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You are almost ready to take your nutritionist certification, you’ve done the research and have narrowed it down to two final choices for programs: NASM vs ACE. Now, you have to choose. But which one is the best nutrition certification for you? To help you make the choice, read on to learn more about each program so you can feel confident about your decision. 

An Overview of NASM and ACE Certifications

NASM and ACE are the two most popular nutrition certifications available that deliver notoriety and esteem. The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) is commonly associated with its fitness branch of the business but also offers a certified nutrition coach (CNC) program. The program is a good option for seasoned and new coaches alike and is considered the most widely recognizable certification of its kind worldwide.

American Council on Exercise (ACE) is popular for its certification for group fitness and its business approach. Not only does the program teach the nutritional principle necessary for a coach, but includes courses surrounding business and entrepreneurial skills to help coaches find success. ACE is considered a perfect option for up-and-coming fitness and nutrition professionals. 

NASM and ACE Program Requirements and Stats

Both NASM and ACE feature very similar program requirements for entry and as part of the coursework. A high school diploma and CPR/AED certification are required to enter the program and each one takes 3–6 months to complete. The cost for each is very similar with each program offering packages between $699–$999. The exam-only cost is a bit lower with ACE at $636 compared to NASM’s cost of $699. 

NASM and ACE Program Stats

Both programs offer plenty of valuable resources that will be beneficial during the coursework and beyond into your career in the wellness space. The passing score for each is slightly different with ACE requiring a higher score of 71% and NASM with a 70% score. When it comes to how many people pass through the program, ACE is leading the way with a 69% pass rate. NASM is nearly 10% lower for a 60% pass rate. 

After achieving your certification, NASM and ACE certificate holders are among the highest paid in the industry. The average salary of those with each certification is practically the same. The average income of a NASM certificate holder is $41,598 while an ACE program graduate earns a yearly average salary of $41,546. These numbers are simply averages, with many certificate holders earning much more, especially those with the entrepreneurial acumen and skill to succeed in business.

Comparison of the NASM Program and ACE Program

Each program has very similar offerings as one another and can be an excellent option for gaining the skills and knowledge to succeed in the fitness and wellness industry. The major difference is the approach to the work each offers.

The NASM program follows the Optimum Performance Training (OPT) Model and is more geared toward corrective exercising. Coupling the personal training program with the nutritional program allows coaches to discuss and improve the nutritional habits of their clients for an optimized lifestyle that best matches their fitness goals.

The ACE certification program follows the Integrated Fitness Training (IFT) Model and the courses are directed at working with the general population. The nutritional program is similarly geared towards improving the lifestyle of the general population. 

Both programs offer specializations in their fitness and nutritional programs, through NASM features more variety of options. As you search for the program that’s right for you, it’s a good idea to determine which specializations you are interested in so you can be sure the one you choose will offer that. 

Similarly, you want to think about the fitness levels of the clients you wish to work for. Do you want to focus on those looking for OPT model training or would you be happy following the IFT model for a larger group of people? Determine what you are looking for in clientele and decide on a program from that perspective. Choosing this focus now will help you build out your coaching business so you can be tuned into your target audience and their needs. 


NASM and ACE are the top certification programs for a reason and both are well-respected within the industry. Choosing between one or the other comes down to what you want your coaching and training business to look like. Whichever choice you make, you will surely make a difference in your work.