Achieving your ACE personal training certification and becoming a personal trainer is no easy task.

As a personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) for almost two years, I have navigated the course of earning and maintaining my personal training certification. In order to help others navigate this career path, I’ll divulge all the information I wish someone had given me before I started on my own journey.

Personal Trainer Certification

The Decision To Become A Certified Personal Trainer

The decision to become a certified personal trainer can be daunting, as study materials, testing procedures, and certification requirements vary by organization. It’s important to “shop around” and compare certifications. Decide which factors are most important to you and question respected trainers about their experience.

Reputation was the primary factor I considered before choosing to pursue my personal training certification through ACE. I wanted a certifying organization that was well-established and recognizable. Mainly, I wanted my certification to look good on a resume! As an accredited organization for over 30 years and the certifying organization of my favorite fitness professionals like Cathe Friedrich and Kathy Kaehler, I felt confident in choosing ACE for my personal training certification.

Budget must also be considered when choosing a certifying organization. The cost of study materials, exam fees, recertification, and personal trainer insurance should all be considered, as personal training is an expensive profession, across the board.

How To Prepare For The ACE Personal Training Certification

Be prepared. You may have to skip your favorite television shows while studying for the personal trainer exam! There is a great deal to learn, including the basics of anatomy, exercise physiology, kinesiology, nutrition, and how to plan an effective exercise program.

While I missed lazy nights, I knew it was important to hit the books. The time spent was well worth the effort. I’m proud to say I passed both the personal trainer and group fitness instructor exams on the same day, on the first try.

    Here are my tips for successful studying:

  1. Purchase materials that coincide with your learning style. For example, if you’re a visual learner, purchase a study package that includes video lectures. ACE’s study packages range in cost between $599 and $699, including the exam fee.
  2. Give yourself at least two months to prepare for the exam.
  3. Set aside a chunk of time each day to study. I studied for 30-60 minutes each day.
  4. Talk to personal trainer friends about what to expect on the exam. My friend told me to learn as much I could about hip flexor muscles, and boy, was she right!

What To Expect On The ACE Personal Training Certification Exam

On the morning of your exam, expect nerves, lots of them! Most people take a computer-based exam at a testing center, which is usually located at a college campus. While paper-and-pencil exams are also available, computer-based testing is more prevalent and provides immediate results. Paper-and-pencil results take 4-6 weeks!

I was practically trembling on the morning of my exam. I didn’t want to fail. I had worked so hard. Not only would I feel disappointed, but it would cost $299 to re-take the test!

Fortunately, like most things in life, the exam wasn’t nearly as scary as I had imagined. After checking in at the front desk, providing proper identification, and proof of my CPR/AED certification, I proceeded to a small, comfortable room and began the computer-based test. The ACE exam was very challenging, but the organization’s study materials were top-notch and prepared me for all aspects of the test. After learning that I had passed, the feeling of post-exam triumph was amazing and made all the missed television shows worth it.

ACE Fitness Nutrition Specialist

What To Do After Becoming A Certified Personal Trainer

After taking a sigh of relief, the hardest part of the certification process begins: getting a job and booking clients. It’s important to be honest with potential employers about your lack of experience. It’s also critical to examine your skills and the requirements of the position. For example, some gyms require trainers to meet sales quotas or work the front desk. Would you be willing to do these things?

Two months after my exam, I took a job as an independent contractor at a small, franchise gym. Yes, the American Council on Exercise looked great on my resume! It was a “low-pressure” environment where I could hone my skills. My first client was another trainer, assigned by the gym owner to critique my training skills. It was a nerve-wracking experience, but he was extremely kind and offered great advice.

Just a word of warning: while nerves lessen slightly with each client, it’s normal to feel jittery during your first dozen-or-so sessions! It takes a long time to become comfortable with your skills, and you’ll likely encounter all kinds of challenging personalities. Be patient with yourself and your clients during this learning process.

ACE Personal Training Continuing Education

Working as a fitness professional is a constant learning process; one which includes many mistakes and the much-uttered phrase, “I’m going to have to research that. Let me get back to you.” Nobody knows everything, but trainers are expected to know a lot! Fortunately, accredited certifying organizations usually require a minimum number of personal training continuing education credits for recertification. This ensures that fitness professionals stay abreast of new research and trends. ACE has an expansive library of continuing education, which has allowed me to refresh my memory and learn about new aspects of training whenever needed.

ACE requires 20 hours of continuing education every two years. Methods such as attending workshops, webinars, earning additional certifications, and taking magazine quizzes from top industry magazines can all be utilized to earn credits. Once again, the cost of continuing education should be factored into your budget. Through ACE, 20 hours of continuing education costs approximately $300.

ACE Personal Training Specialty Certifications and Recertification

In addition to the cost of continuing education, a CPR/AED certification must be maintained to apply for recertification. It costs $49-$139 for an ACE recertification. Plus, personal trainer insurance must be kept up-to-date to protect you and your clients. The cost of personal trainer insurance varies, with one year of coverage averaging about $200.

ACE also offers a variety of specialty certifications for those looking to better serve specific groups of people. Some of ACE’s specialty certifications include: fitness nutrition, sports conditioning, weight management, and functional training. These advanced certifications can really help you to stand out from other personal trainers.

ACE Specialty Certification

Is Becoming An ACE Certified Personal Trainer Worth It?

Personal training is a career like no other. It helps people improve their most important resource — their bodies. Without a healthy body, the simplest tasks in life are unpleasant, if not impossible. When you witness a client improve their health and do things they previously thought impossible, the challenges of late night studying and recertification fees vanish.

Though there are monetary costs involved, I’ve never regretted my ACE personal training certification. I’m a champion of this organization due to its flawless reputation, high standards, and unparalleled professional support. ACE has made the difficult journey of becoming a personal trainer a bit easier.

If you have a passion for helping people improve their most important resource, this career is for you. Being a personal trainer is truly priceless, and I’ve never regretted my decision for a moment.


Ace Personal Training Certification