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Keith Conner
Home About Certifications


A Few Facts About Certified Personal Trainers

and Fitness Certification Organizations


"Are Certified Personal Trainers more expensive than non-certified trainers?" No! Certified trainers have many hours, sometimes years, of health, physiology, nutrition, and workout safety training. Many of these trainers also have medical degrees and certifications. These people take your health and safety very seriously. Trainers listed on this site have their certifications and liability insurance checked periodically to ensure they are current. Non-certified and "mail-order certified" trainers on the other hand have little or no practical training, and usually don't or can't carry liability insurance.


"With more than 100 organizations offering training and certification courses for personal trainers, how do I know which ones are reputable?" It is a question often asked, but difficult to answer. Some certifications are rigorous, and other programs can be completed in as little as one weekend; some require no testing at all. Although there is an effort by several industry groups, including the National Board of Fitness Examiners (NBFE), a non-profit, personal training industry body to self-regulate in a model similar to the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME), no industry-wide governing body exists today. In fact, there is much discussion whether an industry governing body would improve the overall quality of personal training or protect consumers from potential harm or injury by personal trainers.

Below, we give you a brief overview of each of the major certifying authorities in alphabetical order that includes the date founded and principal type of certifications they provide.

If you are interested in the personal trainer certification process, how to become a personal trainer, or more details about becoming a personal personal trainer, please contact one of the organizations listed below. We believe these are the best personal training certifications in the USA and Canada.



Brief Introductions to Selected Fitness

Certification Organizations


American Academy of Health, Fitness and Rehabilitation Professionals (AAHFRP)

AAHFRP Medical Exercise SpecialistAAHFRP Medical Exercise Program Director

Founded in 1992 by Michael K. Jones, PhD, PT. AAHFRP prepares fitness professionals for post-rehab and medical exercise for clients with a wide variety of medical conditions. Certifications are valid in the United States, Canada, Germany, England, Australia, Burma, Bermuda & Ireland.

AAHFRP certified Medical Exercise Specialists (MES), Post Rehab Conditioning Specialists (PRCS) and Medical Exercise Program Directors (MEPD) are found working in hospital based fitness programs, corporate fitness centers, sportsmedicine and physical therapy clinics, chiropractic offices, health/fitness clubs and in client’s homes. Hundreds of AAHFRP certified fitness professionals have received reimbursement from insurance carriers and referrals from medical professionals. To search for AAHFRP-certified professionals CLICK HERE.


American Council on Exercise (ACE)

ACE logo

The American Council on Exercise is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting safe and effective physical activity. Known as America's Authority on Fitness , ACE promotes ongoing research, public education and outreach, as well as providing personal training certifications. Currently, ACE offers four certifications; Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor, Lifestyle & Weight Management Consultant, and Clinical Exercise Specialist. Also offered is the speciality certification--Peer Fitness Trainer. This certification is designed specifically for firefighters and emergency medical technicians, and is administered exclusively through the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF). If you are a member of IAFF, learn more about the Peer Fitness Trainer Certification at the IAFF website. ACE has received accreditation by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), the accrediting board for the National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA).  To search for ACE-certified professionals CLICK HERE .


American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)

ACSM American College of Sports Medicine

According to ACSM, it is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world with over 20,000 members worldwide. Founded in 1954, ACSM members have been promoting healthier lifestyles for people around the world by working in a wide range of medical specialties, allied health professions, and scientific disciplines.  Members of ACSM are committed to the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of sports-related injuries and the advancement of the science of exercise. To search for ACSM-certified professionals CLICK HERE.


Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA)

AFAA Aerobics adn Fitness Association of America.

Established in 1983, AFAA claims to be the "world's largest fitness and TeleFitness® educator." Over 200,000 certifications have been issued in at least 73 countries worldwide. AFAA supports numerous studios and health clubs that over 2,500 educational workshops annually. An affiliate of the National Board of Fitness Examiners (NBFE), AFAA is also a member of the National Organization of Competency Assurance (NOCA). To search for AFAA-certified professionals CLICK HERE.


American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA)

AFPA American Fitness Professionals and Associates

The AFPA was founded in 1994 and reports over 59,000 certified members worldwide. Their 24 certification programs in Exercise Science, Sports Medicine, and Applied Human Nutrition, have been peer reviewed and many are approved for continuing education credits (CEC). AFPA is also an affiliate of the National Board of Fitness Examiners (NBFE). To search for AFPA-certified professionals CLICK HERE.


