In the Pilates community, the Pilates Method Alliance (PMA) is a national (actually, international, based on its membership) professional association for people associated with the industry.
One of the important functions the PMA performs is to offer an independent third party certification program for people in the industry. In other words, there's minimum training standards you have to meet and a test you can take that verifies that you actually know what you say you know.
Very recently, the PMA changed the branding of this certification to the National Pilates Certification Program (NPCP), and the way that people who have passed this independent test can refer to themselves: NCPT (Nationally Certified Pilates Teachers). The purpose of this was two-fold.
1. Increase the profile of the certification test itself and the people who have taken the test and are certified.
2. Clearly distinguish Pilates professionals that have earned this certification from people who are simply members of the PMA.
So, from now onwards, people who have passed this test and are listed in the certified teachers directory can refer to themselves as Nationally Certified Pilates Teachers (NCPT).
You might wonder, what's the difference between simply being trained in Pilates and being certified? I'm glad you asked. Here's the rundown:
This is a training program offered by a specific teacher, school or business that will train someone to teach Pilates. There are some programs that are very rigorous and have extensive training and testing protocols of their own, such as the program I most recently attended, Polestar. However there are no standardized requirements for earning a certificate; it's up to each certificate-granting program to decide how much someone needs to be trained and what they need to do to earn the certificate.
The PMA offers an independent third party certification program, the NPCP (National Pilates Certification Program) with minimum requirements in terms of training, hours and practice, plus a proctored exam in order to earn the certification. The certification board has always been an independent body within the PMA, but this new rebranding further serves to emphasize the special status of people who have earned certification. The exam is far from a slam dunk- the passing rate is 80% and it's been going down in recent years. So just because you got some training doesn't automatically ensure you've met the national standards.
For the PMA's take on certificate vs certification, refer to this page.
How can you use this information to help you choose a Pilates teacher?
Ask these questions: Are you an NCPT- in other words did you pass that National Pilates Certification exam? What program did you do for your training certificate?
As for me, I most recently earned a Polestar Pilates for Rehabilitation certificate (2019), which was an upgrade to my original training, as well as having passed the National Pilates Certification exam in 2016, making me a NCPT.