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How to Choose a Personal Trainer school with the correct certifications

by Carter Rickey

I am looking for a personal training school that offers a certification that is recognized in the industry as professional. Can you tell me which certification is good to have?

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Pick an NCCA accredited certification
by: Katie - Admin

Remember that you don't have to get your personal training education from the same place that you get your personal training certification. If you are serious about making a career as a personal trainer, invest six months and get educated. You will earn a personal training diploma and will be prepared for most of the certification exams. You can pick a school in your area on our big list of personal training schools.

Once you are educated, you can pick any certification and even multiple certifications. Its best to choose one of the NCCA accredited exams from our comparison chart since the NCCA seems to be the most respected authority on the matter. You may be tempted to take a weekend workshop offered by the certification exam providers but they are not a suitable substitute for a real education. So if you take that shortcut, plan to study long after your certification exam to learn what you missed.

- Katie

by: Anonymous

As a present personal training student, I can tell you that you will want to go for the certs that are NCCA accredited. My instructor has been a trainer for 7 years and along with my school, strongly recommend the ACE and NSCA certs. They are highly recognized and respected. You can find info all over the internet on how to prepare for and register for the exams. Even if you do go to school, you will still need months of studying as both of these exams are pretty tough. Good luck in your search!

Why is NCCA held in such high regard?
by: Anonymous

The NCCA is not governed by the Department of Education, or any governmental agency for that matter. So why is it that they are so highly respected when there is plenty of in depth education you can get that does not offer NCCA accreditation? I have a Master's in Kinesiology and 3 certifications from different companies in Personal Training alone. I can tell you that some of the better education I have received was from a certifying body that did not want to pursue NCCA accreditation because there are much more reputable governing bodies that are linked with the DOE.

The explanations I always see state that the NCCA "seems to be..." Can you provide a solid answer as to why they are so highly regarded and what put them on the map as such a a credible "governing" body?

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NCCA accreditation

by J.R.Smith
(Somerset, Kentucky)

I find it sad that you are promoting only NCCA accredited certifications when the NCCA / NOCA is not recognized by the United States Dept. of Education, which I believe should be of major concern to everyone.

CHEA, the Counsel of Higher Education Accreditation is recognized by the US Dept. of Education and IHRSA also recognizes CHEA as an valuable accreditation as well.

The fitness industry will continue to be fragmented as long as organizations such as yours promotes only one side of this issue. We will never reach a balanced and unified industry as long as there are those whose only motive it political.

We must place value on education but not just education but credible education and including CHEA accredited certifications you can assure this is the case.

I realize that this note is probably not going to influenc your decision to look all the accreditations that are avaiable, which really boils down to two. But I can assure you that in Kentucky the Kentucky Association of Fitness Professionals is working hard at the legislative levels to ensure that NCCA/NCOA is not the only accredited process that will be recognized. In fact we are working hard to create minimuim standard requirements and if a fitness professional is ostracized from applying for a job because he or she does not posess an NCCA accredited certification there will be legal ramifications involved.

It is time to open the eyes of everyone that truly wants a fair and balanced, professional fitness industry that operates with integrity.



President Kentucky Association of Fitness Professionals

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Its just reality
by: Katie - Admin

We don't promote one certification over another. However we do tend to push the NCCA accredited certs over those that are not. Whenever we do this we clearly state that it is not because those certifications are necessarily better but they are more widely recognized in the industry.

I am just trying to be realistic. We all want the industry to get better. But nobody wants to take the best certification program and then not be able to get a job because nobody has heard of it.

Please continue your hard work to change this industry.

- Katie

Kudos Katie
by: Lee Hardin


Kudos on your Insightful & Intelligent response!

Keep up the great work!



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Importance of NCCA Accreditation


Why is NCCA considered so "respected". What makes NCCA such an important accreditation to have. Many of the Personal Trainer Certification Programs on your list were not NCCA accredited until recently.

What makes NCCA so special in accreditation for the health and fitness field? Don't they accredited everyone under the sun: Dog Whispers Certification to Saxaphone Polishing Certifications. Honestly, sounds more like a FOR-PROFIT business then an academic, integrity driven accreditation.

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NCCA is Over-Rated
by: Shannon Ki - MBA

NCCA seems to give accreditation to those who have the money to buy it. Sure, it has certain basic standards for testing, but when did testing process alone bring such hugh respect. Everyone seems to talk that you have to have a certification from a school that is backed by NCCA. BUT, it doesn't say anything about the quality of education, academics, and training and its method of education delivery.

I agree to what you are trying to express. NCCA is not that critical and shouldn't be defined as such.

