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“If you are looking for an entry level personal trainer certification, then you should probably skip over ACSM. It is a great certification for people with some experience but can be overwhelming for new trainers.” (about me)

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ACSM Personal Trainer Certification

Note: A newer review of the ACSM CPT program is available here.

They market is as "the gold standard" in the fitness industry (and now NASM is trying to claim this title too). While that's a bit of an exaggeration, the ACSM personal trainer certification is definitely one of the top certification options.

And of course why only offer one certification? ACSM offers a whole catalog full of them but I will focus on the two most common options.

You can compare ACSM Certification against other Personal Trainer Certifications using our Certification comparison table. And don't forget to check what our readers are saying about the ACSM personal trainer certification.

What is cPT?

Well, it won't certify you to drive a boat, but I guarantee you that your clients will call you Captain if you put those initials on your business cards. The cPT is the basic ACSM personal trainer certification. It qualifies you to train healthy individuals, make fitness assessments and exercise recommendations.

What to I have to do to get it?

To get the cPT ACSM personal trainer certification you will need the following:

* 18 years of age or older
* High School Diploma or equivalent
* Adult CPR qualification (with practical component)
* Pass the 2.5 hours exam consisting of 125-150 questions
* Pay the exam fee of $279 (pass rate is 71%)
* And in case you don't pass the first time, $150 retest. ouch!

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How do I do that?

Where there are exams, there will be workshops. And getting the ACSM personal trainer certification is no exception.

ACSM is happy to lighten your wallet for these optional but helpful offerings:

  • 1 day workshop $129 (experienced trainers only)
  • 3 day workshop $375 (for the rest of us)
  • Textbooks, Textbooks Textbooks. About $125 if you buy them all.


Where's my Calculator?

Add it all up and you are looking at close to $800. No wonder they call themselves the gold standard!

acsm practice exam

But then I'm Certified, Right?

Well, yes and no. If you pass the exam you will earn the ACSM personal trainer certification. However, every 3 years you must renew your credential. That takes $30 plus 45 CEC units. That's continuing education classes if you are not familiar with the term.

So how much is 45 CEC units? Its equivalent to about 7 days worth of workshop attendance. And of course you can guess, ACSM only recognizes their own CEC's for maintaining the ACSM personal trainer certification.

So if you go down this path, plan on spending another $800-$1000 on continuing education.

What about advanced certifications?

The ACSM personal trainer certification is just the beginning of their offerings. You can continue working and become an ACSM Health/Fitness Instructor(HFI). The HFI qualifies you to train clients who are not in good health. This kind of training requires much more knowledge of anatomy and requires a great deal of responsibility.

At a glance, the main difference is that you must have an Associate's degree (usually a two year program) in a health related field. The cPT ACSM personal trainer certification only requires a high school education. The costs of the HFI certification are comparable to the ACSM personal trainer certification.

learn more

What do you think about ACSM certification?

Here's your chance to have your say about the ACSM personal trainer certification. Ask a question, submit a comment, or even rant or rave about ACSM.

ACSM Certification Insider Tips

Getting feedback about ACSM certification from people who have gone through the program is valuable. Click on each tip to read and rate the comments submitted by our readers.

My epic ACSM Pearson VUE ordeal... 
Well Im not sure where the proper place to post this is, but it needs to be heard so hopefully noone else will have to go through what I've been through …

2/3/12. 700 on ACSM. Thanks for all the help 
Thanks everyone. 2-3 months of studying, using the practice exam here...along with many of the comments helped alot. I scored 700 on 2/3/12 One …

ACSM is it just for medical purposes? 
I am looking to get certified as a personal trainer either through NASM or ACSM. I currently live in Dallas and since The Cooper's Athletic Center is …

so confused and don't know where to start 
I've had my ACSM books for 4mo. and getting motivated to studying is hard b/c everytime I begin to study I feel like my brain is on overload and I'm not …

ACSM Health Fitness Specialist Workshop. Worth it??? 
Hi, I am finishing my last semester of a B.S. in Kinesiology. I am going to take the ACSM Health Fitness Specialist exam. I am considering taking …

Does a College Degree Matter? 
Hey my name is Jason and I a senior at Fairfield University, which is 4yr. college. I'm about to graduate with a degree in Sociology, but I am seriously …

ACSM CPT to Nutritionist 
I am going through a career change and am about 95% sure I want to go to school for nutrition. In the meantime I was thinking of getting certified as …

ACSM Workshop 
I am trying to decide whether or not to attend the ACSM workshop. Have you been to one of these workshops? How many people normally attend and is everyone …

ACSM is the best cert hands down Not rated yet
If you go get an exercise science, an exercise and wellness, etc... Bachelor's degree, the final two years of your studies are dedicated to ACSM information. …

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