How to Become a Strength & Conditioning Coach: 2023 Guide

In this article, I will dissect everything required to become a strength and conditioning coach.

You’ll find out the following:

  • What level can you attain as an S and C coach
  • The required education
  • … and many more

Let’s set the ball rolling, shall we?

How to become a S and C coach

How To Become A Strength and Conditioning Coach (YouTube)

How to Become a Strength and Conditioning Coach in 2023 🏋🏻

How To Become A Strength and Conditioning Coach (Podcast)

Introduction

Hey guys and gals welcome to my ultimate guide on becoming a strength and conditioning coach.

The sports performance industry has been a very booming field recently.

From the professional level all the way down to commercial gyms offering sports enhancement classes to their customers.

Sports teams have now realized the importance that qualified strength and conditioning coaches bring to their teams.

Now, more than ever, strength and conditioning coaches are in high demand.

If you decide to become a strength and conditioning coach after reading this article, make sure to check out Trainer Academy for its awesome study materials and 99% exam pass rate.

I also have free CSCS study materials here.

Make sure to take the quiz to get a good idea of which certification is right for you.

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The menu at the top of this page will answer any question related to your personal training program.

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.

So, how do you become a strength and conditioning coach?

In this article, you will learn about the background, education, certifications, and experience needed or recommended to become a strength and conditioning coach.

After the article, I suggest checking out some popular Strength and conditioning certs such as the NASM PES or the ISSA SCC certifications.

Also, read my article on the best strength and conditioning certs or my article on the top corrective exercise certifications.

Let’s stop lollygagging around and get right into it.

At what level do you want to do S and C coaching?

First, you need to decide on what level you want to be doing strength and conditioning coach.

Usually, high school strength and conditioning coaches only need to be certified as strength and conditioning coaches through a reputable organization.

On the other hand, if you plan on working as a strength and conditioning coach at the collegiate or professional level, you will surely need a bachelor’s degree in exercise science.

If you want to train at this high level, I recommend reading the whole article, including the required education section.

If you would like to do strength and conditioning coaches at the high school level or with personal training clients to improve performance, move on to the certification section.

Recommended/required education

Strength and conditioning coaches that hold a bachelor’s degree and, on average, earn a higher strength and conditioning coach salary.

Those of you who would like to be a strength and conditioning coach at the professional or collegiate level will need to receive a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in an exercise science-related field.

Popular bachelor’s degrees include exercise science, kinesiology, athletic training, physical education, and exercise physiology.

Here is an excellent resource if you are in the United States to find one of the thousands of universities that offer an exercise science degree.

Choose a certification

Various reputable strength and conditioning certifications are available.

Let’s talk about the five most popular certifications.

One of these certifications is necessary to earn a decent strength and conditioning coach salary.

CSCS from the NSCA (certified strength and conditioning specialist)

nsca cscs

The CSCS certification is seen as the gold standard for strength and conditioning coaches.

The only requirement for the certification is that you have a bachelor’s degree.

You do not need a bachelor’s degree in an exercise science-related field though.

Any bachelor’s degree is sufficient.

The CSCS salary for coaches is usually slightly higher.

If you decide this is your certification, Check out the best study guide for it here.

I also have a free CSCS study getting a practice test here.

Check out: How much do personal trainers make?

NASM PES (performance enhancement specialist)

NASM PES (performance enhancement specialist)

The NASM PES certification has grown in popularity over the last ten years.

They base much of their training on their OPT (optimum performance training) model.

In my opinion, this is the most advanced progressive for training any athlete or client of personal training.

This is a very well recognized certification and, in my opinion, is on par with the CSCS certification from NSCA.

Another beneficial certification for strength and conditioning coaches is the NASM CES (corrective exercise specialist).

A certified personal trainer can use resistance training methods and corrective exercises to prevent injury through the right movement patterns.

This certification can help make athletes more efficient and prevent injuries which is just as essential as the athletic performance training itself.

See my full article on various corrective exercise certifications.

