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Create extra value for yourself in the marketplace by adding a respected energy credential to your résumé. In this practical guide to energy certifications, we break down all the options for energy professionals, including details on earning the CEM® and PE licensure. Whether you’re an energy engineer, an efficency expert, or a sustainability leader within your organization, there’s a qualification for your line of work. We’ll make sure you find the right one.
- Professional energy certifications are granted by independent organizations such as the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) or the Building Performance Institute (BPI).
- There are different certifications for different fields (e.g. CEM® for energy engineers). Talk to current energy professionals and research job postings to see what certifications are expected at your level of work experience.
- In addition to engineering and technical qualifications, there are also certifications that address areas like sustainability reporting, LEED projects, and energy efficiency.
How to Choose the Best Energy Certification
Energy is a rapidly growing field, so the world of energy certifications is a bit sloppy at the moment. You’re likely to meet energy experts with a string of credentials from organizations like AEE. But you’ll also encounter energy professionals with an impressive amount of workplace experience and almost no acronyms after their names.
To help you sort through the muddle, we’ve divided this guide into sections. Use the links to skip ahead to your area of interest:
- Energy Engineering & Management Certifications: Anyone involved in the energy engineering side of the sector, including folks who aspire to management & leadership positions.
- Energy Efficiency & Auditing Certifications: Anyone involved in auditing & assessing the efficiency of large facilities & buildings and industrial processes.
- Energy Infrastructure Certifications: Anyone involved in hands-on work such as HVAC design & installation, home energy projects, solar panel design & installation, and contractor work.
- Sustainability & Green Building Certifications: Anyone involved in energy and sustainability, either from the engineering perspective (e.g. green construction & buildings) or the leadership perspective (e.g. sustainability standards).
LinkedIn is your best friend in this situation! If you’re in any doubt about which energy certification is the best one for your career, search for professionals with similar job titles to learn what credentials are common. You may even wish to send them a polite note and ask them if they’re willing to chat about their experience.
Energy Engineering & Management Certifications
Certified Energy Management (CEM®)
The Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) offers some of the most respected energy certifications in the industry. You can start with the guide on how to choose a certification, but the first one to consider is the Certified Energy Management (CEM®) qualification. If you look at LinkedIn profiles for energy engineers, you’ll notice that many of them have—at minimum—CEM® qualification and PE licensure.
- Purpose: CEM® qualification is designed for energy managers and engineers who are interested in optimizing the energy performance of buildings, facilities, and/or industrial plants. They are bound by AEE’s Code of Ethics to ensure integrity, be professional, and have regard for safety, health, and welfare of the public.
- Criteria: Before you can apply, you will need to have a degree in engineering or a relevant field and years of related experience. The minimum number of years will vary depending on your undergraduate major. View application criteria.
- Exam: To pass the exam, you must demonstrate knowledge within areas listed within AEE’s “Body of Knowledge.” Topics within include industrial systems, HVAC systems, energy audits, fuel supply & pricing, and more. View the CEM® body of knowledge & study guide.
Folks who don’t have years of experience can apply for the intermediate step of AEE’s Energy Manager In-Training (EMIT) certification. It’s not a “must-have” for job applications, but it will give you access to CEM® preparatory training seminars and demonstrate to employers that you’re on your way to a full certification.
Professional Engineer (PE) Licensure
In the United States, engineering is a regulated profession. Only those who have been licensed as Professional Engineers (PEs) by their state licensing board are permitted to sign & seal engineering plans and seal engineering work for public & private clients. PE licensure may also be a requirement for high-level government positions and academic roles in engineering.
- Purpose: PE licensure ensures that engineers are upholding the highest quality of standards in engineering practice, safety & ethics. Check out the NSPE’s section helpful section on PE licensure for a full breakdown.
- Criteria: The PE licensure process is handled by individual state licensing boards—visit the board’s website for precise instructions & application criteria.
- Exam #1: To acquire a PE license, you’ll usually be expected to earn a 4-year bachelor’s degree in engineering from an ABET-accredited program and pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam. At this point, you may be regarded by your state as an Engineer-in-Training (EIT), Engineer Intern (EI), or Intern Engineer (IE).
- Exam #2: After successfully tackling the FE exam, you’ll be required to complete ~4 years of experience under a licensed PE to be eligible to apply for and pass the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) Exam.
With a PE license and CEM® certification, you can apply for AEE’s Green Building Engineer (GBE)® certification. GBE is not widely recognized in the industry, so talk to your mentors before you make the investment.
