Did you know the demand for strength and conditioning coaches will grow by 14% over the next decade? If you’ve ever dreamed of turning your passion for fitness into a fulfilling career, now is the time. 

A strength and conditioning coach is an expert personal trainer who works primarily with athletes. They mainly focus on improving athletic performance with disciplined and structured customized training.

This guide will give you the blueprint to elevate your game and transition into a coveted role as a strength and conditioning coach.

What is Strength and Conditioning Coach Certification?

Strength and conditioning coaching primarily focuses on enhancing athletic performance. The Strength and Conditioning Coach Certification is the accreditation required to work professionally in the field. The work revolves around improving an athlete’s speed, strength, agility, endurance, and overall performance through proven, evidence-based methods. These coaches usually work with sports teams, collegiate athletes, or elite-level professionals in various sports.

Key Aspects of Role

You’ll need a few things to shine as a strength and conditioning coach to succeed in your career. These include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Sports-specific training – Specializing in a specific sport can help move you into more prominent roles.
  • Performance metrics – Performance analysis is crucial to a professional strength and conditioning coach’s duties. To fine-tune your client’s athletes program, you’ll want to use hard facts and data to back up any plans or proposed changes to their athletic regimen.
  • Injury prevention – Another critical aspect of a strength and conditioning coach is the aid in preventive methods. Professional athletes must maintain top conditioning; the SCC pro ensures they don’t overdo it.
  • Evidence-based methods  – Because Strength and Conditioning Coaches work with professional athletes, they use professional evidence-based practices. Furthermore, they often analyze performance regularly to use data from observation to enhance their program further, providing athletes with finer-tuned programs than they might expect from a personal trainer.

Standard Strength and Conditioning Certifications

  • You’ll need a degree in kinesiology, exercise science, or a related field.
  • Strength and Conditioning certifications like one or a combination of the following:
    • CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist from NSCA)
    • SCCC (Strength and Conditioning Coach Certification from CSCCa)
    • SSC (Strength and Conditioning Coach Certification from ISSA)
    • PES (Performance Enhancement Specialist from NASM
    • CSC (Certified Strength Coach from NCSF)

CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist)


National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)


It is geared towards professionals who work with both amateur and professional athletes to improve performance.


A bachelor’s degree or higher and a CPR/AED certification are required.

Key Components

The exam covers exercise sciences, nutrition, exercise technique, program design, and practical/applied aspects.

Who Should Get Certified?

Consider this certification if you aim to work with athletes and need a comprehensive understanding of strength and conditioning.

SCCC (Strength and Conditioning Coach Certification)


Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association (CSCCa)


This certification focuses on those interested in working at the collegiate and professional levels.


Bachelor’s degree, a 640-hour practicum experience, and completing both written and practical exams successfully.

Key Components

The certification covers sports-specific training, injury prevention, nutrition, and more.

Who Should Get Certified?

Pursue this certification if you want to specialize in collegiate or professional athletic strength and conditioning and are willing to complete a rigorous practicum experience.

SSC (Strength and Conditioning Coach Certification)


International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA)


It is geared towards those interested in a wide range of strength training and conditioning work.


There are no specific prerequisites, but a high school diploma is recommended.

Key Components

It covers aspects like sports psychology, speed development, and plyometric training.

Who Should Get Certified?

It is a great starting point if you’re new to the field and looking for a flexible approach to certification with no stringent prerequisites.

PES (Performance Enhancement Specialist)


National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)


This certification aims to improve athletic performance, including speed, agility, and power.


A high school diploma and a CPR/AED certification.

Key Components

Coursework includes injury prevention, performance assessment, and integrated training essentials.

Who Should Get Certified?

Opt for this certification if you’re interested in diversifying your client base to include athletes looking for performance enhancement but still want to keep your options open for general personal training.

CSC (Certified Strength Coach)


National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF)


It focuses on the scientific foundations and practical skills needed for adequate strength and conditioning.


High school diploma or equivalent and a current CPR/AED certification.

Key Components

The exam covers training psychology, biomechanics, and exercise physiology, among other topics.

Who Should Get Certified?

Go for this certification if you want a balanced approach to strength coaching that also delves into the science behind the methods.

Strength and Conditioning Coach Vs. Personal Trainers

A newly certified strength and conditioning coach is happy about getting certified. Learn more at EliteTrainr.com.

By now, you know that strength and conditioning coaches work with clients to level up their athletic performance. Therefore, their typical clientele is athletes.

On the other hand, personal trainers work with a broader clientele, ranging from novices to fitness enthusiasts to those with specific health goals like weight loss, muscle gain, or rehabilitation. The focus is often on individual (or group) goals rather than athletic performance.

Key Elements of Personal Training

  • General fitness and wellness – The PT helps clients achieve their fitness and wellness goals through motivation, planned workouts and routines, and ongoing training and support.
  • Individualized goals – Goals like weight loss, muscle gain, etc., are the standard goals that personal trainer’s clients aspire towards.
  • Lifestyle coaching – An essential part of personal training is teaching and coaching the clients to make positive lifestyle choices to complement their routines to achieve their goals.

