The 5 Best CPR Certification Programs of 2020

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First Look

Best Overall: American Red Cross

"Whether you’re looking for CPR basics or complete First Aid training, the quality and ease of the Red Cross’s award-winning training can’t be beat."

Best for Instructors: American Heart Association

"AHA-certified instructors can offer a range of courses, from Family & Friends CPR to school-based training."

Best for Employees: National Safety Council

"It’s a great option for people who need to fit training into a busy schedule and need a flexible option."

Best for Employees: EMS Safety Services Inc.

"EMS Safety Services offers different courses for community responders, childcare providers, or professionals looking for CEM."

Best for Community Volunteers: American Safety & Health Institute

"e topics covered by ASHI’s training are ideal if you want to feel prepared to respond to emergencies in your community or workplace."

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, more commonly known as CPR, can help save a life. Many professions, like lifeguards, teachers and fitness instructors, require CPR certification, but it's an important skill to have whether it's a part of your job or not.

CPR can save your life or the life of someone else. The technique helps maintain the circulation of blood flow to the brain and heart. Learning the skill is something you can carry with you throughout your life and use in life-threatening emergency situations, like cardiac arrest and stroke.

To become certified in CPR, you'll need to go through formal training and pass a written exam. You will need to show that you can perform CPR and understand the requirements of the technique.

From the American Red Cross to the National Safety Council, we chose the top CPR certification programs.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: American Red Cross

American Red Cross

American Red Cross

If you want or need to learn CPR, the American Red Cross is likely the source of training you’ll be directed to if your search takes you elsewhere.  

The Red Cross training is considered a standard for a reason: Not only is it flexible enough to accommodate community and professional learners, it’s also certified by organizations like OSHA, which makes it appealing to employers even if you don’t work in health care.

Whether you’re looking for CPR basics or complete First Aid training, the quality and ease of the Red Cross’s award-winning training can’t be beat. It’s also incredibly flexible: If you want to complete all of the training in-person, there are over 500 locations in the U.S. where you can take courses to fit your schedule (including evenings and weekends). 

If you need something better suited to your schedule, the Red Cross offers blended Simulation Learning courses that allow you to do part of your training online, with web-based instruction and self-study materials before completing the hands-on skills assessment. 

The online interactive lectures and readings can be done on a laptop, tablet, or even your smartphone. You can work at your own pace, and the course generally takes only a few hours to finish. You don’t have to rush, though: Once you sign up, you’ll have two-year access to the materials and modules, which is great for reviewing your skills. 

Either way, you’ll also have access to a wealth of resources to continue your education, like a printable list of CPR steps to refresh your memory. You’ll need to recertify every two years, but completing a refresher course more often than that is the best way to keep your education top of mind. Research has shown that CPR skills start to decline within the first year of your certification, so it’s never too early to think about getting recertified.  

The cost for the training will depend on where you are located. When you register, you’ll be able to search for courses offered where you live. The overall cost of materials will depend on which certification you’re getting (Adult-Only CPR, CPR/AED/First Aid, or Adult and Pediatric CPR), whether you’ll be participating in a classroom or line, as well as if you are getting a certification for the first time.

For example, blended courses that provide provisional certification (you’ll have 90 days to complete the in-person hands-on skills assessment) typically cost between around $35 and $117. 

When you finish the online course and pass the assessment with a score of at least 80%, you’ll need to find a local certified instructor who can administer your hands-on assessment. 

Once completed, you’ll get your Red Cross CPR certification as a digital certificate you can access anytime, anywhere. There are also printable versions with your ID number and a QR code that can be used to verify your certification. 

You can become certified in adult and/or pediatric CPR through the Red Cross. The training is accessible to everyone from parents and coaches to teens preparing for a babysitting gig and lifeguards in training. You can even learn CPR for pets through the Red Cross. 

Interested in preliminary steps? Check out what you need to do before you take a CPR class.

Best for Instructors: American Heart Association

American Heart Association

American Heart Association

The American Heart Association (AHA) Heartsaver CPR certification program is one of the most comprehensive available. It’s based in the scientific findings that make up the organization’s guidelines for cardiovascular care. 

