Become a Certified Ecologist

The 2017 certification application period is now open

If you have questions about professional certification or the application process after reviewing these materials, please contact Member Services at or 202-833-8773 ext. 216 for assistance.

Before you begin

Please review your specific online certification application (upgrade, new certification, re certification, streamlined) to ensure all needed information is included.

Certification Information



Since the 1960’s, ecologists have been actively involved in setting environmental policy and influencing decision-making in our society. The Ecological Society of America strives to enhance the quality of this advice by instituting a Code of Ethics and providing a professional certification program designed to evaluate the education and professional experience of ecologists. Professional certification means that ecologists have demonstrated an appropriate level of education and experience in applying ecological principles in their professional environmental careers. There is an increasing nation-wide demand for certification credentials in the environmental arena. Most notably is the recent U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) call for certified professionals to act as Technical Service Providers to help farmers, ranchers, and other private landowners protect and restore resources through conservation planning.

Besides natural resource management, ecological expertise is needed on a host of other current environmental problems including: biotechnology, ecological restoration, ozone depletion, global climate change, ecosystem management, nitrogen deposition, species extinction and loss of biological diversity, invasive species, habitat alteration and destruction, and sustainable ecological systems. This expertise is provided by ecologists in academia, government, non-governmental organizations and the private sector. However, it has been shown that only a small minority of individuals with graduate degrees find full-time employment in academic institutions. Private environmental companies, Federal, state, and local environmental and natural resource agencies, applied research laboratories, and non-governmental organizations, including private foundations offer major employment opportunities for ecologists. Recognizing this new direction for professional ecologists, the Ecological Society of America provides the certification program for its members, as well as nonmembers and the public who desire a statement of their professional qualifications.

The professional certification program, begun in 1981, recognizes ecologists who seek to incorporate ecological principles in decision-making, who meet a minimum set of standards in education and experience, and who adhere to high ethical standards. It is clear that a formal identification of minimum standards for ecologists is needed and that society needs, welcomes, and now recognizes the ESA Certification Program as a means of identifying well-trained and reliable professionals who meet criteria of competence. Other scientific environmental organizations have furthered their certification programs in response to the requirement for professional certification credentials. The demand for professional certification is apparent. Ecologists need to meet that demand in order to ensure that ecological science is considered in environmental policy and decision making be it on the local, regional, national, or international level. Formal certification is an important criteria to be met by ecologists, whether they are employed in the private or public sector or in academia. Clearly ecological certification will define the standards, formally identify the profession, and increase the respectability of ecologists in environmental affairs.


The Case for Professional Certification: A Frontiers Editorial by the Board of Professional CertificationPDF

The goal of certification is to foster the incorporation of ecological principles in the decision-making process of the Society. To meet this goal, the Ecological Society of America recognizes individuals whose education, training, and experience meet the established standards of the Society.

The ESA certification program provides ready access to professional ecologists for advice and technical guidance on public policy and regulatory issues facing society.

Though certification does not guarantee the competence of individuals to address specific matters, the Society attests that certified members have met minimum education and experience requirement for various certification levels. Each certified member also acknowledges adherence to the ESA Code of Ethics.


To serve the needs of ecologists who wish to establish and validate their professional credentials.

  • To guide biologists, government agencies, courts, and the public in defining minimum standards of education and experience for professional ecologists, and to encourage all practicing ecologists to meet such standards.
  • To create and maintain public confidence in the advice and opinions of Certified Ecologists as well as educated and experienced professionals who have pledged to uphold the Code of Ethics of the Ecological Society of America and to act in the best interest of the public.
  • To assist the public in identifying ecologists by establishing a procedure for critical peer evaluation based upon defined minimum education, experience, and ethical requirements.

Requirements For Eligibility

Ethics And Professional Conduct

Certified Ecologists shall conduct their activities in accordance with the Code of Ethics of the Ecological Society of America and with the highest standards of professional conduct  and personal honor. Those who subscribe to the Code of Ethics are eligible for certification, provided they meet minimum education and experience requirements.

