Answers to 7 common questions about CASCE accreditation and resources to clarify and streamline the process.
Accreditation by the Council on Accreditation of Strength and Conditioning Education (CASCE) represents the higher standard in strength and conditioning education. CASCE accreditation is designed to ensure academic programs meet rigorous educational quality standards and to help you equip your students with the professional knowledge, skills, and abilities needed for careers in the strength and conditioning industry. It can help to enhance your recruiting efforts and set your program apart by allowing your students to sit for the CSCS® certification exam when eligibility rules change, beginning in 2030. However, the journey to CASCE accreditation takes time and may present challenges that could require significant program changes to faculty and curriculum. To help you navigate the two-year process, we have compiled answers to seven of the most common questions and areas of confusion. Addressing these challenges early can help streamline the accreditation process and avoid frustrating delays.
The accreditation process takes two years and consists of the following six steps:
Step 1: Confirm Your Readiness
Step 2: Submit Your Application
Step 3: Complete a Self-Study
Step 4: Receive a Peer Review Site Visit
Step 5: Submit Your Program Response
Step 6: Receive Your Accreditation Decision
Applications are accepted annually from October 1 through December 1, and it is best to apply early in the accreditation window as CASCE could limit the number of applications received if necessary. Note too that important preparation is required before submitting an application. Self-studies are due the following October 1.
All of the details and policies related to the application process are described in the CASCE Guide to Accreditation.
Documents and resources are available to guide programs and program directors through the CASCE accreditation process. As you begin the process, the critical resources are the Get Started Quiz, the Program Readiness Tool, the CASCE Professional Standards & Guidelines, and the Guide to Accreditation. Becoming familiar with these comprehensive tools early in the accreditation process will save time and help to avoid any delays. All of these can be found at NSCA.com/CASCE.
The most helpful place to begin is the Get Started Quiz. This simple, five-minute tool will help to immediately identify standards that present common challenges and that programs will be expected to demonstrate compliance with and address during the accreditation process. It will also quickly point out requirements that you can clarify and learn more about in other resources, such as the Program Readiness Tool and Professional Standards & Guidelines.
In spreadsheet form, the Program Readiness Tool lists each standard for CASCE accreditation along with a description of the appropriate narrative and exhibits necessary to demonstrate compliance for each standard. For example, if the Get Started Quiz identifies a program’s lack of a Field Experience Site Supervisor, the Program Readiness Tool will clarify the Field Experience Site Supervisor requirements and responsibilities and describe the type of narrative response and documentation that must be provided in the self-study to show compliance with that standard for that role.
Similarly, the official CASCE Professional Standards & Guidelines lists all of the standards, requirements, and outcomes for an institution, its faculty, curriculum, resources, and policies that an accredited program must uphold, as well as a glossary of keywords. This document is available as a downloadable PDF.
The CASCE Guide to Accreditation provides a framework for programs, institutions, and the public to understand the process of accreditation for strength and conditioning programs, as well as a detailed compilation of the policies and procedures pertaining to CASCE accreditation. Details include a brief history of CASCE, the accreditation fee structure, definitions of accreditation actions, and other important information.
We strongly encourage all programs and their Program Directors to read these documents carefully prior to embarking on the journey of CASCE accreditation and to reference them frequently throughout the accreditation process. These resources can answer many common questions and guide you through the CASCE accreditation process as seamlessly as possible.
No, the NSCA Education Recognition Program (ERP) is an unrelated program that recognizes and distinguishes programs with approved and standardized strength and conditioning or personal training curricula. CASCE accreditation represents a higher standard of programmatic accreditation that will allow students to sit for the CSCS certification exam when eligibility rules change, beginning in 2030.
However, ERP recognition simplifies the CASCE accreditation process and reduces the application fee. The NSCA ERP ensures that programs have the minimum curricular content in place that will be part of the requirements for CASCE accreditation. Therefore, programs that are currently recognized through ERP will automatically meet the application criteria and will only need to fill out the first portion of the application. In short, programs that are currently ERP recognized do not have to include the syllabi requested on the application. For details, please refer to Section Two: Accreditation Procedures in the Guide to Accreditation.
CASCE accreditation requires a Program Director, a Field Experience Coordinator, and Field Experience Site Supervisor(s). Each role has its own criteria and requirements defined in the Professional Standards and Guidelines, but here are summaries and highlights.
The primary point person is the Program Director, who administers the academic program, institutional and program policies, CASCE standards, and compliance with any state regulations. A Program Director must be a full-time faculty member with at least a Master's. Degree in a related field. The Program Director must also have current CSCS certification.
The Field Experience Coordinator is responsible for student field experience placement, field experience site evaluation and training, and communication with the Field Experience Site Supervisors. This person develops and oversees field experience partnerships and student placements. The role also includes training and coordinating Field Experience Site Supervisors. A Field Experience Coordinator must be a full-time employee of the sponsoring institution, but this person does NOT need to be CSCS certified.
The Program Director and Field Experience Coordinator can be the same person as long as they meet the requirements for both roles, including administrative release time to serve those roles.
A Field Experience Site Supervisor is the person who supervises student interns at each field experience site. Field Experience Site Supervisors must be CSCS certified, as they provide hands-on instruction, assessment, and feedback to students, as well as the application of current knowledge, skills, and abilities that are part of the curriculum requirements.
For some courses and areas of study, yes. Any faculty providing instruction in hands-on, technique-specific areas must be CSCS certified. Those broad areas of study and oversight are as follows:
As an example, a faculty member giving instruction in dynamic stretching techniques, Olympic-style weightlifting techniques, or speed and agility mechanics must hold a current CSCS certification. For more detailed lists of topics that fall under each of those areas, please see CASCE Professional Standards & Guidelines, Section III Curriculum, III.C. 6-10.
By contrast, the curriculum topics listed in CASCE Professional Standards & Guidelines, Section III Curriculum, III.C. 1-5 do not require a CSCS certified instructor. For example, an instructor teaching topics such as Human Anatomy and Physiology or Psychology of Sport and Exercise is not required to be CSCS certified.
Is CSCS Certification Required?
Field Experience Coordinator
Field Experience Site Supervisor
Strength and Conditioning Faculty
Yes, if they teach courses with content specific to strength and conditioning as defined in Standard III.C.6-10 of the CASCE Professional Standards & Guidelines
Programs must be a minimum of a concentration, or equivalent, with a strength and conditioning title. The curriculum must provide enough credit hours to fulfill requirements for the chosen degree designation, in accordance with institutional policies and institutional accreditors. Sequencing of the curriculum must provide a proper progression for students to learn the required knowledge, skills, and abilities.
A program must be able to demonstrate the inclusion of all of the areas of instruction listed in Section III of the CASCE Professional Standards & Guidelines. However, a program does not have to have individual courses in every topic listed. Several areas of study may be covered or combined within a single course. For example, the areas of instruction for Program Design and Exercise Testing/Exercise Prescription may be taught within a Scientific Principles of Strength and Conditioning course. To demonstrate inclusion of all the areas of study, a program must provide a curriculum “map,” syllabi, and other course documents as part of the self-study.
Again, the Get Started Quiz, Program Readiness Tool, CASCE Professional Standards & Guidelines, and the Guide to Accreditation are invaluable resources as you navigate CASCE accreditation. Reading and familiarizing yourself with them early in the process can save time in the long run. The CASCE team is also available to answer questions and guide you through the entire accreditation process and beyond. Contact the CASCE office at email@example.com.