How to Become a Certified Fitness Instructor: Everything You Need to Know

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As a personal fitness instructor or trainer, getting a certification in your field will put you in line with today’s highest standards. Although there are no laws or regulations that require you to be certified, the clients these days want their instructors to be well prepared and properly trained.

Health and fitness have never been more mainstream and today’s demand for instructors is on the rise. The days when health-junkies are seen as extremists are long behind us and now is a better time than ever to get into the fitness business.

With mainstream comes a lot of information and clients are savvy and informed. If you want to stay ahead of your competitors, you got to step up your game and one of the best ways to do that is to become a certified fitness instructor.

Types of Certifications You Can Get as a Fitness Instructor

Here are the types of certifications you can add to your portfolio and personal skills:


If you are looking for gym employment or planning on moving to another city, it is vital to ensure your credentials carry over. This is why we recommend getting a certification that is everywhere accepted.

American Council on Exercise Certification or ACE is one of the most recognized fitness instructor certifications in the USA.

You need to recertify every two years and it costs from $699 to $799, depending on what package you choose.

ACE allows you to get certified for different fitness specialties. You can become a personal wellness coach or group fitness instructor.


If you want a certification from a reputable organization, consider ACSM. The American College of Sports Medicine or ACSM was established in 1954 and offers certifications at low fees. You can stay certified for three years and then recertify.

To maintain your fitness certification, you must earn 45 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) during the time you are certified.

A huge advantage is that you will be able to take online workshops to prepare for the exam.


If you want to have a certification for both personal and advanced training, consider AFPA or American Professionals Fitness and Associates. The option to get basic and advanced fitness certifications can help you stand out from your competitors.

This certification isn’t as widely accepted as the ACE or ACSM, however, if you plan on being an independent personal trainer, this won’t be a problem at all.


NASM or The National Academy of Sports Medicine is recognized by every gym in the US and it is the first choice for people looking to start a career as a fitness instructor.

Established in 1987, this organization offers guaranteed job placement within 90 ways of getting your certification.

Depending on the materials you are looking for as you prepare for your exam, you can find programs that range from $599 to $1400. NASM sometimes offers sales so make sure to keep an eye out.

Every two years, you will need to recertify and earn 20CEUs. There are a few different programs that count your CEUs and you can focus on specific topics such as designing an exercise program, nutrition, and more.

You will need an AED/CPR certification and NASM is pretty strict about which providers they accept. They also require you to take a live class or practice when it comes to CPR.


Another option to become a certified fitness trainer is IFPA or the International Fitness Professionals Association. To sit for an exam, you must have a high school diploma and know CPR.

With the IFPA, you can choose different certifications.

If you want to impress your future clients, this one will allow you to showcase your advancements and knowledge in personal training.


ISSA or The International Sports Sciences Association believes in preparing their trainers with the information they need to succeed both in and out of the fitness center or gym.

The ISSA certification costs $799 and you can study to take an open-book quiz from home. The certification is good for two years and you will need to earn a minimum of 20 CECs. Thanks to workshops and conferences online, you can earn most of these at home. The organization is so confident you will find work after you get your certification, they even have a money-back guarantee.


If you want to become a certified fitness class instructor and you are looking for variety when working on your skills, NESTA or the National Exercise and Sports Training Association can help you find the best path for you.

There are different trainer packages to choose from – from $400 to $997. You need to get recertified every two years.

Types of Certifications You Can Get as a Fitness Instructor

3 Steps to Becoming a Fitness Instructor

Here are a few steps to make the process of becoming a certified fitness instructor seamless:

Step 1: Do your research and choose a study program

Once you’ve decided that becoming a fitness instructor is right for you, the first step is choosing a study program. You can consider a certification accredited by NCCA or the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.

Once you’ve picked which certification program is good for you, get your study materials and prepare for the exam.


Step 2: Register for your exam

All costs with registering for fitness instructor certification exams are included in each study program. You have to register for your exam within 6 months after getting your materials.

Before registering, make sure you meet all requirements, which include CPR certification with live skills check.


Step 3: Pass the exam and get your dream job

Once you pass the exam, you will officially become a certified workout instructor. You will have access to exclusive resources aimed at helping you get your dream job and launch your career including discounts on equipment, insurance, and more.

It is important to know that you can’t be everything to everyone, no matter how great you are at what you are doing. You must have a clear idea of your target clients who will be a good fit for your fitness services.

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