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Specialist Programs FAQs

Why should I purchase a specialist program?

Everyone wants to get the best results they can. Being a specialist is going to give you more tools to help your clients safely and effectively meet their unique needs and goals. It’s also going to make you more competitive and give you the educational recognition to market yourself as a specialist.

What are the differences between ACE Specialist Programs and primary certifications (personal trainer, health coach, group fitness instructor and medical exercise specialist)? Should I consider pursuing a specialist program and primary certification at the same time?

ACE Specialist Programs are designed to build on the robust foundation of a primary certification. Specialist programs focus professional development in a chosen area of study to help health and fitness professionals gain the knowledge and tools to provide advanced training to specific groups and clients. They also provide you with more than 20 hours of continuing education to apply to the renewal of your ACE or other NCCA-accredited certification. For these reasons, specialist programs are typically completed after you have earned a primary certification.

What are the differences between each ACE Specialist Program? What factors should I consider when purchasing one specialist program over another?

Each specialist program is designed to provide information in a specific area. Whatever Specialist Program you choose should be based on what area you are interested in acquiring more focused knowledge and expertise.

How do we decide which subject areas require specialist programs?

ACE uses multiple forms of research and information, including survey data from our network of professionals, industry reports, educational conference offerings and discussions with ACE certified professionals worldwide to identify relevant and emerging subject areas.

Are there pre-requisites to purchase an ACE Specialist Program?

ACE encourages anyone who’s interested to pursue our specialist programs, as we believe that health and fitness professionals with a broad education can better serve special populations in our communities. In order to be eligible for an official designation as an ACE Specialist, however, you must meet one of the following criteria:

  • Hold a current professional certification in health, fitness, wellness, allied health, or healthcare that is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) or the International Organization for Standardization (ISO 17024)
  • Hold a current license as a health/healthcare professional
  • Hold a current health or wellness coaching credential from an organization accredited by the International Consortium for Health & Wellness Coaching (ICHWC). For a full list of approved programs, visit
  • Be currently listed as an exercise professional on one of the Registers of Exercise Professionals (REPs) that are part of the International Confederation of Registers of Exercise Professionals (ICREPs)

Why has ACE decided to initiate pre-requisite requirements for specialist programs?

ACE continually assesses our certification and continuing education programs to ensure they meet the needs of the industry, and emerging trends and opportunities. In 2014, in support of our efforts to advance the fitness profession, ACE became a member of the newly formed Coalition for the Registration of Exercise Professionals (CREP). The 501(c)(6) advocates for health and fitness professionals who hold current NCCA-accredited certifications on issues that pertain to regulation; access and scope of work; seeking recognition as a health provider; and maintaining the United States Registry of Exercise Professionals (USREPS), an internationally recognized registry of exercise professionals who hold NCCA-accredited certifications in the United States. In order to comply with CREP membership criteria and elevate our specialist programs, ACE has initiated pre-requisite requirements for individuals interested in becoming an ACE Specialist.

Where can I learn more about the Coalition for the Registration of Exercise Professionals (CREP)?

You can learn more about CREP, which maintains a registry of professionals who hold NCCA-accredited credentials, by exploring the organization’s site at

How are pre-requisites verified?

If you hold a current ACE Certification, you will be automatically approved to purchase an ACE Specialist Program. All other professionals must self-report the credentials they hold during the purchase process. ACE will conduct a random audit of 10% of the professionals who hold certifications or licenses from organizations other than ACE. Those subjected to an audit will need to provide proof of their current certification or license to ACE prior to coursework completion to earn the ACE Specialist designation (provided other pre-requisites are met). ACE will review the documentation and respond within 5 business days of receipt. Individuals unable to provide this documentation will still be able to complete the educational content, but they will not be eligible to earn an ACE Specialist designation.

What if my certification or license is not on the list of options provided?

The credentials listed on the pre-requisite chart are the most common credentials earned by professionals in different fields, but the list is not exhaustive. You can submit a petition to have your certification or license reviewed to see if it meets the pre-requisite requirements. ACE will respond to petitions within 5 business days of receipt. Petitions approved by ACE will be valid for 30 days. If a specialist program purchase is not made within that timeframe, a new petition will need to be filed.

Please note that all certifications currently accredited by the NCCA can be found using the search tool on the organization’s website here. Certification programs in health, fitness, allied health and related fields that are currently accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or the Accreditation Board for Specialty Nursing Certification (ABSNC) may require petition to be considered for approval as pre-requisites for an ACE Specialist designation.

Will my ACE Specialist designation expire?

The designation of ACE Specialist does not expire, however ACE reserves the right to discontinue the sale and/or support of any continuing education course at any time, in order to cancel, correct, or update content based on current industry standards, guidelines, and/or technological advances. Notification will be given 6 months prior to expiration to allow for course completion and no refund will be given for expiring courses.

What if I purchase and complete a specialist program prior to completing my approved primary certification? Can I still become an ACE Specialist?

As long as you complete your approved primary certification within 12 months of completing your specialist program courses, you will quality for an ACE Specialist designation. Holders of ACE Primary Certifications will be automatically approved as ACE Specialists. Holders of other approved certifications can achieve their ACE Specialist designation via petition to ACE.

How much do the components cost individually?

The cost for all of the individual components will vary. ACE has selected the best combination of courses for each specialist program, offering them at an average savings of $80.

Will I be able to print the certificate I receive upon completion of the specialist program, or will ACE mail it to me?

If you meet the pre-requisite requirements, you will be able to print your own ACE Specialist certificate upon completion of the course elements. If you don’t meet the requirements, you will only be able to print a certificate of completion after finishing each segment of the content. Without an NCCA-accredited certification or an equivalent professional credential outlined in our pre-requisite list, you will not be eligible for an ACE Specialist designation.

How are non-ACE courses selected to be part of ACE Specialist Programs?

Non-ACE created courses are included in some of the specialist programs to supplement and enhance the learning experience for participants. Non-ACE courses are carefully selected from approved ACE continuing education providers, as they have already been vetted for science-based and relevant content.

How are tests administered for ACE Specialist Programs?

Like most other continuing education experiences, an open-book online quiz is administered for ACE Specialist Programs. The purpose of quizzes is to evaluate your understanding of the material.

Will completing an ACE Specialist Program add me to the Find and ACE Professional search engine?

No, the Find an ACE Professional search engine is reserved only for health and fitness professionals who currently hold one or more of our four primary, NCCA-accredited certifications — including the ACE Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor, Health Coach, or Medical Exercise Specialist certifications.