Getting Certified With NASM vs ACE

nasm vs ace

NASM vs ACE: Does It Really Matter Which Certification You Get?

In this article, I will be reviewing NASM vs ACE. Which are two of the best certification programs to help get you started in your career as a personal trainer.

But the first question I have is, why do you want to be a personal trainer?

Let me guess…

The thought of you working behind a desk is just too much to bear. So searching for a career as a personal trainer, where you get to wear cool fitness gear is your way of avoiding that.

But before you can even get a taste of that dream life, you’re going to have to figure out which certification program is the best to get started with.

But does it really matter?

If you’re looking to get hired by a gym, then you should know that they really don’t care which program you get certified with, as long as it’s accredited by the NCCA.

Once you’re able to get the certification process done, then you should be able to find employment at any gym or studio that is looking for a trainer.

Because once you starting working for a particular gym, they will pretty much teach your their process of how you should train clients.

So which certification program should you go with?

As you continue to read, I will break down which program will best prepare you to pass the exam to become a personal trainer. And since I hold certifications in both, I have an idea of how both programs work.

Comparison Charts: ACE vs NASM Certification

Before we get into the meat of which program would be best to get certified with, below is a chart comparing both NASM and ACE programs. It’s a great way to get a visual of what each program has to offer.

Easy To Follow X
Program Design X
Study Tools X
Clientele Variety X
Starting Package Price $699 $699
Payment Plan Yes Yes
Exam Re-test Yes for All Inclusive Package Yes for Premium Plus Package
Practice Exams and Quizzes Yes Yes
Job Guarantee Yes for All Inclusive Package No
Live Workshop Yes No
Learn More View Available Packages » View Available Packages»

NASM vs ACE With Verdict

Program Design

When I first decided to get certified as a personal trainer, I asked a lot of my friends which program I should go with. I was amazed to hear them all mention this program as the one to go with. And with good reason, as it is becoming a very popular program to go with.

If you are someone with zero experience when it comes to personal training, I found that NASM is a good program to get started with. They teach you how to help clients progress through their training routine.

By creating programs designed to help those with muscle imbalances. This is good for beginners since many other programs like to have their clients skip important steps that are crucial to the development of training.


There isn’t a gym or studio that isn’t familiar with this certification program. It is well known in the fitness industry as almost every gym accepts it when looking to hire trainers.

They focus more or general population, which will allow you to choose topics you want to specialize in. topics like youth fitness, strength training, or senior citizens. Whatever you’re interested in, you will find that ACE can provide that training for you.

If you’re looking for to specialize in a particular topic, ACE probably won’t be able to fully prepare you for it. But like I said earlier, whatever gym you decide to join will most likely train you the way they want.

Edge Goes To: ACE


You get 6 months from the time you sign up for the program to take and pass the exam. This gives you more than enough time to study and get ready.

As someone that doesn’t consider themselves to be a really good test taker, I found myself ready to take the exam in 3 months, but took it in four just to make sure.

During my time of studying for the exam, for me 6 months felt like a really long time. So as long as you’re really focused and put in the time, NASM does a really good job of getting you prepared. Especially being someone that hates taking tests.


You also get 6 months to complete the program as a personal trainer. But unlike NASM, you just have to register a date to take the exam in six months, but you can take it after the six months if you’re not ready.

This is definitely helpful for anyone that really struggles with taking tests. But I think the majority of people that sign up, are ready within the allotted time.

Edge goes to: Tie

Study Tools

Like I mentioned in the previous section, I really don’t consider myself a good test taker. But I must admit that NASM does a really good job of giving you all the necessary tools to help get you prepared.

Of course you should expect to get a text book, but you also get things online help, practice exams, and live workshops. I knew how much I struggled with tests, so I made sure to take full advantage of everything they had available.

Looking back now, I feel I may not have needed to use all those options, but I’m glad I did.

