What is a NASM certification?

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If you’ve ever considered becoming a personal trainer, now might be the ideal time to do it. The employment of fitness trainers and instructors is projected to grow 14% from 2022 to 2032, with about 69,000 job openings expected each year of that decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Through their knowledge of physical training, nutrition, and health, personal trainers help their clients improve their lives and reach their fitness goals. 

One of the best pathways to becoming a personal trainer is through a certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). Founded in 1987, NASM provides certifications in a wide range of fitness-related fields, including personal training, bodybuilding, and nutrition. 

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Here’s an in-depth look at what a NASM certification can do for you.

What does it mean to be NASM certified? 

Boasting more than 1.5 million certified fitness and wellness professionals, NASM assists personal trainers, coaches, athletes, and fitness enthusiasts in reaching their health goals. Becoming NASM certified means that you’re able to provide fitness advice and guidance to others.

“When you’re NASM certified, it signifies that you’ve put the time and effort into developing the necessary knowledge skills and abilities to help somebody change their life and improve themselves,” says Tony Ambler-Wright, a product manager and master instructor for the for-profit organization. “It also shows others that you have achieved that level of competency.”

NASM offers a variety of fitness certifications. One is the Personal Trainer Certification (CPT) that prepares you to design exercise and conditioning programs based on scientific and clinical evidence. The Certified Nutrition Coach (CNC) program is the second and teaches you about the science of nutrition and how to promote better health choices through diet and behavioral change. Finally, there’s the Certified Wellness Coach (CWC) program that shows you how to pursue wellness through nutrition, movement, coaching, and mental and emotional wellbeing.

Additional specializations pertain to bodybuilding, corrective exercise, sports nutrition, group fitness, weight loss, and other fitness related topics.

How much does NASM certification cost? 

The cost of obtaining a NASM certification depends on the program. Purchasing multiple programs as a package can reduce costs, and NASM provides affordable and monthly payment options as well.

Obtaining a Personal Trainer Certification can be a one-time payment of $899 or 11 monthly payments of $79 with a $25 downpayment. Without a discount, obtaining a Certified Nutrition Coach or Physique and Bodybuilding Coach (PBC) certification can cost $899 or 11 monthly payments of $53 with a $25 downpayment.

How long does it take to get NASM certification? 

As the courses are self-paced, Ambler-Wright says that the time requirements of each course depends on the individual. The CPT certification, for example, is a “pretty intensive” 23-chapter course that he says should take roughly four months to complete for most. Some of the certifications can be completed in as little as four weeks.

Matt Boyer, owner of personal training studio Move Bloomington in Bloomington, Indiana, says that his employees have taken anywhere from a month to six months to complete their CPT training, depending on their time commitment and previous knowledge of the coursework.

Is it worth getting NASM certification? 

So, given the time and cost, is it worth it to become NASM certified?

Boyer thinks so. Becoming NASM certified “gives you all the tools in the toolbox” to work with everyone from LeBron James to a 90-year-old retiree, he says. If Boyer hires someone who doesn’t have a NASM certification, he helps pay for them to get the training.

“At my facility, it’s my preferred certification,” Boyer explains. “It means that you are educated by one of the best organizations out there.”

Ambler-Wright notes that NASM courses are created by industry experts based on science and real-world experience, and that the courses are updated frequently.

“In terms of credibility and authority, NASM is widely the most recognized and preferred training credential by employers in the health club space,” he says.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay of fitness trainers and instructors in 2023 was $46,480 per year.

The takeaway 

When it comes to pursuing a career in fitness, a NASM certification shows that you’ve got the necessary training to help people achieve their fitness goals and attained a top certification in the field.

“It gives people the confidence that they’ve got the tools and the knowledge, skills and abilities to help people become more healthy and fit,” Ambler-Wright says. “It demonstrates that you’ve achieved entry-level competency in all the different areas and domains that are associated with somebody’s health and fitness, and ensures that you have those knowledge skills and abilities to help someone safely.”

If you’re curious and want to learn more, Ambler-Wright recommends reaching out to current personal trainers to gain their perspectives and checking out NASM’s website, blog, and podcasts. NASM also has education advisors that fledgling fitness trainers can contact.

“If somebody is on the fence and they’re not sure which direction to go, they can confer with one of our team members and they can help guide them,” he says.

Asked about the current demand for fitness professionals, Ambler-Wright says NASM constantly fields inquiries from gyms and fitness facilities that are looking for people to hire.

“It looks pretty promising,” he says of job prospects in the field. “With the ever increasing focus on wellness, and fitness being a part of that, the trend is going to continue to grow as people want to invest in themselves more.

“There’s no better time to pursue fitness as a career opportunity.”

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