Become a Certified Performance and Sport Scientist (CPSS)

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What is a Certified Performance and Sport Scientist?

The Certified Performance and Sport Scientist™ (CPSS™), specializes in the application of scientific processes to improve individual and team athletic performance and decrease injury risk. The CPSS may be either a generalist, working across the breadth of scientific disciplines, or a specialist practitioner, with training or applied experiences predominantly within one or more scientific disciplines relevant to sport science and sports performance.

CPSS career strategy

Sport Science Careers

What Does a Performance and Sport Scientist Do?  

CPSS-certified individuals work across multiple sport-related scientific disciplines to monitor and improve performance. Through the process of scientific research, they collect and analyze data, and make informed training recommendations based on the data. They instill best practices in the use of performance technology and guide programs through evidence-based training practices. 

The Certified Performance and Sport Scientist is an important team player — maintaining productive relationships with coaches and athletic performance staff, medical staff, and other key stakeholders to enhance communication and decision-making in sport and athletic performance settings.

What Jobs are Available for a Performance and Sport Scientist?

With an advanced level of competency in athletic performance, injury prevention, and scientific processes, the CPSS credential can help you advance into one of the following professional roles:   

•  Sport Science Coordinator or Manager
•  Human Performance Lead
•  Director of Sport Science
•  Director of Sport or Athletic Performance
•  Director of Performance Sciences
•  Director of High Performance
•  Director of Sport Performance and Analytics
•  Assistant or Associate Athletic Director for Sport Performance and Wellbeing
•  Senior Director of Health and Performance
•  Senior Research Scientist – Biomechanist, Physiologist, or Data Scientist
 

  • CPSS Job Task Analysis

    Training Theory and Processes:

    1. Understand the relevant theory and principles that underpin training.

    2. Design or evaluate a performance program based on sound programming and periodization principles around the constraints of the training environment (e.g., equipment, location, time of year, athlete history, and sport.

    3. Understand the multiple dimensions of the training process (e.g., psychological, physical, sport development, personal growth, nutrition, recovery, and interventions.


    Needs Analysis:

    1. Research factors related to success in a sport through qualitative and quantitative methods (e.g., organizational, motion, dynamics, biomechanical demands, tactical patterns, technical requirements, and injury)

    2. Establish key performance indicators that relate to performance.

    3. Identify environmental or situational constraints that may impact performance.

    4. Develop benchmarking (e.g., normative data) around the attributes needed for success.

    5. Establish assessment strategies to evaluate performance status.

    6. Establish resources and methods to help understand load measurement as it relates to the sport (e.g., internal load vs. external load).

    7. Identify acquired research and development activities that will facilitate performance planning, ongoing monitoring, and assessment.


    Monitoring:

    1. Select appropriate and feasible assessment tools to track the key performance indicators identified in the needs analysis.

    2. Design robust data capture protocols that enable appropriate analysis.

    3. Analyze data and apply results to each specific key performance indicator (e.g., training and the athlete response).

    4. Use data-driven outcomes to make recommendations, support the decision-making process, and/or directly intervene.

    5. Evaluate the efficacy of existing assessments, protocols, applications, and interventions (e.g., the quality assurance process).


    Communication and Education:

    1. Understand general communication and education strategies for delivering information to athletes, coaches, high-performance teams, management, or the sport science community.

    2. Utilize creative and efficient solutions to disseminate situationally appropriate and timely information and data to a target audience (e.g., athletes, coaches, and performance team members).

    3. Translate research and theory to inform best practices within the constraints of the performance program.

    4. Collaborate with other professionals in finding customized performance solutions.

  • CPSS Scope of Practice

    The Certified Performance and Sport Scientist™ (CPSS™) is a practitioner with training and applied experiences across the scientific disciplines applicable to sport science and athletic performance (i.e., generalist) or predominantly within a select few (i.e., specialist). These scientific disciplines, as related to sports performance, include, but are not limited to biomechanics, data science, nutrition, physiology, psychology, research methods, and strength and conditioning. 

    A CPSS demonstrates competency in the application of scientific disciplines, assessment, training theory and process, needs analysis, monitoring, communication, and education with the primary goal of safely and effectively improving athletic performance.

    Learn More​

Qualifications for the CPSS​

The CPSS is an advanced certification. Specific education and experience is required to sit for the exam. Learn more about the eligibility requirements and the three routes you can take to show your eligibility.​ ​

CPSS Eligibility
*The non-refundable application fee will be applied toward your exam registration fee once your application is approved.  
CPSS Application & Exam Registration  Fees
Application Fee* $25
Member Exam Registration Fee $340
Non-member Exam Registration Fee  $475

 

Start Your Journey Toward CPSS Certification

Studying for the CPSS Exam

Are you ready to meet the growing demand for sport science professionals? Prepare yourself with the NSCA's Essentials of Sport Science textbook and other study resources that will help you prepare for the CPSS exam. 

