NASM vs NSCA - Which is the better Cert organization in 2023?

Welcome to your ultimate NASM vs NSCA comparison.

My review contrasts both CPT certifications across the following key aspects:

Topical information: comparison of pricing, packages, and prerequisites
NASM vs NSCA content deep dive: knowledge and skills
Exam difficulties, preparation timelines, and study material review
Explanation of my expert review process

If you still need help deciding on the best CPT, take this quiz for a quick briefing on which of the best personal trainer certifications is right for you.

Alright, let’s get into it!

NASM vs NSCA - The Best of The Best [year] 2

Quick Breakdown: NASM vs NSCA

CPTACSM vs ACE Quick BreakdownFeaturesPrice
  • NCCA accredited program
  • The most popular and recognized certification providers in the world
  • Specializing in corrective exercise technique methodology
  • Great for newcomers and seasoned professionals
  • More expensive
  • Difficult exam
View on the NASM website
  • NSCA accreditation
  • Huge NSCA network
  • NSCA clinics
  • NSCA accredited schools
  • Great CEU opportunities
  • Fair NSCA membership costs
  • Membership discounts and benefits
  • Access to the NSCA Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research
  • Lacks coverage on the personal training business, marketing, and sales
  • Some CPT exam prep material is inadequate
View on the NSCA website
Exam cost
Exam cost
$300 (Members) $435 (Non-members)
Study Material Cost
Study Material Cost
$455 (Members) $511 (Non-members)
CPR/AED, 18 years of age, high school diploma/GED
CPR/AED, 18 years of age, high school diploma/GED
Exam Passing Score
Exam Passing Score
Exam Pass Rate
Exam Pass Rate
Average Completion Time
Average Completion Time
3-6 months
3-6 Months

NASM vs NSCA (Video)

NASM vs NSCA Certification - Which one should you choose in 2023? 🤷‍♂️


Now it’s time to peel off the lid on NASM and NSCA, two of the best personal trainer certifications, and decide which one will help you become a personal trainer.

In doing this, I won’t only reveal the differences, but also the similarities and how each cert’s aspects could contribute to a great start to your career and a lucrative personal trainer salary.

If you want a better understanding of the top certification providers in the fitness industry, you can check out my article breaking down the best personal trainer certifications.

Both NASM and NSCA are home to awesome nutrition certification programs, as well as online personal trainer certifications.

This actually brings me to my number one tip for trainers who want to absolutely crush it in their fitness careers

If you are interested in maximizing your sucess as a fitness trainer as quickly as possible, I recommend considering an additional nutrition coaching certification on top of your personal trainer certification.

Physical training is just half the battle. Without addressing the nutrition coaching component, you just cannot expect to deliver out-of-this-world results.

However, when you combine fitness coaching with nutrition coaching, you can address both of these key aspects of fitness in your clients, which drastically increases results.

When it comes to delivering the kind of client success that will push you to the top of the industry, there is simply no way around nutrition coaching.

On a similar note, stacking a fitness specialization on top of your personal training and nutrition combo further drives you to the top of the pack in terms of personal trainers.

Specializations include things like corrective exercise, strength and conditioning coach, and group exercise instructor.

Expertise in one or more of these fields helps you appeal to niche clientele who are seeking out an expert, not just another average personal trainer.

Niche expertise and a growing track record of amazing client success is the surefire way to make a great personal trainer income.

With this consideration in mind, I recommend putting NASM towards the top of your list when it comes to choosing your organization.

NASM offers some incredible deals when you bundle multiple certifications up front through their NASM Elite Trainer promotions.

The distinct features of each cert will allow you to decide your personal trainer job outlook.

NASM vs NSCA: Quick Information

NSCA Personal Trainer Certification

The World's Best Trainers Start with NASM

The National Strength and Conditioning Association, or NSCA, is an academic institution that was established in 1978.

This makes it one of the oldest exercise science organizations in the world.

The NSCA is a non-profit organization that works towards pioneering research in the strength & conditioning and exercise science fields.

This focus on strength and conditioning, immortalized in the organization’s name, speaks a lot to the scope of practice NSCA trainers tend to follow

NSCA is also accredited by the NCCA and is thus considered a gold standard certification. They are most widely known for their athletic performance emphasis with their NSCA CSCS certification.

