I frequently receive questions regarding personal training certification, so I compiled some helpful information for those of you pursing this career path. Enjoy!
Edit: You may also want to read 5 Things to Consider When Working with a Personal Trainer.
I was encouraged to pursue my CSCS (certified strength and conditioning specialist) through the NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association).
At the time, I was coaching college softball, and the CSCS certification is the most respected when working with college athletes.
Prospective college strength and conditioning coaches are required to have their CSCS in order to even apply for a job.
I audited an exercise science course to help prepare for the exam and borrowed the exercise science department’s DVDs and study materials in order to prepare…I busted my butt!
|That’s actually me.|
No, really. That’s me! The NSCA shot photos for the 3rd edition of Essentials of Strength and Conditioning Manual while I was still coaching at Creighton University. Current athletes weren’t eligible by NCAA rules, so enter former athletes. Boo-ya.
*Important to note: There are many organizations where you can obtain certification. In fact, if I were certifying today, I might select NSCA-CPT (certified personal trainer), NASM, ACSM, or ACE to certify, but its easier now to keep up with my continuing education units (CEU’s) and stick with my NSCA-CSCS.
The NSCA-CSCS exam costs between $265 – $290 and closer to $400 if you are not a member of the NSCA. Only 65.5% of people that take the CSCS exam, pass it. Thank goodness I didn’t know that number when I took it–Yikes.
You must have a bachelors degree to take the exam and maintain yearly CPR/AED certification (which is a good idea for everyone). Your degree does not need to be in exercise science (I was a psych major) but a conferred degree or current enrollment as a college senior is required.
Every 2 years, you must complete 6.0 CEU’s (continuing education units) to maintain your CSCS. Attending the national conference gets you 2.0 CEU’s whereas taking an online quiz only gets you 0.2 CEU’s, so you can see how it adds up.
The CSCS credential allows you to look at jobs both in college athletics and in the general population.
1. Read the book, Essentials of Strength and Conditioning
2. Do practice tests–they are designed to prepare you for the exam.
3. Participate in an internship or volunteer so you understand the practical side of training. Many trainers will allow you to shadow them with their clients’ consent.
4. Review anatomy and physiology (*note: I need to do this on a regular basis)
So, what does certification mean?
Does this certification mean I’m competent? Not necessarily, but competent enough to pass the exam. However, it is my responsibility to practice within my scope of knowledge with my client’s welfare a priority.
Most gyms will ONLY only hire personal trainers with certification. Your credentials ultimately make you more marketable.
Group fitness classes vary with some instructors certified only through that particular class or a broader certification. For example, my gym is identified as a Spinning facility meaning all instructors must certify through Spinning in order to teach, but they do not need further certification than that.
*Your credentials will help open doors, but YOU have to own your teaching style and build a connection with clients. Experience is the best teacher.