting prices.
  • Target Population- Set a price that is attainable for your target population by understanding what they might pay for your products/services.
  • Cost to Train Client- Consider things like the travel expenses, the payments you have to make to use a private gym, tools and equipment such as machines and dumbbells, and other expenses like software. You should understand the difference between gross and net income.

Read more: How to Set a Pricing Structure for Your Personal Training Business


Addressing Buyer Hesitation

If every trainer pitched a potential client and got “Yes, I’m in” as an answer we’d all be rich. Thing is, people are not always convinced of your value and have what we call buyer hesitation.

Here are some areas that are common for buyer hesitation and how you can address them.

  • Fear of failure- The thought of accomplishment can outweigh the fear of failure; attach a positive emotion toward your service and give them a little more inclination to buy.
  • Perceived value is less than the cost- Your presentation for services must convince the buyer that the the money is worth the expense.
  • Money- Quite simply, if you have approached a potential client and they truly do not have the means to purchase, then the sale will be impossible. It is important to find that out as soon as possible rather than spend a lot of time/effort only to find you are out of their league.
  • Lack of proof- If a client does not believe what you are selling will work, they will be hesitant to buy. Combat this with examples of clients like them that have experienced the results you are selling.

Read More:


Personal training marketing… There can be entire books written on the topic and while related to starting a personal training business, it goes so far beyond those beginning stages.

One of our most popular articles is all about personal trainer marketing and has 19 personal training ideas catered at getting you more clients. Some of these ideas include:

  • Getting featured on industry blogs
  • How to use email marketing
  • How to create effective referral documents
  • How to do personal trainer search engine marketing
  • And more…

If you are planning on getting some help with your marketing and hiring a firm or doing some advertising, note that the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) recommends spending 7 to 8 percent of your gross revenue for marketing, and up to 10 percent if you want to be a bit more aggressive.

Start Your Personal Training
Business Today

This ultimate guide has nearly everything you need to begin the process of starting your very own personal training business. If you need extra guidance, or like the idea of a reputable personal training certification, check out the Fitness Mentors CPT. If you already are a trainer but want to further specialize and hone your knowledge, check out our CEU courses and blog. If you want a full course on the above with more details and step-by-step instruction, check out our Business and Sales course.

If you have any comments or questions, please post them below.

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Top 5 Exercise Science Careers and The Best Education Paths

Top 5 Exercise Science Careers and The Best Education Paths

Are you considering an Exercise Science degree or asking yourself “what can you do with an exercise science degree?” to help plan for your future?

Whatever your stage in life — consideration, current Exercise Science student, or recent grad — this post is for you.

As a previous Exercise Science graduate (I studied Kinesiology at California State University, Long Beach) I can give you a little taste of the college route (as well as other education paths) and provide insight into the options for Exercise Science careers.

But first, let’s define what Exercise Science is.

What is Exercise Science?

Exercise Science describes the study of the body under the stress of exercise including acute and chronic adaptations like the effects on overall health parameters, pathologies, and its potential to reduce, or reverse, disease progression.

Some other areas of study within Exercise Science vertical that you might see at various educational institutes are:

  • Kinesiology
  • Fitness & Health
  • Exercise Physiology
  • Biomechanics
  • Exercise Nutrition

You can also expect a strong educational emphasis in the areas of anatomy, physiology, chemistry, biology, and oftentimes, physics.

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What can You Do with an Exercise Science Degree?

If there is one thing I want to emphasize about studying Exercise Science is that the majority of careers in the field require additional graduate school coursework. Yes, that is worth repeating.

Exercise Science is a common prerequisite for graduate level programs in careers such as:

  • Doctor (MD)
  • Exercise Physiologist
  • Registered Dietician
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Physical Therapist
  • Physician Assistant

The important takeaway here is that for most, the bachelor’s degree in and of itself does not get them to the career that they want. Additionally, and as I will get into more below, the career you want might not require a four year college degree in Exercise Science.

However, if you are interested in some of the above careers that require education beyond a B.S. degree, by all means continue on the path that makes the most sense for you.

I emphasize this point because I have met many people who studied Exercise Science in college only to find that they either did not realize they needed additional education to get the career they wanted, or realized there were quicker, more affordable ways to get into the career they wanted.

That said, listed below are some careers that you can get without additional education after your Bachelor’s in Exercise Science degree, including:

  • Athletic Director
  • Community Program Director
  • Massage Therapist
  • Recreation and Sports Director
  • Sports Coach
  • Sports Facility Manager
  • Strength and Conditioning Coach

Provided below are the most popular career paths in Exercise Science, which may or may not include a college education, are below.

Top 5 Exercise Science Careers


Personal Trainer

By far, the most common career path chosen by people looking to have an Exercise Science career, as well as who are currently studying Exercise Science, is personal training.

The benefits of a career in personal training are numerous and can even be aligned with that of any of the other careers on this list.

For starters, you don’t need to get a bachelor’s degree to become a personal trainer. In fact, there are five separate ways you can become a personal trainer, ranging from certification from accredited companies, to vocational college, to university programs, to online options, and internal gym programs.

If your heart is set on becoming a personal trainer it certainly would be helpful for you to understand your options for certification beforehand.

Now, I am certainly not knocking university or college-based personal training certification options — I got my B.S. at a university and was a college instructor afterward — but I do understand that it may not be an option for everyone.

But what if you want a career that requires a college degree? Would it still be beneficial consider a personal training certification?

Let’s say you choose any of the aforementioned education routes for your career in Exercise Science: college degree or not.

Either way, you can benefit from a personal training certification no matter what route you take. If you are wanting to have a career as a personal trainer, you can get certified in as little as two to five months and start making money right away.

If you are in college and are studying Exercise Science, it is still a good idea to get a personal training certification because you can begin gaining experience within your career immediately and can even pay for your education, through your personal training income.

For example, while I was in college I used my personal training certification to my advantage. I was able to train clients around my school schedule given the flexibility of the career. This provided me industry experience, but also allowed me to pay my way through college.

I also became certified as an Online Personal Trainer and trained clients through the internet, which gave me even more freedom to complete my studies and enjoy the college experience. 

Top 5 Reasons Personal Training is a Popular Exercise Science Career

So, no matter what your long-term goals are, getting a personal training certification can help in the following ways:

  1. Puts money in your pocket
  2. Allows you to gain experience in the Exercise Science field
  3. Helps pay for college (if you are shooting for a B.S., or advanced degree)
  4. Provides a strong foundation to further your exercise science studies


Physical Therapist

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a career in Physical Therapy has some very promising advantages.

For starters, the median pay approaches $90,000 per year, is expected to grow 28% by 2016 (which is much faster than average), and consistently ranks as one of the best jobs in healthcare for work-life balance.

Physical therapy jobs tend to require a doctoral degree (DPT), although some may accept a master’s degree. CostHelper.com says that doctoral physical therapy degrees can cost $35,000 (such as the doctorate in physical therapy at the University of Illinois at Chicago), or much more for out-of-state students, such as The University of Delaware’s doctoral program which costs over $75,000. That is on top of the money you spend for your bachelors degree.


Athletic Trainer

Athletic trainers also rank high on this list as the profession is similar in scope to that of personal trainers, yet requires a formal bachelor’s degree in a specialized program and the passing of a state licensure exam. Athletic trainers have a median income of $46,630 per year according to the BLS, and have a rapid rate of employment at 23% when looking out to 2016.

One of the coolest things I find about athletic trainer careers is that they often work alongside athletes within educational settings such as colleges of universities.This often means these professionals are the ones who work hand-in-hand with some of the best up-and-coming athletic talent in the country.

They can also work with younger students, within hospitals, or even for professional sports teams.


Exercise Physiologist

With a median pay of just under $50,000 per year, and a faster than average job outlook, a career in exercise physiology is a popular choice for many looking to put their Exercise Science degree to work.

This type of career typically requires a Masters in Exercise Physiology, which on average takes 6 years of total college time as well as requires board certification through the American Society of Exercise Physiologists.

Another interesting aspect of this career is that about half of all exercise physiologists are self-employed. So if you have an entrepreneurial spirit and enjoy the freedom of owning your own business, you may be able to do well in this career.


PE Teacher

According to ZipRecruiter, PE teachers make about $42,500 per year. While this is the lowest salary on this list, you have to remember that these teachers tend to have summers off and benefit from all school holidays as well as teacher pensions.

Typical education requirements for this career include a bachelor’s degree in exercise science as well as a teaching credential or a masters in education. Often times a personal training certification will enhance the likelihood of employment as well.

We also can’t forget that PE teachers get to hang out in gym clothes all day, coach fun sports like kickball and dodgeball, and even be physical fitness role models for many of their students.

Granted there is some give and take for each of the professions on this list in terms of knocking off all the boxes of the most ideal career, but the daily life of the PE coach can be very rewarding.

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Exercise Science Degrees and Educational Considerations

As we have learned above, not all careers within Exercise Science require a full-fledged bachelor’s degree. Similarly, we’ve learned that many sought after degrees within Exercise Science require advanced degrees such as master’s or doctoral degrees.

With that in mind below is a comprehensive list of the many careers and their educational obligations. Note that some of these careers may overlap in multiple categories.

Exercise Science Careers that don’t require Degrees

  • Personal Training
  • Aerobics Instructor
  • Fitness Coach
  • Gym Manager
  • Massage Therapist
  • Physical Therapy Assistant

Exercise Science Careers that require Bachelor’s Degrees

  • Athletic Director
  • Community Program Director
  • Kinesiologist
  • Massage Therapist
  • Athletic Trainer (ATC)
  • Physical Education Teacher
  • Recreation and Sports Director
  • Registered Nurse
  • Sports Coach
  • Sports Facility Manager
  • Strength and Conditioning Coach

Exercise Science Careers that require Master’s or Doctoral Degrees

  • Doctor (MD)
  • Exercise Physiologist
  • Chiropractor (DC)
  • Registered Dietician
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Physical Therapist (DPT)
  • Physician Assistant
  • Exercise Physiologist
  • Physical Rehabilitation

Closing Thoughts on Exercise Science Careers

You should now have a better idea of what you can do in the exciting field that is Exercise Science. For many, a bachelor’s degree at a college or university is the path that they will take to become educated in the many areas of movement and exercise. For others, the bachelor’s is just a stepping stone for a more advanced degree as in the case of physical therapy, physician’s assistant, or doctoral paths. Others may be surprised to learn there are many rewarding careers in Exercise Science that do not require a college degree, and the most popular career in this field, a certified personal trainer, demonstrates that.

