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Top 10 Sports and Recreation Certifications

This article provides an overview of the top certifications for sports and recreation professionals, including details about their requirements and benefits.

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Brenna Goyette
Certified Professional Resume Writer, Career Expert

Published 16 min read

Certifications in sports and recreation can be extremely important when it comes to the job market. Employers are looking for professionals who have the knowledge, skills, and experience necessary to excel in the field. Having a certification demonstrates that you possess these qualities, making you more desirable to potential employers. Certifications also provide evidence of your competence in specific areas of sports and recreation, such as coaching or event management, thus increasing your chances of being hired. Additionally, certifications can open up opportunities for higher-level positions and increased pay within the industry.

The purpose of this article is to review and explain the value of some of the top certifications for Sports and Recreations, and how they can help to further a career in Sports and Recreation.

What are Sports and Recreation Certifications?

Sports and recreation certification is a type of professional certification that recognizes individuals who have achieved a certain level of education, experience, and competency in the field. It demonstrates to employers and clients that an individual has the knowledge and skills necessary to work in the sports and recreation industry.

Sports and recreation certifications are offered by many organizations, including colleges, universities, schools, associations, companies, and state or federal agencies. These certifications often include topics such as sports management; marketing; coaching; health promotion; physical activity promotion; nutrition; exercise physiology; and sport psychology.

Having a certification can help individuals stand out from other job applicants when applying for positions in the sports and recreation industry. Certification can also help professionals gain access to specialized training programs that may lead to higher-level job opportunities or advancement within their current organization. Additionally, having a certification shows potential employers that an individual is committed to staying up-to-date on the latest trends in the field.

In addition to helping individuals obtain jobs or advance within their current organization, having a sports and recreation certification can also provide access to continuing education opportunities. This allows professionals to stay informed about new developments in the field while continuing to expand their skill set. This can be especially beneficial for those working with athletes or clients who require specialized instruction or advice related to their sport or activity of choice.

Pro Tip: When considering a sports and recreation certification, make sure to research the accreditation of the program you are interested in. Accreditation is an important factor to consider as it will determine the quality of your certification and its validity.

Related: What does a Sports and Recreation do?

Top 10 Sports and Recreation Certifications

Here’s our list of the best certifications available to Sports and Recreations today.

1. Certified Personal Trainer (CPT)

A Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) is a professional who specializes in helping individuals reach their fitness goals. They provide personalized instruction and guidance to help clients improve their physical health, fitness level, and overall wellbeing. CPTs are knowledgeable in anatomy, physiology, nutrition, exercise science and other related areas.

The process of becoming a CPT typically takes between three to six months depending on the certification program chosen. To become certified, you must complete an accredited program that includes both theoretical and practical components. You will also need to pass an exam administered by the certifying organization.

There are several organizations that offer CPT certifications including the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), American Council on Exercise (ACE), National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), and International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA). Each organization has its own requirements for certification so it’s important to research each one carefully before making a decision.

The cost of becoming a CPT varies depending on the certifying organization chosen but can range from $500-$1000 USD. This cost usually includes the cost of study materials as well as the exam fee.

2. Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)

The Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) certification is a professional credential offered by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). It is designed to recognize individuals who have achieved a high level of knowledge, experience, and competence in strength and conditioning.

To become certified as a CSCS, applicants must meet certain educational and experiential requirements. Applicants must have either a bachelor's degree or higher from an accredited college or university with a major in exercise science, kinesiology, physical education, physiology, recreation, or another related field; OR they must have completed at least four years of full-time experience in strength and conditioning under the supervision of an NSCA-certified individual.

In addition to meeting these requirements, applicants must also pass an exam administered by the NSCA. The exam consists of 150 multiple choice questions that cover topics such as anatomy, biomechanics, nutrition, exercise physiology, program design/implementation/evaluation, general physical preparation principles/techniques/theories/applications, testing/assessment techniques/theories/applications, injury prevention techniques/theories/applications.

It typically takes between 6-12 months to complete all the necessary requirements for certification. The cost of becoming certified varies depending on whether you are an NSCA member or not. For non-members it costs $350 for the exam plus $50 for the application fee; while for members it costs $250 for the exam plus $50 for the application fee.

3. Certified Exercise Physiologist (EP-C)

A Certified Exercise Physiologist (EP-C) is a health and fitness professional who has earned a specialized certification in exercise physiology. The EP-C certification is offered by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). It requires a combination of education, experience, and examination to demonstrate competency in exercise physiology.

