Where Can a Fitness Coach Get Certified?

Becoming a certified fitness coach is an exciting journey that opens the door to a rewarding career in the health and wellness industry. It's a path that allows you to inspire and guide individuals toward their fitness goals, ultimately promoting better health and well-being. However, choosing the right fitness certification program is a crucial step in this journey. 

In this article, we'll explore where fitness coaches can get certified, focusing on five reputable certification providers, including the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and some of its competitors. We'll delve into the history, available classes, and unique aspects of each organization to help you make an informed decision.

National Academy of Sports Medicine

National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)


Founded in 1987, the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) has become a leader in the fitness certification industry. NASM's emphasis on evidence-based education and practical application has earned it a stellar reputation among fitness professionals worldwide.

Certification Programs:

NASM offers a variety of certifications, including:

  • Certified Personal Trainer (CPT): This program equips individuals with the knowledge and skills to work one-on-one with clients, use a workout plan builder, and help clients achieve their fitness goals safely.

  • Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES): Focusing on movement dysfunction and injury prevention, this certification is ideal for those interested in helping clients address and prevent musculoskeletal issues.

  • Performance Enhancement Specialist (PES): Designed for trainers working with athletes, the PES certification focuses on optimizing athletic performance through specialized training techniques.

  • Nutrition Certification: NASM's nutrition certification covers essential aspects of nutrition and its impact on fitness, allowing trainers to offer comprehensive online nutrition guidance to clients.

  • Group Fitness Instructor (GFI): This certification prepares individuals to lead group fitness classes effectively, catering to diverse groups of participants. This is a great choice for coaches who provide small group personal training via MevoLife.

Unique Aspects:

NASM stands out for its rigorous curriculum and commitment to staying up-to-date with the latest fitness research. They emphasize practical skills and provide numerous resources to help candidates succeed, including study materials, practice exams, and a strong alumni network.

American Council on Exercise

American Council on Exercise (ACE)


The American Council on Exercise (ACE) has been a prominent figure in fitness education since its founding in 1985. ACE is known for its evidence-based approach and commitment to improving health and fitness.

Certification Programs:

ACE offers a range of certifications, including:

  • Certified Personal Trainer (CPT): ACE's CPT program equips trainers with the knowledge and skills to design effective workout programs, interpret fitness assessments, and provide nutrition guidance.

  • Group Fitness Instructor (GFI): This certification is for those interested in leading group fitness classes, such as aerobics, strength training, and more.

  • Health Coach Certification: ACE's Health Coach Certification focuses on habit coaching, motivational interviewing, and lifestyle coaching to help clients make sustainable health improvements.

  • Clinical Exercise Specialist (CES): Designed for professionals working with individuals with chronic diseases, the CES certification focuses on safe and effective exercise programming.

Unique Aspects:

ACE is renowned for its commitment to research and education, offering an extensive library of resources, including articles, webinars, and continuing education opportunities. Their certifications are recognized globally, making ACE-certified professionals highly sought after.

American College of Sports Medicine

American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)


Founded in 1954, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has a long history of promoting exercise science and sports medicine. ACSM certifications are considered prestigious in the fitness industry.

Certification Programs:

ACSM offers several certifications, including:

  • Certified Personal Trainer (CPT): ACSM's CPT program covers exercise programming, client assessment, and safety considerations to prepare trainers for working with diverse populations.

  • Clinical Exercise Physiologist (CEP): This certification is ideal for professionals working in clinical settings, focusing on exercise prescription for individuals with medical conditions.

  • Certified Group Exercise Instructor (GEI): GEI certification equips individuals to lead safe and effective group fitness classes.

Unique Aspects:

ACSM is known for its commitment to scientific rigor and research. They offer a wealth of educational resources, including scientific journals, conferences, and publications. ACSM-certified professionals are often considered experts in the field of exercise science.

International Sports Sciences Association

International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA)


The International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) has been providing fitness education since 1988. ISSA certifications are well-regarded for their practical approach and real-world application.

Certification Programs:

ISSA offers a range of certifications, including:

  • Certified Personal Trainer (CPT): ISSA's CPT program covers fitness assessments, program design, nutrition, and business aspects such as fitness marketing to prepare trainers for success.

  •  Fitness Nutrition Certification: This program focuses on nutrition principles and strategies, allowing trainers to clients achieve fitness goals.

  • Strength and Conditioning Certification: ISSA's strength and conditioning certification is designed for those interested in working with athletes to enhance their performance.

Unique Aspects:

ISSA is known for its practical emphasis, providing hands-on training and opportunities for real-world experience. They also offer business support resources to help fitness professionals use personal training tools and stand out in fitness marketplaces.

National Strength and Conditioning Association

National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)


The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) was founded in 1978 and is dedicated to advancing the strength and conditioning profession.

Certification Programs:

NSCA offers several certifications, including:

  • Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS): The CSCS certification is highly respected in the strength and conditioning field and focuses on optimizing athletic performance.

  • Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT): NSCA's personal trainer certification equips individuals to work with clients to improve strength, endurance, and overall fitness.

Unique Aspects:

NSCA is renowned for its emphasis on strength and conditioning principles. They provide a strong foundation in exercise science and biomechanics, making their certifications ideal for those interested in athletic training.


Choosing the right fitness certification program is a crucial step on the path to becoming a fitness coach. Each of the organizations mentioned—NASM, ACE, ACSM, ISSA, and NSCA—offers valuable certifications with its unique strengths and focuses. Before making a decision, consider your career goals, the populations you want to work with, and the specific knowledge and skills you wish to acquire.

Ultimately, the right certification program will empower you to make a positive impact on the lives of your clients, guiding them toward healthier, happier lifestyles through fitness and wellness.

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