I hold a few of these ‘soft’ certifications such as NASM CES and FNS. Considering the difficulty of the test, there was little ‘soft’ about them.
In order to sign up for any of those, it is mandatory that one holds an accredited certification. From that perspective, it is clearly marked as an add-on, and here in our profiles, they are labeled for what they are.
Clearly, they are designed to be a money-maker for the organizations that can only train so many personal trainers. ACE, for example, recently renamed its former ‘Lifestyle and Weight Management Consultant’ to ‘Health Coach’. I did not mind that one way or the other until they all of a sudden offer a specialty for ‘Weight Management’.
Yes, they are a form of continuing education but one that is highly focused in one special area. When I, as a personal trainer, market myself as having experience with low back pain, for example, then a CES specialty certification will give credence to this claim.
Personally, I like the option of having highly visible continued education credits. Personal training is a field with many claims of knowledge. This new field gives more transparency to the end-consumer, and I am therefore in favor of it. I would, however, only pursue this form an organization that itself is NCCA accredited.