Skip to main content

The History of ESA Certification

Defining a Standard

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.

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.

Beginning in 2021, to maintain the same standards of professionalism as other professions and to keep ESA’s certification competitive in the environmental sciences, continuing education is required of our certified ecologists. We consider this just one step in an ongoing effort to maintain a rigorous program of validation for anybody holding our certifications!

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.