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Program Changes for 2021

Please check this blog post by 2020 Board of Professional Certification Chair Carmen Cid for an additional overview of these changes.

The Application Process

No change for 2o21. Applications for new certifications, recertifications and upgrades to another level will be reviewed per the requirements listed here, and awarded by the Board of Professional Certification. 

New Certifications

New certifications at the Ecologist in Training, Associate Ecologist and Ecologist levels, as of those awarded in 2021, will require active participation in our continuing education unit (CEU) program. This includes recertifications of those designations, and upgrades to higher levels. You will need to have earned at least 40 CEU in 5 years (so by 2026) before you apply for recertification or an upgrade; you may however apply to upgrade to the Ecologist or Senior Ecologist level if you earn a suitable doctoral-level degree in that intervening time once you have worked the requisite number of years to meet the qualification for that level.

Existing Certifications

If you are currently certified by ESA, you may recertify or upgrade per the requirements listed here in the years 2021-25. Beginning with recertification or upgrade applications submitted in 2026, 40 CEU in 5 year will be required.

Reduced Fees

As you can see on the Fees & Process Timeline, we have greatly reduced the application and renewal fees. This is to encourage more working graduate students and early career ecologists to earn certification as an important step on their career paths, and to more easily include more scientists in diverse fields and career levels over the course of their careers.

CEU Requirements

Category Minimum Maximum
Category I: Professional Education and Training 14 24
Category II: Oral Communication 0 14
Category III: Written Communication 0 14
Category IV: Service 0 14
Category V: Human Dimensions 4 4
Total 44 70

Please see this page for a full breakdown of category requirements and what is included in them.

While the application requirements for any new certification will remain the same in 2021 and into the future, recertifications and upgrades of certifications that begin in 2021 or after will require that you earn at least 44 CEU over the five years of the certification.

A certification holder will be able to gain units by attending the ESA Annual Meeting (and/or other scientific conferences in bioscience, environmental science and conservation), attending workshops, presenting research or participating in train-the-trainer activities; publishing technical reports or peer-reviewed scientific papers; participating in programs like ESA’s Strategies for Success; mentoring students and colleagues; engaging in citizen science projects in the community; and further developing skills in education, policy and advocacy, science communication and more. It is our intention that certified ecologists at all levels be well-rounded professional scientists.

Ecologist in Training and Associate Ecologist certification holders will be able to upgrade to Ecologist if, during the course of their certification period, they successfully earn a doctoral degree per the requirements for a new certification at the Ecologist level.

Certified ecologists will self-report their activities to ESA; staff will monitor credits over time to support participants.

Providers Other than ESA

The Board of Professional Certification is working with ESA staff to identify organizations — universities, scientific societies, private companies, NGOs and others — that provide quality professional training to be listed in a Directory of Approved Providers that will first be published on this website in January 2021. This will be a living document that we will update constantly to reflect the growing number of approved content providers and the development opportunities they offer that count toward ESA CEU. We aim to include at least 30 providers by 2023 and 50 by 2025.

Additionally, we encourage certified ecologists to reach out to staff with questions about whether a particular course may be used for CEU, or to suggest courses or providers. Your leads will help us to identify more providers to include in our directory and continuously build value into the program.