Professional Credentials and Certifications
In selecting a Provider, it is important to understand what the letters behind their name means. Definitions of various credentials and certifications in the GritLink Professional Network are provided below. Please contact email@example.com with questions about a credential that is not listed below, or if you are a Provider and would like to submit an edit or update to the listings below.
ACE (American Council on Exercise) certification for Personal Trainers. ACE is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). The ACE certification is self-paced and typically takes 80-100 hours over 3-4 months.
Pre-requisite education: high school diploma (or equivalent) and a current CPR/AED certification with a live skills check.
Resource: ACE website
ATC is a Certified Athletic Trainer. From VerywellFit.com: “An ATC works with doctors and other allied health personnel to prevent injury, provide emergency care, assist in diagnosis, and provide therapeutic interventions and rehabilitation for athletic injuries.”
Pre-requisite education: Bachelors degree (soon-to-be Masters degree) in athletic training from an accredited college, and must pass the certification exam from the Board of Certification for the Athletic Trainer.
Bachelor of Science. 4-year degree at an accredited college.
CCSP (Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician). Signifies that a licensed DC (Doctor of Chiropractic) passed the CCSP exam, demonstrating additional expertise as a Chiropractor in Sports Medicine.
Pre-requisite education: DC licensure, post-graduate education in chiropractic sports medicine or a closely related discipline, post-graduate level emergency procedures course or EMT certification, CPR certification, plus one of the following (from the ACBSP website): “(1) minimum of 100 hours of post-graduate Completed a minimum of 100 hours of postgraduate education in the Certified Chiropractic Sports Physicians® program at an accredited chiropractic college.at an accredited chiropractic college, (2) Possess a current Athletic Trainer Certification (ATC), (3) Completed a Master’s of Science (MS) degree at an accredited college in an equivalent program in the domain of sports medicine, (4) Completed the first year of a sports medicine residency program with an accredited college.CCSP
CISSN (Certified Sports Nutritionist from the International Society of Sports Medicine). The CISSN is a certification in the field of sports nutrition and supplementation. The CISSN designation signifies that the CISSN exam has been passed. The CISSN is a collaborative effort from dozens of research scientists (PhDs) who have both research and practical experience in the field of sports nutrition.
Pre-requisites: 4-year college degree, preferably in a related field.
Resource: ISSN website
CN (Certified Nutritionist) is a license to practice nutrition, including medical nutritional therapy. A CN is closely related to an RD (Registered Dietitian), but the main difference is that the RD has had additional medical clinical training and has taken a licensing exam that enable them to practice nationwide.
Pre-requisites: differ by State; a Masters Degree is required in WA State, as well as a registration for a state licensure.
CNC Certified Nutrition Coach from the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), an organization also known for their personal training certifications. This NASM certification prepares graduates for helping their clients with nutrition planning.
CPT (Certified Personal Trainer) is a certification from the National Association of Sports Medicine (NASM). CPT is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), a nationally recognized third-party agency that helps to ensure certification companies are working at the highest standards.
Pre-requisites: CPT course work (self-guided, 10-12 weeks), pass the CPT exam, high school diploma, and CPR/AED certification.
Resource: NASM website
CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist) with the NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association). CSCS apply scientific knowledge to train athletes for the primary goal of improving athletic performance. They conduct sport-specific testing sessions, design and implement safe and effective strength training and conditioning programs and provide guidance regarding nutrition and injury prevention.
Pre-requisite: Bachelor’s degree or higher (in 2030, CSCS will require a degree with specifics in strength and conditioning), CPR/AED certification, pass the CSCS exam.
Resource: NSCA Website
DAOM (Doctorate of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine) is a 1,225-hour program designed for licensed acupuncturists looking to focus on integrative medicine, deepen their Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) knowledge and skills, and specialize in TCM pain management or TCM women’s health.
Pre-requisites: Master’s degree in Oriental Medicine or 10+ years experience
DC (Doctor of Chiropractic) is a 4-year degree at an accredited institution, including course work in neurology, radiology, microbiology, psychology, ethics, biology, gross anatomy, chemistry/biochemistry, spinal anatomy, phlebotomy, neurology, nutrition, and other related health and wellness subjects.
