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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

Once 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.

Select an NCCA-Accredited Certification

Personal Trainer Careers

Get the Career Guide

As a Personal Trainer, there are many ways to move people toward better health. Explore them all in our PT Career Guide.

Becoming A Personal Trainer - A Career Guide For An Evolving Industry

Explore your options for starting or furthering your career in the fitness industry as a certified personal trainer.

Personal Trainer Careers

  • Gym or Studio Trainer
  • Clinically Based Trainer
  • In-Home Trainer
  • Online Trainer
  • Facility Owner
  • Part-Time Personal Trainer

Step 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 examcandidates generally invest 80-100 hours of study time over a 3-4 month period depending on 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.

View Full Programs Comparision

Step 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. 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

Once you successfully pass your exam you will officially be an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, ready to start a career. As an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, 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 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 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
Crunch
Steve Nash Fitness World & Sports Club
Active Wellness

Step 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.

View Specialist Programs

Step 7

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.

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

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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.