Home Blog Is an Exercise Science Degree Really Worth It? – Part 1

Is an Exercise Science Degree Really Worth It? – Part 1

Written on November 6, 2011 at 8:47 pm, by Eric Cressey

Today’s post is going to rub some folks in academia the wrong way.  Therefore, I want to preface the piece that follows by saying:

a) I am a huge advocate of a multi-faceted education, encompassing “traditional” directed study (e.g., classroom education), self-study, internships, and experimentation.

b) I loved my college experience – both undergraduate and graduate.  I benefited tremendously and made a lot of valuable connections.

However, it didn’t come easily; I got out of it what I put into it.  To be candid, there are a lot of my peers who took the exact same courses and got the exact same degrees who didn’t walk away having gotten their money’s worth.

But, then again, does anyone really get their money’s worth?

College isn’t cheap nowadays. Check out the following statistics from CollegeBoard.com (as of 2011; this is sure to increase in the years to come):

  • Public four-year colleges charge, on average, $7,605 per year in tuition and fees for in-state students. The average surcharge for full-time out-of-state students at these institutions is $11,990. 
  • Private nonprofit four-year colleges charge, on average, $27,293 per year in tuition and fees.
  • Public two-year colleges charge, on average, $2,713 per year in tuition and fees.

Of course, this doesn’t take into account the cost of books, travel, food, accommodations, and the $5,000 in on-campus parking tickets you’ll end up paying.  Educations can run upwards of $220,000 - and that's before you consider student loan interest and the opportunity cost of investing that money.

Assume 24-30 credits per year (12-15 per semester), you’re looking at a per credit hour cost of $399.66-$499.58 for public, out-of-state.  It’d be $253.50-$316.88 for public, in-state.  Public two-year colleges would be $90.43-$113.04. Finally, private would be $909.77-$1137.21. Sorry, Mom and Dad; I’ve never in all my years heard a kid say that an hour with one of his professors – even in a one-on-one context – was worth over a grand.


They also charge you to do internships elsewhere.  In other words, you have to pay to get credits accepted – which means that the cost per hour you actually spend with college faculty is, in fact, even higher.

Many folks go to college to figure out what they want to do.  Others go because it is a social experience that is both fun – and helpful in maturing them as individuals.  That’s fine.

However, it is becoming tougher and tougher to consider it an investment, especially since the “success gap” between college graduates and those who don’t attend college is getting smaller and smaller.  Along these lines, if you haven’t read it already, I’d strongly encourage you to read Michael Ellsberg’s New York Times piece, Will Dropouts Save America?

The exercise science field is one in which this success gap is arguably smaller than in any other.  The barrier to entry to the personal training field is incredibly low; independent of schooling and previous experience, one can become certified in a matter of a few hours via an online test, and many gyms will hire people who aren’t even certified or insured.  In fact, as I wrote a few years ago, Josef Brandenburg, a great trainer based in Washington, D.C., actually got his pet pug certified.  The sad truth is that he could probably do a better job than most of the trainers out there who are pulling $100/hour.

Of course, I’m preaching to the choir here.  Most of the folks reading this blog are educated and highly motivated to be the best that they can be.  You seek out the best reading materials, DVDs, seminars, and colleagues from which you can learn.  Personal training means a lot to people who grew up and went to college wanting to eventually help people get healthy, improve quality of life, optimize sports performance, or simply be more confident.

However, that doesn’t change the fact that our profession as a whole has become a “fall-back” career.  It can be what college kids decide to do over summer vacation to make a few bucks, or what extremely well-paid lawyers or accountants take up when they get sick of long hours at desk jobs.

That doesn’t make them bad people; it just means that the minimal regulation in our industry has rendered a college education in this field a trivial competitive advantage in the workplace.

