ISSA vs. NASM (Meaning, Pass Rate, Certification, Pros and Cons)5 min read

ISSA vs. NASM is one of the hottest debates in the field of Sports.

Moreover, becoming a personal trainer is a great way to start a DIY (Do it Yourself) business and turn your passion for fitness into a profitable career.

With so many certification options available, knowing which program best suits your learning style and objectives can be intimidating.

Not just that, but each certification has different price points and program offerings that may or may not be tailored to the particular kind of personal trainer you aim at becoming. 

The ISSA and NASM programs are both worth looking at if you are considering being a personal trainer as a side activity or wanting to take it as a full-time job. 

So, let’s compare ISSA vs NASM in a full one-on-one assessment.

The following factors highlight the benefits and sacrifices of each of these programs and help you determine which program is best suited for your particular situation.

ISSA vs. NASM: Describing both Certified Personal Trainings

What is ISSA? 

ISSA is the abbreviation for the International Sports Science Association. It was established in 1988 by a team of exercise scientists and fitness experts.

ISSA personal training certification is recognized and accepted all around the world.

Once a student takes and excels in the ISSA exam, which covers a wide range of fitness-related topics, the student is qualified to provide personal training and fitness services.

The ISSA exam topics include general fitness, health, and physical fitness, anatomy and physiology, nutrition, kinesiology, and biomechanics.

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What is NASM?

The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) is an organization dedicated to sports medicine.

For over 30 years, NASM has maintained its world-class status for its certification’s personal and scientific rigor. 

NASM grows its knowledge and training programs based on evidence-based and scientific research.

Moreover, it is also a partner of Premier Global in the United Kingdom and the Athletic and Fitness Association of America.

Pass Rate of ISSA vs. NASM

While each of ISSA/NASM requires sizeable study and expertise, ISSA’s success rate is a whole lot higher. However, this doesn’t always imply that it’s less complicated material.

  • NASM Pass Rate: 64.3%
  • ISSA Pass Rate: 89.9%

The recognition of education:

ISSA: General fitness training with much attention on program design, peak performance, powerlifting, and athletes.

NASM: Emphasizes post-rehab clients, corrective exercise training, exercise technique, muscular imbalance, and training instruction.

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ISSA vs NASM: Number of Test Questions

While NASM has one of the fewest test questions in the industry, ISSA offers more than enough time.

So, if you are an exam candidate who needs unlimited time to think or has the tendency to often fail under the pressure of being timed, ISSA may be the better of the “ISSA vs. NASM” choices for you. 

NASM: Contains 120 questions in 2 hours (70% or more pass).

ISSA: There is no time limit for candidates to finish answering the 160 questions (75% or more pass).

To increase pass rates on both ISSA and NASM exams, exam candidates often seek third-party assistance.

ISSA vs. NASM: Difference in their Average Income 

One of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to getting certified is, “How much money will I make as a personal trainer?

Average earnings can vary depending on the certificate you hold, so it’s essential to consider when deciding which certificate to go for. 

  • NASM certified trainers earn an average annual salary of $ 42,000 
  • ISSA certified trainers average a yearly income of $ 36,235.
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Remember that what you do with your certification will be the deciding factor of your success and how much salary you would earn.

Some trainers earn $200,000 annually if they have the motivation and knowledge associated with a privileged position and a great approach.

But, to get the most out of your business, taking a course like this can help you get a full load of customers and earn as much money as possible.

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ISSA vs. NASM: Which Certificate is Better?

Both ISSA and NASM personal training certificates come with high regard, which will help you shape a valid basis for program design and training.

Plus, both ISSA and NASM are likely to assist you in improving your ability to get a job.

None of the ISSA/NASM certifications is objectively better than the other; what matters is which certification is right for you. 

Before making a decision, it is important to inquire about the employers you wish to work with.

Moreover, not all certifications are accepted or recognized everywhere, so verifying the first one can ultimately be a quick determinant in pursuing either of ISSA/NASM certifications. 

While both certifications are accredited nationally, NASM is accredited by NCCA, while DETC accredits the NASM. These differences can also define which one your potential employer prefers. 

On the other hand, it’s also important to know what kind of training you want to do before deciding between ISSA and NASM.

While NASM focuses on the general population, ISSA may be a better target if you want to train athletes.

ISSA vs. NASM: Pros and Cons



  • It is less expensive.
  • Highly regarded in the fitness industry.
  • The study materials are very good.
  • Has a higher passing rate than NASM.
  • Fabulous training for those seeking top performance.
  • Certification is preferable to international trainers.
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  • Individuals with NASM certificates earn more than those with ISSA certificates.
  • Less popular compared to NASM.
  • It doesn’t focus on corrective exercise as NASM does.



  • Training materials are well detailed and organized.
  • NASM personal trainers earn more than ISSA personal trainers.
  • NASM is the most popular in the fitness industry
  • Excellent certification for a personal trainer who wants to work with correcting exercises for clients.
  • Accreditation through the NCCA, a highly regarded organization.


  • It doesn’t focus on peak performance which some athletes prefer.
  • Training is difficult and more expensive than ISSA.
  • The pass rate of the exam is much lower than the ISSA test.


Whichever of “ISSA vs NASM” Personal Training Certification you pick, bear in mind that you are in good hands.

Working with clients to assist them in accomplishing their rehabilitation or fitness goals is incredibly rewarding and satisfying.

Both ISSA and NASM certification programs are well equipped to aid you in becoming a renowned and highly competent trainer.

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