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10 environmental certifications to advance your career

10 environmental certifications to advance your career

The correct environmental certifications can help environmental professionals advance their careers, gain recognition, and improve their reputations. Environmental certifications are credentials that can enhance your knowledge and skills, letting potential employers know you have completed advanced training in your field. Understanding the available certifications can help you decide which ones benefit you most. Learn more about what environmental certifications are, their benefits, and environmental certifications to consider.

What are environmental certifications?

Environmental certifications are credentials you can earn to demonstrate your environmental knowledge and expertise. Various organizations offer certifications for entry-level and more advanced environmental professionals, such as environmental science and protection technicians. These certifications can help people working in many different environmental roles.

The benefits of environmental certifications

An environmental certification helps you demonstrate your qualifications and skills to potential employers. It also shows your commitment to learning more about your industry and career. Completing a certification can help you stand out compared to competitors and increase your earnings. Some other benefits of environmental certifications include:

  • Receiving recognition from well-known agencies
  • Learning new skills
  • Expanding your professional network
  • Helping clients' bids on federal, state, and military contracts look more attractive by emphasizing your certifications and other qualifications

"An environmental certification helps you demonstrate your qualifications and skills to potential employers. It also shows your commitment to learning more about your industry and career."

Useful environmental certifications

The following environmental certifications can help many environmental professionals learn more about and be more appealing to potential employers.

Associate Environmental Professional

The Associate Environmental Professional (AEP) certification comes from the National Registry of Environmental Professionals (NREP), a nonprofit organization started in 1987 to provide professional certifications for environmental professionals. This entry-level program is for people interested in environmental management. It requires at least one year in a bachelor's degree program or three years of work experience. 

The degree you pursue should be in an environmental field, such as environmental engineering, health science, or hazardous materials management. To earn the certification, professionals take an online exam with 100 questions, and they need to get at least 75% of the questions correct to pass. The test covers the following:

  • Environmental law
  • Emergency preparedness
  • Pollution prevention
  • Hazardous materials management
  • Basic chemistry
  • Toxicology

Certified Environmental and Safety Compliance Officer

You can also become a Certified Environmental and Safety Compliance Officer (CESCO) through the NREP. With its focus on laws and regulations related to air, water, and waste, this certification exam features 100 questions and carries a minimum passing grade of 75%. To become a CESCO, professionals need a bachelor's degree in a related field or OSHA HR training. Additionally, individuals need at least two years of full-time employment that cover environmental or safety responsibilities.

Registered Environmental Manager

The NREP's Registered Environmental Manager (REM) certification is the organization's highest professional distinction. It recognizes professionals with skills related to coordinating and managing major environmental projects. Additionally, this certification can help people in environmental real estate assessment, environmental auditing, hazardous materials management, and similar fields. Many large organizations recognize the certification, including the National Park Service, the U.S. Postal Service, Amtrak, the U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Department of Energy.

To earn the REM title, professionals need a bachelor's degree in an environmental-related discipline, including biology or engineering, and five years of environmentally-related work experience. Those without a degree can take the exam but need an additional three years of work experience for every year they didn't attend college. That means someone who never went to college would need another 12 years of work experience.

Registered Environmental Professional

The Registered Environmental Professional (REP) certification is also from the NREP, but it doesn't require an exam. It's for professionals with a graduate degree in environmentally related fields. A master's or doctorate is acceptable, or you can become licensed as a:

  • Certified Industrial Hygienist
  • Certified Environmental Professional
  • Certified Environmental Trainer
  • Certified Safety Professional
  • Certified Hazardous Materials Manager
  • State Certified Environmental Manager
  • State Licensed Environmental Assessor
  • State Licensed Site Professional
  • Certified Professional Geologist or Hydrogeologist
  • Certified Utility Safety Administrator
  • Certified Professional in Erosion and Sediment Control
  • Certified Professional Wetland Scientist

Sustainability Excellence Associate

The International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP) uses the Sustainability Excellence Associate (SEA) certification to highlight professionals' knowledge of core sustainability concepts. It's ideal for recent graduates or those new to the field. You can take the 75-question exam online or at a testing center. A bachelor's degree and three professional references are required.

Sustainability Excellence Professional

The Sustainability Excellence Professional (SEP) certification is also from the ISSP, and the SEA is a prerequisite. An exam, a bachelor's degree in a field related to sustainability (or five years of work experience), and three professional references are required.

LEED Green Associate

The U.S. Green Building Council offers a LEED Green Associate certification. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, has become more top of mind in building construction over the past decade.

With a LEED Green Associate certification, professionals can demonstrate they've mastered an understanding of green building practices. The exam has 100 questions, ideal for professionals new to green building design. People younger than 18 need a parental consent form to take the test, and individuals must earn 15 continuing education hours within two years after completing the test.

Green Globes Emerging Professional and Professional

The Green Building Initiative (GBI) offers the Green Globes Emerging Professional (GGEP) and the Green Globes Professional (GGP) certifications. The GGEP is for college students in design, construction management, engineering, or sustainability degree programs.

The exam is 50 questions, and professionals must get 80% of the questions correct to pass. The GGP certification is about the GBI's building rating system, and the GGEP is a prerequisite. The exam contains 100 questions and requires an 80% score to pass. People need at least five years of professional work experience or at least three years of experience and an associate's degree in a sustainability-related field.

Certified Climate Change Professional

The Certified Climate Change Professional certification is from the Association of Climate Change Officers (ACCO), and it's helpful for managers who work for organizations that focus on sustainability, climate change, and environmental initiatives. To earn the Certified Climate Change Professional certification, you can take an exam and complete 14 hours of training. People also need a master's degree and at least two years of related work experience, a bachelor's degree and at least four years of experience, or a high school diploma and at least seven years on the job.

Environmental Professional in Training

There are two Environmental Professional in Training certifications. One is from the Academy of Board-Certified Environmental Professionals (ABCEP), and the other comes from the Board for Global EHS Credentialing. The ABCEP exam contains essay questions, and applicants need at least four letters of recommendation from peers, former managers, or clients. An application interview is required as well.

The Board for Global EHS Credentialing offers an Environmental Professional in Training certification for people about to graduate from college, new graduates, and people with less than five years of experience. The Qualified Environmental Professional (QEP) credential is more permanent and requires an exam, more than five years of experience, and at least three years of college. People also need at least three letters of recommendation or references from experienced environmental professionals.

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Related reading: Certifications and sustainability

Researching different certifications for today's job market can help you advance your career.

A certification can help showcase your qualifications even if you don't have a college degree.

A certification can help you get a job that focuses on sustainability. That way, you can make a difference in the world

The necessary certifications can also give you the skills you need for the jobs of the future.