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NASM Certified Personal Trainer Review


In 2021, NASM launched the seventh iteration of their Certified Personal Trainer course (CPT), which includes evidence-based approaches to client relations, assessment, exercise technique, program design, and nutrition. The information is presented in an easy-to-digest and engaging way with learning tools like videos, audio summaries, knowledge checks, lesson recaps, and quizzes with each chapter. These materials enable you to make sure you’re retaining the key information you’ll need for the exam and for working as a personal trainer

This certification is well-respected in the fitness industry and opens the door to working as a personal trainer with the general public, focused on improving overall health and wellness via fitness. Through this course, you’ll learn how to be a personal trainer from every angle, including lessons on client intakes, ethics, record-keeping, sales, marketing, and entrepreneurship. You’ll accomplish this through the use of a combination of supplemental learning materials throughout the guided learning journey NASM provides (from video lectures to a final exam). If you want to make a career out of fitness or start your own personal training business, then the NASM-CPT is likely a great certification program for you.

Main Takeaways

This course offers a holistic approach to help you develop from someone with a passion for fitness to a business-savvy fitness professional with the knowledge to succeed in the industry.
The course guide outlines a straightforward path to completion in 15 weeks that has you taking the final exam on the 15th week. There is, however, an additional week built into the plan, so you can brush up on areas you may need more study.
Resources are plentiful with a fresh-looking digital learning platform, well-produced video and audio summaries, useful practice quizzes and knowledge checks, and comprehensive information meant to set you up for success.

NASM Personal Trainer Certification

NASM Personal Trainer Certification

If you want to move from an exercise enthusiast to a bonafide fitness professional, then you can develop your skills in client assessment, program writing, self-marketing, sales, physiology, psychology, and more with the Personal Trainer Certification from NASM.

NASM Personal Trainer Certification Highlights

This comprehensive certification can put you on the road to fitness entrepreneurship or a career change into the health and wellness industry in as little as 15 weeks if you follow the course study guide. You don’t need a degree either to get started — just a high school diploma or GED, and an approved CPR/AED certification. The guide offers week-by-week directions relating to which chapters to complete and review for a refresher up until the 15th week, which is when you can either choose to take the final exam or brush up a bit more on certain areas. All of your hard work over those weeks will culminate in a 120-question, proctored final exam, which you can take at a proctoring facility or remotely (if you have the correct hardware, like a microphone and camera).

It can be a bit stressful that you only have 180 days to complete the final exam, as not everyone learns at the same rate and some folks may take longer to work through the study materials. If you’re in that group, you may want to start off with purchasing the textbook and studying that until you’re sure you have the time and knowledge necessary to jump into the course head-first.

Starting off with the textbook is also a good way to ensure that this is the right certification for you and the path you want to follow. This certification can be quite pricey, depending on the bundle you select, so it’s a good idea to be sure before you commit to spending the money on it. If you like a challenge and want to learn the many aspects of personal training at a big-box gym, an upscale health club, or even your own business, then this certification has your name written all over it. 

Who Should Get the NASM Personal Trainer Certification

Those who want to gain knowledge on how to turn their enthusiasm for exercise and health into a career. This is a great place to start and learn how. 
Anyone who likes to have a variety of learning approaches to choose from. Utilize the videos, audio lessons, textbook, written lessons, and practice exam here to engage in a comprehensive learning journey. 
People who want to become entrepreneurs in the fitness industry. This certification course not only teaches you about muscles and exercise, but marketing, sales, and how to run a business, as well. 

Who Shouldn’t Get the NASM Personal Trainer Certification

Those who want to work with high-level athletic populations, such as collegiate or professional athletes, will want to look at other more specialized certifications.
People who aren’t looking to make a career change and simply want to learn more about exercise and the human body. There are other, possibly more cost-effective ways of doing so.
Anyone who plans to take a long time to learn this information. You only have 180 days from the day you purchase your course enrollment to sit for the credentialing exam. If you plan to take longer than that, you may want to start off by purchasing the textbook by itself and learning from that until you’re ready to make the dive. 

How Much Does The NASM Personal Trainer Certification Cost?

The price for taking the NASM-CPT varies based on the package you choose, from around $999 for the Self-Study Bundle to around $2,699 for the All-Inclusive Bundle. These are the regular prices though, and there are generally coupon codes or promotions that will allow you to score a cheaper price. You also have the option to spread the payment out over three, 11, or 17 installments with a downpayment. It’s a good idea to look over each bundle option to see which one best fits your needs, learning style, and budget before making an informed decision.

Who is the National Academy of Sports Medicine?

Founded in 1987, the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) had a mission to combine the therapeutic and corrective world of kinesiology with the applied and prescriptive world of fitness. Nowadays, their mission is to provide world-class fitness professionals with the knowledge and tools to transform lives. Over the past three and a half decades they’ve managed to educate nearly 1.5 million fitness professionals in over 100 countries, and make partnerships with over 10,000 health clubs and gyms. Suffice it to say, they’re well connected and rooted in the industry.

