National Strength and Conditioning Association-Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT)

The NSCA-CPT was developed for strength and conditioning professionals who work in health and fitness clubs, wellness centers, schools, and in clients’ homes. Those seeking their NSCA-CPT gain the necessary experience through developing strength and conditioning wellness plans for physically active people, as well as sedentary individuals. NSCA-CPTs typically work with healthy people; however, they can also work with those who have special needs.

To qualify to take the NSCA-CPT examination, the applicant must be at least 18 years of age and have a high school diploma or the GED equivalent. No formal education is required beyond a high school diploma; however, candidates are expected to have a solid knowledge base in biomechanical concepts, training adaptations, anatomy, exercise physiology, program design guidelines, as well as current position papers pertaining to special populations.

Current CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and AED (automated external defibrillator) certifications are also required. These courses must have a hands-on training component. Courses that are completed entirely online will not be accepted. The course must also include a skills performance evaluation. Acceptable CPR and AED certifications for the purpose of sitting for the NSCA-CPT examination are offered by the American Heart Association through its Heartsaver program, as well as the American Red Cross (which offers a blended program of first aid, CPR, and AED), the National Safety Council, and St. John Ambulance.

The NSCA-CPT examination consists of 140 scored questions. There are several different categories, each with questions that focus on a different aspect of the required knowledge base. The topics candidates can expect to see covered on the NSCA-CPT examination are outlined below:

Client consultation and assessment: 23 percent (32 scored questions)
• Initial interview
• Medical history and health appraisal
• Fitness evaluation
• Basic nutrition review

Program planning: 32 percent (45 scored questions)
• Setting goals
• Program design
• Training adaptations
• Special populations

Techniques of exercise: 32 percent (45 scored questions)
• Machine resistance exercises
• Free weight exercises
• Flexibility exercises
• Functional training exercises
• Calisthenics and body weight exercises
• Sport-specific and performance-related activities
• Cardiovascular machines
• Non-machine cardiovascular activities

Safety, emergency procedures, and legal issues: 13 percent (18 scored questions)
• Safety procedures
• Emergency response
• Professional, legal, and ethical responsibility

The NSCA-CPT examination is available as a hand-written test or as a computer-based test. Scores are available three to five weeks after taking the examination.


Last Updated: November 9, 2023