Additionally, this doesn't mean that college professors aren't qualified or doing their jobs sufficiently. It just means that the curricula that typifies an exercise science degree simply isn't sufficient to provide a competitive advantage over non-college-educated candidates in the workforce. There are exceptions, no doubt,in the form of outstanding professors who go above and beyond the call of duty to help student, but I can't honestly say that I've ever heard of a college kid coming out of any undergraduate exercise science program boasting of a competitive advantage that was uniquely afforded to him/her because of the education just completed. The closest thing might be a program with a strong alumni network that provides easier access to job opportunities.

Of course, the cream will rise to the top in any field – and that’s certainly true of exercise science as well.  The industry leaders are, for the most part, people with college educations in exercise science (or closely related fields) – but the question one must ask is, “would these people have been successful in our field even without the courses they took in their undergraduate studies?”

Don’t you think Mike Robertson’s drive for self study would have sustained him in a successful career in this field even without a degree?

Don’t you think Todd Durkin’s energy, charisma, and passion for helping people would have shone through even if he hadn’t gotten a degree?

Moreover, I can list dozens of bright minds making outstanding headway in this field with “non-exercise-science” college degrees.  John Romaniello (Psychobiology/ English), Joe Dowdell (Sociology/Economics), and Ben Bruno (Sociology) are all successful, forward-thinking trainers who come to mind instantly, and they’re just the tip of the iceberg.

Some of my best interns have come from undergraduate majors like English Literature, Acting, and Biology.  We’ve had others who didn’t even have college degrees and absolutely dominated in their roles at Cressey Performance.

Guys like Nate Green, Adam Bornstein, Sean Hyson, Lou Schuler, and Adam Campbell don’t have college degrees in exercise science (although Campbell did get a graduate degree in Exercise Physiology following his undergraduate in English).  However, from their prolific writing careers and by surrounding themselves with the best trainers on the planet, they’ve become incredibly qualified trainers themselves – even if they don’t have to train anybody as part of their jobs.

With all these considerations in mind, the way I see it, you’ve got three options to distinguish yourself in the field of exercise science – and I'll share them in part 2 of this article.  If you’re a high school or college student contemplating a career in exercise science, this will be must-read material.

In the meantime, you may be interested in checking out Elite Training Mentorship, our affordable online education program for fitness professionals.


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83 Responses to “Is an Exercise Science Degree Really Worth It? – Part 1”

  1. Chuck S Says:

    Eric, maybe a combination of courses you and other fitness guys put could make a good education for someone in the field. You could sell the combination for much less than a college degree.

    I think a person should decide what he wants to do and then see what part college will play in that, if any. I think a lot of people are getting degrees that won’t help enough in their careers to be worth it, as you’re alluded to. Figure how much it will cost to pay back the student loan vs how much extra pay, if any, you’ll get.

    Editorial: Colleges seem to price gouge – tuition has gone up as much or more than the price of oil. I think their salaries, benefits, and bureaucracies have gone up excessively.

  2. Tyler English Says:


    Great post man. I’m an example of those that have a degree in a different field (Communications) but found what I loved during my 4 years in College.

    What began as me working in the gym and volunteering with the baseball team became an education itself over the past 10 years.

    I’m where I am at today because of my willingness to learn as much as I can and continue to be a student of our craft.

    Investing in my education post college has been priceless! Degree or no degree – investment in your education within the fitness industry is a MUST!

    Thanks for sharing!


  3. Alex Scott Says:

    Very good article, even if it stings a bit to some of us. But I came away feeling like most of the main points could have been applied to any college degree, not exclusively an Exercise Science degree. Either way it’s an interesting/discerning trend in the education system. Keep up the good work!

  4. Charles Rogers Says:

    I got my B.S. in Kinesiology 2004 from USAO
    I got my M.S. in Exercise Physiology from the University of Oklahoma. I believe degrees in Ex. Physiology are wasted if you don’t keep working to a Ph.D. In the real world, work experience is so much more important than sheepskin. If I could do it over, I wouldn’t.

  5. Tom S Says:


    I haven’t been on your blog in a while and I have made comments about this topic to many of the folks aforementioned in your blog post that you have given praise as “incredibly qualified trainers”. The short answer, I think you are way off base and many folks you call qualified PT’s are nothing more than fitness writers or bloggers.

