NSCA Review 2021 - NSCA certification Cost, Value and More!

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    This is undoubtedly the most incisive and all-inclusive review of the NSCA CPT certification in 2021.

    I’ll be reviewing:

    NSCA Membership
    NSCA Professional Development
    Continuing Education Units

    Allow my 10+ experience to work for you.

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

    Without much ado, let’s get right into it!


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      Before we get started, I have three important things to tell you:

      1. I have free study guides and practice tests for the NSCA CPT here.
      2. Trainer Academy has fantastic study materials and they offer an NSCA exam pass guarantee.
      3. My Running Start course is 100% free and will guide you A to Z to starting your PT career.

      Hey everybody, Coach Tyler in the house. Welcome to my official NSCA review.

      Did you know that NSCA is one of the oldest and most recognizable certifications in the industry?

      In this article, you will find out the kinds of trainers that should study for NSCA cert.

      You will determine whether or not it is a good option for you.

      Make sure to also check out my article that covers the 5 greatest CPT personal training certifications (of which NSCA is listed) as well my guide on becoming a trainer from step number one.

      So, is NSCA legit? Let’s find out.

      NSCA CPT Video Review

      Podcast For Those On The Go

      NSCA Pros and Cons


      • Very well-recognized certification
      • Extremely detailed textbook
      • Recertification every three years instead of the average two years
      • Exam questions are of standard
      • NSCA certification is well recognized in the fitness industry


      • Besides the certification handbook/textbook, a weak variety of study materials
      • Does not prepare you for how difficult the test is

      Similar to ACSM, the NSCA provides two different tiers of certifications. The certification that I will be talking about in this article is their “general” certification.

      NSCA does certify other fitness professionals in other fields namely; Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Certified Special Population Specialist (CSPS), and Certified Tactical Strength and Conditioning Facilitator.

      The education needed to be a personal trainer for this advanced certifications, you are required to have a bachelor’s degree as it is one of the most prestigious certifications in the fitness industry.

      I have a completely different article reviewing their CSCS certification.

      The NSCA certification is one of the oldest certifications around. It is one of the hardest tests to pass as well.

      I would highly recommend shadowing a personal trainer who is already certified as part of your study regimen.

      A personal fitness trainer salaries is very good. This industry allows you to enjoy your work while you earn at the same time! 

      Now, let’s jump right into the full NSCA review.

      NSCA Review: General Information

      General Information

      In this section, you’ll be introduced to the prerequisites for getting NSCA CPT – certified.

      Come along with me on this exciting journey!

      The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) has been around since 1978 and quickly came to the forefront of the fitness industry.

      It is now one of the gold standard certifications and is recognized by every employer that I talk to.

      In order to get certified, you need to meet some prerequisites.

      • You must have a high school diploma,
      • A current CPR/AED card, and be 18 years old

      The NSCA has been leading the field in professional standards since the very beginning. They were the first certifying agency to be accredited by the NCCA. Since they became established in 1978, the NSCA has certified 9600 individuals.

      Compared to other organizations, that number is not as high as expected.

      This is probably because they have such a low pass rate in the past.

      In any case, it remains an important credential to have if you plan to go far in the fitness industry.

      Why NSCA?

      NSCA is a non-profit organization that has been certifying fitness professionals in the industry for a long time.

      Given that it is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), it has some credence, having weathered many storms in the past.

      Why NSCA?

      In other words, more recent certifying agencies may be giving it a run for its money, but it is still relevant in the fitness world.

      It is not too expensive, when compared with other certifications, and is also not difficult to scale through. These dual features make it a worthy certification to consider.

      NSCA membership


      With NSCA CPT, there are different membership plans to suit your need.

      All you need is a guide to choose the perfect one for you.

      Given my years of experience, I am qualified to play that role.

      Join me as I elucidate more on each plan below!

      This segment is for you to discover how NSCA membership plans can be of great benefit to you.

      Why bother study and take the exam; why become a member; and why put in so much effort to ensure your remain certified?

      There are three NSCA membership costs and plans and you should check out the one that suits you below to answer the questions above.

      NSCA Professional Members

      NSCA professional members have access to five strength and conditioning journals. These evidenced-based journals increase knowledge about the latest discovery in the fitness industry.

      This NSCA membership opens access to a lot and costs $120 a year.

      You wouldn’t want to miss that!

