Hello, I would like to become a personal trainer.

I am a Firefighter/Paramedic. I am currently looking for a 2nd job.

I am torn between NASM and NSCA's CPT programs. Which one would you recommend? And Why?


Answered By:

Mike Behnken, MS, CSCS ANswers the Fitness Question

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These are the 2 Very Best Personal Trainer Certifications

The answer for the question of which one is better to obtain depends on your goals as a personal trainer.

Different gyms have different requirements. Some gyms prefer and even require the NASM certification.


There are a couple reasons for this. The primary reason is the NASM certification teaches a methodology of training called optimum performance training which would put all the trainers in a gym on the same page.

The OPT model goes far beyond the classic sets, reps, frequency and duration of training. It is a one of a kind systematic method of training which will be very new to you and most experienced people in the gym.

Another important reason is because the NASM methodology is designed to work best for the majority of sedentary adults that most trainers work with.

In the case of a person without previous knowledge in the human body the NASM Certified Personal Trainer certification is recommended because it starts off from a very basic level.


Although he NSCA CPT certification has no prerequisites other than being 18 and having a high school diploma, it is implied that people who sit for the certification have a base of knowledge about the human body and function.

Straight from the NSCA website:

"The passing rate for both sections of the CSCS exam is approximately 65%. (The percentage of candidates who pass the Scientific Foundations section is slightly higher than those passing the Practical/Applied section.) Note: To become certified, a candidate must pass both sections.

The passing rate for the NSCA-CPT exam is approximately 54%."

Keep in mind that CSCS (Certified Strength & Specialist) test takers all have 4 year college degrees. You can see that the test is not easy which in part makes the NSCA-CPT certification one of the most prestigious personal training certifications.

As a paramedic you probably have extensive knowledge about the human body and function so it depends how comfortable you are with the material.

Another question you can ask yourself is whether you want the certification for the knowledge you will gain or the prestige/  The majority of experts would put higher value on the NSCA-CPT certification but also agree that by obtaining it you will not learn as much new knowledge as the NASM certification.

I have certifications from both NSCA and NASM and I would personally recommend the NASM along with a workshop instead or in addition to the interactive online study materials.

Deciding Factor:  Clients you will Work with

NSCA-CPT - You are going to be training athletes, bodybuilders.

NASM-CPT - You will be training the average John and Jane Doe in your local gym.

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