    In the health and fitness industry, do too it not being regulated, we are where we are today. In a really fucked up place, pardon my french…you see I have been seeing changes since early 90’s when many of you weren’t thinking about becoming PT’s, CSCS, etc… this industry will always be full of opinions and try to regulate itself but until it’s treated the same way as doctors credentials are scrutinized, opinions will vary and BS approaches to health and fitness will continue.

    You see Eric, if you were to do the same blog post about a Medical Doctor (MD) or a Lawyer, it would be WTF over. There is no way in hell some dude or gal is going to be seen as an Expert if they are not a Board Certified doc or having passed the bar exam as a lawyer and years of experience.

    Whatever happened to the 10yrs or 10,000hrs to constitute the title of expert? Many of the young pups that call themselves PT’s are maybe early 20’s if that and don’t even have degrees because too many guy like you and your esteem colleagues are conveying they can become QUALIFIED in life through other avenues like going to all these seminars or events that you folks are always getting paid to speak at. What’s the difference if a kid pays money to a college or pays money to all you guys speaking at Perform Better….there isn’t a difference, oh, you get a little pumped up and a good ol’ pat on the back for being part of the fraternity of current trainers….I don’t buy it man.

    If folks on your list are fitness bloggers or writers, then fucking write, but don’t go to all the latest good ol’ boy Perform Better seminars or mastermind meetings to pump each other up on how to get 6-figure income, pay it forward, all the while, the guy has let his PT or CSCS expire because he doesn’t feel it’s necessary or he at one time trained folks and now because he is part of the FITNESS NETWORK, gets a book deal, gets articles published at T-Nation, Mens Health, Mens Fitness, etc…and now everyone is suppose to call them QUALIFIED and a EXPERT or some great trainer….I call bullshit on this Eric.

    You paid your dues, Robertson paid his dues, Durkin paid his dues, and the list goes on of you guys that have a balance of ACADEMIA, CERTS, and EXPERIENCE…..and keeping doing it, you maintain your CEC’s or CEU’s.

    I thought coming back every once in a while to read a young hard charger in the industry like you, that you wouldn’t write an article like this basically praising guys who are not even training folks and have become nothing more than FITNESS BLOGGERS or WRITERS or FITNESS MARKETERS.

    If you are going to write, great, but don’t come off like you are a personal trainer, unless and I say unless, your ass has the degree, cert, and maintains it and continues to train people day in and day out.

    I personally will be going back for my MS in Exercise Science in a couple weeks and it’s the BEST MOVE myself or any young or old person can make. Even after years training folks in the military since 1993, running my own REAL ARMY style fitness bootcamp, I still am growing to get another Master’s degree, get more certs, and continue to get better, but by doing what I feel is the write way ACADEMIA and EXPERIENCE working with clients.

    Our industry will be full of bullshit and folks wanting to be outliers and march to their own beat like the Tim Ferriss’s of the Fitness Marketing and Network world until top folks in health and fitness FORCE folks to get their ass to get a degree, credentials, experience, just like a DOCTOR or LAWYER. That can only be done if the industry becomes REGULATED. Otherwise, this topic will continue 50 years from now.

    We are dealing with people’s anatomy, physiology, and their minds….our ass better be qualified with the right blend of academic degree, certs, insurance, licenses, etc….or WE DON’T deserve to call ourselves personal trainers, strength coaches or even nutritionists for that matter….don’t get me started on every swinging joe that is a PT giving out nutritional advice like they have a degree in nutrition, are a RD or CN, we shouldn’t be doing that eitehr unless our ass has the credentials.

    The bottom line: REGULATE THE INDUSTRY and make it mandatory for a minimum of a bachelor’s of science, a top level cert like NSCSA, NASM, or ACSM, and a good 5+yrs in the field before one can call themselves EXPERTS or to even hold the title of PT. Even CSCS have some type of BS/BA to take the test.

