Hey everyone, and welcome to PT Pioneer, your ultimate guide to a career in fitness.
If you’ve ever wondered if NCCPT is worth it, this article will be your quintessential guide to the NCCPT certification for personal trainers.
To give you an authentic look and feel, we’ll be going into:
Without further delay, let’s jump straight into it.
Quick Breakdown: NCCPT CPT Certification
While you’ll get the best insight by reading the entire article, you can hone in on the following key aspects to gain a good idea of the certification’s crucial attributes:
- Relatively affordable
- NCCA Accredited
- Supported by ISSA
- NCCPT has been in this business for over 20 years
- Great for entry-level personal trainers
- The study guide appears to be vague in some aspects
- The exam scoring system is confusing to understand
- Not as well-received or recognized as other major certs
- A very generalized approach to health and fitness training
NCCPT General Information
- Exam cost: $599.00
- Study material cost: NONE (study material is optional)
- Prerequisites: CPR/AED, High School Diploma, government ID
- Exam passing score: Approx 73%
- Exam pass rate: 65% (2017 data)
- Average completion time: 3 to 9 months
Introduction: What is the NCCPT?
The National Council for Certified Personal Trainers, or NCCPT, was founded in 1995.
Its mission is to act as a quality control portal for fledgling fitness professionals seeking to enter the industry.
Their approach is very general as they offer the fundamentals in terms of how they equip qualifying candidates.
An interesting fact about NCCPT is that they are a wholly-owned subsidiary of ISSA, the International Sports Science Association.
ISSA is one of the most reputable organizations in the health and fitness credentialing space. Having their infrastructure, name, and resources prop up NCCPT’s offerings is a potentially good indication.
While considered a general introduction towards personal training, I can say from my review of the exam and course curriculum; they have a strong grasp of programming principles.
Being able to design comprehensive programs is a key aspect of results-driven personal training.
One area where NCCPT is lacking, which incidentally is a strong point when considering ISSA, is special populations training.
Outside of a few mentions on the importance and methodologies behind training senior and arthritic clients, there is no dedicated allocation in the curriculum for special population groups.
Despite its ties to ISSA, NCCPT is still relatively unrecognized and won’t garner as much notice as one of the legacy certs such as NASM, ACE, ACSM, or NSCA, to name a few.
Regardless, it is an NCCA accredited institute, and with that, you can rest assured that your credentials, and the knowledge they equip you with, measure up to industry standards.
But before you even dream of what an NCCPT cert brings in-store, let’s take a look at how you’ll arrive at success.
Let’s take a look at the content and study materials
NCCPT CPT Content Coverage: the Good and the Bad
Now, let’s take a look at the key aspects of personal training and determine how well NCCPT covers them to equip useful professionals.
Exercise Science Foundations Coverage
At the genesis of understanding, fitness instruction is understanding fitness itself, namely understanding exercise science and exercise physiology.
Each PT cert worth its salt will begin its curriculum with an introduction to exercise science. How well this is achieved can set the tone for how valuable the educational experience will be.
When it comes to NCCPT, the coverage done on exercise application stands to the task.
After reading through the exam content and matching it with what I can adopt from ISSA’s materials, I can confidently say that NCCPT has a firm grasp on this aspect.
The first Domain of the exam, Applied Science (Anatomy, Kinesiology, Physiology), starts us off with a good entry into the human body from a physical performance perspective.
The second Domain, Nutrition, follows through by providing a seamless transition into the deeper fundamentals of exercise biochemistry as influenced by dietary inputs.
As laid out in the exam, the curriculum then continues to highlight exercise science through domain 5 (Exercise Selection, Technique, and training Instruction).
This domain focuses on the correct implementation of exercise science principles toward an effective and safe instruction protocol.
Behavioral Coaching Coverage
Being an effective fitness instructor means taking a client from one state of health to a different, more elevated state of health.
In most cases, changing one’s state of health coincides with changing one’s mind.
Being able to influence behavioral change towards sustainable, health habits is a must-have skill.
NCCPT does touch on behavioral change or change psychology as it is commonly known, but the topic is skimmed over very briefly in the exam layout.
Behavioral change is most prominent in Domain 2: Nutrition, but even so, it’s a very light and uninvolved concept.
Having the skills to influence a client’s attitude towards their health is beneficial to them and you as a coach.
Your success adds to your accolades and credibility as a coach. In order to achieve results you can showcase, you need clients who comply with your instruction, achieved through correct behavioral change protocols.
If you want to get a grasp of behavioral change practices, check out The ISSA textbook, Fitness: The Complete Guide, Unit 12: The Drawing-In Phase.
Here you will learn the communication and influence skills required to inspire change in your clients.
Client Health Screening and Assessment Coverage
This is another category where NCCPT shines.
The attention towards client assessment, screening, and monitoring is pretty in-depth and is especially exemplified by Domain 5: Exercise Selection, Technique, and training Instruction.
