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    This article will elucidate vividly on which is the better certification organization between NASM and NSCA in 2021.

    You’ll learn to differentiate according to:

    Certification focus
    Recognition and popularity
    Test information, recertification, and exam details

    I’ll be sharing valuable info on this NASM vs NSCA review based on 10+ years invested thus far in the fitness industry.

    Let’s be proactive about this!

    NASM vs NSCA - Which is the better cert organization in [year]? 4

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      NASM vs NSCA (Video)

      NASM vs NSCA (Podcast)


      Hey, it’s Tyler here! Welcome to my NASM vs NSCA article, let the battle begin!

      I will be comparing these two certs using 6 crucial factors to help you choose between either personal trainer certifications.

      By the end of the article, you will have a clear picture of which one will be better for you going forward.

      Make sure to also take a peek at my must-read article on the best 5 certifications compared to each other.

      I suggest checking out both the NASM site as well as the NSCA site afterward. 

      Here are some other comparison articles that you might like, similar to NASM and NSCA: NASM vs ISSA, NASM versus ACE, NSCA vs ACE and NSCA vs ISSA.

      I also recommend that you take the quiz to find out which PT certification is right for you.

      The menu at the top of this page will answer any questions related to personal training that you might 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 people trying to study for either exam, check out my free NASM study guide or premium study materials from Trainer Academy.

      Or, check out my free NSCA study guide or the premium NSCA study materials from Trainer Academy.

      On average, you will cut your study time in half with Trainer Academy.

      Check out my review on them here.

      NASM vs NSCA Quick Information

      NASM vs NSCA - Which is the better cert organization in [year]? 5

      To start with, we delve briefly into the basic features of these certifications.

      No delays, let’s get right to it

      The NASM certification is considered a corrective exercise certification whereas the NSCA is more of a sports performance certification.

      Both the NASM certification and the NSCA are accredited by the NCCA and are highly recognized in the training industry.

      The NASM study materials are very thorough and interactive while NSCA study materials are basically textbook studying.

      The NSCA currently costs approximately between $350 and $650 whereas the cheapest package from NASM costs approximately $550 and can go all the way up to $2400.

      The NSCA requires 20 hours of continuing education every two years.

      The NASM certification also requires 20 hours every two years for recertification.

      I am guessing that you are just getting started in the personal training industry, so I recommend you check out some of my other articles such as how to begin personal training.

      Also if you’re wondering how much you can earn in training check out that link.

      General certification focus of both

      Focus of both 1

      In this section, I’ll be giving you more information on what you can do in the fitness industry with each certification.

      It’s going to quite revealing. Read on to learn more!


      The NSCA has a strong focus on athletic performance.

      This includes reactive training, speed, agility and quickness training.

      They have a more advanced certification called the CSCS that focuses on athletic performance even more than their general certification does.

      Also, their basic certification leads to their more advanced certification.

      If you plan on working with college or high school athletes, you should consider getting NSCA.

      The PES from NASM is also one of my top performance enhancement specialist certifications and I suggest you check it out.

      Here is the official NSCA video on YouTube.


      I would categorize NASM as a “corrective exercise” certification.

      They have an in-depth screening process that lets their trainers know where they should start with their client.

      Most clients are individuals that are overweight and have many muscular imbalances throughout their bodies which NASM aims to correct before moving on to more intense strength training routines.

      You could call these clients “average Joe’s” because they are the typical American client that needs to lose weight.

      NASM also provides excellent information on working with post-rehab individuals.

      They use what they call optimum performance training, or OPT model.

      At the base of this OPT model is the stability stage.

      This incorporates multiple functional training movements and corrective exercises to make you one of the best health and fitness professionals out there.

      Here is the official NASM video on YouTube

      Conclusion on certification focus

      NASM provides better program design in my opinion.

      They also have an advanced certification called the performance enhancement specialist certification.

      In my opinion, the certification is currently better than CSCS.

      To me, NASM prepares you to become a fitness trainer that can work with a wider variety of clients with their OPT training model.

      The focus on corrective exercise is great because almost every single one of your clients will have some muscular imbalance that needs to be corrected before you move on to more difficult exercises/routines.

      The winner for certification focus is NASM

      NASM vs NSCA - Which is the better cert organization in [year]? 6

      Certification Recognition and Popularity

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      NASM vs NSCA - Which is the better cert organization in [year]? 7

      You’ll discover in this section how both certification rate for each parameter.

      Don’t be in a rush, stay tuned to know more.


      NSCA certification has been around for a pretty long time.

      It is one of the most highly recognized certifications in the industry.

