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How To Become A Personal Trainer

With a rising interest in achieving healthier lifestyles, due in part to greater awareness about the obesity and chronic disease epidemics, more people are being drawn to careers in health and fitness. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, between 2012 and 2022, employment in the field is expected to increase by 13%. If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a Certified Personal Trainer, here are a few steps to make the process seamless.

1. Do your research

National Commission for Certifying Agencies LogoOnce you’ve decided that becoming a health and fitness professional is right for you, the first (and extremely important) step is choosing a certification program. There may be hundreds of options available, but the pool narrows quickly when you take accreditation by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) into account. Considered the gold standard in health and fitness, NCCA accreditation ensures programs for 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 Personal Trainer Certification, along with other programs for Group Fitness Instructor, Health Coach and Medical Exercise Specialist, is accredited by the NCCA. To learn more about pre-requisite requirements for each, check out our Certification Handbook. For information on how becoming an ACE Personal Trainer can prepare you for different career fields, download our Career Guide below.


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2. Choose a Study Program

Once you’ve decided which certification program is right for you, it’s time to secure your study materials. Certification providers typically offer different plans for candidates that vary based on how much guidance they receive. Preparation for ACE exams is self-paced and done through a combination of online and physical materials. To prepare for the ACE Personal Trainer Certification exam, you generally need to invest about 80-100 hours of study total. Generally, candidates spread this out over 3-4 months, depending on their background, experience, and available time. ACE also offers several tools you can utilize as you prepare, including direct access to experts in our ACE Resource Center and the ACE Study Center on Facebook.


3. Register for Your Exam

Costs associated with registering for an ACE Personal Trainer Certification Exam are included in each of the study program options. The only requirement is that you register for your exam at some point within 6 months after purchasing your materials (even 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.


4. Pass your Exam

Once you successfully pass your exam you will officially be an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, ready to start a career. As an ACE Certified Pro, 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.

5. Get a Job

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 Pro Resources or log in to your My ACE Account once you earn your certification.

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6. Define your Specialty

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.

7. Maintain your Certification

In order to maintain a current certification, 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.


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 at (888) 825-3636, ext. 782.