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AFPA vs. ACE: Personal Training Certification Comparison

When deciding to become a personal trainer, many professionals choose to follow a certification program, which is a top choice when it comes to expanding your future opportunities. A personal training certification gives you the education you need to serve clients more effectively, and to understand the complex issues that can arise when it comes to exercise, health, nutrition, aging, and other topics.

Two of the best-known programs in the industry are run by American Fitness Professionals & Associates (AFPA) and the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Thousands of personal trainers have been through one of these programs, and many gyms and fitness centers make certification from one of these mandatory for hiring.

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Although each provides in-depth education on personal training, they’re not identical. Here are some of the similarities and differences to keep in mind as you consider your options:


As of this writing, the AFPA personal trainer certification course is $449 and the ACE standard personal trainer certification course is $599. But when looking at cost, be sure that you understand all the variables.

For example, AFPA includes study materials and exam cost in the course fee. Some of ACE’s study materials come at an additional fee. Also, ACE’s exam charge is $399, although the exam may be included in more premium packages (although those also come with a higher cost).

Cost is also a factor for certification renewal. The fee to renew an AFPA certification is $85, and for ACE that fee is $129.

Exam Timeframe

Another significant difference between the two programs is in the certification exam schedule.

At AFPA, you have up to 28 days to complete the certification exam online, but at ACE, you have 3 hours. Also, the number of questions on the exam differs, with 230 questions on the AFPA exam and 150 questions on the ACE exam.


In terms of major similarities, both AFPA and ACE have coursework that emphasizes exercise science, fitness essentials, anatomy and other must-know topics for personal trainers.

They also both have accreditation, which means that an outside agency has evaluated their programs to verify that they meet the criteria needed for personal trainers to operate in ways that are professional and informed.

Not all personal training certification programs are accredited, but choosing one that has gotten that approval can open many more opportunities for you. Whether your career will take you into independent training or working in a fitness or healthcare setting, an accredited certification will give you the credentials you need to prove that your education was of the highest level.

Making the Choice

Be sure to consider the details of each program so you can make a choice that’s right for you. Both AFPA and ACE are committed to the success of the fitness industry and to the professionals who rely on their educational expertise. That means choosing one over the other often comes down to personal preference, affordability, exam timeframes, and other factors.

To learn more about AFPA certifications, including specifics on coursework, visit the AFPA website. Our accredited certification programs are centered around what you need to know to succeed, and are designed to meet the evolving needs of the personal training field.

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