CSEP Certification Frequently Asked Questions

About CSEP Certification

The CSEP Professional Standards Program® sets the highest standards for qualified exercise professionals through certification and evidence-informed practice. There are two CSEP certifications: CSEP Certified Personal Trainers® (CSEP-CPT) and CSEP Clinical Exercise Physiologists™ (CSEP-CEP).

CSEP-CPTs and CSEP-CEPs bring science to practice through their knowledge and skills, to provide clients with evidence-informed programming that support meaningful lasting lifestyle changes.

The CSEP High Performance Specialization™ is offered as an add-on to existing CSEP certifications. Specializations provide members with the necessary in-depth knowledge to work with unique populations through cutting-edge, evidence-informed learning modules, and assessments.

View the member directory to find a CSEP certified professional in your area (not all members share their full contact details).

CSEP Specializations provide Qualified Exercise Professionals advanced knowledge and practical considerations for working with specific client groups. CSEP specializations are open to both CSEP Certified Members and non-member who met the eligibility requirements.

The CSEP High Performance Specialization™ focuses on performance and occupational testing and training for qualified exercise professionals working with elite athletes, emergency services personnel, armed forces, and high performance clients.

The CSEP Pre & Postnatal Exercise Specialization™ provides Qualified Exercise Professionals with the background knowledge to actively encourage a physically active lifestyle in their clients prior to conception, throughout pregnancy, and into the postpartum period.

The scope of practice differs between CSEP-CPTs and CSEP-CEPs and each have their own requirements to become certified. A CSEP-CEP has a broader scope of practice.

A CSEP-CPT works with individuals to meet their healthy lifestyle goals using an evidence-informed approach acquired through education. A CSEP-CEP works with individuals from diverse populations to meet their healthy lifestyle, performance and occupational goals by applying advanced education, skills, and experience.

Read more about the CSEP-CPT Scope of Practice.
Read more about the CSEP-CEP Scope of Practice.

CSEP certified exercise professionals are the most highly qualified exercise practitioners in Canada who follow the highest standards to ensure the best and safest care. Reasons to choose CSEP for your certification:

  • You believe it is important that qualified exercise professionals follow a client-centered process to help clients adopt and maintain a physically active lifestyle at all ages.
  • You know that evidence-based practice provides long-term benefits to improving the health outcomes of Canadians.
  • Being CSEP-certified reflects your dedication to your profession to clients and employers.

You can find CSEP-CPTs and CSEP-CEPs across Canada in places such as:

  • Community centres
  • Private consulting
  • Military, RCMP, Police
  • High performance labs
  • Rehab clinics
  • Commercial fitness industry
  • Academia
  • Preventative care programs

What sets CSEP apart in the health and fitness industry are high standards and specific requirements to become and remain CSEP certified.

CSEP does offer a simplified certification process for individuals who hold specific certifications with the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and Exercise & Sport Science Australia (ESSA).

For more information about the certification process for current ACSM or ESSA members, please email memberships@csep.ca.

CSEP-CPT CSEP-CEP
Salaries vary depending on your place of employment (e.g., community centre, health club, government, hospital, clinic or private facility). The hourly rate ranges across Canada and is generally $25-75/hour. CSEP-CEPs may have more supervisory or management positions compared to CSEP-CPTs with corresponding market value compensation.

Steps to Becoming CSEP Certified

In order to become a CSEP-CPT or CSEP-CEP, you must follow the 5 Steps to Becoming Certified as part of the certification process. As well, each certification has a set of requirements that applicants must meet in order to be eligible to challenge the exams.

After you apply you will be sent regular communication at each step to assist you.

5 steps to becoming CSEP certified: Get ready, apply, prepare for exams, exams, and register

Step 1: GET READY

Step 2: APPLY

  • Submit and pay for your application online to begin the CSEP-CPT or CSEP-CEP certification process

Wait for CSEP to approve your application (2 to 3 weeks). While you’re waiting follow @CSEPdotCA on Twitter to stay informed.

Step 3: PREPARE FOR EXAMS

  • It is recommended that you take a Practical Skills Review Session to help prepare for your exams. Choose the Practical Skills Review Session that is best for you. Please note: Practical Skills Review Sessions are schedule on an as-needed basis based on demand from applications.
  • Consult the CSEP Store and Online Learning for required and recommended resources.

Step 4: EXAMS

  • Take your Practical Exam and Theory Exam. 
  • You have six months from the date you pass your first exam to pass your second exam and register!

Wait for final results on your exams. While you await make sure you have First Aid & that your CPR-C has been updated in the last 12 months. 

Step 5: REGISTER

  • Register to be a CSEP Certified Member and begin enjoying all the member benefits including CSEP Professional Liability Insurance. (Note: you will receive the form to link directly from the CSEP certifications team).
  • It can take up to three weeks to process your registration and receive your member package in the mail. 

CSEP Certification 5 Steps.

To become a CSEP Certified member, the fees vary depending on your certification process. There are no refunds on these fees.

