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In one of my summer courses we have recently become involved in an extensive discussion as to the value of certifications and licensing as many other “professionals” are forced to go through in their respective
industries. You cannot sit for the APTA exam without a DPT curriculum
under your belt, you won’t be getting an MD without plenty of classroom
and lab hours, and you can’t become an accountant without a bachelors.
I tend to thing this is sound advice, but I do wonder how much good it
actually does the industry.

While I recognize the value in certification exams, I think we are naive to believe that they will truly help improve the image of the strength and conditioning, personal training, or fitness industries. It
may be a step, but there is too much else to consider.

A certification exam might be good to weed out the truly undedicated, but we have to realize that despite good reputations, the NSCA, NASM, ACE, etc are a single organization’s interpretation of
science (some old and outdated) that only requires a coach to
“memorize” and not “OWN” the information and pass a test. It is simply
a minimal level of education, that I believe all should have if they
desire to coach. That said, I don’t believe it’s going to make a coach
good because they have an X, Y, or Z certification.

In fact, I really don’t care if the coach has a masters degree, as I’ve seen little of that information translate to knowledge that actually matters in coaching. Our anatomy courses are too basic, we do
not establish good enough critical thinking skills, nor do exercise
science curricula really provide a lot of useful content. Sure, muscle
hypertrophy occurs in parallel, acidity modulations impact the Bohr
effect, and aerobic respiration produces between 28 and 38 molecules of
ATP, but what exactly does that mean to an athletic development coach,
personal trainer, or therapist? Additionally, how hard was it to get
“C” marks in your degree and still pass with the same degree that a 4.0
student received?

What is best is to establish a free flow and open dialogue in the industry where critical thinking and discussion predominate without the traditional “dogma” and emotion influencing people. I think this is one
reason why I really enjoy writing a blog as people are welcome to
freely disagree or share their own thoughts that augment my thinking.
Additionally, to enhance the quality of our profession, we need to
ensure, as a collective, that we maintain ourselves as professionals.
Like it or not, society deals with people who maintain themselves as
professionals so having an appearance that is strikingly different from
the CPA in the office next door may not be in the industry’s best

The establishment of a consistent set of terms may help enhance communication and advancement, too, as RNT is used to describe two very different training modes by two separate camps. What is a hop, jump,
bound? Are they they same thing? In this case, I do think that a
certification process may be useful, however, as it is a business, it
may not be as easy to establish a single method. How can we
communicate across disciplines without having a working knowledge of
what they do and the terms that they use. Likewise, if the PT crowd is
dealing with two or more athletic development coaches in late-stage
rehab of their athletes and one person is doing RNT ala NASM and
another RNT ala the Functional Movement crowd, things get muddy.

How do you all feel about certifications?
Carson Boddicker

Boddicker Performance

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Comment by Matthew R DeLancey on June 26, 2010 at 3:52pm
I did my undergraduate work at East Stroudsburg University and my graduate work at Northern Illinois University. Most of my learning has happened through training myself, talking to others, and training my athletes and working with their coaches. I completely agree that the certification doesn't make the coach but there has to be a minimum standard at some point.
Comment by Carson Boddicker on June 25, 2010 at 11:26am

There is no question that I agree with you on many of your points. I am by no means speaking against certifications, I am simply suggesting that the certification does not make the man. As you note, it takes a certain level of knowledge to pass; a minimum level, and that is good. How much of that knowledge do you still use and find to be "best practice" in your daily S and C work, though? Also, how much critical thinking is "some" critical thinking in the exam and does that transfer over to the development of skeptical and discerning, scientific reasoner or is that just the school of hard knocks and something that must be developed over time? I would venture a guess and say that the majority of people work with the same assumptions and mindset as their biggest influence in their upbringing as a coach.

Regarding the college education, I, too, agree with your statements, and would add that you get as much out of it as you put into it. College education is excellent, and I would argue that requiring one would be a good way to limit the total number of people within the industry, thus making your work and my work more valuable in a relative sense. It also, to many extents, weeds out those too lazy to continue educating themselves. Where did you go to school?

Thanks for the comments.

Carson Boddicker
Comment by Matthew R DeLancey on June 25, 2010 at 10:38am
The certifications are important if you want to keep yourself out of court. How else do you protect yourself from a liability suit if you're not certified. The CSCS is an accredited certification that offers training insurance. If you don't have one, and you get sued, then good luck winning that case in court. That being said, do certifications gaurantee a good coach? No. But it still takes a certain level of knowledge to pass the CSCS. Which, by the way, is not all memorization. The technique portion of the exam requires a developed eye for the movements being shown. There is some critical thinking. The better certification emerging is the CSCCa which requires a 9 month internship, a test, and hot seat questions from strength coaches currently in the field.

The quality of a college education depends on your school. My undergraduate degree was in PE & Health and I had 2 human anatomy and physiology classes, EX phys, Kinesiology, care and prevention, biomechanics, and a 13 different sport/activity classes that gave me great understanding of how the human body moves. Sometimes the knowledge you learn doesn't transfer to your career but the process that you went through to learn that knowledge is invaluable. The process teaches you how to expand your knowledge level in your career. All in all, there needs to be an undergraduate degree and certification for fitness professionals.
Comment by Carson Boddicker on June 23, 2010 at 12:52pm

I agree. The job at hand gets it done. That said, there is still a lot of value in learning from books, just (as you note) books to which your curiosities take you.

I see you are in Dubuque. I am an Iowa boy to an extent. Next time I am back in the state, I'll try to make a trek up your way and see what you do, if you don't mind.

Carson Boddicker
Comment by Mike Mandot on June 23, 2010 at 11:04am
I find myself agreeing more and more with you in concerns to the certifications/ formal education. These things have become hoops that we must jump through. My actual formal education (bachelors & masters) has given me what I would consider to be about 10% of my currently used knowledge. CSCS certification maybe 2%. Internship with a top notch coach at a high level program 70%. The remaing percentage I would say came from my experiences via the wt. room and different materials that I have souhgt out and read. Traditional text books and classrooms do not get it done.
On every interns evaluation sheet that I have filled out I have wrote the exact same thing: Needs more hands on experience and the ability to take information from paper and apply it.
There simply is no substitute for doing the actual job.

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