Minimum Education Requirements

Candidates must have completed at least a bachelor’s degree or a higher degree in ecology or a related science that includes the equivalent of at least 30 semester hours of biological science, 9 of which must be in ecology, and at least 12 semester hours of physical and mathematical science. Grades of B minus or higher are required for courses needed to meet requirements. Classes must include an introduction to three major areas of ecological inquiry: populations, communities, and ecosystems.

Levels of Certification

Ecologist in Training  

  • Successful completion of a bachelor’s degree or higher degree in ecology or a related science from an accredited college or university.

The ESA Board of Professional Certification (BPC) is pleased to announce that a new certification category, “Ecologist in Training”, has been created for graduating students who have met the education requirements for ESA certification, but do not have the required professional experience for the current certification categories. This new category will allow young ecologists who have met the education requirements pre-qualify for regular certification. Currently, persons who meet the education requirements must have at least one year of post-graduate professional experience before they can be certified at the Associate Ecologist level. The Ecologist in Training certification category is intended to document quality education in ecological science to aid the students’ ability to obtain employment, encourage graduating students to remain active in ESA, inspire existing students to take a comprehensive set of ecological and biological courses during their degree program, and remind graduating students of the importance of adhering to the guiding principles of conduct described in the ESA Code of Ethics.

The application fee is the same as that for Associate Ecologist. Ecologists in Training will be allowed upgrade to Associate Ecologist earlier than the end of the five year certification period after meeting the professional experience requirement, with no fee charged for the early upgrade. This initial Associate Ecologist certification would end and require recertification or further upgrade in the same year the Ecologist in Training certification had been scheduled to end.

The BPC encourages all ESA members and Certified Ecologists to make undergraduate and graduate students in ecology aware of this new certification category and to help them tailor their coursework to meet the education requirement. With your help, the BPC feels the Ecologist in Training certification will increase the number of persons seeking ESA certification, increase post-graduate participation in ESA, and increase the number of working professionals who take care to adhere to the ESA Code of Ethics in all of their activities.

Associate Ecologist

  • Successful completion of a bachelor’s degree or higher degree in ecology or a related science from an accredited college or university,
  • AND at least one (1) year of post-graduate professional experience* gained in the performance of research or data analysis demonstrating technical competence in current application of ecological principles and/or theory.  Relevant experience should have been gained at least within the last five (5) years.

NOTE: Course requirements may be met with post-baccalaureate courses from an accredited college or university, but professional experience may not be counted until all academic requirements for certification are met.


  • Successful completion of a master’s or higher degree in ecology or a related science from an accredited college or university and at least two (2) years of full-time equivalent professional experience* after degree;
  • OR at least five (5) years of professional experience* in addition to the education requirement for Associate Ecologist;
  • AND in addition to the experience required for Associate Ecologist, demonstration of ability to perform professional work in ecology such as independent studies, complex data analyses, and formulation and testing of hypotheses must follow completion of the education requirement for qualification at the Ecologist level.  Relevant experience should have been gained at least within the last five (5) years.

Senior Ecologist

  • Successful completion of a doctoral degree in ecology or a related science from an accredited college or university, and at least five (5) years of full-time equivalent professional experience* after degree,
  • OR at least ten (10) years of professional experience* after completion of the minimum education requirements for certification (qualifying bachelor’s degree or completion of required coursework in post-baccalaureate courses).
  • Additional experience necessary to qualify at this level includes:
    • Demonstration, in work output, of thorough knowledge of the literature and scientific principles and theories of ecology;
    • Demonstration of written original contributions or original interpretation of ecological information; and
    • Demonstration of technical or organizational competence as evidenced by supervision of projects.

Experience must follow completion of the degree level used to qualify for Ecologist. Relevant experience should have been gained at least within the last five (5) years. NOTE: An applicant who does not qualify under the above criteria may submit a statement to the Board of Professional Certification explaining why and how the intent of the education and experience requirements is satisfied.

