CSCS Review 2020– CSCS Cost vs Value, Is the CSCS worth it?

The certified strength and conditioning specialist certification (CSCS) 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.

So, is the CSCS legit? Let’s find out.

Also, I highly recommend that you take the quiz to get an estimate on which strength and conditioning certification is the best fit for you overall. And, if you find out that the CSCS is right for you, the team over at Trainer Academy have great study materials for it and boast a 99% pass rate. I also have a free CSCS study guide in practice test here on my website.

The menu at the top of this page will answer any question related to personal training that you have. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave me a comment here (I’ll respond within 24 hours). Also, visit the home page for the most recent and popular articles.

For you individuals who like to digest their material in video format, here is the YouTube video I made on the CSCS about three years ago. In general, the article is more information in this more up-to-date.

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.

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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.

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.

CSCS certification cost

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. These are huge retake fees. In fact they are the highest retake fees in the industry. I suggest picking up a good study guide for the CSCS.

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 Review

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”.

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Save 25% on NASM with my personal code PTP25

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Huge savings on online study materials for NASM, ISSA, ACE, CSCS or NSCA and ACSM

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. The Pass rate for the full CSCS test is a super low 56%. That’s almost half of the people.

This is another reason why I recommend picking up a solid study guide and practice test. I also have free CSCS study materials right here on my website.

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)

Overall rating:

CSCS Review [year]- CSCS Cost vs Value, Is the CSCS worth it? 1

If you have not done so yet, take the quiz to get a better overall idea of which strength and conditioning certification is the best match for you.

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 or strictly for strength and conditioning. It is the gold standard for strength and conditioning certifications.

If you feel like the CSCS is something you want to pursue, you will want to check out Trainer Academy and the helpful study materials that they have there. Also, check out my free cscs practice test in study guide.

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!

6 thoughts on “CSCS Review 2020– CSCS Cost vs Value, Is the CSCS worth it?”

  1. How much overlap would you say there is between the CSCS and the NASM’s CES (Corrective Exercise Specialization)?

    I am currently employed as a Personal Trainer and Physical Therapy Aide, looking to long term attain a Doctorate in Physical Therapy.

    1. Hey AS,
      To me they are pretty different certifications. the CSCS ddoes not talk nearly as much about corrective exercise. It’s great to hear that you are already a personal trainer. Good luck with your doctorate.

  2. Tyler,
    I see there is a new version of the CSCS test, I have been studying for the “old version” for the past month. Do you know how different it will be? I think I can still sign up for the old version today if there is going to be significant changes. Your thoughts? Thanks!

    1. Hey Sean,
      the biggest differences in the exam are what percent of questions come from each domain of study. Honestly, it did not change that much and if you have been studying up until this point using this study guide or another one, it should not affect the outcome of the exam. As long as you have an in-depth comprehension of each domain.

  3. Hey Tyler, I appreciate your dedication to building a site that allows for an efficient route to make these decisions. Here’s my question and I thank you in advance. I am torn between the c.s.c.s. Cert and acsm cpt. I have a b.a. in psychology, but took many credits in kinesiology and nutrition also. Not enough to earn a double major, but I’ve been a student to the strength and power aspects since I was 17. I read on the NSCA website that it will be changing back to requiring a kinesiology degree at the end of the year.
    Here’s the problem: I would love to get the c.s.c.s and get grandfathered in before the change takes place. As I say that, it’s important to know I’ve used multiple job hunter sites to find jobs requiring the c.s.c.s. Cert AND at least a bachelor in kinesiology or related field. A huge majority even require a masters in one of those fields. What is your opinion on my employment opportunities. What have you seen personally what employers demand?
    Am I setting myself by getting a much more prestigious credential only to not find employment?
    Mike K.

    1. Hey Mike,
      This is some very important information you have discovered. I did not know that they were switching back to requiring a kinesiology degree. Honestly, I think that’s a good idea. I don’t think anybody with a four-year in business should have any advantage over somebody that does not have a degree. It really depends on what type of client you want to train. If you want to who work with athletes oh, I definitely suggest going with the CSCS. If this is the case, I would definitely take advantage of your psychology degree and get the CSCS now play that you don’t have to go back and get a second degree in kin.

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