Pre-requisites: 4-year DC degree at an accredited institution, state licensure exam.
A Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree is a post-baccalaureate degree which may be conferred upon successful completion of a professional doctoral program. Physical therapists diagnose, manage, and treat movement dysfunction; restore, maintain, and promote optimal wellness as it relates to movement and health; prevent the onset of functional limitations that may result from injuries and other conditions. Physical therapy is covered by most insurance plans and can be provided only by qualified physical therapists (PTs) or by physical therapist assistants (PTAs).
Pre-requisites: Bachelor’s degree, graduation from DPT program, and passed the license exam.
Resource: American Physical Therapy Association’s website
FAFS (Fellowship of Applied Functional Science). “A FAFS has the knowledge, analytical ability, and hands-on manual skills necessary for the application and integration of the Core Content of the GIFT (Gray Institute of Functional Transformation) Curriculum.” An FAFS has completed a 40-week mentorship program with Gray Institute.
Pre-requisites: Credentialed or qualified professionals including – Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Athletic Trainers, Kinesiologists, Chiropractors, Medical Physicians, ACE/ACSM/NASM/NSCA credentials, Personal Trainers, Physical Therapy Assistants, and Occupational Therapy Assistants.
FMS stands for Functional Movement Screen, which is a ranking system, based on seven fundamental movement patterns (squat, hurdle step, leg raise, lunge, push-up, quadruped stability, and shoulder mobility). Following the score that is achieved after the screen, the provider creates a more effective training program.
IOC (International Olympic Committee) Diploma in Sports Nutrition is a postgraduate-level program in Sport and Exercise Nutrition. This program is aimed at sports nutrition professionals who work closely with athletes and coaches to enhance their nutrition.
Pre-requisite: Bachelor’s degree in a related field such as Strength and Conditioning, Sports/Exercise Science, Sports Physiology, Nutrition, and Dietetics.
IOPN (Institute of Performance Nutrition) Diploma is an advanced level professional training and development program in sport and exercise nutrition. The course focusses on topics relevant to sport and exercise nutrition and its translation and application into effective daily practice. The program goal, therefore, is to develop highly skilled and effective sport and exercise nutritionists who are well equipped with the confidence and competence to work with teams, individual athletes, and recreationally active clients in the “real world”.
Pre-requisites: Bachelor’s degree in a related field such as Strength and Conditioning, Sports/Exercise Science, Sports Physiology, Nutrition, and Dietetics, or an extensive portfolio of accredited professional credentials in health and/or fitness related fields (i.e. personal training or strength and conditioning certifications / accreditations i.e. CSCS, ASCC, ACSM HFI etc).
LAc (Licensed Acupuncturist) – “Acupuncture utilizes tiny needles placed carefully at specific pressure points on the patient’s body to relieve a variety of physical and physiological issues from pain to stress, to migraines, and some illnesses.”
Pre-requisites: Graduated from an accredited school of acupuncture with a Masters Degree in Acupuncture or Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Each state has different licensing requirements.
Resource: Verywell Health
LMT (Licensed Massage Therapist), or LMP (Licensed Massage Practitioner) are the same designation. The WA State Dept of Health changed from LMP to LMT in July 2017. Licensed Massage Therapists have a state licensure to practice massage and have completed an accredited massage education program or apprenticeship. Requirements to practice massage differ by state.
Pre-requisite: Complete an accredited program which includes massage theory and practice, clinical and business practices, anatomy and physiology, and pathology. CPR certification.
Resource: MassageTherapyLicense.org (WA State)
MPT (Masters of Physical Therapy) or MSPT (Master of Science in Physical Therapy) was the designation for Physical Therapists prior to 2015. There are “transitional” programs offered for an MPT/MSPT to complete course work required for the DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy) designation, which was not available before 2015, but for more practical purposes, you can view an MPT/MSPT designation as the same credential as DPT.
See DPT for more information.
