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NSCA Personal Training Certification Review: Pros & Cons

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Workout equipment is placed on a blue background with the words "NSCA Personal Trainer Certification Review" written over top of the image.

The National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA) really brings some muscle to the personal trainer certification space. Their background in strength and conditioning training helps to lift trainers into a more niche training environment.

Insurance Canopy takes a look at the NSCA’s certification to help you learn more about the costs, curriculum, and how it can benefit you as a personal trainer.

What Is The National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA)?

The NSCA is a non-profit organization started in 1978 by researchers, educators, and experienced coaches. According to their website, the NSCA is, “dedicated to advancing the strength and conditioning and related sport science professions around the world.”

Through evidence-based knowledge and practical application of industry practices, NSCA is helping a community of fitness professionals maximize their impact in their work. They continually work with sport scientists, certified trainers, and industry professionals to adapt new practices and further industry standards.

About NSCA Personal Trainer Certification

While strength and conditioning training is the NSCA’s primary focus, they also conduct a high quality, research-driven personal trainer certification program. They help you learn skills to lead safe and effective exercises, create fitness plans, motivate clients, and even how to respond in an emergency situation. This course is designed to help you grow as a professional and an individual in the fitness industry.

A virtual personal trainer smiles as he sits in his backyard on his laptop where he is organizing his client workout plans.

Pros & Cons of NSCA

We understand being certified through a strength and conditioning program might not be for everyone. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons based on NSCA reviews, curriculum, and program benefits.


  • The personal trainer certification program has very extensive resources and a well thought out workbook.
  • The NSCA is one of the most recognized associations in the industry.
  • You can select from a comprehensive list of CEU opportunities in different niches.


  • There is a lack of online materials within the program, such as no practice exam included in study materials.
  • NSCA does not offer courses focusing on client behavioral or nutritional coaching skills.


In order to enroll in the NSCA personal training certification program, you must be 18 years or older, have a high school diploma or equivalent, and hold a valid CPR/AED certification.


When it comes to NSCA certification costs, there is only one registration fee. This one fee gives you access to both the study materials and the exam. However, NSCA Members can save $135 on registration for their certification program. Prices are as follows:

  • Member rate: $300
  • Non-member rate: $435

There is no fee or limit to the number of times you may attempt the exam, you must only wait 90 days before retaking the test.

Specialized Certification Programs

NSCA offers more than just a personal trainer certification program—after all they are an association for strength and conditioning training. Some of the other specialized certification programs you offered through NSCA are:

  • Certified Performance & Sports Scientist (CPSS)
  • Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)
  • Certified Special Population Specialist (CSPS)
  • Tactical Strength & Conditioning Facilitator (TSAC-F)
  • Foundations of Coaching Lifts Course
  • Tactical Strength & Conditioning (TSAC) Practitioners Course

Continuing Education & Recertification

In order to maintain a current personal trainer certificate, you must recertify every three years. This time period is a year longer than other certification programs, plus they give you two options on how to recertify.

Option One: Continuing Education

This option requires you to complete a specific number of Continuing Education Units (CEUs) based on your certification date (see table here). You will need to complete anywhere from 1–6 CEUs and pay a per credential fee. The prices vary based on NSCA membership status.

Option Two: Retake & Pass Exam

Instead of taking CEUs, you can retake and pass your certification exam. The exam and curriculum are updated each year, so you will be paying the same registration fee you did to take the exam the first time. You will also need to review any new materials to help you pass the exam.

A virtual personal trainer sits at a desk in her office with a laptop and notepad beside her as she works on creating online content on a tablet.

How NSCA Certification Benefits You

After our NSCA CPT review, Insurance Canopy recognizes NSCA as the best certification program for personal trainers who want to focus on strength training and mass building exercises.

NSCA can offer you tools and resources such as training tips, client assessments, program design, and business advice. You also have the opportunity to join NSCA’s Personal Trainers Professional Development Group. This is a place where you can connect and network with other personal trainers like yourself.

Before you jump into your training, it’s important you have the right protection in place. Strength training can come with a fair share of risks—such as pulling a muscle during a set, injuring a hip for improper form, or dropping a heavy weight onto another person’s foot by mistake. Accidents like these may lead to lawsuits, medical bills, or repairs you are expected to pay for.

Personal trainer insurance may help you cover the cost of claims if an incident does occur during your training. With Insurance Canopy, you can instantly get a policy online for as little as $12.50 per month. You wouldn’t have your clients lift without a spotter, so why would you train without insurance? Learn more and get a free quote with Insurance Canopy today!

Frequently Asked Questions About NSCA Personal Trainer Certification

NSCA stands for the National Strength and Conditioning Association. The NSCA is an educational program helping fitness professionals earn and maintain certification in the industry.

NSCA certification is a program to receive knowledge and skills in a chosen field of health and fitness from the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Certified instructors can receive valuable training from experts in the fitness industry.

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