If you are an aspiring personal trainer, you may feel overwhelmed at the options available to you as you search for a professional certification. Preparing for the certification exam is a grueling process that can be made much easier with the right online program. Although the exam is rigorous and challenging, comprehensive certification programs will arm you with study guides, flash cards, and even the option to be coached by experts in the field. You can also learn how to start your own personal training business or create a unique training program regardless of where you are employed. The variety of career options available to you make it even more important to choose the right certification program for success. Consider the following factors as you compare two of the most reputable online personal training certification programs.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is a unique membership program for fitness professionals looking to earn and keep their certifications and resources. Their pricing plan begins with the option for membership, and further add-on prices depend on membership status. Members can join as Students for a $10 yearly fee, Alliance for a $99 yearly fee, and Professionals for a $240 yearly fee. These tiers provide different levels of access to digital resources, such as member voting privileges, fitness and medicine journals, and business services such as listings in their directory. Taking the personal trainer exam as a member costs $349, $279 as a non-member, and $175 for the retest. Additionally, test preparation resources can be purchased for $48-77, with the option to purchase three textbooks and save.
The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) offers four tiers of payment options, ranging from price points of $524-1499. Each tier builds from the previous ones, offering more value and add-ons depending on the level of support students need. The first tier is Self-Study, a fully online library of resources including the final exam and preparation resources. The Self-Study premium option adds a package of memorization tools for students with rigorous study habits, including anatomy memorization exercises and flashcards. The next level is the Guided-Study, with the addition of personal help in the form of coaching and live sessions. An attractive aspect of this tier is also their Exam Prep Guarantee, which provides students with a guarantee of their success. They also receive a hard copy textbook at this level of study. Finally, the All-Inclusive tier provides the most comprehensive resources with the addition of a Job Guarantee, the NASM Business Accelerator program, and a Gymternship experience program. NASM is currently offering 25% off all programs in a seasonal promotion.
Methods of Learning
Members of the ACSM community have the option to participate in live workshops and classes to help prepare for the personal trainer exam. These allow for questions and personal advice, which is an attractive learning method for students looking for interactions with their teachers. ACSM also offers a prepU course, which is an online quiz platform designed to act as a practice test prior to the exam. An interesting aspect of the prepU method is its ability to adapt questions in real time based on the student’s success in answers. The ACSM course also offers three textbooks for purchase, ranging from a book of resources to test preparation and certification review.
NASM is set apart by their live sessions and options to receive feedback on coaching styles through expert coaches and mentors. This option in the upgraded packages strengthens students’ interpersonal coaching skills, which are crucial beyond passing the exam. Since coaching is primarily done on an individual basis, mentoring can make a critical difference in a coaching program. Students also receive the foundational skills training necessary to qualify as a personal trainer throughout each tier of their programs. The flash cards and anatomy memorization packages allow students to benefit from a diverse range of study options whether they are looking for a self-guided experience or one with interpersonal support.
ACSM’s foundational textbooks provide the basic skills needed to succeed as a personal trainer, ranging from anatomy to an understanding of the certification process. The online workshops provide the tools needed to ask questions for real-life training situations and to receive feedback on student coaching styles. The main strength of ACSM’s certification program is its extensive test outline, which serves as a “blueprint” for student understandings of the exam logic and tools for success. This is supplemented by the prepU system of personalized testing, which helps students focus on test preparation.
The NASM program boasts live workships for skill building and collaboration on personal questions or challenges new trainers have. The real-life skill building adds a level of expertise beyond passing the exam. NASM students also benefit from optional access to the Business Accelerator course, which builds marketing and foundational business skills. This aspect of the course is crucial for students looking to begin a private training business or to scale personal training programs online through marketing. Another powerful skill-building add-on option for NASM is their Gymternship and Job Guarantees, which provide new trainers the option to enter the field through partner gyms and receive the real world experience they need to complement their training. This covers needs for students who may not be looking to start a business quite yet, but who would like experience in a reputable gym first.
ACSM and NASM are among the most well-regarded online personal trainer certification programs in the country. Although both programs and teaching styles prepare students for successful careers, NASM offers the most comprehensive and affordable value for their course. With multiple payment tiers and levels of support, they cater to different student needs in a way that builds from each program option. The interpersonal coaching and mentoring offers a personal levels of support for students, and their Job Guarantee and Gymternship programs provide job security many other programs cannot parallel. Students looking for a solid foundation in personal training expertise supplemented by personal support and real life experiences can feel confident in choosing NASM as their personal training certification program.