How to Prepare

Applying for the CPSS Exam

Before you can take the CPSS exam, you must first submit an application to show your eligibility for this advanced-level certification. Find out what steps you need to take to apply for the CPSS Exam.

How to Apply

CPSS FAQs

  • Why did the NSCA develop the CPSS Certification?

    Professional roles in sports have grown into a variety of specialized technology, data, and research-focused areas. The NSCA Sport Science Program was created to support this growth. Specific goals include:

    1. Develop a pathway of qualification for existing coaches and practitioners to progress into career-advancing sport science roles.
    2. Establish role and scope of practice defining resources, including education and support materials, for existing and aspiring sport scientists in North America and throughout the world.
  • What’s the difference between the CPSS and the CSCS Certification?

    The CSCS certification recognizes an individual’s foundational knowledge and ability to safely and effectively perform duties as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (or Coach). To earn the CSCS, you must pass a two-section exam that assesses both the scientific foundations and practical/applied areas of strength and conditioning. The scientific foundations section tests your understanding of exercise science, sport psychology, and nutrition. The practical/applied section tests your knowledge of exercise techniques, program design, testing and evaluation, and strength and conditioning program organization/administration.

    The CPSS certification focuses on a collaborative and holistic approach towards performance and injury prevention and recognizes an individual’s foundational knowledge to appropriately apply scientific research processes as a Performance and Sport Scientist. To earn the CPSS, you must pass a one-section exam that demonstrates an advanced level of knowledge across multiple athletic performance disciplines. The CPSS exam expands on the foundational scientific underpinnings of sport and requires knowledge of how to implement scientific research methods and monitoring technology in athletic performance environments.

  • What exam prep materials are available?

    The recommended education resource is the NSCA’s Essentials of Sport Science Textbook. Additional study materials including a study guide (coming soon), case study examples, and practice exam questions are in development.

    How to Prepare for the CPSS
  • When will exam registration open?

    Initial registration for the CPSS exam begins Fall 2021, with first credentials being awarded in early 2022.

  • Where is the CPSS exam offered?

    Like other NSCA certification exams, the CPSS exam is offered at approved Pearson VUE test centers around the world. You may browse the complete list of approved Pearson VUE test Centers here. Also, go to the How to Register page for more information about testing procedures, accommodations, and availability.

  • What languages are offered for the CPSS exam?

    The CPSS exam is offered in the English language at approved Pearson VUE test centers around the world.

  • What are the eligibility requirements to sit for the exam?

    Candidates must meet both the formal education AND specific applied experience requirements to sit for the CPSS exam. A current CPR/AED certification is also required.

    CPSS Eligibility Requirements
  • What types of roles qualify as applied professional experience in a sport science related field?

    Qualifying professional roles that meet the applied experience requirements include the following:

    • Strength and Conditioning (Personal training and work with general population DOES NOT qualify)
    • Sport/Tactical Athlete Rehabilitation (e.g., Sports Medicine)
    • Sport/Tactical Athlete Nutrition
    • Performance/Sport-related Data Analytics
    • Performance/Sport-related Testing/Monitoring/Technology (e.g., Film and Video Analysis)
    • Applied Physiology/Biomechanics Laboratory
    • Performance Psychology/Mental Skills Coaching
    CPSS Eligibility Requirements
  • How does the CPSS program define “full-time” applied professional experience?

    Qualifying full-time experience REQUIRES being actively involved in a formal sport science related professional role on a comprehensive full-time basis beyond the internship level. Qualifying full-time professional roles include work with sport or tactical athletes, sports teams, and in applicable research, analytics, and technology-related disciplines.

    For further clarity, qualifying full-time experiences are also defined as requiring a normal workload of 40 hours per week during preparatory, training, research, development, and/or developmental periods, making up the majority of the calendar year — a minimum of 1,560 hours annually. This minimum is determined to represent 40 hours per week for 10 month (39-week) academic/seasonal-type full-time positions, and over 30 hours per week for 12-month (52-week) full-time positions.

    Qualifying full-time practitioner experiences must be verified by human resources, a manager/supervisor, or by professional references (for self-employed individuals), and involve all of the following processes: 

    • Daily hands-on work and interaction with team, individual sport, and/or tactical athletes. Personal training or work with general population does not qualify.
    • Conducting regular athlete performance testing/monitoring
    • Data collection, processing, analysis, and reporting
    • Use and direct application of performance technology

    For more information, download the CPSS Full-Time Applied Experience Form.

  • What degree programs qualify me to take the CPSS exam without academic course verification?

