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ACSM Certification: ACSM's Personal Trainer Certification Hits the Ground Running

Keteyian, Steven J. Ph.D., FACSM

ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal: March-April 2005 - Volume 9 - Issue 2 - p 28-29

ACSM's personal trainer certification hits the ground running.

Steven J. Keteyian, Ph.D., FACSM (, is program director, Preventive Cardiology, Henry Ford Heart & Vascular Institute, Detroit; adjunct associate professor, Department of Physiology, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit; and clinical professor, Exercise Science Program, Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan. He is ACSM Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist® certified and a past member of the ACSM Board of Trustees.

Well, we did it. Last December, ACSM successfully launched its personal trainer certification, with hundreds of candidates sitting for the exam before the year's end and many more already scheduled to take the exam in the upcoming months. My sincerest thanks to everyone involved with the success of this initiative, both the staff at ACSM's national headquarters who helped put the process into play and the dozens of volunteer experts from within the personal training community and academia who helped ensure that the content of the exam is reflective of contemporary practice. Oh yes, and a big congratulations to everyone who has passed the ACSM certified Personal Trainer™ examination to date! You are truly leading the way toward advancing the delivery of evidence-based exercise programming at the community level.

For those of you who are learning of this new ACSM certification, let me take a moment and review the scope and importance of this initiative. Specifically, present estimates from the U.S. Department of Labor suggest that the personal training field will expand from approximately 300,000 trainers in 2003 to 500,000 by year 2010. This demand for well-trained professionals would not have been met by existing resources. Recognizing this, and consistent with the mission of ACSM to engage in physical activity strategies that target all segments of the population in both the United States and abroad, we are officially in the business of certifying personal trainers.

Rest assured that despite excellent progress toward creating and implementing a rigorous exam that tests the abilities and knowledge of personal trainers, adjustments will be made along the way to ensure that the exam correctly tests what it should and does so in a manner consistent with the best practice testing methods. And given that the personal trainer certification exam is computer based, we will have little problem making timely changes that are reflective of changes in the field.



For those among you contemplating personal training as a profession or currently practicing in the field, you may be wondering whether you should take this exam and how this new certification compares with the ACSM Health/Fitness Instructor® certification. The Table will help answer those questions. Great care has been taken to ensure that both certifications serve separate and unique segments of the population interested in improving their health and fitness. Please note that by no means am I trying to suggest that the skills or duties of personal training are unique to personal trainers alone. On the contrary, many ACSM Health/Fitness Instructors® and other ACSM-certified professionals regularly perform these duties. What is unique, however, is that ACSM's Health/Fitness Instructors® differ from ACSM certified Personal Trainers™ in that they are professionally qualified to and tend to work more often with groups of people versus individuals, conduct fitness testing, engage in behavioral counseling, and work with not only apparently healthy people but also those with stable, chronic diseases.



So for those of you who are engaged in providing personal training services and still wondering if you should sit for the ACSM certified Personal Trainer™ exam, first ask yourself if you are prepared to take what will quickly become the "gold standard" certification in the personal training industry.

As you know, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of certifying agencies and organizations. However, in my mind there is only one that is able to translate the scientific strength of its members into real-world applications. I challenge each of you working in the field to take the ACSM certified Personal Trainer™ exam in hopes of identifying yourself as a highly qualified professional.

Although much has happened within ACSM relative to launching the personal trainer certification, I'm happy to say that other certifications are alive and well within the College. For example, on the other end of the ACSM certification spectrum or continuum rests our ACSM Exercise Specialist® and ACSM Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist® (RCEP) examinations. Both continue to go through upgrades, based upon job task analyses completed in 2004. The changes in the ACSM Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist® exam are especially meaningful, such that the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) set forth for this exam are now highly consistent with what most clinical exercise physiologists are doing each and every day. Finally, the RCEP exam is being converted to a computer-based exam as well, and will be available "on-demand" this year.

As always, I welcome your comments concerning the above topics or any of ACSM's other certification-related activities. Feel free to contact me at

© 2005 American College of Sports Medicine