American Fitness Training of Athletics (AFTA)

AFTA American Fitness Training of Athletics.

Unlike the American College of Sports Medicine, AFTA does not require personal trainers to have a degree before they issue a certification.  They claim to offer the only credible and convenient online certification course. AFTA also offers home study courses for continuing education, a total of 13 certification courses in all. To search for AFTA-certified professionals CLICK HERE.


British Columbia Recreation and Parks Association (BCRPA)


The BCRPA is a provincial, not-for-profit professional association that has provided educational opportunities, information and advocacy for over 40 years. Through its Fitness Leader Registration program, the BCRPA acts as a regulatory body by collaboratively developing, recognizing and promoting provincial standards for the training and registration of Fitness Leaders in BC. The program has a current registration of over 3,300 fitness professionals and has gained recognition as the standard against which the qualifications of a Fitness Leader may be measured in BC. BCRPA is a member of the National Fitness Leadership Alliance (NFLA).  To search for BCRPA-certified professionals CLICK HERE.



Canadian Fitness Professionals (Can-Fit-Pro)

Can-Fit-Pro Logo

Can-Fit-Pro is the largest provider of education in the Canadian fitness industry. Founded in 1993, Can-Fit-Pro delivers accessible, quality education, certification, conferences, trade shows and membership services. Can-Fit-Pro’s 18,000 members include some of the world’s finest fitness professionals, health club operators, industry suppliers and fitness consumers.

Can-Fit-Pro is Canada’s largest certification organization for fitness professionals and offers education for both fitness professionals and fitness consumers. To search for Can-Fit-Pro-certified professionals CLICK HERE.


Corrective Holistic Exercise Kinesiology Institute (C.H.E.K. Institute)

CHEK Institute Logo

The C.H.E.K Institute was founded by Paul Chek, HHP, NMT, a prominent expert in the field of holistic health and corrective and high-performance exercise. Paul’s unique, holistic approach to treatment and education has changed the lives of countless clients, students and peers for over 22 years. By treating the body as a whole system and finding the root cause of a problem, C.H.E.K.-certified practitioners have successfully coached clients toward complete resolution of their health and performance challenges where traditional approaches have consistently failed.

C.H.E.K Institute offers nine certifications and 29 online continuing educations courses. To search for CHEK-certified professionals CLICK HERE.


Cooper Institute of Aerobic Research (CIAR)

The Cooper Institute was founded on June 22, 1970 by Kenneth H. Cooper, M.D., M.P.H. Considered an "opinion" at the time, Dr. Cooper believed that it was as important to try to prevent disease as it was to treat disease, something that is a widely-held belief today. The Cooper Institute is located on the campus of The Cooper Aerobics Center campus in Dallas, TX, and conducts research in numerous health areas including: epidemiology, exercise physiology, behavior change, hypertension, children's health issues, obesity, nutrition, and aging. The CIAR certification process requires attendance at the Cooper Institute campus for all lectures, passing scores on written, verbal and practical examinations, as well as current CPR certification, if applicable. To search for CIAR-certified professionals CLICK HERE.


International Fitness Professionals Association (IFPA)

IFPA International Fitness Professionals Association

Started in July, 1994, IFPA has over 40,000 Certified Instructors world-wide. The IFPA claims to have developed the first ever fitness certification based on the actual job fitness professionals needed to perform, in order to be both safe and effective. Their certifications are arranged into three groups, the first group contains five Primary to Advanced Personal Trainer certifications, and the second group which contains 16 Specialized Courses, and the third group of 17 Continuing Education courses. To search for IFPA-certified professionals CLICK HERE.


International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA)

ISSA International Sports Sciences Association

ISSA has been one of the leading fitness education associations since 1988. It offers 10 specialty fitness programs for personal training candidates. ISSA's curriculum was created by a staff of world-renowned researchers, scientists, sports-medicine specialists, and world-champion athletes, and includes anatomy, kinesiology, injury prevention, supplementation, nutrition, and all aspects of weight training. ISSA has over 60,000 graduates and several thousand others currently enrolled in various programs. Hundreds of physicians, chiropractors, coaches, physical therapists, occupational therapists, athletic trainers, and health & fitness professionals have taken ISSA specialized programs for certification and continuing education. ISSA is an affiliate of the National Board of Fitness Examiners (NBFE). To search for ISSA-certified professionals CLICK HERE.

