Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I take the National Boards? New

The NBFE was established to provide the fitness industry with a nationally standardized written and practical examination for fitness professionals. Individuals who

successfully complete the National Boards are eligible to be included on the National Boards Registry of Personal Fitness Trainers. The NBFE recommends that medical/allied health professionals utilize the services of a competent personal trainer and will promote the Registry as a public service.

In addition, in the event that any state passes laws that regulate the practice of personal training, or require a license to practice personal training, the NBFE supports a single, nationally standardized examination process in lieu of having 50 different state board exams and 50 different scopes of practice for the profession. As an example, an individual that practices personal training in New York should have the same knowledge and skill set as an individual that practices in California and should be allowed to utilize the same skills in both states.

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Have any states that have recently proposed legislation to license personal trainers considered using the NBFE Board examination as part of their regulatory requirements? New

Yes. To read the proposed legislative actions, download the documents below.

State Download
New Jersey Bill, 2008
Maryland House Bill, 2008
Georgia Senate Bill, 2008
Note: NBFE references are highlighted in yellow

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If a state requires personal trainers to become licensed, will I be "grandfathered" in? New

Every state has the opportunity to establish laws and requirements to regulate personal trainers. The NBFE would strongly recommends to any state considering licensure or regulation of personal trainers that individuals who have successfully passed the National Board exams be granted a license to practice in the event that legislation is enacted. The NBFE believes that if such persons have passed the NBFE exams and demonstrated a minimal level of competency based on national standards for the profession, they shouldn't need to take yet another exam to provide service in a particular state or states. Passing one Board examination process should suffice.

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What does "open enrollment" mean? New

Over the past few years the NBFE has had hundreds of letters from certified personal trainers that want to sit for the National Board exams but the organization that they obtained their certification through has not yet submitted their application or curriculum to the NBFE. In response to the demand of fitness professionals who support a single standardized examination process, the NBFE Board of Trustees recently approved an open enrollment process to allow qualified applicants the ability to sit for the national boards and become registered with the NBFE.

The NBFE is now allowing a period for ALL capable and experienced trainers meeting 3 requirements to sit for the Personal Fitness Trainer Examination, Part I. The requirements are as follows:

  1. Hold a current, valid certification from a nationally recognized fitness organization or a health or fitness related degree.
  2. Hold a current American Heart Association/American Red Cross CPR certificate.
  3. Hold a current American Heart Association/American Red Cross AED certificate.
  4. Have completed at least 500 hours of practical training or experience in the health and fitness profession.

All testing candidates registering during open enrollment must be willing to complete a legally binding document certifying they meet these requirements and provide documentation indicating this upon request.

If you are interested in being notified when the open enrollment is available, CLICK HERE

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Did the NBFE initiate licensure proceedings or initiate contact with any state at any time to promote licensure? New

No. The NBFE remains neutral regarding licensure. However the NBFE will advise any state that proposes initiatives to regulate or license personal trainers to consider a single National Board examination process in lieu of 50 different state board exams.

State legislators and state licensure boards understand the value in a single National Board examination process as virtually every medical and allied health profession utilizes this model. Teachers, lawyers and dozens of other professions outside of medicine or health care utilize a National Board examination process as a prerequisite for licensure. For example, many states have dropped their state board exams and are now utilizing the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners exams as their requirement for licensure.

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What is the National Board of Fitness Examiners (NBFE) and How Does It Work?

The NBFE was founded in 2003 as a non-profit organization for two principal purposes. First, the NBFE will address and define a series of prescribed scopes of practice for all fitness professionals. Second, the NBFE will determine the ≥standards of practice≤ for various fitness professionals, including floor instructors, group exercise instructors, general personal trainers, specialists in areas such as youth and senior fitness, and medical exercise specialists.

Standards of practice≤ are a set of skills and a body of knowledge that a fitness professional is expected to master in order to meet the highest standards of the field. The first formal standards of practice to be issued by the NBFE will focus on personal fitness trainers. Based on these standards of practice, the NBFE will go on to generate standardized national examinations for personal fitness trainers in collaboration with a LaserGrade.

A standardized national exam is one that measures the same body of knowledge, skill and competence in the same way for all test-takers. Thus, everyone who successfully completes a National Board exam has proven that he or she meets the same national standard of excellence, regardless of where he or she lives or which courses he or she has taken.

The first exam will be titled The NBFE Personal Fitness Trainer Examination. By passing the exam, a fitness professional will be permitted to use the title NBFE Registered PFT (National Board of Fitness Examiners Registered Personal Fitness Trainer) and will enjoy the prestige and confidence that will come with being registered with the NBFE.

Standards of practice and standardized exams for other areas of fitness instruction will be addressed toward the end of 2005.

