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ACSM Certification Review

Updated: October 2021

acsm certificationMany people who know the health benefits of being fit find it difficult to fit in a training schedule in their busy lives. More and more people with this problem are turning to personal trainers so that they can tailor their training routines to suit their individual circumstances. This is a growth industry, and getting your ACSM Certification is a great way to start your personal training business.

First off, ACSM is an acronym for the American College of Sports Medicine. ACSM is a research organization and contributes greatly to the body of knowledge surrounding exercise science. Because of their strong reputation the ACSM CPT is considered one of the best personal trainer certifications in the industry.

Benefits of ACSM Certification

The ACSM CPT exam is probably the toughest in the industry. Getting ACSM certified will make you as a personal trainer who is not only qualified but will have a much better chance of providing value to your clients. It will also help you get your first job if you choose to work in a chain gym.

ACSM Certification creates a better impression with potential clients and will also boost your own confidence, and improve your skills as a trainer. ACSM qualifications are recognized throughout the world. Yet another benefit of getting ACSM personal training certification is that you may be able to charge higher fees for your services.

The Downsides of ACSM

acsm testThere are very few downsides to getting certified through ACSM. The biggest one is that it is just plain difficult (see the exam information below). We have had many future trainers regret choosing ACSM as their first certification. It can be very overwhelming if you do not already have a health related background. You will need to spend a considerable amount of time studying for your qualification. If you have no previous experience, you may want to consider other entry level certifications before taking on ACSM.

While it is tough, our exam prep course for ACSM can help you pass the exam on the first try (in fact we guarantee it).

The second downside is the cost. ACSM is very expensive. Especially if you have to take the exam more than once. The materials, the workshop, the exam, and the CEUs will run you more than $1000.


How to get ACSM Certified

acsm certification reviewYou must be 18 years old, and hold an Adult CPR qualification prior to earning ACSM Certification. You will need to pass the CPT exam in a testing center. The exam lasts 2.5 hours and contains 125-150 questions. The pass mark for this exam is 68.75% (minimum score of 550 out of a possible 800), and the historic pass rate is 71%. The exam fee is currently $279, with a $150 re-sit fee.

You can do all the study for the exams in your own time and in your own home. ACSM also present workshops throughout the country, and you can optionally attend one of these. A 3-day workshop currently costs $375. ACSM also provides textbooks to cover all elements of the exam, and the total cost of these is around $125. Books like ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, currently in its 9th edition, is an invaluable resource.


Topics Covered on the ACSM Exam

Getting certified requires that you have a good grasp of many different topics related to health and fitness. When you are studying, you should keep in mind that what you are learning is going to help you to be a better ACSM personal trainer. Your studies are not just for passing the exam.

acsm personal training

Among the topics covered will be basic Anatomy, Physiology, Kinesiology and Biomechanics. You will also learn how to do Client Assessment and how to design exercise programs. You will cover exercise techniques and nutrition. You will learn how to train special groups like seniors, children, obese people and those with injuries. Your ACSM Certification studies will also cover safety matters, as well as legal and business issues.


Continuing Education Requirements

Your ACSM CPT certification is valid for three years. To stay certified, you will need to accumulate 45 CEC (continuing education classes) units. You get these by attending workshops hosted by ACSM or through other education providers.

You may decide to take the ACSM Health/Fitness Instructor (HFI) certification exam. However, you cannot do this without a bachelors degree in a health related discipline.
Now that you know the basics of ACSM Certification, check out what our readers say in their reviews of the program below.

by Katie Donnelly


Vital Statistics: ACSM Certification

ACSM Certification  
Certification Certified Personal Trainer (CPT)
Established 1954
Workshop length 3 days
Workshop Availability US major cities
Program Cost $375
Materials cost $125
Industry recognition High
NCCA accredited Yes
Prerequisites High School Diploma, Adult CPR Certificate
Exam Questions 125-150
Exam Time 2.5 hours
Exam Cost $279
Retest Cost $150
Exam deadline
Exam locations Major cities worldwide
Time to Complete (Approx.) 4-6 months
Recertification every 3 years
Recertification Cost (Approx.) $800

What do you think about ACSM certification?

Here's your chance to have your say about the ACSM CPT. Questions, comments and stories are all welcome.

ACSM Certification Discussion

Learn about the ACSM personal training program from the people who have been through it. Our readers share their experience below.

$800 for recertification cost? 
Hello, Very interested in pursuing the ACSM personal trainer or group trainer cert. Wondering how is the re-certification cost coming to an estimate/total …

ACSM Certified Personal Trainer is the "Gold Standard" 
I'm a ACSM-CPT. ACSM is the standard for physical fitness. Practically all of the other certs (NSCA, ACE, NASM, NSCF etc.) reference ACSM material and …

Just Passed ACSM 
I just passed the ACSM CPT test. I studied off and on for about 4-5 weeks. I do have a background in some personal training and I have a health and exercise …

When to take workshop in process of studying for certification 
Hi Friends, Can anyone offer an opinion as to whether it's better to take ACSM's three day workshop when you initially get the exam materials and start …

Is the ACSM Workshop worth it? 
I decided to become certified in personal training because I have worked as a Physical Therapy Assistant for 10 years in many different settings with many …

ACSM Certification 
I think that it is always great to have some kind of standard or benchmark to determine a person's level of competence. However, it sounds like ACSM has …

What study books are best? 
I bought 4 books for studying for this test, and I'm feeling overwhelmed. I have the "ACSM Resources for the Personal Trainer", "ACSM's Certification …

ACSM certification is worth the cost 
You are absolutely right about the cost! But I really believe that I have a superior certification compared to some of my peers. Of course, not everybody …

Has anybody tried ACSM's prepU? Not rated yet
The prepU study guide for the ACSM personal trainer cert is one of (many) things that appeal to me about this certification. I'm wondering, though, if …

The ACSM CPT study materials make a great reference guide.... Not rated yet
Even if you are not ACSM certified or if you are certified under a different organization, ( I am certified under ACTION and NPTI) The primary ACSM …

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