National Association for Fitness Certification (NAFC) 

NAFC National Association for Fitness Certification

NAFC was established in 1992 by a group of experts in various fitness-related fields including Exercise Physiology, Adaptive Physical Education, Medicine and Nursing, and Professional Coaching. NAFC offers its three certifications primarily through correspondence courses. One of the unique aspects of the NAFC home study certification is the requirement their students to pass a practical exam to demonstrate all the aspects of effective teaching by having the student make his or her own instuctional videos. NAFC is a provisional affiliate of the National Board of Fitness Examiners (NBFE). To search for NAFC-certified professionals CLICK HERE.


National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)

NASM National Academy of Sports Medicine

Founded in 1987 by a California group of physicians, physical therapists and fitness professionals, the National Academy of Sports Medicine has over 100,000 members in 80 countries and has received international acclaim for its world-class concepts, programs and products. NASM offers five fitness certifications, advanced credentials, and more than 20 continuing education courses in a variety of professional disciplines and is the only certification program leading to an accredited master’s degree.

NASM operates a state-of-the-art training and teaching facility that totals more than 15,000 square feet.  A 7,800 sq. ft. training area includes numerous ammenities like an indoor sprint track, sport courts, sports-medicine treatment area, a hydrotherapy room, and two professional sports locker rooms. NASM has received accreditation by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), the accrediting board for the National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA). To search for NASM-certified professionals CLICK HERE.


National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP)

National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP)

The National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) is a coach training and certification program for 65 different sports and is offered in both official languages across Canada since 1997. NCCP workshops are designed to meet the needs of all types of coaches, from the first-time coach to the head coach of a national team. The NCCP is the recognized national standard for coach training and certification in Canada. As part of the program, all coaches are trained in ethical decision-making and sport safety.  Each year, more than 50,000 coaches take an NCCP workshop and since it began, more than 1 million coaches have participated in the program.


National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF)

NCSF National Council of Strength and Fitness

NCSF offers three certification training options: a home study course; a workshop course, offered within various fitness facilities and both college and university settings around the country; and an eight-week training school course taught at college campuses in the greater South Florida area. The certification exam is given at Thompson Prometric testing centers in over 400 locations throughout the United States and Canada. 

Something that is relatively unique is the education programs offered by the National Council on Strength & Fitness organization are approved for college credit at many colleges and universities. NCSF has received accreditation by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), the accrediting board for the National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA). To search for NCSF-certified professionals CLICK HERE.


Natural Fitness Trainers Association (NFTA) 

The Natural Fitness Trainers Association started offering online certifications in 1998 and currently offers 4 fitness certifications. The NFTA has certified members in many countries including the  United States, United Kingdom (UK), the Netherlands, Canada, Mexico, Turkey, Italy, New Zealand, Russia, Australia, India, Japan, and Korea. To search for NFTA-certified professionals CLICK HERE.


National Exercise Trainers Association (NETA)

Formerly: National Dance Exercise Instructor's Training Association (NDEITA)
NETA National Exercise Trainers Association

The National Exercise Trainers Association was founded in 1977 as the National Dance Exercise Intructor's Training Association. NETA now has over 120,000 members in their four certifications: Group Exercise, Personal Training, Pilates, and Yoga. Five secondary certifications offered are: Active Older Adults, Basic Water Exploration, Cycle Smart, Kickboxing, and Stability Ball. They also offer nine continuing education workshops that are presented continuously around the USA. To search for NETA-certified professionals CLICK HERE.


National Endurance and Sports Trainer's Association (NESTA)

Founded in 1992 by John Spencer Ellis, NESTA offers fitness and wellness professionals a unique a three pronged approach – personal skills, business skills, and practical skills as an affordable method of acquiring education and certifications. The combination of NESTA and Spencer Institute for Life Coaching have over 45,000 members in 30 countries. 