Item CSEP-CPT CSEP-CEP
Application Fee only (non-refundable) $50 $55
Theory Exam only $165 $205
Application Fee + Theory Exam bundle (NEW) $205 $250
Practical Skills Review Session* (optional for most candidates) $150 – 500 $300 – 600
Practical Exam* $150 – 250 $300 – 600
Registration as a CSEP member (includes Liability Insurance) $260 $295
Total $980 – 1,430 $1,405 – 2,000

*Fees vary due to several factors, including session length, facility, content, and resources used during the session.

These fees are as of May 2021 and do not include tax. CSEP reserves the right to change these fees each renewal year.

Your first step is to consult the CSEP Recommended Course Map for the educational institution(s) you attended to see how the courses you took align with the CSEP Core Competencies require for certification.

If you are still unsure, when you submit an application our Certifications team will work with you to determine the best path forward. CSEP is unable to assess your eligibility until you submit an application.

CSEP Recommended Course Maps (RCM) are a tool to help you plan and align courses from the school(s) you attend with the Core competencies. These are a tool for guidance and additional courses could fit the Core Competency criteria.

The certification guides assist candidates in preparation for the certification exams. The contents include:

  • detailed breakdown of core competencies
  • sample exam questions
  • practical exam format
  • exercise prescription case studies
  • and more

The certification guides are available at store.csep.ca in print and digital download (ePub) format.

CPR certification is not required to participate in a Skills Review session or Practical Exam. You will be required to submit documentation of CPR-C (or equivalent) certification when you register as a CSEP certified member after you pass both exams.

CSEP practical skill reviews and practical exams are delivered by CSEP Instructor Examiners (CSEP-IEs) from across the country. CSEP-IEs are CSEP certified members who met all the requirements to deliver CSEP skills review sessions and practical exams to candidates while ensuring they maintain the highest standards.

All exams and practical review sessions are posted on the Exam & Practical Skills Review page and candidates receive a monthly newsletter featuring upcoming certification events.

Certification events are scheduled based on demand and the availability of CSEP Instructor Examiners. This means that there may not be practical review sessions or practical exams scheduled on a regular basis in your area or you may have to travel to take one.

Your first step is to submit a CSEP-CPT or CSEP-CEP application.

Important: CSEP’s policy states that a candidate has six months from the time they successfully complete the first exam (theory or practical) to successfully complete the remaining exam and register with CSEP as a new member. Therefore, in the instance that there is no practical exam opportunity available in their region, it is not recommended that candidates proceed to challenge the theory exam without first confirming that the date that they will be able to challenge their practical exam.

Approved candidates can complete their Theory Exam at a Pearson VUE Testing Centre, or through Pearson VUE’s secure online proctoring platform. There are Pearson VUE testing centres available year-round across Canada. Approved candidates will receive email communication with instructions to purchase and book their exams.

CSEP-CPT candidates require a CSEP-PATH manual unique registration code in order to purchase the CSEP-CPT Theory Exam.

Yes, you have the opportunity to challenge the Theory Exam from the comfort of your home or office.
Before booking you will be required to run a system test to ensure you are able to complete an Online Proctored exam on your computer. Steps to follow for a successful online exam (see PDF version for text)
Read about the system requirements.

Read some tips about taking your Theory Exam online

Online proctoring spots are available to book 24-hours a day Tuesday to Saturday.

An offsite proctor will continuously monitor you by video and audio while you take your exam. Throughout the exam you will be required to always be visible to the proctor to ensure the integrity

There is no set time. If you fail either exam on your first attempt you should allow time between exams for further study (minimum one month recommended) to ensure your success on your next attempt. For more information, see the CSEP Certification Exam Attempts Policy.

Within the certification period a CSEP certification candidate is allowed a maximum of two attempts at each of the CSEP Theory and Practical Exams.  An individual who is not successful after their second exam attempt, of either exam, must apply for an extension in order to receive a third attempt, regardless of where they are in the certification period, i.e. if their 6 month deadline has started or not. If at the end of the 6 month extension period and third exam attempt the individual was still unsuccessful they are required to undergo a 6 month waiting period.

In summary:

  • A candidate has two attempts, at each exam, to successfully pass both
  • If unsuccessful at second attempt, candidate can apply for a third attempt
  • If unsuccessful at third attempt, a waiting period is imposed and the candidate can apply to keep their file open

Note that once a candidate has already successfully completed one exam they are also still bound by the six month deadline in which to complete both exams successfully and register with CSEP as a certified member.

For more information see the CSEP Certification Exam Attempts Policy.

When applying, you do not need to submit official transcripts but before you officially register as a Certified member you will have to submit official transcripts. Official transcripts are from your registrar’s office (official stamp and from your institution). They will not be returned to you. They can be e-mailed to memberships@csep.ca or mailed to 495 Richmond Road, Suite 101, Ottawa ON, K2A 4B1, Canada.

From the time you successfully pass your first exam you have six-months to successfully pass your second exam and register as a CSEP certified member. If you exceed the six-month deadline your exam results will no longer be valid and you will have to successfully challenge the exams again.