Now keep in mind that some of these tools are dependent on which package you choose. Like the live workshop is part of a higher package.

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You are given a text book and a personal trainer manual to help you study, but you also get online help as well. I found the book to be an easy read as it gave pretty good detail into what you should expect when it comes to being a personal trainer.

Their online feature was helpful as well. After reading each section in the text, there were assignments that had to be completed as you went through the training process. You will find that these tools are crucial to getting you prepared for the exam.

Not having a workshop was probably a deciding factor for not going with ACE at first, but to save you the trouble and money, you probably don’t really need it.

Edge goes to: NASM

Taking Exam

There are 120 questions you are given, but only 100 of them actually count. Unfortunately they do not tell you which one’s don’t count. So you have to take every question seriously and answer them to the best of your ability.

Although I felt really prepared taking the exam, I felt the same as every other exam I’ve ever taken in my life. Questions seemed like they had more than one answer, and I even had to go back to check on a few.

But I did get the pass mark which was a great relief. Also, you don’t get to find out which questions you got right or wrong as you only get a pass or fail. But to be honest, all that matters is you being done with it.


Since I was getting certified as a Youth trainer, I was able to take the exam online. There were two sets of tests I had to take, with each test having a total of 50 questions each.

I found that being able to take the exams online was pretty easy since I had the actual book available with me to go back and review.

So when it comes to taking the actual exam to become a certified personal trainer, you should expect to take a bunch of practice exams to help get you ready.

Edge goes to: NASM

The Importance of Being Certified By an Accredited Program

There are a lot of schools out there that claim to offer personal training programs, but very few are approved by the NCCA.  The reason why it’s important to make sure you find a credible program is, if you are planning to get hired at a gym or studio, they usually accept certificates that are approved by the NCCA.  

So if you are looking for a less expensive way to get certified, then make sure that whatever fitness facility you are planning to work with, accepts your certification.  Otherwise, you would be wise to get certified by a highly accredited program like NASM and ACE.

Key Differences Between an Ace and Nasm Certification

Having an Ace Certification tends to be very well known within the fitness industry. Most commercial and private gyms accept this type of certification for anyone looking to start their career. I would consider this certification more for the general population as they cover so many fitness topics but don’t really specialize in any.

As For Nasm, they have received a lot of attention and have quickly become a very popular certification to get. Most fitness establishments consider this a very reputable certification. They are more designed to help those with muscle imbalances. By giving trainers the tools to help progress their clients through stages of fitness development.

NASM Review

If any program has increased in popularity when it comes to CPT programs, NASM is definitely one of them.  I may be a bit biased in my review of this program since this is the program I got certified with, but it’s for good reason.  

They made preparing for their exam very simple and structured.  Their training program gives you the very basics to help better your understanding of how to progress clients through their fitness training.  

They are also very highly regarded when it comes to certification programs.

How much does NASM cost?

NASM offers four different packages that start off at $699, which gets you the basic tools like a book and some online tools.  

Their full package at regular prices is $1999 which includes a job guarantee, free retest, and an associate personal trainer experience.  Check their site for deals and promotions as you may be able to get a reduce rate…Read Full Review

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ACE Review

Ace Certified Training Program is one of the most trusted in the fitness industry.   With ACE, you can expect to be given all the necessary tools to be successful as you start your fitness journey.  

They provide easy to understand material that will help you excel in whatever fitness niche you choose to go with.  

If you are a beginner, then this is definitely a great program to join.  They also offer many programs for continuing education or if you’re just looking to get certified in other fitness categories like youth fitness.

How much does the ACE program cost?

ACE certification programs offers three packages that often change so it’s always good to check their site for promotions.  Their packages are:

  • Standard at $699
  • Premium at $799
  • Premium Plus at $899

Packages usually come with training materials like manuals, practice exams and support to help you with any issues you may have…Read Full Review

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 What’s Trending: ACE Vs NASM 2017


nasm vs ace chart

NASM Or ACE Certification – Which Is The Tougher Program?

