Okay, I'm as big a hater of CPT's as anyone, because most are ignorant of strength & conditioning, but in the "Joining a Gym" thread there were a lot of assumptions and misinformation and very little actual information being exchanged. Bas Fan was the only one in that thread demonstrating an actual knowledge of these certifications and their distinctions. Instead of posting in that thread, I thought it was important enough that everyone got at least a primer on the Strength & Conditioning world and its certifations. This is far from a complete list. Here are some organizations you should know that you can trust: NSCA= National Strength & Conditioning Association NASM= National Academy of Sports Medicine NATA= National Athletic Trainers Association ACSM= American College of Sports Medicine Here are some common certifications you'll see on business cards at the gym: PT= Physical Therapist ATC= Certified Athletic Trainer CSCS= Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist PES= Performance Enhancement Specialist CPT= Certified Personal Trainer Physical Therapist (PT) Requires: 5 years of graduate level study. Rehabilitative. You know what they do. Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC) Certifier: NSCA This is an exceptionally challenging certification to acquire, and these trainers are mainly devoted to preventing injury, although they also rehabilitate. They usually work as part of a sports medicine team with professional athletic teams, and tend the athletes before, during, and after games. They must have a working knowledge of which exercises an athlete may do without injuring himself, which exercises will strengthen a previously injured area or muscle so that it won't be reinjured, and which exercises are best for preventing injury in that particular sport altogether. Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) Certifier: NSCA The standard in the strength and conditioning world. Nearly every professional trainer has one. If they don't have one, they have a M.S. or Ph.D., and usually (when they do have graduate degrees), they have it in addition to these. The text on which the test is based is "Essentials of Strength & Conditioning," but a bachelor's degree and professional first aid certification are required to sit for the test (although the B.A. doesn't have to be in a related field). They are devoted to strength and conditioning for athletics where CPT's are devoted to aesthetics and general fitness. Performance Enhancement Specialist (PES) Certifier: NASM In order to be a head trainer in the NBA, you must have this credential. My boss told me it actually wasn't as challenging as the CSCS test, but you must have a bachelor's degree in a related field (you can't be an English B.A. and sit for the test). The core texts are all provided by the NASM, you can't access them without purchasing the course. This is really the NASM's version of a CSCS, but not nearly as prevalent. It's unlikely you'd see a PES that wasn't already a CSCS, but if you do, you can trust this certification demonstrates a reasonable knowledge of strength and conditioning. Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) Certifier: Too many to list As BasFan already pointed out, not every CPT certification is bad. I agree that 95% of them are underinformed, especially concerning strength and conditioning, but their job is to get you pretty, not strong. Two CPT's that are considered reputable are the ones issued by the NSCA (as Bas Fan already mentioned) and the NASM. I think there are a few more that are good, but these two are considered a head above everyone else. Something like 75 organizations issue a CPT, and many are just total crap; it's a "Send in $500, we send you a plaque" kind of deal. Even in the NSCA and NASM, you aren't required to have a bachelor's degree to sit for the test, but they do require professional first aid. For the NSCA, you can purchase the core text: "Essentials of Personal Training."