Fitness Certifications 101: Part 3

Fitness Certifications 101: Part 3

Thus far in our fitness certification breakdown, we have summarized certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and the American Council on Exercise (ACE). All of the previous certifications that we profiled are appropriate for anyone who is looking to further their position in the industry, but may be overkill for individuals are not looking to make training their full-time career. Here we will discuss a certification that holds a similar status to the ACE certification.

National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)

The NASM CPT credential has gained popularity in the last few years due to its strong connections to many university exercise science programs.

Along with the Certified Personal Trainer credential, NASM offers a great deal of specialty or add-on certs such as the “Behavior Change Specialization, MMA Conditioning Specialization, and Women’s Fitness Specialization, among others. These specializations may be worth pursuing if they are of interest to you, but in all likelihood, an employer would not base your hiring purely on you having one of these specializations (at least I wouldn’t, as a former gym owner).

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The following is a transcript of a conversation that I had with a trainer who recently took and passed the NASM-CPT exam. Hearing her story may help you decide whether this is the certification for you.

My Questions:

  1. How long did you study for the NASM test? On a scale of 1-10, how difficult was the test?
  2. Now that you have earned the certification, do you find it helpful in your career? Please briefly explain.
  3. Was earning the NASM cert part of any other degree program that you are in or was it something you wanted to do on your own?
  4. What are your career goals in relation to the NASM cert?

Her Answers:

  1. I got certified last year. I chose NASM at the recommendation of the trainer I had been working with for the previous year. I paid $600 for the self-study package...a textbook and the option to take the test twice if I failed the first time. They give you six months to study. I procrastinate, so I had two months to study. The build-up to the test was more stressful than taking the test. On a scale of 1-10, I'd say the test was a 7 because of the sheer amount of information I had to learn not knowing what would be on the 120-question test. A lot of things I worried about remembering were not on the test. I remember while taking the test, thinking it was easier than I thought it would be.
  2. NASM focuses on training out of shape Americans. I feel like I got a base layer of knowledge learning how to program/train. But there is so much more I want/need to learn. I am currently teaching group fitness and building a client base. The NASM cert qualified me to get in the door and start working in fitness. The real learning for me is in the day to day working with people and learning from other trainers. I definitely want to add more certs to my list.
  3. I've known for a while I wanted to work in the health and wellness field, but I didn't know in what capacity. I have a degree in English and didn't want to go back through school for a different degree. I started working out a couple years ago, loved it so much, and thought that this was something I wanted to share with others. I absolutely love fitness/training, and I also teach yoga. NASM was the first step in my professional fitness journey.
  4. Goals?...I want fitness to be my full-time gig. Working on building a client base to make that a reality!

Hopefully, this helps you decide if their certification or one of the others that we profiled is the right one for you.

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Matthew Johnson is a fitness writer, personal trainer, strength coach, as well as a former gym owner. Matthew holds an MBA from The University of Memphis and a Master’s in Exercise Science from Middle Tennessee State University. Matthew has also earned the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist credential from the NSCA. Matthew recently published his first book, 300 30 Minute Workouts for Busy People, and lives in Memphis, TN with his wife, Anna, and their dog Henderson, and cat, Sox.

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