    I know you have your opinion Eric and my comments are just a difference of opinion with what you posted here, that’s all. I respect what you do and continue to do, so don’t take my comments the wrong way. But I have to be hones, this blog post of yours, it shocked me. I ask that you go to your old Professors with PhD’s at University of Conneticut and that trained you and helped mold you, how would they feel about what you wrote here? Just saying.

    Take care and hope you have a good 2012.

  6. Tom Schneider Says:

    Sorry bud, I should have read the Part 2 first before posting. I see after reading Part 2 and I posted there as well, that you do appreciate the academia and what you received from UCONN and the folks that helped shape you where you are today.

    Although I didn’t like a lot of Part 1 here, I do see where you were going with it and mentioned the importance of at least a Master’s in the Exercise Sciences.

    That’s what I get for jumping the gun….foot in mouth, LOL.

    Thanks for both Part 1 and 2 and letting the young folks know the importance of education as well as other alternatives depending where you are in life, wether be age, circumstances, finances, but in the end, a top notch education is not a bad thing to strive for, if that is WHAT YOU WANT.

    Take it easy,


  7. Sean Says:


    Great article, reading it for about the tenth time. I’m a sophomore at Rutgers struggling to decide what major to persue.

    I’m just curious, how did the kids who didn’t take ex. sci. wind up interning for you?

  8. Eric Cressey Says:

    Sean – they just applied and the rest is history!

  9. Andrew Dixon Says:

    Love him or hate him, you can’t deny Paul Chek’s success. He only has a year 9 education…..

  10. Mike Says:

    Great post Eric.

    I strongly believe that not going to University to pursue a degree is one of the best decisions I made.

    In the 4 years I’d have spent studying, I’ve qualified as a trainer, worked 18 months in a gym and now had my own training business for 2 years, which continues to go from strength to strength and I have a waiting list of people wanting to train with me.

    I do think a degree would have been fantastic experience, and I’d have learnt a ton, but real-world experience is far more valuable in my opinion.

    I appreciate not having a degree may hold me back in my future career, but as I can see myself PTing and coaching for some time yet, I’m not too worried.

    Just my 2c anyway.


  11. Eric Cressey Says:

    Great contribution, Mike; thanks!

  12. Cody Hahn Says:

    Hey Eric,

    Thanks for posting this. I needed to read this again this year. I am currently struggling with myself as to what I should do after I get my Bacc’s degree. I have considered Physical Therapy, and more recently I have considered the strength & conditioning and athletic enhancement field. I just don’t know what to do yet and I don’t know where I would be most happy and where I would do people the most good.

    By the way, someday, I would love to get an internship with you at Cressey Performance if I decided to go the athletic enhancement route. Never been to the Northeast though. I have no idea what the winters are like!

    Cody Hahn

  13. Cody Hahn Says:

    If some people were made to cut out the cuss words contained in their posts, they really wouldn’t have that much to say. Seriously, half of their vocabulary would eliminated.

    Also, until a person actually gets in and gets through a graduate degree in Exercise Science, that person probably shouldn’t tell Eric Cressey what is and is not the BEST and the RIGHT thing to do and what everyone else should be FORCED to do (as one commenter stated). Eric has been there and done that, why should Eric have to listen to someone else tell him and others what they should do, when that commenter has yet to even get to where Eric and others are now. Just sayin’.

    Cody Hahn

  14. Tom jennings Says:

    Very thought provoking article. I hold a masters in athletic training and currently own and fitness facility. Without that education i could not have advanced in the AT field. I think one thing holding back personal training is the lack of education. I don’t know the curriculum for exercise science but i do know that anatomy is paramount and perhaps more needs to be done in this area. if personal training want to become a viable allied health profession then some minimal requirements i.e a 4 yr degree. The time has arrived for personal training to cut health care cost and help improve wellness but the old ways of getting certified need to be examined. In addition, there are niches like post rehab that are more prevalent and require additional education/training/ or mentoring. Thanks for the discussion.

