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If you are a growing fitness professional or if you are looking for one as a client, certifications should matter to you. I cannot remember one time that someone asked how or if I was qualified to do my job. Isn't that kind of scary? I could have been completely unqualified (even though that wasn't the case) or completely crazy (which is entirely debatable). There are a lot of certifications available to fitness professionals. Some of the certifications are wonderful, and some are complete garbage.

If you are looking for a trainer, I would ask for the specific certifications that they hold. If the answer is none, run like the wind and encourage them to pursue a certification from a reputable, evidence-based organization. If you aren't super familiar with the acronyms, it perfectly okay to ask for a list written down so you can look up each certification later. A lot of the acronyms are similar, yet they mean completely different things in regards to the prerequisites needed and content of the exam. It's my biased opinion, but I don't want someone with zero to little science background who took a weekend seminar or class, dictating my training schedule.

I hold many certifications that I wouldn't recommend to anyone because the questions that were asked in the exam were not reflective what-so-ever of the material needed to be successful (e.g. anatomy, physiology, bioenergetics, biomechanics, kinesiology etc.) How do you know the good ones? Here is a list of my personal preferences and the ones that I would encourage others to pursue.

Health/ Fitness Based Certifications

The American College of Sports Medicine is one of the most recognized certifying organizations, and is viewed as the gold standard in the Health/Fitness based certifications.

Entry Level

American College of Sports Medicine- Certified Personal Trainer (CPT)


Prep course: Many online options. This course is recommended by ACSM and promoted through their website:

Cost: $279.00 non-ACSM member

Requirements: CPR

Bachelors Prepared

American College of Sports Medicine-ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist (EP-C)


Prep course:

Cost: $279.00

Requirements: Bachelors Degree and CPR

Masters Prepared (Viewed as the Highest Level of Clinical Certifications)

American College of Sports Medicine- Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist (R-CEP)


Prep course: No formal prep course available. I would recommend registering for the webinars for the CEP through the ACSM.

Cost: $299.00 non-ACSM member

Requirements: Masters Degree, 500 Documented Clinical Hours, Program of Study and Course Descriptions, CPR

Strength and Conditioning Based Certifications

The National Strength and Conditioning Association is one of the most recognized certifying organizations, and is viewed as the gold standard in the strength and conditioning based certifications.

Bachelors Prepared

National Strength and Conditioning Association- Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)


Prep course:

Cost: $475.00 non-NSCA members

Requirements: Bachelors Degree and CPR

Experience Based

USA Weightlifting - Advanced Sport Performance Coach


Prep Course: Multiple on-site options, also available at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO (includes the overnight stay, which I think sounds super!)

Cost: $495.00

Requirements: Club Coach or Sports Performance Coach certification, Current USAW membership at the time of the course

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