Check out the NASM PES here. Or check out a fantastic study guide here.

SCCC (strength and conditioning coach certified)

SCCC (strength and conditioning coach certified)

It would be best if you held a bachelor’s degree for the SCCC certification, similar to the CSCS certification.

In addition to the bachelor’s degree, you must have completed an internship program that needs an approved mentor.

After all of this, you are eligible to take the SCCC exam.

USAW (USA Weightlifting)

USAW (USA Weightlifting)

Since Olympic weightlifting is a big part of the program design for athletic performance enhancement, many strength and conditioning coaches obtain a USAW certification.

The USA weightlifting certification is the best way to learn proper form on these Olympic lifts and how to coach them effectively.

ISSA Strength and Conditioning Specialist

ISSA Strength and Conditioning Specialist

The strength and conditioning specialist certification from ISSA is a relatively new certification from the international sports sciences Association.

That being said, I was very impressed with the curriculum and study material provided.

Check out the ISSA SCC here.

Get Certified

Once you have decided which strength and conditioning certification you want, the next step is to study for and take the certification exam.

Purchase a strength and conditioning certification.

Each of the five abovementioned certifications ranges between $350 and $800.

Check out my article on the top strength and conditioning certifications to see all the prices.

Study for the exam

Depending on how much previous knowledge you have about exercise science will determine how long you need to study for the certification.

I recommend studying for approximately 4 to 6 months without prior knowledge of strength and conditioning training.

On the other hand, if you are coming out of a bachelor’s degree in exercise science, you can probably get away with less than one month of study time.

You will receive various study materials depending on which certification you choose.

Every strength and conditioning program has at least a primary textbook.

This should be your bread and butter in preparing for the exam.

You should prepare for the type of examination that you will receive.

Some certifications have only multiple-choice, while others contain a full essay section you must complete.

I suggest brushing up on your writing skills if this is the case for your certification.

Trainer Academy has the best study guides for strength and conditioning certifications.

They even offered an exam pass guarantee.

Take the test

Once you are sure you have the information down, set a test date and take the test.

Most of the exams for strength and conditioning coaches last between two and three hours and contain approximately 150 questions.

Don’t worry; if you don’t pass the test the first time, you can always retake the test, usually for a small retake fee.

Once the test is done, hooray, you’re officially certified as a strength and conditioning coach! But now, what should you do? Keep reading to find out the next steps!

Experience from an Internship or Volunteer Work

It’s tough to find a strength and conditioning coach that has not done some volunteer work or had an internship.

Doing one or both of these options will give you excellent hands-on experience with coaches that have experience.

Internships also help you to build your network with other coaches and athletes.

Ultimately, this will help you get hired as a strength and conditioning coach.

The biggest downside of volunteer and internship work is that they are usually unpaid.

The only thing that you get paid with is his experience in the work field, which you should see as invaluable.

If you are currently in college, the best way to get an internship is through an internship program with your university.

Most colleges have many contacts with strength and conditioning coaches who can usually set up internships or volunteer work for you.

If you are not going through school, the best way is to directly contact strength and conditioning coaches to see if they have available internship programs.

You can get contact information for strength and conditioning coaches in a few ways.

The first is to go in person.

You can show up at the place of their work to inquire about volunteer or internship experience.

Most gymnasiums or sports teams have some websites where you can find e-mail addresses to contact the coaches.

Send a thoughtful e-mail merely asking if an internship is available.

The last option is through LinkedIn.

Almost every professional coach has a LinkedIn account.

You can send them a friend request and then message them directly afterward.

Personal experience with strength and conditioning

Having an athletic background is extremely helpful in strength and conditioning work.

Education and certifications aside, if you have never done the hard work yourself, coaching others to do what you have never done is usually harsh.

If you are used to being a recognizable athlete in your area, landing the job as a strength and conditioning coach will be much easier.

Practicing what you preach is possibly more important than any education in the realm of personal training and coaching for strength and conditioning.

This is especially true if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree and only hold a certification.

Real-life experience is precious to employers.

