Facebook Pixel
Brookbush Institute Logo

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

How Much Does a Personal Training Certification Cost (Including Hidden Fees)?

How Much Does a Personal Training Certification Cost (Including Hidden Fees)?
Brent Brookbush

Brent Brookbush


How Much Does a Personal Training Certification Cost (Including Hidden Fees)?

Comparing the costs (and hidden costs) of the industry's most respected Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) Certifications!

by Dr. Brent Brookbush DPT, PT, MS, CPT, HMS, IMT

You want to acquire a personal trainer certification and become a personal trainer, but now you are having a hard time figuring out what a personal trainer certification costs. Maybe you love to work out and think it would be rewarding to help other people achieve their fitness goals (and you want to learn how to exceed your own fitness goals). Maybe you are interested in the fitness industry or already work in the fitness industry as a group fitness instructor, Pilates Instructor, yoga instructor, CrossFit coach, personal training coordinator, etc. Maybe you've inquired about opportunities at a couple of local gyms and have learned you need a deeper understanding of exercise science and personal trainer certification. Now, you hope you can find an affordable personal training certification that accommodates your busy life. (Hopefully with more study materials than some giant textbook and more options than a single, mind-numbing, pass-or-fail final personal training certification exam).

You try to start comparing certified personal training certification costs via a Google search, and quickly realize how hard it is to find the full cost of the various personal training certifications (including exams). You notice the Brookbush Institute' pricing model (all-inclusive monthly membership like Netflix), and you like how the program is broken up into short courses. But, how does that program compare to other certification programs like the NASM-certified personal trainer course, the ACE personal trainer certification, the ISSA personal trainer certification, or the World Instructor Training School? With so many certification programs (and being on a budget) you cannot help but ask which program is the best choice for a professional trainer.

You notice most certifications charge a large upfront fee, but that is not all... Searching some blogs and discussion boards, you hear horror stories of hidden fees (e.g. the textbook is an additional fee or the exam is an additional fee), post-purchase costs (e.g. fees for study aids or re-scheduling exams), and adding insult to injury, many certification programs charge an exam re-take fee despite their horrible study materials.

This article is our attempt to help you choose the certification that is right for you, by sharing all of the associated costs of the most popular personal training certifications in the fitness industry. This includes the full upfront certification price, hidden fees, and post-purchase costs. We have included as many links as we can to cite where we found this information, but we also dug much deeper. Often, we were forced to ask certification programs about hidden costs by email or find certified professionals willing to share receipts to identify accurate costs that were not easily identified on the company's website. We want you to make the best possible decision for you based on the facts, not on some slick salesperson or marketing campaign. I think you will also understand why the Brookbush Institute set out to do something different... and hopefully, create a better model for certified personal trainer certifications.


  • CPT: Certified Personal Trainer
  • CEC: Continuing Education Credit; also known as, continuing education (CEs), continuing education units (CEUs), continuing professional development (CPDs), contact hours (CH), etc.
  • BI: Brookbush Institute
  • NASM: National Academy of Sports Medicine
  • ACE: American Council on Exercise (a.k.a. ACE Fitness)
  • ISSA: International Sports Sciences Association
  • ACSM: American College of Sports Medicine
  • NSCA: National Strength and Conditioning Association
  • WITS: World Instructor Training Schools
  • NESTA: National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association
  • NFPT: National Federation of Personal Trainers
  • Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) Certification: "Certified Personal Trainer Certification", abbreviated "CPT certification", is the most recognized and commonly used term for what this article compares.
    • Other labels are simply variations or synonyms, including, CPT certification, personal trainer certification, personal training certification, professional trainer certification, trainer certification, fitness training certification, fitness professional certification, certification exam, certification program, etc.
    • Brand-specific labels are often used including BI certification, BI CPT, ACE certification, ACE CPT, ACSM CPT, NASM Certification, NASM CPT, ISSA certification, International Sports Trainers Association CPT, etc.

CPT Certification Cost Comparison Chart

CPT Certification $29.99/month $699.00 $489.00 $839.88 $428.00 $610.30 $875.00 $399.00 $279.00
Additional Exam Prep Included $280.00 - 1055.00 $95.00 - 375.00 $49.00 - $199.00 $52.00 or much more $152.00 - 513.00 $110 and more $78.00 $399.00 - 1099.00
Exam Retake Fee $0.00 $199.00 $199.00 $99.00 $175.00 ($75/cancel) $435.00 $150.00 $195.00 $120.00
Exam Date Extension Fee $0.00 $99.00 - 199.00 $129.00 - 199.00 1st free, 2nd $99.00 $35.00 $100.00 $150.00 $95.00 $60.00
CEC Courses Included $309.00 - 599.00 $29.99/month $399.00 $480.00 Few CECs available $699.50 $349.00-699 $290.00
Recertification Fee $0.00 $99.00 $129.00 $99.00 $45.00 $75.00 $75.00 $195.00 $85/year or $170/2-years
Advanced Credential Included $599.00 $299.00 $399.48 $439.99 $669.00 $965.00 $997.00 $305.00
Estimated Cost Comparison $29.99/month $2000.00+ $1200.00+ $1800.00+ $1500.00+ 1500.00+  2200.00+ $2000.00 $1100.00+

