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The SCJ is the professional
journal for strength coaches, personal trainers, physical therapists, athletic
trainers, and other health professionals working in the strength and conditioning
Earn CEUs. Browse the list of NSCA approved home study courses and live events.
Check out the newest offering in the NSCA's Sport Performance Series.
Exam Candidate Handbook
Certified Special Population Specialist (CSPSs) are fitness professionals who, using an individualized approach, assess, motivate, educate, and train special population clients of all ages regarding their health and fitness needs, preventively, and in collaboration with healthcare professionals. Special populations include those with chronic and temporary health conditions.
CSPSs design safe and effective exercise programs, provide the guidance to help clients achieve their personal health/fitness goals, and recognize and respond to emergency situations. Recognizing their own areas of expertise, CSPSs receive referrals from and refer clients to other healthcare providers as appropriate.
To learn more about Special Populations, click here
The CSPS exam is offered in two formats:
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.
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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.
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To earn the CSPS credential, candidates are required to pass a challenging 2.5-hour written examination that includes 100 scored and 10 non-scored multiple-choice items.
The exam consists of four domains:
Includes Cardiovascular; Pulmonary; Metabolic; Immunological and hematological; Musculoskeletal/orthopedic; Neuromuscular; Post-rehabilitation; Cancer; Female-specific conditions; Behavioral/psychological disorders; Older adults; Children and adolescents.
Determine the fitness professional's role in the wellness continuum; perform health appraisal; fitness evaluation.
Develop SMART goals; program design; apply motivational/coaching techniques; monitor client outcomes; recognize need for referral to health-care professional.
Comply with scope of practice requirements; practice safety procedures; follow emergency procedures; recognize professional, legal, and ethical responsibilities; comply with HIPAA regulations.
* Explanation of Non-Scored Exam Questions
The CSPS exam contains non-scored questions that are being "pretested" or evaluated for future use. Including this type of question allows the CSPS Exam Development Committee to collect meaningful information about items that may appear on future exams. Pretest items are not scored, and do not affect an individual's pass/fail status.
The CSPS exam reflects current job-related duties and industry practices. As such, new items are continuously 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 solely on previously verified ("tried") items.
Non-scored pretest questions appear on both paper/pencil and computer-based exam formats. This provides a similar testing experience to all candidates.
1. Current NSCA certification - (e.g., NSCA-CPT, CSCS, etc.) or NCCA-accredited personal trainer certification
2. Bachelor’s degree or higher granted by an accredited institution in Exercise Science (or a related field, e.g. physical therapy, chiropractic medicine)
3. Current license as a physical therapist, physical therapist assistant, athletic trainer, or registered dietician
A CSPS Practical Experience Form must be completed and submitted as part of the registration process. Related hours must be consistent with the CSPS Scope of Practice, and describe a candidate’s principle or supporting role in managing clients with unique needs.
It is strongly recommended that candidates gain experience in each CSPS content domains.
Please mail your supporting documentation to:
1885 Bob Johnson DriveColorado Springs, CO 80906FAX: 719-632-6367 (copies of CPR/AED and Practical Experience Form only)Email: email@example.com (copies of CPR/AED and Practical Experience Form only)
The CSCS, CSPS and NSCA-CPT examinations reflect 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.
Purchase Study Materials
Additional reference materials can be purchased through Human Kinetics.
The Certified Special Population Specialist (CSPS) program was created in 2012 to identify individuals who possess the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA) to design indicated exercise programs for individuals with unique needs. 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 CSPS certified.
The inaugural exam for CSPS will proudly be launched at the 2012 NSCA National Conference and Tradeshow. Thereafter, the NSCA will submit the CSPS for national accreditation by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).
The NSCA has been a leader of practical
application and research of strength and conditioning for over three decades. In
recent years, the focus of the fitness industry has shifted toward greater
specialization. The NSCA envisions this trend as an opportunity to expand the development
of its members and certified professionals. The CSPS was developed to support fitness
professionals who work with special population clients in their careers.
The NSCA brought together an
expert committee of doctors, clinicians, and fitness professionals to develop
the CSPS certification. The CSPS committee established a list of essential knowledge,
skills, and abilities (KSAs) when designing indicated exercise programs for
individuals with unique needs. Special populations include those with chronic
and temporary health conditions; more specifically, cardiovascular, pulmonary,
metabolic, immunological/hematological, musculoskeletal/orthopedic,
neuromuscular, post-rehabilitative, cancer, female-specific,
behavioral/psychological, or age-related conditions. The scope of the CSPS makes it as the most comprehensive special
populations certification in the industry.
The NSCA has a
longstanding commitment to education, professional development, and continuing
competence. Designing exercise programs for higher risk clients presents
distinct challenges. Thus, the minimum requirement to register for the CSPS
exam is to have a Bachelors Degree in Exercise Science (or related field), 250
hours of related practical experience, a current advanced level CPR-AED
certification, and a current NSCA certification (NSCA-CPT or CSCS).