  15. Vince M Says:

    Constructive contribution Eric. Like it or not, agree or not, ‘education’ in our field is one of personal responsibility ( not dependent on some legalistic standard–contrary to other professions such as physician, attorney, etc).

    ‘Continuing Education’ is a redundant term as a true fitness progressional. The primary problem I see is the inability of the layperson prospective client to tell the difference in a “qualified” trainer/coach and someone who simply has letters after their name( no matter if college-earned or via weekend vacation seminar). The commitment, responsibility, and accountability of the individual to continued progress is the determining factor of proficiency ( in addition to years, years, years,…of authentic working experience with live clients).

    Nice work.

  16. Eric Cressey Says:


    No better place on Earth than New England in the fall!

  17. Eric Cressey Says:

    Thanks for the comment, Tom. My primary question is: does one need a college program to learn anatomy? Every anatomy course I’ve ever seen has been “study the book, memorize, and then test out on it.” Why not just let folks prepare and then pass an exam to prove their knowledge? Would save $200K!

  18. Lisa Harris Says:

    I am a PT in a rural area. I have seen too many bright young people who thought they wanted to be PT’s and got undergrad degrees in Ex Science, Kines, Ex phys. Most of The ones that did not pursue further education are either at low end jobs or always looking for a job. (Maybe this is different in cities).
    I always encourage kids to pick a degree (like Biology) that has a wide range of employment (while meeting their pre reqs) for grad school just in case “life happens” and they do not pursue further education.
    Unfortunately these days, jobs may be scarce for everyone…. Pricing it out over the long run, the 2 / 3 yr degrees like PTA and FNP are the best bets for financial investment and monetary return.

  19. Eric Cressey Says:


    Excellent post. Couldn’t agree more.

  20. Debbi Says:

    Great post. I have a BS and an MS in Physical therapy and my degrees cost a lot less (over 20 years ago), than they would today. I worked my way through school, so fortunately did not have the years of loan payments.
    I admit I cringe when we have interns that have exercise science degrees from private schools.

    However those that are the best in the wellness/rehab professions are the one’s who are great thinkers and highly motivated. But that really goes for any profession.

    I will always think a college degree is worth it…however unless you are long on cash, not sure many degrees are worth the private school cost. I am also an advocate for working and going to school, oftentimes its only with a little work that you figure out what you really want to do, and what your talents are.

  21. Troy @ Formulated Fitness Says:

    From my experience I have got a lot out of personal experimentation, and reading the best fitness, health, and exercise science books. Reading the entire 1,000 page encyclopedia of bodybuilding is like an exercise science degree in itself! That is a 30 dollar investment. Compared to 4 years and 30,000 i’ll take that ROI everyday!

  22. Donna Says:

    Comment #55 is very interesting.

    Personally I wish there was a dedicated PT one-year program. Most of the PT certifications that stand alone or piggy back onto a science degrees are laughable. I know. I’ve taken them. Mostly, those courses are strictly for getting your liability insurance, which by the way, the cert body owns the insurance company, and also runs the big tradeshows. Big freaking money scam.

    But taking a 3-year Kin or science degree is too much. Even the two year Rec Diploma at Doug College isn’t on point enough.

    One intense year at a decent college (NOT a private company) with ACSM developing the curriculum and a 85% baseline to practice; in it should be all the basics, of course, but also more holistic approach that includes coaching, stretch/yoga, the basics of other protocols like NKT, etc AND an assessment protocol FMS or similar. This would be a good base. Then you can build from there. Plus, I think you should have to intern for a week at physio/chiro clinics. (I volunteered at a physio clinic for a week just to understand the delivery of treatment and the client experience.)

    BTW… Comment #67 is very true. You don’t need anything but a great book (and an iPad IMO) to learn anatomy.

    One of the comments says, ‘you have to pay your dues’ and that is very true. But with some PT companies NOT paying PTs anything (you have to do your own prospecting, your own admin, etc), it’s understandable why people throw themselves into the fray.

