ACE vs NASM Certification

ACE vs NASM Certification: Which is Better?

The public’s health should be a top concern, and that’s why many people set goals to become personal trainers. Specialized trainers strive to provide the information and instruction needed for athletes, golfers, senior citizens, and even students. Our guide will compare ACE Vs NASM Certification so you can understand what it takes to become a professional personal trainer and more.

If your passion is to help students learn how to get in shape or partner with healthcare organizations to help lead patients to understand fitness and nutrition, you’ll need a certification. For whatever sector you wish to pursue a fitness education, you can find proper studies with the right program.

Comparing both certifications, we can guide you through the variations in all areas.


Main Differences Between ACE vs NASM Certification

The main differences between ACE and NASM are:

  • ACE uses the IFT training model, whereas NASM utilizes the OPT training model to further their clients
  • ACE is a general CPT program, whereas NASM is more of a certification for corrective exercise.
  • ACE does not have live workshops, whereas NASM does
  • ACE is a more generalized program of study, whereas NASM has focused training

Exploring ACE Vs NASM – Certification Options

ACE Certification

Taking a look at both ACE and NASM, you will learn the focus, costs, and other aspects of each training program. Each certification is a particular type of training that speaks to you. Textbook and live support are included in both certification programs. Also, both ACE and NASM are NCCA accredited.


Both ACE and NASM have shown the same basic number of search inquiries when individuals look for basic training enrollment and information. This shows that both programs are well-known. However, there are differences between search and actual enrollment.


The American Council on Exercise has a conservative approach to education services and advertising. They focus more on the industry’s reputation and their connections with other professional organizations and academic programs.

Their enrollment is quite a bit smaller than the National Academy of Sports Medicine. The main reason for this difference is the views on marketing and promotional aspects.


Due to NASM’s far-reaching marketing tactics, their enrollment and popularity surpass ACE. The scope of NASM’s marketing includes television commercials and influencers. This school has a much larger advertising budget which gives them an edge.

Study Time for Final Certification


Needs for study time in training academies vary depending on other aspects of your daily life. While some individuals require just a short period of time for instruction, others need as much time as possible. This is mainly due to other tasks such as working part-time jobs or having personal responsibilities at home.

As with other schools, ACE and NASM have varying time limits between enrollment and finals.


With ACE, from the time you purchase your certification until the final, you have nine months of study time. This works well for those who have a lot on their plates. Even though it may only take three months to complete the course for some, the entire 9 – month study period could prove crucial.


The study period allowed with NASM is six months, three months shorter than with ACE. If you’re busy and still want to enroll in NASM, you’ll need to structure your study time wisely to take advantage of the 3-month allotted period.

Completion / Pass Rate

Both the American Council on Exercise and the National Academy of Sports Medicine have a similar completion and pass rate. They both have difficult exams that require knowledge and ample study. Topics such as biomechanics, anatomy, and physiology can be very challenging.


The pass rate or completion ability in the ACE program is at 65% currently. The difficulty of the course ensures that all trainers are well versed in all physical fitness areas and nutrition as well. Despite the difficulties, ACE students complete and pass courses slightly more than with NASM.


The completion rate of NASM is at 64.3%, which basically ties with the ACE rate. Both programs seem to have the same difficulty level, providing only the best quality training for the future trainer. The only concerning point in this area is the gap between high enrollment and lower completion rates.

Salary After Certification

Personal Trainer

One of the most common questions when getting an education in any area of life is, “How much will I make when I graduate?” When it comes to comparing ACE and NASM in terms of salary, there isn’t a huge difference, but it’s notable.


This generalized program is a complete and quality certified training course that provides all you need to know to become a personal trainer.

There are other aspects of the ACE training program that provides you with career options connecting other areas. However, this program is still a wide-range basic program with few targeted options. It does have a competitive salary and opens up career selections in training.


This program has a larger variety of options due to the targeted and focused learning. It is a more well-known program but newer to the industry than the ACE certification. The salary gained by trainers who studied with NASM is larger, and the program opens doors to a wider variety of career options.

Comparing ACE Vs NASM – Pricing

Prices vary according to specific packages requested by the student. While both programs are affordable, they have pros and cons on the price level while offering various specialization-focused packages.

Understanding which training to approach depends on these costs and what you’re willing to pay to certify for a particular type of career. However, although steep, the price is well worth it in both cases, with one program offering more options than the other.


This program has three certified tiers, the Basic, $594, or 4 interest-free payments for as low as $50, Plus $699 or 4 interest-free payments for as low as $59, and Advantage, $1, 024 or interest-free payments for as low as $88 per month. When it comes to price, even for the top tier, ACE is the more affordable option.

If you’re looking for an advantage training course that doesn’t branch out into other specializations, this might be the best choice.


On the other hand, NASM has four tiers of training, Self-Study, $629 or interest-free payments of $57, Self-Study Premium, $839, or interest-free payments of $76 per month, Guided, $1,039 or interest-free payments of $94, and All-Inclusive, $1,889, or interest-free payments of $172 per month.

The highest tier is more expensive than the ACE top training course but offers a more specialized variety for targeted studies.

Comparing ACE Vs NASM – Study Materials

training program

To understand the price related to the various study materials, you must know a few details of the courses provided. Each tier has different courses and difficulty levels hence the price differences.

Breaking down the course materials will also vary because ACE has three tiers and NASM has four levels of study. This factors into the detail of each course and may well factor into your decision about the overall training.