For Additional Resources on Certification and Accreditation:

Alternative CPT Certification Pricing Model:

Like Netflix in a World of Blockbuster Videos:

We figured if Netflix can do it, so can we. The Brookbush Institute is charging $29.99/month (or 299/year) for a higher-quality, all-inclusive platform, that you can enjoy from anywhere, while the rest of the industry is charging between $400.00 - $2200.00 per certification, and is hiding a tremendous number of "post-purchase fees". Further, while the Brookbush Institute continues to innovate easier ways to access (website and mobile app), study, and complete an ever-growing library of courses, the rest of the industry is still forcing students to study from an outdated textbook, and prepare for a single, pass-or-fail, summative final exam, that you can only take at a testing center.

Learning from Blockbuster:

Did you know, or do you remember, that Blockbuster Video used to charge $1.99 to rent a video? Well... that was just the beginning. They also charged more to rent a new release ($2.99 - 4.99), much more to buy a video ($39.00 - 85.00), there was a monthly membership fee ($24.99-29.99/month), insane mark-ups on in-store items (e.g. snacks); and of course, "Blockbuster" became synonymous with rage-inducing LATE FEES. These extra fees could quickly turn a $10.00 video night into a $40.00 "Blockbuster Evening". Not to mention, Blockbuster was not nearly as convenient as what Netflix would become. You actually had to go to Blockbuster, try to find what you were looking for, wait in long lines, drive back home, only have an evening or two to watch the movies you rented, and then you would have to drive the videos back to the store prior to some return time, purposefully chosen to be inconvenient and maximize late fees.

Paradigm Shift:

Then Netflix comes along and offers a monthly membership fee that is less than you would spend on an average evening at Blockbuster Video, with a library of shows, movies, and documentaries 1000s of times larger than any Blockbuster store, that you never have to return, can view anytime from anywhere... and there are NO LATE FEES. In fact, there are no additional fees of any kind. Netflix was not a little better, it was a new business model that exponentially improved the cost and experience of renting shows and movies.

The Netflix of CPT Certifications in an industry full of Blockbusters:

Did you ever wonder why personal trainer certifications cost so much when they offer little more than a textbook and exam? Or, why do many companies sell an "advanced credential", for nearly as much money, which is basically an extra chapter or two added to the same content, with a new label? Did you know most certifications charge for additional study aids and exam preparation materials (e.g. practice exams)? Or, that most certifications charge an "extension fee (late charge)" if you do not take your exam by a certain date? Did you know most certifications charge a re-test fee if you do not pass the exam the first time? Additionally, most certifications charge recertification fees and recertification extension fees. And, most companies charge a premium rate for continuing education courses done through their organization which they prefer for recertification (again, often similar material repackaged). This industry needs to be disrupted. There is little doubt that certifications have gotten away with Blockbuster Video-like business models. The Brookbush Institute is dedicated to building the education company that should exist. A Netflix in an industry full of Blockbusters.

If Netflix can do it, so can the Brookbush Institute .

Personal Training Certification Jaw-dropping Cost Comparisons:

We have done our best to be as fair as possible in the cost comparison table, and our more detailed price comparisons below, including publishing our competitor's lowest price when more than one price was located on their website. Further, you don't have to take our word for it; wherever possible, we have added hyperlinks leading to the website page where the information was located. We understand that we could be viewed as biased, as we are comparing the price of our competitors, but we hope we can demonstrate we are a company trying to disrupt education in the best possible ways. We want to be the education platform our colleagues wish existed, and deserve. Our intent with this article was to gather all of the information our colleagues need to make an informed decision. Note, prices and links change often. If you come across a broken link, a price change, or personally have proof of a different price than we have listed, please let us know in the comments box below, or by contacting Support .

Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) Certification:

Personal Training Certification Exam Preparation Materials:

These are additional charges beyond certification fees. Note, as educators, we found this to be a particularly appalling practice. Many of these organizations are charging for basic study aids, including practice exams and quizzes, flashcards, access to online study materials; and in some instances, access to the content that was used to create the skeletal outlines that were provided with the purchase of the "certification".

