Certified Special Population Specialist Exam Prerequisites

CSPS® candidates must:

1. Have at least one of the following: 

  • A Bachelor's degree or higher degree granted by an accredited institution in Exercise Science or a related field (e.g., physical therapy, chiropractic medicine). (refer to Certification Handbook for a list of acceptable accredited institutions)
  • A current license as a physical therapist, physical therapist assistant, athletic trainer, or registered dietitian.
  • A current NSCA certification (CSCS, NSCA-CPT, TSAC-F).
  • A NCCA-accredited personal trainer certification.

Candidates in the United States and Canada must submit an official transcript showing attainment of at least a bachelor's degree (BS/BA), physical therapy degree, chiropractic medicine degree granted by an accredited institution or certificate/lincense that was received at the completion of the approved program within 1-year of exam date. (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 approved program within 1-year of exam date.

2. Have a current CPR/AED certification. (refer to Certification Handbook for acceptable CPR/AED certifications).

  • Documentation only needs to be submitted if candidate indicated they did not hold a current CPR/AED certification when completing the registration process.
  • Individuals that do not have current CPR/AED certification can still register and take the exam; however, a copy of valid CPR/AED certification must be received within 1-year of exam date.

3. Have a minimum 250 hours of related practical experience.

  • Candidates must submit a completed CSPS Practical Experience Form
    • Hours must be consistent with the CSPS Scope of Practice (see below) and describe a candidate’s principle or supporting role in managing clients with unique needs.
    • Candidates must be able to perform the following:
      • Educate a client on the basic pathophysiology and science of health status, condition, disorder, or disease.
      • Perform health appraisals, fitness evaluations, SMART goal development, program design, motivational/coaching techniques, and client outcome monitoring.

It is appropriate for candidates to include parallel hours for clients with comorbidities. For example, experience may count in three domains if a candidate works with a client who is obese, has Type 2 diabetes and osteoarthritis of the knee. Hours are subject to a random audit. It is strongly recommended that candidates gain experience in each CSPS content domain.

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

Certification will not be granted until ALL of the eligibility requirements have been met. Candidates have one (1) year to submit documentation demonstrating completion of all eligibility criteria. Exam results become invalid if acceptable eligibility documentation is not received within one (1) year of exam date.


Send supporting documentation to:

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

Documentation will not be returned. If candidates mail the transcript, the registrar’s seal must remain intact. NSCA accepts official electronic transcripts (e-transcripts) that are transferred using a secure document transfer program (e.g., escrip-safe, eDocs).

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