The American College of Sports Medicine has been at the forefront of the exercise science landscape since its inception in 1954, creating education and practical application opportunities for its members. An extension of this mission is providing gold standard certifications. ACSM certifications are carefully developed, maintained and administered by the Committee for Certification and Registry Board (CCRB), whose job includes continually evaluating the preparation needed to successfully enter the workforce.
Currently, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologists® (ACSM-EP®) and Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologists® (ACSM-CEP®) are required to earn a bachelor’s degree (at a minimum) in exercise science or a related discipline prior to sitting for their ACSM certification exam. After careful consideration, the ACSM CCRB has decided that by August 15, 2027, candidates for the ACSM-EP and ACSM-CEP exams will be required to have a bachelor’s degree (or higher) in Exercise Science from a regionally accredited college or university that is also programmatically accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). CAAHEP is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and is a member of the Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors (ASPA). As an outcomes-based accreditation, CAAHEP focuses on measurable outcomes and does not dictate the process by which outcomes are met. All requirements are designed with the intent to better prepare the Exercise Science student to successfully enter the workforce.
The CCRB Executive Committee, with support from the ACSM-EP and ACSM-CEP certification subcommittees, decided to make this change after careful consideration. To align ACSM exercise professionals with those from peer professions, such as nursing, physical therapy and athletic training, accreditation for exercise science programs by the Committee on Accreditation for the Exercise Sciences (CoAES) is essential.
Currently, tangible discrepancies exist in content, curriculum and/or program structure between academic programs. Programmatic accreditation will improve consistency between programs and provide students with the greatest assurance that their respective academic program provides them with the necessary preparation. Earning a degree from a CAAHEP accredited program will continue to ensure the highest standards are being met by our ACSM-EPs and ACSM-CEPs. This requirement will also provide a safeguard for employers and the public served by exercise science professionals as a result of the enhanced standardization of preparation.
The intent of this change is to ensure that ACSM-EPs and ACSM-CEPs are adequately prepared, theoretically and practically, to enter the workforce, meet employers’ expectations and provide safe and effective exercise programming for the public. Faculty and staff affiliated with accredited programs may also take a stronger defensive position in support of their departments that are aligned with and participating in a standardized academic accredited program through CAAHEP.
The ACSM CCRB is working with CoAES to ensure that interested academic programs have adequate resources available to them to make achieving CAAHEP accreditation feasible and achievable, especially given the challenges higher education institutions currently face.
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Christie Ward-Ritacco, Ph.D., ACSM-EP, is an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Rhode Island. She currently serves as the chair of the ACSM Committee for Certification and Registry Board Executive Council. She is also a member of ACSM’s International Health and Fitness Summit Planning Committee and an elected member of the Executive Committee for the New England Chapter of the ACSM.
Meir Magal, Ph.D., ACSM-CEP
serves as the program director and a professor of Exercise Science as well as the chair of the School of Mathematics and Sciences at North Carolina Wesleyan College. He is the immediate past chair of the ACSM Committee for Certification and Registry Board Executive Council. Dr. Magal has authored a number of chapters for ACSM publications and was as an associate editor on the 10th Edition of the ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription book.