CSEP Certification & Membership Frequently Asked Questions

About CSEP Certification

What are the CSEP certifications? 

The CSEP Professional Standards Program™ sets the highest standards for qualified exercise professional 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 will support meaningful lasting lifestyle changes.

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

What is the difference between a CSEP Certified Personal Trainer® (CSEP-CPT) and a CSEP Certified Clinical Physiologist (CSEP-CEP)?

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

Why should I choose CSEP for my certification? 

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 adapt and maintain a physically active life 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

Where do CSEP Certified members work? 

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

If I have a personal training certification from another organization, will CSEP accept that as equivalency to the CSEP-CPT?

What sets CSEP apart in the health and fitness industry is the high standards and specific requirements to become and remain CSEP certified, so it is not possible to accept any other certifications for equivalency.

There currently are no equivalent certifications, many other professionals are prepared for a specialized career in their area of expertise and may not meet the criteria for CSEP certifications.

Steps to Becoming CSEP Certified

How do I begin the CSEP-CPT/CSEP-CEP certification process?

In order for anyone to become a CSEP Certified member they 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 much meet in order to be eligible to challenge the exams.

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

Step 1:  GET READY 5 Steps to Becoming CSEP Certified

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. 

  • 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. 
Step 4: EXAMS 
  • Take your Practical Exam and Theory Exam. You choose the order you take the exams. 
  • !! You have 6 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. 

  • Register to be a CSEP Certified Member & 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 3 weeks to process you registration & receive your member package in the mail. 

View graphic. 

What is the cost of certification?

To become a CSEP Certified member, the fees vary depending on your certification process.

  • The application fee is $45.00 for a CSEP-CPT and $50.00 for a CSEP-CEP  (this fee is non-refundable)
  • Theory Exam
    • CSEP-CPT theory exam – $160
    • CSEP-CEP theory exam – $200
  • If you take a practical skills review session (which is optional for most candidates) the fees vary due to differences in session length and facility. Average prices ranges are:
    • CSEP-CPT range $150-500
    • CSEP-CEP range $300-600
      • Fees vary due to the differences in session length, content, attendance and resources used during that session.
  • Practical exam
    • CSEP-CPT range $150-250
    • CSEP-CEP range $300-600
  • Registration Fee1:
    • For CSEP-CPTs: $235 (+tax) + optional insurance add-ons*
    • For CSEP-CEPs: $265 (+tax) + optional insurance add-on*

*these fees are as of April 1, 2017; CSEP reserves the right to change these fees each renewal year.

I am not sure if the courses I've taken line up with the certification requirements, what should I do?

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 Education Coordinators will work with you to determine the best path forward. In order for Education Coordinators to offer guidance you must first submit an application.

What are CSEP Recommended Course Maps?

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. 

View CSEP RCM.  

Why should I purchase the CSEP-CPT or CSEP-CEP Certification Guide?

The certification guides assist candidates in preparation for the certification exams. The contents include:
  • detailed breakdown of core competencies 
  • sample theory exam questions 
  • practical exam format 
  • exercise prescription case studies.  
  • and more 
The certification guides are available at store.csep.ca

Do I need to have a CPR certification prior to participating in a CSEP-CPT or CSEP-CEP practical review session?

CPR certification is not required to participate in a Skills Review session. 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.

Who administers the CSEP practical skills review sessions and practical 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.

Where do I find out when the next CSEP-CPT / CSEP-CEP practical examination or practical review session is in my area?

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**: It is important to note that CSEP’s policy states that a candidate has 6 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.

Where can I take the Theory Exams?

Once your CSEP-CPT or CSEP-CEP application is approved you will be able to purchase your theory exam-sitting, register online, and arrange to take the test at a Pearson VUE test centre. CSEP-CPTs require a CSEP-PATH manual registration code in order to complete their purchase order for the CSEP-CPT theory exam-sitting fee. 

If I am not successful on either my theory or practical exam, how soon can I re-take it?

If you fail either exam on your first attempt you should allow time between exams for further study (minimum 1 month recommended) to ensure your success on your next attempt.

How many times can I retake the CSEP-CPT/CSEP-CEP Theory and Practical Exam?

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 2 attempts, at each exam, to successfully pass both
  • If unsuccessful at 2nd attempt, candidate can apply for a 3rd attempt
  • If unsuccessful at 3rd 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 6 month deadline in which to complete both exams successfully and register with CSEP as a certified member. 

Where do I send my official transcripts?

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 registrars 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 18 Louisa Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1R 6Y6. 

How long do I have to become certified? 

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. 

I have passed both exams, how do I register to become a certified member?

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 (4) 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.  

Can I get a refund on Practical Skills Reviews/Exams that I register for?

There is a no refund policy for practical skills review sessions and exams.

Maintaining My Certification

What do I have to do to maintain my CSEP-CPT/CSEP-CEP membership?

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.

Scope of Practice Questions



Whom can I work with? Athletes? Women who are pregnant?

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.

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 Certified 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 a PAR-Q or PAR-Q+

Can I use other fitness appraisal protocols other than those specified in the CSEP-PATH manual, CSEP-CPT/CSEP-CEP study guide, and Scope of Practice? (e.g. can I conduct the Leger beep test with apparently healthy children and adults?)

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 midget 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.

Is advice based on Canada's Food Guide the only nutritional advice that I can provide?

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.

How much money can I make as a 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.             

Can a CSEP-CPT perform Functional Ability Evaluations (FAE) or Functional Assessments?

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./

I have a question that is not covered in this FAQ.

If you have an insurance-related question, be sure to check the Professional Liability Insurance FAQs (member login required).

For any other questions, please contact memberships@csep.ca