      They are so well recognized, in fact, their training textbooks are used as curriculum in some colleges and universities.

      A lot of people get certified with the NSCA to get a more advanced CSCS certification.

      This is one of the most sought-after sports performance certifications in the industry but unfortunately, I was unable to find how many people are certified with NSCA in total.

      By the way, I do have a free CSCS study guide and other certifications study guide on my website, feel free to browse through.

      The NSCA is accredited by the NCCA which is considered the highest standard by a lot of people in the industry.

      Becoming a NASM certified personal trainer is a real milestone in this industry.

      I have other certifications that can allow work with clients in a group and the top fitness nutrition specialist certifications on my website, make sure to check it out.


      NASM is currently thought of as the gold standard certification by a large number of gymnasiums, universities, and employers.

      If you go to bodybuilding.com or the personal training section of Reddit, you will see how much it is talked about.

      There are full communities simply dedicated to helping people study for and pass this test.

      NASM has certified more than 190,000 people, and it is probably the fastest-growing certification.

      NASM is also one of the certifications accredited by the NCCA (National Commission for Certifying Agencies).

      If you take a look at Google trends for the last 12 months, you can see the differences between NSCA and NASM.

      This gives you a pretty good idea of how many people are searching for each certification and which one is currently hot.

      NASM vs NSCA - Which is the better cert organization in [year]? 8

      As you can see from the graph, NASM is ahead regarding Internet popularity.

      The winner for recognition and popularity is NASM

      NASM vs NSCA - Which is the better cert organization in [year]? 9

      Study Materials

      Study materials 2 a

      Below, you’ll get to know the different study materials you can use based on your study options.

      Let me show you more below.


      NSCA recommends certain textbooks in booklets format for students to study from to prepare for their training certification.

      You do not have to purchase all the study materials but can pick and choose whatever you need to be ready for when your test date comes.

      The most common study materials are their Essentials of Personal Training textbook (696 pages long), exam content description booklet (helps you along with the textbook), complete practice questions bundle, and exercise technique manual for resistance training and live clinics.

      They also recommend purchasing strength training anatomy and sport nutrition books if you are a kinesthetic learner.

      I highly recommend taking the live clinic because the rest of the learning is purely out of the book.

      Make sure to check out my free practice test and study guide for NSCA.

      Also, if you want to cut your study time for exam prep in half and get in an exam pass guarantee mood, check out Trainer Academy NSCA study materials.


      NASM offer four separate packages.

      Each of these packages contain slightly different study materials.

      The most noticeable thing is that with their self-study and premium self-study options, you only get an electronic book instead of a hardcover.

      One thing that I found very useful was the flashcard bundle that comes with the premium self-study package.

      I love flashcards, and they are a fantastic study tool.

      With the guided study and all-inclusive packages, you have access to a coach/mentor.

      This is also super helpful because you can reach out to them with any questions that you may have.

      I also like how both of these options come with the live workshop.

      Once again, for you kinesthetic learners out there, this is extremely helpful.

      The biggest difference with the all-inclusive package is that you get the business accelerator program.

      This is a huge value especially for people that are trying to turn personal training into a personal business.

      I learned tons of cool techniques for sales, marketing and making more money in general as a trainer.

      It also comes with the CPT development program that includes 80 hours of on-site practice where you get to work with real clients.

      You cannot put a price on this experience.

      I highly recommend the all-inclusive package if you have the money for it. It will pay itself back in the knowledge that you gain.

      Check out my free NASM study guide here.

      For the best NASM study materials (yes, even better than the ones provided by NASM), check out Trainer Academy.

      These can help reduce your study time by 50% and offer an exam pass guarantee.

      The overall winner for study materials is NASM

      NASM vs NSCA - Which is the better cert organization in [year]? 10

      Certification Price

      Review Pricing
      Money 1

      This section is an exposition on the cost of each certification.

      Count your cost before you set out.


      The cost of the NSCA certification is tricky because it depends on whether you are a member of the NSCA or not.

      Two general study bundles are offered even though as I mentioned above, you can pick and choose which textbooks you want to get.

      If you want to get the most bare-bones study materials possible, it will cost $179 for members and $277 for nonmembers.

      If you want to get the majority of the study materials, it will cost approximately $287 for members and $486 for nonmembers.

      Then there is the price of the membership which you can get for as low as $47 a year for an associate membership, $65 a year for student membership, $120 per year for professional membership or $337 per year which includes liability insurance (mostly just for people that run their own business).

      The last in the prices category is the cost of the exam itself.