Coming in 2018: Emeritus Senior Ecologist

–Beginning in 2018, ESA will have a new level of certification.
The Ecological Society of America will recognize Professional Certification at the rank of Emeritus Senior Ecologist. This rank recognizes the accomplishments and contributions to the profession by Senior Ecologists in the latter stages of their career. Once approved, this will be life time recognition without the need to reapply for certification. Requirements are: the application must have been previously certified as a Senior Ecologist for at least 10 years, with no more than a 2 year lapse of certification, and may no longer be employed full time. If the Emeritus Senior Ecologist desires to depict certification on any official document, “Emeritus” must be included with the certification level. This is meant as an honorary recognition, and does not imply continued professional status.

Documentation Required for Application Process

The Application System will not allow you to save your work and return later to finish completing the form. Please gather all of the required documentation needed for the certification process listed below in the table.






Cover Letter





Curriculum Vitae (attachment)





2 Letters of Recommendation




2 References (one has to be an ESA member)





Transcript(s) (attachment)




Required Hours of Classes



Graduation and Degree Date(s)




Professional Experience and Publications




Curriculum Vitae and Professional Activity




*New Certification Application Will Need: Ecological Sciences 9 credits, Biological Sciences 21 credits, Chemistry, Physical Science, and Mathematics 12 credits.


New Certification

  • Cover Letter
  • 2 Letters of Recommendation
  • 2 References (one has to be an ESA member)
  • Transcript(s) (attachment)
  • Curriculum Vitae (attachment)
  • Ecological Sciences 9 credits, Biological Sciences 21 credits, Chemistry, Physical Science, and Mathematics 12 credits
  • Degree name(s) and date(s) conferred
  • Professional Experience and Publications


  • Cover Letter
  • 2 Letters of Recommendation
  • 2 References (one has to be an ESA member)
  • Transcript(s) (attachment)
  • Curriculum Vitae (attachment)
  • Degree name(s) and date(s) conferred
  • Professional Experience and Publications


  • Cover Letter
  • Curriculum Vitae (attachment)
  • Professional Experience and Publications
  • 2 References (one has to be an ESA member)


  • Cover Letter
  • Curriculum Vitae

* Time spent in graduate school beyond the degree being used for the level of certification sought counts as half-time experience. Length of experience will be evaluated only up to the application deadline (February 1).

Code of Ethics
As amended May 2013

Download this file as a pdf.

Preamble: This code provides guiding principles of conduct for all members of the Ecological Society of America and all ecologists certified by the Society. It is the desire and purpose of the Society to support and encourage ecological research and education, and to facilitate the application of ecological science in the management of ecological systems. Towards these ends, this Code is intended to further ecological understanding through the open and honest communication of research; to assure appropriate accessibility of accurate and reliable ecological information to employers, policy makers, and the public; and to encourage effective education and training in the disciplines of ecological science. Individuals aware of breaches of this Code are encouraged to refer to the Society’s procedures for addressing violations of the Code, and to communicate with the Society’s Executive Director who will explain the code and process.

General: All members of the Ecological Society of America and all ecologists certified by the Society should observe the following principles in the conduct of their professional affairs

  1. Ecologists will offer professional advice and guidance only on those subjects in which they are informed and qualified through professional training or experience. They will strive to accurately represent ecological understanding and knowledge and to avoid and discourage dissemination of erroneous, biased, or exaggerated statements about ecology.
  2. Ecologists will not represent themselves as spokespersons for the Society without express authorization by the President of ESA.
  3. Ecologists will cooperate with other researchers whenever possible and appropriate to assure rapid interchange and dissemination of ecological knowledge.
  4. Ecologists will not plagiarize in verbal or written communication, but will give full and proper credit to the works and ideas of others, and make every effort to avoid misrepresentation.
  5. Ecologists will not fabricate, falsify, or suppress results, deliberately misrepresent research findings, or otherwise commit scientific fraud.
  6. Ecologists will conduct their research so as to avoid or minimize adverse environmental effects of their presence and activities, and in compliance with legal requirements for protection of researchers, human subjects, or research organisms and systems.
  7. Ecologists will, to the extent practicable, engage meaningfully with the communities in which they practice to promote teaching, learning and an understanding of their study; broaden the participation of underrepresented groups; enhance local infrastructure for research and education; and disseminate results broadly to benefit the local community.
  8. Ecologists will not discriminate against others, in the course of their work on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, marital status, creed, religion, race, color, national origin, age, economic status, disability, or organizational affiliation.
  9. Ecologists will not practice or condone harassment in any form in any professional context.
  10. In communications, ecologists should clearly differentiate facts, opinions, and hypotheses.
  11. Ecologists will not seek employment, grants, or gain, nor attempt to injure the reputation or professional opportunities of another scientist by false, biased, or undocumented claims, by offers of gifts or favors, or by any other malicious action.

