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Top 11 Fitness Instructor Certifications

This article provides an overview of the top fitness instructor certifications available and the benefits associated with each one.

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Brenna Goyette
Certified Professional Resume Writer, Career Expert

Published 17 min read

Certifications are important for a fitness instructor in the job market because they demonstrate expertise and professional credibility. Certifications show employers that a fitness instructor has acquired the knowledge and skills necessary to perform their duties safely, effectively, and professionally. It also allows employers to identify qualified candidates who can meet the standards of their organization. Additionally, certifications provide an incentive for instructors to stay up-to-date on trends and best practices in the field of fitness instruction. This ensures that instructors are providing quality services to their clients.

This article reviews some of the top certifications for Fitness Instructors and explains how they can help advance one’s career in the fitness industry.

What are Fitness Instructor Certifications?

Fitness instructor certification is a professional credential that verifies an individual has the knowledge and skills necessary to teach group fitness classes. It demonstrates an understanding of the principles of exercise science, anatomy, physiology, exercise programming, and instruction techniques. It also indicates that the instructor is knowledgeable about safety guidelines and regulations related to the teaching of group fitness classes.

Having a fitness instructor certification can help individuals become more competitive in the job market. For those already working in this field, certification can provide an opportunity for career advancement. Additionally, it can be used to demonstrate commitment to quality instruction and leadership within their profession. Finally, having a fitness instructor certification can give instructors access to continuing education courses and seminars that will help them stay up-to-date on the latest trends in exercise science and popular group fitness formats.

Pro Tip: Before committing to a fitness instructor certification program, make sure to research the program's reputation and accreditation. Look for reviews from past students and ask questions about what type of job opportunities the program will provide after completion. Additionally, be sure to understand the cost and time involved in completing the certification process.

Related: What does a Fitness Instructor do?

Top 11 Fitness Instructor Certifications

Here’s our list of the best certifications available to Fitness Instructors today.

1. American Council on Exercise (ACE) Certified Personal Trainer

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) Certified Personal Trainer is a comprehensive certification program that provides personal trainers with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to effectively train clients. The ACE certification is one of the most widely recognized certifications in the fitness industry.

To become an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, individuals must complete a series of steps. First, they must pass the ACE Personal Trainer Certification Exam, which covers topics such as exercise physiology, nutrition, anatomy and kinesiology. Individuals must also complete a practical skills assessment and submit documentation of CPR/AED certification.

The exam takes approximately three hours to complete and consists of 150 multiple-choice questions. To prepare for the exam, individuals can take an online or in-person preparation course offered by ACE or study independently using their study materials.

The cost to become an ACE Certified Personal Trainer varies depending on whether you choose to take an online or in-person preparation course and whether you purchase additional study materials such as textbooks or practice exams. Generally speaking, it costs around $400-$600 to become certified through ACE.

2. National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Certified Personal Trainer

The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) is a credential that demonstrates an individual’s knowledge and ability to provide safe, effective instruction for personal training. The NSCA CPT is the most recognized personal training certification in the fitness industry.

It typically takes about 6-8 months to prepare for and pass the NSCA CPT exam. Preparation involves studying the NSCA’s Essentials of Personal Training textbook, attending workshops or seminars, and completing practice exams.

To become an NSCA CPT, you must first meet the eligibility requirements set by the NSCA. You must be at least 18 years old, hold a current CPR/AED certification, have a high school diploma or equivalent, and complete an approved education program or demonstrate experience in strength and conditioning or related fields. Once you meet these requirements, you can register for the exam online through the NSCA website.

The cost of becoming an NSCA CPT varies depending on which preparation materials you choose to use. The exam fee is $299 USD plus applicable taxes. Additional costs may include study materials such as textbooks ($50-$100 USD), practice exams ($50 USD), and workshops ($200-$400 USD).

3. American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Certified Personal Trainer

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) is a professional certification that demonstrates an individual’s knowledge and expertise in personal training. This certification is designed to help personal trainers become more effective and knowledgeable in their field. It is the gold standard for the industry, and it is highly respected by employers and clients.

To become an ACSM CPT, you must first complete a bachelor's degree or higher in exercise science, kinesiology, physical education, or a related field. After completing your degree, you must then pass the ACSM CPT exam. The exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions that cover topics such as anatomy, physiology, exercise prescription, nutrition, and health assessment. You must also demonstrate proficiency in practical skills through written case studies and hands-on assessments.

The entire process typically takes three to six months to complete depending on how quickly you can study for the exam and practice your practical skills.

The cost of becoming an ACSM CPT varies depending on where you are taking the exam and if you are using any additional resources to help prepare for it. Generally speaking, the cost ranges from $400-$700 for the exam fee alone. Additional costs may include textbooks or online course materials needed to prepare for the exam as well as travel expenses if necessary.

4. National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Certified Personal Trainer

The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) is an internationally recognized certification awarded to individuals who have met the highest standards in personal training. It is a comprehensive program that covers all aspects of fitness, including anatomy, exercise physiology, nutrition, and more. The CPT certification is designed to help personal trainers provide safe and effective exercise programs for their clients.