If you played at the collegiate or high school level, you would have a leg up on the competition.

You should also still personally be training.

Practicing what you preach is possibly more important than any education in the realm of personal training and coaching for strength conditioning.

Nobody wants to listen to somebody that is completely out of shape and has not lifted a weight in years.

So you better get under the bar frequently and continually strive to improve yourself as an athlete/fitness professional.

Work on your communication and motivational skills

As a strength and conditioning coach, you will be teaching large groups of people and individual athletes one-on-one.

Your communication skills for both of those scenarios need to be spot on.

You need to be able to communicate in a manner that is authoritative yet easy to understand.

It is also the job of the coach to be motivating.

Some people have motivational skills ingrained in their blood.

Other people need to work on it to be effective.

Either way, this is a skill you need to bring to your coaching to get hired.

The athletes they will be training will be put through rigorous training regimens that can last up to a few hours long.

Without the additional push from their coach, they won’t see the results that they need to be competitive and thrive in their sport.

In addition to being motivating and having excellent communication skills, you must be fiercely competitive.

If you played a sport at the collegiate or high school level, you would know exactly what it takes to be competitive.

You need to maintain that competitive fire and transfer that over to the athletes you are coaching.

Apply for a strength and conditioning job.

After you have met the above requirements for education, certifications, and internships, it is now time to apply for a strength and conditioning job.

Applying for a strength training coach job can be intimidating at first.

But by this point, you should be very confident in your skills.

The first step towards applying for the job is to create a kick-ass resume.

Without a good resume highlighting your credentials and experience, nobody is going to hire you.

With your badass resume in your hand, go around to every single sports and conditioning gym and team in your area and hand it out.

If you don’t hear back from anybody within a few days, you should follow up with each place where you submitted your resume.

The key is to keep bugging people and contacting people so that they know you are passionate about the job.

Eventually, you will hear back from somebody and get the job! Wow, look at that. You are now a strength and conditioning coach!

Conclusion

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

How to Become a Strength and Conditioning Coach in [year] 1
How to Become a Strength and Conditioning Coach in [year] 2

Well, ladies and gentlemen, that’s about it for my article on becoming a strength and conditioning coach.

I suggest checking out the CSCS, NASM PES, or ISSA SCC for more info on those certifications.

These three are the best certifications in my mind.

The NSCA CSCS is seen to be the gold standard and a lot of people’s minds.

To ensure you pass your strength and conditioning exam of choice, check out Trainer Academy for fantastic study guides, practice tests, flashcards, and more.

Check out my free CSCS study materials here.

Although becoming a strength and conditioning coach is demanding, it is ten times more rewarding.

Working with athletes and watching them thrive in their particular sport is a fantastic process to experience.

Overall, it is a gratifying job, and I wouldn’t change it for anything else.

I hope this article helps people understand the process, education, and certifications required to become a coach.

Although becoming a strength and conditioning coach is demanding, it is ten times more rewarding.

This is the complete 0 to 60 guide on the topic.

Most of you will likely have some experience or education in the field.

If you are currently a personal trainer and would like to switch gears toward strength and conditioning coaching, I recommend getting one of the five certifications above.

Leave me a comment below and tell me about your experience with strength and conditioning coaching or the process of becoming one.

What hiccups did you run into? Why do you like strength and conditioning coaching?

Tyler Read

Tyler Read, BSc, CPT. Tyler holds a B.S. in Kinesiology from Sonoma State University and is a certified personal trainer (CPT) with NASM (National Academy of sports medicine), and has over 15 years of experience working as a personal trainer. He is a published author of running start, and a frequent contributing author on Healthline and Eat this, not that.
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24 thoughts on “How to Become a Strength and Conditioning Coach in 2023”

  1. PTPioneer User

    My son is wanting to become a strength and conditioning coach so bad. He just doesn’t have the finances to go to school. He has a newborn that was born with a ton of health issues and he and his wife work full time to be able to afford his doctor and hospital bills. David has always loved being in shape. He played baseball and football his whole life growing up and could have gone on to football in college with a scholarship, but his ex didn’t want him to go away to an out of state school. So he didn’t follow that dream. And now, since he is married again and just had this baby with all disabilities, he will probably not be able to follow his true dream. His wife doesn’t want him going back to school, so he doesn’t have a partner that will back his dreams. But, I know if he doesn’t he will never be happy. He is having to work in a trailer plant to support his family and this will break him soon. I know, I’ve been there. I am an RN now, so I would love to see him get into the fitness field. Can you come up with any ideas that could help him.

