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Frequently Asked Questions - ACSM Certification Name Changes

The American College of Sports Medicine's (ACSM) Committee on Certification & Registry Boards has changed the names of two ACSM certifications to better represent the scope of practice and expertise of the exercise professionals holding these titles. The new titles, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist, will replace ACSM Certified Health Fitness Specialist and ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist, respectively.

ACSM conducted extensive research prior to updating the titles of its certifications, surveying certified professionals, fitness industry employers, health and medical partners and the general public. The survey data showed the new names resonated with audiences across the board, with overall more than 70 percent of those surveyed agreeing with the new titles.

What name changes were made?

Past Title New Title Scope of Practice
ACSM Certified Health Fitness SpecialistSM ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist (ACSM EP-C) • Required bachelor's degree in exercise science
• Certified to train apparently healthy populations and those with uncomplicated medically controlled diseases cleared for independent physical activity
• Includes fitness management, administration, and supervision
ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise SpecialistSM ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist (ACSM CEP) • Required bachelor's degree in exercise science
• Certified to work in clinically monitored exercise settings with patients with cardiovascular, pulmonary, and metabolic diseases and disorders

Why were these changes made?
Exercise is now recognized as an important element in the prevention and treatment of disease, making it a key component of heath care and bringing the role of exercise professionals to the forefront. The American College of Sports Medicine's Committee for Certification and Registry Boards (CCRB) has undertaken a strategic mission to advance the profession of exercise physiology given the new implications of the profession as a part of the health care system. The CCRB's initial steps and long-term goals are to expand the role of exercise professionals in the context of health care and beyond.

The following are the most urgent goals to advance the profession, given the new landscape of exercise as a component of health care, as identified by the CCRB committee:

  • Promote the value of a degree in exercise science;
  • Develop a unified professional title for ACSM certified professionals;
  • Clearly delineate the scope of practice for degreed exercise professionals vs. non-degreed professionals;
  • Establish clear career pathways for degreed and certified ACSM exercise professionals to follow for both the health fitness and clinical tracks.

Longer-term goals include:

  • Establish a standardized academic curriculum;
  • Promote the importance of certification for health fitness and clinical exercise professionals and program accreditation for universities;
  • Educate potential employers and ultimately establish best practices for state licensure.

ACSM's CCRB aim is for the new certification titles to serve to distinguish a degreed exercise professional from a non-degreed by incorporating "exercise physiologist" in all three degreed certification titles. Within this, the CCRB will be communicating the scope of practice distinctions between these certifications to our university-based partners as well as health fitness and clinical employers. All in all, these certification title changes are an important first step in ACSM's commitment to move our profession forward.

When can we start using the new title?
You can begin to use the new titles as soon as you are ready. We are allowing a six month transition time. After six months you will be required to use the new title whenever citing your certification. This change has no effect on your job title unless your employer feels the need to make that change.

How long can we use our old title?
We are allowing a six month transition time. After six months you will be required to use the new title whenever citing your certification. This change has no effect on your job title unless your employer feels the need to make that change.

Have the continuing education requirements changed?
No, just the title of the certification has been changed.

Is my re-certification deadline the same as with the old title? What about the amount of continuing education credits that I need to earn in order to renew? 
Yes, your re-certification deadline will be the same as well as the amount of continuing education credit that you will need to earn to renew your certification.

Will we be getting a new certification logo with the new title integrated into it and instructions on how to list on my resume, business cards, and email signature? When will this information be available?
Yes, we are currently working on all of this and will have the redesigned logos available by the end of February.

Will I get a new wallet card and certificate?
Yes, starting with the 2014/2015 re-certification cycle, new cards and certificates will be sent to you as your re-certification is processed. The 2014/2015 wallet cards and certificates will be mailed throughout the month of February.

How will this affect my certification? Will it have any effect on the scope of practice related to my certification?
The scope of practice that is associated with your certification will not be changing. Other than the change of the title and the value that brings to you as an ACSM certified professional there should be no other effect on your certification.

How does this affect my employment? Will this have any effect on my job title?
This could help to enhance your employment status. Any affect to your job title is ultimately your employer's decision.

How does this affect my degree?
This will have no effect on your degree. Degree titles do not change as a result of any certification, licensure or employment title changes.

Will there be any effect on ACSM produced study materials?
We are looking into putting a new cover on ACSM's Resources for the Health Fitness Specialist - 1st Edition. There will be minimal changes to the interior content of the book. All subsequent editions will be developed with the new titles.

Will the exams change as a result of these name changes?
Only the title of the exams will change to reflect the new certification titles. 

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