National Council on Strength & Fitness
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Setting Standards, Developing Professionals, and Serving the Public through Education and Certification
Consumer Advocacy

Consumer Advocacy


Consumers are a primary stakeholder of any certification program. As such, organizations that provide certification to professionals who serve the public have an ethical requirement to ensure:


the qualification standards are consistent with the requisite tasks of the job

the testing instrument validly assesses professionals for minimum competency standards

that individuals not qualified to deliver safe and effective practices are screened out

professionals earning a credential maintain continued competency or relinquish certified status

all professional practices occur within the defined scope of the profession and are performed consistent with the standards of professional practice

professionals are held to ethical standards and sanctioned for behaviors in conflict with those standards


If you are interested in utilizing a personal trainer it is important to become an educated consumer. Personal trainers are voluntarily regulated, as there is no unified enforceable standard through federal or state regulations. Anyone can legally claim to be a personal trainer and practice without breaking any laws. To protect oneself from harm and be assured the services being rendered are appropriate, only employ a trainer who is committed to voluntary regulation. NCSF certified personal trainers represent a discernable level of professional qualification that has been validated utilizing high stakes testing. The NCSF-CPT is required to demonstrate ongoing competency and comply with practice standards to maintain certified status. In addition, they must meet ethics requirements and maintain emergency preparedness training to continue practicing as an NCSF Certified Personal Trainer. The following questions will help identify a qualified and properly credentialed personal trainer.

Common Questions
How should a personal trainer become qualified?

All jobs have requisite skills that are necessary for successful completion of the job tasks. There are numerous skills a qualified personal trainer must possess to safely and effectively implement client services. The ability to construct and implement training programs based on a client’s individual and specific needs requires education and training. This training can be delivered vocationally or through institutions of higher education. The abilities developed through the learning process are what differentiate one trainer from another. A validly qualified personal trainer has completed a process of education and training and then taken and passed a standardized assessment of these capabilities in a proctored environment.


Many personal trainers have not met these rigors and have attained a certification from an organization that offers non-proctored online and open book assessments. These assessments cannot determine if a person is qualified to do the job tasks, nor can they determine if the credential was fraudulently attained. The NCSF employs subject matter experts and utilizes the largest and most comprehensive global test development and administration service to ensure legitimacy its certification program. The result these efforts produce is a legitimate assessment of a professional’s skills and a qualified practitioner. Consumers deserve this level of competency.

What should a client ask when interviewing a potential trainer?

There are several questions that can be used to discern the quality of a candidate.

  1. Do they maintain a valid (non-expired) NCCA accredited certification? Ask them for the certification number and look it up under the organization’s credential verification. This will tell you if they actually are certified, when it expires and if they have any sanctions against their credential.
  2. Check for CPR certification and insurance. Both may be important if something goes wrong. Trainers who work for corporations may not have personal coverage as the facility covers them under their policy.
  3. What is their educational background? Trainers may have attained the education and training through a variety of avenues. If they suggest they have additional credentials, ascertain what that means. Many fitness organizations provide continued education in different areas that are passed on as certifications and some are more valid than others. Although all quality trainers participate in continued learning, the scope and depth of the programs differ. Therefore if you have special need such as risk for or diagnosed disease, are pregnant or need modification to your program due to a special circumstance or condition ensure the trainer maintains the capabilities to manage these situations.
  4. Ask for references. Clients often remain with their trainer because they are satisfied with their services. In some cases trainers are just starting off so they may not have an extensive client list.
  5. Ask them how they develop their programs and the process of goal attainment. Personal trainers should have a protocol to identify possible risks and be able to generate an individual needs analysis based on evaluation and interview.

What is the NCCA accreditation?

The National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) is an independent accreditation board that reviews a credential’s development and administration for the purposes of valid assessment. It does not accredit education or evaluate the process of competency development. Essentially it ensures the assessment instrument used by an organization is valid and reliable for its intended purpose. The individual organization is obligated to create a difficulty level consistent with the job task. The NCSF Board for Certification utilizes a comprehensive role delineation study every five years with input from thousands of surveys distributed to all levels of stakeholders to develop a certification exam that performs optimally. This process is considered the benchmark for Personal Trainer Certification development and administration.

How can one validate a Personal Trainer's credential?

Go online to the organization’s website. If they are legitimately certified they will have a certification number that can be looked up in the credential verification section of the website.

What is the difference between a certificate and a legitimate certification?

A certificate denotes some level of education participation. In some cases Colleges and Universities offer one-year certificates which include a sequence of classes. This is different from a continued education certificate which means that a certain number of contact hours were accrued as a class or program. Neither is the same as a valid certification which accurately assesses competency, not participation.

What is the difference between a degree and a certification?

Similar to a certificate, a degree confers a commitment of time and effort to an education which is most often discipline specific. In four year programs 60 credit hours are devoted to general knowledge attainment and another 60 credit hours are comprised of pre-requisite and discipline specific classes. Although a degree is obviously a measure of training, a certification is a measure of the discipline specific outcome. Similar to the Bar Exam to work as a lawyer or any other industry required assessment instrument for license, a certification does not denote a level of education but rather a defined competency standard. A personal trainer does not need a degree to sit for a certification exam, but degreed or not, needs the requisite knowledge and skills in the assessment domains of the certification to pass the exam.

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