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September 7, 2011, 12:00AM PT in Exam Preparation Blog  |  0 Comments

6 Q&A: What is NCCA accreditation and why is it important?

NCCA logo1. What does NCCA stand for?

NCCA stands for The National Commission for Certifying Agencies. By definition, the NCCA is an independent nongovernmental agency that accredits professional certification in a variety of professions, including fitness.

More specifically, the NCAA is the accreditation body of the Institute of Credentialing Excellence (ICE). NCCA accreditation serves as a standard for how organizations should conduct certification. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) currently offers 4 different certifications and in offering these certifications, ACE has worked—and continues to work— hard to achieve and adhere to the standards set by the NCCA.

2. What does the NCCA look for when accrediting a certification organization such as ACE?

Basically, the NCCA assesses the certifying organization’s professional role and scope of practice—it evaluates the exam content, ability to provide proper exam administration and scoring. The NCCA is essentially concerned with ensuring that:

  • The examination process is fair and unbiased.
  • The examination accurately measures the minimal competence of the candidate for the associated profession.
  • The public is protected from unqualified or ineffective practitioners.
  • The organization has the means to support its professionals.

3. Why is NCCA accreditation important?

NCCA accreditation is the gold standard for the majority of allied healthcare professionals and others. So if you earn an NCCA accreditation, you will position yourself as a qualified personal trainer within the healthcare continuum, which consists of medical doctors, physical therapists, etc. Establishing yourself as a qualified fitness professional amongst other

healthcare professionals should lead to greater networking and work opportunities for you as a personal trainer.

4. How does ACE having NCCA accreditation affect me?

The fitness industry recognizes NCCA-accredited organizations in part because of the recommendation that came from the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA). IHRSA recommends that club owners hire personal trainers who hold at least one current certification from a certifying organization that has obtained third-party accreditation. The NCCA has been identified as an acceptable accrediting organization given its long history of establishing quality standards for certifying agencies and programs.

5. A non-NCCA accredited certification seems to cost less than an NCCA accredited certification, so why shouldn’t I go for the more affordable option?

As previously mentioned, club owners are seeking to hire personal trainers who hold an NCCA-accredited certification. By investing a little more money upfront on your certification, you will increase your marketability (or employability) within the fitness industry. Club owners will view you as more qualified than someone who does not hold an NCCA-accredited certification. With increased qualification and increased hiring potential, the potential for a greater income increases, too. This translates into a greater return on your initial investment in your NCCA-accredited certification.

6. What is the difference between certification and continuing education?

Many people use these terms interchangeably when really, they are two separate entities. Certification, also known as credentialing, is used to measure the ability of a candidate to apply the knowledge and skills in the role of a professional within their corresponding industry. This certification process must be standardized and unbiased as set by the NCCA-accreditation standard, which is why high-stakes exams are administered with a proctor present.

Take note that certification does not imply that an individual knows everything they are required to know to be considered an expert his/her given field or industry.

Continuing education, on the other hand, is what professionals who have already earned their certification receive to remain current in their field or industry. Within the fitness industry, many professionals seek out continuing education courses that allow them to specialize in one particular area of interest. For example, if a personal trainer’s clientele is primarily older adults, then he/she may want to pursue continuing education focused on that particular population.

Most importantly, continuing education is not a standardized, unbiased measure of someone’s knowledge and ability to serve as a fitness professional whereas credentialing does fulfill those requirements.

Now that you have learned more about what NCCA accreditation is and why it is important, what choice will you make when choosing a fitness certification?

By Alexandra Link
Alex Link, Certification & Exam Registration Coordinator

Alex Link is the Certification and Exam Registration Coordinator at ACE. She holds a BS in Sports Science with an emphasis in Sports Medicine, as well as an MS in Exercise Physiology. Additionally, ACE is an ACE-certified Personal Trainer and Health Coach.