  • BI : $0.00 (included in membership)
  • NASM : $280.00 - $1055.00
  • ACE : $95.00 - $375.00
  • ISSA : $49.00 - $199 (quoted $2484.00 when clicking Enroll Now)
  • ACSM : $52.00 or much more (extra charge for flashcards, practice exams, and guided study)
  • NSCA : $152.00 - $513.00
  • WITS : $110.00 for a textbook (additional fees may be required, very challenging to find prices)
  • NESTA : $78.00 ($477.00 PFT Complete Package)
  • NFPT : $399.00 or $1099 (Premier Package and Premier Plus Package)

Potential Money Saving Strategy: Many of the organizations included in this article have submitted to the exam preparation processes stipulated by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) (Check out our thoughts on NCCA Accreditation - Here ). One stipulation for NCCA accreditation is that the exam must be available to students without the purchase of other learning materials. Generally, organizations charge a premium for purchasing the exam alone, but it is possible to save some money by preparing for any exam with the more affordable BrookbushInstitute.com . Because the NCCA does a poor job policing exams after accreditation, these organizations often include a portion of material that is "brand specific", so we do not recommend this as a primary certification strategy. However, it may be a great strategy to achieve your initial CPT certification with the Brookbush Institute  and then add additional certifications (as requested by employers) by only purchasing the exam of other certification providers.

Personal Training Certification Exam Retake Fees:

Note: These fees in part capitalize on the exam preparation material cost comparison above. Many of these companies have built models that count on a percentage of individuals failing the exam without additional study materials, to ensure that these two revenue streams continue to promote the other.

  • BI : $0.00 (And, you take small exams and earn credits as you go. We have done away with the "cram and forget", cringe-worthy, one-chance to pass, large final exam.)
  • NASM: $199.00
  • ACE: $199.00
  • ISSA: $99.00
  • ACSM: $175.00 ($75 to cancel)
  • NSCA: $435.00
  • WITS: $150
  • NESTA : $195.00
  • NFPT: $120

Personal Training Certification Exam Date Extension Fees:

These were challenging to locate, but we know these costs are close to accurate. These charges exist!

  • BI : $0.00 (Unlimited attempts at practice exams, 2 attempts at final exams before a 30-day lock-out period. After the lock-out period, the exams reset (no additional cost). Take as long as you want to complete any course or certification).
  • NASM: $99 - 199.00
  • ACE: $129.00 - $199.00
  • ISSA: Extend 2 months for free, and an additional 2 months for $99.00
  • ACSM: $35.00
  • NSCA: $100.00
  • WITS : $95.00
  • NESTA: $95.00
  • NFPT: $60.00

CPT Continuing Education Courses:

Costs are based on acquiring enough credits to re-certify, not including the "recertification fees" which are compared below.

Note: It is a sad reality that many training certification providers do not promote continuing education by attempting to improve affordability and access to continuing education, but instead capitalize on the value of highly engaged learners with higher costs and premium pricing.

  • BI : $0.00 (Included in membership. We understand you could also say we charge 29.99/month for continuing education courses. It depends on whether you consider our membership fee a cost for certifications or courses. We are fine with either, but there are no additional charges, so it would be unfair to count the charge twice).
  • NASM : $309.00 - $599.00
  • ACE : $19.99/month (Does not include additional certifications)
  • ISSA : $399.00 (Pricing for courses is about $19.99/credit x 20 credits)
  • ACSM : $480.00 ($32.00/2-credit course x 30 required credits for re-certification)
  • NSCA : Some free CEUs available for members ($30.00/ course for non-members) (Not enough credits available to recertify with NSCA credits alone)
  • WITS : $699.50 (69.95/2-credit course x 20 required credits for re-certification)
  • NESTA : $359.00 - 659.00 (estimate from NESTA and Spencer Institute courses to achieve 4.0 CEUs)
  • NFPT : $290 for 2 years of CECs (20 hours/year required - most of any certification)

CPT Recertification Fees:

  • BI : $0.00 (and our re-certification is iterative and automatic)
  • NASM : $99.00 (every 2 years)
  • ACE : $129.00 (every 2 years)
  • ISSA : $99.00 (every 2 years)
  • ACSM : $45.00 (every 3 years)
  • NSCA : $75.00 (every 3 years)
  • WITS : $75.00 (every 2 years)
  • NESTA : $195.00 (every 4 years)
  • NFPT : $85.00/year or $170.00/2-years

Training Professional Advanced Credential Cost Comparison:

And so much more...

And this article only compares the Brookbush Institute's innovations in affordability. It does not include our efforts to be the first comprehensively evidence-based education platform, the first platform to make optimizing content delivery a focus, and the only platform offering short-modular courses on desktop or mobile; exponentially increasing flexibility, convenience, and access. We have the most user-friendly interface in the industry offering multiple content formats (text, video, audio, illustrations, etc.). We are the only platform that attempts to ensure each credit you acquire automatically counts towards CECs and certifications, re-certification, and advanced credentials (no more double billing, or wasted time from double work). We are working hard for our colleagues because we know that our colleagues deserve better!

For more on our efforts to disrupt Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) and Corrective Exercise Certification offerings, check out:

Testimonial - Thank you for the work you and your team have put into this program. I've grown so much as a trainer this past year and I couldn't have built my business without this. - Sammy P
Caption: Testimonial - Thank you for the work you and your team have put into this program. I've grown so much as a trainer this past year and I couldn't have built my business without this. - Sammy P

© 2022 Brent Brookbush (B2C Fitness, LLC d.b.a. Brookbush Institute)

Comments, critiques, and questions are welcome!