NASM Personal Trainer Certification

40 Years of History with the NSCA

The National Academy of Sports Medicine, also known as NASM, is a certification agency and academic institute that trains and certifies fitness professionals.

It was founded in 1987 and has since become one of the leading names in exercise science credentialing. 

According to many metrics such as enrollment figures and google search data, NASM is often ranked as the most popular certification agency on the planet.

Many of the top fitness professionals and fitness-based organizations have their origins in NASM certification. It is not only an academic institution, but an incubator for entrepreneurs some would say.

NASM is an NCCA accredited certification provider, short for National Commission for Certifying Agencies. They are also well-known for specializations, such as their corrective exercise certification or sports performance cert for sports coaching.

This seal of approval stands as a quality guarantee that you can rely on, signifying a platform you can use in becoming a successful personal trainer.

The General Focus and Popularity/Recognition of NSCA vs NASM

Every certifying organization has its origins in a specific area of focus.

Some are more obvious with this, while others are more subtle.

Many sub-categories and fields fall under the health and fitness umbrella, so to set themselves apart, most cert agencies have different trajectories in terms of their syllabus and curriculum to set themselves apart.

This uniqueness and diversity benefit you because it allows you to match with the best personal trainer certifications that coincide with your personal training business plan.

In the case of this comparison article, we’ll be looking at two certs that follow very similar paths. Still, even within that close similarity, I will pluck out some of the differences so you can decide for yourself.


NSCA is a performance-based organization.

Many of the principles, motivations, and methodologies espoused by NSCA are there to front an agenda of optimizing athletic ability.

This type of training also equips trainers and professionals with the insight to open their own personal training studio.

Even when considering the CPT cert I’m highlighting, you will notice an underlying theme of performance enhancement.

NSCA is also well known for its CSCS, or Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach certification, which is firmly centered around sports performance.

This means the NSCA CPT is a good gateway into qualifications and careers in professional sports and sports coaching.


As the name suggests, NASM is centered around sports medicine and corrective exercise.

These principles share a lot of overlap with the strength & conditioning and performance enhancement perspective presented by the NSCA.

The most notable difference between NASM and NSCA’s approaches is that NASM aims to enhance performance primarily from a lifestyle perspective.

I would conclude that NASM is a sort of hybrid of health and wellness coaching and performance enhancement.

They do this through their NASM OPT model, short for Optimum Performance Training.

It aims to equip trainers with the ability to improve:

  • Chronic conditions
  • Disabilities and impediments
  • Imbalance 
  • Injury prevention and recovery from injury (post-rehab)
  • Movement compensations
  • Poor posture
  • Sub-optimal movement patterns

This allows trainers to get creative with their exercises, while operating within the boundaries of evidence backed training principles, making for a rewarding experience on both ends of the transaction.

In contrast, NSCA aims to enhance performance primarily from an athletic standpoint.

The further you go up in the hierarchy of NSCA specializations, you’ll notice that the programs are geared towards supplying America’s lucrative sports and recreation industry just as much as providing the general fitness industry with competent professionals.

At the end of the day, both certs present modalities that are applicable in either a lifestyle or athletic scenario.

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Skills and Knowledge Covered in NSCA vs ACSM

Before you click “buy” and purchase your cert, its a good idea to know what’s in the box in terms of content and curriculum.

For the most part, you won’t be able to get a full view of what the syllabus or curriculum of a certification looks like outside of a basic profile you might find in a student’s handbook or website.

So I’ve taken it upon myself to purchase and go through the certifications curriculum as it exists for candidates.

With resources such as the NSCA study guide and NASM study guide, as well as textbooks and practice exams, I’ll go over all the significant aspects of personal training business practice and overview how well they’re covered by each personal trainer course.

Exercise Science Principles

Exercise science should be at the beginning of every personal training certification curriculum.

This usually means the first several chapters of the course textbook will cover this topic.

For NASM, exercise science is well presented in the first five chapters contained within the first section of the textbook.

