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Certification 101

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.

Begin

Step 1

Do your research and choose a study program

Once you've decided that becoming a personal trainer is right for you, the first step is choosing a certification program. Consider a certification accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), considered the gold standard in health and fitness. All ACE Certifications are accredited by the NCCA.

Once you've decided which certification program is right for you, it's time to get your study materials. ACE Personal Trainer Study Programs include a combination of digital and hard copy materials. Preparation for the exam is self-paced, typically taking 80-100 hours over 3-4 months. ACE offers several tools you can use, including direct access to experts in our ACE Resource Center and the ACE Study Center on Facebook.

Curious what our study programs are like? Get a free course preview in the certification of your choice.

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Step 2

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. Please note that purchasing ACE study materials is not required in order to register for the exam.

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Step 3

Pass your exam and get your dream job

Once you successfully pass your exam, you will officially be an ACE Certified Personal Trainer. You'll now have access to exclusive resources aimed at helping you launch your career, including professional discounts on equipment, ACE apparel, liability insurance and more. You'll also receive your certificate and a wallet ID card to verify your credentials to potential clients and employers.

There are a lot of factors that go into finding the right position. First, you'll need to determine which setting 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 Certified Professionals are making nationwide. Whichever career path you pursue, ACE has a number of tools to help you get started. For more information, see our Programs & Benefits or log in to your My ACE Account once you earn your certification.

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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
Crunch
Steve Nash Fitness World & Sports Club
Active Wellness

Step 4

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 performance, 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.

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Step 5

Maintain Your Certification

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.

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Personal Trainer Requirements

To be eligible for the ACE Personal Trainer 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.