American Council on Exercise by American Council on Exercise

The National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) is an agency that currently sets and upholds the standards, guidelines, and protocols for many certifications within various industries, including health and fitness. As an exercise professional or health coach, it is important to understand and be familiar with the differences between NCCA accredited certifications and non-accredited certifications. Knowing the standards of each certification type can help inform your hiring processes, career goals, professional growth and professional responsibility.

Here is a quick overview of the differences:

NCCA accredited certifications 

  • Measure, in a standardized and unbiased manner, the ability of the candidate to apply the knowledge and skills in the role of a profession.
  • May require pre-requisites involving prior experience or education as part of its standards.
  • A passing score establishes that an individual is minimally competent to work unsupervised in a given field or profession.
  • Individuals must maintain his/her certification by completing continuing education and renewal every few years as deemed necessary by the organization.

Non-NCCA accredited certifications

  • May assess a level of competency, but not to any set standard.
  • May be earned/presented/consumed the following ways: open-book exam, repeatable exam, live weekend workshop, online course, etc.
  • Not likely to have a renewal process or continuing education requirement.

It is important to keep in mind that accreditation is specific to the certification, not the organization. To search for accredited certification programs, click here.

To understand why credentials matter in the health and fitness field, check out our previous blog.


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