Just so you know, I got certified as a trainer with NASM, and got certified as a youth trainer with ACE. So even though I am not officially certified as an ACE personal trainer, I do have some idea of their exam taking process.

So after researching for months which program to join, I eventually decided to go with NASM since so many people recommended it to me. I also liked that they gave you 6 months from the time you signed up to take the exam.

Being someone that doesn’t consider themselves all that great at taking tests, I thought that was enough time for me to study and hopefully pass the exam. I found going through the program very helpful as everything seemed easy to follow.

For me personally I was ready to take the exam in 3 months, but decided to wait till month 4 just to make sure I had everything down. I passed on the first try even though I wasn’t sure if I was doing well during the test taking process.

But I guess that’s how everyone feels when taking a test right?

When it came to taking the exam with ACE, although I found taking their test to be quite simple, I somewhat found their program to be a bit difficult to follow. NASM seemed more up to date with their site and gave me more than enough tools to help me with the learning process.

It only took me a couple of weeks to pass the test, even though it was for a youth certification. But I feel that with NASM, they provided up to date tools to help you with learning how to become a certified trainer.

ACE or NASM – Which Should You Choose?

Although NASM has an edge when it comes to trends within google search, both training programs are highly accredited when it comes to personal training.  Most fitness facilities will accept either certifications so you can’t go wrong with either one.  

As someone that got certified as a personal trainer with NASM, and got my Youth Fitness certification from ACE, the training for NASM was very helpful.  NASM also offers a live workshop which was very helpful in understanding the material.  

Either way, both programs are highly regarded in the fitness industry.

Alternative to Becoming a Certified Trainer

Being a certified personal trainer is hard. Your best chance of making any real money is by going independent. Because as you know, working for a gym pretty much gives you pennies, and even if you do go independent, you have to find the space to train.

And let’s be honest, you only make money when you’re training. But we all know that you can’t do that forever. There has to be an end game to your career right?

So what’s the alternative?

How about creating a fitness website where you’re making money even while you sleep. You can create a website like this one you’re on right now, and help more people with less effort.

If you’re interested in learning how to build a website and help thousands of people get healthier, then check out the link below. If not, you can always try your luck at getting certified, and hope to land a spot where you start off with good pay.

Learn How To Build A Free Website

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 26 comments
Mona - August 28, 2018

Hi Ralph

I’m interest in becoming a CPT. I’m not in shape but working on it. I want to open a women gym and I don’t know where to start since I’m brand new at this.

    Ralph - August 28, 2018

    Hey Mona! Before discussing the obvious question which is your experience level when it comes to training. But an important question to ask is do you have the capital to open up a women’s gym. Because one thing you need to know about personal training is that it takes a while to develop your clientele. So the first thing is to build up your clientele, and expand from there. Also, when starting out, you need to decide if you want to work for a big box gym, or independently. There are pros and cons to both. working at a gym is a good place to start, but understand that the pay isn’t great. Working independently can be good money, but you have to do everything yourself, and finding space to train clients can be difficult. So there’s a lot of questions you have to ask yourself when thinking about getting started.

Dan Hutchinson - January 16, 2018

I agree that NASM is the better of the two in terms of program design. I’ve spoken to trainers with both certs and they tend to conclude what you have: just get your foot in the door as they are both great certs. Another common tip that comes up asking trainers with both certs which they recommend is “getting the certification that the place you want to work at prefers.” As most PTs start their careers in big box gyms, it pays to walk inside and ask the management if there is a certification they prefer so you can increase your chances of getting a job.

    Ralph - January 19, 2018

    That’s a great point Dan. Many times the best cert to get depends on the place where you plan on working. Since many start off working at big box gyms, NASM and ACE tend to be widely accepted. Thanks for your input.

