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Specialty Certification FAQs

Why should I purchase a Specialty Certification?

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 Specialty Certifications and primary certifications (Personal Trainer, Health Coach, Group Fitness Instructor, and Medical Exercise Specialist)? Should I consider pursuing a specialty and primary certification at the same time?

ACE Specialty Certifications are designed to build on the robust foundation of a primary certification. Specialty Certifications 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, Specialty Certifications are typically completed after you have earned a primary certification.

What are the differences between each ACE Specialty Certification? What factors should I consider when purchasing one Specialty Certification over another?

Each Specialty Certification is designed to provide information in a specific area. Whatever Specialty Certification 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 Specialty Certifications?

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 Specialty Certification?

Although anyone can complete the educational content included in an ACE Specialty Certification, only professionals who hold a current NCCA-accredited certification or a license in health, fitness, allied health, wellness, or specific fields outlined in our pre-requisite chart will receive a Specialty Certification. Those candidates will also be registered as an ACE Specialist in our system. All others will only receive certificates of completion for their courses.

Why has ACE decided to initiate pre-requisite requirements for Specialty Certifications?

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 Specialty Certifications, 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 Specialty Certification. 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 a Specialty Certification. 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 the ACE Specialty Certification.

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 Specialty Certification 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 ACE Specialty Certifications.

Will Specialty Certifications 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 Specialty Certification prior to completing my approved primary certification? Can I still become a certified specialist?

As long as you complete your approved primary certification within 12 months of completing your Specialty Certification courses, you will qualify for an ACE Specialty Certification. Holders of ACE primary certifications will be automatically approved as Specialists. Holders of other approved certifications can achieve their 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 Specialty Certification, offering them at an average savings of $80.

Will I be able to print my Specialty Certification or will ACE mail it to me?

If you meet the pre-requisite requirements, you will be able to print your own Specialty Certification certificate upon completion of all the course elements. If you don’t meet the requirements for a Specialty Certification, you will only be able to print continuing education certificates after completing 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 Specialty Certification.

How are non-ACE courses selected to be part of ACE Specialty Certifications?

Non-ACE created courses are included in some of the Specialty Certification bundles 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 Specialty Certifications?

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

Will earning an ACE Specialty Certification add me to the Find an 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.