Certified Ecologists: Ecologists certified by the Ecological Society of America are expected to adhere to all sections of the Code; the following principles apply particularly to such individuals.

  1. Certified ecologists will present evidence of their qualifications, including professional training, publications, and experience, when requested in connection with their work as a certified ecologist.
  2. Certified ecologists will inform a prospective or current employer or client of any professional or personal interests which may impair the objectivity of their work, and, upon request, provide clients and employers with this Code.
  3. Certified ecologists will respect requests for confidentiality from their employers or clients, provided that such confidentiality does not require violation of this Code or of legal statutes. Should conflicts arise between maintenance of confidentiality and legal or ethical standards, certified ecologists should advise clients or employers of the conflict in writing.
  4. In seeking employment through bids, certified ecologists will describe salaries and fees and the extent and kinds of service to be rendered as accurately and fully as possible.
  5. Certified ecologists should use resources available to them through institutional employment, in performance of work contracted independently of their employing institution, only with the full knowledge and consent of the employing institution. Inappropriate use of access to institutional resources should be avoided; the appropriateness of particular uses of institutional resources should be addressed by the employing institution.
  6. Certified ecologists will accept compensation for a particular service or report from one source only, except with the full knowledge and consent of all concerned parties.
  7. Certified ecologists will utilize, or recommend utilization of appropriate experts whenever such action is essential to solving a problem.
  8. Certified ecologists will not knowingly associate professionally with, or allow the use of their names, reports, maps, or other technical materials by any enterprise known to be illegal or fraudulent.
  9. Certified ecologists may advertise their services, but may not use misleading, false, or deceptive advertising. If Society certification is noted in advertisement, the level of certification must be included.

Publication: The following principles of ethical professional conduct apply to members reviewing, editing, or publishing grant proposals and papers in the professional literature in general, and particularly to all ecologists seeking publication in the Society’s journals.

  1. Researchers will claim authorship of a paper only if they have made a substantial contribution. Authorship may legitimately be claimed if researchers
    1. conceived the ideas or experimental design;
    2. participated actively in execution of the study;
    3. analyzed and interpreted the data; or
    4. wrote the manuscript.
  2. Researchers will not add or delete authors from a manuscript submitted for publication without consent of those authors.
  3. Researchers will not include as coauthor(s) any individual who has not agreed to the content of the final version of the manuscript.
  4. Researchers will not submit for publication any manuscript containing data they are not authorized to use. ESA assumes the principal investigator(s) of a research project retain the right to control use of resulting unpublished data unless otherwise specified by contract or explicit agreement.
  5. Researchers will not represent research results as new if they have been published or submitted elsewhere, or submit a manuscript for publication while it is under review for possible publication elsewhere.
  6. Editors or reviewers will treat manuscripts under review as confidential, recognizing them as intellectual property of the author(s).
  7. When using ideas or results of others in manuscripts submitted for publication, researchers will give full attribution of sources. If the ideas or results have not been published, they may not be used without permission of the original researcher. Illustrations or tables from other publications or manuscripts may be used only with permission of the copyright owner.
  8. Ecologists will not serve as editors or reviewers of a manuscript if present or past connections with the author or the author’s institution may prevent objective evaluation of the work.
  9. Ecologists will not purposefully delay publication of another person’s manuscript to gain advantage over that person.
  10. Ecologists submitting manuscripts for publication will promptly report to editors any errors in research results or interpretations discovered after submission or publication. 

