What is ACSM Certification?

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  • Written By: Katie Gatto
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 28 February 2020
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Many organizations give certification to personal trainers, but few are as comprehensive as the certifications given by The American College of Sports Medicine, also known as ACSM. The certification allows a trainer to highlight his or her knowledge about exercise and the human body. There are several types of ACSM certification exams that trainers can take.

A personal trainer is a health professional whose job is to help clients exercise more efficiently. Taking a client's needs into account, he or she will design sets of exercises that help a client to reach his goals as quickly as possible. Trainers also work out with their clients in order to ensure that the client is completing each exercise correctly.

Certification can help a trainer in obtaining work at a gym or with private clients. Some gyms or fitness centers may require a personal trainer to have a certification as a condition of employment. Different types of certification can be earned, depending in part on the type of clients a personal trainer plans to work with.

The basic ACSM certification for personal trainers is called ACSM Certified Personal TrainerSM. It covers the basics of creating an exercise plan and working with clients. In order to apply for this basic certification, an individual must be at least 18 years old, currently hold a high school diploma or GED, and have a current CPR card. The CPR class must have had a practical skills component.


Once the minimum requirements have been met, a person may take the ACSM Certified Personal TrainerSM exam. Self-study and in-person courses are available. There is a higher level of general ACSM certification, which does not depend on a specialty area. This ACSM certification is known as ACSM Certified Health Fitness Specialist.

Clinical professionals may obtain special certifications. If the applicant holds an undergraduate degree in a clinical field, then he or she can obtain the ACSM certification known as ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist®. If the applicant holds a graduate degree, then he or she can obtain a ACSM Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist® certification.

In addition to the ACSM certifications listed above, there are several specialty ACSM certifications. A trainer must have the ACSM Certified Personal TrainerSM certification before he or she can apply to take a specialty exam. The ACSM/ACS Certified Cancer Exercise Trainer (CET) certification is for trainers who are interested in working with cancer patients. Trainers who are interested in working with the physically or mentally disabled can become an ACSM/NCPAD Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer (CIFT). ACSM/NSPAPPH Physical Activity in Public Health Specialist (PAPHS) certification is for trainers interested in working in the public health sector.

A trainer does not have to join the American College of Sports Medicine in order to take a certification exam. If a trainer does choose to join, however, he or she will get a discount on the costs taking their exams. All ACSM certifications are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCAA).


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I've done a basic personal trainer course, so please suggest to me some good advanced courses.

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