Becoming an ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist®: Who, Why and How

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Becoming an ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist®: Who, Why and How

Stephanie Cooper, Ph.D., ACSM-EP |  March 24, 2022
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During their undergraduate academic careers, students majoring in exercise science-related fields contemplate various career paths and often seek guidance regarding the necessary steps to begin their career upon graduation. It is common to encounter soon-to-be graduates who want to work in the fitness industry but are confused about the wide breadth of certifications currently available. 


The ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist® (ACSM-EP) certification is ideal for those who want to work with generally healthy populations, and potentially clinical populations in the future. Most importantly, the ACSM-EP certification recognizes the certified professional’s educational background. All certified EPs must possess a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology or an exercise science-related field, which indicates that they have had in-class and experiential learning opportunities directly related to their work as an EP. This sets ACSM-EPs apart from certified professionals whose certifications lack such requirements. 


Additionally, the ACSM-EP certification provides a stepping stone for those who have ambitions to become an ACSM Clinical Exercise Physiologist® (ACSM-CEP), which requires clinical experience in addition to a bachelor’s and/or master’s degree. Thus, being an ACSM-EP provides the certificant the opportunity to work with generally healthy individuals in nonclinical settings while gaining the required clinical experience in a supervised setting to become an ACSM-CEP.

How to apply

A qualified ACSM-EP candidate must possess these basic credentials, and master knowledge, skills and abilities within four domains:

Credentials —

  1. Bachelor’s degree in an exercise science-related field (or be enrolled in the last semester of the degree program). View course requirements here.

    1. Starting August 15, 2027, candidates will be required to have a bachelor’s degree from an institution that is accredited through the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), which will further strengthen the credibility of the certification. Learn more. 

  2. Currently CPR/AED certified 

Knowledge, Skills and Abilities —

  1. Health and Fitness Assessment 

  1. Exercise Prescription and Implementation 

  1. Exercise Counseling and Behavior Modification 

  1. Risk Management and Professional Responsibilities  

Access detailed exam content outline

Value to employers

Employers can expect ACSM-EPs to be highly knowledgeable in the aforementioned areas, such that they can immediately work with generally healthy individuals, as well as those with medically controlled diseases. An ACSM-EP should be able to successfully conduct proper client assessments, develop and apply evidence-based exercise programs, implement proper behavior-change techniques and minimize the risk of injury for clients and staff. 

Thus, employers should be eager to provide the ACSM-EP with the opportunity to enhance the lives of individuals that they serve and be confident in their ability to lead others through appropriate exercise programs and related tasks.