There are three personal trainer certifications: Personal Trainer; Advanced Personal Trainer; and Master Personal Trainer. Including Personal Training, speciality programs, and certifications, there are over 100 training programs offered. Training is offered as home study, live seminars, "Boot Camps" at the corporate office, live "teleclasses", and downloadable podcasts. NAFC is a approved affiliate of the National Board of Fitness Examiners (NBFE) and a member of the National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA). and is currently in the process of completing the NCCA accreditation (National Commision for Certifying Agencies) for the Personal Fitness Trainer exam (estimated January 2006). To search for NESTA-certified professionals CLICK HERE.


National Federation of Personal Trainers (NFPT) 

One of the older fitness certifying entities, the NFPT has been providing resistance-based personel training certifications since 1988. Along with home study, workshops, and courses available at a few community colleges, the NFPT offers a "Fast Track" 7-day certification course.

NFPT is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), the accrediting board for the National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA). To search for NFPT-certified professionals CLICK HERE.


National Personal Training Institute (NPTI) 


The National Personal Training Institute, (NPTI) is a state-recognized certification that is somewhat different from the other certifications available. The National Personal Training Institute certificates are earned by completing a 500-hour comprehensive program of classroom and gym instruction.  The hours may be earned as 5 hours a day, 4 days a week for 6 months, or 8 hours every Saturday for one year at one of their 28 schools located throughout the USA. To search for NSCA-certified professionals CLICK HERE.


National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)

NSCA National Strength and Conditioning Association

The National Strength and Conditioning Association is an international non-profit educational association founded in 1978. It currently has approximately 30,000 members in 52 countries. There are two certifications available: NSCA-CPT for professionals who work one-on-one with clients at health clubs, schools, or client's homes/offices; and CSCS, a higher certification for individuals who have an BA/BS degree, a senior at an accredited college or university, or holds a degree in chiropractic medicine. To search for NSCA-certified professionals CLICK HERE.


Private Trainers Association (PROPTA)Private Trainers Association

The Private Trainers Association (PTA) was established in 1980 by former Mr. USA, Joe Antouri. After more than 25 years as a fitness competitor, personal trainer, and nutritional counselor, he created an organization consisting entirely of IFBB professionals--the educational and practical pioneers of training and nutrition--to examine, test, and certify the fitness industry’s elite personal trainers.

The PTA offers certification programs for personal trainers, nutrition specialists, Olympic weight lifting coaches, dance & fitness instructors, and youth and health fitness coaches. The PTA is a worldwide organization recognized as a leader in fitness accreditation, conducting on-going educational seminars all over the world, updating members on the latest industry and educationally relevant information.

The US Private Trainers Association (PROPTA, USPTA, PTA) has been accredited and approved by the Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education (BPPVE) since July 14, 2006 and is approved for the GI Bill.   

The certification program features cutting-edge information with a curriculum that includes human anatomy, physiology, chemistry, kinesiology, microbiology, nutritional science and diet therapy, sport medicine, all aspects of weight training, strength training, and specialty education in the elderly, eating disorders, injury rehabilitation, and medical conditions.  To search for PROPTA-certified professionals CLICK HERE.


The WRIGHT Foundation

WRIGHT Foundation logo

The WRIGHT Foundation initiated the first, medically-led, UK-wide exercise referral qualification to dispel the disquiet of Medical and Leisure Professionals who have been concerned regarding: The suitability and qualifications of the individuals operating exercise referral programs, the quality of the facilities and therapy provided, and the health and safety of referred clients.

The WRIGHT Foundation formulated the first medically led Exercise Referral Program Qualification in conjunction with leading Medical and Physiological Professionals and Principal Universities. It has set uniformly high and unique standards and enables Sport/Leisure Centres to qualify staff on a Nationally Recognised Qualification Course for low, medium and high risk populations.

Having been approved by the Register of Exercise Professionals (REP) as a recognised training provider for our Exercise Referral Training Qualification, the WRIGHT Foundation maintains an Exercise Referral Program of the highest standards to assure medical professionals' patients of a Nationally Endorsed and Quality Controlled standard of therapy.

The WRIGHT Foundation is affiliated with the WRIGHT Foundation Research, a registered charity dedicated to the advancement and development of the relationship between chronic medical conditions, their prevention and rehabilitation through activity and exercise. We have a network of Research Centres of Excellence in the UK, Europe and worldwide. The benefits of our research findings will be used by governments, medical and exercise professionals, with the benefits ultimately being for the UK and World populations.  To search for WRIGHT Foundation-certified professionals CLICK HERE.


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