When considering your education and career path, keep in mind the following:

  • The education required
  • The financial commitment
  • The time investment
  • The typical salary
  • Your passion for the career

With these considerations in mind, you should be able to paint a great picture of where you want your career to take you.

What is your experience with jobs and education in the Exercise Science niche? Is there any tip you wish you knew before you started your studies or career? Let us know in the comments.

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How to Get Your Group Fitness Certification

How to Get Your Group Fitness Certification

If you are considering getting your group fitness certification here are a few statistics that backup your decision:

  • Over 22 million attend group fitness classes each year[*]
  • 85% of group fitness members visit their facility twice a week[*]
  • Two out of five gym-goers are involved in group exercise[*]

As you can see, a group fitness certification, or having group fitness instructors at your gym, spells dollar signs.

Although you probably don’t need any more convincing about getting a group fitness certification that will allow you to find gainful employment in an exciting industry, you probably are looking for some information on how to get your group fitness certification.

Below, we have provided info on the exact steps as well as some information on the top group fitness certifications out there. There’s even a little bonus about section group fitness certifications versus personal trainer certifications that I think you’ll find quite interesting (hint: you can become a certified personal trainer and train in a group setting (but not vice versa)).

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How to Become a Group Fitness

Instructor in 5 Steps

Here are the steps to become a group fitness instructor. There may be some variation on these steps depending on the certification body you go with, but for the most part, these steps are fairly standard no matter which group fitness certification body you go with.


Get Your Group Fitness Instructor Prerequisites

Before you can sit for a group fitness instructor exam, most certification bodies require the following:

  • Be 18 years old or older
  • Have a high school diploma or equivalent
  • Have a current CPR/AED certification
  • Possess a government-issued photo ID

By far, the most popular place to get a CPR/AED certification is through the American Red Cross. It is not the only option, but tends to be the most convenient. You can find a Red Cross CPR/AED class near you on their website.

Worth noting, is that you need not have all of the above prerequisites in place when you begin your group fitness studies, only when you sit for the exam. For example, you can start studying and obtain a CPR/AED certification along the way.

This brings us to our next step, finding a group fitness certification program that is right for you.


Choose a Group Fitness Instructor Certification

One of the most important steps in becoming a group fitness instructor is choosing the best certification for you. Now, there really is no such thing as the “best group fitness certification,” as this is a highly subjective decision.

There are a number of factors that may make a group fitness certification more appealing to you such as cost, length of program, CEU requirements, prestige of brand, job requirements, and convenience.

One area of group fitness certifications that is not subjective is the accreditation body. The gold standard in a group fitness certification is a program accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). The Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) accreditation is also gaining some clout, and is held by ISSA.

ACE Certified Group Fitness Instructor


ACE offers NCCA accredited group fitness courses ranging from $299 to $599 (at the time of this writing). The final exam takes place at an administered location and the coursework can consist of videos, podcasts and webinars, depending on the program you register for. ACE is one of the largest name’s in fitness and boasts that their trainers benefit from agreements they have made with popular gyms such as 24 Hour Fitness, Anytime Fitness, Orange Theory, Crunch Fitness, and others.

ACSM Certified Group Exercise Instructor


The ACSM Certified Group Exercise Instructor (ACSM-GEI) course is prided on its educational approach to intentional planning around science-based group sessions as well as motivational and leadership techniques that make training fun and effective. While ACSM claims it is the “gold standard” in group fitness certification, it is not currently an accredited certification option.

AFAA Certified Group Fitness Instructor


AFAA has perhaps the most outstanding reputation in the group fitness certification arena. Not only is the cert NCCA certified and been in existence for nearly four decades, but is also a partner of NASM (NASM acquired AFAA in late 2017 which is why you won’t see a standalone NASM group fitness course).

AFAA courses range from $299 for self-study, to $399 for premium self-study, to $499 for an all-inclusive package with a job guarantee. On the NASM website, however, the certification is mentioned as an add-on continuing education course and has a reduced price of $224, $299, and $374 for the options mentioned above, respectively (at the time of this writing).

ISSA Specialist in Group Fitness Certification


The ISSA Specialist in Group Fitness certification is an online course that offers a self-paced study regime. As mentioned before, this is the only certification body that is accredited by the DEAC, which is a less prestigious name in the accreditation space, but nonetheless a national accreditation. At $799, it is by far the most expensive group fitness certification on this list.

NCCPT Group Exercise Instructor Certification


The NCCPT Group Exercise Instructor (CGxI) credential is a self-proclaimed “entry level specialization certification” that is likely intended to be an add-on CEU for existing certified personal trainers rather than a standalone certification like many others on this list. It is also amongst the cheapest at $199 for the exam-only package, but ranges up to $299 for additional study and preparation materials.

NESTA Certified Group Exercise Instructor


NESTA’s Group Exercise Instructor Course is 100% online and is one of the most affordable options for group fitness certification at $275. While highly convenient and amongst the least expensive group fitness certifications, The NESTA GEI is unaccredited, so many gyms may be a bit more discerning while hiring for this certification.

NETA Group Exercise Certification


NETA’s Group Fitness certification is amongst the three in the country that have earned NCCA accreditation. While the program doesn’t benefit from the brand power of ACE and AFAA (the other two accredited options), it does have a strong curriculum and multiple study options ranging from $239 to $299. The live workshop study option is popular as it allows students to attend a workshop with an experienced NETA educator.

Once you familiarize yourself with these brands and choose one that works for you, you can move on to the next step.


Schedule Your Exam and

Continue/Begin Studying

With most group fitness certifications you can purchase your study materials (and begin studying) before you schedule the exam. Many programs, however, require that you register for the exam within a specific time period after the purchase of the study materials.

ACE, for example, requires you to register for your exam within six months of the materials purchase date. With AFAA, you have 180 days from your enrollment date to take the certification exam.

These certification bodies require these timelines for a variety of reasons. First, they want to set that psychological goal in your head to start and finish the program in its entirety. Secondly, they make money on the study materials and the exam, so it makes sense that if you were to buy study materials, you would take the exam.

Group Fitness Exam Study Tips

While the exams of each certification body vary in difficulty and materials covered, there are some standard study tips that can help you get through all the studying in time for the final certification exam.

As a former college professor, I recommend the following approach to studying for the group fitness exam:

  • Use the target test as a marker and work backwards from that date to determine how many chapters you need to cover each week/month.

And here’s a study fast track system that works really well for those who like to knock things out fast:

  • Read one to two hours per day to maintain a solid flow of comprehension
  • Create chapter-by-chapter notes from the book to utilize the benefits of writing and reading
  • Reference study guides for hand-picked topics of reference
  • Take practice tests after you read each chapter
  • Quiz yourself on 5-10 chapters of your book every two to three weeks
  • Reread your chapter notes and build upon them based on your quiz and test results
  • Document the questions you miss in the quizzes and revisit those sections of the book
  • Take a quiz every day of the week leading up to the exam
  • Take an entire practice exam, write down the questions you missed, and revisit them again
  • Take the final certification exam when you consistently get 85% or above on practice exams

Once you are prepared for the exam, it is time to knock it out!


Pass Your Group Fitness Exam

The most obvious step in getting your group fitness certification is passing your exam.

But this necessary step only happens if you put in the time to learn the materials, understand the concepts behind them, and get the certification in your hand.

After you do this, you’ll be ready to start a career as a group fitness trainer!


Get a Job as a Group Fitness Trainer

Do you already know where you want to work? Are you going to start your own fitness club or perhaps get a job as a contractor at several?

Related: Check out this post on personal trainer salaries to see which gyms pay the most.

Once you have your certification in hand, you can begin to peruse the web for group fitness trainer openings, check in at your local gym, or visit the websites of gyms to see if they post active positions.

Gyms aren’t the only places that hire group fitness instructors though, so don’t limit your job search to these locations. Spin, yoga, and pilates studios are some of the other well-known locations to get a group fitness job. The rare country club gig or super rare cruise line job may also open up from time-to-time.

In many cases you may have to get an additional certification (ex. Spin instructor) or go through an internal training program at your place of employment.

There are also specialist programs that you may be interested in to truly hone your craft. For example, AFAA has an indoor cycling speciality course, and ACE has a Functional Aging Group Exercise specialty course. The specialization you choose largely has to do with the demographic you enjoy working with.

CEUS: Maintaining Your Group Fitness Certification

In an effort to help trainers maintain their education and the health and safety of their clients, continuing education units (CEUs) are required by every reputable certification body. The amount you need depends on the certification body, but these CEUs are not just a tool to help you maintain your certification, they are also opportunities to expand your knowledge of health and fitness.

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Bonus: Group Fitness Certification VS Personal Trainer Certification

A lot of aspiring group fitness trainers will also consider a personal trainer certification and weigh the options between each. There are some important considerations that aspiring trainers from each career option should take into account.

The first, and perhaps most important consideration, is that you are able to train group fitness classes with a personal trainer certification but are generally ineligible to train individuals at most corporate settings with a group fitness certification.

This may sway some trainers towards choosing the certified personal trainer route and considering a group fitness specialization or CEU as they can train groups and individuals.

The other important consideration for aspiring trainers is the potential income from each type of training — personal training or group training. This has a lot to do with your involvement as a trainer with your clientele.

If you are a group fitness instructor, you generally have to showcase the exercises as you teach (i.e. workout with your group), making man’s/woman’s physical limitations a factor in terms of financial gain from multiple group fitness sessions per day.

On the other hand, a personal trainer can provide guidance to multiple clients each day without having to physically exert themselves. For the entrepreneurial trainer, this may make the decision to get a CPT a more decisive one.