Typical Duties of a PT Vs. Strength and Conditioning Coach

  • Creating tailored workout plans for clients – Both a PT and SCC will need to create custom routines and workouts for their clients based on goals.
  • Offering nutritional guidance – Personal trainers often provide nutritional advice to their clients. On the other hand, a Strength and Conditioning Coach usually works with specialist nutritionists to cater to the elite levels of professional sports and athletics.
  • Ensuring proper exercise techniques

Common Qualifications:

  • Personal Trainer Certification from organizations like ACE (American Council on Exercise), NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine), or others. If you’d like to read more, check out my article, The Gold Standard: Picking the Best Online Trainer Certification.
  • Specialized certifications for specific populations (e.g., seniors, prenatal care)
Who Should Get Certified?

If you choose between these career paths, evaluate your interests and strengths. Are you more intrigued by athletic performance and sport-specific training? A career in strength and conditioning coaching might suit you best. Personal training could be your calling if you prefer working with a broader clientele and focusing on general fitness goals.

Understanding these distinctions will help you set a clear career path and ensure that you effectively meet the unique needs of your clientele.

Why Make the Move?

It would be best if you considered extending your credentials in the field for several excellent reasons. First, it opens the door to a different group of people – those with a serious focus on sports. Making a name for yourself in the big leagues of professional athletes would look amazing on your resume.

As soon as you graduate into professional sports and athletes, you’re taking on professional-tier pay. Here’s the latest numbers:

  1. NFL strength and conditioning coaches make approximately $500,000 per year. (Source: Trainer Academy, 2023)
  2. Average USA-based strength and conditioning coaches earn between $50,000 and $85,000 annually. (Source: Glassdoor, 2023)

Even if you’re just starting out, as you can see, you will do alright. There’s nothing wrong with paying the bills, after all. Evaluate the financial and professional benefits of transitioning into this specialized role before you take the leap.

Tools of the Trade

A strength and conditioning coach reviews the workout with some AAA players. Learn about strength and conditioning certification at EliteTrainr.com.

If you are just starting out, or even if you have a handful of clients, having a trusted management platform at your disposal is indispensable. With a good tool at your fingertips, you can easily manage all of your athletes and other clients. Without a good management tool, you’ll have a lot of unnecessary paperwork, so getting used to client manager software from the beginning can give you an advantage.

Let’s use EliteTrainr as our example. It’s a full suite of tools, everything you need in one convenient app. Managing your athletes and other clients is easy and intuitive.

Using a library of over 3000 workout GIFs, you’ll find it easy to create custom workouts for your clients, whether they are athletes or not. And keeping track of each is easy with the intuitive management dashboard.

Remember, you must convey a professional demeanor to your clients. That’s another excellent reason to start today and learn how to use the EliteTrainr app to showcase professionalism to your clients. Invite them to the app and set them up for success under your coaching. It’s an application that makes the headache of management effortless so you can focus on what you’re good at – maximizing athletic performance.

Try the EliteTrainr app’s features by signing up for a free trial.

Marketing Yourself as a Strength and Conditioning Coach

You may want to consider how you will market yourself as soon as you’re certified. At this stage, the name of the game is personal branding and getting your name out there. People don’t sign up to work with people they’ve never heard of, so ensure your potential clients have heard about you.

One of the great features of EliteTrainr is the white-label feature on the app to enhance your brand. It’s a great feature that makes your business look professional and helps trigger brand recognition with clients and potential clients.

The Bottom Line

Adding a Strength and Conditioning Certification to your business is a great idea. Learn more at EliteTrainr.com.

If you’re passionate about fitness and intrigued by the nuances of athletic performance, transforming into a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach can elevate your professional standing and open new doors for you in the fitness industry. 

Specializing gives you a distinct edge, allowing you to focus on evidence-based methods tailored to athletes. Whether you opt for certifications like CSCS, SSC, SSC, PES, or CSC, each has its unique focus and prerequisites to equip you with the necessary skills.

The financial incentives are also compelling. Why settle for average when you can significantly impact the sports industry, earning up to $500,000 per year in leagues like the NFL? The demand for strength and conditioning coaches is expected to surge by 14% over the next decade. You don’t just improve your game; you get into a different league altogether.

To manage your burgeoning client list efficiently, opt for a sophisticated platform like EliteTrainr. This app simplifies client management and enhances your brand, setting you up for long-term success. No need to juggle paperwork or lose track of client progress; EliteTrainr offers a streamlined dashboard and a library of over 3000 workout GIFs to help you create personalized routines for your clients.

Why wait? Take the first step in this rewarding career path. Begin by choosing the certification that aligns with your passion and goals. And to elevate your game, sign up for a free trial of EliteTrainr today. Set yourself up for success and experience firsthand how this indispensable tool can revolutionize your coaching game.

Don’t settle for the ordinary when you can be extraordinary. Become a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach today, and let EliteTrainr guide you through your journey to success. Start your free trial now.