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hey Rwanda,
      I’m so sorry to hear the situation that your son is in. I know it can be difficult and studying for a personal training certification can be even harder on top of that. The biggest suggestion I recommend is to pick up the textbook for one of the strength and conditioning programs and start studying little by little. Maybe just five pages a day. He does not need to shovel out big money in order to pass the exam yet, all he needs to do is get the information in his head. Afterwards, if he decides this is something he really wants to pursue, he he can pay the money to take the exam. But getting the textbook, and getting the knowledge is the first and most important step. Even if he does not end up becoming a strength and conditioning coach, he will have the knowledge to help his friends family, himself and others pursue their strength and conditioning dreams. I hope this helps.

  2. PTPioneer User

    Hello Tyler,
    Very informative article! I have some questions about my personal situation I was wodnering if you could help me out with. I am a recently retired professional MMA fighter that had success in the sport, So I have experience in training under a performance coach, as well as personal training as well. I have even done work in Miami at Bommarito Performance systems as a specialist trainer w/ American football lineman, as well as done a one year internship under our performance coach Phil Daru at American Top Team with the professional fighters. I am a highly regarderd coach and athlete, my only problem is my education. I have an associates degree in communications and am looking to further that into a bachelor’s. It is my goal to be a performance coach at the NFL or MLB level. I am looking to further my education and was wondering if after I received my bachelor’s in communications and got my CSCS, with my experience could would my resume be suited to pursue a position as an assistant at the college or professional level? Thank You, sorry about the long read. Looking forward to your response
    Ryan

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hey Ryan, new Lima thanks for reaching out to me. It sounds like you have a lot of experience in the world of Sports and training in general. It sounds like with your qualifications in the name you have made for yourself that you should definitely be able to coach at a high level. This is true especially if you can couple it with a bachelor’s ° as well as the certified strength and conditioning specialist certification. That is a very well sought-after combination.

  3. PTPioneer User

    Thank you for the feedback, Tyler
    If I get a Bachelor’s of applied Science (BAS) as opposed to a Bachelor’s of Science (BS) can I still take the CSCS certification? I am on LinkedIn under Ryan Quinn if you care to message me privately.
    Ryan

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      That is a great question, you should definitely contact the NSCA for that particular question. If they are both 4-year degrees though, I would think that either one would do.

  4. PTPioneer User

    Hello Tyler, first thanks for the insight! I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction as far as my current situation. I graduated with a degree in chemistry and have worked in various labs with no experience in exercise science besides my own personal training. I am currently working on my masters in exercise science and looking to make a career change. Would starting out at a gym be a good starting point as I focus on my masters and obtain a personal training credential or would something like a physical therapy office be more ideal on gaining experience? I currently work at a lab that I am struggling to maintain a healthy mental state with so a transition would happen in the near future. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you!

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      I definitely think that the gym environment working as a trainer is a fantastic place for one’s mental health. In terms of the difference between a physical therapy office and a gym working with clients. They are totally different from one another. Honestly, the upbeat attitude of a gym and helping people get into better shape is very rewarding. I have worked in a physical therapy office as well and it’s a little bit more gloomy. I hope this helped.

  5. PTPioneer User

    Hae Tyler.am a Kenyan ..32 of age…av done some P.T courses and am a sports Instructor….how can i get started an online course on Streangth and condition….
    Max

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hey Shashank, you should pursue the degree or certification that is ideal for the place you desire to work. Make sure to call around and ask for the current qualifications needed to work around you.