To obtain the EP-C certification, an individual must have at least a bachelor’s degree in exercise science or related field from an accredited college or university. They must also have at least one year of experience working with clients under direct supervision. Finally, they must pass the ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist Exam which covers topics such as anatomy and physiology, nutrition, biomechanics, exercise prescription and program design.

The cost for the EP-C exam varies depending on the country where it is taken. In the United States, it costs $225 for members of ACSM and $300 for non-members. The exam can be taken online or in person at an ACSM approved testing center. It typically takes about three hours to complete the exam.

4. Certified Sports Nutritionist (CSN)

A Certified Sports Nutritionist (CSN) is a professional who has been certified by an accredited organization to provide nutrition advice and services specifically designed for athletes. CSNs are knowledgeable in the science of sports nutrition, including the principles of energy balance, macronutrient metabolism, and micronutrient requirements. They understand how to optimize performance through proper nutrition, hydration, and supplementation.

It usually takes around 6-12 months to become a Certified Sports Nutritionist (CSN). It requires completing a course or program that covers topics such as exercise physiology, sports nutrition, biochemistry, anatomy and physiology, food science and more. The coursework should also include hands-on experience with athletes or clients.

To become a Certified Sports Nutritionist (CSN), you must first complete an accredited program or course in sports nutrition. After completing the program or course, you must then pass an exam administered by an accredited organization such as the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN). Once you have passed the exam, you will receive your certification as a Certified Sports Nutritionist (CSN).

The cost of becoming a Certified Sports Nutritionist (CSN) varies depending on the program or course you choose. Generally speaking, it can range from $500-$2000 USD depending on the length and complexity of the program or course.

5. National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)

The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) is a professional organization that certifies fitness professionals in the field of exercise science. It is the gold standard for personal trainers and strength and conditioning coaches. NASM provides certifications for personal trainers, corrective exercise specialists, performance enhancement specialists, and lifestyle and weight management consultants.

It typically takes between 3-6 months to complete the certification process depending on your prior knowledge and experience. To get certified you must first purchase a study package from NASM which includes an online course, practice exams, study materials, and an exam voucher. The cost of the packages range from $699-$2199 depending on what type of package you choose. After completing your studies you will then need to take an online proctored exam which costs $599. Once you pass your exam you will receive your certification and be able to use the credentials provided by NASM to work as a certified personal trainer or strength coach.

6. American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is a professional organization that promotes and integrates scientific research, education, and practical applications of sports medicine and exercise science to maintain and enhance physical performance. It was founded in 1954 by Dr. Werner Kieser and has grown to become the world’s largest sports medicine and exercise science organization. ACSM offers certifications for professionals who work in the field of exercise science, including personal trainers, health fitness instructors, clinical exercise specialists, and others.

It typically takes between 6-12 months to obtain an ACSM certification. To get certified, you must first complete an approved ACSM program or coursework from an accredited institution. After completing the program or coursework, you must then pass an exam administered by the ACSM Certification Commission. The exam consists of multiple-choice questions covering topics such as anatomy and physiology, nutrition, kinesiology/biomechanics, exercise psychology/behavior change strategies, exercise programming/instructional techniques, safety/emergency procedures, risk stratification/screening for special populations, administration/management of health/fitness programs.

The cost for taking the exam varies depending on your location; however it typically ranges from $200-$300 USD. Additionally there are study materials available which can cost anywhere from $50-$100 USD depending on where you purchase them from.

Overall getting certified through ACSM is a great way to demonstrate your knowledge in the field of exercise science and help advance your career opportunities in this area.

7. National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF)

The National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF) is an independent, non-profit organization that provides certifications to qualified professionals in the health and fitness industry. The NCSF offers four certifications: Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Certified Personal Trainer (CPT), Certified Special Population Specialist (CSPS), and Certified Health Coach (CHC).

It typically takes up to six months to complete the certification process for any of the four NCSF certifications. To get certified, individuals must first pass a written exam that covers topics such as anatomy, exercise physiology, nutrition, injury prevention, and program design. After passing the written exam, applicants must then submit a portfolio of work experience or professional development activities that demonstrate their knowledge in the field.

The cost of each certification varies depending on which one you are pursuing. The CSCS certification is $300 USD; the CPT certification is $250 USD; the CSPS certification is $200 USD; and the CHC certification is $150 USD.

In addition to these fees, applicants may also be required to pay additional fees for study materials or other related expenses associated with their chosen certification.

8. American Red Cross Lifeguard Certification

The American Red Cross Lifeguard Certification is a comprehensive training program that teaches individuals the skills and knowledge necessary to become a lifeguard. The certification includes training in water rescue, CPR/AED, First Aid, and other lifesaving skills. It also covers topics such as professional lifeguarding responsibilities, accident prevention, emergency systems, and decision-making.

