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Selecting a Personal Trainer Certification

Quick FAQ’s on the primary difference between W.I.T.S. and all other Personal Trainer Certifications?

W.I.T.S.

All Other Certifications

  • Educational classes since 1993 in a college setting to combine theoretical foundation knowledge with practical hands-on skill training and application.
  • W.I.T.S. Personal Trainer Certification builds confidence & employer credibility by including a written and practical exam to make sure you can be successful in performing the job. An industry 1st.
  • W.I.T.S. Personal Trainer course is approved for 3 undergraduate level college credits.  An industry 1st.
  • W.I.T.S. required internship provides “real world” training and the connections to lead you to employment opportunities.  An industry 1st.
  • Require a written exam only.
  • Any education or preparation is optional and mostly self-study.

Given the extensive number of Personal Fitness Certification courses and programs available, it can be difficult and frustrating to determine which one is the “best.”   We often hear certification companies talk about being “accredited” but that term can be confusing and misleading. We hope the following information helps you better understand the different options available so that you can make informed choices as you pursue this new and rewarding career.

Education:

There are many different options available for learning what you need to know to become a Personal Trainer. Many of the certification companies offer preparatory classes, online courses, self-study correspondence classes, weekend workshops, and traditional classroom-based courses.   A few things you can look for when choosing an education program:

  • Accreditation by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET.) An education organization that is accredited by IACET has demonstrated that the processes used to develop, deliver, instruct, support, evaluate and assess classes meet the highest institutional education standard. If you select and organization that is accredited by IACET, you have some assurance that you will enjoy a quality education experience. You can find a list of these health occupations organizations like nursing, therapy and other professions that are accredited by IACET at http://www.iacet.org/index.php/ceus/locate-iacet-ceu-provider
  • Approval/Review by the American Council on Education. This organization reviews courses and assigns a college credit recommendation for that course. Classes that are reviewed by the American Council on Education have undergone an extensive review of the curriculum, the exams, the course development process, and the faculty providing instruction. If you select a course that has an American Council on Education credit recommendation, you are assured that this is a high quality education program that is college level and awards credit towards a degree. To find a list of highly professional organizations and courses that are approved through this organization, visit http://www.acenet.edu/news-room/Pages/National-Guide-to-College-Credit-for-Workforce-Training.aspx

Training:

In some occupations, it is sufficient to learn theory and foundational knowledge. However, Personal Trainers need more than theoretical knowledge; they need hands on practical training so they can actually apply the information learned. It’s not enough to learn about the muscle groups, but you must practice the exercises and even more importantly, demonstrate and coach a client to correctly and safely perform those exercises. Exercise creates certain stresses on the body as it adapts and improves. It is important to know how to adjust and apply those practical skills with the client. When selecting the best certification for you, confirm that there is a practical component so that you can get that hands-on training.

Internship:

Once you have the education and hands-on training, you still need practice! Training clients in a “real world” setting is very different than role-playing and practicing in class. Ask why any other health occupation requires an internship. Nurses, doctors, physical therapists are just a few health care professions that have internships before they ever practice on the public at large. Internships provide the opportunity for you to work with experienced professionals in a fitness club setting; observing and getting practice with real clients who are getting trained. Also, chances are you are hoping to work as a Personal Trainer. An internship experience allows you to network with employers and if you perform well during your internship, you just may find a job waiting for you at the end! When selecting the best certification for you, look for one that has an internship requirement to make sure you get that invaluable experience.

Testing:

No one really enjoys taking a “test,” but it is important to make sure you learned the information and mastered the skills required to be a Personal Trainer. When comparing and choosing the best certification, make sure that there is an examination so that you can feel confident that you are ready to work with clients. There should be a written exam that tests your level of knowledge as well as a practical exam to make sure you can actually perform the skills properly. This practical examination is so important for a hands-on job like Personal Training. After all, would you want your doctor, dentist, surgeon, or other health care professional to only have taken a written exam to show they know how to practice medicine?

Accreditation:

The term “accreditation” can be confusing and misleading. Accreditation is the process by which a credentialing or educational program is evaluated against defined standards, and when in compliance with these standards, is awarded recognition by a third party. Since the fitness industry is currently self-regulated and there is no specific certification, licensure, or credential requirement, there is no one recognized “accreditation” for Personal Trainer programs. There are some organizations that have obtained “accreditation” by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA.) It is important to note that this accreditation pertains to the creation and administration of the exam. This accreditation does not provide any review of the education or training that will actually teach you how to be a successful Personal Trainer.


W.I.T.S.:

W.I.T.S. has been educating, training, and certifying Personal Trainers since 1993. W.I.T.S. is the only Personal Trainer Certification that requires a classroom or online education, practical hands-on training, written and practical exams, and an internship. W.I.T.S,’ graduates are in high demand at fitness clubs as employers are confident that these professionals received a comprehensive, in-depth education and training, demonstrated knowledge and competence by passing a written and practical exam, and already received job experience through the internship. W.I.T.S. is accredited by IACET, and our certification program was reviewed and received a 3 college credit recommendation by the American Council on Education. In addition, W.I.T.S. has undergone 3rd party review and our courses have been approved by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA,) National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Body Work (NCBTMB,) and Board of Certification (BOC.)

Want More? View Detailed Personal Trainer Certification Comparison Chart

Click to view a PDF version of the Certification Comparison Chart

Certification Cost Core Hours Practical Hours Internship Written Practical Exam Cost Pre-Requisites Days Taught Textbook Included Retest College Credits IACET Recognized BOC Recognized AOTA Recognized Veteran’s Training
W.I.T.S. $650 16 16 Y Y Y Included Y 9 N $75 Y Y Y Y Y
AAAI/ISMA $99 7 1 N Y Y Included Y 1 N $30 N N N N N
ACSM $375 14 7 N Y N $219 Y 3 N $150 N N N N N
AFAA $499 25 N/A N Y Y Included Y 3 N N N N N N
COOPER $595 22.5 10 N Y N $289 Y 4.5 Y $195 N N N N N
NASM/NPTI $599-999 40 40 N Y N $280 Y Home Study Y $199 N N N N Y
NPTI $5,900 300 200 N Y N $280 Y $199
ACE $499-699 Home Study Home Study N Y N Included Y Home Study Y $200 N N N N N
AFPA $395 Home Study Home Study N Y N Included Y Home Study Y $50 N N N N N
IFPA $399 Home Study Home Study N Y N Included Y Home Study Y $79 N N N N N
ISSA $599 Home Study Home Study N Y N Included Y Home Study Y N N N N N N
NFPT $329-569 Home Study Home Study N Y N $329 Y Home Study Y $119 N N N N N
NSCA $235-420 Home Study Home Study N Y N $420 Y Home Study N $320 N N N N N
National Certifications
W.I.T.S. World Instructor Training Schools
AAAI/ISMA American Aerobic Association International / International Sports Medicine Association
ACE American Council on Exercise
ACSM American College of Sports Medicine
AFFA Aerobic & Fitness Association of America
AFPA American Fitness Professionals and Associates
COOPER Cooper Institute for Aerobic Research
IFPA International Fitness Professionals Associations
ISSA International Sports Science Association
NASM National American Sports Medicine
NFPT National Federation of Personal Trainers
NSCA National Strength & Conditioning Association
NAFC National Association for Fitness Certification
Recognized and Accreditations
ACE American Council on Education
IACET International Association for Continuing Education and Training
BOC Board of Certifications
AOTA American Occupational Therapists Association
Updated: January 2013