The certified strength and conditioning specialist certification from NSCA is one of the most difficult as well as the most respected certifications in the industry.

In this review, you will learn whether or not the certification is right for you or whether you should go with the different certification. I also highly suggest checking out my articles on the top strength and conditioning certifications and how to become a strength and conditioning coach.

Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) Certification review

The CSCS has a strong emphasis on reactive or power training for athletic performance compared to other certifications. It is very similar to NASM’s PES (performance enhancement specialist) certification. I highly suggest you check out their website as well.

The information that is outlined in this certification is to help athletes reach their absolute potential. This was the textbook used in one of my classes when I studied kinesiology in college.

Individuals that try to get CSCS certified typically have a goal of working with athletes. One of the main prerequisites that make this certification so difficult to obtain is that you need a four-year college degree before you can even take the test.

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They used to require you to have a four-year degree in a health-related field, but now all you need is in a four-year college degree (which I think is silly). The earliest you can sign up and take the test is in your final semester in college.

Pretty much every other personal training certification only requires a high school education. Let’s get right into my CSCS review!

CSCS review: Basic information

The NSCA offers two separate options for taking the CSCS exam. They offer a pencil and paper version as well as a computerized version of the test. They offer lots of different locations to take the pencil paper tests around the world.

Check out their site to check out their different locations. Regarding the computerized version of the test. They are offered and hundreds of H&R block locations. Once you have your prerequisites (four-year college degree) and are approved for the test, you will have 120 days to take the test.

Personally I like the computerized version of the tests but because you get your test score immediately after finishing so you know if you passed.

Prices and Study Materials

Very similar to the general NSCA certification, the CSCS has two separate rates for the exam. And this all depends on whether you are a member of the NSCA. If you are a member with them, the paper and pencil tests will cost $260.

The retest price will be $210 so make sure you study hard and pass on the first try. If you are not a member of the NSCA, it will cost $395 and a whopping $345 to retake it. Once again, study hard the first time around you do not need to pay double the price.

I would think that the computer test would be slightly cheaper, but it is a little bit more expensive. Members with NSCA will pay $310 to take the computerized test and pay $260 to retake if they fail. Nonmembers will pay $445 for the computerized test and 395 to retake it.

Out of all of the certifications I have studied for, this test has the highest retest fees I have ever seen. This test is also tough and has a low success rate compared to other tests.

You will need to take 90 days in between retakes if you keep failing them.

CSCS sports conditioning

Save 25%+ on most NASM CPT certifications at checkout (DO NOT CALL THEM!)
Here is the link to the 25%+ off sale
Get $100 off the ACE Pro Plus CPT Certification or get a FREE nutrition certification with their Pro Advantage program!
Here is the link to the ACE CPT sale
Get a FREE Nutrition Certification or apple watch with the purchase of the ISSA certification!
Here is the link to the ISSA deal

How the test is broken down and strategies for taking it

Let’s break down this test so you could see what you will be up against you decide to take it. The first section of the tests is centered around “the scientific foundations”.

This section is comprised of 90 total questions on the topic. You will receive one and half hours to complete this scientific foundations section. It is approximately 70% exercise science and 30% nutrition information from the textbook.

The second section of the exam is the applied and practical part. This is by far the longest part of the test, and you will receive 2 1/2 hours for this section. It is composed of 110 multiple-choice questions. This section of the test is broken down into four separate parts.

The four parts are administration and organization (10%), fitness evaluations (18%), exercise routine design (36%) and exercise techniques (36%).

The CSCS is a very difficult test, and it is hard for me to offer comprehensive strategies for you to get ready for it. The reason why it is hard to study for is that the curriculum is not the same as most of the other standard certifications.

Most of the individuals that are taking this test are coming straight out of college with a degree in kinesiology or another health-related field. These individuals have taken multiple classes on anatomy physiology and biomechanics.

If you wanted to take the CSCS but did not graduate with a health science degree, it is much more difficult. On the NSCA website, there are few textbooks that are recommended to study for the CSCS.

The primary book is called the essentials of strength training and conditioning (This was my textbook in college). This is a huge book and has tons and tons of information. My most significant piece of advice would be to look over the textbook as much as you can!

This should be your bread and butter for studying for the test!

Conclusion on the certified strength and conditioning specialist certification (CSCS)

If you are already certified as a personal trainer through one of the “general certifications” then I would highly recommend going for the CSCS certification especially if you are planning on working with athletes.

If you do not yet have a general certification, I recommend checking out my article on the good personal training certifications as well as my article on how to get started in the training industry.

Currently,  I believe that NASM’s PES certification is just as good for working with athletes. You can check it out here from their website.

This is a very prestigious certification and is recognized throughout the industry as one of the best. This certification looks great on a personal training resume, and you have a decent chance of making more money by holding the certification!

You need a four-year college degree to take it. You used to require a degree in health-related fields such as kinesiology to take it. I think they should still have it be that way because the degree in something like psychology or business will not help you at all.

Let me know what you all thought about my CSCS review!

Have you taken the test? Shoot me a comment down below and please like this article on social media if it was helpful! Happy personal training!

Tyler Read has a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology. Tyler is also a certified personal trainer with NASM, ACE and CSCS. Tyler’s main goal is to help people get started in the personal training industry and to become successful personal trainers. Tyler is the owner of Personal Training Pioneer which helps people get started in the personal training industry and become successful.

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