As a personal trainer or fitness expert you have many options for networking, continuing your education, and building your reputation. There are many credible certifications available. The key to success is to pick the one that best suits your needs.

One of the top personal training certifications available today is known as “NSCA,” which stands for National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in growing your business, you need to consider joining an organization that can help you meet your goals.

Is the NSCA right for you? Here we will cover what it is, and how to get certified, with the hopes that this information will help you decide for yourself.

What Is The NSCA?

The NSCA is an organization which brings together top-tier fitness professionals from all over the globe. The organization includes many facets, including conferences, research, and education. To understand these many aspects, it is helpful to look at how the group got started, how they evolved over the years, and what they do today.

The Foundation Is Built

The NSCA was founded in the late seventies as a network of Strength and Conditioning specialists who wanted to work together towards furthering their professional careers and the industry as a whole.

A newly hired strength coach (a position many had never heard of before) for the University of Nebraska football team started creating a directory of strength coaches across the US, and he also organized a national conference. The initial index soon became an association with 76 members.

The NSCA Evolves

Over the years, as the NSCA became established, membership snowballed. Within three years they had over three thousand members, and at age four they were getting close to 5,000 members. The association named a Chair of Research, which made research a formal aspect of the organization. The group  also decided to offer certification programs for trainers who met specific criteria.

In the 1990s, the NSCA grew their Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research into an authoritative source for current research in the industry. By the end of the decade,  there were 20,000, and about  60% held a NSCA certification. Not all NSCA members need to maintain a certification; it is just a way of showing a specific level of aptitude in a particular area.

Throughout the 2000s and 2010s, the organization continued to grow throughout the world. Several publications were released, and leaders formed partnerships with other top organizations, such as the NCAA. This led to recruitment resources which give coaches access, using an NSCA coach’s login, to statistics and information about student athletes.

Current NSCA

The association has grown to encompass 45,000 international members. World headquarters are in Colorado Springs, CO. The scope of content covered by the organization includes nutrition, strength and agility training, conferences, research, NSCA certification programs, continuing education, youth training, and weight management. The NSCA is often referenced as an authority in the industry.

How To Join And How To Get Certified

Since the NSCA is a membership program, it is essential to know how to join. You’ll also want to know about the four certifications that the NSCA offers. The certification programs reflect the diverse range of fitness-related topics which the association is involved in.

How To Join

You can become a member of the NSCA without earning a certification, but you can only reach certain levels of membership once you are certified. To become a member, you need to look through the membership options. There are different levels of membership, and each offers specific benefits.

Here is a quick breakdown of the levels, and you can always visit the official NSCA website to get more information.

  • Student: $65 per year (no certification required)
  • Professional: $120 per year (no certification required)
  • Certified Professional: $329 per year (certification required)

One of the perks of becoming a certified professional is that you can partake in the NSCA liability insurance program, which can protect you against lawsuits in your career.

All memberships come with an abundance of research-based content for your career growth. You’ll also be invited to local, statewide, and national events. One of the best advantages of becoming a member is that you can access a job board.

Four Types Of NSCA Certification

When you become certified as a personal trainer, you prove to your clients, coworkers, superiors, and perhaps even investors that you are serious about your profession. A certification from a well-respected organization will enhance your credibility and reputation. Also, you will likely have more career opportunities. The NSCA offers four different types of certifications: CSCS, CSPS, NSCA-CPT, and TSAC-F.

Certified Strength And Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)

The CSCS certificate is designed for professionals who train athletes. Often people who seek this certification are coaches working with teams to better the team’s athletic performance.

To earn this certificate, you would need to study for and then pass an exam. Also, you have to meet several prerequisites, including:

  • You have your bachelor’s degree or are currently a college senior
  • You have your AED and CPR certifications

The exam covers exercise science and nutrition questions, so if you have been working as a trainer already, you likely have a solid foundation on which to build.

Certified Special Populations Specialist (CSPS)

Do you have a personal training practice focused on a specific clientele with special needs? Maybe you work with people who live with chronic and debilitating health conditions, or acute injuries. If this is something that you currently focus on, or hope to specialize in one day than the CSPS program might be right for you.

People in this program are certified to design and implement safe exercise programs to special populations, and they can also respond to emergencies. Like the CSCS program, you earn this certificate by passing an exam.

This certification is an advanced level, which builds on a previously acquired accreditation or specified degree or license, such as a physical therapist license. Prerequisites for taking the exam also include CPR and AED certification, and at least 250 hours of experience in the field.

National Strength And Conditioning Association Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT)

This is a program for personal trainers rather than strength coaches who work with teams. People who pass the exam and earn this certification have proven that they know how to create individualized training programs for clients, and help the client work towards reaching the goals of the training program.

The prerequisites for this certification include a high school diploma, CPR, and AED certification. You must also be at least 18 years old.

If you have not attended college to study towards an exercise science or nutrition based degree, it is critical to prepare adequately for the qualifying exam. Order study guides, complete online clinics, and practice, practice, practice.

If you have already earned a degree in exercise science or a related field you might already be in great shape for this test. Take a practice exam anyways, to make sure that your knowledge-base aligns with the content of the test.

Tactical Strength And Conditioning Specialist (TSAC-F)

“Tactical” means an activity which is aimed at a specific goal. Think of “tactical strikes” in the military. Tactical Strength and Conditioning Specialists are those who are involved with a professional group such as military, law enforcement, or fire and rescue. These professional groups perform strength and conditioning as a way of meeting a larger goal or mission, like executing physical activity while fighting a fire.

TSAC-F holders know how to facilitate tactical training programs. To be eligible for this certification, you must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma. You also need to have current CPR and AED certifications.

Study and Cost

All of the certification exams are challenging. The NSCA offers plenty of test material and practice clinics, and it would be a great idea to immerse yourself in practice for at least six months before taking the test. The tests cost $300 to $475, depending on whether you are a member or not.

Is joining the NSCA right for you? Is it worth getting certified? Only you know the answer to that.

The NSCA is an organization that seeks to elevate its members by connecting them, disseminating research, and inspiring events. Strength and conditioning certification proves to the world that you have passed a challenging exam and therefore know what you are talking about. Other benefits include the potential to save big on your liability insurance, and access to job boards.

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