NCCA doesn't mean quality
by: Brian D. Johnston

NCCA is an accreditation of business practices... it has nothing to do with the quality of what is being taught or how it is taught. In other words, its standards do not reflect the ability of the end product (the personal trainer). What your company should look into are specific quality standards for both educator and trainer. Check out for an alternative

I agree
by: Blake

Personal Trainer Certifications are over-popularizing NCCA. Programs are highlighting that they have NCCA accreditation in a marketing effort to justify their education. But NCCA does not justify their qualitfy of education or academic standards. But the community of shoppers are being miss-lead to believe that their best option is to complete their certification at an NCCA certified school; and that isn't true.


agreed 100%
by: Anonymous

I personally contacted the NCCA and asked "what makes your organization qualified to the be fitness industry police?" Their answer to me was basically nothing. They are made up of people of many different backrounds who have experience in the fitness industry and would like to make sure that certain standards are upheld. Bottom line the fitness industry is not regulated and NCCA is only one of many so called non-profit organizations that are taking advantage of it.

NCCA is needed
by: phil

There has to be some standard in the industry.
No being certified through an NCCA accredited organization does not mean the trainer is any good.
Anyone can really pass an exam and their actual skills will show when they train someone.
These courses are not meant to "make" you a great trainer. Its up to you to be a great trainer.
You have to have the personality to do so.

Each company teaches slightly different things but stems from the same core.
Anyone that thinks that NCCA accredication will make you a great trainer is mistaken.
It does show that a course is designed to teach the essentials though..

For the person that claimed that the NCCA standards are not rigid, where did you get that information from?

Its simply a standard each cert company has to strive for. Its not meant to be the end all be all..

by: Tom

The reason PT Certifications or other health/fitness certs. needs to have the NCCA accreditation attached to it is because the fitness industry IS NOT REGULATED.

To many groups or organizations in the health and wellness world are creating their own in-house certification program for PT, boot camp, strength training, etc... but yet, they have not let an unbiased set of eyes look at their program to see if it meets all the academic or professional parameters required to be an accredited certification.

Anyone that runs a company can create their own certification. You could have a Basket Weaving Specialist Certification, cell it with an eBook and CD, and get it marketed to the public for $179, take the exam, pass it, and then have your Certificate.

That is what folks are doing in the fitness industry and getting away with it because they are not REGULATED to have a NCCA accreditation attached to their business or meet certain criteria.

Once the government wakes up and makes it mandatory that all PT or Strength Coaches have a 4yr degree in Exercise Science and make it mandatory to have NSCA, NASM, ACSM, or ACE as the only PT certs authorized, then we will clean up the industry and the other PT companies that have so called NCCA certs right now, will have to dispand and go away.

There needs to be some harsh regulation and cleaning house to get the fitness industry squared away.

What about ISSA?
by: Aaron

How come no mention of ISSA? It is DETC certified, GI Bill approved,and counts as real college education.

No College Degree!
by: KAren

The comment above 2 spaces is, in my opinion, ridiculous. He suggests the government require that personal trainers must have a 4 year degree in exercise science. What absolute BS! A reputable fitness training study program (not just a proctured test) teaches pertinent safety assesments, and contraindictions.

I'd like to name just a few other occupations that Don't require a 4 year college degree:
Registered Nurse(RN)- minimum of 2 year nursing program
Emergency Medical Technician(EMT)
Licensed Practical Nurse(LPN)
etc, etc.

Many of the occupations above are responsible for life-threatening situations on a daily basis. Most of us Personal Trainers will never have to use our CPR training, not so with nurses, paramedics, firefighters, EMT's. I also don't believe that the public throws all caution to the wind and puts their very life in our hands, the way they may (or may not) with their doctor. In reality people don't even need a Personal Trainer to get in better shape.

If someone feels ripped-off because they hold the same position as a less educated person, they should take their degree to a job that requires one.

The Bottom Line: It's What You Bring To the Table
by: Stephanie D. Jones

I must agree with Karen's comments above. A college degree will not indicate that you have what it takes to become an effective trainer - nor any other academic discipline you major in. I currently have a B.S. degree in accounting and I very recently passed the NASM CPT exam, in addition to other fitness certifications. I pride myself on studying and learning from other fitness professionals that, in my opinion, offer a great deal and it shows in the classes they teach and the responses from their class participants. Basically, you have to have "it" in order to be a great fitness professional - a college degree doesn't warrant that. I work in the accounting profession, and fitness is my side hustle - WHICH I ABSOLUTELY LOVE!! I give fitness my all because I want those under my instruction to benefit from what I have to offer. A college degree doesn't necessarily mean we are a cut above the rest - it only means we did what was necessary to obtain the degree. There are PLENTY of fitness professional without college degrees and their wealth of knowledge will send the most educated fitness pro into a tail spin. Respect the knowledge that a person has to offer - you'll know right off the bat if they know they're stuff or not.

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