Date of Graduation

Spring 2016

Document Type

Honors Research Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science in Education


Exercise Science - Coaching/Conditioning

Research Sponsor

Judith Juvancic-Heltzel

First Reader

Laura Richardson

Second Reader

Tim Campbell


Personal training is a largely growing field in the health and fitness industry. There are many different personal training and strength and conditioning certifications that accredit comprehension in the field, and it is often tough to make a decision on which certification to choose. PURPOSE: To centralize information on some of the most well known and sought after personal training and strength and conditioning certifications. METHODS: Research was conducted through the online database SPORTDiscus, on certifying organizations’ websites, and through various other online resources. Categories that were research included educational requirements, cost of certification, NCCA accreditation, time to complete certification after registration, available training for exam, number of questions on the exam, and the average salary of trainers with the certification. RESULTS: All certifications require applicants to be at least 18 years of age, as well as possession of a CPR/AED certification. The American College of Sports Medicine, American Council on Exercise, and International Sports Science Association all require a high school diploma or equivalent, the National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist certification requires a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited school, and the National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Personal Trainer, Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, and National Academy of Sports Medicine certifications do not require either of these. The ACSM certification is the least expensive, ($299 for non-members), while the NASM certification is the most expensive ($599). All certifications except for the AFAA, and ISSA CPT and SSC are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. Most examinations range from 3-6 months to take the examination after registration, with the exception of the ACSM CPT exam, which allows 12 months. All organizations have training materials as well as additional training available prior to the exam. The ISSA CPT certification yields the lowest average full-time salary for trainers ($31,000), while the ACE CPT the highest ($52,537). CONCLUSION: With many options available, individuals should choose the certification that best fits their needs and career goals.