Bear in mind that the NBFE is not a certifying organization in itself, and will not take the place of any certifying organization. Rather, the NBFE will set national standards of excellence in the fitness industry and provide tools to test whether a fitness professional has met those standards. Individual personal fitness trainers must successfully complete a personal training certification program from an approved NBFE Affiliate or meet other qualifications prior to taking the NBFE exam. (See below for more information about NBFE Affiliates.)

Today, most organizations that certify fitness professionals rely on their own standards and their own tests in making certification decisions. Consequently, the standards for becoming a personal trainer vary from organization to organization, and so do the tests and ultimately, the skills of those receiving certifications. The NBFE will establish one national standard of excellence that every certifying organization and college is free to adopt and use. This also provides a means of achieving standardization for all certifying organizations. In a sense, one might say that the NBFE standardizes the various certification organizations. In this way, the fitness industry and the consumer will be confident that every fitness professional who has passed the National Boards has met the same high standards.

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What are the advantages of taking and passing the National Boards?

The examinations to be generated by the NBFE will permit fitness professionals to demonstrate their knowledge, skill and competence by successfully completing nationally standardized exams.

Fitness professionals who have passed the national boards will be registered with the NBFE. Employers, clients, the medical and allied health professions, insurance companies and the public can readily verify that a particular individual has achieved the distinction of passing the National Boards.

The NBFE has been approached by at least one state that is actively considering a program for the licensing of fitness professionals for the purpose of determining whether or not NBFE examinations might be used for licensing purposes. If state licensing comes into existence, it is likely that the National Boards would be adopted by various states as a standard exam that fitness professionals would need to pass in order to be licensed. (See below for more information on licensing.)

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What National Boards are available?

The NBFE is presently working on several specialized versions of the National Boards. The first one to be developed will be a Personal Fitness Trainer National Board Examination. Additional exams in other areas of specialization for fitness professionals will be issued in the future.

Once a fitness professional has passed the Personal Fitness Trainer National Board Examination, he or she will be entitled to use the designation NBFE Registered PFT, that is, National Board of Fitness Examiners Registered Personal Fitness Trainer.

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How long does registration last?

Once a fitness professional has passed the required National Boards and has been registered with the NBFE, the registration will remain in effect for two years.

During each registration period, fitness professional will be required to successfully complete approved Continuing Education Units (CEUs) in order to keep their registration in effect.

CEUs will be available from various organizations that are recognized by the NBFE as Affiliates. Organizations that wish to become affiliated with NBFE for this purpose will offer a program of CEUs specially designed to keep registration with the NBFE in full force and effect.

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What is the difference between Certification, Accreditation, National Boards, and Licensing?

Certification: Certifications are issued to individual fitness professionals by training and certifying organizations which offer education and training programs. Each certification organization offers its own programs, administers its own tests, and issues certifications to individuals in its own name. Certification organizations generally require individual fitness professionals to prepare for and pass its own tests, both written and practical, in order to demonstrate proficiency in various aspects of fitness training. Once issued, a certification from one of these organizations is generally valid for a period of two years and must be maintained by taking continuing education courses.

Accreditation: Certification organizations may obtain accreditation of its own policies and procedures from a third-party accrediting agency. Accreditation usually remains in effect for a specified number of years and must be periodically renewed according to the procedures established by the accrediting agency.

National Boards: The National Boards will be a set of standardized tests that are now being developed by the NBFE with input from the fitness industry and in conjunction with a leading international testing organization. The National Boards may be used by various certification organizations, colleges and universities, state licensing programs, and others to test the knowledge, skill and competence of fitness professionals. Because the National Boards will be standardized, all candidates will be tested for the same skills and knowledge regardless of the certification organization with which they are affiliated. Once a fitness professional passes the National Boards, he or she will be eligible for registration with the NBFE as an NBFE Registered PFT, that is, National Board of Fitness Examiners Registered Personal Fitness Trainer. If a state licensing program adopts the National Boards as its licensing exam, then a fitness professional who takes and passes the National Boards will have satisfied that states requirement to take and pass a licensing examination.

Licensing: Licensing is a proposed program that may or may not be adopted by one or more states throughout the United States to provide for state regulation of the fitness professionals. Under a state licensing program, fitness professionals would have to apply for a state-issued license in order to offer their services to the public. Each state would set its own requirements for issuance of a license, but it is likely that applicants will be required to take and pass an exam in order to receive a license. It is possible that one or more states will adopt the National Boards as issued by the NBFE as their state licensing exam. As the term is used in the fitness industry, licensing refers to a license issued by a local, state or federal agency only.

As can be readily seen, there are fundamental differences between Certification, Accreditation, the National Boards, and Licensing. Here is a quick summary:

Certifications are issued by various certification organizations to fitness professionals who satisfy the requirements set by each certification organization.

Accreditation is issued to a certification organization by a third-party accrediting agency.

