The NCSF Certification comes from the National Council on Strength and Fitness organization and is one of the premier groups in the business. They offer one of the top Personal Trainer certifications (in fact, I believe they may be the best…) called the “NCSF CPT” (for Certified Personal Trainer).

The NCSF Certification is a little different – in a good way – than the other certifications. Get this…they actually want you to take hands-on classes to learn the material! I know, what a shock! When you compare it to the textbook nature of most of the other exams, NCSF already signals itself as a more prestigious certification.

Does that mean it’s going to be more difficult, cost more, and involve more time to get an NCSF Certification? Yes, it does…so if you’re just interested in being a small-time trainer, the NCSF may be too much for you. However, if you are a Personal Trainer career person, then I strongly encourage you to give NCSF’s CPT certification a good review.

Requirements

According to the NCSF certification site, to earn the “industry leading” NCSF-CPT credential, candidates must take and pass the NCSF-CPT Certification Exam. The exam is a 150 question multiple-choice formatted evaluation tool which thoroughly tests the knowledge and skills that are necessary to effectively work with a wide range of clientèle.

Although you do not have to take any workshops beforehand, due to the difficult nature of the exam, I would recommend that you do take one to know what you’re getting into beforehand.

Furthermore, you do not even have to take a workshop offered by the NCSF certification organization.(!) Although they have great workshops, training schools, and home study courses, you could also take classes at your school or study at NPTI.

Almost everyone I’ve met with the CPT certification says that you really, really, need to know your stuff for this exam. That’s why I urge you to check out NCSF’s workshops, classes or take a program like NPTI. Again, it may sound like a lot of work, but that’s why you take this exam, because when you go anywhere and tell them that you are an NCSF CPT, everybody knows that you know your stuff!

Exam Study Options

To continue on the education vein for a bit, NCSF offers workshops and courses for anyone interested in taking the certification exam. They claim the workshop program is one of their ‘more popular’ ways to study for the exam. (Although I’m sure that’s influenced by how much they’d like you to pay for the workshop vs. study-at-home materials!)

The workshops start with you reviewing the material beforehand…and then a two day seminar where a trainer professional attempts to teach you all that you need to know to be a good Personal Trainer.

Unfortunately, you can’t cram everything you need to know into a two-day review, so expect that even paying for the seminar, you will still have to work quite a bit on your own to learn the material for the exam.

The workshops are about $299 and spread out over the major metropolitan areas of the US. Classes start almost every week in some part of the country. Check the calendar on the website to see if it’s near you in the future.

To spread out the challenge a bit, they also offer a “Training School Course” option. This is an 8-week training course – total of 30-40 hours – that helps you slowly absorb more information while you’re learning from certified instructors.

Unfortunately, the Training Schools option for the NCSF certification is only offered in Southern Florida…so unless you can commute to Miami-Dade College or Broward Community College, you may be outta luck! Add in about $495 for these courses, and it makes it convenient only to people that are local and have the time to attend. Which totally stinks for the rest of us…hopefully the program expands out of South Florida some day!

If both of those options are too much for you, you always have the home-study option. Again, my recommendation is to do a workshop, training course, or something like a an NPTI training school, but I’ve probably drilled that into your brain enough by now!

Putting exercise theory into practice is the hardest piece to overcome when you’re just learning in the comfort of your own home, with a beer in hand and 10 distractions begging for your attention. NCSF tries to help with this problem by having exercises shown on a DVD training video. Although I haven’t seen it, it does show that at a minimum, you will learn something about how exercises work.

Now, for my other pet peeve of home-study guides (That would be mispronouncing muscles and such), I’m not sure if a home-study course is going to get good pronunciation through to a new student very well. So if you do the home-study, find a way to learn how to pronounce Supraspinatus.

If you ask me, I would do a workshop, training class, other personal training course or similar before I gave up and did a home-study course. I can guarantee you that the highest percentage of failures on the NCSF Certification exam are from home-study students.

In order to not waste hundreds of dollars and a lot of hours, it’s best to try and attend some type of in-person training. The retake fee is almost as much as the registration fee for a workshop, just to put it into perspective…

Costs

Here are the costs broken down:

NCSF Certification Exam: $199 (retake is $135)

Study Materials: $299

Workshop: $295

Training Classes: $495

Shipping: $10 (for the materials)

CEC’s and Validity

Good old CEC’s! My favorite way for certification organizations to suck more money out of us! Well, NCSF isn’t too bad really.

Your NCSF CPT certification is valid for two years after you take the exam. You need to collect over those two years 10 CEC credits before renewal. They even have ‘products’ you can buy to home study for exams that will get you CEC’s. Also, there are online CEC’s quizzes that you can take to get .5 CEC’s towards your credit! Plus, you can take college credit or other CEC courses.

NCSF makes it a little more…let’s say ‘manageable’… to get credits that actually make you a better trainer, rather than just making you give them money year in and year out without teaching you anything. For that, I give them a much higher rating as it shows they really care that their CPT’s are experts and continually growing in their field.

Summary

The NCSF certification is one of the best – if not the best – certifications that a new (or existing) Personal Trainer can get. Recognized everywhere as a leader in the field, it shows that you have a very solid foundation of knowledge and skills that are desperately needed in this field.

If you aren’t afraid of a difficult exam, then you should seriously consider the NCSF CPT exam. If you think you want to be a Personal Trainer because it’s easy and you can get away with minimum effort, then you should do a different certification. However, for the rest of us, this is the type of exam that is very rewarding to pass and pays off many dividends over the life of your personal training career.