ACE vs NASM - Which is better

If you are planning to start a career as a personal trainer, you have probably heard about the two most recognized CPT certifications in the fitness and health industry. They are ACE Certification and NASM certification. Both of these organizations have been certifying trainers for over a decade.

Here we’ll cover in details the features and benefits of these popular certifications based on these criteria:

  • Recognition of certification
  • Study materials
  • Cost
  • Earning potential
  • The difficulty level of the exam


There are other factors too that we will be covering as well.

ACE vs NASM can be a difficult decision for anyone who wants to become a CPT. Make sure you consider all of the information that we will share here. This will help you to choose the right certification for you.



  • NASM certification focuses on corrective exercise education while ACE covers the overall fundamentals of health and fitness.
  • Both certifications are popular and well-accepted in the fitness industry. They also both offer exclusive study materials and digital education support to the candidate.
  • NASM certification centers on the OPT training model whereas ACE progresses with the IFT type training model. To consider the differences, NASM offers access to live workshops while ACE does not have this capability.
  • When we compare the fees of both certifications, the NASM certification will cost you in the range of $524 to $2199 if you are opting for the premium package. ACE certification fee ranges from $599 to $799.
  • The passing rate for both certifications varies slightly. For NASM the passing rate is 64% whereas for ACE it is 65%.


Benefits of NASM CPT

  • AS NASM focuses more on corrective exercise techniques, it is great for helping clients with muscular imbalance.
  • Modern lifestyle and work culture have reduced every normal person’s lifestyle to a sedentary form, especially those with all-day sitting jobs.
  • NASM trainers can help these clients to address their problems through strength training.
  • NASM certifications focus on the OPT module of training which means stabilization.
  • The module is effective in training clients suffering from muscular imbalance due to a sedentary lifestyle.


Benefits of ACE CPT

  • ACE certification can create general category trainers. ACE focuses on overall health and fitness science without centering on any particular area of training.
  • ACE cert follows the IFT training module which includes information on all topics of fitness without any specialization in some particular area.
  • ACE CPTs can train clients with average sedentary lifestyles to improve their overall health.



NASM has a slight advantage because the certification is intended to create trainers in specialized fields of fitness rather than general categories. However, ACE certification is great to begin your career with if you have not decided on a particular focus.


Recognition in the industry


NASM is a well-accepted certification among employers in the fitness industry. For this reason, it is a sought-after title for CPTs right now. NASM certified trainers are accredited by NCCA


Similar to NASM, ACE is also a well-recognized certification in the fitness industry. ACE has also received NCCA accreditation.



 When it comes to the recognition criteria of ACE vs NASM, we can say both are equally accepted for a well-deserved tie.


Study Material


For NASM, the study contents of the study material mainly depend on the package you purchase. Let's take a look at the NASM study packages here:

Self-study: This is the most popular of all packages. It includes a 720-pages digital textbook, video lectures, exercise library, study guide, practice exams, and quizzes.

Premium Self-study: It has all the materials of the general self-study package along with anatomy memorization, flashcards, and learning activities.

Guided study: This has all the materials of general and premium self-study package along with webinars, access to online mentors, online workshop, discussion forums, re-test for exam-prep, and a hard copy textbook.

All-inclusive package: this includes all the materials of the three other packages along with an onsite trainer development program and business accelerator program.



Like NASM, ACE also offers three different packages. Let's take a look at the inclusions:

Pro-essentials: This package includes practice tests, online study coach, digital textbook, ebook on fitness professional, study guide, access to other resources like fitness assessment forms, calculators, etc.

Pro-plus: The package includes everything from the Pro-essential along with a hardcopy manual, hard copy study, and hard copy of the fitness professional guide.

Pro-advantage: This includes all the materials of the previous two packages along with an online course on fitness math.



NASM has an edge over ACE here because of the opportunity of hands-on experience and professional guidance.


Cost of certification


Here is a list of NASM fees according to the packages:

  • Self-study: $699 to $524
  • Premium Self-study: $1099 to $824
  • Guided study: $1499 to $1024
  • All-inclusive package: $2199 to $1649


Check out the list of ACE CPT packages here.

  • Pro-essentials: $599
  • Pro-plus: $699
  • Pro-advantage: $700


ACE has a slight edge here with the best value for your money. NASM is more on the expensive side even if you manage to find a discount.

Earning potential


The average earning of a NASM CPT reaches up to $41,000


An ACE CPT can also manage to earn around $41,000.


For this criterion in the ACE vs NASM study, we can say both certifications are a tie when it comes to earnings.




  • NASM certifications have a duration of 12 months to take the test from the date of purchase or sign-up.
  • The exam includes 120 multiple-choice questions
  • The exam duration is 2 hours.
  • Scores are declared immediately after the exam is completed
  • The passing score is 70
  • The certificate is emailed within 4 weeks from the date of the exam
  • Laser grade facility required for the exam
  • Failed candidates are allowed to re-qualify by taking a re-test with additional fees


  • ACE certification comes with a 6 months duration to take the exam
  • The test includes 150 multiple choice questions
  • Out of 800 points, the passing score is 500 points
  • Exam duration is 3 hours
  • Allows failed candidate to requalify with a re-test for additional fees of $199
  • A prior date needs to be set for the exam at a computer-based location
  • Candidate must be 18 years old or above with a certification of CPR/AED

Conclusion: ACE is the winner here based on their exam format and passing score.




NASM trainers are required to complete an online course of 20 hours for $99 to re-certify themselves. The re-certification is required every 2 years.


Similar to NASM, ACE trainers can re-certify themselves after every 2 years. The recertification course is 20 hours with an additional fee of $129.


NASM has a slight advantage over ACE here because of the cheaper recertification fee.


Final thoughts 

After this comparative study on ACE vs NASM, we can say that both certifications have strengths and weaknesses depending on what you want to do in the fitness industry. Whether you choose ACE or NASM, you will feel very prepared for training your first real client when the time comes. Ultimately, it all comes down to what type of clients you will be training in the future. If you are working with anybody that is coming off an injury, we would suggest going with NASM. If you are looking for a more cost-effective option with equally credible certification accolades, ACE could be the right fit for you. 


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