These chapters cover topics such as

  • The Scientific Rationale for Integrated Training 
  • Basic Exercise Science 
  • The Cardiorespiratory System 
  • , Exercise Metabolism, and Bioenergetics 
  • Human Movement Science.

for instance, Chapter 5: The Nervous, Skeletal, and Muscular Systems provides a firm foundation for understanding exercise science.

As for NSCA, exercise science is expertly presented in part 1 of the textbook, covering eight chapters.

the most fundamental of these being Chapter 1: Structure and function of the muscular, nervous, and skeletal systems, pretty much the same as NASM’s take.

Both NASM and NSCA do an excellent job handling exercise science, but based on the sheer volume of content, I’ll have to say NSCA comes out on top.

Behavioral Coaching Principles

Behavioral coaching and coaching psychologies are quintessential to pushing towards goals and successful outcomes.

The bulk of the work you’ll be doing is motivating your clients inside and outside the gym and inspiring changes in lifestyle habits.

This is the only way they’ll be able to develop successful and effective strategies towards their goals.

NASM covers behavioral coaching in the final section, Section 4: Client Interaction and Personal Development.

Within this section, only a single chapter is dedicated to behavioral coaching, that being Chapter 4: Behavioral Coaching.

While it is covered in adequate detail, NSCA still does a more in-depth coverage.

This is presented in Chapter 8: Exercise psychology for the personal trainer.

Consulting and Screening Clients to Reduce Risks of Injury

Before any training commences, and even through the duration of your client/coach relationship, regular screening, assessments, and monitoring are necessary in order to gauge your client’s limitations as well as avoid the risk of injury and aggravation of preexisting conditions.

This is where consulting and screening come into play.

There are two modalities involved when it comes to consultations and screening.

The first one is health screening, where you assess a client’s current health status and what, if any, contraindications exist when implementing a training program.

A health screening assesses things such as:

  • Pre Existing and chronic conditions
  • Vital stats (blood pressure, heart rate, body composition)
  • Impediments and disabilities
  • Previous injuries and surgical procedures
  • Current medications
  • Age-based sensitivities (training children or seniors)
  • Dietary requirements
  • Pregnancy and post-pregnancy status.

The second one is fitness and movement screening.

This assessment allows you to determine the limitations and considerations a client will have towards achieving their fitness goals.

Movement assessments test the fitness level and biomechanical capability of your clients utilizing the following screening methods:

  • Cardiac endurance assessment
  • Dynamic assessment
  • Loaded assessment
  • Overhead squat assessment
  • Postural assessments
  • Single leg squat assessment
  • Split leg assessment

By establishing the current level of physical fitness, your client is subject to, you can more accurately map out a realistic, results-driven program.

This, along with establishing your client’s health status, allows you to determine safe and effective parameters for exercise implementation.

NASM tackles this component of personal training practice in Chapter 11: Health, Wellness, and Fitness Assessments and Chapter 12: Posture, Movement, and Performance Assessments.

NSCA takes on client screening in Part II of its course textbook.

However, unlike NASM, the entirety of this section, spanning three chapters, focuses on assessments and screening.

These chapters are: Chapter 9: Client consultation and health appraisal, Chapter 10: Fitness assessment selection and administration, and Chapter 11: Fitness testing protocols and norms.

Resistance Training Program Implementation

Resistance training is a key component in exercise implementation.

Most of the exercises you prescribe will be resistance-based to a certain extent.

Understanding the biomechanical implications and implementations of resistance training forms the backbone of your program design.

NASM does a decent job of highlighting this concept in Chapter 20: Resistance Training Concepts.

I especially enjoy simplifying the GAS or general adaptation syndrome and other training adaptation concepts.

NSCA’s coverage of resistance training is in the textbook’s 13th chapter, Resistance training exercise techniques.

However, NSCA expands by splitting resistance training into its science and theory in chapter 13 and its program design implementation in Chapter 15: Resistance training program design.

This gives you a fully equipped approach to resistance training. Not just learning what it is and how it works, but also how to include it in your training repertoire with clients.

For that reason, I would say NSCA has a better take on resistance training.

Aerobic Training Program Implementation

Aerobic training, known in layman’s terms as cardio, is the basis of all physical fitness, so it naturally forms the basis of any fitness programming tips for personal trainers such as yourself.