      NSCA Student Membership

      Next, they have student membership.

      This package offers students a discount on certifications of their choice, access to events, and continuing education quiz questions.

      NSCA Student Membership

      This student membership plan opens access to lots of important information, from journals to research work and many more offers, that will make you not only pass your NSCA CPT exams but also help you forge ahead in your career.

      This membership cost $65 a year

      NSCA CPI Membership

      The third one is the CPI membership.

      This membership package is the cream de la cream of all the packages.

      It is robust and you can even get insurance cover thrown into the mix.

      To qualify for NSCA membership, one must be certified with any of the NSCA certificates, including Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists (CSCS), Certified Personal Trainers CPT), Tactical Strength and Conditioning- Facilitators (TSAC-F) or Certified Special Populations Specialists (CSPS)

      This membership will cost you $349 a year

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      NSCA Certification Overview


      What is the NSCA certification all about?

      I’ll explain what it entails in clear terms to give you a clearer picture of it.

      You’ll appreciate the heads-up.

      Let’s get into it right away!

      To really get to the depth of a topic like this, the certification overview is a must. You need to know what the certification you are about to obtain means and how to obtain it.

      NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer

      All NSCA certified fitness professionals are well-trained health/fitness professionals.

      Their job is targeted at using an individualized approach to evaluate and motivate clients. They also train and educate these clients with respect to individual personal health and fitness requirements.

      An NSCA certified personal trainer has a basic knowledge of prescribing effective and safe exercise regimes.

      Additionally, they teach clients and guide them towards achieving their personal health/fitness objectives as well as how to appropriately respond in emergency situations.

      They know where their jurisdiction ends, by quickly transferring their client to healthcare practitioners when necessary.

      In other words, they do not go overboard when doing their job.

      Personal Trainer duties with the general population are less risky compared to the other certifications.

      It is no surprise, then, that the Personal Training Certification is the most common of all in the health fitness industry and they are also the most sought after by people.

      Personal training is a well-paying job in the health and body fitness industry as you may have noticed from online and offline job boards advertising for qualified pros in the industry.

      Take a chance and join the NSCA today!

      NSCA Professional Development


      This section will show you the vast career opportunities open to you as a certified NSCA Personal Trainer.

      I’ll show you the places where you can work with the certification.

      If you are ready, let’s go on!

      The NSCA job board is a platform where Certified Personal Trainers can access available jobs in the industry.

      All they need do is browse available jobs and apply online through the electronic recruitment platform.

      The good part of this is that the jobs are posted by NSCA members too; so, you are most likely going to find someone more experienced in the industry to guide you (if you are successful with the application).

      It’s a win-win for everyone in the industry: employers get to find the most qualified, and job seekers use it as a one-stop-shop to find relevant jobs that will enhance their skills further, and of course, pay the bills.

      It is obvious that the NSCA cares about their certified fitness and health professionals and as such, focus on how to help them get job opportunities.

      Vets are welcome too!

      This is an opportunity for ex-military personnel that desire to earn some income from their years of training in the field.

      They train other people on how to maintain body balance, promote wellness, and ultimately reduce the risk of sustaining injury when working in the field.

      A vet who wants to take his/her skills to a higher pedestal and earning a good income from same is encouraged to become one of the highly sought-after Tactical Strength and Conditioning coaches with NSCA.

      Tactical Strength and Conditioning coaches with NSCA

      NSCA professional development materials help these highly skilled people a great deal too.

      In any case, this is a completely separate program designed entirely for professionals that have experience in applying scientific knowledge to military, fire and rescue, law enforcement, as well as protective services.

      Because nothing is certain in the world of exercising, this program prepares these vets for rapid response in the face of challenges (considering that they are now in the civil space where their skills might prove too intense for comfort among “ordinary” folks).

      After gaining mastery in strength conditioning for civilians, the NSCA then certifies them as qualified professionals in the health and fitness industry.

      Can I get a job as a Personal Trainer outside the gym?

      Absolutely yes!

      The beauty of the NSCA Personal Trainer certification is that you can work in other settings beyond a traditional gym.

      All that is needed is to learn how to sell yourself as a personal trainer and make use of applications created to make your job easier.

      For instance, NSCA-certified experts are highly sought after in high schools all over the United States.

      Although high school students are very delicate – body-wise, those interested in sports and athletics are signed up to strength and conditioning training as part of their routines.