      If you have a membership, it will cost $279, and if you don’t have a membership, it will cost you $349 to take the test.

      When it comes down to it, if you get a yearly membership and get the cheapest study package and as well purchased the test, everything will come to $503.

      The cheapest option for a non-member will be approximately $626.


      The pricing structure for NASM is much more simple, and it is based on the four packages that they offer.

      Here are the current prices and my discounted price.

      Readers of my site can use my personal discount code PTP25 to save 25% on all NASM CPT certifications.

      • $699 $524 (25% off) – Self-study package
      • $1099 $824 (25% off) – Premium self-study package
      • $1499 $1024(25% off) – Guided self-study package
      • $2199 $1649 (25% off) – All-inclusive package
      • Check out my special deal for 25% off

      As a fitness trainer, you should protect yourself from a lawsuit with amazing professional liability insurance.

      The winner for the lowest price is NSCA

      NASM vs NSCA - Which is the better cert organization in [year]? 11

      Test Information and Recertification

      Test information 1

      Here, I’ll be sharing with you all you need to know about taking the final exams for each certification and recertification.

      Find out more below!

      The exam contains 150 multiple-choice questions, and you will be given three hours to complete it.

      Once you purchase the certification you have 12 months to sign up for the test, take it and pass it.

      Make sure you are fully prepared for the test before you take it because if you fail, you will have to pay $300 retake it.

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      If you are a non-member, it will cost you $435 to retake the test.

      The NSCA has one of the lowest overall pass rates in the industry at 58%.

      The tests range in difficulty; so, to pass, you need to score at least 70 on a scaled rating.

      To take the test you need to hold a high school diploma or equivalent, be 18 years old and have a current CPR/AED card.

      Take my practice test for the NSCA certification to see how much you know.

      I suggest also taking a look at my NSCA test prep and NSCA exam FAQ articles.

      NASM Examination

      Once you purchase the exam or package from NASM, you will need to register date to take the test at a local Lasergrade facility.

      These can be located in most major cities throughout the United States.

      From the time that you purchase your study package, you will have one full year until you need to take the test.

      The test is 120 multiple-choice questions, and you will receive two hours to pass it.

      You will receive a passing or failing grade immediately after completing the test at the Lasergrade facility.

      Just like NSCA, you need to score a 70 on a scaled score.

      The NASM test is not quite as harsh as the NSCA test with approximately 64% of first-time test takers passing.

      If you do happen to fail on your first time, you will need to pay $199 to retake the test.

      That is unless you purchased either the guided study or all-inclusive packages which includes a free retake voucher.

      The only requirements for NASM are that you are 18 years old and hold a valid CPR/AED certification.

      Test your knowledge with my free NASM practice test here.

      You can check out my NASM test prep and NASM exam FAQ articles as well.

      The winner for test information is NASM

      NASM vs NSCA - Which is the better cert organization in [year]? 12



      NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association) requires 20 hours of continuing education every two years.

      The great thing is that it only costs $50 to recertify every two years.

      A lot of people end up getting recertified with the credits that they earned from getting their more advanced CSCS certification.

      This factor makes the NSCA continuing education program very important in the career of a fitness trainer.


      NASM also requires 20 hours of continuing education credits every two years.

      They charge $99 to get recertified, but also provide the option to never pay a recertification fee ever again for one charge of $299.

      This is a good deal especially if you know you are going to be doing personal training for over six years.

      Continuing Education Units (CEUs) are crucial in this business because it helps introduce the trainer to new ideas and developments as the years go by.

      As such, the NSCA CEU and the NASM CEU are as important as getting the first certificate itself.

      Without this NASM continuing education, you may find it difficult to stay abreast of new things happening in the industry.

      You can’t beat the low price of $50 every two years with NSCA.

      The winner for recertification is NSCA

      NASM vs NSCA - Which is the better cert organization in [year]? 13


      Conclusion on NSCA 1

      These are time-tested and tried info I have given you about NASM and NSCA.

      See you at the top!

      Both NSCA personal training certification and NASM personal training certification are accredited by the NCCA.

      This makes both certifications very credible.

      Some employers will not accept fitness certifications that aren’t NCCA accredited.

      Every gym owner that I have ever spoken with speaks highly of both of these certifications.

      You should not have any trouble getting a job with either one.

      I believe that being trained by NASM will give you a more diverse range of skills and will allow you to train a broader range of individuals.

      And if you are going to be working at a local or commercial gym, you will most likely be working with the “average sedentary, overweight” client.

      The overall winner is NASM!

      NASM vs NSCA - Which is the better cert organization in [year]? 14

      I recommend that you take the quiz to find out which certification is best for your training style if you are still having trouble choosing.

