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Certified Personal Trainer Vs. Certified Strength & Conditioning Trainer

author image Joseph Eitel
Joseph Eitel has written for a variety of respected online publications since 2006 including the Developer Shed Network and He has dedicated his life to researching and writing about diet, nutrition and exercise. Eitel's health blog,, has become an authority in the healthy-living niche. He graduated with honors from Kellogg Community College in 2010 with an Associate of Applied Science.
Certified Personal Trainer Vs. Certified Strength & Conditioning Trainer
A personal trainer instructing a client at the gym. Photo Credit: shironosov/iStock/Getty Images

If you enjoy helping others get healthy, becoming a Certified Personal Trainer, CPT, or Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, CSCS, are smart career paths for you. There are several accredited certification programs out there, but the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS, strongly suggests making sure the issuer of the certificate is accredited by the National Commissions for Certifying Agencies, or NCCA.

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Certification Process

In order to obtain either a CPT or CSCS credential, you must complete a comprehensive exam that covers a wide range of exercise and personal training topics. Exams are administered online, at independent testing facilities that offer a computer version of the test or basic paper/pencil at a college or university; it just depends on the organization’s requirements. Four organizations that offer accredited certification, according to the BLS, include the American College of Sports Medicine, American Council on Exercise, National Academy of Sports Medicine and National Strength and Conditioning Association, NSCA.


Certified personal trainers are not required to have a college degree, although they must have a current CPR and AED certification in most cases, such as with the Red Cross, National Safety Council or American Heart Association. This requirement may vary slightly from one organization to the next, but this is the standard for the NSCA CPT certification. CSCS trainers also must have CPR and AED certification, as well as a bachelor’s degree or be enrolled as a senior in a bachelor degree program.


The nature of a CSCS’s job is working with sport’s team on developing safe and effective strength and endurance training programs. Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists have an extensive knowledge of nutrition, training techniques and injury prevention methods. Compared to Certified Personal Trainers, CSCSs have tougher standards when it comes to certification. CSCS may also work as strength coaches, physical therapists and CPTs.


Certified personal trainers often work in a health club or fitness center environment. They work with clients to help them get in shape, which usually consists of a one-on-one interaction with the client. CPTs must have knowledge of how to work with special needs clients, such as orthopedic patients, people with heart problems or severely obese individuals. As a Certified Personal Trainer, you must be able to develop an effective fitness strategy for each individual client while also motivating and teaching them about how to live a healthy lifestyle.

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