Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist Degree Requirements and Accreditation

The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) has announced that it is working to elevate and advance the strength and conditioning profession by developing a quality assurance process that ensures all future professionals are capable and well-prepared. This process establishes a qualified workforce that has the professional knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to meet industry standards and be successful in the strength and conditioning industry. To achieve this, the NSCA is taking forward-thinking steps by modifying the requirements to attain the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist® (CSCS®) certification. These requirements are targeted to take effect in the year 2030.

There will be two principal changes to the certification process:

  1. Effective target date 2030, all CSCS exam candidates must hold a Bachelor’s degree in a strength and conditioning related field, or be enrolled as a senior in such a program.
  2. Effective target date 2030, candidates will need to obtain those degrees from a college or university that has a program accredited by an NSCA-approved accrediting agency.

Anyone who earns the CSCS  before December 31, 2029 will NOT be affected.

Anyone currently holding the CSCS credential or earning a CSCS credential before December 31, 2029 will NOT be affected by the new degree requirement.

Accreditation Summary Document

Download the Strength and Conditioning Accreditation summary for a more in-depth explanation.

Download Summary Document (PDF)

Revised Standards

The Accreditation Special Committee is excited to release both the original and the revised DRAFTS of the proposed Accreditation Standards.  The revised DRAFT contains edits as a direct result of comments received through the open comment survey and the public forums held at the 2019 NSCA National Conference.  We anticipate that the final version of the Accreditation Standards will only have minor changes prior to approval by the Committee and NSCA Board of Directors in the coming months. In order to release this revised DRAFT of the Accreditation Standards to the programs in an expedited manner, these documents have not been copy edited.   

SUMMARY OF MAJOR EDITS TO THE ACCREDITATION STANDARDS FOLLOWING OPEN COMMENT

  • Requirement of a Bachelor’s degree or higher with a concentration or equivalent titled ‘Strength and Conditioning’
  • Program Director must have a Master’s degree in a related field and must be CSCS certified
  • Changed wording from ‘Internships’ to ‘Field Experiences’.   Students must have a minimum of two field experiences with different supervisors.  The experiences must be substantially different, (different populations, gender, setting, etc.)
  • Program’s first-time 3 year aggregate pass rate on the CSCS exam must be at least 75%
  • Changed Section 6 (Outcomes) to become Section 4
  • Changed field experience (internship supervisors) from ‘must’ be CSCS certified to ‘should’ be CSCS certified

 **Please note, these are DRAFTS of the Accreditation Standards.  The FINAL version will be released pending final approval by the Accreditation Special Committee and the NSCA Board of Directors.**

Download:  Original Accreditation Standards [pdf of original Standards]

Download:  Revised Accreditation Standards following public comment [pdf of revised standards] 

Submit Comments

If you have specific comments regarding these standards, please send your comments by September 1, 2019 to: Accreditation@NSCA.com

Accreditation Updates

Accreditation Updates

HISTORICAL TIMELINE
  • Long history of discussions regarding the evolution of the Education Recognition Program (ERP) to accreditation
  • Announcement of the decision by the NSCA Board of Directors to pursue accreditation was made at the NSCA National Conference July 2018
  • Accreditation Special Committee was formed and members were appointed in March 2019
  • Proposed Accreditation Standards were sent out for public comment in a survey format, open from February 28-March 25, 2019
  • Comments were compiled and sent to the Accreditation Special Committee
  • First face-to-face committee meeting was held June 2019 at which time revisions to the proposed standards were made
FUTURE TIMELINE
  • Fall 2019
    • Standards approved
    • Accreditation process determined
    • Governance structure determined

  • October 2020
    • Software selected and tested
    • Standards input into software

  • Spring 2022
    • **FIRST PROGRAM ACCREDITED**
    • Self-study due October 1, 2021
    • Site Visit- Selection and Training of Site Visitors
ANNUAL ACCREDITATION TIMELINE
  • October 1 (2020) Self-study opens
  • October 1 (2021) Self-study due
  • October 1- Annual reports due (once accredited)
  • January 3-March 15- Site visit window
  • March 30- Site visit report due to review team (latest)
  • April 15- Site visit report back to program (latest)
  • May 15-Rejoinder due from program
  • July- Council on Accreditation of Strength and Conditioning Education- CASCE (pronounced cass-key) meeting at NSCA National Conference
  • January- Council on Accreditation of Strength and Conditioning Education- CASCE (pronounced cass-key) meeting at NSCA Coaches Conference

ACCREDITATION PROCESS

A Guide outlining the accreditation process.

Questions and Answers

Updated 7/25/2019

DEGREE REQUIREMENTS

  • Why is the degree requirement changing?

    In May 2017, the NSCA conducted a survey of strength and conditioning coaches and discovered that 87% of respondents were in favor of requiring that candidates hold a degree from an accredited strength and conditioning program prior to employment. This is a concerted effort to elevate and advance the strength and conditioning profession.