During the training, you’ll learn CPR (for adults, but pediatric and infant CPR is also available as an additional option), basic First Aid, and AED use. Whether you choose to complete the training fully in a classroom or as a blended online course with an in-person skills assessment, you’ll get the same certification upon completion. 

It’s suitable for all levels (including healthcare professionals who need to recertify or are looking for CME) but the comprehensive coursework and flexible format make it especially well-suited to laypeople, with no medical training who need to fit training into busy schedules. 

As with the other courses, the AHA course has evolved to be multimodal, with online and in-person components. The instructor-led online courses let you watch and learn, then try skills on your own in real-time. 

When you've completed your online course work (which can be done in under two hours), you will be ready to find an AHA-certified instructor in your community who can administer the hands-on skills assessment needed for certification (which usually takes 45 to 90 minutes). In full, most people complete the full certification course in around five hours. 

Another quality that makes the AHA online program great is that it truly is accessible—the modules have audio and transcripts to accommodate learners with hearing or visual disabilities. 

The full Heartsaver First Aid/CPR/AED course can be purchased through the AHA for around $30 (a CPR-AED only course is also available for about $15). 

You’ll also be able to purchase student workbooks and other course materials, either as digital downloads or physical copies for around $3 each. They’re available in English, Spanish, and Italian. 

You can use the AHA Class Connector to find a CPR course near you. The AHA offers courses throughout the United States and internationally at their training sites or as part of community programs. AHA-certified instructors offer a range of courses, from Family & Friends CPR to school-based training. 

Best for Employees: National Safety Council

National Safety Council

National Safety Council

If you need CPR training for your job or as a prerequisite for another training program (such as an emergency medical technician course), the National Safety Council has you covered. 

The NSC’s online First Aid, CPR, and AED course is in full compliance with OSHA standards, so it will meet the needs of most workplace and employer requirements. It’s a great option for people who need to fit training into an already busy schedule and need a flexible, comprehensive option. 

If you work in a field where you already have some healthcare or medical training, you might find it helpful to take the NSC self-assessment before you jump into the course. This will help you identify gaps in your knowledge base or areas where you might need a refresher. 

As with other blended learning courses, you can complete the bulk of your studies online and with workbooks before finding a local instructor to oversee your hands-on skills session (the NSC notes that this step may require an additional fee, depending on where you live).

The option of working at your own pace and being able to study at home rather than in a group class makes the NSC’s course one of the most adaptable options for becoming CPR certified. It also means that it has the potential to be one of the speediest routes, depending on how quickly you work.

The NSC's classes include demonstrations, step-by-step instructions for basic concepts, and plenty of photos to aid your learning. There’s also a Quick Guide with the most salient points for First Aid. You can purchase the First Aid, CPR, & AED workbook package on NSC’s website for around $15.

Best for Employees: EMS Safety Services Inc.

EMS Safety Services Inc.

 EMS Safety Services Inc.

EMS Safety Services Inc. has been in the business of training first responders, professionals, and laypeople for more than 20 years. 

Their CPR, AED, and First Aid training programs are OSHA-compliant and approved by a large number of state and national professional accrediting organizations, including the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Council on Exercise, the Commission on Accreditation for Pre-Hospital Education, the Joint Commission of Accreditation, and the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians.  

In addition to the course and training materials you’ll need, you can also buy CPR shields and masks through the website. These tools come in adult, pediatric, and infant sizes and can be used for training and practice, or in a real-life emergency situation. 

Depending on why you’re looking to get certified in CPR, EMS Safety Services offers different courses for community responders, childcare providers, or professionals looking for CEM. You can also become certified to teach CPR through the company’s complete training for instructors. 

The course materials and workbooks you’ll need are available in English and Spanish and can be purchased on EMS Safety Services’ website. The student workbooks are between about $10 to $15 each, depending on which course you’re working on. Once you’re registered, you’ll have round-the-clock access to the materials through the online training portal, or you can order physical copies if you prefer to jot down notes by hand.

Once you’ve completed your self-study course, you can use EMS Safety Services' search feature to find an instructor near you to review your skills in person.