Application Process

Applications must be completed in their entirety and should include all information required on the appropriate form. Incomplete applications may be rejected or additional information may be requested of the applicant. All applications should be received by February 1st. All applications received between February 2nd and March 31st will be charged/invoiced a Late Fee of $25. Applications without full payment will not be reviewed. Certification will be approved or denied in June unless the Board advises the applicant that additional time and information is needed for review. Applicants can expect to be notified of their status during the end of July of the year applied. If approved for certification (both new and renewed), you will receive an official certificate reflecting your level of certification and years your certification will be active. For more information on the certification process timeline, see the timeline below. After five (5) years, all certified ecologists will be asked to apply for recertification. Recertification at a higher level than previously certified requires the submission of a Certification Upgrade Application (rather than the Recertification Application).

Certification is valid for 5 years, but there is a one year grace period for recertification, after which certification lapses. For lapsed certification, an “Application for New Certification (All Levels)” form must be completed. All certifications are retroactive to June 1st, and expire June 30th.

Application Fees

  Member Rates Non-Member Rates
Ecologist in Training $95 $205
 Associate Ecologist $95 $205
 Ecologist $160 $330
 Senior Ecologist $160 $330
 Streamlined Application $160 N/A
 Recertification (Associate/Ecologist/Senior/Streamlined) $95/$160/$160/$160 $205/$330/$330/N/A

Application Forms

We urge you to carefully read the information provided on the Certification Guidelines & Requirements page to assist in choosing the right form for you.

READ ALL INSTRUCTIONS, REQUIREMENTS AND CODE OF ETHICS CAREFULLY BEFORE PROCEEDING! These will give you a chance to gather all required documentation needed for certification. We strongly recommend this, because the system will not allow you to save your work and return later to finish completing the form.

Certification Process Timeline

November Certification Site Opens
Recertification Reminder: first broadcast email sent to current certified ecologists with certification expiring in the coming year.
Certification Information: broadcast email sent to all ESA members about our Certification Program.
January Recertification Reminder: second broadcast email to current certified ecologists with certification expiring this year.
February/ March Primary Deadline: February 1st. Late Fee ($25) applied to all applications received after February 1st. All applications received between February 2nd and March 31st should include the Late Fee in their payment. If payment was not included in the certification application the applicant will be invoiced by ESA.
April Final Deadline for All Materials, April 15th. Payments or letters of recommendation received after this date may result in the application being held until next year’s review process.
May ESA Headquarters and Staff prepare applications for review.
June In early June, the Board of Professional Certification meet to review the applications. The Board will determine if applications are accepted, rejected, or if additional information is required. Notification of Certification Status will be mailed.
August The Board of Professional Certification will finish the Final Review. Notification of Certification Status will be mailed. and questions regarding the results and/or appeal requests may be sent in response.

Appeals Procedure

A decision of the Board of Professional Certification may be appealed in writing to the ESA Governing Board. Details of the procedure are available upon request.

Disciplinary Procedure

The Board of Professional Certification, with approval of the Professional Ethics Committee, shall have the authority to censure a certification, to suspend certification for a stated period, or to revoke certification on the finding that an individual has willfully violated the Code of Ethics or misrepresented the facts at the time of certification. Such a finding may be reached by concluding that an allegation of improper deportment is true. Such an allegation may be presented to the Board in writing, by any member of the Ecological Society of America. Anonymous allegations will not be entertained. Anyone named a party to such proceeding shall be informed in a timely manner of the evidence brought forward and be given an opportunity to respond to the allegations. The Board will forward all material to the Professional Ethics Committee. After review of the case by the Committee and the board, the Board will render a written decision informing the certified ecologist, the individual who initiated the allegation, and the Governing Board. Any such action of the Board may be appealed to the Governing Board, whose decision will be final.