Granted, group trainers usually make more than personal trainers on a per session basis, but personal trainers can easily conduct five or more sessions per day whereas a group fitness trainer may be limited to two due to the physical demands of teaching.

Become a Group Fitness Trainer Today

Now you have a good idea of what the steps are to become a group fitness instructor, recognize some of the top certification bodies, and even know that you can become a certified personal trainer and train in a group setting (but not vice versa).

If you are ready to advance your group fitness career, start by knocking out your prerequisites. From there, find a group fitness certification that works for you, study hard, pass your exam, and find your dream job.

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Personal Trainer Salary: Which Gyms Pay the Most?

Personal Trainer Salary:

Which Gyms Pay the Most? How Much do Private and Online Trainers Make?

If the most common question I get asked about personal training is what certification to get, the second most common question has to be “how much can I make as a personal trainer?”

There are numerous ways to make money as a personal trainer, but unquestionably the most common way is to start working at a gym.

When people first consider becoming a trainer they begin to think about the major gyms and how much they pay. And as much as certification bodies like NASM want to tell you that their average trainers make $42k a year, the reality of a personal trainer salary ultimately lies in what the gyms will pay as this is the most common career route.

However, the gym route is not the only one and many existing or aspiring trainers want to venture into the more entrepreneurial routes of private, or online personal training, as higher income levels are more easily achieved.

So, to help trainers understand what popular gyms pay their trainers and to showcase some insider knowledge on what private and online trainers can make, I’ve put together this post that outlines personal trainer salaries as well as what trainers at the most recognizable gym brands around the country get paid, and how they set up their payment structure.

I’ll also discuss the three pay structures that are common to trainers and provide you with next steps from a seasoned personal trainer who has gone through the experience of getting a gym job first-hand as well as utilized the private and online routes.

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Before You Get Paid, You Have to Get Certified

First things first, if you want to work in personal training or at a big box gym like 24-Hour Fitness, Equinox, LA Fitness, or the like, you’ll need a personal training certification from a credentialed fitness organization.

Gyms want their trainers to get, or have, certifications, because they provide a baseline for credibility.

We have written a very comprehensive blog on the best personal trainer certifications where you can take a look at our side-by-side analysis of 10 different, popular personal training certification organizations. If you are unsure the exact steps to become a trainer and the prerequisites — education, age requirements, CPR/AED certifications — then check out this post on the topic.

Keep in mind that many gyms may hire you before you get a certification, and some will even have you go through their internal certification, so if you have a gym in mind for your place of employment it doesn’t hurt to ask what their requirements are first. Note that a true personal training certification will allow for a job at a much wider range of locations than just that one gym, something you’ll want to consider as your career evolves.

But before you enter the personal training employee marketplace, it pays to know some of the various pay structures that are common within the personal training industry so you know what to expect going in.

3 Types of Gym Pay Structures Common to Personal Trainers

When you begin your search for gyms that will provide you gainful employment, you can expect the pay structures to fall into one of these three categories:

1. Commercial gym
2. Independent personal trainer
3. 1099 personal trainer


Commercial Gym Pay Structure

In the gym world, the gyms who make you get clients and don’t feed them to you will generally pay the most. The opposite is true too; the gyms that feed you clients will generally pay you the least.

Commercial gyms will typically pay you minimum wage to “work the floor” and try to drum up new clients. Once you are actually training clients, you’ll get a bit more per hour as you are increasing the gyms revenue by performing a training session. If you sell a large personal training package, commercial gyms will often give you a commission.


Independent Personal Trainer Gym Pay Structure

Independent pay structures, or those that pertain to the self-employed personal trainer, are much more favorable to the trainer, but the negative is that they are obviously not as exposed to as many potential clients as they would be on the floor of a major gym, and are only getting paid when they train.

When you are self-employed, or an independent personal trainer not on a gym’s payroll, you may be able to develop relationships with smaller, privately-owned gyms that will allow you to bring in your own clients.

The catch is that you have to pay the gym a fee when you use their gym to train your client. For example, I used to pay a privately-owned, non-chain gym $15 a session to bring my client in and train them.

I could ultimately charge my client whatever I wanted, and had no pressure from any boss to sell more training sessions as it was entirely up to me.

Keep in mind that with this independent structure, you are running your own business, which means you are responsible for additional tasks like accounting, taxes, marketing, advertising, sales and lead generation.

Related: How to Set a Pricing Structure for Your Personal Training Business


1099 by a Gym Pay Structure

The 1099 model is similar to the self-employed trainer model except the gym has a relationship with the clients. A 1099 is a tax form given to an independent contractor as opposed to a W2 which is given to employees.

In this pay structure, the gym does not actually employ you as a personal trainer, but they contract with you so that they can make money on personal training and alleviate themselves from the costs of having an employee.

The 1099 model is like when you hire a plumber to come fix your broken toilet; they are getting paid for their service but they are not your employee.

In the contractor payment style, the personal trainer and the gym typically get a split, like 50/50, on whatever the gym charges. So, if the gym charges $60 for an hour long session, they’d keep $30 and you’d get paid $30. The gym collects the money from the client and then will pay you, the trainer, for the session performed.

With this type of structure the personal trainer will be responsible for claiming taxes on the money they make, as the gym does not set aside any income since the trainer is not an employee.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “how do I know what kind of payment structure the gym I want to work at has?” Excellent question, let’s address that below.

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How Popular Brand Name Gyms Pay Their Personal Trainers

While I could have left you hanging with the above information on the three various pay structures that are common for trainers who work at/with gyms, I wanted to do a deeper dive and get some answers from real trainers who work, or have worked, at some popular gym chains.

The Fitness Mentors team reached out to several gyms chains and their current employees, as well as conducted a survey with our current and previous students on Facebook, to get currently used payment structures and insight on how various gyms pay their trainers. We have provided that information below.

If you have any experience with these gyms or would like to comment on something different, please feel free to let us know in the comments so we can update this post. 

  • Equinox
  • 24-Hour Fitness
  • La Fitness
  • Anytime Fitness
  • Crunch Fitness
  • YMCA
  • Planet Fitness
Equinox logo

Equinox Personal Trainer Salary

Non-training payment:

Floor hours at minimum wage – typically 20 hours a week until your client base grows.

Payment structure:

Less than 42 sessions per pay period (2 week pay period):

  • Tier 1: $26 per one hour session
  • Tier 2: $30.50 per one hour session
  • Tier 3: $36.50 per one hour session
  • Tier 3+: $45.50 per one hour session
  • Tier X: $64 per one hour session

More than 42 sessions per pay period (2 week pay period):

  • Tier 1: $31 per one hour session
  • Tier 2: $42.50 per one hour session
  • Tier 3: $53 per one hour session
  • Tier 3+: $61 per one hour session
  • Tier X: $74.50 per one hour session

The average full-time trainer at Equinox performs 25-30 training sessions per week.

Equinox Income Potential

Equinox Income Potential
24 Hour Fitnesss Logo

24-Hour Personal Trainer Salary

Non-training payment

Minimum wage for non-training hours.

Payment structure:

  • 20% Commission on all individual personal training package sales paid up front.
  • 10% Commission on all TC24 group training package sales.

Also, a 5% bonus commission is added to total salary when 60 training sessions or more are performed in one pay period.

24-Hour Personal Trainer Salary

24-Hour PT Tier Structure and Associated Pay per Session:

24 Hour PT Tier Structure and Associated Pay per Session

24-Hour Bonus Structure per Training Session:

24 1

24-Hour Fitness Commission for Package Sales:

24 2

24-Hour Fitness Tiers:

24 3

24-Hour Fitness Salary Example for Entry-level Personal Trainer


An example monthly salary of a new PT 1 trainer that is building up their business at 24-Hour Fitness is shown below:

  • Example minimum wage is $10/hour
  • 120 hours worked in the month at $10/hour = $1,200
  • 60 training sessions performed in the month x $7 = $420
  • $2,500 in training package sales x 20% commission = $500
  • Total Monthly Salary = $2120

24-Hour Fitness Salary Example of a Master Trainer


An example monthly salary of a full-time Master Trainer:

  • Example minimum wage is $10/hour.
  • 160 hours worked in the month at $10/hour = $1,600
  • 120 training sessions performed in the month x $17 = 2,040
  • $5000 in Training package sales x 20% commission = $1,000
  • Monthly Salary = $4,640
  • 5% commission added to the monthly salary of $4,640 since more than 60 sessions per pay period were performed = $232
  • Total Monthly Salary after 5% bonus commission= $4,872
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LA Fitness Personal Trainer Salary

Non-training payment

Minimum wage for non-training hours.

Payment structure:
$6 – $7.50 per 30 minute session
$12 – $15 per 1 hour session

$7.50 – $15 is for larger cities with higher cost of living like in Los Angeles.
$6 – $12 is for less populated, lower cost of living areas like Arizona.

Other findings:

No findable bonus structure. Trainer turnover is very high.

Every person in the Facebook group concurred that LA Fitness is a less than ideal place to work as a trainer, but a few people mentioned they pay their group exercise instructors significantly better.

anytime fitness

Anytime Fitness Personal Trainer Salary

Non-training payment: 


Payment structure:

Varies, these are franchised gyms and each one has a different pay structure. 

Answers varied on payment structure for the trainers we surveyed:

  • 50/50 split 
  • Minimum wage plus bonuses to sign people on to monthly training packages 
  • Trainers can increase income by teaching group exercise classes

Other findings:

Collective agreement that Anytime Fitness is an enjoyable place to work. They are 3,000-5,000 sq ft gyms with only 5-10 trainers per location.

crunch fitness

Crunch Fitness Personal Trainer Salary

Non-training payment:


Payment structure:

These are franchised gyms and each location may have a different pay structure.

Here are some quotes from Crunch Fitness trainers concerning their salary. Answers varied on payment structure:

I’m only paid for hours trained and commission on sales. I’m not paid while trying to get clients.”