NASM Certified Personal Trainer Study Materials

There are a ton of exam preparation and study materials available for prospective test-takers to utilize. Depending on the bundle or package you purchase, you may be able to fortify your knowledge with reading materials, videos, audio summaries, knowledge checks, quizzes, practice exams, and comprehensive study guides. We break down the study materials more in-depth below.

Study Guide

The study guide for the NASM-CPT is designed in a linear format, and builds upon each previous lesson in a chapter for an intuitive learning progression. The course overall does well to mix in videos, call out especially important information, and include visual elements. There are knowledge checks and quizzes along the way too to help you gauge what you’ve locked down and what you may need to study some more. You can download a comprehensive PDF version of the study guide that provides key information and terms for each section to keep you on track and ensure you’re learning the major concepts. 

The main course and the lessons are well-presented and interactive with clearly defined learning objectives for each chapter and lesson, making them quite thorough from a pedagogical perspective. There are visually stimulating figures and text boxes with important information throughout with key terms defined alongside the information for a broader depth of understanding. The lessons focus on a variety of topics that are pertinent to personal training, like professional development, client relations, exercise technique, program design, client assessment, physiology, and nutrition. Each of these broad sections is broken down into manageable subsections for a total of 23 chapters. 

Practice Exam

NASM highly recommends making use of the practice exam at least two or three times. Each time you take it, you’ll be served a different batch of questions from the pool of potential final exam queries. The practice exam is as close as you can come to the real deal, providing you a two-hour time limit to answer 100 multiple-choice questions with the same ratio from the various domains that the final exam will have. 


There are knowledge checks periodically throughout the lessons to help keep you abreast of what information you’re dialed in on and what could use more attention in your studies. The study course also includes quizzes at the end of each chapter, which are very closely related to the questions on the final exam — even word-for-word in some cases. It’s best to ensure you’re taking note of questions that you may struggle with, so you can improve your knowledge in that area before you sit for the final exam.

Study Material Medium 

All of the study materials (including the textbook, quizzes, and course guide) are online, though you can purchase a hardcover textbook. If you go the paper route for the book, it is probably best used as a supplement to the online course prep materials as they are chock full of information that’s presented in a much more easy-to-follow and digest manner than the text. The final exam is proctored either remotely or in person and is completed on a computer regardless with no paper option — except in the case of special accommodations for medical necessity.


NASM guarantees you a job if you pass the CPT exam. That said, they aren’t going to simply place you in a job the next day after passing. You’ll have to complete their Gymternship program (which is included with the All-Inclusive Package). The Gymternship consists of them placing you in a facility and completing 80 hours of hands-on personal training with clients. They guarantee that you’ll find a job within 90 days of completing the Gymternship, or they will refund you the price of the Gymternship — which is $599 if purchased by itself and not as part of a bundle. Since the NASM-CPT credential is generally highly regarded, it’s unlikely you’ll have to resort to requesting a refund though.

Final Exam for the NASM Personal Trainer Certification

The final exam for the NASM-CPT can be daunting at first glance, but with the aid of the helpful and well-organized study materials that are available from NASM as well as proper preparation, it can be manageable. Sitting for the exam, you’ll be given a proctored exam of 120 multiple-choice questions based on the six domains of competency required by the NASM, which we’ll cover below. You’ll only be scored on 100 of the questions though, as 20 of them are research questions that are being trialed for potential inclusion in future editions of the exam. 

The exam is difficult on purpose and is getting more difficult over time — with a pass rate that’s declined from around 74 percent to about 65 percent in recent years — in order to raise the standard for knowledge they require the personal trainers they credential to have. In order to pass the final exam, you’ll have to score 70 percent or higher but you can retest if you don’t successfully pass on your first attempt — you may have to pay to do so though.

Exam Sections

The NASM-CPT exam is broken down into six domains, all necessary if you want to be a well-rounded and effective personal trainer. They each make up a specific percentage of the exam.

Basic and Applied Sciences and Nutritional Concepts — 15 percent
Client Relations and Behavioral Coaching — 15 percent
Assessment — 16 percent
Program Design — 20 percent
Exercise Technique and Training Instruction — 24 percent
Professional Development and Responsibility — 10 percent

Each of the domains has a considerable subset of information that you’ll be required to know to pass the exam, and it’s all provided within the study guide. Following the study guide and courses closely will help you be as prepared as possible when the time comes to sit for credentialing.

Expected Study Time

You have 180 days from when you purchase the course to attempt your NASM-CPT credentialing exam. The study planner that is provided breaks down a week-by-week study plan to keep you on track with time to spare at the end for extra studying, too. If you follow the study plan, you can expect to take the credentialing exam on week 15.