But why is that the case?

Well, cardio training is the training of the heart, and your heart is the organ directly responsible for the shuttling of nutrients and metabolic materials through the body.

That means your physical ability and fitness directly correlate with your cardiac output and aerobic status.

So what do NASM and NSCA do about this critical topic?

NASM dives into cardiac fitness and aerobic training in Chapter 15: Cardiorespiratory Training Concepts.

I like that this chapter looks at the respiratory component of aerobic training with as much focus as the cardiac component.

NSCA follows the same pattern as it was established with resistance training by separating aerobic training principles from aerobic training practice in Chapter 14: Cardiovascular training methods and Chapter 16: Aerobic endurance training program design, respectively.

This again provides a level of depth and comprehension slightly superior to what NASM brings to the table. 

Helping Special Populations with Fitness

When dealing with personal training clients, you’ll very often encounter special scenarios and considerations from individual to individual.

This is a common function of dealing with different people.

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However, sometimes, these special scenarios and considerations define the client’s profile as well as how or what goals can be achieved.

This type of client would be regarded as being part of a special population group.

Examples of clients who fall into a special needs and preferences category include:

Special populations in this sense are defined as clients with unique physiological needs or profiles.

This garners the need for a unique approach and sensitive considerations.

NASM touches on special populations or special needs in Chapter 23: Chronic Health Conditions and Special Populations.

The coverage in the NASM textbook pales in comparison to how in-depth and well-rounded the NSCA curriculum tackles the topic.

In NSCA, the scope of special populations covers every single standard scenario I previously listed.

NASM only deals with special populations limited in their training capacity and only in the realm of chronic health conditions.

In contrast, NSCA tackles how to train athletes, and the youth, population groups that may be considered to have physical advantages.

the following chapters present NSCA’s take on special populations:

NSCA covers this topic over an entire part, that being Part V, while NASM only assigns a single chapter to this coverage.

For specific insight on each of these certifications individually, check out my NASM CPT and NSCA CPT reviews

Certification Popularity and Recognition of NASM vs NSCA

Popularity and recognition are easy to dismiss at face value.

I mean, this isn’t a popularity contest. It’s a quality and relevance comparison, right?

Well, yes, but the popularity and recognition of a personal trainer certification play an essential role in your decision-making when you think about it from a different perspective.

For instance, the popularity of something amongst the general community acts as a symbol of quality assurance.

The more people know about something, use it, and enjoy it, the more assured of a good quality experience you are.

This is known as confirmation bias, where we make decisions based on the collective opinions and advice of personal trainers with these decisions being driven value and desirability.

Recognition plays a similar role in that a certification with a wider industry recognition shows a wider acceptance and approval from those in a position to hire, employ, and provide professional opportunities.

Industry recognition tells you which gyms accept which certifications for instance.

NSCA is a bit more “old-school,” for lack of a better phrase, so it places little emphasis on its marketing and attention economy.

NASM is also a for-profit organization, so it pays to pump resources into image and marketing. NSCA, on the other hand, is an NPO, so its revenue is purely for operational purposes.

This makes NASM the clear winner when it comes to popularity.

The Study Materials and Pricing of NASM vs NSCA

Study materials are the resources and content you will use in learning the curriculum and preparing for the final exam.

So far, we’ve taken a good look at the textbooks of each respective certification program. Still, it’s important to keep in mind the selection of other documents and data that fall under understudy materials.

It’s also crucial to consider the cost of these materials so you can also decide based on your budget and financial circumstances.

NSCA Personal Trainer Certification Cost and Materials

Unlike NASM’s four package options, NSCA presents just three options, which is the norm with most certifications anyways.

The packages are:

  • NSCA-CPT Essential Package
  • NSCA-CPT Essential Plus Package
  • NSCA-CPT Digital Package

The Digital package contains very little to motivate learning for a fresh-faced PT. It’s more geared towards a seasoned professional looking to expand their credentials. 

This package contains:

  • Study Guide
  • Over 200 digital practice tests

The Essential package offers some direction while not providing a complete spoon feeding in an exam prep sense.

 It includes::

  • Essentials of Personal Training course textbook
  • Study Guide
  • Over 200 digital practice questions

Last but not least; we have the Essential Plus package which you could equate to NASM’s  All-inclusive package.

