CSCS Certification

  • Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)

    Strength & conditioning coach assisting athlete

    Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists (CSCSs) are professionals who apply scientific knowledge to train athletes for the primary goal of improving athletic performance. 

    They conduct sport-specific testing sessions, design and implement safe and effective strength training and conditioning programs and provide guidance regarding nutrition and injury prevention. 

    Recognizing that their area of expertise is separate and distinct, CSCSs consult with and refer athletes to other professionals when appropriate.

    Athlete performing box jumps

    CSCS Exam Format

    The CSCS exam is offered in two formats:

    Paper/Pencil Exam

    The paper/pencil format of the exam is offered at predetermined sites and dates all across the world. If the required documentation that supports the prerequisites has been submitted to the NSCA scores will be mailed 6-8 weeks after the exam.

    View Exam Dates 

    Computer-Based Exam - Available in the U.S. ONLY

    Exams are administered by computer at more than 160 AMP Assessment Centers across the United States. Assessments are typically located in specific H&R Block offices.  After you have registered for the Computer-based exam, you will receive an email with instructions on how to schedule your exam within 3-5 business days from AMP. 

    Candidates can schedule up to two days before the testing date. Exams must be taken within 120 days of registering. If the required documentation that supports the prerequisites has been submitted to the NSCA at least 10 days prior to the exam, scores are received immediately after the exam. 

    Find an Exam Location 

    CSCS Paper/Pencil Exam Cost

    Member Pricing (Student and Professional Membership only)

      EARLY REGISTRATION DEADLINE  REGISTRATION CUTOFF 
    Exam Registration $260 $295
    Retake Fee for Both Sections $210 $245
    Retake Fee for One Section $165 $200

    Non-Member Pricing

      EARLY REGISTRATION DEADLINE  REGISTRATION CUTOFF 
    Exam Registration $395 $430
    Retake Fee for Both Sections $345 $380
    Retake Fee for One Section $300 $335

    CSCS Computer-Based Exam Cost

    Member Pricing (Student and Professional Membership only)

      REGISTRATION FEE 
    Exam Registration $310
    Retake Fee for Both Sections $260
    Retake Fee for One Section $215

    Non-Member Pricing

      REGISTRATION DEADLINE 
    Exam Registration $445
    Retake Fee for Both Sections $395
    Retake Fee for One Section $350

    Description

    To earn the CSCS credential, candidates are required to pass a challenging written examination that includes two sections. The first section contains 80 scored and 10 non-scored multiple-choice questions, and the second section contains 110 scored and 10 non-scored multiple-choice questions.

    The exam consists of two sections: 

    1. Scientific Foundations Section 
    2. Applied Section 

    Scientific Foundations

    The Scientific Foundations section, which is 1.5 hours in length, consists of 80 scored multiple-choice questions and 10 non-scored multiple-choice questions designed to assess a candidate's knowledge in the areas of exercise sciences (57 scored questions on anatomy, exercise physiology, biomechanics, etc.) and nutrition (23 scored questions).

    Domain   Percent of Exam Section   Number of Questions  
    Exercise Science 71% 57
    Nutrition 29% 23
    Non-scored Questions *  - 10
    Total  
    100%  
    90 
    Length of exam section  
    1.5 hours 

    Exercise Sciences: Anatomy, bioenergetics, exercise physiology, biomechanics, acute and chronic adaptations to anaerobic and aerobic exercise, etc.

    Nutrition: Factors affecting health and sport performance.


    Practical/Applied

    The Practical/Applied section, which is 2.5 hours in length, consists of 110 scored multiple-choice questions and 10 non-scored multiple-choice questions pertaining to program design, exercise techniques, testing and evaluation and organization/administration. 

    Forty of these are in conjunction with a video, which mainly assesses competencies in exercise techniques, functional anatomy and testing procedures. This section contains 40 scored questions on program design, 39 scored questions on exercise techniques, 20 scored questions on testing and evaluation and 11 scored questions on organization/administration.

    Section and Domain   Percent of Exam Section   Number of Questions  
    Exercise Technique 36% 39
    Program Design 36% 40
    Organization and Administration 10% 11
    Testing and Evaluation 18% 20
    Non-scored Questions *  - 10
    Total  
    100%  
    120  
    Length of Exam Section   
    2.5 hours 

    Exercise Technique: Correct flexibility, conditioning, plyometric and resistance training exercise techniques.

    Program Design: Anaerobic and aerobic training programs based upon an athlete's sport, strength and conditioning levels and training goals.

    Organization and Administration: Policies and procedures, staffing, layout and safety guidelines of a strength and conditioning facility.

