NASM vs. ACE: Which Certification is Better?

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It’s pretty known that two of the most sought-after personal training certificates are the NASM and ACE. So, on your journey to becoming a personal trainer, you’ll often have to choose one or the other. But such a decision is not easy to make, as both certifications have their own unique qualities.

The heritage of both certifications qualifies them to be on the top in the world. But there are various criteria to consider. Hence, in this article, you’ll find a breakdown of the most important criteria. That includes the pros and cons of each certification, the difficulty, which one is more prestigious, and other things you must know about.

What are the Pros and Cons of ACE vs. NASM?What are the Pros and Cons of ACE vs. NASM?

When considering NASM vs. ACE personal trainer, you must first set your goals to decide on the right course you’d take. Hence, evaluate the amount of money you want to spend, the perks of each program, and the decent salary you’re seeking.

Such decisions are tough to make. However, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, NASM, which stands for National Academy of Sports Medicine, is a certified provider in health and fitness. It’s pretty known that it’s one of the leading institutes.

The NASM personal training certification is accredited by NCCA, the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. The National Council If you do a quick search, you’ll find that NASM is more renowned in terms of popularity. Even Google trends state that the certification is more searched for metrics. This has allowed this certification to be more recognized across the globe.

On the other hand, ACE stands for American Council on Exercise. The ACE personal trainer certification is just as internationally recognized, and it’s a non-profit organization. Hence, the institute’s primary focus is improving the livelihood and health of the general public.

This morale is supported by the IFT model, which is short for Integrated Fitness Training. The ACE certification aims to provide a more creative and accessible way for everyone to exercise and stay in shape. This certification is also accredited by the NCCA.

However, both certifications have different aims in mind. In other words, people often make their choice of accreditation based on the type of personal training they are seeking:

  • ACE: concentrates on designing programs, adding creativity, implementing exercises, and finding modifications and substitutions
  • NASM: focuses primarily on the techniques of exercise as well as instructions and how-to guide others through training

So, is NASM better than ACE? Take a look and determine yourself.

Pros and Cons of ACE Certification

Studying for your educational certification is never cheap. These organizations often offer packages for you to obtain, which include study resources and other benefits. However, consider this as an investment in yourself and your career. Hence, don’t cheap out and opt for the easy option. So, when you make up your mind about the certification, you must be able to put your all into it so as not to waste your time or money.

The ACE certification is recognized throughout the fitness industry. Just like other educational certifications, it opens up numerous doors in the fitness world. You can become a trainer or a specialist in multiple fitness faculties and gyms.

While most aim to obtain their personal training certification from ACE, there is a wide range of courses and qualifications you can aim for:

  • ACE personal training
  • ACE medical exercise specialist
  • ACE nutrition certification
  • ACE group fitness certification
  • ACE health coach certification
  • Specialist certifications (includes a variety of options, including weight management, behavior change, and pain-free movement)

Pros of ACE Certification

  • Certified by NCCA.
  • Rectification costs (renewing and continuing your certification) decrease the longer you have your certificate.
  • Digital credentials will be offered to you through the USPS
  • The chance to connect with multiple certified professionals through online social media platforms.
  • Offers 3 different study packages. Moreover, it’s considered one of the cheapest personal training certifications. You can opt for the more affordable package, known as the Basic package, at $489. However, with more benefits and resources, you can choose the Advantage package, which is $864. You can look over the complete guide below:

ACE Fitness

  • You can test out the course for free before setting your mind on buying any of the packages
  • You have the guaranteed opportunity of meeting a well-respected leading fitness chain upon passing your exam.

The prices shown above are subject to change at any time. Please be sure to check ACE Fitness’s website for the latest pricing information.

Cons of ACE Certification

  • If you fail the examination, you must pay the total price of $199 to retake the exam. That is unless you have purchased the top package offered.
  • While internationally recognized, the ACE is not a certification accredited by REPs. Hence, you won’t get the opportunity to work in the UK as the certification does not qualify you.
  • As all the resources and materials offered are digital, there is a lack of in-person contact. While it’s more convenient to study on your own, there is a lack of proper understanding regarding proper exercise forms and techniques.
  • The Basic Package does not include other skills you might want to obtain, such as nutrition education and business skills. Hence, you will have to purchase the more expensive one for more information and education.