It’s ideal for newcomers and includes:

  • Essentials of Personal Training course textbook
  • Exercise Technique Manual
  • Study Guide
  • Over 200 digital practice exams
  • And much more

An important consideration is the fact that your personal trainer certification cost. is split between the exam and the recommended NSCA study materials.

You also need to bear in mind that costs shift based on your membership status.

As a member of NSCA, you will receive discounts on the purchase of all courses and products.

To give you an idea of what that looks like, let’s check out the membership vs non-membership cost breakdowns.

Non-member pricing:

  • NSCA CPT exam cost: $435
  • NSCA-CPT Essential Package: $290.70
  • NSCA-CPT Essential Plus Package: $511
  • NSCA-CPT Digital Package: $202

Member pricing::

  • Exam registration: $300
  • NSCA-CPT Essential Package: $240.30
  • NSCA-CPT Essential Plus Package: $455
  • NSCA-CPT Digital Package: $152

So membership cuts your costs considerably, but what does membership entail, and what does membership itself cost?

Membership with NSCA comes in three possible plans. Those are:

  • Student Membership: $70.00
  • Professional Membership: $130.00
  • NSCA-CPT Digital Package: $418.83

The membership is a great option, I would recommend it, but you can also do without it.

This is in consideration of the other benefits that come with membership.

To kick start your NSCA CPT studying before spending any money, check out my free NSCA CPT study guide.

For premium study materials, my students consistently get great results from the Trainer Academy NSCA CPT package.

For official materials, don’t forget to check out the NSCA official site for up-to-date pricing.

NASM Personal Trainer Certification Cost and Materials

NASM follows a tried and trusted approach of offering multiple package options for prospective candidates to choose from.

Each package is priced differently based on the variety and density of materials, with the cheaper option containing the least resources while the most expensive naturally containing the most.

The available NASM packages are: Self-study, Premium Self-study, Guided Study, and All-inclusive

The Self-study package includes the following::

  • The certification final exam
  • Textbook
  • A series of lecture videos
  • NASM exercise library
  • NASM practice test or practice exam access
  • NASM exam answers
  • Online CPT cert quizzes
  • Comprehensive NASM study guide

The Premium Self-study includes everything in the Self-study package in addition to

  • Job Guarantee
  • One-year NASM EDGE Trainer Plus

The Guided Study package, which in addition to everything you’ve already see, includes the following:

  • Unlimited Access to NASM Fitness Experts
  • Certification Exam Retest
  • NASM-CPT Hardcopy Textbook
  • Bonus Course: Motivational Interviewing for Coaches

The guided self-study package contains one amazing aspect I personally enjoy, and that’s having a hard copy textbook.

I love it because you can have a permanent reference on hand at all times in the form of highlights, bookmarks, and sticky notes.

Last but not least I the All-inclusive package

Along with everything already mentioned, All-inclusive also contains:

  • NASM’s Edge CPT Exam Prep
  • Gymternship™
  • Recertify for Life
  • CPR/AED Certification Online

I don’t think the All-inclusive package is necessary, even if you have the money to spend, the extras included just won’t give you much of a significant edge, ironic since one of those extras is literally a self-proclaimed “Edge”

So what do all these packages cost?

The Self-study package costs $649, while the Premium Self-study, Guided Study, and All-inclusive cost $909, $1,169, and $1,754, respectively at the moment with the discounts.

This makes NASM one of the most expensive certification providers, and while NSCA is not the cheapest personal trainer certification

You can kick off your NASM exam prep before you buy anything by checking out my free NASM study guide and practice exam.

For a better deal on premium NASM study guides, I recommend the Trainer Academy CPT MVP Package, which is quite popular with my students.

Don’t forget to check out the NSCA official site for up to date pricing guides.

Prerequisites: NSCA and NASM Certification Requirements

Prerequisites are there to safeguard the quality and integrity of qualifying candidates.

Make sure those that enroll in an academic program are up to the task and can do so within the bounds of any laws or bylaws.

When it comes to personal training certifications, the prerequisites are pretty basic.