    Testing and Evaluation: Proper performance test selection, administration and evaluation of results based on the athlete's sport, strength and conditioning levels and training goals


    * Explanation of Non-Scored Exam Questions

    The CSCS exam contains non-scored questions that are being "pretested" or evaluated for future use. Including this type of question allows the CSCS Exam Development Committee to collect meaningful information about new questions that may appear as real scored questions on future exams.

    Pretesting is accomplished by interspersing new ("untried") questions throughout the exam (10 non-scored questions appear in each section of the CSCS exam). Only this small number is included so that additional testing time will not be needed by exam candidates. These questions are not scored as part of a candidate's certification exam, and they do not affect an individual's pass/fail status. The non-scored questions are scattered throughout the exam so candidates will answer them with the same effort that they give to the actual scored questions.

    To keep the CSCS exam reflective of current job-related duties, new questions must continuously be introduced and evaluated. Pretesting is an accepted testing practice that creates a statistically sound standardized exam and allows candidates to receive scores that are based only on previously used ("tried") questions. Non-scored pretest questions also appear on the computer-based exam format to provide the same testing experience to all candidates, regardless of which exam format a candidate chooses.

    Please note: A strength training and conditioning professional must write effective and well-defined training programs for a wide variety of sports, including those that he/she did not actually participate in or play. The examination questions evaluate the person's knowledge in the areas of anaerobic and aerobic training programs based upon an athlete's sport, strength and conditioning levels and training goals as well as proper performance test selection, administration and evaluation of results based on the athlete's sport.  

    Exam Prerequisites

    **Please do not send in your supporting documentation until AFTER you have registered for an exam.**

    Within the United States and Canada: To be eligible to take the CSCS examination, candidates must hold at least a bachelor's degree or currently be enrolled as a college senior from an institution that is accredited by one of the six regional accrediting associations:  

    1. Middle States Commission on High Education 
    2. Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (CIHE) of the New England Association of Schools 
    3. North Central Association of Colleges and Schools 
    4. Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities 
    5. Western Association of Schools and Colleges 
    6. Southern Association of Colleges and Schools  

    Outside the United States and Canada: Candidates must hold at least a bachelor's degree as defined by the United States educational system or currently be enrolled as a college senior in a college/university recognized by the ministry of education in that particular country, as a degree-granting institution on the same level as other universities recognized with campuses in that country.


    Bachelor's Degree or Higher

    •  Registrants must submit an original, official transcript of their academic work, showing attainment of at least a bachelor's degree (BS/BA) or chiropractic medicine degree granted by an accredited institution.        
     
    • Exam scores will not be released until we have received an official transcript. Transcripts must be mailed or submitted using your college/universities e-Docs account. Faxed, scanned and emailed copies will not be accepted.        
     
    • International Candidates (except Canada): A photocopy of the final transcript, degree diploma or certificate that was received at the completion of your degree program is acceptable.        
     
    Note: Transcripts will not be returned.

    College Seniors

    • Individuals enrolled as seniors at colleges or universities are eligible to sit for the CSCS examination. Candidates must be currently enrolled in an accredited institution (see above). The NSCA will not release exam scores until transcripts verifying graduation and noting the degree earned have been received.       
     
    • College seniors will receive a pass/fail notification in lieu of actual exam scores. However, college seniors who pass the CSCS exam do not become CSCS certified until:     
     
    • (1) They have graduated from college; and        
     
    • (2) The NSCA Certification receives their original, official transcript verifying graduation and the degree earned.       
     
    • Once the NSCA Certification receives the required documentation (original, official transcript verifying graduation and the degree earned), the NSCA Certification will release the actual score reports and certificates (if passed).          
     

    Note: Exam scores are valid one year from the date the exam was taken. The NSCA must receive the original, official transcript verifying graduation and the degree earned BEFORE the one year mark has passed. After that date, exam scores are considered NULL and VOID and the exam must be re-taken.


    CPR and AED Certification

    • To be eligible to take the CSCS examination, candidates must hold current CPR and AED certification. Registrants must submit a copy of current CPR/AED certification card.       
     
    • If you do not have current CPR and AED certification, you can still register for and take the CSCS exam. The NSCA Certification will accept any adult CPR and AED certification obtained by attending a CPR and AED course that meets the following criteria:        
     
    • (1) Must have a hands-on training component (certification through a course completed entirely online will not be accepted); and        
     
    • (2) Must include a skills performance evaluation.        
     

