Let's start with the good news … NASM – The National Academy of Sports Medicine – Personal Training certification is NCCA accredited. So that's a good start, right?
NASM offers a CPT design, obviously short for "Certified Personal Trainer". Surprisingly, unlike most of the other certification organizations, it only offers one certification! What a shocking idea!
NASM claims (although I have not verified it with each company) to be a 'preferred' provider of trainers for places like Gold's Gym and Bally's. Although I do not encourage you to make a career out of those establishments, while you're learning that they could be a good place to get some experience.
Reputation / Popularity
NASM is one of the less recognized NCCA accredited organizations in the industry. Maybe it's just because they only offer one level of certification, who knows. But it's rarely the certification of first choice for many gyms or fitness studios.
Again, that's not necessarily bad, especially if you are just training for your own clients. But just keep in mind that many times a studio will want you get yet another certification (like NSCA) to keep all their trainers on an even keel.
The eligibility requirements are basically the same as everyone else's. You must be 18 years of age, have a current CPR and AED certification, and be able to fork over the exam fees.
The exam is done a little bit differently than the other certificates. … OK, on second thought, make that a LOT different …
You have to buy one of their 'educational packages' to get the exam. So, in a sense, the exam is included with the study materials (at least the cost it). Then when you're ready, you set up an exam date (minimum 3 days ahead) and then take the pas / fail exam.
This means that you can not really just take the NASM CPT without buying all of their materials. Just purchasing the "exam" only package is $ 549!
The weird thing is that if you buy the materials, the cost is only $ 50 more. The 'recommended' PLUS version is $ 679 (which includes a Live Workshop)
Another odd thing is that you only have 120 days to take the exam after 'enrolling' as a NASM member. I respect the effort to bring people on board quickly and make it like a classroom (where deadlines are quite common), but it is very out of the mainstream for this industry. It's up to you if you feel that is appropriate with your time constraints.
You also need to order things through one of their "Education Consultants" to order the recommended PLUS version of the study / exam materials … which to me is just another barrier to me getting myself moving.
NASM has a Live Workshop (included in a few of their packages, like the PLUS package) that is a two-day program where you can get some really solid hands on experience. Of course, you know how much I value the hands on experience, so I consider this a fantastic advantage of NASM.
The Workshops (Live Workshop) are held in major cities throughout the year. The calendar of the upcoming years workshops is out well in advance and you can check the website for the current schedule.
As you've probably guessed, the 'cost' of the exam is hard to separate from the study / workshop material, so I'm just going to list them all together.
CPT PLUS (Recommended for new Trainers) – $ 679
CPT Regular (Textbook, Study Guide, DVD, and Exam) – $ 599
CPT Exam (Just the Exam) – $ 549
Live Workshop – $ 199
CD-ROM Course – $ 149
So basically you're going to pay around $ 550 just to sit for the exam, either you need any review or materials at all.
The NASM CPT certification is valid for two years. During those two years, you need to take about 20 hours of credits for your future recertification.
NASM offers a ton of CEC's for you to take to get your 20 hours of CEC's completed.
Unfortunately, it appears that you really need to take their NASM CEC classes, as they do not seem to provide a list of 'other' approved courses. Many certification organizations allow you to take classes at colleges or other institutions, however I can not find any evidence that's available from NASM.
The list of CEC classes is quite extensive and, although I can not find a way to substitute other classes, these should keep you learning for quite some time!
Renewal is every two years, 20 CEC hours, and has a fee of $ 99 with a $ 30 late fee if you file (or complete your CEC's) late.
As you can see, NASM does many of its certification procedures very differently than other organizations. The cost of the exam, since it's built into the course materials, is much higher than other exams. Any hope of just "Certification Adding" by taking the exam is going to cost you even if you do not need the materials.
NASM does offer a lot of continuing education and support for its members. It's, again, not really the first choice of many gyms, but it's an NCCA approved organization that provides real quality education (especially the Live Workshop) and instant recognition in the industry.