NASM vs. ISSA Certification: Which One is Right For You?

Personal training has become a popular career choice for fitness enthusiasts who are passionate about helping others achieve their health and fitness goals. Obtaining a certification from a reputable organization is important to become a professional personal trainer. 

The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) are two of the most recognized personal training certification programs. By understanding the differences between ISSA vs NASM, you can decide which one will best suit your career goals and aspirations.

Let’s Talk About ISSA Certification

ISSA offers several certifications, including Certified Fitness Trainer (CFT), Strength and Conditioning Specialist (SCS), and Certified Nutritionist (CN). ISSA’s curriculum covers a broader range of topics, making it an excellent choice for those who want to comprehensively understand various aspects of fitness.

An ISSA certification allows you to pursue various careers within the fitness industry. You could become a personal trainer, a fitness instructor for classes such as yoga or pilates, or even specialize in areas like strength and conditioning or group nutrition.

What About NASM Certification?

NASM offers a variety of certifications, including Certified Personal Trainer (CPT), Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES), and Performance Enhancement Specialist (PES). NASM’s curriculum is focused on injury prevention and corrective exercise techniques, making it an excellent choice for those interested in specialized fitness areas.

Because a NASM certification focuses particularly on keeping bodies healthy and strong while working out, NASM may allow you to expand your expertise in a way that could better serve your clients in the long term and enable you to more easily work with athletes in recovery, mature clients, or other individuals who have particular concerns around an injury.

So, Which Certification Should You Choose?

When deciding on the question of NASM vs ISSA certification, it’s important to note that both are excellent options that open up many doors for you to move forward. Ultimately, both certifications are highly respected in the fitness industry, so you can’t go wrong. 

Still, to make that decision a little easier, let’s talk about what you need to consider.

Your Career Goals

If you’re interested in specializing in areas such as injury prevention or corrective exercise, NASM may be the right choice. On the other hand, if you’re interested in gaining a broad understanding of various aspects of fitness, ISSA may be a better fit.

Your Learning Style

NASM’s curriculum is structured around its Optimum Performance Training (OPT) model, a systematic training approach that includes stabilization, strength, and power phases. NASM may be a good fit if you learn well with a structured approach. 

NASM is also a good option if you test well because NASM requires candidates to complete a comprehensive curriculum and pass a computer-based exam consisting of 120 multiple-choice questions. 

If you experience test-related anxiety or generally prefer a more flexible approach to education, ISSA might be the better option. That’s not to say ISSA doesn’t require any test-taking — but it’s an open-book exam that includes multiple-choice questions and essays.

Being honest about your needs and habits is important because both organizations require certified professionals to complete continuing education to maintain their certification. So don’t bank on only having to perform in a certain way once!

Your Time and Money

Many people will be holding down other jobs, hobbies, and responsibilities while pursuing their certification, so having a frank conversation with yourself about the time commitment and the financial investment required may also help you choose.

NASM’s certifications can range from $699 to $1,999, depending on the program, while ISSA’s certifications range from $499 to $799. So if you’re concerned about your bottom line, ISSA may be the best option regardless of other factors.

Regarding time commitments, NASM’s certifications typically take around 10 to 12 weeks to complete. If you have the ability to focus completely for a few months, NASM can get you through your certification more efficiently. 

On the other hand, ISSA’s certifications can be completed at your own pace, making it ideal for anyone wearing more than one hat while completing their certification.


In conclusion, NASM and ISSA are highly respected organizations in the fitness industry, offering comprehensive certification programs and ongoing education to their certified professionals.

When choosing between these two certifications, it’s important to consider your individual career goals, learning style, and preferences. Ultimately, the right certification program for you will depend on your unique needs and interests.