  23. Gavin Heward Says:

    As a performance coach in Australia I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments – there needs to be a mix of education types. The academic background may not have “real life” skills involved but it does allow people the scientific and research background to identify the “fads” that come with every annual health and fitness expo! Similarly, I have also seen those with a purely academic approach fair poorly when it comes to interaction with real people/clients/athletes – the ability to adapt is compromised and everything has to be done according to a periodisation schedule!

    Just another point that I feel is relevant here in Australia is that the industry as a whole seems to want to dumb things down to cram as many trainers and their registration fees through as possible. The industry is poorly regulated when it comes to producing trainers of a high standard and has been shown to make it hard for training companies to get accredited if the level of information offered for continuing credits is beyond what any man on the street could get their head around in an hour or so. The reality is that there is such a wide and varying standard yet everyone is thrown in the same boat. So why would anyone actually study when they can do a 5k course over a few weeks and earn the same amount as a top strength and conditioning coach with the responsibility of athletes careers? The fitness industry is becoming one where trainers are getting paid to entertain rather than get great results. This is a real problem for the integrity and future of the industry in this country.

  24. Eric Cressey Says:

    Well said, Donna!

  25. Tom Schneider Says:

    Hey Eric. I haven’t commented on your blog in a while, but I wanted to pose this question back at you correlating your academic background and your current success as a trainer/coach over the years.

    Do you think you would have been giving all the opportunities (i.e. Speaking engagements with NSCA, Perform Beter, Summits, book deal, New Balance gig, working with professional athletes, etc…) if you didn’t have your Bachelor’s and Master’s, as well as, CSCS or PT certs?

    I ask this because even though we all know many bright folks in the fitness and training industry who don’t have advanced degrees or some don’t have certs, the ones that are taken seriously or that are hired working with professionals teams, are teaching in college, are continously asked to forums, summits, or to present at NSCA, ACSM, NASM, etc… are primarily folks with Graduate or Post Graduate degrees, advanced certifications, year of experience working in the trenches, etc…

    I agree with you in the Part 2, where you have admitted if you want to work at the collegiate level or higher you will need that Master’s.

    What I can’t agree on is many of your blog followers discounting or thinking college is a waste of money only to take an easier path getting a basic cert and attending all these summits or seminars or buying everyone’s mass marketed e-Books, DVD’s, etc… and failed to miss the importance of a sound education giving them a good base to start from.

    If college is so bad or we are wasting money and you and others think we should invest in buying other coaches or trainers books, CD’s, DVD’s or various products or other certifications that folks are inventing that are not even cleared or have been approved by the NCCA (case in point the IYCA….none of which have been ACCREDITED like NSCA, ACSM, or NASM have with there certs).

    I still hold firm to what I stated last year, the fitness industry needs to be REGULATED.

    I think one of your blog readers posted above make it a requirement to have a 4yr degree before getting certified as a PT.

    What the ATC requirements are is exactly what PT and Strength Coaches should be required to do. There should be a 4yr degree in the health sciences, documented hours or internship, all before letting someone sit for a PT or CSCS exam.

    We should also in the regulatory changes, if passed by the govrnment, a way for PT or CSCS to charge insurance companies, similiar to what’s coming about with Medical Fitness. This way if folks have a clinic or training facility and you are doing rehab or some form of medical fitness evaluation working with a clients primary care provider, you can bill it the same way chiropractors, physical therpaists, and massage therapists are allowed to.

    All I am say Eric, there is a better way to make the fitness and training professionals academic requirements comparable to that of other health professionals as aforementioned and the PT arena wouldn’t be looked down upon as some unregulated get your cert online profession as is today.


    Tom S.

  26. Eric Cressey Says:

    Hi Tom,

    I think it’s a great question – and one that I’ve pondered myself. My response is that I think it could have happened, but it wouldn’t have taken place so quickly.

    I think that on the regulation front, the name of the game is a strict licensure exam. As an example, my wife is an optometrist, and she had to take three installments of board exams (including a practical component) to become licensed. If we were to move to a new state, she’d need to complete a new set of board exams consistent with that state’s requirements. Using FL as an example, the exams are REALLY challenging, as they don’t want doctors flocking to FL just to take advantage of the big retiree population and hefty reimbursements (with a lower cost of living, no state income tax, etc).