The certification process typically takes about 30 hours to complete. This includes both classroom instruction and hands-on practice in the pool. To get certified, individuals must attend an authorized Red Cross Lifeguard Training course offered by an approved instructor or facility. During the course, participants will learn the necessary skills and knowledge to pass the final exam and receive their certification card.

The cost of the American Red Cross Lifeguard Certification varies depending on where you take the course and what materials are included in the fee. Generally speaking, it can cost anywhere from $150-$300 for the entire program.

9. Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA)

The Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA) is a professional organization that provides education, certification, and resources to aquatic fitness professionals. It was founded in 1989 and has grown to become the largest international organization dedicated to aquatic exercise. The AEA offers a variety of certifications for aquatic fitness professionals. These include an Aquatic Fitness Professional (AFP), an Aquatic Exercise Instructor (AEI), and an Aquatic Exercise Specialist (AES).

To become certified by the AEA, individuals must complete a series of courses, exams, and practical experience requirements. Depending on the level of certification desired, this process can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. To get started, individuals must first become members of the AEA. Membership fees vary depending on the type of membership desired but range from $50-$150 per year.

Once an individual is a member of the AEA they can then register for any courses or exams they wish to take in order to obtain their certification. Course fees vary depending on the type of course taken but typically range from $100-$500 per course. Exam fees also vary depending on the type of exam taken but typically range from $50-$150 per exam.

In addition to course and exam fees, individuals may also be required to purchase additional materials such as textbooks or study guides in order to prepare for their exams and/or courses. These materials are not included in the course or exam fee and must be purchased separately at an additional cost.

Once all courses and exams have been completed successfully, individuals will receive their certification from the AEA which will allow them to work as certified aquatic fitness professionals in their respective field.

10. USA Archery Level 1 Instructor

USA Archery Level 1 Instructor is a certification program developed by USA Archery to provide archery instructors with the knowledge and skills necessary to teach archery safely and effectively. The program focuses on teaching fundamentals, safety, rules, range management, and equipment selection. It also covers topics such as coaching techniques, mental training, and competition preparation. The program consists of an online course followed by a practical evaluation.

The online course takes approximately 8-10 hours to complete. It includes videos and interactive activities that cover the basics of archery instruction. After completing the online course, participants must pass a written exam in order to receive their certification.

In order to become a USA Archery Level 1 Instructor, you must be at least 18 years old and have completed the online course and passed the written exam. You must also have current membership in USA Archery or another national governing body for archery (e.g., World Archery Federation).

The cost of the USA Archery Level 1 Instructor certification is $150 USD plus any applicable taxes or fees. This fee covers both the online course and the written exam.

Do You Really Need a Sports and Recreation Certificate?

The answer to this question depends on one’s individual needs and goals. If you are looking for a career in sports or recreation, then obtaining a sports and recreation certificate can be beneficial. A certificate will provide you with the knowledge and skills necessary to pursue a career in this field. For example, a certificate may include coursework in areas such as nutrition, physical education, exercise physiology, anatomy and physiology, coaching techniques, sport psychology, and more.

On the other hand, if you are simply looking to gain additional knowledge of sports or recreation for personal enjoyment or enrichment purposes, then obtaining a certificate may not be necessary. There are plenty of books and online resources available which can provide information about various aspects of sports and recreation without needing to commit to formal training. Additionally, there are many recreational activities that do not require any special certification or training such as jogging, swimming, biking, etc.

Ultimately it is up to each individual to decide if they need a sports and recreation certificate based on their own goals and objectives.

Related: Sports and Recreation Resume Examples

FAQs About Sports and Recreation Certifications

1. What certifications are available for sports and recreation?

Answer: There are many different certifications available in the sports and recreation field, including coaching, fitness instruction, personal training, sport management, aquatics and more.

2. How do I become certified to work in sports and recreation?

Answer: Depending on the type of certification you’re looking for, you may need to take specialized courses or workshops, pass an exam or complete a certain number of hours of supervised practice.

3. Is there a cost associated with obtaining a certification?

Answer: Yes, certifications typically require payment for course materials and/or examination fees.

4. Are certifications required to work in sports and recreation?

Answer: It depends on the job role you’re applying for; some employers may require employees to have specific certifications while others may not.

5. Do certifications need to be renewed periodically?

Answer: Yes, depending on the type of certification you have obtained most will require renewal every two years or so by completing additional courses or continuing education credits.