Once you are an approved CSEP Certification Candidate you have one year to start the exam process before you will be contacted to confirm you would like to keep your file active.

When you have successfully completed both your Theory Exam and Practical Exam you will receive a confirmation email from CSEP with directions and a link to the registration form. It can take up to four business days to receive and process your exam results and contact you about the next steps.

After you register and submit all required documents you will receive email confirmation from CSEP and a member package with all of your information.

There is a no-refund policy for Applications, Practical Skills Review Sessions, Practical Exams, and Theory Exams.

CSEP High Performance Specialization logo

Anyone who became a CSEP-CEP after January 1, 2020, can earn the CSEP High Performance Specialization by successfully completing a 60-question, multiple-choice theory exam.

Every CSEP-CEP who became certified in 2019 or earlier was automatically granted the CSEP High Performance Specialization™ and are considered a CSEP-CEP, CSEP High Performance Specialist™.

Current CSEP-CPTs can earn the CSEP High Performance Specialization™ by successfully completing a 60 question, multiple-choice theory exam.

Once a CSEP-CPT has obtained the CSEP High Performance Specialization designation, they may utilize assessment protocols or design exercise programs that require maximal aerobic or anaerobic effort. They may also assess muscular strength using maximal 1-RM assessment protocols or design programs based on resistance loads exceeding 90% of the predicted 1-RM.

No. The CSEP High Performance Specialization™ is obtained by successfully completing a 60 question multiple-choice theory exam. There is no practical exam for the High Performance Specialization™.

CSEP High Performance Specialization™ renews annually with your CSEP Certified membership. There are no additional fees or professional development required to renew the Specialization. CSEP members’ comprehensive CSEP Professional and General Liability insurance remains unchanged.

The CSEP High Performance Specialization™ designation does not change the number of Professional Development Credits (PDCs) you must collect to maintain your CSEP-CPT or CSEP-CEP certification.

More information coming soon.

Maintaining My Certification

You are required to renew your CSEP-CPT/CSEP-CEP certification every year on or before March 31st. You can renew online straight from your membership profile on the community site.

The following is required for renewal:

  • Collection of CSEP-Professional Development Credits (every two years).
  • Documentation proving current CPR level C or equivalent certification (Certification must not be more than a year old).
  • Completion of the annual renewal survey.

Please see the Membership FAQs for more information about maintaining your existing certification.

Scope of Practice

CSEP-CPT CSEP-CEP
A CSEP Certified Personal Trainer® can only work with clients who have been cleared for physical activity. Individuals who have not been cleared for physical activity can be cleared by a CSEP-CEP or by a physician completing a Physicians Clearance Form (from the CSEP-PATH e-Toolkit).

Remember that a CSEP-CPT cannot conduct maximal effort exercise tests, nor can a CSEP-CPT prescribe maximal effort training sessions such as maximal effort interval training.

It is strongly recommended that a CSEP-CPT has additional training and experience with specific conditions; for example, a CSEP-CPT should have a solid understanding of the normal physiology involved with pregnancy and the effects that various forms of exercise can have in each trimester. The best rule of thumb is if you don’t know, then refer the client to someone who does (e.g., a CSEP Clinical Exercise Physiologist).

A CSEP Clinical Exercise Physiologist™ can work with clients who have been cleared for physical activity and can provide physical activity participation clearance and recommend tailored, progressive physical activity for clients who do not respond positively to pre-screening.
CSEP-CPT CSEP-CEP
No. If you decide to use any appraisal protocols other than those specified in the CSEP-CPT Scope of Practice or within the CSEP-PATH manual, you are not covered by professional liability insurance should something untoward occur (e.g. if you run the beep test as part of a training session for ice hockey players and a player is injured or had a medical complication, then you are not covered by the CSEP-CPT insurance policy because you exceeded your scope of practice). A CSEP-CEP may administer appropriate submaximal and maximal assessment protocols for the evaluation of physical fitness while staying within the CSEP-CEP Scope of Practice.
CSEP-CPT CSEP-CEP
Yes. A CSEP-CPT is an expert in exercise prescription, lifestyle counselling, and fitness appraisal. CSEP-CPTs are not professionals in nutrition and should therefore refer their clients to an expert in this area, such as a registered dietician. No. A CSEP-CEP is required to take a nutrition and weight management course and may suggest healthy dietary practices in concert with physical activity/exercise programs for healthy weight management, dietary practices for health-related nutrition and performance-related nutrition. CSEP-CEPs are not professionals in nutrition and should refer their clients to an expert in this area for any advice beyond their knowledge.
CSEP-CPT CSEP-CEP
As a CSEP-CPT, you can only work within your competency level, and can only oversee submaximal exercise. Therefore a CSEP-CPT can perform FAEs using specialized equipment if they have the appropriate training/certification.  Those members who do NOT obtain the appropriate training, certification and renewal will not be permitted to carry out this service, nor will they have any insurance coverage for this service.