NSCA Personal Trainer Certification: A Review

NSCA Personal Trainer Certification: A Review

Next Insurance Staff
By Next Insurance Staff
Feb 21, 2018
5 min read

If you’ve already taken the big step forward that is deciding to become certified as a personal trainer, congratulations! Now you’ll need to decide which program to study and which certification to work towards. This can seem like a huge task with all of the programs that are out there, but in fact, there are a limited number of highly recommended options. Here, we’ll go through the details of the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA) program so you can decide if NSCA personal trainer certification is the right fit for you. You can also check out our reviews of the NASM personal trainer certification, and the AFAA personal trainer certification.

About NSCA

Founded in 1978 by 76 strength coaches, the NSCA has grown to more than 45,000 members and certified professionals across 72 countries. In addition, they have become a leader in educating professionals in the field. The NSCA offers certification programs, membership including resources and support, and a community for networking. With online education tools, courses, conferences and webinars, as well as membership tools and services, the NSCA provides everything you’ll need to get started and grow as a personal trainer.

The Program

According to the website, the NSCA personal trainer certification program will teach:

  • Client Consultation/ Fitness Assessment
  • Program Planning
  • Exercise Techniques
  • Safety and Emergency Issues
nsca personal trainer certification

While in the program, you will learn how to conduct initial interviews, review nutrition, assess fitness and take medical histories. You will be taught how to set goals, design programs, adapt training sessions and plan for special populations. You will study a wide range of exercise techniques suitable for many different populations and issues. Professional, legal and ethical responsibilities will be addressed.

Exams must be taken within 120 days of registering and these are held in testing centers around the country. There are 20 countries around the world that host NSCA certification exams, so it's no problem if you're planning a trip abroad!

You can schedule the date, time and location of your test according to what is most convenient for you. It's a three hour exam and in 2016, 74% of candidates, taking the exam for the first time, passed. That means that if you do your work in advance, you are likely to pass on your first try.


You must fulfill the prerequisites and send in supporting documentation before you will be certified, but you should only send in your documents after registering for an exam.

To be eligible to sit the exam, you must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma (or the equivalent). You must have a current CPR and AED certification, which you can get through your local Red Cross chapter. Your documentation of those prerequesities must be sent within one year of passing the exam.


Members of the NSCA will pay $300 to register to take the NSCA personal trainer certification exam, while non-members will pay a fee of $435.

Special Certifications

In addition to the general personal trainer certification, the NSCA offers advanced certification programs. If you have completed the Certified Personal Trainer program and you’re looking for ways to increase your knowledge and skills, you might like to consider one of their other programs. They include:

  • Certified Strength and Training Specialist - This program focuses on training athletes and improving athletic performance through strength and conditioning programs, nutrition and injury prevention.
  • Certified Special Population Specialist - This program focuses on educating and training clients with medical conditions such as metabolic disease, cardiac arrest, cancer, autoimmune disease and more. It also studies the needs of prenatal and postnatal clients.
  • Tactical Strength and Conditioning Facilitator - This program focuses on training for professionals in tactical fields, such as fire, military, rescue, law enforcement and others. It teaches ways to improve performance and decrease risk of injury on the job.


You must keep your NSCA certification up-to-date and the way to do that is to complete all required CEUs (Continuing Education Units) within a three year cycle.

You must also make sure that your CPR and AED certificates are kept up-to-date.

There are two ways to become recertified:

  • Take and pass the certification exam; or
  • Pay a recertification fee and report your CEU hours.

The fees you need to pay depend on your certification date and your membership status.

NSCA Certification and Your Business

The biggest step in becoming a personal trainer is deciding to become certified and choosing your certification program. Once you’ve done that you’ll be well on your way to setting up your business. The NSCA personal trainer certification is one of the top  programs in the US, with a strong overseas presence, teaching a wide range of skills you’ll need in your career. The certification, combined with great personal trainer insurance, will make sure that your business has what it needs to be successful.

NSCA Personal Trainer Certification: A Review


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