  • What are the new CSCS degree requirements?

    Targeted to take effect beginning in 2030 – to be eligible to take the CSCS examination, candidates must hold a Bachelor’s degree from a program accredited by an NSCA-approved accrediting agency. This degree will have specific requirements that focus on strength and conditioning. The current degree requirement for the CSCS exam will remain in place until December 31, 2029.

  • What is the difference between the current and new degree requirement?

    The current degree requirement is: “Candidates must hold at least a Bachelor’s degree or currently be enrolled as a college senior at an accredited institution.” This means that currently, as long as the college or university is accredited, a Bachelor’s degree in any field of study is acceptable. The NSCA Education and Certification Committees and the Board of Directors (in consideration of the membership and their constituencies), feel that this requirement needs to change and evolve to include degree requirements that are specific to the profession, to create a higher standard and ensure that future CSCS professionals have a strong foundation of strength and conditioning knowledge.

  • What degree will I need to have to be eligible to sit for the CSCS exam starting in 2030? | Updated

    A Bachelor’s degree from a program accredited by an NSCA-approved accrediting agency, in a strength and conditioning related field. This means that the degree must be related to the academic and experiential needs of the strength and conditioning profession. This change will align the CSCS with other allied healthcare professions, such as medical doctors, nurses, physical therapists and athletic trainers. Accreditation Standards will require the program to be a bachelor’s degree or higher with a concentration or equivalent titled “strength and conditioning”.

  • When will the new CSCS degree requirement begin? | Updated

    The change to the degree requirement is targeted to go into effect in 2030. There will be a structured roll-out of the accreditation process so that all colleges and universities that wish to participate will have ample time to engage in the accreditation process. This is why the extended timeline has been established.  It is anticipated that the first programs will be accredited in 2022.

ACCREDITATION

  • Why is Accreditation important?

    Accreditation has many benefits for the strength and conditioning profession, the accredited program and its students. It will facilitate admissions recruitment efforts and promote program enrollment growth. Accreditation also adds value for prospective students and the profession by providing quality assurance of higher education programs to ensure a well-prepared and qualified workforce that meets industry standards, as well as the professional knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to be successful in the strength and conditioning industry.

  • What is Accreditation?

    Accreditation is a process of validation in which colleges, universities and other institutions of higher learning are evaluated. In the United States, accreditation is a voluntary quality assurance process that symbolizes to the public that an institution and/or individual programs provide a quality education. The standards for accreditation are set by a peer review board whose members include faculty from various accredited colleges and universities.

  • What are the types of Accreditation?

    In post-secondary education, there are two kinds of accreditation: Institutional and Programmatic. Institutional accreditation helps assure potential students that a college or university has met certain minimum standards in terms of administration, resources, faculty and facilities. Programmatic accreditation examines specific program(s) within an educational institution.

  • Will the NSCA-approved accrediting agency be an Institutional or Programmatic agency?

    The NSCA-approved accrediting agency will be a Programmatic accrediting agency. This reflects a change to the current standard – prior to 2030, the NSCA only required Institutional accreditation.

  • What is the process for an educational program to become accredited through this accrediting agency?

    All accredited programs must go through a rigorous process, including:  

    • Application
    • Self-Study
    • On-Site Evaluation
    • Committee Review and Recommendation
    • Commission Decision Rendered
  • When will the first academic programs be eligible to apply for accreditation? | Updated

    Academic programs will be able to apply for accreditation in 2020 and submit a programmatic self-study by October 1, 2021.  It is anticipated that the first programs will be accredited during the summer of 2022.

IMPACT

How will this affect me?

  • Current CSCS Credential Holders:

    The change in the degree requirement will NOT have any impact on current credential holders. Individuals holding a CSCS on December 31, 2029 will be able to recertify and keep the CSCS. The current requirement for the exam will remain in place until December 31, 2029.

  • Potential/Future CSCS Credential Holders:

    Targeted to take effect beginning in 2030, all candidates seeking the CSCS credential will be required to have a degree from an NSCA-approved strength and conditioning program.

  • NSCA International Affiliates:

    The change in degree requirement will NOT have any impact on current credential holders. The current requirement for the exam will remain in place until December 31, 2029. The NSCA-approved accrediting agency will be establishing global standards and guidelines for programmatic accreditation.

  • Education Recognition Program (ERP) Schools Recognized by the NSCA:

    Portions of the NSCA ERP program will be phased out by 2030, in the hopes that these schools transition to become accredited programs. It is anticipated that many of the current requirements for an ERP program will be consistent with the expectation of an accredited program.

Questions?

We understand this announcement will generate a lot of questions. At this stage in the process not all details have been solidified. As the new accreditation agency is created and begins to make decisions and establish guidelines we will continue to update and add information to this webpage to keep you apprised of the new developments. Please submit your accreditation and degree requirement questions to us at Accreditation@NSCA.com. We anticipate a high volume of questions so please be patient, we will respond as soon as possible.

Accreditation Special Committee Members

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