“I work at Crunch. Mine is a level 3 gym but because I just started I’m at level 2 for a few months. If I charge a la carte the client pays $80/hour or $50/30 minute session. Depending on my sales volume I can make between 40% and 65% of what I sell. I’m given “potential clients” but I have to sell them the personal training sessions. There’s not a sales force like at LA Fitness but the income potential is much better. I set my own hours and can work whenever I like. They encourage me to sell package deals which requires a 3 month commitment from the client. They are not allowed to cancel. Money is debited from their account either monthly or biweekly. They can also get a discount if they pay in full. For level 2, if you wanted to be trained 2x week, it would cost $504. For 3x week $697. Those are monthly rates for hour long sessions. Level 3, of course, is higher and most of the trainers at my gym are level 3. We have about 17 trainers. It’s a great place to work! Just takes time to build your clientele.” 

ymca 3 logo png transparent

YMCA Personal Trainer Salary

Non-training payment:

Minimum wage is paid when not training. 


Payment structure:

Basically, YMCA trainers make $15 – $28 per session/hour depending on their tier. 

We were able to find some training salary data for YMCA but it is just for the Charlotte, NC area. I assume that cities with higher costs of living would be accounted for in pay (and vice versa for smaller cities), but we were unable to find any other data on that.

The information for YMCA trainers and their tiers can be found below, respectively:

  • Tier 1 Trainer– Pay Rate: $15.89 – $19.86; Responsible for training a minimum of 2 sessions per week; Responsible for working the fitness floor 4-8 hours per week for initial 3 months
  • Tier 2 Trainer– Pay Rate: $17.48 – $21.85; Responsible for training a minimum of 5 sessions per week; Responsible for working the fitness floor 4-8 hours per week for initial 3 months
  • Tier 3 Trainer– Pay Rate: $21.00 – $26.24; Responsible for training a minimum of 10 sessions per week; Responsible for working the fitness floor 4-8 hours per week for initial 3 months
  • Tier 4 Trainer– Pay rate: $22.89 – $28.61; Responsible for training a minimum of 20 sessions per week; Responsible for working the fitness floor 4-8 hours per week for initial 3 months; Serve as a Continuing Education Provider for YMCA of Greater Charlotte teaching at least 1 workshop per year; Serve as a mentor to Tier 1-3 trainers

Other benefits include:

  • YMCA pays for all the trainers CEUs

  • The “Y” also pays the trainers’ recertification fee – approximately $100 every two years

Planet Fitness Personal Trainer Salary

Non-training payment

Full-time minimum wage positions. 

Payment structure:

Typically no higher pay for trainers, but it is an easy job that requires no sales and just training. Decent for beginners looking to gain training experience but not really career-worthy. No commissions. No bonuses. 

Private Personal Trainer Salary

It is a well known fact that private personal trainers have the potential to make far more than gym trainers.

Why? Because private personal trainers can set their own rates.

There is a catch for private personal trainers, however, and that is that they have to drum up enough business to write their own paycheck. But before we get into a sample private personal trainer salary let’s define exactly what a private personal trainer is.

A private personal trainer is a trainer that is self-employed, creates their own work schedule, and is free to choose the clients that they work with. For many personal trainers, this is the end goal of their personal training careers and is what sees some trainers working with celebrities and making big bucks.

Unlike gym trainers, private personal trainers don’t get help from the gym or get funneled clients from fitness organizations. They utilize their own networking, sales, and marketing skill sets to drive leads and ultimately generate new clients.

For that reason, many private personal trainers struggle to make a decent income. You can’t simply get a personal trainer certification and expect leads to come your way. (Check out this course to learn how to build your business and get clients). This is also why so many trainers start out in the gym, get experience, make relationships, begin taking on private clients on the side, and eventually leave the corporate gym environment behind.


How Much Do Private Personal Trainers Make?

A respectable private personal trainer can make upwards of $70,000 per year.

Compare this to the full time salary of a respectable personal trainer at 24-Hour Fitness which would likely fall in the low $40,000 range. And by respectable I mean one with a couple thousand hours of sessions under their belt and training 20-30 sessions per week. This low $40,000 range is also commensurate with what NASM says their average trainer makes.

For example, a 24-Hour Fitness trainer in their middle tier (PT3) makes $13 an hour when training. If you compare a potential salary of an entry-level trainer at 24-Hour Fitness, $22,440/year, to that of a Master Trainer at 24-Hour Fitness, $58,464, and split it down the middle (which is more or less where a PT3 would be), you’d get $40,452.

Now, let’s compare the above salary of a gym trainer to that of a private personal trainer.

The average private personal trainer in the U.S. charges around $50 session. Let’s say this trainer works a total of 30 hours per week and making $1,500 in that time. Multiple this time the weeks in a year, 52, and you have a respectable private trainer who is making $78,000 a year.

Potential Salary of Private Personal Trainer

  • Charges $50/session
  • Works 30 hours per week (sessions)
  • Makes $1,500/week
  • Makes $78,000/year

That same trainer can charge $100 a session, work 15 hours a week, and make the same salary.

Gym trainers typically have to work a lot more hours than private personal trainers for a fraction of the salary which is why private training is often the more desirable route. But as we’ll learn, private personal training is not the only way to make money as a trainer outside the gym.

Interested in getting a CPT with an emphasis on entrepreneurship and business development? Check out the FM-CPT for more info.

online personal trainer salary

Online Personal Trainer Salary

Due to the field being so new, it is important to define what an online personal trainer is. It’s common to understand a personal trainer as a person that works with clients with the intent to improve fitness levels, body image, health, and performance.

Personal trainers also work with clients to modify behaviors that align with the achievement of their health and fitness goals. What is unique about this process is that the personal trainer does not have to meet in-person with a client to create a massive impact on their health. In fact, because of new technology, a trainer can work online from anywhere in the world and change the lives of tens, hundreds, thousands and even millions of people.

What is Online Personal Training?

An Online Personal Trainer is someone who enhances the health of others through internet-based technological mediums.

Now this may seem very broad and, to be honest, it is intended to be. We live in an age where you can create the life that you dream of by helping people online. Every coach, regardless of industry, is jumping to the internet to ensure they are not left behind, as trends have shown that e-commerce and e-services will be where large economic growth will continue to occur. This is also a place where gaining personal freedom through entrepreneurship is booming.

Coaching online can occur in thousands of unique ways and offerings, but by focusing on improving the health and fitness of others as an online personal trainer, you provide a great starting point to the journey of enhancing someone’s life; by focusing on the health of their physical body.

Now that we have defined what an online personal trainer is, let’s understand the potential salary of an online personal trainer.

How Much Do Online Personal Trainers Make?

The online personal training model is as broad in definition as it is in salary potential. The internet never sleeps so you can, in theory, sell online personal training services or products 24/7, 365.

Of course, this is easier said than done and merely having an online training business does not mean you’ll sell to your heart’s content.

So the obvious considerations for online personal training to determine income are the following:

  • How much your product/service costs
  • How much of your product/service you can sell
  • How much physical time you have to dedicate to selling and managing your product/service

For example, let’s take online personal trainer Jake. Jake sells private personalized online training, delivering programs via online documents. Jake offers three packages for his online clients ranging from custom fitness programs starting at $99/month to fully engaged video assessments, weekly phone calls, unlimited email support, custom nutrition, exercise and food tracking for $399/month.

Jake has a pretty good business model but the scaling of his online business is limited because he can only work so many hours a day because his business is still very personalized and requires him to work one-on-one with clients.

Jill, on the other hand, offers a non-personalized, premade 12 week program as a PDF.

Her “Bikini Body Shred” program is $199 and the transaction, program details, and marketing are all done through her website. Jill can sell her program to anyone, anywhere, at anytime.

Later down the road Jill also adds a non-personalized video fitness program as a product offering and continues to expand on her online services.

In addition to the non-personalized packages Jill sells online, she has continued to maintain her in-person personal training clients but has combined online training to provide them a hybrid program between in-person and online training. Like Jake, she offers packages to her clients but can charge more because they are benefitting from in-person and online services.

Let’s look at a theoretical salary for Jill, who has successfully created an online personal training business alongside her in-person training.

  • Jill sells, on average, seven of her $199 Bikini Body Shred programs per week, or about $72,436 per year.
  • She also maintains six personal trainer clients, on average, who each pay her $500/month for two 30-minute sessions a week. This equates to an additional $3,000 a month, or $36,000 a year.
  • Total: $72,4436 + $36,000 = $108,436

Of course, this does not factor in Jill’s business expenses, marketing costs, or taxes, but it goes to show how an online personal trainer can make upwards of six figures by selling a modest amount of their product and substantially more if they combine in with in-person efforts.

It also wouldn’t be uncommon for Jill to invest more effort into her online business to try and ramp up her online sales to double, or triple, of where they are now.

To learn more about building an online personal training business like Jill and structuring a successful business, check out the Fitness Mentors Certified Online Personal Trainer Certification (FM-COPT) with a focus on online personal training and passive income generation.

These examples are just a few of the ways trainers are making money online. I’ve also seen the popularity of live video chat workouts, online group fitness training, custom nutritional programs, premade nutritional programs, memberships and more. These types of services are only possible through personal training softwares like gymGO, which I recommend to run your online training business.

The income of an online personal trainer again is substantiated by the type of offering, its price, and the amount of products/services they can sell. Some trainers may make an extra few hundred a month, while others may have found a way to make hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. To get your start in online training start here: FM-COPT.

If you liked this post or want us to try and find additional information, please let me know in the comments. If you have experience at other big brand gyms and want to share the salary information, please help us educate other personal trainers by sharing your thoughts below.

Next Steps for Aspiring Personal Trainers

Now you know what you can potentially make when you become a personal trainer at a gym. With this information, you may understand the gyms you want to work at and those you potentially want to stay away from.

One thing that should be clear with this information is that personal growth equates to more money as revealed by the tier systems many of these gyms have. The goal of continually developing yourself as a personal trainer is so you can build your book of business and generate a better income for yourself.

If you are interested in becoming an all-around better personal trainer and business-savvy individual, check out my book and online course I’ve made specifically for hungry self-starters looking to earn the income they deserve: Business and Sales: The Guide to Success as a Personal Trainer.

