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ESA continues to serve its members and the ecological community even with the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. What this means ...

Certification Requirements

The certification application period opens in November or December each year and runs through the following January. Opening and closing dates vary from year to year. All application fees are non-refundable.

Typically, the period of certification lasts for five years, retroactive to June 1 of the application year and expiring on June 30 of the fifth year. If your certification will expire the next June from now, you should recertify in the next or current period; if your certification expired in the previous June, you may still re-certify or upgrade in the next application period with your one-year grace period. If your certification expired two or more years ago, you must apply for a new certification at the previous level earned.

Minimum Education Requirements

Candidates must have completed at least a bachelor’s degree or a higher degree in ecology or a related science. Completed undergraduate or graduate coursework must include the following, totaling 42 credits:

  • The equivalent of at least 30 semester hours of biological science, nine of which must be in ecology.
  • At least 12 semester hours of physical and mathematical science are required.
  • Consistent with the recommendations provided in the Four Dimensional Ecology Education Framework, endorsed by the ESA Governing Board in November 2018, ecological coursework should address multiple scales of complexity (at all scales of environmental complexity):
    • Organisms
    • Populations
    • Communities
    • Ecosystems
    • Landscapes
    • Biomes
    • Biosphere

Grades equivalent to a B-minus or higher are required for courses needed to meet requirements. Applicants who were previously certified under previous educational requirements and who did not lapse in their certification may continue to be recertified and seek upgrades under the criteria by which they were originally approved.

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.

Candidates should carefully review the academic course requirements and ESA’s Four Dimensional Ecology Education Framework prior to applying. The Board of Professional Certification may cross-check the coursework for accuracy against the academic transcripts provided by the applicant.

In short, it is the responsibility of the applicant to list qualifying coursework. Applicants are encouraged to briefly describe the content of courses in their cover letters to explain why the coursework meets the requirements.

Here are the requirements for the ESA certification levels. Please choose the level that is appropriate to your level of education and experience.

Required Documents and Information All New Certifications
at All Levels
Upgrade to a
Higher Level of Certification
Recertification as EiT, Associate Ecologist, Ecologist Recertification as Senior Ecologist, or Upgrade to Senior Ecologist Emeritus
Cover letter X X X X
Curriculum vitae X X X X
References X X X
*One reference must be a current member of ESA; only one reference can be from your current organization.
Letters of recommendation X X
*One letter must be written by a current ESA member; both letters may be from references named above, or other individuals.
Transcript(s) X X
Graduation and Degree Name(s) with Date(s) X X

 

Letters of recommendation must be on company letterhead, signed by the recommender and uploaded in .pdf format via the form they will receive by email. If a recommendation’s agency/company prohibits use of letterhead for such instances, the letter of recommendation may be provided with no letterhead, but must contain an explanation describing the policy. See the FAQ for more details.

 

Requirements for Eligibility

Please use this table for a general overview of requirements; specifics for each category follow below.

Degree Requirement Professional Experience (Years) Cover Letter Detail
Ecologist in Training Bachelor’s + 0 Career aspirations, highlights of research/work to date
Associate Ecologist Bachelor’s + 1 Field work, data skills, understanding of the human dimension in ecological systems
Ecologist Bachelor’s + 2 with master’s degree; 5 with bachelor’s Independent studies, complex data analyses, journal publication, report writing, oral presentations, understanding of the human dimension in ecological systems
Senior Ecologist Bachelor’s + 5 with doctoral degree; 10 with bachelor’s/master’s Thorough knowledge of ecological theory and application, including the interdependence and impact of humans on ecosystem structure, function, and environmental change; written original contributions of original interpretation of ecological information; technical or organizational competence as evidenced by supervision of projects

 

Ecologist in Training

This category is 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. The basic requirement is:

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

A holder of the Ecologist in Training designation is encouraged to use the full term, “Ecologist in Training,” on business cards or in official signatures, but may use the initialism “EiT” if space limits require.

Associate Ecologist

This category is for ecologists in the early stages of their career. Course requirements may be met with post-baccalaureate courses from an accredited college or university, but professional experience may not be counted until all coursework requirements for certification are met. The basic requirements are:

  • A bachelor’s or higher degree in ecology or a related science from an accredited college or university.
  • At least one 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 within the five years preceding application at this level.

A holder of the Association Ecologist designation is encouraged to use the full term, “Certified Associate Ecologist,” on business cards or in official signatures, but may use the initialism “CAE” if space limits require.

Ecologist

This category is for established professional ecologists.

  • A master’s degree or higher in ecology or a related science from an accredited college or university and at least two years of full-time equivalent professional experience after degree; OR at least five years of professional experience in addition to the education requirement for Associate Ecologist
  • In addition to the one-year experience requirement for Associate Ecologist, candidates must also demonstrate the ability to perform professional work in ecology, as outlined in the table above. This professional work must follow completion of the education requirement for qualification at the Ecologist level.
  • Relevant experience should have been gained within the five years preceding application at this level.

A holder of the Ecologist designation is encouraged to use the full term, “Certified Ecologist,” on business cards or in official signatures, but may use the initialism “CE” if space limits require.

Senior Ecologist

This category is for professional leaders in ecology who have established a track record of excellent contributions to the field in applied and analytical environments.

  • A doctoral degree in ecology or a related science from an accredited college or university and at least five years of full-time equivalent professional experience after degree; OR at least 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).
  • Course requirements may be met with post-qualifying degree (post-baccalaureate or post-master’s) courses from an accredited college or university, but professional experience may not be counted until all coursework requirements for certification are met.
  • Relevant experience should have been gained within the five years preceding application at this level.

A holder of the Senior Ecologist designation is encouraged to use the full term, “Certified Senior Ecologist,” on business cards or in official signatures, but may use the initialism “CSE” if space limits require.

Recertification applications at the senior ecologist level require only a cover letter and up-to-date CV if the applicant is, at the time of application, currently certified as a Senior Ecologist by ESA and a member of the Society in good standing.

Senior Ecologist Emeritus

This category is for retired, previously certified Senior Ecologists. The requirements are:

  • Previously certified as a Senior Ecologist for at least 10 years, with no more than a total two-year lapse between periods of certification.
  • May no longer be employed full-time.

If the Senior Ecologist Emeritus desires to depict certification on any official document, they are encouraged to use the term “Senior Ecologist Emeritus.” This is meant as an honorary recognition and does not imply continued professional status. The initialism “SEE” is acceptable if space limits require.

Time spent in graduate school beyond the degree being used for the level of certification sought counts as half-time experience. Provide appropriate explanation of time spent in full-time employment (e.g. if working through school, during gap year, etc.) in your application. Length of experience will be evaluated only up to the application deadline.

Ethics and Professional Conduct

All ecologists certified by ESA shall conduct their activities in accordance with the ESA Code of Ethics and with the highest standards of professional conduct and personal honor.

For questions, please contact cert@nullesa.org or (202) 833-8773.