National Boards are standardized examinations provided by the NBFE as a way to test the knowledge, skill and competence of individual fitness professionals, and a fitness professional who passes the National Boards will be entitled to identify herself or himself as an NBFE Registered PFT, that is, National Board of Fitness Examiners Registered Personal Fitness Trainer.

Licensing, if and when adopted by one or more states, will require a fitness practitioner to apply for a license before offering services to the public, and will require the fitness professional to meet the requirements of state licensing program before a license is issued.

A fitness certification organization may or may not be accredited, and state licensing may or may not be adopted by various states around the Untied States, but every individual who takes and passes the National Boards will be registered by the NBFE and will be recognized by the fitness industry and the public as having met the highest national standard of excellence.

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What is Licensing and how does it affect fitness professionals?

There has been much discussion in the media and in the fitness industry about a proposal to require fitness professionals to be licensed by the states in which they live and work. Like other businesses and professions, including various kinds of health care professionals, fitness professionals pursuant to these proposals would be required to apply to the state for a license, pass a licensing exam, and comply with other licensing requirements.

No state has yet adopted a licensing program for fitness professionals, but the NBFE has been approached by at least one state that is actively considering such a licensing program. As noted above, there is a possibility that a state which requires licensing could decide to use the National Boards as its licensing exam rather than developing an exam of its own.

It is too early to know whether licensing will be adopted by any state and, if so, how it will affect the fitness industry. The NBFE is not presently promoting state licensing, although it is responding to requests for assistance and advice from states that are considering a licensing program. One possible benefit of state licensing of fitness professionals, however, is that licensing may make it easier to secure coverage of services by insurance plans.

Where are the exams going to be given?

The exam will be available at any LaserGrade testing center. They have hundreds of locations in the United States alone. Once they are available, you will be able to schedule a time that works best for you.

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 How much does it cost to sit for the National Boards?

Currently, the fee for Part 1 of the National Boards is $295; however, the NBFE will be offering a reduced rate for a period of three months once the test is available later in the Spring. Watch for more information or complete the Pre-registration Form at to receive information via email.

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What certification organizations have applied for affiliate status?

Information about NBFE Affiliates and links to their sites are published on the NBFE web site at Information about applying to become an NBFE Certification Organization Affiliate is also available on this page.

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I want to become a personal trainer, what certification organization do you recommend?

The NBFE cannot recommend one certification organization over another. Within a couple of years an objective analysis of the various programs may be available, but not at this time.  Many organizations have applied for Affiliate status. Information about NBFE Affiliates and links to their sites are published on the NBFE web site at

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What does the exam consist of? How do I obtain study materials for the National Board Exams?

An outline of the 7 testing areas and 16 testing objectives for the NBFE Personal Fitness Trainer Examination Part I will be published following the completion of the beta test. We will also publish a bibliography of the materials used to reference the questions on the examination. The NBFE is also in discussion with other organizations that have shown interest in creating review courses for the examination.

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What are the requirements to sit for the NBFE Personal Fitness Trainer Examination Part 1?

The NBFE has two requirements to sit for the PFT Part 1. First, the testing candidate must be at least 18 years old. Second, the testing candidate must have successfully completed the personal training certification program from an NBFE Affiliate OR requisite coursework from an institution of higher education (College or University).

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What states are requiring personal trainers to be certified?

As far as we know, no states currently require a license to practice personal training. Several are trying.  Today, National Boards are not mandatory but highly recommended. The NBFE exam is only open to certified personal trainers from approved Affiliate organizations or an approved college program and will serve as a standard in our industry.

Currently, the best way for individuals to study for the National Boards is to review their certification text books. As more information regarding the exams becomes available, it will be posted on the NBFE web site (

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Will the National Board Exams be available to students living overseas?

Currently, the first exams will be in English and held in the United States. The NBFE is hoping to incorporate international standards by 2006.

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How do I Log In?

Currently the login is for administrators only. We will update you when this changes.

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How many CEU’s do I need to maintain my status with the NBFE?

The NBFE will require that you maintain your CEU’s through your primary certification(s) so it is not an additional financial burden but assures the public and employers that candidates maintained their continuing education.

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Important Note

Organizations that are granted Affiliate status by the NBFE are not entering into any partnership or joint venture relationship with the NBFE. Rather, Affiliate status is granted to an organization by the NBFE to recognize the organizations role in preparing individuals to take standardized examinations offered by the NBFE for fitness professionals. NBFE is a duly organized and operating non-profit corporation formed under the laws of the state of Maryland, and is neither an owner nor a member of any of the organizations which are granted Affiliate status, each of which is organized as a separate entity. Aside from the interest of Affiliates in educating, training and preparing fitness professionals to take NBFE prepared tests and examinations, there is no unity of interest or purpose between NBFE and any of the Affiliates, there is no ownership or control of one organization by the other, and there is no integration of corporate organizations nor commingling of corporate finances between these organizations.

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