What Is NCSF Certification? How Does One Get Certified in NCSF?

How does one get certified in NCSF

In the world of fitness and personal training, there are many certification programs to choose from, but it’s up to you to decide which one fits your lifestyle best on your journey to becoming a fitness professional. As you embark on your personal training coursework, you may find that you enjoy in-class instruction, or that you may be more suited for learning individually in the comfort of your own home. Either way, there are plenty of things to factor in as you move forward in your career. So you might be wondering, what is NCSF certification exactly? How does one get certified in NCSF? We’ve broken down the information you may have questions about, from certification categories and the cost of each one to the skills you can enhance your certification with down the road.

One of the more popular program choices in the industry is the National Council on Strength and Fitness or NCSF. NCSF offers a series of certifications that are all well recognized and great options to consider when you are taking the next step in your career, whether that is as a certified personal trainer, a certified strength coach, a sports nutrition specialist – or even a combination of a couple of these.


What Makes NCSF Popular?

An NCSF certification is great to have, in any given area, because of the great reputation NCSF has in the health and fitness industry. To be more specific, those who choose NCSF’s programs will have the advantage of being successful in their field and set aside from their competition, because of three notable points:



NCSF offers NCCA accreditation (National Commission for Certifying Agencies), which is highly regarded in any industry that requires certification – we’re talking nurses, counselors, physical therapists and more, in addition to those in personal training careers.


Preferred Credential

In the health and fitness industry, and especially among personal trainers, NCSF certification is considered a preferred credential. This is because NCSF is known to provide top-quality education, training, and certification programs. These programs not only focus on the practical aspects of fitness and health training but also instill a comprehensive understanding of the science behind these practices. Consequently, those who hold an NCSF certification are uniformly well-rounded in their knowledge and skills. This increases their professional credibility, which sets them apart from the competition and increases their appeal to potential clients or employers.


Global Recognition

The worldwide acclaim of NCSF plays a big role in making it popular. NCSF proudly runs the largest exam network in the fitness industry, covering an amazing 83 countries internationally. In addition, they feature more than 1,000 exam centers globally, giving seamless access for anyone worldwide seeking NCSF certification. Thanks to its widespread presence and easy accessibility, NCSF’s reputation is in high regard, affirming it as a globally recognized certification in the health and fitness industry. As a result, possessing an NCSF certification is like having a global endorsement, which can pave the way for a plethora of international professional opportunities.


What Are the Requirements for Getting an NCSF Certification?

How does one get certified in NCSF, or at least begin to? Well, to get any certification from NCSF, there are two basic prerequisites: you must be at least 18 years old, and you must have a high school diploma or equivalent.

But, if your goal is to be certified as a sports nutrition specialist (SNS) with NCSF, you will actually need to have your CPT certification completed beforehand, either via NCSF or another accredited program.

What Certifications Does NCSF Offer?

NCSF focuses on three areas of certification for fitness professionals. The categories are:


Certified Personal Trainer (CPT)

Personal trainers work one-on-one with all kinds of different people to reach their fitness goals. With this certification, CPTs are able to work at health clubs, resorts, and even cruise ships.


Certified Strength Coach (CSC)

CSCs are mostly seen at places like schools and athletic facilities, but some also work at wellness clinics. CSCs specialize in injury prevention, skill acquisition, training, and physical development. They work with individuals, groups, and teams to improve their athletic performance.


Sport Nutrition Specialist (SNS)

Sport nutrition specialists help athletes enhance their performance and health through nutritional strategies. Note: this certification does not automatically include a personal trainer certification. In order to take the SNS exam, you will need to have your CPT certification from NCSF or another NCCA-accredited program.

NCSF also offers combined certifications, at a bundled cost of $599 each:

  • Personal Training and Strength Coach
  • Personal Training and Sports Nutrition Specialist


Whichever direction you choose to take for your career, NCSF has a specialized curriculum for each category and offers flexible payment plans to help you achieve your goal(s).


What Is the Cost of NCSF Certification for CPT?

NCSF is also one of the more budget-friendly certifications, starting at $299 for an exam only option for CPT certification. This is an option we’d recommend more for current industry professionals or kinesiology professionals who may not need many studying materials, references or workshops.

Seeking something with more educational tools? No problem. NCSF offers a total of five different programs, which, based on the package you select, include everything from your textbook and instructional videos, to two days of workshop instruction (16 hours) and your first year’s membership.


Refer to the table below for the pricing of each NCSF certification package in the CPT category.