      Can I get a job as a Personal Trainer outside the gym?

      This is where you come in.

      High schools with Rugby, American Football, Soccer, Gymnastics, and even Swimming sports programs, among others require the services of a Personal Trainer to supplement the work of the head coach.

      While the latter takes the kids in matters of strategy and tactics, your job is to ensure that these young athletes are fit, strong, and able to perform at optimal levels.

      Note, however, that some schools employ PT experts on a part-time basis and the fees vary across states and even sports.

      The NSCA CPT Test

      CPT Test

      Are you worried about not making the exam pass rate?

      Fret not! I’ve got all bases covered with a breakdown of what the NSCA CPT test looks like.

      Let’s get cracking!

      NSCA has, quite possibly, the most challenging test in the entire fitness industry.

      The test contains 155 multiple choice questions in a format designed to be answered within 3 hours. Among the 155 questions, you have 15 experimental questions.

      The non-scored questions are there just to test the knowledge of the candidate considering that they are not going to contribute to failing or passing the candidate.

      Some of the questions are based on videos.

      You need to make sure you are fully prepared before you attempt to take the test.

      NSCA certification exams are conducted on computers all year round at accredited Pearson VUE test centers all over the world.

      The maximum possible score is 100; however, a candidate must score a minimum of 70 in order to pass the NCSA exam.

      Personal Trainer test

      The test covers four areas that you should concentrate on during your exam preparation:

      • Client Consultation/Fitness Assessment
      • Program Planning
      • Techniques of Exercise
      • Safety, Emergency Procedures and Legal Issues

      The NCSA holds all candidates’ scores until it receives copies of their education certificate and their CPR and AED certificates.

      All NCSA members get a discount on the registration fee.

      Personal Trainer test

      Most of the candidates that attempt the exams for the first time get as much as a 56% pass rate.

      I would advise that you go over the “particular population’s section” of your textbook in detail. The test has a lot of questions in this area.

      Note that most of the questions in the exams are not based on what you have read from the textbooks.

      At this point, I’ll strongly recommend that you find and join the closest exam prep clinic to gain more insights from experts.

      The clinic is a 2-day event that blends hands-on practical training with lectures covering everything you need to know before attempting the exams.

      This exam prep prepares you by testing your basic knowledge and skills that are required for the course.

      Pretty helpful, if you ask me.

      NSCA CPT Study Materials

      Study Materials

      Here, you’ll learn about the various study guides you can access to ace your certification exams.

      Trust me, if you study them properly, a 99% exam pass is possible!

      Come learn how to benefit optimally from them!

      NSCA CPT Study Guide

      I’ll advise you to purchase NSCA Personal Trainer Practice kit. This practice kit contains 300 questions, it cost $29.95.

      There is another study material, NSCA-CPT Essential Plus Package. This study material is for beginners, and you will learn in detail what Personal Training is about.

      This study material cost $567.

      NSCA CPT Study Guide

      Next is the NSCA-CPT Essential Package. This material is for those that already have degrees but need minimal resources that talk about Personal Training.

      This will cost you $323.

      Any or all of these materials will adequately prepare you for the NSCA exams.

      Beyond being a preparatory guide, it has loads of practical ideas and can be used as a reference material towards the main exam.

      Going through the platform exposes students to the scope and type of grilling they will be facing when the time comes.

      With such a platform in place, you can tell if you are ready for the exam or not – or know which area to put more effort to achieve maximum success.

      Take a look at my NSCA exam FAQ and NSCA test prep article for more information.

      Also, you can start studying right away with my free NSCA practice test and study guide here.

      There are other free materials from other certifying agencies; free NASM study guide, ACE free study guide, and also have free CSCS materials on my page.

      Otherwise, cut your study time in half with Trainer Academy study materials here.

      NSCA Certification Cost


      Well, there are some financial obligations to be fulfilled before writing the NSCA CPT exams.

      In this section, I’ll reveal the cost implications to you.

      Don’t be scared! It won’t drain your bank account.

      Let’s find out more below!

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      You are required to be a member of NSCA to take their test.

      You are also expected to write your exams within 120 days of registering for the NSCA CPT exams.

      If you are currently not a member, however, you should expect to pay around $435 for the membership as well as the exam.

      If you are already a member, the cost is approximately $300.

