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

    All NSCA English language exams, within the United States and internationally, are administered by Pearson VUE.  After you have registered to take an exam you will receive an email from Pearson VUE, within 2-3 business days, with instructions on how to schedule your exam. At that time, you will select the date, time and location you wish to take your exam. Exams must be taken within 120 days of registering. For more information on Pearson VUE or to locate the testing locations nearest to you, click the link below.  

    Pearson VUE

    CSCS® Exam Registration Fees

        Member Rate*     Non-member Rate
    Registration Fee   $340     $475
    Retake Fee for Both Sections   $340     $475
    Retake Fee for One Section   $250     $385

    *Student and Professional Membership Only

    Description

     

    To earn the CSCS® credential, candidates are required to pass a challenging written examination that includes two exam sections. 

    1. Scientific Foundations 
    2. Practical/Applied

    The Scientific Foundations exam contains 80 scored and 15 non-scored* multiple-choice questions, and the Practical/Applied exam contains 110 scored and 15 non-scored* multiple-choice questions.


    Scientific Foundations Summary

    The Scientific Foundations exam, which is 1.5 hours in length, is designed to assess a candidate's knowledge in the areas of exercise sciences (anatomy, exercise physiology, biomechanics, etc.) and nutrition.

    Domain   Percent of Exam Section   Number of Questions  
    Exercise Science 74% 59
    Nutrition 26% 21
    Non-scored Questions * - 15
    Total  
    100%  
    95
    Length of exam
    1.5 hours

    The information above is only a summary of the Scientific Foundations exam. The Detailed Content Outline is available in the Candidate Handbook.


    Practical/Applied Summary

    The Practical/Applied exam, which is 2.5 hours in length, is designed to assess a candidate's knowledge of program design, exercise techniques, testing and evaluation and organization/administration. 

    Approximately 30-40 questions are presented in conjunction with a video, which mainly assesses competencies in exercise techniques, functional anatomy and testing procedures

    .

    Section and Domain   Percent of Exam Section Number of Questions
    Exercise Technique 35% 38
    Program Design 35% 39
    Organization and Administration 12% 13
    Testing and Evaluation 18% 20
    Non-scored Questions * - 15
    Total  
    100%  
    125
    Length of Exam  
    2.5 hours

    The information above is only a summary of the Practical/Applied exam. The Detailed Content Outline is available in the Candidate Handbook. 


    * 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: exams@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 the CSCS Complete Online Practice Question Bundle.
    2. Use the practice question 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. 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 the CSCS Complete Online Practice Question Bundle.
    4. Use the practice question scores to identify the knowledge areas requiring further study.
    5. Go back to the other exam preparation materials, if needed.
    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 first review all exercise science-related concepts, assess what was learned via the practice questions 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).

    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  

    Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, 3rd Edition

    CSCS Exam Content Description Booklet

    Exercise Technique Manual for Resistance Training, 2nd Edition

    CSCS Workbook, Audio CDs & Assessments

    2-021Purchase a Study Package

    CSCS Complete Study Package

    CSCS Essential Study Package

    CSCS Complete Online Practice Question Bundle

    Additional NSCA Resources from Human Kinetics

    Strength Training Anatomy, 3rd Edition

    Sport Nutrition, 2nd Edition

    Exam Preparation Live Clinics

    The NSCA offers multiple exam prep live clinics. Learn More

    Additional NSCA Resources in Partnership with Human Kinetics:

    NSCA-CPT Online Study Course + Essentials Text (this package includes the required text Essentials of Personal Training, Second Edition)

    NSCA-CPT Online Study Course (this option does not include the required text, Essentials of Personal Training, Second Edition)

    NSCA-CPT Online Study Course + Essentials e-book (this package includes the e-book, Essentials of Personal Training, Second Edition)