      Also if you are interested, here is the youtube comparison I made a few years back.

      Most of the assertion still hold true to this day.

      I believe that NASM does a much better job of assessing the muscular imbalances of individuals and designing a progressive exercise routine that is safe and effective.

      It all comes down to what type of clients you would like to train once you are certified as a trainer.

      If you are mostly going to be working with high school or college athletes, you should consider getting certified through NSCA and then their more advanced certification, the CSCS.

      Another excellent option for training athletes is getting certified through NASM and then going on to their PES (performance enhancement specialist) certification.

      In my opinion, this certification is just as sophisticated as the CSCS (if not more so).

      Overall, I would have to give the best certification trophy to NASM for this comparison article.

      I hope you learned something from my NASM vs NSCA article!

      Do you think these are among the best personal trainer certifications?

      Follow this link below for;

      Drop me some knowledge in the comments section below!

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      30 thoughts on “NASM vs NSCA – Which is the better cert organization in 2021?”

      1. I have a son who will complete his B.S. in Exercise Science from an accredited program recognized by the NCSA. He will have done 2 internships with this degree, one at an athletic performance facility, and one at Athletico at a PT tech. He is also a cross country and track runner on a nationally-ranked team. He has outstanding grades, and very much excels in all areas of kinesiology/A&P. Everything considered, which route for certification would you suggest? (or perhaps there are several certifications which would serve him well).

        1. Hey Lisa,
          NSCA is a fantastic certification in a lot of colleges in the United States use their curriculum for teaching their classes. If you 30 gone down the NSCA route, You might want to check out there more advanced CSCS certification. Also I like to recommend NASM for people that are going to work with people with muscular imbalances or elderly people in general. What types of clients would you like to work with?

        2. Hi Tyler, great article.
          I am looking to go into personal training but not your traditional route in the “gym.” I am looking at taking the crossfit philosophy, along with other movements in the functional fitness realm. I am not a strong believer in isolation movements although I believe they have there place. I went the gym route for many years and after doing crossfit/ functional movements i prefer this methods hands down. with that in mind would the nasm or nsca or other certifications be more beneficial. I was also looking at OPEX fitness. I will probably get my CFL1 crossfit level 1 down the road.

          1. Hey Alan,

            If cross fit is your ultimate goal I would definitely focus on the cross fit programs that you’re planning on taking. Most of what you will get out of the general training certification will be the general anatomy, biomechanics and general principles of exercise science. You will not learn any of these cross fit movements or progressive cross fit patterns from any one of these certifications. That being said, I would think that injury prevention and corrective exercise would be an important thing for people doing cross fit. In this case I would recommend the NASM certification.

      2. Hi Tyler! Thanks for all the great info that you are sharing on the website, much appreciated!

        I wonder which certification (and possible follow up certifications) you would recommend if I would like to work with parkour athletes and American ninja athletes? (I would like to build upon what I’ve learnt from the book overcoming gravity and the courses from gymnastic bodies)

        1. Hey Bo,

          I am glad that you like the information I’m providing 🙂 In terms of your specialty certification is seems like you want to build explosive power, agility, quickness and overall strength in your athletes. For this you would need a specialty certification. I would recommend looking into the NASM PES or performance enhancement specialist certification. In order to get this you would need to have a general CPT certification already such as the general CPT or ACE certifications. I hope this helps answer your question!

      3. I work in physical therapy and am hoping to start seeing athletes in our clinic. But I also am wanting to work with crossfit athletes at my box. Both NSCA and NASM seem like the way to go for what I want to be doing. How do I choose between the two? Even after reading this it’s dofficult. I do, at some point, plan to work towards CSCS

      4. I ultimately want to be able to work with a broad spectrum of clients. From the athletes needing sport specific training (and crossfit) to the elderly and those who need corrective exercises. I am currently a physical therapist assistant so I feel like my background will help me in some sense. But I still can’t decide which one to go with

        1. Hey Amanda,

          I would def go with NASM and maybe think about going after the PES performance enhancement cert after. This two compliment each other very well for what you are doing.

        1. Hey Omar,
          The National Academy of sports medicine exam is taken in a PSI test taking facility. You can look on their website to see all of the various locations around the world that you can take the exam.

      5. I actually have a study book for the NSCA but when I took your quiz it said I should actually take the NASM. I am wondering if you know how much carry over the NSCA book would have for the NASM exam. Or if I should buy the NASM book as well.