In addition to understanding which gym to kickstart your career, you’ll still want to have an understanding of which personal trainer certification is right for you. Amongst the three most popular certifications are Fitness MentorsNASM and ACE, of which we cover side-by-side in this in-depth blog post

Personal Trainer Salary Fitness Mentors

If you like those certifications, check out our best-in-class study guides for Fitness MentorsACE and NASM. We have free NASM and ACE study guides as well as premium study materials that make studying, and passing, your certification a breeze.

If you liked this post or want us to try and find additional information, please let me know in the comments. If you have experience at other big brand gyms and want to share the salary information, please help us educate other personal trainers by sharing your thoughts below.

Content Marketing for Personal Trainers: 3 Steps to Success

Content Marketing for Personal Trainers:

3 Steps to Success

Learn how to create your first 3 pieces of online content to generate word of mouth, increase exposure, and get online clients with nothing more than your smartphone and expertise.

Every personal trainer should be creating content for their online following to maximize their earning potential. Content creation can be used to grow your business and create a loyal customer base. 

There are many benefits of creating online content:


• Establish yourself as an authority

• Help tons of people with their fitness problems 

• Generate new clients

• Create an online source of income

• Increase your professional footprint

• Connect with new people

• Create new career opportunities 

• Your current clients will be proud to share your content to their friends 

• Get more clients without spending money on advertising


Here’s how to create the most amount of top quality content with the least amount of effort.

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How to Create Your First 3 Pieces of Online Content


Think of a solution to one client’s pain point.

Start by thinking about a singular problem that one of your clients have. Think about if this problem is unique to them or if it’s something that you think other people also struggle with.


Write a blog article

Write an article solely focused on fixing this problem for that specific client. It doesn’t have to be long either, try to cover 3 main points in 700- 1,500 words (for reference: this article is about 1200 words). Your 3 points should be as follows:

**Intro:** state the problem that your client is facing and give some background information that makes the readers feel connected with them. Feel free to use a made up name if your client likes to be private.

**Innovative solution:** talk about how they overcame this hurdle and how you helped them do so. Relay this information in a way that makes it clear how the reader can apply this information to their own life

**Conclusion:** Highlight the 3 biggest takeaways from your message and give them ONE actionable thing they can do to get started. This part should paint the resolution after the problem is fixed, show the reader how good it feels to fix that pain point that they’re currently struggling with. Show them how the grass is greener.

After providing a well written solution to the problem, post this on your blog. If you don’t have a website you can create a highly functional and beautiful site with WordPress for an inexpensive cost, I’d recommend that option for anyone starting their online personal training journey.


Create a short video

Now that you have a completed script about your topic you need to create a video about this same topic because most people would rather watch someone enthusiastically explaining how they can improve their quality of life rather than reading about it. Plus the same people who read and liked your article will be more inclined to share your video now that they trust your information which helps them and others put a face to the name. This is vital in becoming known, liked, and trusted. In order to become a successful personal trainer you will need to complete the K, L, T triad and this is one of the quickest ways to accomplish this.

All you need is an iPhone that shoots in a quality of at least 720p (most shoot in 1080 or higher) and a stand for your phone. Amazon has smartphone tripods for as low as $10. You don’t need any fancy cameras or studio equipment to shoot a simple landscape (turn your phone sideways) view video from your chest to slightly above your head. Experts call this the “talking head” frame and it’s about as personable as it gets; the focus here is simply your face (know), your personality (like), and your knowledge (trust).

Here was one of my very first videos:

Keep this video short and sweet, use jump cuts to edit out the rambling, only keep the best sentences. It may seem weird at first to watch yourself jump from sentence to sentence but it actually makes it easier to watch for the viewer and reduces any down periods in your video. Keep it between 1-4 minutes because these days people have very short attention spans and if it’s too long people will scroll past anything that seems too time consuming.

Here is what my videos with jump cuts look like now.

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Video editing software: I use iMovie just because it’s simple and I can usually edit 10 minutes of raw footage into a solid 3-4 minute video within about 30 minutes. You can also use FilmoraGo and Splice (both free and available on your smartphone).


Condense to make it easily consumable

Next thing you need to do is condense your blog article/video to an easily consumable Facebook post, tweet headline, and Instagram caption. You can do this by copying and pasting the 3 main points of your blog post/video into a separate word document (I just use the notes app on my iPhone) and then editing it to flow well together. This should be between 100-400 words max and it should be captivating enough to make readers want to head to your blog post or watch your video to learn more.

To shorten your videos you can go into your video editor to cut your video down to 1 minute so it fits Instagram’s time restriction or just post different sections of the video for multiple posts per video.

Remember to clearly explain how they can access your other content. You can even include the link to the video or article in this same post or in your bio on Instagram and Twitter.


Schedule and repeat

Once you do this one time you will understand the cycle of repurposing content to maximize your impact for your content creation efforts. After a couple times you will be able to see what form of content resonates best with your audience. Don’t forget to pay attention to the times you are posting throughout the day.

Always pay attention to the schedule of your target demographic: I tend to post my written articles at 12pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays and my videos around 4pm on Mondays and Wednesdays. I do this because most of my potential clients are at work from 8-4pm so they can’t listen to the audio on a video while they are at their desk, but they tend to be able to read an article after their lunch break or during slow periods throughout the day. 

So now you have your first blog for your website, a post for Facebook, Instagram, and twitter, and your first YouTube video! I’ve given you a strategy to squeeze the most amount of content for all of your content creation efforts to ensure that you stay motivated and encouraged while getting the results that you want. Hopefully this helps you get your first few online clients within the first month like it did for me!

Hope this helps,

Ethan Halfhide 

ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist 
Owner of www.panaceafit.com

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NASM Certification- NASM Personal Training Review

NASM Certification:

A Review of Costs, Programs, Salary, How to Get Your CPT & More

As an aspiring personal trainer, there is a good chance you’ve considered a NASM certification to add to your list of professional accolades. There’s good reason too, NASM is considered to be a global leader in credentialing fitness professionals, and their wealth of certifications will prepare you for a promising career in personal training or one of their other areas of specializations.

Below is a NASM certification review from an actual certified NASM CPT (me), and an overview of the NASM company, the NASM CPT and other certifications, some notes on the ever popular NASM OPT model, and lots of other important information on costs, reviews, salaries, and your next steps should you choose to pursue a career with NASM.

If you are interested in becoming an Online Personal Trainer check out our How to Become an Online Personal Trainer blog.

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What is NASM?

NASM stands for the National Academy of Sports Medicine, a 30-year old company best-known for their Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) program. Within the last 10 years, NASM has certified and recertified more personal trainers than any other personal training company, helping nearly 200,000 obtain, or maintain, their CPTs all across the globe. 

NASM is also NCCA-accredited, meaning they have the National Commission for Certifying Agencies credentials, the first standards ever developed to ensure a fitness certification body has the essential elements of a high-quality program.

As a personal trainer, the global recognition and the NCCA-certification are important factors in choosing NASM as a potential candidate for your fitness education, along with utilizing the best NASM Study Tools.


NASM Programs

Like other fitness certification bodies, NASM is best-known for its Certified Personal Trainer program. However, they also provide a number of other specializations that are worth mentioning.

The NASM CPT is based on an evidence-based training model preparing students for real-life situations. In addition to learning and understanding complex scientific principles, students will use NASM’s proprietary Optimum Performance Training™ (OPT™) model, a systematic system that helps you train in various areas including: Flexibility, Cardiorespiratory, Core, Balance, Power, and Strength.

Cost: $699 (for the cheapest coursework)

The NASM CES is a specialization that can be applied to reduce muscular dysfunction and help you correct common movement issues. The corrective exercise continuum includes four areas, including: Inhibit, Lengthen, Activate, and Integrate. 

Exam Cost: $699 (includes course materials)

The NASM PES is designed to make athletes stronger, faster, and tougher. It uses approaches that are common in professional sports as well as exercise techniques and programs that are designed to maximize performance and minimize sports-related injury. 

Exam Cost: $599

The Behavior Change Specialization goes beyond the training elements and takes a deeper dive into motivational strategies. After completing this program, you’ll have the skill sets needed to determine your clients’ barriers to change, and design programs around their specific personalities.

Course Cost: $499 (Includes course materials and exam)

The Fitness Nutrition Specialization helps trainers explain to clients the true nutritional content of what they are eating and help them understand why they should, or shouldn’t, be eating it. This course will allow your clients to understand how to interpret food labels, select appropriate portion sizes, and eat healthy.

Course Cost: $499

The Group Personal Training Specialization is a course that helps trainers design, develop, and deliver successful group fitness training programs. In addition to the physical fitness elements of this course, trainers will also learn how to develop strategic business plans around group fitness.

Course Cost: $499

The Weight Loss Specialization uses NASM’s OPT Model to help you design weight loss programs and develop strategies to assist clients in implementing a healthier lifestyle.

Course Cost: $499

The Women’s Fitness Specialization helps trainers become more effective at training women of all body types and ages. In addition to specific nutrition recommendations, it also involves exercise and small group training coursework.

Course Cost: $299

For trainers who want to capitalize on the growing exercise demand for people aged 6 to 19, the Youth Exercise Specialization helps kids focus on sports, increase their physical fitness levels, and lose weight.

The Senior Fitness Specialization is designed to help trainers focus their exercise programs on the specific needs of seniors. This coursework includes helping seniors reduce risk, preserve independence, helps you to understand the aging process, and helps you understand the limitations of an older group of clients.

Course Cost: $199

The Golf Fitness Specialization is designed for the trainer who wants to help golfers be fit with corrective exercise strategies. While much of the focus is on injury-prevention, it also involves helping clients improve driving distance, how to increase head speed, and how to lower scores from a fitness perspective.

Course Cost: $199

The MMA Conditioning Specialization caters to the growing group of mixed martial artists who want to better condition their bodies to the rigors of MMA. It involves system design around individuals as well as group courses, and also includes nutritional and supplement guidance.

Course Cost: $299

If you want to learn more about the various specializations and my personal thoughts on them, refer to this guide on  NASM Personal Trainer Certifications.