ESA Professional Certification Frequently Asked Questions


What should I do if I am not certain which level of certification best matches my credentials?
Please review the requirements for each level and use your best judgment.  The Board does consider applicants for approval at lower levels, and will occasionally approve exceptional applicants at higher levels.  We recommend that you provide as much information as possible to assist the Board in its evaluation.

How many copies of my form does ESA need?
Beginning with the 2010 application period, the Professional Certification program has transitioned to an online-only application system. All applications from 2010 forward must be submitted electronically in order to be considered. Supplemental materials should also be submitted electronically by email with your form or in a separate email if they are too large to be included with the application form. If your supplemental materials exceed 5 MB, please either send an excerpt of your document, or you may send all of your supplemental materials on a CD (which is preferable for maintaining the quality of the file).  You may also include a hotlink to your documents if they are available online.  If you have questions about this process or in using the electronic form, please contact the Membership Manager, Tanya Pendleton, at or by phone at 202-833-8773 ext. 216.

How do I handle the Membership verification section if I don’t have a membership ID?
Membership with ESA is a requirement for the Streamlined process, please confirm your membership status before applying with this method.  If you think you are an ESA member, but have forgotten your login you can now use the ESA web site to retrieve your ESA login.  Go to the below online login page and click the”Can’t login button.”

Are supplemental materials required?
No, but they are encouraged, particularly for applicants working in nontraditional fields or positions, as well as for Senior Ecologists, who need to demonstrate written output.

Who do I contact if I am having difficulty with the application process?
After carefully checking the rest of the FAQ, the website, and forms to confirm that your question is not addressed here, please contact Membership Manager Tanya Pendleton at 202-833-8773 ext. 216 or


One or more of my degrees is not in ecology.  Can I still apply for certification?
Yes, provided you are able to meet the educational requirements and can show that your recent work experience involves application of ecological and biological principles to an appropriate degree for the level at which you are applying.  Supplemental materials such as reports or other publications may be particularly helpful in demonstrating this.  There are also places on the application forms to explain how the content of your degree program relates to the field of ecology.  While you may have a degree outside of ecology, the qualifying degree being used for certification must still be in a related science.

One or more of my degrees is from an international institution.  Can I still apply for certification?
Yes, provided your institution is accredited.  For smaller, less well-known institutions, both abroad and in the U.S., additional information and/or documentation is encouraged.

I did not attend a school with a traditional semester/quarter system, or have continuing education courses.  How can I determine my credit hours?
One semester hour equals one classroom meeting a week for 12-14 weeks, or two field/lab hours a week for 12-14 weeks.  Therefore, a full three-credit course has three lecture hours a week, and a four-credit course has three lecture hours plus two lab hours, or two lecture hours plus a four-hour field trip.
Another way of thinking about this is that a total of 45-46 contact hours of class time equal a three-credit lecture.  A person in a six-day course with eight hours a day of contact time then has 48 hours, or the equivalent of a three-credit lecture in semester hours.  Number of contact hours includes the time for exams.

Does ESA require or endorse any continuing education programs?
While ESA encourages continuing education, it is not currently a mandatory component of the certification program, and we do not endorse any specific programs.  It is important when recertifying to show that you have continued your professional experience and development in the field of ecology, so it may help solidify the Board’s decision to recertify you at your current level or to upgrade your certification should you be applying for it.

Can the Board review my course list and/or program of study before I send in my application?
Unfortunately, the Board cannot assess your qualifications in full until the review period. If you believe a class may require further explanation, we encourage you to do so in your application.

**PLEASE NOTE: As of the 2011 certification application period, the Board will be requiring college/university transcripts to be submitted for anyone applying for New Certification or Certification Upgrade. Transcripts may be official or unofficial and will be used to determine length of professional experience and competency in ecological coursework.


