The NSCA Certification Commission recently conducted a national job analysis survey (JAS) of strength and conditioning and personal training professionals to revalidate the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT) certification exams.
The NSCA Certification Commission conducts a JAS every five years to make the content of the exams reflect the ever-changing strength and conditioning and personal training professions. The purpose of the JAS is to identify the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) required to be a competent strength and conditioning or personal training professional. The KSAs are then organized into primary content groups (called "domains"), subcategories within each domain and multiple tasks within each subcategory. It is this level of detail that ensures a proper alignment of KSAs to effectively evaluate whether exam candidates can properly perform the duties of the profession.
Over 10,000 invitations to complete the JAS were sent to strength and conditioning and personal training professionals. The exceptional response rate of 22% confirms the validity of the KSAs revealed by the JAS.
A comprehensive JAS provides the basic foundation for evaluating the job skills and tasks required to be a safe, effective and competent strength and conditioning or personal training professional. The Job Analysis Committees — comprised of experts in strength and conditioning and personal training — use the information gleaned from the JAS to determine the weighting of exam content and to ensure the proper number of questions can be written for each content area of the exam.
The Results
Consequently, the information learned from the 2008 JAS resulted in some changes to the content weighting and scope of the KSAs tested on the CSCS and NSCA-CPT exams:
·         The CSCS exam is comprised of two independently scored sections, the "Scientific Foundations" section and the "Practical/Applied" section. The "Scientific Foundations" section is made up of two primary domains: exercise sciences (anatomy, exercise physiology, kinesiology, biomechanics) and nutrition. The "Scientific Foundations" section KSAs did not change as a result of the recent JAS.
·         The "Practical/Applied" section of the CSCS exam is made up of four primary domains: exercisetechniquesprogram designorganization and administration and testing and evaluation. The results of the JAS indicated that some specific changes to the KSAs were needed to more appropriately reflect a strength and conditioning professional's job duties.
·         One specific content change was to place more emphasis on spotting techniques and procedures by moving the spotting procedures, which previously was a task in several parts of the exercise techniques domain, to its own subcategory within the domain. Also, within the program designdomain subcategory, the word "rehabilitation" was changed to "reconditioning" to more clearly describe the scope of the duties of a strength and conditioning professional. Lastly, within theorganization and administration domain, the "… provide a safe training environment…" portion of one of the subcategories is now a separate subcategory and is expanded to encompass more areas of safety to the athlete, the equipment and the training facility.
·         The NSCA-CPT exam is made up of four primary domains: client consultation and assessment,program planningtechniques of exercise and safety, emergency procedures and legal issues. The results of the JAS indicated that some specific changes to the KSAs were needed to more accurately describe a personal training professional's job duties.
·         Specifically within the client consultation and assessment domain, "postural alignment/muscle balance" was added to a subcategory, the "fitness evaluation" subcategory was expanded to include 11 components, and the "basic nutrition review" subcategory was enhanced to identify the personal trainer's scope of practice regarding nutritional recommendations and referring a client to an appropriate health care professional.
·         Within the program planning domain, five special populations were added to the "special populations" subcategory: individuals who have had a stroke, individuals with metabolic syndrome, individuals with neurologic disorders, individuals with fibromyalgia and individuals with hyperlipidemia. It is important that the NSCA-CPT certification exam covers the specialized client populations a personal trainer may work with. As a result of JAS, the NSCA-CPT exam now addresses a total of 23 specialized client populations.
Although changes to the content of both certification exam programs may seem minor, revalidating the KSAs allows the CSCS and the NSCA-CPT exams to remain relevant to the current duties performed by strength and conditioning and personal training professionals. The frequent and purposeful practice of conducting a JAS is one of the reasons why the NSCA Certification Commission remains in the top of the industry for certifying strength and conditioning and personal training professionals.
Torrey Smith MA, CSCS,*D; NSCA-CPT,*D, is the Exam Development Coordinator for the NSCA Certification Commission. He is responsible for developing, securing and maintaining the internationally accredited CSCS and the NSCA-CPT certification exams. He frequently gives lectures at national and international conferences about how to design personalized exercise and training programs for athletes and clients of all sports and fitness levels, as well as lectures related to exam development. Smith's background includes personal fitness training, five years as a health/fitness instructor in cardiac and pulmonary rehab, and seven years working in administrative positions. For more information regarding the NSCA Certification Commission's credentials, please visit or email