NASM has pioneered what is called the Optimum Performance Training (OPT™) model, a comprehensive training system that is heavily versed in scientific, evidence-based research. According to NASM, the emphasis on science makes OPT ideal for program design and delivering consistent results.

Through the improvement of functional abilities including strength, balance, power, flexibility, core stabilization, and cardio endurance, this program helps clients from a wide variety of body types and ages increase muscle mass, reduce body fat, and improve overall health.

OPT takes into account the individual and their needs, but also the environment in which they are performing. The program is not just for athletes, but also for seniors, the clinically obese, or those populations with special needs.

It starts with an assessment of goals, needs and abilities, and takes a look at a client from the front, back, and side to evaluate the kinetic chain to make sure they are moving how they should be moving. With this information, trainers can then determine what exercises they should be doing to help clients’ reach their goals.

The program is made of five phases split into three levels — stabilization, strength, and power:

  • 1

    Phase 1: Stabilization Endurance

  • 2

    Phase 2: Strength Endurance

  • 3

    Phase 3: Hypertrophy

  • 4

    Phase 4: Maximal Strength

  • 5

    Phase 5: Power

Trainers should know that they don’t need a background in kinesiology or exercise science; they will learn all of this in their CPT and touch on it in additional certifications.

NASM Certification Cost

NASM has multiple study options for aspiring trainers and they really boil down to choosing the one that is right for you. The main NASM certification that people want to know about is the NASM Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) certification. For the others, you can see the costs above.

NASM, at the time of this writing, has four study options to choose from:

  • 1

    Self-Study $699

  • 2

    Premium Self-Study $999

  • 3

    Guided-Study $1,299

  • 4

    All-Inclusive $1,999

Each option offers progressively more study assistance and assets that will help you pass the test. If you want the best NASM study materials, created by college level NASM instructors who take the exam every year, check out our Free Study Guide for NASM and our Audio Lectures, Practice Tests and Study Guide for the NASM CPT Exam.

These guides are the best on the internet and will help you save a considerable amount of money and time compared to NASM’s study packages. Our students boast a 99% pass rate, making the choice to utilize Fitness Mentors’ study materials a no-brainer!

Wondering how the NASM CPT stacks up against other CPTs in terms of cost? We put together an in-depth look at the best personal trainer certifications and did cost comparisons. Here’s how it compares to the other major personal trainer certification bodies:

Price Graph

As you can see, the NASM CPT is the most expensive (considering exam and study materials) of all the major certification bodies. NASM is also considered to be the most popular of these brands, and there is a certain amount of prestige that goes along with their certification.

At the same time, there are other options you should be weighing in addition to cost. For example, you should also take into consideration CEU requirements, the primary focus of education, and perhaps most importantly, if the place you want to work accepts the certification you are leaning towards.

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NASM Certification Reviews

The NASM Facebook page shows that NASM has an average review rating of 8.2 out of 10. While this is a generally favorable average, I’d encourage you to speak with some NASM trainers to gauge their experience with the test, their studies, and how a NASM CPT played into their careers.

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In the aforementioned blog post we did on the Best Personal Trainer Certification, we evaluated the average income of NASM, ACE, ACSM, NSCA, AFAA, and NCSF personal trainers. This data was pulled from reputable websites where registered users self-report their income.

The top tier of these incomes was with NASM, at $41,598 annually. It was followed closely by ACE at $41,546. The others were below the $40k a year annual salary. The important thing to note is that these are just averages; your ability to be successful greatly depends on your business acumen and less about the words after your name. Regardless, it is interesting to note that on average, NASM trainers make the most.

CPT Average Income

How to Get a NASM Certification

The NASM website claims that you can get your NASM CPT in as little as 10 to 12 weeks. To be eligible, you need to meet the following criteria:

  • Be at least 18 years of age 
  • Hold a current cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and an automated external defibrillator (AED) certification

From there, you simply sign up for one the aforementioned study programs on the NASM website and begin studying, then schedule a time to take the exam once you feel prepared. How do you know if you’ll be prepared? The Fitness Mentors Online Course for the NASM CPT Exam comes with a pass guarantee, so that is a good place to start.

If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below and I will get to them as soon as possible.

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How to Become a Personal Trainer in 5 Simple Steps

How to Become a Personal Trainer in 5 Simple Steps

Have you always wanted to become a personal trainer?

Unfortunately, wanting is only half the battle.

In order to become a trainer and succeed as one, you need to have the right game plan in place and follow it up with consistent action — just like your workouts. As you’ll see in this guide, there are five simple steps you’ll need to take to become a personal trainer. And we’ll be covering the best ways to tackle each one.

If you are interested in training clients online check out our How to Become an Online Personal Trainer blog.


Get Your Prerequisites Completed First

Before you begin with a personal trainer course, you’ll need to have a few items checked off before you can get certified. These are:

  1. 18 years or older
  2. High school diploma or GED
  3. CPR/AED certification

Most personal training certification bodies require these items before you sit down for the final exam. Additionally, many companies are requiring the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) Certification along with the Emergency Cardiac Care (CPR), but these certifications can usually be packaged together by the same provider.

The American Red Cross is a popular choice for the CPR/AED certification, and you can check out their website to find classes near you.


Nail Down the Best Certified Personal Trainer Course (for you)

Sara Fedele Fitness Mentors Testimonial

What is the best personal trainer certification?

A better question is “what is the best personal trainer certification for me?” The certification body you choose is a highly subjective decision — and often a confusing one — so here are some questions you can ask yourself before committing to one over another:

How do I learn new concepts best?

Do you understand concepts better when they’re presented in-person with a teacher or can you handle learning on your own?

Personal training education isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. You actually have several options, including:

  • Certification via accredited US company (self-study)
  • Vocational college (in-person)
  • University programs with Bachelors or Masters (in-person)
  • Unaccredited online options (self-study)
  • Gym program (in-person)

Learn more about the different personal trainer courses.

How much time do you have?

Are you looking to get certified as soon as possible or would you prefer to get a college degree along with your certification? The self-study options are the quickest approach whereas the vocational college and university programs are obviously more long-term.

As you answer these questions, you should also be thinking about the differences between each personal training program.

Here are some answers to some common FAQs about becoming a trainer that may also help you decide which route you want to go:

Do I Need to Go to College to Become a Personal Trainer?

If the thought of becoming a full-time student isn’t something that interests you, you’re in luck.

You don’t need to go to college to become a personal trainer.

While a university program will give you the most in-depth learning experience, including learning subjects that aren’t solely personal-training focused, it comes at a price not everyone can afford, both in time and money.

However, if you have your sights set on becoming a personal trainer and you love school or are already working towards earning a Bachelor’s or Master’s, a college degree can strengthen your expertise and build trust with future clients.

This is especially important in the beginning of your personal training career when you’re still building your client base.

So if you don’t need a college degree, the next question is:

What Kind of Education Do I Need to Be a Personal Trainer?

As we talked about in this guide, there are five education routes you can follow to become a personal trainer:

  1. Certification by a US company
  2. Vocational college
  3. University programs with a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree
  4. Unaccredited online options
  5. Internal gym programs

Each option has its own educational program and certification procedures. By completing one of them, you’ll hold a certification from that institute to teach people as a personal trainer.

Keep in mind, only the first three options on that list are accredited.

Let’s go over the difference between an accredited and an unaccredited program so you know which sounds best for you.

Do I Need to Find an Accredited Program?

An accredited program, such as Fitness MentorsNASM or ACE, means that it has been credentialed by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), National Board of Fitness Examiners (NBFE) or other top accrediting bodies. While there are other personal trainer program credentialing bodies, the NCCA is considered the gold standard.

More importantly perhaps, NCCA-certified personal training programs are generally recognized at most health facilities, meaning if you go with one of these you are almost guaranteed a job at a corporate gym.

Some of the most popular Accredited personal trainer bodies include:


• Fitness Mentors



On the other hand, unaccredited courses may not be accepted by corporate gyms and fitness studios.

Unaccredited courses are usually better for someone who already has an established network of clients through their own training methods and has no intentions of working at a corporate facility.

The majority of potential personal trainers will want to find an accredited program.

You’ll receive a more in-depth education and will be better prepared to find a job once you pass your test.

You can opt for an accredited self-study program, such as Fitness MentorsNASM or ACE, or you can enroll in a vocational college or bachelor’s program at your local college, as mentioned earlier. Vocational schools or colleges will have relationships with accredited certification bodies so you’ll walk away with a degree and your CPT.

Once you select a program, grab a calendar and set your exam date.


Choose an Exam Date & Prepare

Picking an exam date is the first major step towards seeing your personal trainer dreams through.

Put it off and you may end up backburnering your goal indefinitely.

That’s why certain programs have you set a date right away for this very reason.

Keep in mind, you should be realistic with your date.

Fortunately, this next section can help you understand the real magnitude of the work so you can adjust your timeline and plan accordingly.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Personal Trainer?

Consider your schedule, current workload, and other obligations before setting a date that’s too close for comfort.

You should give yourself at least three to six months, depending on your certification, to prepare. Plan on committing anywhere from 75-100 hours to doing so.

Here’s a breakdown of the expected study time for each personal training program specifically:

  • NCCPT: 80-100 hours is the recommended study time
  • FITNESS MENTORS: 80 hours is the recommended study time
  • NESTA: You must complete the test within 90 days of requesting the exam voucher so study well before this time
  • ACSM: 3, 6, 12, or 24-month options
  • ACE: Schedule test within 6 months of purchase date, but you can take it before 9 months
  • ISSA: 6 months to complete
  • NASM: Must complete in under 6 months
  • NCSF: Must complete in under 6 months
  • NCSA: 120 days after purchasing exam
  • NFPT: 12 Months after purchasing exam
  • AFAA: N/A

With your target test date in mind, you can then work backwards to plan out how many chapters you’ll need to cover each week and month in order to be best prepared for it.

