Is It Better to be an ISSA Personal Trainer or ACE?

This is a comparative study to give you elaborate information on ISSA and ACE certifications for personal trainers.

 This detailed study is based on the following criteria:

  •         Overview of ACE and ISSA
  •         Recognition of ACE and ISSA certifications in the industry
  •         Study materials of both ISSA and ACE
  •         Cost of both certifications

A general overview of ACE and ISSA

Both ACE and ISSA personal trainer certifications are considered in the category of general CPT in the fitness industry. Both these organizations have been certifying trainers for years and have earned credibility with employers in the industry.


ACE has received NCCA accreditation. NCCA (National Commission for Certifying Agencies) is a non-profit organization that has been accrediting professional programs.

Another organization DEAC (Distance Education Accrediting Commission) has been accrediting distance education certifications in the health and fitness industry.

 These two organizations are among the top-rated in the United States.

ACE offers 2 study packages that cost around $299 and $499. ISSA is currently offering only one package that costs in the range of $599 to $699.

Minimum eligibility criteria for ACE and ISSA personal trainer

  •         Valid certification on CPR and AED
  •         High school certificate or equivalent qualification
  •         Minimum age limit is 18 years
  •         Valid identity proof

Recognition of ISSA and ACE

This is a comparative review of both certifications based on their curriculum and acceptance in the industry.

ISSA certification

ISSA (International Sports Sciences Association) covers a wide range of topics that makes it most suitable for a beginner in the industry.

ISSA personal trainer certification focuses on the essentials of health and fitness that help the candidate to design programs, plan nutrition, and physically train clients to improve their overall health.

ISSA has received DEAC accreditation but not NCCA like ACE certification.

ISSA curriculum offers in-depth knowledge of overall fitness and health as compared to ACE. It includes knowledge of weight management, powerlifting, strength curve, etc.

ACE certification

ACE (American Council on Exercise) is a non-profit organization established in 1985. ACE has so far certified more than 90,000 fitness trainers. This PT certification is considered the gold standard for beginners in the fitness industry.

Just like ISSA, ACE covers basic education on personal training that help ACE trainers to design programs and nutrition routines for their clients. ACE follows the IFT (Integrated Fitness Training) model program.

ACE focuses on endurance and functional training to help progressive clients.

Comparing both, we can say ACE has an edge over ISSA due to the IFT model that is great for general CPT in the initial phase of their career.

Popularity and industry acceptation

 ISSA personal trainers enjoy better recognition than ACE in the industry. So far ISSA has certified more than 200,000 trainers from 91 countries across the world.

 ISSA offers a completely online certification course which makes it easily accessible to anyone. The certification is well-accepted at renowned gymnasiums and training facilities.

There may be exceptions though, some employers are strict about accepting NCCA accredited certifications only.

ISSA is DEAC accredited which is considered almost equivalent to NCCA in the industry.

ACE on the other hand is widely accepted among top-rated gyms and training facilities. Apart from NCCA accreditation, ACE has a higher search history in Google trends as compared to ISSA.

Going by the industry acceptance and popularity, we can say ACE is a clear winner here.

Study materials and cost of ACE and ISSA

ISSA review

The cost of ISSA certification is on the affordable side except for the specialization packages.

ISSA certification fee is around $799 which also includes a nutrition course. On rare occasions, you can get the course at a discounted rate of $499.

 Package includes:

  •         Hard Copy textbook (759 pages)
  •         Study guide
  •         Practice exams
  •         Practice quizzes
  •         Reference guide on workouts
  •         Access to the online forum
  •         Online workout lab (250 3D animated exercises)
  •         Guidance from ISSA certified coach

ACE review

Compared to ISSA, ACE offers budget-friendly certification packages. ACE offers 2 packages on basic and advanced studies. Here are the details.

Basic study package

It can cost as low as $299 and covers the fundamentals of health and nutrition.

 Package includes

  •         E-book
  •         Practice exam
  •         Access to ACE-certified mentor
  •         Online study manual
  •         ACE Elite academy
  •         Access to training guides

Plus study package

The cost of this package is around $499. It includes everything in the basic study package along with additional study materials.

 Package includes

  •         Hard Copy textbook
  •         Hardcopy study manual
  •         Access to essentials of training

 Going by the inclusions in both the package, there is hardly any difference between ISSA and ACE. The only exception being the hardcopy textbook that ISSA provides right away with the package. The cost of both ISSA and ACE certifications are very similar as both are on the affordable side.

Exam and Recertification

ISSA certification

ISSA personal trainer exam is completely online and can be taken even from your home

The exam includes various sections like multiple-choice questions, essays, and case studies. The passing score for ISSA personal trainer certification is 75%.

The ISSA exam is considered a bit more challenging because the case study requires candidates to develop a 12-week progressive routine for 2 clients including health requirements and goals.

The overall qualifying rate for the ISSA exam is 90% because it is an open book test. Failed candidates can retake the test for free on the second attempt.

ISSA recertification requirements

  •         20 units (20 hours approx) of continuing education for 2 years
  •         Pay the fee and renew CPR/ AED certifications
  •         Recertification fee is $99

 ACE certification

ACE certification is not an open-book test like ISSA. This is why the passing rate of first attempted exam candidates is only 65%.

To help candidates, ACE offers exam resources in the form of a Practice Exam kit that costs $29.95. It includes 750 practice questions.

The ACE exam is also completely online. It includes 150 multiple-choice questions. The passing score is 500 points which are equal to answering 90 questions out of 150.

The certification course duration is 6 months from the date of purchase. Failed candidates can retake the test for a retest fee of $199.

 ACE recertification requirements

  •         Recertification is required every 2 years
  •         20 hours of continuing education
  •         Recertification cost is $129

Comparing both certifications, ISSA clearly provides an edge over ACE going by the qualification rate.

Final thoughts

After going through this review we hope you have got a clear idea about the recognition and value of both ACE and ISSA certifications. If we had to choose one way or the other, we're confident that ISSA is the best personal trainer certification available on the market.  For a limited time, you can take 20% off ISSA certification when using promo code FT20 during checkout. 

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