T Nation

New Career Question

Hey Gang,
I wanted to get differing views on my course of action. I have determined that I do not want to be a consultant. I want to get into the strength and conditioning field. I want to dive into the field but don’t know if it would be better to get a degree in Kinesiology or get a certification. I have thought about taking an ISSA home course and then return to school after I have some field experience, but I have noticed that most of the strength coaches have the CSSC certification, which I believe requires an Exercise Science degree. I have had the Sales push from ISSA and the University so I was looking for differing views.
Any Help would be appreciated,
Darren Garland

First, you need to get educated in regards to what your actual options are. “CSCS” stands for Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. It is offered by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), and does NOT require a degree. Some ACSM certifications (e.g. exercise specialist)require degrees in related fields, but college degrees in related fields are relatively uncommon nowadays among those with some of the less stellar certifications.

As for which is better, it all depends on your finances, time constraints, and ability to translate what you learn into practical applications.

Left out one phrase. Although one must not have a degree to sit for the CSCS exam, he or she must be at least a junior in an exercise and health promotion field. NSCA-CPT, on the other hand, have no such requirements. Sorry for the omission.

Eric Cressey,
Thanks for enlightening me! I have an environmental science degree and would like a Master’s degree in an exercise field. Coaching I think would be a rewarding career but I am trying to figure out how to break in to the business.

What is meant by “exercise and health promotion feild?”

If it’s collegiate strength and conditioning that you want to get into, the best advice I can give is to befriend a collegiate strength coach. I hate to say it but 99% of the time college strength coaches are hired on who they know, not what they know. Collegiate and professional strength and conditioning is the Good 'Ole Boys Club. If it’s high school or private strength and conditioning then you have a lot more options. As far as certifications, get your CSCS or ISSA. The CSCS is the standard, but the ISSA is up and coming. There is also the CSCCa for collegiate strength coaches. Best of Luck.

i will be getting my bachelors in health promotion wiht a minor and kinesiology and have to do a internship for my major which will be at cooper institute , where will get a my certification there while i intern there check your school to see what they offer the health promotion and kinesiology at my school is all in the Kinesiology department, and has many opportunities and certification within the program that are attainable,

If you are looking to be a strength coach at a college or a Pro league. I would highly recommend on getting the CSCS cert. Most schools and pro teams look for that plus education and experince. But Nic Kelly is also correct. It is also based on who you know.

Check out the following link to my college’s description:


Basically, it has evolved out of the traditional Exercise Science title with consideration of the Healthy People 2010 goals and objectives (as foolish as some of them are). You can also click on the “Student/Alumni Profiles” on the right side of the screen to read about me:)

Darren, when you say “strength and conditioning field”, are you referring specifically to being a strength coach for an organization of some sort, or are you using the term more ‘loosely’ in terms of a range of fields within sport, health, fitness etc?

The reason I ask is because we can give better opinions if we know exactly what you are looking for. Sometimes when people come into the field they use certain terms as blanket statements. Without knowing the answer to that question first, my quick 2 bits would be to start with a certification and try to gain some practical experience before you enroll in a 4 yr degree for a field that you have not experienced yet. While doing this, if your interactions with other strength coaches and the industry lead you to believe a Kines degree is in order, then you could pursue it. Incidentally my personal experience with Kines grads is that the best ones gained all (perhaps ‘most’ is a better word) of their practical knowldge/experience outside of the classroom and textbooks while those that didn’t can be some of the worst coaches/trainers out there.

There are also plenty of great strength coaches that do not have any degrees. It certainly won’t be the degree that will make or break you in the industry. It may be worth more putting that time into building your name and reputation. Just my 2-bits. Good luck with your career change. CR.

Get the degree, without it you will be very limited in to types of higher level jobs you will be going for.