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What is a Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist?

A registered clinical exercise physiologist (RCEP) is an allied health care professional who is trained to assess, design, and implement exercise/fitness programs for individuals with chronic health conditions (e.g., heart disease, diabetes, cancer, lung disease, renal disease, etc.). Additionally, RCEPs provide education and counseling about lifestyle changes to prevent, improve or slow down the progression of chronic health conditions. Individuals in this registry have met the following criteria and have earned the RCEP distinction.
Education: The minimum educational requirement for an RCEP is a bachelor’s degree in exercise science, exercise physiology, or kinesiology. Having a degree from a university accredited through the Committee on Accreditation for the Exercise Sciences (CoAES) is preferred, although at this time not required. In general, the course work to become a RCEP involves a wide range of classes and applied laboratories, which include: anatomy, physiology, biology, chemistry, and psychology. Common core classes are listed below and may have a variety of course titles.
Common core classes taken by an RCEP:
  • Stress Testing and Exercise Prescription
  • Advanced Exercise Physiology
  • Clinical Exercise Physiology/Special Populations
  • Electrocardiography
  • Pharmacology
Clinical Experience: Clinical experience is defined as hours spent performing the duties of an RCEP. These include but are not limited to hours spent performing: clinical exercise testing, exercise training for individuals with chronic health conditions (e.g., cardiac/pulmonary rehabilitation, cancer rehabilitation, etc.), and exercise counseling/education for individuals with chronic health conditions (e.g., obesity, diabetes, renal disease). Hours spent during a clinical exercise physiology internship program can be included. Hours spent working as another allied health professional (e.g., dietician, nurse, physical therapist) will not be allowed to count towards qualifying for the Registry.
  • For bachelor’s prepared individuals the minimum clinical experience needed to become an RCEP is three years.
  • For master’s prepared individuals (or higher) the minimum clinical experience needed to become an RCEP is one year.
National Exam and Certification: All registered clinical exercise physiologists must pass a clinical exercise physiology certification exam, currently administered by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). Additionally, to remain in the Registry, individuals must maintain at least one of the following clinical certifications below.
  • ACSM Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist 1996-2018
  • ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist 1975-2018
  • ACSM Program Director 1975-2005
  • ACSM Clinical Exercise Physiologist 2018-Present

Where do registered clinical exercise physiologists work?

RCEPs work in a variety of settings: hospitals, outpatient clinics, physician offices, medical fitness centers, university laboratories or hospital-based research facilities.

RCEPs can work independently, but many times are a part of a team with other health professionals including dietitians, physical therapists, physicians and nurses.

How to become a registered clinical exercise physiologist?

To be eligible for the Clinical Exercise Physiology Registry, individuals must meet the above criteria and complete an application that will be reviewed by the Clinical Exercise Physiology Registry and Ethics Committee. Documentation of education, certifications, and clinical experience will be needed. Documentation of continuing education credits (CECs) will also be required*. Individuals who have passed and maintained the ACSM Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist Certification are exempt from the application process and are automatically eligible for the Registry.

*Individuals with the ACSM CEP before December 1, 2018 will need to provide an additional 20% (i.e. 12 CECs) of the CECs required to maintain their current clinical certification over a 3-year period.

Is there a cost to become a part of the registry?

There is no cost for individuals who are current professional members of CEPA or those who have the ACSM RCEP certification. For those who do not fit these criteria, there is an application fee, but no additional cost to remain in the Registry.

What are the benefits of becoming part of the registry?

This Registry is the only national registry promoting the profession of clinical exercise physiology. The Registry is a way to connect highly qualified clinical exercise physiologists with employers across the country. For employers, the Registry offers a place to find individuals to lead and design exercise testing and training programs across a variety of clinical populations.

Unique for members of CEPA, individuals on the Registry can share with employers additional information such as sub-specialties (e.g., oncology, renal disease etc.) and other clinical certifications (e.g. AACVPR Certified Cardiac Rehabilitation Professional, NCBDE Certified Diabetes Educator, etc.)