Professional Ecologist Certifications

Frequently Asked Questions


General Inquiries

How do I know which level of certification best matches my credentials?

Please review the requirements for each level and use your best judgment. We recommend that you provide as much background information as possible to assist the Board in its evaluation.

How many copies of my form does ESA need?

Only one (1) application per person is required, and it must be submitted online.

Supplemental materials may be submitted via email to if they exceed 5MB and cannot be included with the online application form. This material may be sent to us via a file-sharing service.

How do I handle the Membership verification section if I don’t have an ESA ID Number?

To check to see if you are a member of the ESA, go to Member Status.

Members of the ESA receive a discounted fee for application for certification. To renew your membership now, go to the ESA Member Portal.

ESA membership is a requirement for Senior Ecologists. Please confirm your membership status before applying with this application.

Are supplemental materials required?

No, but they are encouraged, particularly for applicants working in nontraditional fields or positions, as well as for new Senior Ecologist applicants, who need to demonstrate written output.

Who do I contact if I am having difficulty with the application process?

Call 202-833-8773 or email us at


Educational Requirements

One or more of my degrees is not in ecology. Can I still apply for certification?

Yes, provided you can 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 and that all grades are reported as equivalent to the grading system used in the certification process. For smaller, less well-known and virtual 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 I 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.
Also, 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?

No, we do not endorse any specific programs.

In case of re-certification, showing that you have continued your professional experience and development in the field of ecology is important. In this regards, participation in continuing education may help solidify the Board’s decision to re-certify 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?

No, 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 provide that information in your application.

Are transcripts required?

The Board requires college/university transcripts for anyone applying for New Certification or a Certification Upgrade. Transcripts may be official or unofficial and will be used to determine length of professional experience and competency in ecological coursework.


Work Experience Requirements

What is the cutoff date for achieving the required length of work experience?

Length of experience will be evaluated up to the deadline of February 1 every year.

If you cannot meet the minimum post-degree work experience by this date, you should wait until next year to apply.

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.



How do I know when it is time for me to re-apply?

Certification lasts five (5) years, as indicated on your document of certification. It is your responsibility to note the dates on your approval letter and certificate, but the ESA will attempt to notify you in the year your certification is due to expire via e-mail. Please ensure that the ESA has a current email address for you on file.

Why does ESA require re-certification?

The certification program is intended for actively practicing ecologists. Thus, the Board wants to ensure that you continue to meet the requirements for the level at which you were certified. For this reason, it is important that you provide dates for all relevant activities on your updated CV and publications list.

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.
  • 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 should note in your application materials that you were previously certified by the ESA.

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 determines that you do not meet the requirements for the higher level, you will be considered for re-certification at your current level.

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?

All applicants for re-certification must fill out the entire Recertification Form.

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 years since your last certification.


References and Letters of Recommendation

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 – download the Requirements Checklist.

  • References: 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.
  • Recommendations: 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 verify your intended recommender’s membership status, please contact

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

Who should I ask for references or recommendations?

Your references and recommenders should be colleagues, supervisors, advisors, or other individuals capable of evaluating your credentials in an informed and objective manner. Do not request a reference or letter of recommendation from a subordinate or a family member. You may only choose one reference from your current organization.

How do I go about obtaining an ESA member as a reference or recommender?

If you are an ESA member, you may log in and use the Members-Only Directory (login required) to see if any of your references/recommenders are already current ESA members. If you need to check an individual’s membership status, please contact Recommenders must be current ESA members in the year of the application.

Can letters of recommendation be sent by e-mail?

Yes. Recommendations must be sent by the recommender, must be submitted on electronic letterhead, must be signed, and should be submitted in PDF form to 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 will not be considered.


Application Fees

What methods of payment does ESA accept?

Online payments may be made by VISA, MasterCard or American Express are processed through the payment links on each of the online applications. You may also pay over the phone by contacting Member Services at 202-833-8773 or

Can I pay my application and ESA membership fee simultaneously?

No. If you are not an ESA member or your ESA membership has expired, sign up or renew your membership first on the ESA Member Portal.

When you receive a confirmation of your ESA ID number, you may use this number in your certification application.

Will I need to pay the application fee again next year to maintain my certification?

No. Your certification is good for 5 years (from June 1 to June 30).

Can my application fee be returned if I am not approved or decide not to go through with the certification process?

No, certification fees are nonrefundable. Applicants who are denied on the basis of not meeting the qualifications, or those who fail to complete the entire application process, will not be refunded.

If I pay non-member certification rate and I become certified, do I get a free ESA membership?

Yes. Applicants who are not members of the ESA who get certified will receive one year’s free membership in the ESA.



What happens to my application if it is received after February 1?

Applications received after February 1 will not be considered.

If my recommendation letters are not submitted before the February 1 deadline, how does that affect my application process?

All certification application materials are due by February 1. If you suspect your recommendation letters will be delayed after February 1, please contact us at

When can I expect to be informed of my certification status?

The Board of Professional Certification meets in June of each year to evaluate all applications, and all applicants are informed of their status by the end of August.

Can I send my application for next year between April and August?

No. The application period for the current year ends on February 1. The application period for the following year will open in November every year.


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