      They offer two different options for taking the test. They have a paper and pencil test as well as a computerized version, unlike the ISSA test, that is strictly online.

      After you purchase their certification, you have one year to study for and take the test.

      I suggest reviewing for at least six months to be fully prepared.

      The only exception to this rule is if you have a strong background in kinesiology.

      NSCA provides practice tests on their website. I highly recommend checking these out so you can find out how prepared you are, as well as what areas you need to improve upon.

      NSCA offers very little with respect to study materials even though they provide a massive textbook that is pretty daunting to go through.

      This textbook will cost you approximately $89 if you purchase it through their website. I’m sure you can find used versions on Amazon much more cheaply.

      Continuing Education Unit


      After certification, what next?

      To stay relevant and up to date with knowledge and skills in the personal training industry, You have to keep learning.

      I’ll explain the things you need to do to get re-certified.

      Stay with me on this journey!

      NSCA requires everyone holding their certificates to take a continuing education course within three years of obtaining the certification to be recertified.

      You are to take the short courses so that you can remain relevant in the fitness industry.

      As you may know too, scientific knowledge keeps evolving and getting better by the day and that is evidenced in the fact that there are always new and better methods compared to the way things are currently done in the industry.

      For this reason, continuing education is required to ensure that certified professionals are steadily competent in delivering services to their clients.

      As an NSCA accredited member, you will have open access to SCJ bi-monthly. Each issue of the journal contains an article with an accompanying quiz.

      Also, you would be required to renew your Exercise Science-related college assessed grades as well as all approved internships.

      NSCA foundations of fitness programming – Your PT work is highly valuable

      The NSCA foundation fitness program was created as a CEUs to help bridge the gap for personal fitness training professionals.

      This foundation provides an environment for research work for all certified PT professionals that are willing to add to the body of knowledge in the industry.

      It serves as a resource and educational tool for NSCA personal trainers to design training programs swiftly and effectively, which are progressive in nature and specific to the needs and goals of their clients.

      The good thing is that you do not need to be a doctoral candidate or an academic in a university to take part in this.

      In fact, your work as a PT professional in the field, one who is actually using the knowledge and skills to help people, makes you an ideal candidate to create and add new content to existing study materials.

      Your failures, successes, challenges, and recommendations picked up in the field are so valuable – and could be worth more than anything an academic may theorize about.

      For me, this is one of the best things about NSCA: you do not only get value from the certification but also add value to the lives of many other prospective PT professionals who would study your work in the future.

      Awesome; isn’t it?


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      I am sure you have gleaned a ton of information from this article.

      You can go ahead to make use of them in the best way you can.

      So, kick off your personal training career in grand style by becoming an NSCA Certified Personal Trainer.


      My overall ranking:

      NSCA certification rating

      If you’re still trying to pick the right certification for you, take the quiz to guide you in the right direction.

      Overall, NSCA is one of the top personal training certifications in the fitness industry.

      I would put this NSCA personal training certification in my top four even though the test is tough – which, I think, is a good thing.

      Start studying NSCA right here for free and if you want to cut your study time in half and get an exam pass guarantee, check out Trainer Academy for their NSCA study materials here.

      Another advantage this certification has over others is that you don’t need to get recertified for three whole years.

      Most certifications require you to get recertified every two years.

      As a member of NSCA, you will have access to The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. This journal has many peer-reviewed articles that are great for keeping you up-to-date in the field.

      NSCA is a prestigious certification that ranks with NASM, ACSM, and ACE; I strongly suggest you check out some of my comparison articles, such as ACE vs NSCA and NSCA vs NASM, so that you can see which certification would suit you best.

      The most significant disadvantage of this certification is that they provide very little study materials, especially considering how difficult the test is. You check ACE, NASM and other exams for more information

      If you are not good at specifically studying out of the textbook, you will have trouble with this certification.

      I wish they had more online resources, videos or flashcards to aid in studying.

      This is where other specific certifications have a leg up on NSCA.

      You can find informative articles about other types of personal trainer certifications and how much do personal trainers make all on my page.

      Currently, my two favorite certifications are NASM and ACE due to their industry recognition, excellent curriculum, and extensive study material options.

      Check out my comparison article on those two certifications. If you want to know more about NSCA, I suggest you check out their website. Let me know what you think in the comment section right after the FAQs!

      NSCA Certification FAQ