Pass Rate

NASM reported a total of 31,385 CPT exam attempts in 2020 with 23,324 of these receiving passing scores (70 percent or higher) for a pass rate of 74 percent. This number seems to be on the decline though, and the exam may have been made more difficult in the past few years with an average pass rate now hovering around 65 percent. You’ll want to go into this as prepared as possible by utilizing all of the resources available to study since this is not a particularly easy exam.

Retest Cost

In the unfortunate case that you do not pass the exam on the first try, you’ll be granted a retake after a one-week waiting period. Should you be unsuccessful after the second attempt, you’ll have to wait 30 days before taking the exam again. After the third attempt, candidates are required to wait a year before attempting a retake. Depending on the study package you select, a retake voucher may be included, which would mean you don’t have to pay. Otherwise, exam retest fees are $199 for all retakes.

Continuing Education Requirements

As a NASM-CPT, you’ll have to recertify every two years by earning at least 1.9 continuing education units CEUs and maintaining a current CPR/AED certification, which provides the final 0.1 CEU for a total of 2.0 CEUs. Thankfully, there are a variety of course topics available to select from, such as corrective exercise, nutrition, sports performance, behavior change, and more. Each course has a different CEU value depending on the length and approximate time it takes to complete. The CEUs are really about ensuring that you’re continuing to keep your finger on the pulse of current exercise research, and always expanding your knowledge. The recertification fee for the NASM-CPT is currently $99.

Possible Career Paths

It might seem a bit redundant to mention that a personal trainer certification can lead to the career in personal training, but there are a variety of other doors that this credential can open for you. Some other options may include health coach, virtual fitness instructor, fitness writer, fitness model, workout planner and developer, and fitness center manager, just to name a few. Virtually all career paths in the fitness industry require a basic level of exercise education and a NASM-CPT is a great credential to let people know that you know your stuff.

Potential Salary

As with many industries, salaries vary widely when it comes to personal training. Some celebrity personal trainers can rake in hundreds of dollars an hour while others working at small fitness centers may earn a fraction of that. From what we could find on salary information, the national average is around $50,872 per year, though it may take time to build a client base to reach that, and if you become popular with your clients’ referrals, word of mouth could pump that number up significantly. (1

The other career options vary quite widely as well (from fitness modeling to fitness writing), and an average salary is difficult to nail down. But any similar career path to personal training will generally have a similar salary range depending on clientele, the number of clients, and how much you choose to charge.


The NASM-CPT is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). The NCCA provides impartial and third-party validation that the certified program meets national and international credentialing standards. They continue to monitor the program to ensure they keep up those standards. 


The NASM-CPT is one of the most popular personal trainer certifications in the industry, and is generally one of the most widely respected across big box or commercial gyms. Their respect has only increased over the years as they’ve made the exam more difficult, and thus, the knowledge barrier for entry higher, resulting in a more prestigious reputation. Over 30,000 people chose to take the NASM-CPT exam in 2020 alone with over 23,000 of them receiving a passing score. Overall, NASM has certified more than 1.4 million people.

Final Word

No matter if you’ve been exercising for decades or you’re just starting on your own fitness journey, the education you’ll receive from this certification is worthwhile and can improve your ability to deliver results for your clients. If you can get on board with the somewhat fast-paced nature of this course, then you’ll be on your way to becoming an effective and knowledgeable trainer not only when it comes to exercise technique, programming, and the like, but also marketing, sales, ethics, and best business practices. 

The final exam is not a cakewalk by any means (boasting only a 65 to 74 percent pass rate), and it’s meant to be challenging to maintain the high standard for credentialing, so the NASM-CPT certification will continue to hold weight over time. There are people in over 100 countries with this certification, so you know it’s recognized the world over — despite being on the pricey side, we think that makes it worth it.


What requirements are there to be and stay credentialed through NASM?

You’ll have to have proof of an approved CPR/AED certification, as well as a high school diploma or GED. Then you’ll have to study and pass the final exam with a score of at least 70 percent or higher. Then to keep your certification, you’ll have to recertify every two years by providing proof of your CPR/AED certification renewal and completing an additional 1.9 CEUs. On top of that you may have to pay a recertification fee, though some bundles include recertification fee waivers for life.

Does NASM offer in-person classes for their CPT course?

They do offer a 10-week in-person course, though this is limited to select areas, such as Austin and Houston. NASM also partners with a handful of colleges and institutions to offer classes that will prepare you to sit for certification for the CPT and other certifications that they offer.

Once I become a Certified Personal Trainer, what other credentials can NASM offer me?

NASM offers specialized certifications for nearly every aspect of health and wellness, from a Physique and Bodybuilding Coach Certification to a senior fitness, nutrition coach, behavior change specialist, and corrective exercise specialist. Whatever your interest in health, wellness, and fitness, there is likely a specialization for you.


What is the average personal trainer salary by state – ziprecruiter. (n.d.). Retrieved November 28, 2022, from 

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