If you can’t find an instructor locally to administer the hands-on skills assessment, you can pay for a remote skills verification with an EMS Safety Services’ instructor. You need to complete this in-person component of the training no matter where you become CPR-certified. The cost is around $16 for basic CPR and can be included in the overall cost of your blended online course. 

While you may pay more or less with a local instructor, if you do go with the remote verification, keep in mind that you will need to have the supplies for the demonstration, which can be purchased through the website at an additional cost. 

Best for Community Volunteers: American Safety & Health Institute

American Safety & Health Institute

American Safety & Health Institute

The American Safety & Health Institute’s CPR certification program was designed specifically for people who have no previous experience and need a flexible choice. In addition to learning CPR, you can learn AED use, First Aid, and how to help someone who is choking. 

One of the highlights of the program is ASHI’s commitment to keeping classes small—a max of 10 students to every instructor. The topics covered by ASHI’s training are ideal if you want to feel prepared to respond to emergencies in your community or workplace (for example, if you volunteer to coach little league or work in a restaurant). 

As with the other courses, you can choose from Adult CPR, Adult and Child, or Adult, Child, and Infant. The cost is the same whether you choose the Adult-Only or All Ages package; the cost difference depends on whether you add First Aid to your training. 

You can purchase the course materials on the ASHI website. The CPR and AED course package is around $25, and the CPR, AED, and First Aid course is about $30. The basic CPR course lasts about two to three hours, while the combination courses that include First Aid training typically takes between four and five hours. 

The blended course exists in both an online portal and on DVD. The materials are a mix of streaming video modules (which can be customized into playlists), Powerpoint presentations, guidebooks, and manuals. You also have the option of accessing course materials offline using ASHI’s mobile app. 

When you complete the course and pass the written assessment, you’ll receive a Certificate of Online Training. If you require CPR certification, you’ll also need to find a local, ASHI-authorized instructor to oversee the hands-on skills demonstration portion of the certification process.

If you work in healthcare (or are just interested in broadening your skill base) ASHI’s company, MEDIC First Aid offers additional blended learning opportunities, such as high-performance CPR, bloodborne pathogens, wilderness first aid, and babysitting safety. ASHI also offers training opportunities for people interested in becoming certified as a CPR instructor. 

How we chose the best CPR certification programs

When choosing the best CPR certification programs, we assessed location, pricing, course offerings, whether courses were available for certain professions or volunteers, and whether courses were OSHA-compliant.

For instance, EMS Safety Services Inc. is OSHA-compliant and great for employees, while the American Red Cross is OSHA-compliant and ideal for general CPR for other adults or kids.

Do you need to have a CPR certification card to perform CPR? 

No. You do not need to be certified to perform CPR, but you do need to be trained to perform it correctly and safely. Most states have Good Samaritan laws that protect you from legal ramifications if you attempt to perform CPR and it is not successful, or if someone develops a complication that might be related to CPR (such as a broken rib which is common). 

How long does CPR certification last?

Most CPR certifications needs to be renewed every two years. Many renewal courses are offered online, and you usually do not need to go through as much training as you did for the initial certification.

Do I need to do online training to be CPR certified? 

The online courses for CPR are meant to be flexible options for people who don’t have the time to do in-person training, but they are not the only way to become certified. 

Community centers, local hospitals, clinics, and healthcare organizations, fire departments, adult education programs, colleges or universities, and YMCAs frequently offer CPR training programs. 

These options can also be flexible. Classes are typically offered year-round and scheduled on nights and weekends. Summer or school break training can be a fantastic option for teens, teachers, and coaches. 

Getting CPR training through your local community can also be a more budget-friendly option. For example, if you’re a member of your local YMCA, the course might be included with your membership, or you might get a discounted rate. If you go to a local community college, you might be able to get financial assistance for the course. 

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Article Sources
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  2. ProCPR. "Does having a CPR certification mean I'll perform CPR correctly every time?" Accessed April 27, 2020.

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  5. American Red Cross. "CPR Renewal & Recertification." Accessed April 22, 2020.