What Strength and Conditioning Certification Should You Get?

The Best Strength and Conditioning and Personal Training Certifications

Whether you are a personal trainer in a local gym or a strength and conditioning coach working directly with athletic teams, the certification you need is directly tied to the career goals that you have. With so many certifications on the market, it's easy to get confused when deciding which is best for you but there are a couple that can help you stand out and may even be required for chosen career path. Once you get through this step, the only thing left for you to do is go get your dream job. 

Step 1: The first step is always to sit down and figure out where you want your career to go. I am always surprised by how many aspiring coaches and trainers have no clue what they want their career to look like in twenty years. Even the ones that do have an idea of their future, have a muddy idea at best. 

It's time to get really specific (this topic is so important, that I put together and entire workshop on goal setting for the members of the 4A Health Club). Take some time, sit in a quiet room and figure out what you would really love to do and then write down all the details.

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Personal Training Certifications: The amount of personal training certifications on the market is wild. Off the top of my head these are the ones I can name:

  • NASM
  • ACE
  • ACSM
  • NCSF
  • AFAA
  • NESTA
  • ISSA

The only reason to get one of these is if you are 100% positive you never want to work in sports (high school, collegiate or professional). It will be next to impossible to ever get a job in college or professional athletics without a Strength and Conditioning certification. It will likely be quite challenging in High Schools as well. 

If you are 100% positive you will always work in a private setting, then I would recommend the NASM. As en employer, I recognize the NASM process as the most complete. You must put in some effort to acquire this certification and that says something to all employers about what kind of employee you may be. 

Most private certifications will pass the requirements and get you in the door but NASM is the only one that will separate you from the pack.

Click here to download the Strength and Conditioning Coaches career strategy  guide: The ONLY guide you'll ever need.

The Gold Standard Certification: There really is no other answer in my book. You SHOULD get the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) certification from the National Strength and Conditioning Association and here's why. You will have no barriers to entry anywhere in the industry. 

What I have learned throughout my years of consulting with young coaches and trainers, is that things change. Life happens and then all of a sudden you end up deciding you actually want to pivot and shoot for a different job.

With the CSCS, every option will remain on the table. Why close potential doors if you don't have to. It may be one of the more challenging certifications to get but it's worth your effort. If you choose another, just because it's easier, you may be in the wrong industry anyway. 

One caveat to the CSCS is that there is an advanced version of the CSCS called the RSCC (Registered Strength and Conditioning Coach) which some professional sports teams will require you to have in order to be employed. This process requires certain experience and passing an annual exam. 

As an employer, a CSCS stands out to me. If I look at a resume and CSCS, I will take that candidate more seriously.

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Strength and Conditioning, Personal Trainer