Jessica Trujillo - September 25, 2017

I have always mostly worked out from
Home. For years friends have suggested I get certified. I am far from fittest, I prefer healthy. I want to help others get healthy and feel good. And I’d like to try to be independent instead of working for a gym. What would you recommend?

    Ralph - September 25, 2017

    Hi jessica! I am someone that believes you should be in at least decent shape if you’re thinking about becoming a personal trainer, but even if you’re not, you can still do a great job training clients. I have seen trainers in horrible shape do well. What’s really important is the knowledge. That’s why it is important to get certified.

    Now to answer your question about going independent. When I first started, I interviewed for one gym and their pay scale was horrible. So I decided to go independent and was able to make some good money. But the toughest part for me was finding space to actually train. I would go to gyms and train without their knowledge. So if you’re willing to do that, then I would definitely go independent. I would also recommend talking to private studios instead of those big box gyms and negotiate some type of commission payout. Big box gyms pay like crap so unless you’re cool with that, I would not recommend working at one.

    So yes, I would prefer going independent as long as you’re willing to hustle a bit. But making sure you get certified is key. There was so much I learned when I got certified with NASM. I hope this answers your questions and please let me know if you have anymore questions.

Lilibeth - May 28, 2017

Thank you for this very informative review of these 2 training programs. You did a very good job in pointing out the pros and cons. I love the graph comparison.But I wonder if one is superior than the other in producing a topnotch Personal Trainer? Or when it comes down to it, it does not matter which training program you use, being a good personal trainer is innate in a particular person.The review is very simple, easy to understand, but enough information to arrive at a decision.You did a good job.

    Ralph - May 28, 2017

    Thanks for your comment Lilibeth! Either program will help give you the knowledge to become a productive trainer. For me personally, I found NASM to well organized when it came to learning the material and helping me prep for the exam. But I agree, being a successful is more than just passing an exam, you have to be able to fill a client’s needs.

Amit Misal - May 25, 2017

Thanks Ralph for educating us about the two health programs in fitness industry.You have very well explained the pros and cons of the two programs.If I had to prefer anyone out of the two programs I will definitely prefer NASM over ACE as there is job guarantee too available though the fees seem to be same for both of them.

    Ralph - May 25, 2017

    You’re welcome Amit! I had a great experience with NASM and feel they really prepared me to become a personal trainer. I learned so much from them and would definitely recommend them to anyone. Thanks for your comment.

lloyd - May 22, 2017

I also am a Certified Personal trainer and feel strongly about the terrible shape of a lot of people in their later years. I am certified by NCCPT and have been certified with ISSA. Both good courses however NCCPT is the next thing to becoming a perimedic. I am 76 years old and still active in the gym personally and try to run at least 4 miles a day. I hope I can convey that to the people that need it. Great website Good luck to you.


    Ralph - May 23, 2017

    Hi Lloyd! I agree that both NCCPT and ISSA are good programs depending on the type of fitness you are looking to specialize in. I plan on doing a review on those two programs in the near future. I commend you on being so active at your age and hope to be just as active at that age as well. Thank you for your kind words!

Frank - May 20, 2017

This post is very interesting. I knew that there were certifications for trainers but I never really know what was involved.

You have done a good job of describing the differences between the two different certification programs. I especially liked the comparison chart.

Does it benefit a particular trainer to have both certifications or is either one good enough?

Your article is both informative and educational and I am sure that anyone interested is travelling this road will gather good knowledge from this .

    Ralph - May 21, 2017

    Thanks Frank! Since both programs are highly accredited, you should have no problem finding work with either certification. I was able to get certified as a trainer with NASM, and then completed continued education and got certified for youth with ACE. So either one should be good.

Kateryna - May 18, 2017

I actually just hired a personal trainer 3 weeks ago and when I was searching for the right trainer for me, evidence of certifications (the more the better) were super important to me. I’d say that someone serious about building a career in helping folks get into shape should also take courses on sports nutrition and physiology because food is 70% of the equation and having this knowledge base will definitely make you stand out as a trainer I’d choose over someone without this knowledge. You’d also be able to charge more!

