Stop Adding Credentials. Add Experience.

Stop Adding Credentials. Add Experience.

A year ago, I received my Master’s degree in Exercise Science and Performance Enhancement.

You may ask, was it worth it?

Well, yes and no.

My name is Erica Suter, but when you add credentials it’s Erica Suter, MS, CSCS.

The latter may mean something to you, or it may not. It may make me sound like a science whiz, a nerd, Superwoman, or an pompous a-hole. Either way, letters behind my name doesn’t mean too much to me.

My Master’s degree was a stellar program and I pursued it because my undergraduate degree was not in Exercise Science. It was in Economics and International Studies. Given that, I had the desire to learn exercise physiology, bury my head in anatomy and biomechanics textbooks, make connections with classmates in the fitness industry, and I don’t know, say I endured sleepless nights and hair pulling?

Looking back, receiving more credentials and letters behind my name was the least of my worries. Don’t get me wrong, though, I thoroughly enjoyed my Master’s program and reading books because it’s one of my passions. Yes, reading books and being introverted. ;-O

However, gaining hands-on experience was, to me, far more valuable than sitting in a classroom.

Alas, I worked full-time while getting my graduate degree, which proved to pay off. I was able to apply what I learned in the textbook to real life scenarios.

I believe one of the biggest problems with newbie strength coaches is they “certification chase.”

As an example, I’ll connect with other coaches on LinkedIn only to see something like this splashed across their profile:


Sure, it’s great to want to learn and get better, and I encourage continuing education. But if the focus is ONLY on acquiring more letters and certs, this could be a waste of time, money, and experience.

I’d also argue that clients, athletes, and parents don’t know what the hell this letter jibberish means, and to them, it appears to be an episode of keepin’ up with the Jones’.

This bears repeating: no amount of schooling can prepare you for clients in real life.

The CSCS textbook may teach you how to coach a power clean, but until you get in front of a plethora of athletes with different skill levels, you may crack under pressure.

They could be hyperextending their spine on their high pull. They could be reverse curling the bar. Or they could be lacking the shoulder mobility for the catch. No textbook can teach you how to adapt to these obstacles on the fly. Only experience can.

Which is FINE. The experience of getting your feet wet, doing shit you’re not comfortable with, and learning how to work with a variety of people is what truly gets you better.

So if you’re thinking about how many certs you’re going to chase this year, think about what you’re doing in the real world to improve.

After all, that’s why you’re a coach. To be in front of people and help them become better. So don’t hide under a book. Get out there and start getting shit done.

  • Chris
    Posted at 10:49h, 23 July Reply

    Great article.
    I’m a firm believer in getting one or two certifications, just to validate what you think you know. But, I have been training folks for well over 20 years and the best thing from all of it was training and coaching different individuals. I have made a decent living off of two certifications and a teacher of the handicapped BA.
    Any young person who tells me they want to do this full time, I say start with getting a good (single) certification first. Not ten, just one. Then get years of experience and follow reputable scientists (Norton, Schoenfeld, etc) and those who really know their s-t (Waterbury, Wendler, Tate), then get even more experience.

    • erica
      Posted at 13:49h, 23 July Reply

      Totally agree, Chris! Focus on one cert or maybe niche. I would say the CSCS was so worth it, but then I had to stop. lol! keep up the good work.

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