Project Management Professional (PMP®)
Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification is offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI). Although the PMP® is not an engineering credential, it’s a common choice for energy engineers who are leading projects and working in management-level positions. So we’ll cover it here!
- Purpose: PMP® certification demonstrates that project managers have the skills to lead teams, deploy waterfall, AGILE & hybrid approaches to projects, and assess the impact of projects on an organization.
- Criteria: To apply for the exam, you will need to have a bachelor’s degree and 3 years of experience leading projects OR a high school diploma or associate’s degree and 5 years of experience leading projects. All candidates must also have 35 hours of project management education/training or CAPM® certification. View application criteria.
- Exam: Guiding the 180-question exam is the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), which covers 3 key domains: People (e.g. conflict management, team building, negotiation, etc.); Process (e.g. risk assessment, budgeting, procurement, etc.); and Business Environment (e.g. project compliance, project benefits, etc.). People and Process make up the bulk of the exam questions. View the exam content outline & certification handbook.
You’ll find a fair amount of debate about the usefulness of the PMP® on engineering discussion boards, but it can be helpful if you’re applying for a promotion, new job, or a pay rise. Ask your company if they’re willing to sponsor your training.
Energy Efficiency & Auditing Certifications
Certified Energy Auditor (CEA®)
In addition to the CEM®, a number of energy engineers & managers also decide to earn AEE’s Certified Energy Auditor (CEA®) certification. This is aimed at energy auditors, energy efficiency consultants, and anyone auditing & assessing energy usage in facilities and large buildings. It has similar work experience & education requirements as the CEM® and it’s a well-known acronym in energy circles.
Niche AEE Certifications in Efficiency Fields
Looking for something more specific? While you’re on the AEE site, you may also wish to investigate certifications such as the:
- Certified Building Commissioning Professional (CBCP®): Aimed at energy professionals who manage building systems commissioning processes in new & existing buildings—including those who provide services to federally funded projects—and energy consultants who specialize in assessing the energy efficiency of building systems.
- Certified Measurement and Verification Professional (CMVP®): Suitable for PE licensed energy managers & consultants who assess the energy performance of buildings & facilities and energy professionals involved in designing industrial processes or new buildings.
- ISO 50001 Lead Auditor (LA): Designed for international professionals who need training in ISO standards for energy management systems. ISO 50001 Lead Auditors are competent in a range of ISO 50003 technical areas, including buildings, building complexes, industry (light to medium), and heavy industry.
Energy Infrastructure Certifications
ASHRAE Certifications for HVAC Engineers
Engineers who are interested in working with heating, ventilation, cooling, or refrigeration systems—also known as HVAC/R systems—should look into certifications from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). There are specific credentials for design, performance, and operations management.
You can mix and match these credentials to suit your aims. For instance, you might wish to combo the Building Energy Modeling Professional (BEMP) certification with the Building Energy Assessment Professional (BEAP) certification. When in doubt, contact ASHRAE certified professionals to ask them about their experience.
BPI Certifications for Home Energy Professionals
The Building Performance Institute (BPI) has developed a wide range of certifications for home energy professionals and contractors to ensure compliance with the International Energy Conservation Code (IEEC). You’ll find qualifications on everything from whole-home assessments to AC & Heat Pump systems. BPI even offers an Energy Auditor certification that is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and its National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
Although you don’t need a degree to sit for these exams, BPI recommends that you have some building performance experience & training. Each certification has its own criteria, so check the documents for more details.
NABECP Certifications for Solar Industry Professionals
Folks who are involved in the solar and photovoltaics (PV) industry should investigate certification options from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABECP). It offers credentials to PV installers, design specialists, system inspectors, solar heating installers, and more.
NABECP’s PV Installation Professional (PVIP) Board Certification is the most well-known acronym in the industry. It may also be required for contractors in certain regions. Have a look at IREC’s National Solar Licensing Database for more on licensing requirements in each state.
Sustainability & Green Building Certifications
AEE Certifications for Green Energy Professionals
Energy professionals with a stake in sustainability have a fair amount of choice in credentialing. AEE has been busy creating niche certifications that are open to folks from a wide range of backgrounds—not just engineering! They don’t carry the same name recognition as the CEM® or CEA®, but they may be just right for your career goals.
- Carbon Auditing Professional (CAP®): Aimed at energy professionals who handle green, clean or sustainability programs; consultants who specialize in carbon reduction programs; and energy engineers & managers with skills in green & sustainable building design and construction.