In this domain, section B is specifically geared towards assessing a candidate’s knowledge on the correct methods towards monitoring a client’s progress as well as providing feedback and understanding what to assess.
Domain 3: Intake and Ongoing Evaluation is entirely focused on screening and assessment and tests the candidates’ knowledge on the correct movement assessments, something I’ll get into in a later section
Domain 4: Program Design and Implementation also caters to the screening and assessment process as it pertains to the initial phases of training a new client.
In order to design an effective and individual-relevant program, a clear set of assessments and consultations must take place.
Exclusive PTP Offers
|Gold Standard Cert||Most Popular Cert||A Good Option
|Best Study Materials||Best online PT course||The Top PT Software
You need to know:
- History of past or current injury
- Past or current medical conditions
- Any chronic conditions
- Current medication
These are covered effectively by NCCPT’s approach to programming and program design.
One drawback in this regard is the fact that the NCCPT package doesn’t include study materials and resources such as you would find with most major certifications.
I’m accustomed to having access to coaching resources such as the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q).
This standardized form is often indicated in course textbooks or workbooks, often with ready-to-use copies available for your convenience.
You can still gain access to these should you use ISSA’s CPT resources as the foundation of your study and exam prep.
Client Movement Screening Coverage
A more specific area of client assessment is movement screening.
Previously, we discussed general health screening in the way of preliminary and ongoing assessments.
To hone in on the specifics of exercise instruction, you, as a personal trainer, also need to understand the assessments around exercise methods and the biomechanical implications therein.
Movement assessments allow you to determine which exercises are good for your client and which ones are no-gos. It helps you determine your client’s limitations, strengths, and weaknesses, thus allowing you to develop a tailored approach.
As far as NCCPT goes, you have an entire domain, Domain 3, dedicated to the assessment of movement and biomechanics utilizing the standard assessment methods.
- The squat assessment
- The step assessment
- The pushup assessment
- The 12-minute run assessment
- Sit and reach test (RoM)
- Various postural assessments
The ISSA textbook, Fitness: The Complete Guide – Edition 9.0 places a good emphasis on movement and biomechanical assessments. Another reason I recommend it as study material.
Besides performance and alignment assessments, body composition assessments are a major part of your duties during the intake phase of dealing with clients.
Body fat assessments, BMI calculations, and weight assessments are crucial in the short and long term when training clients.
ISSA does a good job of highlighting these aspects, and the NCCPT exam assesses your grasp of them pretty well.
Resistance Training Coverage
Resistance training is a staple in any fitness program. You can’t really avoid it even if intense resistance and weight training aren’t on the agenda.
So it’s important to get it right; otherwise, at best, your clients won’t come close to their intended goals, and at the least, your client could get hurt.
A focus on form and technique is exemplified in Domain 5: Exercise Selection, Technique, and training instruction.
You will be able to gather the necessary knowledge to tackle this domain in the ISSA textbook’s unit 8 and unit 16.
In these units, you’ll learn about the different resistance exercises, the principles that govern them, safe practice, correct form, and technique, as well as the different types of equipment you can use to implement them.
This domain holds 15% of the exam’s score.
Special Populations Training Coverage
Special populations are defined as groups of individuals whose needs and capabilities fall outside of the average member of the population’s needs and abilities.
From a personal training perspective, special populations groups can come in the form of people with conditions or impediments that hinder normal training or people with very specialized fitness goals.
That means both a person with a disability and an elite professional athlete would fall into the category of special populations.
As far as NCCPT is concerned, the focus on special populations training is barely glossed over in Domain 4.
In my opinion, attention to special populations training methodology really should have a bigger spotlight.
Not only are we living in a world of more inclusive approaches, but we also need to understand special needs and how to navigate them for optimal results and safety.
As I mentioned, elite, high-performance athletes can also be considered special populations. As such, I feel their exclusion from the already limited scope of this category is a missed opportunity.
From a business and revenue perspective, understanding how to deal with high-performance athletes is a stepping stone to a high-income career in fitness.
Of course, the NCCPT CPT exam isn’t geared towards equipping you as a sports management specialist, but a hint at the prospect would have been cool.
Regardless of this, I do find the focus on special populations to be lackluster, however, ISSA has an entire domain or section dedicated to special populations training.
That means you can still gain an adequate grasp of this topic despite not being adequately assessed on it in the final test.
Aerobic Fitness Training Coverage
Aerobic training, commonly known as cardio, is the foundation of fitness, in my educated opinion.
You need a strong aerobic fitness base to successfully launch into other aspects of fitness sustainably.
Aerobic fitness can be implemented as the sole fitness model in a training program, especially where weight loss and metabolic conditioning are concerned.
So what does NCCPT do about aerobic or cardio training?
Very little. You’re only really challenged to know the difference between aerobic and anaerobic training and their benefits.
Training protocols surrounding cardio training aren’t heavily assessed in NCCPT.
As for our recommended reading, ISSA covers cardio fitness in Unit 9: Cardiovascular Training.
This unit lays the groundwork for a good understanding of the definition and function of cardio training as well as its numerous forms and applications.