        1. Hey James,
          The NSCA book will not carry over pretty much adult over to the National Academy of sports medicine exam. They have a much different way of looking at things and although some of the study material will carryover such as the anatomy and exercise science portions, the program design will be significantly different and you will not be able to pass the exam by studying from the NSCA book. I hope this helps.

        1. Capital depends on what type of gymnasium you are trying to work at when you get to Canada. You should ask and see which certifications they prefer but I wouldn’t be surprised if they accept both the national sports sciences Association as well as the NASM certification. I know that they have specific certifications that are widely accepted in Canada such as Canfitpro and others. I would look into that as well as see which certifications are accepted at the places that you are going to try to work at. I hope this helps.

      6. Hi Tyler,
        I am currently CSCS but planning on getting another cert under my belt. Was looking into getting the CPT and have been comparing the NSCA’s and NASM’s. Thank you for providing this article as it has helped cut down the amount comparing the two.

        My question to you is: does it seem necessary to get a CPT if I already have a CSCS?

        I currently work at Orangetheory Fitness as a sales associate and want to get to a coaching position. I know they would already accept me with the CSCS, but again, wanting to add a couple more letters to my name. Let me know what your thoughts are.

        1. Hey Britt,
          The certified strength and conditioning specialist certification is seen by a lot of people is the gold standard. Although it does focus on strength and conditioning more than that say corrective exercise that a lot of the general personal training certifications do. If I was to go between one or the other between the national sports sciences Association or the national Academy of sports medicine, I would go with NASM. This will give you an overall wider perspective and let you train a wider variety of clients compared to getting the general NSCA. You already have the elite certification from the NSCA, and NASM is quite different overall. That would be my suggestion.

        1. I believe you could. But I typically don’t recommend getting an addition that is two times removed from the current edition which is the 6th edition. The 4th edition should be fine, but I can’t tell you exactly how much has changed.

      7. Hello Sir,
        I’m ab18 years old student from India and I’ll pass my high school next month.
        I want to start my career in fitness

        Which certification and Bachelor’s degree should i do ?
        I want to be all rounder so that I could train special population ,any one with any issues ,even if he’s a athelete

        I want have successful in fitness world

        Please answer me

        1. Hey there, you do not need a bachelor’s degree for either one of these certifications. All you need is the equivalent of a high-school diploma for these. Let me know if there’s anything I can help you with to start your Fitness career.

      8. I am living in Canada and looking at taking a PT course online. I am leaning toward the NASM training but I am wondering if I can take the exam here through the local college because you mentioned it needed to be a Lasergrade facility. That is my main concern and hoping you can answer my question!


        1. Hey there, you can definitely check on their website where the closest lasergrade facilities are to see if there are any near you. Actually, right now for a limited time they are allowing you to take the exam online which is something that they have never done. You might want to take advantage of this.

      9. Gyanendra Shrestha

        Hi Tyler
        Warm Greetings !!
        I am a Physical therapist and have been training people since last 6 years. Planning to train people better on and off field, focusing on their conditioning and preparing them for competition as well. Can you suggest the best certification for the same.

        Thanks In Advance

        1. If you have already gotten your general personal training certification, I would definitely try to get a strength and conditioning as well as a corrective exercise certification those seem like it would fit perfectly with what you were trying to do. If you were just trying to get a general personal training certification, I would recommend the National Academy of sports medicine over NSCA.

      10. This was a really helpful article, thank you! I had gotten the sense that NSCA was a little more respected and so had purchased their textbook, but I’m finding it a little overly academic and lacking in practical application. I hopped back on NASM’s website recently and although I think they are a little too pushy with their marketing, it does seem like their corrective angle is more useful for a broader overview and that their model is a more practical structure for getting started as a trainer. Thanks for your detailed analysis of both and the reassurance that both are seen as respected in the field. Exactly what I hoped to know!

        1. Very good analysis of both organizations. I agree with all of your points. I think that they are both fantastic organizations and they are both very well respected.

      11. Hello-
        Love your articles. I find them fascinating and they have helped me a lot! I am struggling to pick between the the NASM-PES or the NSCA CSCS. I’m not 100% sure which population I will be working with, but my dream would be to train high schoolers while they prepare for college sports. In my research of the jobs that are available right now it seems like everyone wants the CSCS. Not many places have the NASM PES listed as a preferred qualification. What are your thoughts on this? Do you think it would be hard to find a job working specifically with athletes with PES instead of CSCS?

        1. Really comes down to your education. If you have a four-year bachelor’s, I would definitely go with the strength and conditioning specialist. If you do not, the performance enhancement specialist is a fantastic certification as well. I hope this helps.

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