- Certified Sustainable Development Professional (CSDP®): Suitable for energy professionals who are involved in green construction technologies & practices; energy-efficiency consultants who help clients meet sustainability goals; and anyone involved in planning, developing & implementing sustainability programs for their organization.
- Renewable Energy Professional (REP™): Designed for energy professionals who are leading, planning, and managing the introduction of renewable energy generation technologies to power generation systems; energy managers who are responsible for building & facility energy usage; and energy consultants who assess existing power systems for renewable energy.
Take a virtual walk through LinkedIn to learn how energy pros are mixing & matching qualifications. For example, we’ve seen energy procurement professionals pairing the CEM® with the CSDP® & REP™ and energy engineers building on their PE license with the CEM®, CSDP®, and LEED AP O+M.
GRI Training for Sustainability Leaders
The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) sets global standards for sustainability reporting. These standards allow businesses & organizations to understand their impact on the economy, environment, and people. GRI has developed universal standards and standards for specific sectors (e.g. oil & gas).
Sustainability leaders can learn how to create or improve GRI sustainability reports by taking courses from certified training partners or the GRI Academy. We’d recommend you look into these courses. In GreenBiz’s seventh biennial State of the Profession report, more than 50% of directors and VPs in sustainability positions had received GRI training. In fact, it was first in the list of popular sustainability frameworks; LEED GA & AP certifications ranked second and third.
LEED Certifications for Green Building Professionals
Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certifications are offered by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI). LEED certification is focused on green building principles, as well as sustainable design, construction & operations standards. Credentialing is split into two levels:
- LEED Green Associate (GA): The LEED GA is a beginner’s certification that tests a candidate’s knowledge of green building practices & LEED projects. There are no prerequisites and it’s open to current students. View the LEED GA Candidate Handbook.
- LEED Accredited Professional (AP) with Specialty: The Leed AP is an advanced certification that shows professionals have detailed knowledge about green buildings, a specific LEED rating system, LEED certification procedures, and their chosen AP specialty (e.g. Operations + Maintenance). Before applying to become an LEED AP, you must pass the LEED GA exam. Experience working on LEED-registered projects is also strongly recommended. View the LEED AP with Specialty Candidate Handbook.
You can choose to take the GA and AP exams together. Or you can pursue them separately after you’ve earned your GA credential. Current LEED GAs only have to take the specialty portion of the AP exam.
The LEED AP is often seen alongside the CEM® and PE in LinkedIn profiles of energy engineers. Talk to your mentors before you decide to pursue it. It may be useful in certain jobs and superfluous in others.
SASB-FSA Credential for Experts in Sustainability Accounting
In 2022, the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) of the IFRS Foundation took over the administration of Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB). But the SASB’s Fundamentals of Sustainability Accounting (FSA) Credential is still going strong.
The FSA Credential is aimed at testing a candidate’s knowledge in the materiality of sustainability information for corporate performance and investment analysis—in other words, how sustainability will affect the company’s bottom line, including the impact on investors and stakeholder communities. There are two exams:
- Level I Exam: This covers core concepts & principles such as sustainability disclosure, reporting using SASB standards, and corporate & investor use of SASB standards.
- Level II Exam: This tests application & analysis skills and digs deeper into areas such as material sustainability issues, ESG data, and sustainability performance & valuation.
It’s a niche qualification—you’ll spot the FSA Credential on the résumés of folks like Chief Investment Officers, Chief Sustainability Officers, Senior Supply Chain Analysts, ESG strategists, and consultants in sustainable investing.
SEA & SEP Certifications for Sustainability Leaders
SEA & SEP are sustainability credentials developed by the International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP). In 2019, Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) took charge of the credentialing process, however the core of ISSP’s framework remains. You can expect to learn core concepts in sustainability, best practices, stakeholder engagement, and the implementation of effective sustainability strategies.
- Sustainability Excellence Associate (SEA): Suitable for early-career professionals such as current students and recent graduates or mid-career professionals with a stake in sustainability initiatives (e.g. folks in HR, purchasing, financing, operations, etc.).
- Sustainability Excellence Professional (SEP): Aimed at advanced professionals such as sustainability leaders, Chief Sustainability Officers, and managers leading sustainability initiatives within their organization. Applicants must have an active SEA credential, a bachelor’s degree (or the international equivalent), and 5 years of sustainability-related professional experience OR a combination of education/training and experience.
SEA & SEP certifications aren’t as popular as GRI training and LEED credentials, but they may be directly related to your workplace goals. Have a look at the study materials & exam practice questions to see if it’s worth your while.