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Minimum Education Requirements to Apply

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. It is also strongly suggested that dates for courses and degrees be included wherever possible.

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

  • The equivalent of at least 30 semester credit hours of biological science, 9 of which must be in ecology.
    • Ecological Sciences course examples: Community Ecology, Landscape Ecology, Plant Ecology, Tropical Ecology, Freshwater Ecology, Marine Ecology, Wildlife Ecology, Conservation Ecology, Restoration Ecology, Environmental Toxicology, Global Climate Change, Human Dimensions of Ecology, Historical Ecology, Conservation Biology, Urban Ecology, Agroecology, Forest Ecology, Wetland Ecology
    • Biological Sciences course examples: General Biology,  Genetics, Microbiology, Zoology, Botany, Marine Biology, Evolution/Foundations of Evolution/Evolutionary Ecology, Ecophysiology
  • At least 12 semester credit hours of chemistry, physical science, and mathematics are required.
    • course examples: Calculus, Statistics, Modeling, Remote Sensing, GIS, Oceanography, Geography, Biogeochemistry


  • 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

These are concepts that ESA feels are core to a proper education in ecology; this list is neither exhaustive nor mandatory, merely here as a guideline.

Grades equivalent to a B-minus or higher are required for these courses. Candidates with grades below a B-minus can still apply, but please write an explanation in your cover letter. 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 so long as they maintain continuing education.

If educational requirements were met in a graduate program past the qualifying degree, the length of experience will begin after the completion of the final required course to meet the basic educational requirements for certification.

If you have attended a non-U.S. institution or didn’t follow a traditional semester/quarter system at your school, please refer to the FAQ page’s dedicated section to determine your credit hours.

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

Additionally, the Center for Wildlife Studies’ courses have been approved for 1-3 semester credit hours of qualified coursework that can be used to meet the minimum education requirements in either Biological Science or Chemistry, Physical Sciences, and Mathematics.