Summary: NCCPT CPT Content
The NCCPT covers these concepts well:
- Exercise science
- Client risk factor screening
- Aerobic training
- Special populations
- Business skills
The NCCPT is disadvantaged in the following areas:
- Soecial populations training
- Behavioral change
- Aerobic/cardio training
NCCPT Certification Requirements
NCCPT’s prerequisites are fairly standard and consistent with other certs in the same category.
You must be at least 18 years of age, hold current CPR/AED certifications, and have a high school diploma or equivalent.
Study Materials: Quality and Price
The cost for NCCPT with the exam only is $599.00, making it one of the more affordable certs of those accredited by the NCCPT.
The drawback is that the package you purchase is just the NCCPT exam cost. No study material is included, meaning you’ll need to make separate purchases.
Added to this, there is no required reading or standard study material, which kind of means you’ll have to decide what you want as your textbook and materials.
If you purchase the NCCPT exam as part of the ISSA cert, you’ll have access to ISSA’s required reading.
For that, you’ll fork out $799.00.
Although I mentioned how NCCPT is a lesser-known certification provider, it still has a lot to offer.
After all, NCCA accreditations aren’t just handed out willy nilly.
When it comes to content and study material, however, NCCPT does fall a bit short as previously mentioned.
With your purchase of exam registration, most certifications offer a bare minimum suite of study materials.
This package typically includes the course text as well as a workbook or study guide.
In many cases, a certification will have multiple options for study packages, all with varying amounts of materials included and priced accordingly.
With NCCPT, you purchase the exam; then, you’re pretty much left to your own devices as far as study and prep materials are concerned.
In the candidate handbook, NCCPT does list some recommended reading, but none of it is required.
So what can or should you use to study and pass NCCPT?
I would go with the ISSA prescribed resources and materials.
Exclusive PTP Offers
|Gold Standard Cert||Most Popular Cert||A Good Option
|Best Study Materials||Best online PT course||The Top PT Software
For instance, ISSA’s course textbook is one of the most well-rounded reads I’ve experienced when it comes to PT exam prep material.
It covers all the fundamentals and adds some valuable insight when it comes to programming and the business of personal training.
Exam Structure and Difficulty
The current recorded pass rate for the NCCPT exam pass rate is 65%. That means on the scale of things, NCCPT is easier than it is hard.
Some students report the final exam being too easy, which kind of correlates with a high-ish pass rate.
ISSA’s personal trainer certification, for example, has an astronomical pass rate of 90%.
So while NCCPT is a lighter challenge than other certs, it certainly isn’t the easiest.
The exam structure is also a bit unique.
Instead of having a standard amount of points evenly distributed across all questions, NCCPT uses a scoring system that works on aggregate data rather than isolated, individual performance.
That means your score also depends on how well other students handle the same question.
Weird right? But with that said, we do have a fair estimate of the passing grade, which sits at 73%.
The exam consists of 125 multiple-choice questions and is a 120 min long paper.
NCCPT Recertification and CEUs
Recertification is an integral part of most personal training certifications. It is required in order to keep your certification current and relevant.
The reason behind this is for fitness professionals to maintain a degree of awareness and connectedness to the trends and standards that drive the practice of fitness instruction.
Recertification typically occurs every two years from initial certification and incurs a few requirements in order to be finalized.
The main requirement for eligibility is the submission of approved CEUs or continuing education units.
These act as proof that you’ve been making an effort to continue learning relevant and useful skills as a fitness professional.
As far as NCCPT is concerned, the recertification process requires the submission of 20 hours worth of CEUs or 2.0 CEUs as well as a nominal fee of $75.00.
CEUs can be obtained through various educational or practical activities such as gaining new certifications like the group exercise instructor, attending or contributing towards workshops, or participating in NCCPT sanctioned events.
NCCPT Review Methodology
My review of NCCPT was conducted after a thorough look at the current candidate’s handbook, exam, and ISSA study resources.
I also broadened my research using the following resources:
- Anecdotal evidence from past NCCPT candidates and certified professionals through forums and reviews
- Comparison with other similar certifications and cert providers in fitness and health care
- Inquiry into industry recognition and familiarity with NCCPT certs
- review of other NCCPT tests and certs such as group fitness
- use of both digital and hard copy materials
NCCPT Certification FAQ
NCCPT holds its own as a relevant certification program, especially for newcomers to the world of professional fitness.
The generalist approach and the foundational concepts make it a good way to embark on a career as a fitness pro.
It is also accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, or NCCA, making it a reliable and legitimate option.
NCCPT does fall short when it comes to its study package.
No study materials or required resources are included in the purchase, meaning you’ll need to make separate purchases and decide which resources are right.
NCCPT also doesn’t hold as much traction or recognition as other certifications in its category.
Despite this, it is usually well received by virtue of its accreditation and its association with ISSA.
Discover All PTP Fitness & Wellness Career Articles
Tick a box from each section to narrow the results.