What is the cutoff date for length of experience?
Length of experience will be evaluated up to the Primary Deadline, February 1.  If you are not able to meet the minimum post-degree work experience for the level at which you are applying by this date, please wait until next year to apply, particularly if you are applying as an Associate Ecologist or plan to use the Streamlined Process.  .

Can time spent during graduate school count towards my work experience?
If you are using a lower degree to fulfill the educational requirements for the level at which you are applying, work experience during graduate school will count as half-time and should be listed accordingly in your application.  If educational requirements were met in a graduate program past the qualifying degree, length of experience will begin after the completion of the final required course to meet the basic educational requirements for certification.


What are the Streamlined Process requirements?
In order to qualify for the Streamlined process, you must be a current ESA member, hold a PhD, and have at least 10 years of post-degree work experience, in addition to meeting the other requirements for the Senior Ecologist level.

**Starting in 2011, we are also allowing those with a Master’s Degree who have been previously certified at the Senior Ecologist level to apply using the Streamlined Application form.

Can I use the Streamlined form if I only meet some of these requirements?
No.  You will either be denied or asked to complete the appropriate form and provide the Board with any additional required information, including letters of recommendation if appropriate.


How do I know when it is time for me to reapply? 
Certification lasts five (5) years.  While it is your responsibility to note the dates on your approval letter and certificate, broadcast emails will be sent out during the application period for the year your certification is due to expire in November and January.  Please be sure to keep a current email address on file with ESA so that we may contact you.

Why does ESA require recertification?
Because the certification program is intended for actively practicing ecologists, the Board must periodically reassess whether you have continued to meet the requirements for the level at which you were certified since your credentials were last reviewed.  For this reason, it is important that you provide dates for all activities on your CV and your publications list, particularly those undertaken in the past five years.

My certification has lapsed.  Which form do I use? 
If less than a year has elapsed since your certification expired and you wish to continue at the same level, you may complete a Recertification form and note the lapse in your cover letter.  If approved, your certification will be retroactive to the year in which your certification expired, and you will need to apply for recertification in four years rather than five.
If more than a year has elapsed since your certification expired, you must complete a New Certification form and include all required materials, including letters of recommendation and transcripts if applicable.  You may, however, note that you were previously certified in your application.

I wish to be considered for a higher level of certification.  Which form do I use? 
You should complete a Certification Upgrade form and indicate that you are upgrading from your previous level.  If the Board does not feel that you meet the requirements for the new level, you will be considered for recertification at your current level.

If you are an Ecologist who meets the requirements for the Streamlined Process, you may use this form instead, and indicate your previous level.  However, the Board may request additional information from you if they do not find your cover letter and CV sufficient to evaluate you.

Do you still have my old application on file?  If so, may I reuse portions of it instead of filling out the whole application again?
While the Board does bear in mind that you were previously certified at a specific level, they will be looking for evidence that you have remained active and continued your professional development in the five years since your last certification.  It is therefore to your advantage to submit an updated version. Forms and requirements tend to change periodically, so please double-check all requirements before submitting your application for recertification.


How many references and letters of recommendation do I need?
Applicants using the New Certification form or Certification Upgrade form must provide two references and two letters of recommendation.  Each person listed as a reference should submit a letter of recommendation on the applicant’s behalf.  At least one of these references and letters must be from a current ESA member, and only one letter may be from your current organization.  Recommenders should not be related in any way to the applicant.  Please clearly indicate which reference(s) fulfill the ESA member requirement on your application form.  To check your intended recommender’s membership status, please contact the Membership Manager.

Recertification applicants are not required to provide letters of recommendation, but must still provide two references.  Again, at least one of these references must be a current ESA member, and should be clearly indicated as such on the application form.

Applicants using the Streamlined Process are not required to provide references or letters of recommendation at this time.

Who should I ask?
Your references and recommenders should be colleagues, supervisors, advisors, or other individuals capable of evaluating your credentials in an informed and objective manner.  You may not request a reference or letter of recommendation from a subordinate.  Again, note that you may only choose one reference from your current organization and you may not have a member of your family serve as a reference.