It typically takes between six months and one year to become certified as a NASM CPT. This includes completing an accredited course, studying for the exam, taking the exam itself, and passing the exam with a score of 70% or higher. The cost of becoming certified can vary depending on the course provider and other factors but generally ranges from $500-$1,000 USD.

To become certified as a NASM CPT, you must first complete an accredited course such as the NASM-CPT program or another approved program from another provider. After completing your coursework, you will need to register for and pass the NASM-CPT exam with a score of 70% or higher. Once you have passed the exam you will receive your certification and be able to use it to work as a personal trainer in most countries around the world.

5. International Fitness Professionals Association (IFPA) Certified Personal Trainer

The International Fitness Professionals Association (IFPA) Certified Personal Trainer is a certification program designed to recognize and validate the knowledge, skills, and abilities of personal trainers. It is a comprehensive program that covers all aspects of personal training including anatomy, physiology, exercise science, nutrition, lifestyle coaching, and business development.

The IFPA Certified Personal Trainer program consists of three levels: Level 1 – Certified Personal Trainer (CPT), Level 2 – Advanced Personal Trainer (APT), and Level 3 – Master Personal Trainer (MPT). Each level requires the completion of a series of courses as well as an exam. The CPT level requires the completion of four courses and an exam; the APT level requires eight courses and an exam; and the MPT level requires twelve courses and an exam.

In order to get certified as an IFPA Certified Personal Trainer, you must first complete all required coursework for your chosen level. Once you have completed all coursework for your chosen level, you must then pass the corresponding exam in order to be certified.

The cost of the IFPA Certified Personal Trainer program varies depending on which level you are pursuing. For example, the cost for Level 1 – CPT is $299 USD; Level 2 – APT is $399 USD; and Level 3 – MPT is $499 USD.

Overall, the IFPA Certified Personal Trainer program is a great way to demonstrate your knowledge and skills in personal training to potential employers or clients. It typically takes between 4-6 months to complete all coursework and exams necessary for certification at each level.

6. Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) Certified Group Exercise Instructor

The Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) Certified Group Exercise Instructor is a certification program designed to provide individuals with the knowledge and skills they need to teach safe, effective, and enjoyable group exercise classes. The certification program is designed for those who wish to become certified instructors in the areas of aerobics, step aerobics, indoor cycling, kickboxing, Pilates matwork, yoga and other related disciplines.

The AFAA Certification Program consists of both a written exam as well as a practical performance evaluation. The written exam consists of 100 multiple-choice questions that cover topics such as anatomy, kinesiology, exercise physiology, nutrition and more. The practical performance evaluation requires applicants to demonstrate their knowledge by teaching a 30-minute sample class.

It typically takes between 6-8 weeks to complete the AFAA Certification Program. To get started on the program you must first register online at www.afaa.com/certification or call 800-446-2322 for more information.

The cost for the AFAA Certification Program is $299 USD plus applicable taxes and fees. This fee includes access to all study materials including an online practice exam as well as the written and practical exams upon successful completion of the program.

7. National Exercise Trainers Association (NETA) Certified Group Exercise Instructor

The National Exercise Trainers Association (NETA) Certified Group Exercise Instructor is a certification program designed to provide fitness professionals with the knowledge and skills necessary to teach safe, effective, and enjoyable group exercise classes. It is the gold standard for group exercise instruction.

To become certified as a NETA Certified Group Exercise Instructor, individuals must complete an online course and pass an exam. The online course includes topics such as anatomy and physiology, kinesiology, exercise programming, class design and safety considerations. The exam consists of multiple-choice questions that test the individual's knowledge of all areas covered in the course.

The online course typically takes between 8-10 hours to complete. Once completed, individuals can take the exam at any time by scheduling it through NETA's website. The cost of the certification is $199 USD plus applicable taxes.

8. Yoga Alliance Registered Yoga Teacher

Yoga Alliance Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) is a certification that recognizes yoga instructors who have met the minimum standards of education and training in teaching yoga. It is an internationally recognized credential that indicates a high level of professional achievement and expertise in the field of yoga instruction.

To become an RYT, you must complete a minimum of 200 hours of training from an approved school or program. This training must include instruction in anatomy, physiology, yoga techniques, philosophy, and ethics. Depending on the program you choose to pursue, it can take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years to complete the required hours.

Once you have completed your training and have received your certificate from your program, you will need to register with Yoga Alliance as an RYT. You will be required to provide documentation proving that you have completed your training as well as pay a registration fee. The current fee for registering with Yoga Alliance is $50 for one year or $90 for two years.

Once registered with Yoga Alliance, you will receive an RYT number which identifies you as an official Registered Yoga Teacher. This number allows potential employers and students alike to verify your credentials online through the Yoga Alliance website.

9. Pilates Method Alliance (PMA) Certified Pilates Teacher

The Pilates Method Alliance (PMA) is an international organization that sets standards for the practice of Pilates and certifies Pilates teachers. The PMA offers three levels of certification: Certified Pilates Teacher (CPT), Certified Pilates Practitioner (CPP), and Certified Pilates Instructor (CPI).