Pros and Cons of NASM Certification

The NASM organization aims to help people through the education of proper forms of techniques. Hence, the material will be a little more costly than the ACE, but as we illustrate below, you have more options to choose from.

We have already established that the NACM is nationally recognized and earns more respect as more people opt for it. That means that the material you access will be top-notch and constantly updated.

Moreover, you’ll find that the content is relatively easy to follow and user-friendly. The curriculum and training are built based on the OPT model, which stands for Optimum Performance Training. It’s based on research and science and goes through 5 stages. These are Stabilization Endurance, Power, Strength Endurance, Hypertrophy, and Maximum Strength.

Pros of NASM Certification

  • As opposed to the ACE, NASM offers 4 packages instead of 3 (for the personal training certification). Below is a brief illustration of the costs and provided offers. For the complete list of benefits, check the NAS- CPT website.


The prices shown above are subject to change at any time. Please be sure to check NASM website for the latest pricing.

  • The Basic study package is the cheapest option. However, it still offers a few practice exams and even some videos to get you through your studying.
  • A job position is guaranteed if you opt for one of the more expensive options (not the basic package).
  • To avoid paying for your future renewal fees, you can simply pay $399 upfront.
  • More specializations are available as compared to the ACE certification.

Cons of NASM Certification

  • There has been a record of delays in customer service and help.
  • You’re expected to pay more to obtain the same benefits that the ACE packages offer.
  • You have a mere 6-month period in which you have to finish studying and successfully pass the exam. Otherwise, you will have to forget the opportunity or repay for enrollment. On the other hand, ACE offers 9 months.
  • The NASM certification costs around $699 without discounts or coupons, which is quite expensive for the basic requirements.

What’s the Passing Rate Between ACE and NASM?

What’s the Passing Rate Between ACE and NASM?

Generally, both certifications are regarded as rather complicated. Both have a lower-than-expected passing rate, which makes it more challenging to choose which one to go for. Hence, if your basing your choice off of the passing rate, rest your mind as the difference is negligible.

These exams are more complex than others because they provide a much more extensive insight into the world of personal training. They’re not solely based on programs and exercises. Still, you’ll find quite the amount of biomechanics and anatomy explained in detail. While you might wonder why such topics are even relevant, they provide good insight into the mechanisms of exercise.

While other certifications, such as the ISSA personal training exam, have much higher rates, closer to 90%, the critical difference is the material. The NASM and ACE are known to cover a much larger area of subjects, which makes the exam a tad bit more complicated.

Keep in mind that both exams are multiple-choice exams. Hence you won’t have to waste your time answering essay questions.

NASM Exam Details

  • On your NASM exam, you’ll be presented with 120 questions that you must answer within 120 minutes. You must answer 70% of the questions to pass the examination. That boils down to 84 correct answers.
  • The number of questions, 120, is relatively lower than other exams in the same field. Hence, this might be the proper certification for you if lengthy exams induce anxiety and confuse you.
  • As for the NASM exam passing rate, it’s a mere 64.3%. The problem with this particular examination is that the retest cost is a stooping $199, except if you register for the Premium Self-Study Package. However, such a price at a low passing rate is quite intimidating, as it means you must work hard to ensure passing on your first try.

ACE Exam Details

  • The ACE exam is one of the most lengthy personal training exams. However, don’t let that deter you from the goal. While the number of questions is 150, you’ll have a whopping 180 minutes to complete them.
  • The ACE exam passing score is generally 500 points out of 800, based on a scaled criterion. Hence, the passing score of the ACE exam is 62.5% of questions, which is lower than the NASM exam.
  • If you’re considering choosing the test according to the overall passing rate, then rest assured they’re identical. The ACE passing rate is 65%, which is relatively low.

Which Test is Harder? ACE or NASM?Which Test is Harder? ACE or NASM?

Is ACE or NASM easier? Well, at this point, you might consider taking the easier exam, as they are both pretty prestigious certifications. However, that depends on your perspective. But let’s dive right into this and conclude which examination is the more difficult.

We have already acknowledged that the ACE and NASM have a passing rate of approximately 65%. That means that out of 100 testers, only 65 manage to score the minimum passing grade. While that might make you conclude that they’re both similar regarding difficulty, that’s not entirely accurate.