As stated previously, ACE has three tiers of study, priced accordingly. At these levels are various study materials crafter to create a quality trainer.

  • Basic: Ebook format textbook, Fitness Professionals Ebook, ACE Academy Elite (Guided Study), practice tests, study coaches, and additional resources for personal training.
  • Plus: The Plus package includes everything the Basic package has with the addition of a hard copy of the ACE Exercise Science for Fitness Professionals book, a hard copy of the manual, and a study companion for the manual.
  • Advantage: The Advantage package includes all the basics, additional hard copies, and the fitness math online course, which makes the mathematical aspects of training seem like a breeze.


The NASM program has four tiers of study. In these packages, you will find various courses and materials that will help further your fitness training career. With specialized options, the NASM has much to offer.

  • Self-Study: This package includes the official 720 page textbook in Ebook format, study guide, quizzes, practice exams, full exercise library, and online video lectures. It’s a complete basic package.
  • Self-Study Premium: This package adds flashcards, anatomy memorization activities, and learning activities for difficult concepts.
  • Guided: In addition to all the course study materials listed in the two self-study programs, the Guided studies also offer a hard copy of the 720-page textbook, exam prep webinars, additional discussion questions, access to a live workshop, access to a mentor or coach, and one free retest.
  • All-Inclusive: This package combines everything in the first three basic studies, but with the addition of the NASM Business Accelerator Program and 80 hours of on-site CPT development.

ACE – Pros and Cons


  • More affordable Program
  • Slightly higher completion percentage
  • Longer enrollment time for more study
  • Generalized study


  • Fewer specialization courses
  • Fewer package options
  • Lower enrollment interest
  • Slightly higher recertification costs



  • More specialized courses
  • Higher enrollment and interest in the program
  • More package options
  • Slightly higher salary income
  • Lower recertification price
  • More Focused study


  • Lower course completion percentage
  • More expensive when purchasing a top package
  • The newer program than the ACE academy

Alternative Programs to ACE and NASM



The National Strength and Conditioning Association was founded in 1978. It is one of the earliest programs created for building careers in personal training, nutrition, and sports focus.

The NSCA Certification combination is the NSCA CPT and the NSCA CSCS. Athletic performance is the main focus of the NSCA. It includes:

  • Focus on sports performance
  • Prides itself in being a non-profit organization
  • Being NCCA accredited
  • Being a common program that works with student-athletes

The NSCA exam tests skills, knowledge, and abilities in four domains, exercise techniques, safety/emergency issues, consultation/fitness assessment, and program planning. The goal is to balance conditioning research, the newest findings in strength, and all practical applications in these areas.



The National Council on Strength and Fitness is a personal trainer certification for career-minded individuals who appreciate generalized training education. The NCSF is NCCA accredited to ensure industry recognition, and it is globally recognized.

There are 8,000 NCSF exam centers in 160 countries. There are also online exam options available as well. In fact, it is the industry’s largest exam network. As with other options, NCSF has advanced certifications so you can take your fitness career to the next level.

There are 4 tier packages available at a low cost. However, the training comes in a general wide-focused learning option that can brief you to move towards a more targeted program. Three specialized programs guide you through strength and resistance training, nutrition, or the master trainer option.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What Specializations are Offered by ACE?

Answer: ACE offers training that specializes in professions such as nutritional coaches, fitness instructors, and senior fitness. The training focuses on the basics of perfecting techniques and knowledge in these areas. ACE is a general learning program and one of the first certifications in the industry.

Question: What Specializations are Offered by NASM?

Answer: The basic specializations offered by ACE are also offered by NASM but are enhanced by other targeted training in women’s fitness, MMA conditioning, golf enhancement, and strength training. NASM is a focused learning program with a specialization in many areas. This provides a laser-targeted learning experience.

Question: Which Training Provides the Highest Earning Potential, ACE or NASM?

Answer: NASM has a higher salary potential than the ACE program. However, this salary is only slightly higher than the ACE-certified personal trainer certificate. With either academy, you can learn to make a competitive salary in the fitness and nutritional training sectors.

Question: What are the Prerequisites to Becoming a Certified ACE or NASM Trainer?

Answer: You must have a high school diploma or GED to certify as either a NASM or ACE trainer. YOu must also have both an AED and CPR certification as well. Make sure you have a valid government-issued ID before starting any programs.

Question: Are ACE and NASM Expensive Certifications?

Answer: While there is a noticeable investment in the knowledge you’ll receive from either training program, it’s well worth the money to start your career. Both ACE and NASM provide quality study materials, instructors, and other various study options. This makes the price seem small. Both programs come at very affordable prices.

Verdict: Choose NASM for a Complete and Focused Learning Experience

When it comes to the complete program with focused learning, the NASM wins out. We picked this program for its extensive study material and variety of learning to cover all aspects of fitness training. It is also a favorite due to its price for the large amount of knowledge acquired.

Whether it’s learning about the proper foods to enjoy or how to operate each piece of gym equipment, the NASM has it covered. But both programs are quality training options. Our guide provides all you need to know when selecting a course of study.

Ultimately it’s your choice to choose between ACE and NASM, as both programs are quality personal trainer readiness courses.

Read and research carefully before embarking upon your career in the fitness industry. Make sure you understand your goals. Will it be generalized education, or will you focus on targeted learning for your preferred goal? Let our guide lead you to the right place.

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