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Certification 101

How to become a Group Fitness Instructor

The rise in popularity of group fitness, which attracts more than 22.1 million people annually, has created vast changes in both the industry itself and the ways in which group fitness is delivered. Demand for talented, versatile group fitness instructors has exploded, making this the perfect time to get started on your professional journey. Follow these seven steps and you’ll be off and running.


Step 1

Do your Research

Be sure to consider NCCA accreditation, the gold standard in health and fitness

Planning for a career in health and fitness is an investment of your time and resources, so it’s critical to choose wisely. Certification options abound, but quickly diminish when you narrow your scope to accreditation by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). Considered the gold standard in health and fitness, NCCA accreditation ensures programs from a wide range of industries meet defined standards of excellence for performing a specific job. It’s also the standard recognized by leaders (and employers) in fitness and medical communities. The ACE Group Fitness Instructor Certification, along with our Personal Trainer, Health Coach and Medical Exercise Specialist Certifications, is accredited by the NCCA. To learn more about pre-requisite requirements for each, check out our Certification Handbook.

Select an NCCA-Accredited Certification

Group Fitness Instructor Careers

Get the Career Guide

There are a variety of paths to get people moving as a Group Fitness Instructor. Explore them all in ACE's Group Fitness Instructor Career Guide.

Becoming A Group Fitness Instructor - A Career Guide for a dynamic field

Explore your options for starting or furthering your career in the fitness industry as a group fitness instructor.

Group Fitness Careers

  • CrossFit
  • Pilates
  • Indoor Cycling
  • Zumba
  • TRX

Step 2

Choose an ACE Study Program

How to decide which type of program is right for you

Certification providers typically offer plans that vary based on how much guidance they provide to candidates. For example, ACE offers three study experiences: Pro Advantage, Pro Plus and Pro Essentials. Pro Advantage builds on what’s provided in Pro Plus by delving deeper into the core concepts of group fitness instruction, bringing them to life with engaging videos, podcasts, expert-led webinars and interactive learning activities. Preparation for an ACE exam, however, is self-paced and can be completed with either study experience. To prepare for the Group Fitness Instructor Certification exam candidates generally invest 80-100 hours of study time over a 3-4 month period depending on background, experience and available time. ACE is with you every step of the way as you prepare for your Group Fitness Instructor Certification Exam. We’ll give you direct access to our ACE Resource Center Experts and the ACE Study Center on Facebook.

View Full Programs Comparision

Step 3

Register for Your Exam

Learn more about exam requirements and pre-requisites

Costs associated with registering for an ACE Group Fitness Instructor Certification Exam are included in each of the study program options. You are required to register for your exam within 6 months after purchasing your materials (though you can select a date beyond that deadline). Prior to registering, make sure you meet all pre-requisite requirements for your exam, which includes holding a current CPR/AED certification with live skills check. Please note that purchasing ACE study materials is not required in order to register for the exam.

Find an Exam Location

Where would you like to take your exam?

Step 4

Pass Your Exam

And get exclusive access to career-boosting resources

Once you successfully pass your exam you will officially be an ACE Certified Group Fitness Instructor, ready to start a career. As an ACE Certified Group Fitness Instructor, you’ll gain access to exclusive resources aimed at helping you launch your career including professional discounts on equipment, ACE apparel, liability insurance and a wide range of other products. Once you pass your exam, you’ll also receive your certificate and a wallet ID card in the mail that will make it easy to verify your credentials to potential clients and employers.

Programs and Benefits

Step 5

Get a Career Path and Look for Jobs

ACE provides you with several resources to get your career started

There are a lot of factors that go into finding the right position. First, you’ll need to determine which environment you want to work in (a health and fitness club, specialty studio, medical fitness facility, or if you’d like to venture out on your own) and where. It may help to check out our salary report to find out what ACE Certified Pros are making nationwide. Whichever career path you pursue, ACE has a number of tools to help you get started. Some of the top fitness clubs in the country have guaranteed interviews for ACE Certified Professionals who apply for qualifying positions, and others have instituted discount programs for equipment, liability insurance and other products you’ll need to get started. For more information on these benefits, visit Programs & Benefits or log in to your My ACE Account once you earn your certification.

Our commitment to foster career growth

As part of our commitment to foster career growth among ACE Certified Professionals, we have secured agreements from a wide range of health and fitness companies nationwide. Identifying yourself as an ACE Certified Personal Trainer or Group Fitness Instructor at 24 Hour Fitness, Anytime Fitness, Town Sports International, KoKo FitClub, Crunch, Steve Nash Fitness World and Sports Club, Orangetheory Fitness and Active Wellness will get you in the door for an interview for any qualifying position at those facilities.

24 Hour Fitness
Anytime Fitness
Orangetheory Fitness
Town Sports International
Koko FitClub
Steve Nash Fitness World & Sports Club
Active Wellness

Step 6

Define Your Specialty

How to carve out a niche for yourself in the marketplace

It’s important to note that you can’t be everything to everyone, no matter how great you are at your craft. You must have a clear idea of your target market to connect with clients who will be a good fit for your services. ACE has created a series of Specialist Programs to help you focus your expertise in specific areas like sports conditioning, fitness nutrition, weight management and behavior change. Although anyone can pursue the education in a specialist program, only those who hold NCCA-accredited certifications will be recognized as ACE Specialists. To find out which area you should pursue, consider the needs in your community, what you are most passionate about, and your preferred training style.

View Specialist Programs

Step 7

Maintain Your Certification

Keep up with continuing education to boost your knowledge and expertise

In order to maintain the high standards set by the NCCA, ACE Professionals (and others in the industry) are required to earn 20 hours of continuing education credits (2.0 CECs) every two years. Establishing and enforcing that standard helps us validate that professionals continue to enhance their competence to safely and effectively lead people to change. To fulfill those renewal requirements, ACE offers a number of diverse opportunities to help you build your expertise.

Get Certified

Additional Support

There will no doubt be more questions you need answered once you start your career. Finding a mentor can help you navigate some of those challenges, but our team is also here to help with any additional questions you may have. Feel free to give us a call.

Call (888) 825-3636 ext. 782

M-F 7AM to 5PM PST

To be eligible for the ACE Group Fitness Instructor Certification Exam, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Have completed high school (or the equivalent).
  • Hold a current CPR/AED certification with a live skills check.
  • Present a current government-issued photo ID with signature (driver’s license, passport, military ID).

Questions? Contact us at (888) 825-3636, ext. 782.