However, if you want to fast track your certification, without sacrificing how much information you’re learning, use this study schedule to knock it out in just two months:

  • Read one or two hours per day at a minimum
  • Create your own chapter-by-chapter notes from the book/coursework
  • Use study guides to review hand-picked topics for reference
  • Listen to audio lectures to review the information while driving/working out/during down time
  • Take practice tests for each chapter
  • Quiz yourself on 5-10 chapters of the book at a time every few weeks
  • Reread study guides as you build upon new concepts
  • Quiz yourself and document the questions you miss; revisit the sections of the book discussing the topics you didn’t get right
  • Take a quiz every day leading up to the final week of study
  • Sit down for an entire practice exam and write down questions you missed; revisit topics you need a better understanding of
  • Take the official certification exam when you consistently earn at least 85% passing score on practice exams

You can also use study resources to help you work out pre-test jitters while you get a feel for the test’s format.

All this can help ensure you make it to this next (huge) step.


Pass Your Exam

There’s nothing better than seeing the words PASS after you submit your personal training certification exam.

But you can only get there if you put in the necessary time reading and studying the material and understanding the concepts.

Practicing test questions and using practice test preps also help increase your chances of passing your exam.

And once you do, you’ll officially be ready to start working as a personal trainer.


Land a Job as a Personal Trainer

Before you spend countless hours applying for jobs you may not enjoy, you should take the time to figure out what you really want and think about what gets you excited first.

You’ll save time by only applying to positions that check these boxes.

So consider these questions:

  • Where exactly do you want to work?
  • Do you prefer large group training classes or one-on-one sessions at the gym?
  • Would you prefer working in a hotel or country club setting?
  • Are you trying to start your own bootcamp or studio?

If you’re looking to gain experience, it can also help to approach the staff where you currently work out to see if there are any openings.

Since you’re already familiar with the place and the staff may be familiar with you, you’ll boost your chances of getting your foot in the door.

The last burning question many soon-to-be trainers have is:

How Much Money Can You Make as a Personal Trainer?

personal trainer salary

The good news is personal trainer salaries have an average median of $58,318 and 10% make over $80,000 per year!

When you do what you love and you truly help people become their healthiest, happiest selves, your salary may not matter as much in comparison. But it’s also good to know you’ll be compensated well for all your hard work.

Now that you know what it takes to become a personal trainer, and you understand how to ace all five steps to get there, it’s time to start chasing your dream.

Become a Personal Trainer Today

With all this information under your training belt, now’s the time to take action.

Start by knocking out your prerequisites.

Then choose an education route you know you’ll stick with. Work through the rest of the tips in this guide and you’ll be one step closer to passing your certification test and achieving your personal training goals.

If you are interested in getting certified with the fitness industries three most popular certifications, check out Fitness Mentors and our free and premium study guides for NASM and ACE.

Share this blog post!

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The Only NASM CPT Exam Study Resource You’ll Ever Need (infographic)

The Only NASM CPT Exam Study Resource You’ll Ever Need (infographic)

Bonus: 4 week and 8 Week Timeline for Studying for your NASM CPT Exam

The NASM CPT Exam can be considered one of the most difficult Fitness Certification Exams in the industry.

Completing 120 questions in 120 minutes, with only your memory, not even a piece of scratch paper, can be a truly daunting task.

When you sign up, depending on the package you get, you’re given a text book and some basic online materials and let loose without much direction. It is no wonder almost a third of people fail this exam.

As a college professor, I have had the opportunity to assist over 1,000 students in their pursuit of the NASM CPT Certification. With some trial and error I have been able to determine the best study materials that will lead to your success.

Like any major career-changing certifications the right study tools and a plan of action can be a godsend. For this reason Fitness Mentors brings a list of the best study tools with an 8 and 4 week study timeline for you to plan accordingly.

But first, here is an infographic you can use to help you determine the study materials you want to use:

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ACE CPT Exam Study Guide

Here’s our take on the study resources tips from the infographic: NASM CPT Textbook:

The NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training 6th Edition is obviously going to be your best tool, as all information that makes it onto the NASM CPT Exam can be found inside.

It is composed of the Code of Professional Conduct (page vii), 20 chapters, and Appendices A-D. All of these sections need to be read to ensure you have covered all potential information that makes it onto the test.

This includes about 650 total pages of information. Because of the vast array of topics covered, and the sheer density of that information, it is not recommended that the book be your only tool for studying, unless you have a photographic memory.

The Code of Professional Conduct section in the preface of the book is important to read as NASM does ask a question or two regarding its contents. There is no need to memorize it, but have a general idea of what each code means and how to apply it in the real world of personal training.

Regarding the chapters, some are more important than others, for the real world and then for the test. When it comes to the total package of testing and understanding the real world application of the content, every chapter is important to read. Although questions come from all chapters, if you were to focus on chapters that were most important to the test I would recommend the following be read thoroughly or even twice:

Chapter 6: Fitness Assessment

Chapter 7: Flexibility Training Concepts

Chapter 9: Core Training Concepts

Chapter 13: Resistance Training Concepts

Chapter 14: Integrated Program Design and the Optimum Performance Training (OPT) Model

Chapter 17: Nutrition

Chapter 19: Lifestyle Modification and Behavioral Coaching

Chapter 20: Developing a Successful Personal Training Business

As far as the Appendices go, understanding the muscles from Appendix D: Muscular System is most important. My suggestion would be to focus on the large muscles of the major joints and understand their joint motions during eccentric and concentric muscle actions (Integrated Function). Also, the stabilizer muscles of the core and shoulder do come into play in the real world and on the exam.

Reading can be a grueling process and isn’t the best way to learn for some, but is necessary. Along with reading be sure to highlight important topics and make flash cards for terms that are tough to memorize. The NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training textbook should be used as the primary source of studying, but there are other great tools to make studying easier and also more fun.

Jones & Bartlett Learning (www.Jblearning.com)

With your book comes some great online tools, offered by the publisher Jones & Bartlett Learning. Although these are not the greatest tools you can use, they do come free with your textbook, located on the inside of the front cover.

Visit their site listed above and activate your account using your access code (found inside the front cover of the text under the scratchable silver lining) and email. Inside you will find a plethora of unique study programs, most of which make you feel like you’re back in the first grade, although some are great. For example, the practice quizzes and lab activities.

The Practice Quizzes located on JB Learning are great questions, but they tend to leave people feeling overconfident. In saying this, I am referring to the simplicity of the topics and wording of the questions. The actual NASM CPT Exam will throw you for a loop if you go in expecting those type of questions. Use these practice quizzes after completing your reading for each chapter as a way to ensure proper comprehension of the basic topics and ideas.

Lab Activities from this site are going to give you an opportunity to express your knowledge and show your understanding on given topics. Open your book and locate the information being requested, then do your best to put it in your own words.

Unfortunately there is no one to tell you how accurate you are being in your explanation. In my opinion, these feel like busy work a teacher would give you in class so they can browse Facebook and see how much fun their friends are having on vacation. But, (don’t start your sentences with a conjunction [another thing your teacher would tell you]) putting the knowledge you gain on paper can be a way that some of you might learn best, although not too many of these specific subjects make the actual exam, hence the busy work comment.

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Interactive CPT Online

Most often when purchasing the NASM CPT Exam, NASM is going to recommend study materials along with it. The cheapest package with study materials is $699 and it includes the Exam, Textbook, Interactive CPT Online, and Online Flashcards. Assuming you purchased this package, the Interactive CPT Online can be found in your NASM account under My Courses. Note: most people do not purchase the exam alone, even though it may be a cheaper/better option (blog post on that coming soon). NASM eTeach, priced at $999, is also a commonly purchased package. Most who purchase this seem frustrated at the fact that they do have much for human interaction and no human lecturing.

The Interactive CPT Online utilizes PowerPoint style slides with voice-overs to deliver the information (summarized) from most the topics present in the textbook. The voice over is done by a man in a pretty monotone voice, making it quite boring, but it gets the information across decently. Within this Interactive CPT Online, you also get pages that have interactive puzzles for you to solve to encourage retention. All of the voice-overs and slides lead to a 100 question practice exam. The unfortunate thing is that they prepare you decently well for the practice exam, which provides a little too much false confidence towards testing for the actual exam.

This is a great tool and works very well in conjunction with the textbook. When I originally took the NASM CPT Exam over 8 years ago I utilized the textbook and this as my only source of information, which I thought prepared me well. NASM has since changed the test over 5 times, but hasn’t done much to improve upon the Interactive CPT Online content, leading to their recent increase in failed official exams.

NASM’s CPT Study Guide, Version 6

This Study Guide was created by NASM for use in conjunction with their textbook, to allow students to target specific sections of the text that will help them in passing the actual exam. Like I mentioned in the previous section, NASM regularly changes the questions on the actual exam and fails to update their suggested study materials.

Yes, a certain amount of the information listed in this guide will make it onto the test and it will allow you to build your knowledge base, but it might not be worth the time. (NASM might say that all information is covered in those recommended sections, but since they are so broad you don’t really know what exactly they are referring to. This will lead to uber frustration on test day.)

Fitness Mentors has done the work for you and grants you free access to a completed version of this study guide right here. Utilizing this tool allows you to study exactly what NASM recommends without taking too much study time away, increasing the efficiency of your study process. I do agree that taking the time to complete this guide on your own would give you a better understanding of the material, but is the expended time worth receiving only a tidbit of the required knowledge? That will be for you to decide.

A version of the incomplete study guide is available to print and download here. Complete this study guide as you get to each suggested topic during your reading.

Fitness Mentors Free Book Notes:

Like one instrument cannot create an orchestra, it is important to realize that one form of instruction cannot educate as well as many. Different perspectives and inputs may be necessary to fully comprehend this information. Offered for free at https://fitnessmentors.com/free-nasm-cpt-study-guide/, is notes from all 20 chapters of the NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training 6th Edition.

The Chapter Notes are going to give you the perspective of what one individual thought was most important from each chapter. Totaling 144 pages, this will give you a great overview of all topics in different wording, which may trigger better understanding. This was created xenical generic name before the actual exam was taken and can be seen as a summary of the book including a broad inclusion of all topics.

I suggest using these notes as a summary of each chapter to follow the reading of the text. It can be a great refresher when time has passed from breaks due to life occurrences.

