Smarter and stronger: Exercise and sports science alumna earns national certification -
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Smarter and stronger: Exercise and sports science alumna earns national certification

Recent exercise and sports science graduate Makenna Hittner (BS ’19) is now a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). The CSCS exam was developed and is administered by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). In June, Hittner, who is originally from Fort Smith, Arkansas, passed this rigorous test on her first try.

“The CSCS examination is designed to identify those individuals who have acquired in-depth knowledge in the areas of strength training and conditioning,” said Torrey Smith, the NSCA’s certification director. “The areas include the scientific principles and concepts associated with the physiological adaptations to training, as well as the practical aspects of designing safe and effective conditioning programs for athletes. This four-hour examination is very challenging and those who pass are rewarded with recognition and respect from fellow colleagues as skilled professionals in the area of strength training and conditioning.”

Preparing for certification

Preparing for the CSCS exam was a demanding process. “There’s a whole textbook of information,” Hittner noted. “Any of it could be tested, and therefore you have to know it all inside and out.”

The decision to pursue CSCS certification was sparked during her final semester in ATRG 4433 – Applications in Exercise and Sports Science, a course designed to help students prepare to write the CSCS exam. Across TU, departments and colleges strive to enhance graduates’ career readiness, and this course was recently created in response to students’ feedback and assessment of the curriculum (a part of the exercise and sports science program’s continuous improvement efforts).

The course instructor, Clinical Associate Professor of Athletic Training Jason West, encouraged Hittner to attempt the CSCS exam. He said, Hittner recalled, “that the information would never be fresher and that certification would provide many more career paths.”

The preparatory course consists of pre-tests that students take at home. They then go to class and are tested further on chapters and sections. At the end of the course, there is a final exam that simulates the actual CSCS exam. “It was practice questions every single day, which definitely helps prepare you for the real thing,” Hittner said. That combination of preparation and Hittner’s abilities spelled success: “I went for the CSCS exam and I passed it!”

Becoming a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)

Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

“The CSCS exam is seriously challenging,” West explained. “The pass rate for first-time test takers on both sections averages only 50 percent. That stat helps to underscore Makenna’s major accomplishment. She is clearly committed to becoming an expert in the field of strength and conditioning.”

Hittner said the certification gives her many options in her career. “At the gym where I’m now working, being a CSCS bumps me up to a level-2 trainer and increases my salary.”

With a longstanding passion for health and fitness, she said she’s looking forward to the future. “I’m not exactly 100 percent sure where I’m headed, but I have been well prepared and well equipped by TU to go out into the field of exercise science and excel wherever I choose to go.”


Do you have a passion for understanding — and applying — the science behind physical fitness and perhaps one day helping others achieve their fitness goals? TU’s exercise and sports science program could be your entryway to a fascinating, rewarding career or graduate-level study.