    Examples of accepted CPR and AED certification include:  

    • American Heart Association (Heartsaver)
    • Red Cross (including Blended Learning First Aid/CPR/AED Program)
    • National Safety Council
    • St. John Ambulance

    The NSCA Certification will not release exam scores until documentation of valid CPR and AED certification has been received.  

    Note: Exam scores are valid one year from the date the exam was taken. The NSCA must receive documentation of valid CPR and AED certification BEFORE the one year mark has passed. After that date, exam scores are considered NULL and VOID and the exam must be re-taken.   


    Please mail your supporting documentation to: 

    1885 Bob Johnson Drive
    Colorado Springs, CO 80906
    FAX: 719-632-6367 (copies of CPR/AED only)
    Email: ronda.manzella@nsca.com (copies of CPR/AED only)

    Prepare

    Since candidates with diverse backgrounds take the CSCS exam, it is difficult to recommend a single approach when preparing to take the exam. An academic background in an exercise science/physiology, strength training and conditioning, physical therapy or athletic training related curriculum provides the ideal foundation from which a candidate may begin to prepare for the CSCS exam. However, there are candidates without an exercise science-related degree, but with a significant amount of professional experience who want to take the CSCS exam. Therefore, candidates should follow the portion of this document that best reflects their academic background.


    Candidates with an Academic Background

    Candidates who have an exercise science-related degree can use the CSCS exam preparation materials in this manner:

    1.  Take a CSCS Practice Exam
    2. Use the practice exam scores to identify the knowledge areas that need further review
    3. Consult the CSCS Exam Content Description booklet and Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, Third Edition textbook to learn more about the knowledge areas that require additional study
    4. Study the other exam preparation materials, if necessary
    5. Take a different CSCS Practice Exam to reassess your increased knowledge base
    6. Decide if further study of the exam preparation materials is needed; if not, register for the CSCS exam

     The philosophy of this strategy is to focus exam preparation on weak content areas, rather than reviewing all exercise science-related concepts (since they were initially learned in an academic environment). 


    Candidates without an Academic Background

    Candidates who do not have an exercise science-related degree can follow these steps to use the CSCS exam preparation materials:

    1. Refer to the CSCS Exam Content Description booklet to discover the content and scope of the CSCS exam and to decide if more formal instruction or classes are necessary
    2. Study exam preparation material
    3. Take a CSCS Practice Exam 
    4. Use the practice exam scores to identify the knowledge areas requiring further study
    5. Go back to the other exam preparation materials, if needed
    6. Take a different CSCS Practice Exam to reassess your increased knowledge base
    7. Decide if further study of the exam preparation materials is needed; if not, register for the CSCS exam

    The philosophy of this strategy is to first review all exercise science-related concepts, assess what was learned via the practice exams and then focus exam preparation on weak content areas.

    The ideas presented here are merely suggestions to assist exam candidates in the studying process. They should not be considered as the only method to prepare for the CSCS exam. Ultimately, it will be each candidate’s academic, experiential and test-taking abilities that dictate how effective the preparation materials are. Also, while understanding the information presented in the preparation materials should certainly increase the likelihood of passing the CSCS exam, it does not guarantee a successful performance. The questions on the CSCS exam are developed from resources in addition to these materials (refer to the Additional Textbook References list).

    Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning textbook cover

    CSCS Study Materials

    The CSCS examination reflects the most current and accepted KSA standards within the health and fitness industries. Further, the examinations may be developed from references that may be in addition to resources listed below. NSCA materials survey important content area, but are not a comprehensive study of the Exercise Sciences.

    NSCA Publications can be purchased in the NSCA Store.

    Suggested NSCA Resources:

    CSCS Exam Detailed Booklet

    Purchase a Study Material Package 

    Additional NSCA Resources in Partnership with Human Kinetics:

     

    Additional Resources:  


    Exam Prep Symposium

    The NSCA offers a two-day Exam Prep Symposium.  This event covers the most relevant topics related to the CSCS certification exam. To view upcoming Exam Prep Symposiums, click here 

    The Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) program was created in 1985 to identify individuals who possess the knowledge and skills to design and implement safe and effective strength and conditioning programs for athletes in a team setting. The credentialing program encourages a higher level of competence among practitioners and raises the quality of strength training and conditioning programs provided by those who are CSCS certified.

    Today, more than 21,000 professionals from a variety of academic and professional backgrounds hold this prestigious credential. This diverse group includes strength coaches, athletic trainers, physical therapists, personal trainers, physicians, chiropractors, researchers and educators. The CSCS is the only strength training and conditioning certification to be nationally accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) and has been nationally accredited since 1993.