Apps from the App Store

The Only NASM CPT Exam Study Resource You’ll Ever Need infographicv3

When looking through the App Store, whether Android or Apple, there are more than a dozen apps that aim to assist students in passing their NASM CPT Exam. Most of these are just test questions and/or flashcards created from or taken from older versions of the material. The subjects don’t change a whole lot as far as the information, but the questions from the actual exam change significantly. That being said, utilizing these tools to improve your test-taking ability and question comprehension can be useful to someone who struggles at test taking in general.

A simple search of “NASM” brings up apps that range from $0.99 to $20.99, so the investment is minimal. The only thing that separates the apps is the number of questions they offer. Some say 400 questions, some say 600; some say 250 questions with 250 flashcards. Keep in mind that these questions were released by NASM to the general public after they updated their materials and exams, so the questions will be similar no matter what app you choose (they just put them together and are selling them to you as a matter of convenience). In purchasing a few of them in research for this review, I feel as if every test question from my original exam almost 9 years ago was included. That being said, like the practice questions in the Interactive CPT Online and JB Learning, if you are extremely successful at these practice apps and their questions or flashcards, don’t let that build too much confidence, as NASM knows these questions are out there and will make damn sure they don’t repeat them on the actual exam.

When using any practice questions to study, be sure to quiz yourself after having a decent understanding of the material; chapter by chapter or at the end of the book. The bad thing about most of these apps is that none of them break the questions down in a chapter by chapter standpoint, but by subject (this how they get away with using older versions). Some tell you a page number, but since they pulled it from older versions of the text, it is not on the given page in the updated version. From a learning/teacher perspective, if you quiz yourself before you truly understand the material, the words sound like gibberish and you may lack efficiency and waste study time, so use these apps accordingly.

Fitness Mentors Study Guide for the


CPT Study Guide 1

Now you may be thinking I am now going to boast about how amazing our products are just so you go and buy them, but I am only going to be honest about how they can help you, as they have helped hundreds before you.

In the game of studying, it is the exam creators’ job to attempt to test your knowledge of the information in a way that applies to how you would use it in the field. Therefore the studier must attempt to understand all topics in an applicable way.

In reality, reading one book for 6 months straight in an attempt to understand all the information thoroughly is a dead end street. After 5 years of teaching this information in a college setting, I truly feel that I have only recently mastered all the information, as its detail makes comprehension very difficult.

The student needs the information to be presented in a way that challenges the thought process and encourages understanding; this is exactly what Fitness Mentors provides. FM’s Study Guide brings the most important topics to the forefront of your studying, and promotes optimal comprehension by asking you questions about the information that get you to think about the material differently.

The Study Guide is a tool that can be used in multiple ways. Using the study guide during your initial reading can enhance the focus of each chapter helping you to focus your retention on the most important topics (recommended 2 months of studying). It can also be used towards the end of your studying as a way to go back over the information to revisit the most important topics and lock them in your memory for the test (recommended 1 week to 1 month of studying).

The Guide does not give away any information, as memorization fails to optimize full comprehension. Instead, the study guide allows the student to create their own idea of what the information means in their own words, garnered by specific questions. A sample can be found here: Study Guide for the NASM CPT Exam.

Fitness Mentors Audio Lectures for the NASM CPT

The Only NASM CPT Exam Study Resource You’ll Ever Need infographic

Why NASM does not have this sort of educational tool boggles my mind. People learn best when a real human explains the information to them in a simple way that they can understand and learn to apply. Students need teachers, not more information in writing, or spoken to them from Mr. Monotone.

When initially reading the text you might come across something like Altered Reciprocal Inhibition.

The book will explain this in a scientific way and define it as “the concept of muscle inhibition, caused by a tight agonist, which inhibits its functional antagonist”.

Blah, blah, blah most of you will scratch your head and wonder what that even means; or if you do get the definition, applying it may be difficult.

In the Audio Lectures you can have an extremely good looking professor explain how what they are referring to is as simple as if one muscle is tight or shortened due to overuse or injury, you can bet that the muscle on the opposite side (antagonist) is going to be “inhibited” or weakened.

In example, in your typical want-to-look-good-to-get-chicks, beach muscle, frat bro that works out chest 3 times/week and back and legs only once maybe (only if they ran out of beer money), their Pec Major and Anterior Deltoid are tight/overactive pulling their shoulders forward into a rounded position. This will guarantee a lengthening/weakening position for the muscles on the opposite side of the body being the middle/lower traps and rhomboids, leading to shoulder pain, elbow pain and other issues. This is what Altered Reciprocal Inhibition actually is. Then as a bonus the lecturer will even tell you how to fix Altered Reciprocal Inhibition for different muscle groups, which tends to be absent in the textbook.

The Audio Lectures can be used similarly to the Study Guide, as you study for the first time chapter by chapter (recommended 2 months of studying), or after you have read you go back and review the material in a different light (recommended 2 weeks to 1 month of studying).

When you combine the explanation of the over 40 hours of Audio Lectures with the further comprehension of the Study Guide, you get a study package set up for true understanding and success. As a teacher and continuous student of all things fitness, it is easy to stand by the 99% pass rate as a measure of effectiveness. (Shameless plug) Click here to learn more about the Audio Lectures of the NASM CPT.

Fitness Mentors Practice Tests of the


Where would we be if we gave you all the proper education without testing your understanding of the topics we recommend focusing on? Like any good educator, it is important to test the effectiveness of your teachings with exams and quizzes to ensure comprehension. Now there are plenty of cheap and/or free practice questions for you to dive into, which were mentioned above, none of them will test you from the newest edition of the book with the most relevant, test specific information in mind.

NASM Practice Tests

The Practice Tests should be used after completing your reading and other study materials on a chapter by chapter basis or at the finish of all studying. Once again, if you test yourself before you know anything it might not do much good. The Practice Tests for the NASM CPT should be used anywhere from 1-3 days before the exam, to 2 months prior if you choose to test yourself after each chapter you complete.

Online Course

This may sound like another shameless plug, but we are confident in our products and have worked really hard making them the best ACE study materials out there.

The Fitness Mentors’ Online Course for the NASM CPT Exam includes all the stuff we’ve discussed above — practice tests, study guides, audio lectures — plus a bunch of bonus stuff we only offer in this package: PowerPoint Presentations, PowerPoint Lectures, Study Guide Answers, and a Final Exam Review. We are so confident in it we even offer a pass guarantee.

If you have any questions or concerns, please call us or feel free to leave a comment below.

8 Week and 4 Week Study Timeline

As NASM Gives you at least 6 months of study time before you test, there are a lot of options for you to choose. A thorough read with just the book can be totally acceptable as a way to pass the test, but for most of you, life will get in the way.

Since life gets in the way more often then we might like when studying, below we have developed an 8 and 4 Week Study Timeline for those of you that either want to dive in to complete the certification ASAP, or struggled and have limited time left. Studying within these limited time-frames is enough for success, but don’t fall behind or you might end up in super cram mode, in which you better be using our practice tests and study guide or your probably screwed. You can also call us anytime if you have a special scenario so we can point you in the right direction and tailor a specific study program that fits your needs (424) 675-0476. Complete the form below to access the 8 and 4 Week Study Timelines for the NASM CPT Exam.

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Personal Trainer Stats 2019

Personal Trainer Stats 2019

Personal Trainer Stats 2018

Personal Trainer Stats 2019

2019 is a great year to get into personal training in the United States. Many personal trainers enjoy the profession because they get to help people transform their lives everyday as well as work in a relaxed environment that promotes health and fitness.

With the right amount of training and a notable personal training certification under your belt, you can capitalize on the job growth of this market, attractive pay, great quality of life and need for health and fitness professionals in this amazing field.

Let’s check out some of the personal training stats mentioned in the infographic to show why now is the right time to get your personal training certification and start your personal training career.

330,000 Personal Training Jobs Forecasted by 2026

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the number of personal training jobs in the United States is slated to grow about 10 percent until 2026. The government also reports that many of these trainers work in health clubs, fitness or recreation centers, gyms, country clubs, hospitals, group fitness studies, resorts and at clients’ homes.

The median pay mentioned on the Bureau’s website ($38,160) is a bit dated and varies from the pay mentioned on the following stat which is significantly more than the income listed from 2016.

$58,318 Median Annual Income of Personal Trainers

Salary.com reports that the national average for full-time personal trainers in the United States is $58,318. This means that half of the people who become personal trainers can expect to make $58,318 per year, with the upper echelon reaching as much as $83,770 per year. This website allows you to sort more specific salary data by zip code and is a good resource for determining what you may be able to make in your local city. We also performed our own research on personal trainer salaries, check it out. It is worth noting that personal trainers with over three years of experience tend to make between $53,472-$61,698 a year, meaning that the more time you put in the more you are likely to make. Fitness Mentors recommends progressing your personal training career by getting additional personal training certifications such as the Pain Management Specialist certification or the Special Populations Exercies Specialist certification. These additional certifications will provide you with more knowledge and make you more valuable to clients.
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Personal Trainer Quality of Life

An older but still relevant assessment of personal trainers revealed that it was regarded as the 18th best job in America. The variety of settings in which personal trainers can work was attributed to one of the most important factors for ranking it so high on the list. In addition to the diversity of work, CNN gave high grades to personal trainers in the areas of Personal Satisfaction (B), Low Stress (A), Benefit to Society (A) and Flexibility (B).

What better ways to represent these fields than with Kayne, the Dalai Lama, Einstein and Gumby?

Obesity in America: Sad but True

Personal trainers are in a unique situation to lend themselves to the increasing obese population in America. At more than one-third, this group of people will likely contain a large segment that is interested in improving their health and fitness. As personal trainers are knowledgeable in fitness and increasingly nutrition, they can be a great resource for obese American’s looking for change.

Get Your Personal Training Certification

Fitness Mentors specializes in helping personal trainers get certified and prepare for the FM-CPT, NASM-CPT or ACE-CPT Exams. The previous certifications are the biggest and most highly recognized personal training certification bodies in the country. Once you make the decision to become a personal trainer, utilize all of our free and premium resources to help you start the career of your dreams!
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