    The underlying issue is that some people should fail any test – yet I’ve never heard of a personal trainer who didn’t pass his exam. We need to get more stringent with all our testing procedures.

  27. Tom S Says:


    You make some valid and excellent points. That’s why I like what you bring from an academic level that many trainers don’t get to deep with. Your last sentence “We need to get more stringent with all our testing procedures.” says it all.

    It would weed out the trainers that are just being trainers until they get that next acting gig in Hollywood or New York for example and it would make all of us, myself included, to be squared with our CEU’s, which you and I both know many folks that let their CPT or CSCS cert lapse.

    Where as, like in your wife’s case or other doctors or health professionals, they cannot let their credentials lapse like you see many trainers or coaches do.

    I really like how the ATC world does it with high schools or colleges. They are more strict as with degree, internship, hours documented, etc…

    That’s what all of us CPT or CSCS should adhere to, myself included. But, maybe make a National Exam like NBFE has been trying since 2008 (http://www.nbfe.org/news/press_releases/stateLicensing_122008.cfm) where Georgia, New Jersey, and Maryland have been struggling to get a Bill passed.

    I think the opposition by many trainers who for whatever reason don’t want to earn a college degree in the health sciences or want to be held accountable by a national governing agency for testing is what I believe keeps our industry unregulated as long as it has been.

    Can you imagine, if back in the late 80’s when I first started training our industry made it mandatory to have a 4yr health science degree before sitting for any PT or CSCS test where our industry would be 20+ years later? All the actors, bartenders, and folks that wanted to train would’ve had to bare down and not only go to college, but they would’ve had to interned somewhere then be authorized to sit for the exam or cert. It surely would’ve have made it more special to be considered a PT or CSCS years later.

    With your example of your wife, she probably had go through some hardcore studying and prep to be considered an optometrist. Not everyone can call themselves a doctor of any sorts, so why should anyone be able to become a PT or CSCS so easy with just studying and taking an exam. The “easy way out” where young folks think they can be the Bill Gates or Steve Jobs of the fitness world a say “college is a waste of time or money” forget that we are dealing with the human body, both physically and mentally with our clients and athletes. If all we have to do is study a book and take a test to be a CPT or CSCS to mess with folks anatomy, physiology, or nutritional habits, then no wonder everyday we have issues where unqualified trainers or coaches are hurting folks and causing their bodies and health harm.

    We should be held accountable just like other health professionals that work in hospitals, chiropractic clinics, optometry clinics, dental offices, etc…. they all have to be BOARD CERTIFIED, but yet you, me, and every other person practicing as a CPT or CSCS, other than ATC’s, don’t need any board certification to practice or run our facilities.

    I firmly believe, if someone really wants to be “qualified” in whatever profession, they will make it happen and do whatever it takes to be legitimate.

    I realize my opinion is just that – an opinion and maybe it’s the minority with some of your blog readers, but we as fitness professionals talk so much about health and fitness for our clients or athletes as being a balance of resistance training, cardiovascular exercise, and proper nutritional habits, we should follow a similiar balance of mental fitness and exercise with adhering to a criteria of required academia, hands-on experience (hours coaching or training), certifications & CEU’s, mentorship programs and maintaining some type of national board exam credential.

    That was a mouthful, I know (ha ha ha), but I think we all want the industry to get better, some don’t want the crazy debt college brings and some want better accountability or requirements from our PT and coaches.

    Maybe one day, before any major accident or injury happens that becomes national news, our major certifying groups like NSCA, NASM, and ACSM will make it mandatory for all trainers and coaches or even fitness entrepreneurs who are nothing more than fitness writers will have that minimum 4yr degree in a health science, documentted hours of internship say 500-1,000, CPR cert, and liability insurance before they can SIT for a National Boarded Exam for PT’s or sell any book, CD, DVD or product that involves helping the public with fitness training or nutritional advice. NSCA has part of it right for CSCS, but allowing just anyone to sit for the exam with any type of degree I don’t necessary agree.

