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A Look Ahead to 2016 for ACSM’s Committee on Certification and Registry Boards

Simpson, William F. Ph.D., FACSM

doi: 10.1249/FIT.0000000000000188
Columns: ACSM Certification

William F. Simpson, Ph.D., FACSM, is an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Superior and directs the Exercise Physiology Laboratory. His experiences include YMCA work, cardiac rehabilitation, and 20 years in higher education, including as health promotion and wellness faculty. He has been a member of ACSM for more than 30 years and currently is serving as the chair of the Committee on Certification and Registry Boards. Outside of the classroom and laboratory, he enjoys running, cooking, and hanging out with his daughters.

Disclosure: The author declares no conflicts of interest and does not have any financial disclosures.

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The upcoming year for ACSM’s Committee on Certification and Registry Boards (CCRB) will be filled with a number of important tasks that will continue to see advancement in the exercise physiology profession. I wish to highlight a few of the actions the CCRB will be tackling this coming year.

First and foremost will be the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) reaccreditation process for four of ACSM’s certifications (ACSM’s Certified Personal Trainer [CPT], ACSM’s Certified Exercise Physiologist [EP-C], ACSM’s Clinical Exercise Physiologist [CEP], and ACSM’s Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist [RCEP]). All are due for reaccreditation by April 30, 2016. Recently, the NCCA revised and adopted new standards for accrediting certification programs that are more rigorous than they have been in recent years. The changes mainly center on the needed documentation for all certification development and maintenance processes, as well as a distinct division between examination administration and development and preparation.

In the past, many of our committee members consisted of academics with terminal degrees. Today's standards reflect more of a practice-based credentialing committee, therefore requiring that the majority of committee members not only hold the credential but also should have the minimal degree the certification requires and be practicing professionals. For RCEP, this translates into having master’s prepared professionals serving on the committee, whereas the CEP and EP-C committees should have members with a bachelor’s degree. The personal trainer committee, being a nondegreed credential, needs to have those not holding an academic degree in exercise science. During the past ’2 years, we have made significant progress in streamlining the committee structures and have aligned with the NCCA requirements.

The NCCA standards have long held that no one who has responsibility for the examination development can take part in any workshop or development of training materials developed specifically to prepare candidates for taking an ACSM examination. In the past, the line was less clear when appointing members to examination writing that also may have contributed to book chapters that are used to prepare students. There is now a clarification that a related entity (and not the certification board or examination development participants) may provide review courses and materials, but they must not be endorsed or required.

Also on the docket for 2016 is the revision of all our credentials’ job task analysis (JTA). It has been 5 years since our last set of JTAs, and we all are aware that the job tasks and scope of practice of exercise professions are dynamic and our examinations need to reflect directly as to what practicing professions are accomplishing in the real world. As a contrast to our tradition, there was not a CCRB Mid-Winter meeting in 2016. In its place, each of the five CCRB certification committees is completing a new JTA this spring. Meetings have been held both face-to-face and via teleconference as needed to complete this task before the NCCA reaccreditation deadline.

A third initiative this year is to expand our international efforts in certification. International certification has a long tradition with ACSM and CCRB; however, because of changes with NCCA and the accreditation process, our examination delivery needs to be more closely scrutinized regarding how and which examinations are delivered. The major issue in this challenge revolves around translation of examination content. Translation of examinations is a tedious process because of not only language issues but also cultural differences between our English versions and other countries’ languages. After much discussion within the CCRB executive council and the international committee, we will continue to offer our examinations; however, they will be offered in English, and the certification title will vary from what we use here in the United States. For example, the Clinical Exercise Physiology certification would be called Clinical Exercise Physiologist-International. This change would therefore not affect in anyway our NCCA accreditation status. For ACSM to offer the same credential, a separate JTA would need to be developed in our international versions. This does require additional time and expense, but by integrating a survey technique into the process, we hope to gather suggested changes to our domestic versions of our JTA that would then be integrated into international examinations with minimal expense.

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Also on the horizon are stepped up efforts within the strategic plan to incorporate more technology-based services for those interested in certification and those who are currently certified. We have become a device-oriented society with the expansion of mobile phones, tablets, and the use of applications for virtually everything we do. Given these advancements, the use of these delivery systems for examination preparation and a variety of continuing education opportunities, such as webinars, is essential to allow our certifications to stay competitive within the industry and profession.

Also on the horizon are stepped up efforts within the strategic plan to incorporate more technology-based services for those interested in certification and those who are currently certified. We have become a device-oriented society with the expansion of mobile phones, tablets, and the use of applications for virtually everything we do. Given these advancements, the use of these delivery systems for examination preparation and a variety of continuing education opportunities, such as webinars, is essential to allow our certifications to stay competitive within the industry and profession.

Finally, also related to our strategic planning, is an initiative to expand specific certification marketing efforts directly to employers and university educators. In the past, we have been behind the eight ball with regard to getting our products (certifications) to those who have the most influence on the preparation and hiring of certified professionals. Smallbox Web Design, our marketing consultant firm, has been working with the CCRB to develop targeted marketing strategies that are specific to clinical and nonclinical settings (such as human resource departments) and university departments.

As you may guess, this will be another busy and productive year for the CCRB. It is always a pleasure to serve with one of the most active and engaged ACSM committees. The dedication and work accomplished by the 50+ volunteer ACSM members and the incredible staff who work so hard at the National Center are difficult at times to comprehend. All have the dedication to ensure that when a client receives services from an ACSM-certified exercise professional, those services are of the highest quality and come from a highly trained exercise professional.

© 2016 American College of Sports Medicine.