To become a PMA Certified Pilates Teacher, applicants must have completed at least 200 hours of comprehensive training in the practice of classical or contemporary Pilates. This training must include anatomy, kinesiology, teaching methodology, and observation/assessment practices. Applicants must also have taught at least 100 hours of private and group sessions to demonstrate their ability to teach the method effectively.

The process to become a PMA Certified Pilates Teacher typically takes between 6 months to 1 year depending on the individual's experience and background. To get started, applicants should first contact a PMA-approved education provider to enroll in their program. After completing the required coursework, applicants can then register with the PMA to take the CPT exam. The cost for this exam is $495 USD plus any additional fees associated with the education provider's program.

Once certified, PMA CPTs are required to complete continuing education credits every two years in order to maintain their certification status. This helps ensure that CPTs stay up-to-date on industry standards and best practices for teaching safe and effective classes.

10. Schwinn Cycling Indoor Cycling Instructor Certification

Schwinn Cycling Indoor Cycling Instructor Certification is a professional certification program designed to provide instructors with the knowledge and skills necessary to lead safe, effective, and enjoyable indoor cycling classes. The program consists of two parts: an online course and a hands-on workshop.

The online course includes a comprehensive overview of Schwinn’s indoor cycling methodology, including anatomy and physiology, class structure, music selection, cueing techniques, safety considerations and more. Upon completion of the online course, participants must attend a hands-on workshop where they will have the opportunity to practice teaching an indoor cycling class under the guidance of a certified instructor trainer.

The entire certification process takes approximately eight hours to complete. The cost for the certification is $399 USD. To get certified as an instructor through Schwinn Cycling Indoor Cycling Instructor Certification Program you must first register for the program on their website at www.schwinncyclingcertification.com/register/.

11. TRX Suspension Training Course Certification

TRX Suspension Training Course Certification is a comprehensive program designed to teach individuals how to use the TRX Suspension Trainer for personal training and group fitness. This certification program covers all aspects of the TRX system, including proper form and technique, programming, anatomy and physiology, safety considerations and more. The course includes both online learning materials as well as hands-on instruction with an experienced TRX instructor.

The certification program takes approximately 8 hours to complete and can be done in one day or over multiple days. The cost of the certification course varies depending on the provider but typically ranges from $250 to $400 USD. To get certified, you must complete an application form and submit it along with payment to the provider of your choice. Once accepted into the program, you will receive access to the online learning materials and instructions on how to attend the hands-on portion of the course. Upon successful completion of both components, you will receive your official TRX Suspension Training Course Certification.

Do You Really Need a Fitness Instructor Certificate?

When it comes to getting into shape, many people are looking for a fitness instructor to help them reach their goals. A fitness instructor certificate can be a great way to show potential employers and clients that you have the training and knowledge necessary to help them achieve their health and fitness goals. However, depending on your experience level and the type of job you are applying for, you may or may not need one.

If you are just starting out in the fitness industry, then having a fitness instructor certificate is highly recommended. This will give employers confidence in your ability to teach classes or work with clients one-on-one. It also shows that you have taken the time to become certified in a field which is important for any professional. Having a certificate can also make it easier for you to find employment since some employers prefer certified instructors over those without certification.

On the other hand, if you already have experience in teaching classes or working with clients one-on-one, then having a certificate may not be as beneficial. If you already have plenty of experience in the field, then employers may be more likely to trust your abilities than someone who does not have certification but has limited experience. However, if you want to demonstrate your commitment and dedication to your profession then having a certificate can help prove this point as well.

Overall, whether or not you need a fitness instructor certificate depends on your individual situation. If you are new to the field or want to prove your commitment, then having one is strongly recommended. On the other hand, if you already have plenty of experience and feel confident in your abilities, then it may not be necessary for securing employment or giving clients confidence in your services.

Related: Fitness Instructor Resume Examples

FAQs About Fitness Instructor Certifications

1. What kind of fitness instructor certification is there?

Answer: There are many different certifications for fitness instructors, including those that specialize in group exercise, personal training, aquatic exercise, and more.

2. How long does it take to get certified as a fitness instructor?

Answer: The amount of time it takes to become certified as a fitness instructor depends on the type of certification you pursue. Generally, the process can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months or longer.

3. Is there an age limit to become a certified fitness instructor?

Answer: Most certifying organizations do not have an age limit for becoming a certified fitness instructor; however, some may require applicants to be at least 18 years old.

4. How much does it cost to become a certified fitness instructor?

Answer: The cost to become a certified fitness instructor varies depending on the certifying organization and type of certification you pursue. Costs can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

5. Are there any prerequisites for becoming a certified fitness instructor?

Answer: Yes, most certifying organizations require applicants to have at least one year of experience in the field before they can apply for certification as a fitness instructor. They may also require proof of CPR/AED certification and completion of certain courses or workshops prior to applying for certification.