Think about it this way: to pass the ACE exam, you must answer 62.5% of the questions correctly. On the other hand, you need more correct answers for the NASM, as you’re required to get 70% of the answers right.

Hence, there is a lower barrier to overcome in the ACE exam. While that, in retrospect, might seem like an easier exam to pass, the passing rate is the same for both examinations. Hence, scoring the bare minimum of answers on the ACE exam is more complicated than achieving the 70% on the NASM.

Moreover, the ACE comprises 150 questions instead of 120 on the NASM. While that might not seem quite different, ACE offers you 180 minutes to complete the exam. NASM only provides 120 minutes. Hence, candidates have more time to finish the ACE, yet the passing rates of both certifications are the same.

Overall, in terms of questions, the ACE exam is more demanding than the NASM exam. That conclusion simply comes from comparing the passing rates and the percentage required to pass the examinations.

Hence, your perspective is what matters here. You might consider that exams that are harder to pass are more prestigious and worthy. Therefore, reflect on what matters more to you; a more detailed exam with better credentials or an easier exam to give that’s more renowned.

Which Fitness Certification is More Recognized?

Which Fitness Certification is More Recognized?

When comparing NASM CPT vs. ACE, it won’t be fair to declare one superior to the other. Each has its own uniqueness. However, consider the following pointers when finding which one is more nationally and internationally recognized:

  • NASM-CPT focuses on corrective exercise techniques and forms and optimizes the OPT model’s use. On the other hand, the ACE-CPT is directed toward the general population and preaching health for everyone. Its focus and use concentrate on the IFT model.
  • Both the ACE and NASM are internationally recognized. However, possibly due to the outcome of the certification, NASM is generally more sought after. Fitness professionals who obtain a NASM-CPT are typically ones that earn higher recognition.
  • Unfortunately, while both personal training certifications are accepted by employers everywhere, it seems like NASM candidates have higher chances. Hence, they might get prioritized over ones with an ACE certification.

When considering which certification to obtain, reflect on your personal goals. If you’re looking for something geared towards general exercise and helping the public, aim for the ACE. However, opt for the NASM if you’re searching for something with more recognition and detail.

Other Things You Need to Know About ACE and NASM Certification

Other Things You Need to Know About ACE and NASM Certification

There are a few things that you must keep in mind when it comes to both ACE and NASM certifications.

Eligibility Requirements

NASM (Personal Training Certification)

  • You must have obtained your high school diploma or an equivalent diploma.
  • Before sitting for the exam, you must have two certifications. The first is the Emergency Cardiopulmonary Resuscitated (CPR) and the Automated External Defibrillator (AED). You can obtain those from NASM, but you can also take them as an external certification.

ACE (Personal Training Certification)

  • The eligibility requirements will vary according to the type of certification you’re aiming for. You can see the complete list on their official website.
  • You must be older than 18 years old.
  • You must have a valid certification for both CPR and AED. Moreover, you must prove that you have obtained hands-on skills through in-person or virtual training. Keep in mind that your application for the exam won’t be accepted without the skills check.
  • You must have your high school diploma or an equivalent.

Enrollment Number

The annual number of people who have registered for the examination varies slightly. For ACE, the yearly rate is around 13,000. As for NASM, it’s 22,000.


The average salary for a personal trainer with an ACE certification is $41,456. However, it’s slightly higher for NASM-certified professionals, which is $41,598. The difference is negligible, so it’s safe to say that both certifications are equal regarding overall salary.

Wrapping Things Up: NASM vs. ACE: Which Certification is Better?

All in all, the battle of NASM vs. ACE results in a general tie. As acknowledged, they’re both recognized nationally, so that won’t be your problem. However, your choice should be based on your ultimate goals.

Hence, evaluate whether the factors discussed above play a role in your decision. That includes the length of the exam, the cost, the material, and the models used.

The general advice you should follow is to talk to your desired employer before setting your mind on a certification. Ask them whether they accept one or the other. That will make your choice much easier to make.

However, if you want to focus on knowledge and designing programs, consider the NASM certification. Otherwise, taking the ACE path might be wiser if you focus on assisting clients and optimizing their health.

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Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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