MS (Masters of Science). Completed 2 years of study beyond a 4-year Bachelor degree.
ND (Naturopathic Doctor). The titles “traditional naturopath” and “naturopathic doctor” (or “naturopathic physician”) are not interchangeable. A licensed naturopathic doctor (ND/NMD) is a primary care physician who is trained to diagnose and prescribe, while a traditional naturopath is not able to do either.
Pre-Requisites: Graduated from a 4-year accredited doctoral degree program, 1,200 hours of hands-on clinical training.
Resource: AANMC Website
NKT stands for NeuroKinetic Therapy, which is a corrective movement system that finds dysfunctional movement patterns that is stored in the cerebellum. This system addresses the cause of pain from different compensatory patterns that were developed over the years.
NTP (Nutritional Therapy Practitioner) is an accreditation from the Nutritional Therapy Association. The NTP program is a 10-month online study that addresses “nutrient-dense food, lifestyle choices, culinary wellness, client coaching, and how social and personal components influence health.”
OCS (Orthopedic Clinical Specialist) is a certification through the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). “Clinical specialization in physical therapy responds to a specific area of patient need and requires knowledge, skill, and experience exceeding that of the physical therapist at entry to the profession and unique to the specialized area of practice.”
Pre-requisite: Must hold a license to practice Physical Therapy
OES (Orthopedic Exercise Specialist), or Medical Exercise Specialist, is a certification offered through the American College of Exercise (ACE) that focuses on restoring functional movement and working effectively together with medical professionals
Pre-requisites: Must have a current professional certification in health education, fitness, wellness, or allied health accredited by the NCCA or the ISO 17024; a license as a healthcare professional; or a current health or wellness coaching credential from an organization accredited by the NBHWC.
Pn1/2 (Precision Nutrition Level 1 or 2) Coach is an accreditation from Precision Nutrition. The Precision Nutrition coursework takes approximately 1 year to complete and exam focuses on the field of exercise nutrition. While Level 1 provides foundational nutrition knowledge and coaching skills, Level 2 dives deep into case studies to provide students with real-world applications of the education received in their Level 1 studies.
Pre-requisites: None for L1. L2 requires completion of L1.
PT (Physical Therapist)
RD (Registered Dietitian) and RDN (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist) engage in medical nutrition counseling and therapy.
An RD has completed either a Bachelors or Masters degree in Human Nutrition, a 1-year (1200 hours) accredited dietetic internship, and has passed a national exam that enables them to work as an RD nationwide. Depending on what state the dietitian works in, they will be either licensed or certified.
RDN: In recent years, the RD designation has included RDN. For the purposes of deciphering the difference between those in the nutrition field, RD and RDN are identical designations with the same credentials.
The RRCA (Road Runners Coaches of America) coaching certification (Levels 1) is a 16-hour run coaching program and exam that covers exercise physiology, training program periodization, run form, basic sports nutrition, running psychology, and injury prevention. The Level 2 program ”provides for a deeper understanding of the scientific, psychological, competitive, and managerial aspects of working with individual clients and training groups.”
Pre-requisites: For Level 1 – None. For Level 2 – must be in good standing as a Level 1 coach.
Resource: RRCA website
SFMA stands for Selective Functional Movement Assessment, which is a clinical systematic approach to find the cause of the pain. Through various functional movement patterns, it allows the provider to assess stability, mobility, and/or motor control dysfunctions of each patient.
A USAT (USA Triathlon) Level 1 certification teaches how to design an individualized training plan and key workouts to incorporate, along with the mechanics and skills of swimming, cycling and running. Coaches also learn about nutrition periodization and mental skills. Level 2 coaches learn how to work with higher-performing athletes.
For Level 1 – CPR or AED certification, background check, pass the online exam.
For Level 2 – Two years as a Level 1 Coach, pass the online exam, Athlete and Mentor Letters of Recommendation, BA or BS in sport science or related field or Certification with relevance to triathlon (ACSM, USAC Level I or II, ASCA, USATF, NSCA or NASM).
Resource: USAT website