How do I go about obtaining an ESA member as a reference/recommender?
If you are an ESA member, you may log in and use the members-only directory to see if any of your references/recommenders are already current ESA members.  You may also use the Certified Ecologist Directory, which is open to the public.  However, please note that not all Certified Ecologists are current ESA members.  If you need to check an individual’s membership status, please contact the Membership Manager.  Recommenders must be ESA members in the year of the application.

Alternately, you may ask one of your current references to join ESA by the March 31 deadline.  If this is fast approaching and your reference is sending his or her membership form by fax or email, please contact the Membership Manager to let her know.

Can letters of recommendation be sent by e-mail?
Yes, as of the 2011 application period, recommendations may also be sent by email.  Recommendations sent in this manner must be sent by the recommender and should be submitted on electronic letterhead and must be signed.  If recommendations cannot be provided on company letterhead due to company policy, please indicate this in the letter or accompanying email.  Letters without a signature or without letterhead (without reason) will not be considered.  Our preference is for such letters to be sent as a PDF to


What methods of payment does ESA accept?
Mailed payments may be made by check, wire transfer, VISA, or MasterCard. Make checks payable in U.S. dollars to the Ecological Society of America, and write “Certification Application Fee for [applicant’s name]” in the memo line to ensure proper processing. Foreign remitters may use drafts on U.S. banks and U.S. postal money orders. To pay by wire transfer, contact the Membership Manager for details.

Online payments may be made by VISA or MasterCard using the payment links on each of the online applications.  You may also pay over the phone by contacting the Membership Manager, Tanya Pendleton,, at the ESA Headquarters at 202-833-8773 ext. 216.

Can I pay my application and ESA membership fee simultaneously?
Yes, you may send in your membership payment at the same time as your application.  However, to simplify billing, we ask that you write out separate checks or charges.  Please also indicate that your membership form needs to be processed, and is not being submitted as proof of payment.

Will I need to pay the application fee again next year to maintain my certification?
No.  The fee covers all five years of your certification.  (You will, however, need to renew your ESA membership on a yearly basis to maintain member standing and benefits.)

Can my application fee be returned if I am not approved or decide not to go through with the certification process?
Under all but the most exceptional circumstances, certification fees are nonrefundable.   Applicants who are denied on the basis of not meeting the qualifications for certification will not be refunded, as well as applicants who fail to complete the whole application process.  Please make sure that you carefully review the guidelines and requirements for the level for which you are applying and complete the application in its entirety prior to submission.

If I pay nonmember certification rate, and become certified, do I get free membership?
Yes, nonmembers who get certified do get one year’s free membership starting January of the next year.


What happens to my application if it is received after February 1st?
All applications received before February 2nd will be accepted. Those received between February 2nd and March 31st will be accepted and charged/invoiced a late fee of $25. Any applications received after March 31st will be returned to the applicant.

If my recommendation letters are not submitted before the March 31st deadline, how does that affect my application process?
Your letters will still be accepted if received before April 15, but if you suspect they may not make it by this deadline, please contact the Membership Manager to alert her and encourage your letter writers to send electronic copies in the interim or instead.  Any letters received before the Certification Board meets to review the applications will be distributed to the Board and considered.  However, if letters are received after the first meeting, they will not be considered unless the Board needs more information.  In such cases, letters must be received by the deadline indicated on the request for additional information (typically mid/late July).

When can I expect to be informed of my certification status?
The Board typically meets in June to evaluate all applications.  Applicants who need to submit additional information for the secondary review at the Annual Meeting will be advised of their status first to give them sufficient time to respond, followed by denials and approvals.  All applicants will be informed of their status by the end of August.

Can I send my application for next year between April and August?
We appreciate your enthusiasm, but no.  The Board and Membership Manager need this time to sort through the current application materials.  Moreover, it is possible that the Board will determine that clarifications or changes to the process need to be made which will affect you.  We encourage you to use the review period to put your resume in order and line up your references so that you will be ready when the application period reopens in the fall.

Thank you for your interest in our certification program, and we look forward to your application.