trainer looking at a CPT Certification

Everything You Need to Know About the CPT Certification

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Obtaining your Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) certification is something that will set your career on the fast track as a leader in fitness instruction. CPTs are extremely sought after which is why this certification can be such a big leap in your career. In today’s IFG deep dive, we’ll cover everything you need to know about becoming a CPT; hitting topics like choosing the best CPT program, top strategies for passing the CPT exam, and more.

What it Means to Be a CPT

CPT Certification means someone is recognized as a Certified Personal Trainer. They’ve passed a test showing they know how to help people exercise safely and effectively, including understanding workouts, nutrition, and health assessments. Different groups offer this certification, each with their own rules and tests. CPTs usually rely on a variety of different workout routines in order to help clients reach their goals but many also find an exercise regimen they are most comfortable with and create a kind of specialization in that niche. These can include cardio-intensive workouts, cross-training, and strength training, as well as popular fitness programs like Zumba and Pilates.

CPTs are seen as a trusted professional, guiding clients through a safe and effective routine. CPTs must teach proper form and technique in order to lessen the chance for injuries and mishaps, as well as help the client get the most out of the routine. CPTs are expected to be present and active during sessions and monitor progress to adapt as necessary. This requires CPTs to have a lot of experience and background in the field in order to create the best routine possible.

When working as part of a larger facility, CPTs will often find they have other ancillary duties such as providing tours of the gym or signing up new members. Having the ability to work in many locations is a tremendous strength for the industry, which is set to expand by a whopping 15% by 2029 reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Comparing Different CPT Programs of Study

On the road to becoming a CPT, you’ll need to start with at least a high school diploma or equivalent. While experience counts a lot in the fitness industry, most employers are also most likely to give preference to candidates with a Bachelor’s degree in a health or wellness-related field. With many CPT programs, the accrediting agencies also require CPR and AED certifications to sit for the final exam. Obtaining your CPT is often a requirement for higher-end gyms and health clubs where you’ll be working one-on-one with members.

Once you’ve met all the prerequisites towards getting your CPT, you need to decide on a course of study. There are many organizations out there that offer certification but you should choose carefully and make sure you are getting instructed and certified by a reputable source—notably one certified by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).

A few of the many CPT organizations that are well known and continue to rate highly for their instruction include:

  • ACE Fitness – with a variety of e-books, interactive quizzes, career guides, and more, ACE Fitness is a private company that has created an entire ecosystem around successful completion of the CPT certification program. Adding clout to the program, ACE is fully accredited by the NCCA.
  • ASFA – The American Sports and Fitness Association specializes in testing, certification, and educational materials for today’s trainers. They offer a wide range of CPT designations in specific fields like martial arts fitness, tactical fitness, bodybuilding, nutrition, and many more. They even offer an advanced test for certification as a Master Personal Trainer.
  • NASM – The National Association of Sports Medicine has long been considered one of the de facto sources for new personal trainers and the NASM certification for CPTs is a solid, reputable program. The self-paced study course runs through several different online training modules, videos, and assessments before offering a final exam. NASM’s CPT program is also accredited by the NCCA.
  • NETA – The National Exercise Trainers Association has been around for decades with a well known and well respected CPT certification. They also offer a range of specialty certifications to really highlight a unique skill set such as kettlebells or youth fitness.
  • NCCPT – The National Council for Certified Personal Trainers does not offer their own study program but partners with the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) for an exam study package. The NCCPT provides an NCCA accredited CPT certification exam which consists of 140 multiple choice questions. The exam is provided in a pass/fail format so that any candidate who scores a passing grade obtains their certification. NCCPT provides a good way to quickly gain your CPT from an accredited program.
  • NSCA – The National Strength and Conditioning Association has another great CPT certification program with the course focused around the exam. Going through the exam preparation and study materials helps prepare you for the final exam. The NSCA CPT is also accredited by the NCCA.

Whichever program you choose and just like with any training session, you will get out what you put into this process. Taking the time to develop a consistent, measurable schedule for your study prep is key to setting a PB on the CPT exam.

Getting Ready for the CPT Exam

All of the CPT programs we compared above provide some form of access to exam study materials. Studying for the CPT exam takes time and you need to make sure that you give yourself enough of a headstart to cover everything you need to. The different programs have different rules about retaking the exam, but generally it’s going to cost you, so it’s much better to simply give yourself the best chance to earn a passing score the first time.

How Long Do You Need to Study for the CPT?

The length of time that it’s going to take you to study depends on your background in fitness and wellness. If you have a degree in a related field and have been working in the industry for several years, you can get by with as little as 3-6 weeks of study and probably will do just fine on the exam. If you’re completely new to personal training and your degree was in Medieval Literature, you are going to need longer to digest the material. 6 to 9 months is a good goal to have in mind while you are going through a solid study program.

What’s the Best Way to Study for the CPT Examination?

You will learn and retain more if you find the course engaging so this can depend on your individual preferences. If you prefer more digital coursework, go with a program that offers self-paced e-learning modules. If you like to have everything hardback, there’s programs that cater to that as well. There’s also blended programs with some digital coursework and the chance for real-world application.

CPT programs like ACE offer practice tests and quizzes which can be a great way to get a better feel for the format of the CPT exam. The more you are used to answering these types of questions, the less anxiety come final exam time.

Starting a New Career as a CPT

As a brand new CPT, the world of fitness seems to open up and you are so excited to get started. Just like preparing for your program and exam, there’s some planning steps early in your career that can really pay dividends the longer you progress in the industry.

  • Step 1 – Get Insurance: it can seem like overkill but to truly protect your career from the start, personal trainer insurance is vital. As an affordable tool, personal trainer insurance helps you to mitigate risks in a risky industry from a holistic perspective. From slip and falls to equipment failures and so much more in between, IFG has your back with solid insurance that won’t let you down.
  • Step 2 – Target Market: once you’re set up to get going it’s time to hone in on who you should be targeting. Specializing in a certain area helps to build personal and brand expertise, which can help you get more of the clients you actually want to train. Consider this, if you really enjoy helping young athletes make it to the next level, then make this your focus. Market yourself as the trainer for these types of athletes and you’ll grow your base in this niche. IFG offers members great resources for getting your services off the ground with information on topics like running an effective social media campaign and building out your personal trainer resume.
  • Step 3 – Build On Your Reputation: delivering the best results to clients takes providing a stellar experience. Another way an IFG personal trainer insurance policy pays dividends is with curated fitness plans, playlists, and a free website. Use the plans and playlists to provide an awesome experience for your clients and then market all of the success on your website. Over time you’ll start popping up more when people around you search “personal trainer near me” in their search engine.

Making Sure Your Career is Covered from the Beginning

Starting as a CPT with comprehensive personal trainer insurance backing you up is a far more ideal set up than simply taking chances. Our team has deliberately crafted our fitness insurance policies to cover the specific types of risks facing trainers today and the benefits of membership extend far beyond great insurance coverage. Signing up in minutes is easy with our quick online application and check out process. As soon as you’re through, you’ll enjoy instant coverage and access to all of your important plan documents.

Meet The Author:

Parker Franklin

Parker, IFG’s Brand Manager since 2022, began his wellness journey in 2020, leading to a significant personal transformation. He holds a journalism degree from Murray State University and started his career as an award-winning journalist in western Kentucky before transitioning into marketing and PR. At IFG, Parker is responsible for writing content, managing The Fit newsletter, and overseeing promotions and collaborations with affiliate fitness organizations.