All you need to provide to gain access to either NASM or NSCA is the following:

  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Be at least 18 years 
  • Have current first responder certifications (First Aid, CPR, AED)

Information On The Tests and Recertification: NASM vs NSCA

Now I’d like to go into the final exam and discuss how it’s structured.

I feel it’s important to have a good grasp of what to expect in the exam so you can prepare for any potential surprises and to have a sense of calm confidence when writing.

Finding the easiest exam option might end up being the deciding factor, so it’s worth knowing

This doesn’t mean I’ll be sharing any test answers as that would not only be impossible, but highly illegal.

What I’ll do instead is give you the structure of the exam from a technical perspective and the content layout.

I’ll also delve into recertification and the procedures behind maintaining your certification including CEUs (continuing education credits).

Now, let’s look at these personal trainer certification exams.

NSCA Certification

The NSCA CPT exam is a 155 question test. 140 of those questions are scored, while 15 are non-scored questions.

The non-scored questions are impossible to distinguish from those that will earn you points. They are there to test their viability for future exams.

Since you can’t tell them apart, it’s best to answer all questions possible.

The passing grade is 70% which you have 3 hours to achieve

The exam curriculum is broken down and weighted as follows:

  1. Client Consultation/Assessment 23%
  2. Program Planning 32%
  3. Techniques of Exercise 31%
  4. Safety, Emergency Procedures and Legal Issues 14%

The most recent personal trainer statistics present that 72% of test-takers pass the NSCA exam. An NSCA retake for the exam is quite costly, too.

This shows me that the test has an adequate entry barrier, but one which isn’t prohibitive, so while it’s not the easiest personal trainer certification, it’s certainly not the hardest.

As for recertification,  you’ll be required to submit 6.0 CEUs after every three years from the initial certification.

In most cases, you’ll need to recertify after just two years.

NASM Certification

The NASM CPT final test runs for two hours and consists of 120 multiple-choice questions.

The passing grade is 70%, of which current statistics indicate a 64% pass rate.

This puts NASM’s CPT certification exam as one of the most difficult, so you better get to work if you want that cert.

The exam content breaks down as follows:

  1. Basic and Applied Sciences and Nutritional Concepts 15%
  2. Client Relations and Behavioral Coaching 15%
  3. Assessment 16%
  4. Program Design 20%
  5. Exercise Technique and Training Instruction 24%
  6. Professional Development and Responsibility 10%

As I mentioned, the common trend with certifications is recertifying after two years. NSCA requires renewal after three years, but in NASM’s case, the two-year validity period is in place.

For this, you will need to submit 2.0 CEUs and pay a small recertification fee.

Review Methodology

My review process involved combing through official content and study material to give you insider insight.

I used the current course material, mainly relying on the course textbook for information regarding the curriculum and syllabus structure.

Use of other materials such as the study guide/workbook and exam also added to the overall outcome.

Lastly, the analysis of reviews and forum posts by prospective, current, and past candidates added to the pot of review data.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Conclusion: Which is the best personal training certification, NASM or NSCA?

Which is the best between NASM and NSCA?

That isn’t a question with a clear objective answer.

Both of these are nationally recognized personal training certifications and are therefore valid and relevant.

There are many areas where NSCA is stronger than NASM and many where NASM is stronger than NSCA.

At the end of the day, it all hinges on your preferred approach to a career as a fitness instructor, how long you want to take to become a personal trainer or the business model of your personal trainer business.

Some people might want to focus more on working in the sporting field, while others would prefer more general population interactions.

The truth is, the bulk of the fitness industry lies in the hands and wallets of general population members, those with fundamental needs and goals.

For that reason, NASM would be your best choice.

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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30 thoughts on “NASM vs NSCA – The Best of The Best 2023”

  1. PTPioneer User

    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. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      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. PTPioneer User

      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. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

        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. PTPioneer User

    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. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      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. PTPioneer User

    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. PTPioneer User

    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. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      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. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      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. PTPioneer User

    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. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      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. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      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. PTPioneer User

    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. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      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. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      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. PTPioneer User

    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. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      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. PTPioneer User

    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. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      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. PTPioneer User
    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. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      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. PTPioneer User

    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. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      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. PTPioneer User

    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. Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

      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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