  6. PTPioneer User

    hi sir. I’m currently 17 years old. I would love if you could help me out. I’ve taken biology before but my mark wasnt the best. So i had options, I could take grade 12 biology or i could instead take grade 11 biology college level. Since im going to college they weigh the grade 12 academic as the same as the grade 11 college course. so I can take the easier route and get the best mark. My mom said i must go through two years of the physiotherapy assistant course then go to university to do three years of the kinesiology course then get my strength conditioning certificate. Is this the best way? do I need all these years to get into my profession? and i heard you dont need sports science. Please help! i feel like she wants me to do what she wants but do I really need 5 years of education? Im from canada btw

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hey Samuel, I think it is best that you challenge yourself as much as you can to learn the tougher biology classes. A lot of this is going to pay off in the future with your kinesiology courses, where they will go very in-depth. And for getting started in your career, you can definitely go for a certification and start training people earlier while still in college. The more experience and practice, the better.

  7. PTPioneer User

    Hello tyler,
    Very informative article!
    I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction as far as my current situation. I have a 4 years bachelor in Physical therapy and rehabilitation. what do you think is the best masters and best certification i can do be a professional strength and conditioning coach and train big teams and athletes.
    Thank you!!

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hey Matt, I am glad you are here visiting the site. For the master’s degree portion, I think an athletic training degree would most benefit what you are looking for. And then the absolute best strength and training certification, which is essential for this field, will be the NSCA CSCS. The CSCS is essential for anyone looking to train athletes and teams.

  8. PTPioneer User

    Hey Tyler! This is a great article. I was hoping I could get some insight in terms of my boyfriend’s situation. He has a B.S. in accounting, but is trying to get out of that field as it is just not what he wants to do. He’s been an athlete all his life and he really wants to get into strength and conditioning, but doesn’t know where to start as he can’t afford to go back to school right now for a different degree. He works part time at a gym but doesn’t have any certifications, so I was wondering if you had any tips on what his next steps should be to try and break into the industry without a related degree (if that’s even possible). Thanks so much!

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hey Emma, you do not need a degree for Jobs in the fitness industry, except for strength and conditioning with the NSCA CSCS certification. Since he has a degree, he would already meet that requirement. I would say if he desires to train the general population or athletes starting with a CPT certification and then progressing to the NSCA CSCS would be the best option. But, starting with any certification and getting time in as a trainer is priority, as experience is essential.

  9. PTPioneer User

    Tyler,
    I was wondering what your thoughts were on the best course of action for someone who is looking to make a career change into strength and conditioning? I have a BA in psych. and an MBA. I used to work in both fields (addictions counselor for awhile and then portfolio manager). Ive left the workplace for a few years (gone galt) b/c I was tired of the crap, fraud, and other nonsense. I’m also older (not quite 50) and have found that exercise and lifting weights has always been a constant. Its also one of the few things that we have control over vs. fraudulent markets, corporations and govts. Does it make sense to take classes through a college or just do a self study program. I prefer the self study concept however I don’t know that much about physiology and health other than my own personal experiences. What do you think wil be most beneficial and then how much time do you think it would tae on avg. for someone in my position? Thanks

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hey Mt, You could go with either approach you mentioned; it just depends on how well you study independently. I would recommend self-study for most people, as many of these programs offer a great amount of content and even have professionals discussing the most important concepts in video lectures sometimes.

  10. PTPioneer User

    Do I need most of these certifications to become a strength and conditioning coach or can I have a few of these certifications to become a strength and conditioning coach?

  11. PTPioneer User

    I am currently a CPT and i have training clients with athletes. I am interested getting a sports performance industry, Question is do i need a degree to get certified in strength and conditioning?

    1. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      Hey Daniel, You do not need a degree when getting into the sports performance industry, but it is never a bad idea to go for a bachelor’s or master’s in strength and conditioning. This will depend on what population you wish to train. But, overall, experience will be the most important factor here.

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