    Ralph - May 19, 2017

    I agree kateryna! The more knowledge you have to help your clients, the more value you have as a trainer. I just believe that pride should be taken when trying to help people and making sure you are prepared to do that is important. Thanks for your comment!

Manuel - May 17, 2017

With the proliferation of PT and the fast growing of the industry, now more that ever we have to very careful about the copycats.
When it comes to accreditation we don’t want to spend our hard earned money with someone that won’t be recognized.
Did I read well, NASM guarantees job? Could you elaborate on it a bit more please?

    Ralph - May 17, 2017

    Hi Manuel! Yes there are many out there that claim to trainers, but lack the necessary educations. Putting their clients at risk to getting injured and not getting results. The way NASM job guarantee works, if you are not able to find work with a fitness facility within a given period of completing their course, they will refund you the money you paid to take their course. Keep in mind you have to select the package that offers the job guarantee.

Petra - May 15, 2017

It is so important that the trainers at the gym are actually certified in programs that really focuses on the human body. This seems like a really good training that gives result both for the trainers and the clients. I have had two different personal trainers who I felt were only rushing through the programs and machines and not really giving me that extra personal ingredient that is magical and does the trick. Now I work out alone at the gym and it feels good but I would love to learn more, maybe I´ll join a program and become certified myself. In any job you take you should really love what your are doing and give the clients what they are asking for and meet their needs. Wish you all the best!

    Ralph - May 16, 2017

    Hey Petra! I agree with you, doing something you love, makes dedicating yourself to it that much easier. When dealing with clients, you want to make sure you are giving them the best service you can to help them with whatever issue they are dealing with. There are many trainers out there that couldn’t care less about the results they can give their clients. Only what commission they will be receiving after the session is done. I’m a person that likes to be great at what I do, so in order for me to do that, I have to be prepared. If you’re thinking about becoming a personal trainer, then either program will get you the training you need. Good luck and thanks for your comment!

Kendrick - May 14, 2017

It is very important to have knowledge and experience in the gym. I like what NASMI is offering. It even guarantees a job.

I was thinking of becoming a personal trainer. It seems pretty easy and plus you will have the knowledge on your own health. Either program would be a good fit though. How long did it take for you to get certified? Thanks for the comparison.

    Ralph - May 14, 2017

    As someone who got certified with NASM, they did a really good job preparing me for the exam. You get 6 months to take the exam from when you sign up with NASM, and I was able to get it done in 4. Either program will give you the proper training to excel in personal training. Thanks for your comment Kendrick!

Juan - May 11, 2017

Great review.
I am also working out and my experience with personla trainers is not a very good one. I have had some more or less bad ones and so I agree that certification is important in this field.
I am based in Germany and I am wondering how the certfication porgrams look like there?

    Ralph - May 11, 2017

    Hey Juan! Yes I was able to learn so much when going through the education process. It made me that much more confident when speaking to those that had questions about getting in shape.

Nicole - May 10, 2017

I love this review page! I feel like being certified is so important to be a trainer. I’ve worked out for years and love it. But I’ve also had trainers good and bad! My trainer that was bet good at what he did not was he able to train me in the gym but he helped with diet and any issues with my body that i hurt in lifting he could fix! So the imortance of being certified and learning not just how to lift but everything about the body is vital to get your clients what they needo to get the results they are looking for! This is great because I actually have thought of becoming a trainer but was unsure where to start. Thank you very much for the info!

    Ralph - May 10, 2017

    You’re welcome Nicole. It really is important since you are helping those that really struggle when it comes to their physical health. Being able to give them knowledgeable advice is key to helping them get results. Not only that, but you want to make sure the information you are sharing will be safe for them to try. So I definitely think anyone who is thinking about training people should take it upon themselves to get certified. Thanks for your comment Nicole!


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