    Eligible degrees include all of the following academic majors and major fields: Allied Health / Biomedical / Bioengineering Sciences, Athletic Training, Biomechanics, Chiropractic, Exercise Science, Health Education and Promotion, Human Performance and Movement Studies, Kinesiology, Medicine, Nutrition, Physical Education Teaching and Coaching, Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science, Sport and Performance Analytics, Strength and Conditioning, and Therapeutic Exercise and Fitness (OR) Underpinning Major Fields: Biology, Bioenergetics, Chemistry (General, Molecular, Biochemistry), Neuroscience, Physiology, Physics, and Psychology

    Individuals with Other Data-Related and Technology Degrees may qualify for the CPSS exam, but are required to complete Academic Course Verification to meet the minimum academic requirements – These fields specifically include Analytics (Business or General), Computer Science (or Programming), Data Science, Engineering (other than biomedical / bioengineering), Mathematics, Statistics, and Technology or Software Development.

    Additionally, individuals with Other Sports Management or Leadership Disciplines Degrees may qualify for the CPSS exam, but are required to complete Academic Course Verification to meet the minimum academic requirements – These fields specifically include Business Administration (e.g., MBA), Education Administration and Leadership, Curriculum and Instruction, Sports Business or Management, Fitness Management, and Sports Law.

  • What are the Minimum Academic Requirements to sit for the CPSS exam

    Candidates in the United States and Canada must submit an official transcript showing attainment of at least a bachelor's degree (BS/BA), or higher, granted by an accredited institution (refer to Certification Handbook for a list of acceptable accredited institutions)

    Candidates outside of the United States and Canada may submit a photocopy of the final transcript, degree diploma or certificate that was received at the completion of the degree program, showing attainment of at least a bachelor's degree as defined by the United States educational system. 


    For individuals with degrees in non-related and non-qualifying fields, academic transcript documentation must include sport science related coursework – a minimum of ONE course from at least FOUR of the following performance and sport science related content areas:

    1. Biomechanics and Human Movement – e.g., Biomechanics, Functional Anatomy, Human Motor Learning and Control, or Lifespan Motor Development.
    2. Physiological Disciplines – e.g., Anatomy and Physiology, Endocrinology, Exercise Physiology, or Neuroscience.
    3. Coaching, Psychology, and Sociocultural Elements of Sport – e.g., Athlete Counseling, Child and Adolescent Psychology, Coaching Theory, Philosophy, Principles, or Ethics of Sport Coaching, Philosophical or Sociological Perspectives of Sport, Psychology of the College-Aged Adult, or Performance Psychology.
    4. Nutrition – e.g., General Nutrition and Health, Nutritional Biochemistry, or Sport and Performance Nutrition.
    5. Strength and Conditioning and Training Theory – e.g., Exercise Programming, Exercise Testing and Prescription, Graded Exercise Testing, Program Design for Injury Prevention, or Strength and Conditioning.
    6. Research Methods and Statistics – e.g., Research Methods, Research Design, Understanding Sport or Performance Research, Data Collection and Analysis, Statistics, Quantitative or Qualitative Research, Data Science and Analytics, or Sport Technology.
  • What happens if my CPSS exam application is denied?

    A $25 application fee is charged during the initial CPSS applicant review process, which will be applied to the exam registration fees when applications are approved according to the Eligibility Requirements.

    If based on your documented education and professional experience, you are not approved for the CPSS exam, only your application fee is forfeited. You may then re-apply once you fulfill the CPSS exam requirements. There is an appeals process for candidates who are denied. Appeals are submitted by sending a written letter to the NSCA by mail, or as an attached PDF by email (exams@nsca.com). Appeal letters must state the exact reason for the appeal being warranted, and any additional formal documentation to support the appeal.

  • Is the CPSS certification NCCA Accredited?

    The NSCA strongly believes in adhering to certification industry best practices and established accreditation standards. The CSCS, NSCA-CPT, and TSAC-F certification programs have earned accreditation by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). The NSCA is adhering to the standards and requirements for the CPSS program to become NCCA Accredited upon becoming eligible.

    More about NCCA Accreditation
  • Are there CPSS curriculum resources and ancillaries available for educators?

    Image and test bank resources for are currently in development with Human Kinetics for professors who adopt the NSCA’s Essentials of Sport Science textbook. To learn more, request a review/desk copy from HK.

  • How will CEUs and recertification work for the CPSS?

    All NSCA certifications run on a 3-year calendar cycle. Refer to the NSCA Certification Handbook for recertification policies, procedures, and CEU categories. To plan ahead for the current 2021-2023 recertification cycle, you may use the following Recertification Planning Tool to help spread the cost of CEUs over the three-year period.

     

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