    In that case, like how you intern guys at Cressey Performance. If they have a degree that is non-science, then you as the MS, CSCS guy, would sign off on the intern hours showing proof that a qualified MS or CSCS guy has approved one of his interns to sit for the CSCS, then I that would an exception. It makes the intern or new PT/CSCS better for it, just like you had good guys at UConn that mentored and watched over you.

    In this case, documentation like the ATC does for it’s graduates (whttp://www.nata.org/get-certified) before being able to sit for their exam at the State level, we need to do it similiar for PT and CSCS certs.

    I like what one of your readers posted about maybe a 1-yr long college program. It would focus on all the anatomy, exercise physiology, human movement or kinesiology, etc…. I like what CalU who works with NASM is doing with there MS program and then the graduate is ready to sit for the PT, PES, or CES depending on the 1-yr cohort track they choose. Maybe NSCA or ACSM will create a relationship with other colleges or universities and create a 1-yr or 2-yr program that focuses on getting the graduate ready for their CSCS or PT, respectively.

    These are just ideas and something I am definately thinking about working with my State Legislators if hopes of getting a Bill passed in the years to come.

    Well, sorry for another long winded post. I write like I talk, too much. Thanks bud for your response and keep up the great work you are doing in this industry. You are wise beyond your years, not some old timer you alluded to, lol.

    BTW, tell your pal Roman ol’ Tom says hello. I have had few lengthy emails and comments with him about this similiar topic where we have respectfully agreed to disagree (he even used my name in one of his videos discussing this topic about credentials), but I love what he brings to the industry just like you man. Take it easy and enjoy the snow.



  28. Terence Says:

    To Tom,

    There shouldn’t be anymore regulation in the PT industry than what it already is. Secondly, a better option for 1 year college programs is simply to take a few college credit courses on biology, anatomy, e.t.c. and be done with those courses in less than 6 months. What’s all this talk about 10-40 years just to become a professional PT? That’s ridiculous! Also, why does everything have to be structured like some Nazi hierarchy in some sort of PROGRAM? You scare me Tom because you’re going to make it harder for PT’s to be a PT! I swear if I hear another word from one of you college degree lovers about paying for some PROGRAM, SPECIAL PACKAGE, e.t.c. I’m going to throw up!

  29. Russell Peele Says:

    College grows more and more inefficient. The money goes towards the overall “college experience” rather than education. “But the EXPERIENCE taught me so much about myself, blah blah…” So? you don’t need college for that. Life does that much quicker in the real word (working). College is really just a way to put off growing up for an extra 4 years (now it’s closer to 5 or 6).
    Further, anything that you can do successfully while drinking heavily 2+ nights/week is TOO EASY. I got As in more than one class with no more than 3 DAYS OF ATTENDANCE (outside of showing up for tests). This is just too easy. Make it harder and students would have to treat college like a 40 hour a week job rather than spending so much time screwing around. I would be concerned that college will bankrupt our economy due to such outrageous inefficiency, but our healthcare system will ruin us first…

  30. Tia Says:

    I am currently working on my personal trainer certification through AFI and trying to figure out if I should change my major in college to truly go far in the field. I love helping people achieve their goals and seeing the results. I am currently in the Air Force and do not want waste any time or money going through unnecessary courses or programs. PLEASE advice me on what you feel is the best way to advance in this industry and truly continue to be happy without falling into debt.

  31. Eric Cressey Says:


    Check out part 2:


  32. Ron Says:

    Those with exercise degrees are just as bad as those without degrees.

  33. Tom Hofman Says:

    Great post Eric, thanks for sharing. I believe you don’t really need an exercise degree. If you love what you do, there’s enough free information and books available to learn everything there is to learn by yourself. Anyway, thanks for the great post, I also added you on Twitter 😉 Cheers!

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