Package Standard Price NCSF Package Price
Exam Only $299 $299
Home Study & Course Exam $699 $549
Home Study Plus Package $757.95 $549
Workshop Course & Exam $728 $549
Workshop Plus Package $797.95 $599


In addition to the savings you can make with the package pricing, four out of the five programs (this is excluding the exam only option) are eligible for a payment plan to make things more financially flexible.

How to get Recertified in NCSF

No matter which category (CPT, CSC or SNS), in order to keep your NCSF certification, you will need to renew it every two years. You will need to do this by proving proof that you have continued your education in your area of expertise. More specifically, you will need to submit certificates of participation/transcripts of 10 continuing education units (20 hours of CEUs). These CEUs will include the following:

  • CPR certification renewal: all reputable organizations which offer the certification are accepted
  • Ethics and professional practice: ethical behavior in the workplace, sexual harassment policies, professional business practices, etc.
  • General CEUs: seminars, home study, conferences, etc.

In addition to your CEUs, the NCSF recertification fee is $75, and it can be done online.

What Is the Cost of NCSF Certification for CSC?

NCSF offers a similar pricing model for CSC certification – the only difference is that some of the CSC packages already have eight continuing education credits built into the price. There is also an opportunity for in-person workshops, depending on the package you select. Whichever in-depth package you choose, you are guaranteed to get the skills in cutting-edge techniques, advanced programming, comprehensive assessment protocols, and top-end SAQ programs.


Refer to the table below for the pricing of each NCSF certification package in the CSC category.


Package Standard Price NCSF Package Price
Exam Only $299 $299
Home Study & Course Exam $688 $499
Home Study Plus Package $757.95 $549
Workshop Course & Exam $728 $549
Workshop Plus Package $797.95 $599


What Is the Cost of NCSF Certification for SNS?

Getting your SNS certification with NCSF requires you to have your CPT certification, whether it is from NCSF, or another NCCA accredited program. The SNS certification focuses on five areas:

  • Recommended Nutrients and Intakes
  • Physiological Concepts for Nutrition
  • Macronutrients
  • Micronutrients and Supplementation
  • Nutrition and Physiological Adaptations to Exercise

The coursework will provide you with expertise in the areas of enhancing performance, balancing and weight activities, supplements and performance enhancers, and timing nutrients and fluids for optimal results.


There are three packages to choose from in the SNS certification category.


Refer to the table below for pricing.


Package Standard Price NCSF Package Price
Exam Only $299 $299
Course & Exam $688 $499
Plus Package $757.95 $549


How Long Does It Take to Get an NCSF Certification?

Depending on the program you choose to enroll in, you should be prepared to invest several months in your learning and testing period. While some programs are self-paced, here is what you can expect as far as timing:

  • CPT: this is a self-paced program, though most candidates complete it within several months.
  • CSC: NCSF allows candidates up to 6 months to schedule and take the exam with a recommended 2-4 months of study.
  • SNS: like the CPT program, the SNS certification is also self-paced. However, most candidates complete the program in approximately 2-4 months.

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How Long is the Validity of NCSF Certification?

The National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF) certifications typically have a validity period of two years. This duration reflects the industry standard for certification renewal cycles. To maintain their certification status, fitness professionals certified by the NCSF must complete continuing education credits during these two years. These credits can be earned through various approved educational activities, such as workshops, courses, or conferences related to fitness and exercise science. The renewal process helps certified individuals stay updated with the latest industry knowledge and maintain their commitment to providing safe and effective fitness training. Always check the specific requirements and policies on the NCSF website for the most accurate and current information regarding certification validity and renewal.

Enhance Your NCSF Certification

When you think about what the meaning of an NCSF certification is, it’s clear that it involves the wellbeing of so many different kinds of people – children, groups, individual athletes, etc. No matter which NCSF certification you choose, you have already committed to investing in both your clients and the rest of the health and fitness world. Why not take it a step further with an additional specialization?

To really set yourself aside, there are other things you can do to enhance your NCSF certification. Consider getting specialized in special needs personal training with Special Strong. Our certification focuses on modified exercises for clients who have special needs such as down syndrome, autism, and other disabilities, and teaches you how to navigate emotional barriers and encourage people in ways you might not have considered before.

The coursework for Special Strong takes just eight hours to complete, and it can be done entirely online. The text for the program is included in the cost, which is only $449. For more information or to get started with your specialization, you can sign up here.


Strong Education teaches personal trainers and service providers on how to adapt fitness and nutrition for children, adolescents, and adults with autism, Down Syndrome, and other disabilities through our online adaptive special needs certification course.

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