When it comes to choosing a personal training certification, there are common concerns about which one may be the most ideal. In this article we’ll explore some details about ISSA’s program to provide an in-depth look on what they have to offer their students.
Some of the main subjects this guide will cover include:
- General Program Information
- Levels of Certifications
- Course Materials
- Payment Options
- Eligibility & Prerequisites
- Program Requirements
- Continuing Education
- ISSA’s Job Promise Guarantee
Let’s dive in.
Founded in 1988 by Sal Arria, ISSA (International Sports Sciences Association) is one of the first accredited certifications recognized by the U.S. government’s Department of Education. Since its inception, ISSA has certified over 200,000 trainers worldwide.
This certification a little unique compared to its industry counterparts. Here are some specific facts worth noting about ISSA:
- ISSA is the first international certification whose eligibility limits reach beyond the bounds of the U.S. borders. Residents in off-shore countries like Australia and Brazil can have equal access to the course without worrying about the credibility of the program. If you live outside of the U.S. and struggle with finding a good accredited certification that will be accepted anywhere, ISSA may be a good option for you.
- ISSA is also the first G.I. bill-approved certification that honors military tuition assistance. For every eligible member of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard, Congress has granted that 100% of the tuition expenses be covered entirely.
- ISSA is one of the only accredited programs to offer extended education at the collegiate level specializing in exercise science. They offer both associate and bachelor’s degree programs that are designed specifically for the personal training industry.
For more information on their courses and curriculum options, visit their website here.
If you do choose to register with ISSA, there are some details to consider when choosing what type of certification to study. Let’s look closely at the different levels.
Types of Certifications
There isn’t any one category that you must choose. But there are some trainers who like to take up a special niche in areas they feel comfortable in. Do you have a physical ailment that motivated you to become a personal trainer? Have you been injured before? Used to play sports? All of these ideas can help lead an aspiring trainer toward the direction of a particular area of specialization.
Four Main Levels
Most gyms and health clubs operate under what some recognize as a tier system. Under this structure, different levels of specializations are considered when designing seniority and pay structure. There are four unique levels within ISSA’s program:
- Certified Personal Trainer
- Fitness Coach
- Elite Trainer
- Master Trainer
These differ slightly between one another, but let’s look closely at some of the distinctions:
Level 1: Certified Personal Trainers
This is the most basic and standard package that ISSA offers. In this level, you’ll be introduced to most of the practical skills and fundamental tools that will be used when you become a personal trainer. A few of the subjects include, but are not limited to:
- Properties of the musculoskeletal system, body mechanics, and body musculature as it relates to exercise and movement;
- Primary concepts of human physiology;
- Learning how to administer tests and assessments related to health, nutrition, and weight management;
- Designing customized fitness programs;
- Learning basic principles of nutrition and how they relate to health and fitness programs; and
- Teaching clients how to integrate healthy lifestyles through proper exercise and nutrition.
This level is ideal for someone who wants to begin to build a solid foundation as personal trainer.
Level 2: Fitness Coach
A coach specializes in a specific area of fitness and has the education to work with targeted populations. As a fitness coach, you’ll learn all of the fundamentals that come with the level one certification. In addition to this, you’ll choose to specialize in one of the coaching areas that will allow you to work with special populations.
For example, a corrective exercise coach may choose to work with clients who have pre-existing muscular injuries or conditions that require a customized program. Their main focus may be on rehabilitating target areas on and around their body.
To obtain your fitness coach credentials, you will need to complete the core curriculum for the personal training certification and then choose ONE of the following specialization certifications:
- Transformation Specialist
- Corrective Exercise Specialist
- Group Fitness Specialist
- Senior Fitness Certification
- Youth Fitness Certification
- Strength and Conditioning Certification
- Bodybuilding Specialist
- Exercise Therapy Certification
- Sports Nutrition Certification
Level 3: Elite Trainer
Just like the fitness coach, the Elite Trainer curriculum will also involve the standard CFT knowledge and certification in one of the specialized fields. Elite trainers are also required to become an ISSA certified nutritional specialist.
Elite trainers develop a deeper understanding of both general and special populations so that they may better assist a wide variety of special clients who are looking for more expert knowledge and guidance. More credentials under this certification lead to both higher ranks and hourly rates.
Level 4: Master Trainer
Master trainers fulfill all of the above-mentioned requirements. In addition to this, they must obtain certification in FOUR other areas of specialization.
At the master trainer level, you are considered an industry expert. Most trainers who operate at this level engage in things like public speaking or presenting at big industry conferences. They are known for having top knowledge and expertise in virtually all aspects of health and fitness. They work with both general and special populations. They also earn the most money per hour in any gym or health club, worldwide.
Now that you’ve got some general information on the levels of certifications, let’s talk about some of the course materials and payment option plans.
