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ACSM Certification: ACSM Certifications: Where We've Been and Where We're Headed

Keteyian, Steven J. Ph.D., FACSM


Get the scoop on new and upcoming certifications offered by ACSM.

Steven J. Keteyian, Ph.D., FACSM (, is program director, Preventive Cardiology, Henry Ford Heart & Vascular Institute, Detroit; adjunct associate professor, Department of Physiology, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit; and clinical professor, Exercise Science Program, Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan. He is an ACSM Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist® and Second Vice President, ACSM.

Change is always for the better, or so the saying goes.

Well, if it's true, then a bright future awaits the various certifications offered through ACSM. Specifically, over these past 18 months, there has been much change in the services and products provided by the ACSM Certification Department-and more is planned for 2006.

From my perspective as an individual intricately involved with the ACSM Committee on Certification and Registry Boards (CCRB), all of these changes have been for the better.

Before sharing some of the major initiatives accomplished to date and providing a brief glimpse of what lies ahead, let me take a moment and describe three of the important forces currently influencing or shaping the certification industry. These forces have stimulated ACSM to respond with a broad and sweeping agenda aimed at both continuing its role as an industry leader and expanding the products we offer to best serve professionals in both the public health and clinical arenas.

The forces I'm referring to come from within ACSM (internal) or are market/industry driven (external). The primary internal force finds its roots in the strategic priorities recently established by ACSM leadership for the College. Specifically, one of ACSM's strategic priorities is to advance the fitness and exercise profession. The message conveyed here is clear-ACSM takes serious its role to advocate on behalf of and to prepare and support exercise and fitness professionals. This priority involves all levels of delivery including health care, fitness centers, worksites, and public programs.

As mentioned above, there are external forces at work as well. Two important ones are (a) a market-driven need for increased numbers of certified general fitness and clinical exercise professionals and (b) industry and client demand for professionals that are competent and qualified. Neither of these forces is surprising and both are highly consistent with what ACSM has been offering in the way of its certification products for more than 30 years. Specifically, ACSM strives to prepare the highest quality health/fitness professional and does so using a rigorous evidence-based approach.

With that information as a background, it's now easier to summarize many of the important changes that have taken place within ACSM certification programs these past 18 months. Doing so should help you better appreciate and understand the steps being put into place by ACSM to better serve you in the future.



  • The ACSM Personal TrainerTM certification was launched in December 2005. Initial user interest, based upon total tests taken to date, indicates that this certification product is well received. The preliminary pass rate is approximately 70%, even though many of the early adopters are highly seasoned health/fitness professionals (i.e., possess many years of work-related experience and already have multiple certifications from other groups). It is important to note that this certification was launched using a computer-based testing platform and comes with a host of online preparatory materials. Check out to learn more about this certification.
  • In January of this year, a limited time window expansion of the eligibility criteria for the ACSM Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist® exam was granted to ensure that all current practitioners have an opportunity to formally enter this profession, as it solidifies its niche in the healthcare arena. As mentioned, this is a one-time, limited offer that runs through May 2006 and May 2007 for previously bachelor's and master's prepared professionals, respectively. This exam also is now offered using computer-based testing technology. For more information or to view the specifics for exam eligibility, visit the ACSM certification Web site at
  • I'm happy to report that ACSM will be submitting its application to the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). NCCA is an external accrediting agency that determines whether an organization's certifying policies and procedures represents a best practices approach. ACSM's involvement with NCCA will help those professionals who have or take our certifications meet a recommendation set forth by the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association that fitness professionals hired by health clubs and fitness centers be certified from an NCCA-accredited organization.
  • The recertification period for all professionals certified or recertified after January 1, 2005, was changed from four years to three years. Accordingly, the number of continuing education credits (CECs) required for each certification we offer was pro-rated downward proportionally, with the ACSM Personal TrainerTM certification requiring 45 CECs and the ACSM Health/Fitness Instructor®, ACSM Exercise Specialist®, and ACSM Registered Clinical Exercise® Physiologist all requiring 60 CECs.
  • ACSM actively participated in the development and launch of an online learning portal to help candidates prepare for their certification exams. Be sure to stop by
  • Speaking of learning, revised editions of the three primary resource or study materials were published last spring. Written and edited by literally dozens of past and current members of the CCRB, these resource books include ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, 7th Edition, ACSM's Resource Manual for Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, 5th Edition; and ACSM's Certification Review Book, 2nd Edition. All three provide an evidence-based approach to guide what most of us do every day and represent the industry gold standard relative to helping you be better prepared to take an ACSM certification. Along these same lines, the second edition of ACSM's Resource Manual for Personal Trainers is due to be released in the spring of 2006. Link up and learn more about all four resource books at
  • Along with several other exercise, fitness, and sports medicine organizations, in 2005 ACSM continued to play an active and important role in formalizing the academic training of fitness and exercise professionals through the Committee on the Accreditation of the Exercise Sciences (CoAES, Many colleges and universities have indicated great interest, and there is a good likelihood that some academic programs will be accredited in the spring of 2006. I encourage all institutions of higher education offering an exercise science or exercise physiology program to take the internal and CoAES steps needed to achieve program accreditation. Clearly, the stability, market presence, and influence of exercise professionals in the future will be related to how quickly and efficiently we can define the various professions as students graduate from accredited programs.

These changes are just a few of the many that took place in 2005, and I'm happy to report that exciting plans and projects await us in 2006. Of special interest is the important initiative that both the ACSM Exercise Specialist® and ACSM Health/Fitness Instructor® certifications will be offered using computer-based testing, starting January 2006. Just like our ACSM Personal TrainerTM and ACSM Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist® exams, these two exams will become highly accessible to our candidates and provide instant results. Overall costs for travel, time off from work, and the exam itself will be lower for candidates.

One other change I should probably mention is that as of July 1, 2005, I formally stepped down as Chair of CCRB to assume other responsibilities in the College. I truly enjoyed my tenure with the CCRB and remain forever grateful to both past and current ACSM staff and professional volunteers who work so hard to advance all of the certifications we offer. I'm happy to report that future committee leadership could not be in better hands, with Mr. Dino Costanzo stepping into the chair's position. Mr. Costanzo has years of experience as a volunteer member on the CCRB and he brings much real world practical experience and fresh ideas to all that ACSM and the CCRB have to offer.

In closing, because of all the changes made in ACSM products these past 18 months, I believe we have great strategic direction and the right people in place to meet the challenges ahead. Truly, a bright future awaits us.

© 2005 American College of Sports Medicine