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The Steps to Becoming a Certified Personal Trainer and Taking the NASM

So, you’re thinking of a career as a Certified Personal Trainer?

Well, that’s awesome!

You are in good company. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the personal trainer workforce is currently made up of 299,200 people in the United States.

And don’t worry, there is plenty of room for you to find a steady job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 30,100 new personal trainer jobs are expected in the next few years.

Let us cover the initial steps on this exciting career path together so you can get a better understanding of what you’re getting into.

We are talking here about your career for possibly the next 10 years, at the very least, and even the rest of your life. That is exciting and nerve-racking at the same time.

Let’s get to it then.

How do you become a Certified Personal Trainer?

The education and training required for fitness trainers and instructors vary by type of specialty, and employers prefer to hire those with certification. Personal fitness trainers, group fitness instructors, and specialized fitness instructors, each need different preparation. Requirements also vary by the facility the trainer works at.

For more information, read How to Become a Certified Personal Trainer.

What type of schooling does a Certified Personal Trainer need?

Almost all trainers and instructors have at least a high school diploma before entering the occupation. An increasing number of employers are requiring fitness workers, particularly personal trainers, to have an associate or bachelor’s degree related to a health or fitness field, such as exercise science, kinesiology, or physical education. Programs often include courses in nutrition, exercise techniques, biology, anatomy, and group fitness. Personal trainers also learn how to develop fitness programs for clients of all ages.

In addition to schooling, employers prefer to hire fitness trainers and instructors who are certified. Many personal trainers must be certified before they begin working with clients or with members of a gym or any other type of health club. Group fitness instructors can begin work without certification, but employers often encourage or require them to become certified. Most specialized fitness instructors receive certification for their preferred type of training, such as yoga or Pilates.

Many organizations offer certification. The National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), part of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence, lists certifying organizations that are accredited.

What are the types of certifications and requirements needed to become a fitness trainer?

Employers prefer to hire fitness trainers and instructors who are certified. Many personal trainers must be certified before they begin working with clients or with members of a gym or any other type of health club. Group fitness instructors can begin work without certification, but employers often encourage or require them to become certified. Most specialized fitness instructors receive certification for their preferred type of training, such as yoga or Pilates.

Many organizations offer certification. The National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), part of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence, lists certifying organizations that are accredited.

All certification exams have a written part, and some also have a practical component. The exams measure the candidate’s knowledge of human physiology, understanding of proper exercise techniques, and ability to assess clients’ fitness levels and develop appropriate exercise programs. Many certifying organizations offer study materials to prepare for the exam, including books, webinars, other audio and visual materials, and exam preparation workshops and seminars.

Most trainers or instructors need certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillators (AED) before applying for certification in physical fitness.

How long does it take to become a Certified Personal Trainer?

If your employer requires an associate or bachelor’s degree, this can take:

  • For Associate degree – up to 2 years
  • For Bachelor’s degree – up to 4 years

After schooling, you’ll need to take an exam like the NASM. You get up to 180 days to study for this exam.

  • NASM exam study time limit – up to 180 days
  • Requirements to take the NASM exam:
    • Must have a high school diploma or equivalent.
    • Must have current Emergency Cardiac Care (CPR) and Automated External Defibrillator (AED) Certification before sitting for the exam (not required to purchase the CPT).
  • As stated above, most trainers or instructors need certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillators (AED) before applying for certification in physical fitness such as the NASM exam.
    • CPR course – 3 hours
    • AED course – 4 to 6 hours

NASM recommends the following organizations for CPR and AED courses: American Heart Association, American Red Cross, American Safety and Health Institute, St. John Ambulance, Emergency Care & Safety Institute, and Emergency Medical Technician.

How much does it cost to become a Certified Personal Trainer?

Schooling, CPR and AED course fees vary.

  • NASM Exam Fee: $599
  • NASM Material Fee: Study Packages range from $699 to $2399

Get more information on NASM exam pricing.

What is the NASM Test?

The NASM-CPT (National Academy of Sports Medicine / Certified Personal Trainer) is a 120-question exam for individuals who want to become a Certified Personal Trainer.

How many questions are on the NASM?

120 four-answer, multiple choice questions.

What are the categories on the NASM?

  • Domain 1: Basic and Applied Sciences and Nutritional Concepts – 17%
  • Domain 2: Assessment – 18%
  • Domain 3: Program Design – 21%
  • Domain 4: Exercise Technique and Training Instruction – 22%
  • Domain 5: Client Relations and Behavioral Coaching -12%
  • Domain 6: Professional Development and Responsibility – 10%

How long does the NASM typically last?

Candidates are provided two (2) hours to complete the exam.

What is the passing grade needed for NASM?

A scaled score of 70 is necessary to pass the examination.

How many times can you take the NASM?

If you fail on the first try, you must wait 1 week to retake the exam.

If you fail on the second try, you must wait 30 days to retake the exam.

For each failure after the third try, you must wait 1 year to retake the exam.