ISSA provides a wide variety of tools to ensure success upon completing the program. They provide all course materials online, but they also offer a hard copy of their textbook. While other certifications require an extra fee for additional materials and resources, ISSA provides this at no additional charge.
Some of the course materials that are included:
- A study guide and workbook that will take you through the course unit-by-unit;
- An online-exercise lab with over 250 3D animated exercises;
- Practice exams and section quizzes to test your knowledge on what you’ve covered; and
- Online student forum that hosts a community of master trainers and other ISSA members who are available to answer questions.
There are a few other helpful resources that come along with being certified under ISSA:
Bonus Support + Perks
In addition to the standard course materials, ISSA issues a free professional website to trainers who complete their program. This is to help members support and build their new training careers. They include 5 pages of professionally designed, fully hosted content.
Unlimited educational support is also available for members throughout the duration of the program. This continues long after they obtain their CFT certifications.
Payment Options & Installment Plans
Special financing and payment options are available for most of the different levels.
You can choose to pay for each of the programs in lump sum, but there are also installment plans available. All of these are interest-free. Let’s look at some of these options:
- Certified Personal Trainer: The flat-out rate for a standard personal trainer package, including all study materials is $599. They also have financing options with no interest if you complete the registration online. The installment plan option will include 12 payments of $66.56.
- Trainer certification + nutrition bundle: If you only want the basic certification but wish to add on a nutritional component, this package is $799 if purchased altogether.
- The Fitness Coach program will cost you one payment of $999, or 12 payments of $83.17.
- The Elite program will cost you one payment of $1,995, or 12 payments of $166.25.
- The Master Trainer program will cost you $2,997, or 12 payments of $249.
Keep in mind, these numbers are subject to change. If you speak with someone on the support team, they may be able to offer special promotions and sales depending on the time of year.
Next, we’ll look at what it takes to be eligible for registration.
Prerequisites & Eligibility
Before you can take the final exam, there are a few basic requirements that must be fulfilled:
- You must be 18 years or older
- You must have a high school degree or the qualifying equivalent
- You must have a valid CPR and AED certification from an approved CPR/AED provider.
(Organizations like the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association, and the Emergency Care & Safety Institution are all acceptable.)
ISSA does provide their own CPR certification course. You can choose to take advantage of this one or you can purchase a course on your own. Usually in your home town, there are specialists who offer CPR certifications on a daily basis.
Program Requirements & Exam Expectations
ISSA has two types of self-paced programs. One is 6 months in duration, the other is 12 months. If you don’t complete the program within the allotted time frame, you have the option to request a 2-month extension (1-month extensions for the 12-month program), free of charge. If the program is still not completed within the extended time frame, you can request an additional extension for a nonrefundable fee of $99.
In regards to program and testing standards, there are two very important things to note:
- Completing the program beyond the final extension granted will require complete re-enrollment.
- All program exams require a 75% passing score or better in order to obtain your certification.
After your exam is complete, there are also some future steps to think about as you establish your personal training career.
Continuing Education & Recertification
If you plan to go in to practice for more than a few years, with any training certification you obtain, you must eventually re-certify.
Recertification for the ISSA program happens once every two years from the date of issuance. This is generally standard across all certifications. ISSA provides resources and materials that are designed to help you with this process. Their recertification fee is $75. After completing the recertification application, you must complete 20 continuing education units (CEUs). ISSA grants a 90-day grace period after the date of expiration, free of charge. This will allow the trainer to complete said requirements in a reasonable amount of time. Any CEUs earned after the 90-day grace period cannot be counted toward recertification. Once this initial grace period passes, the trainer is required to re-take the original exam in order to keep their credentials.
In the time spent between the recertification period, it’s important to stay up-to-date with your knowledge and skills, keep course materials handy for quick reference, and ensure that you are providing excellent, top-tier service to your clientele base.
So now that we’ve covered a lot of basic information about ISSA’s program design, their job guarantee program is a good option to consider when registering.
Job Promise Guarantee
To ensure that candidates successfully reach their goals in the industry when looking for employment, ISSA offers a money back job promise guarantee to anyone who has completed the CFT self-study program. The option is only available for U.S. candidates. A few things needed in order to qualify:
- You must have purchased the program on or after June 1, 2018;
- You must have completed all course requirements for the CFT program;
- You must be a certified fitness trainer;
- Within 60 days of passing your exam, you must have applied to at least 3 employers within 50 miles of your residency who hire, employ, and have open positions at the the time of application; and
- You must submit one of their request forms with job application details, within 90 days of completing your exam.
After more than 30 years, ISSA has proven that they have options available for individuals like you. From reasonable pricing to international accreditation, ISSA remains amongst the top personal training organizations on the market. Now more than ever, there remains a developing need for professionals in the fitness field. Great potential for financial success awaits those who commit to learning the practical methods and proven science that optimize good health.
The most important thing is finding a cert that will succeed in preparing you well enough to go out and share the knowledge you’ve acquired with the world.