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Why Certify?

There is an increasing nationwide demand for certification credentials in the environmental arena. Besides natural resource management, ecological expertise is needed on a host of other current environmental problems, including: biotechnology, ecological restoration, ozone depletion, global climate change, ecosystem management, nitrogen deposition, species extinction and loss of biological diversity, invasive species, habitat alteration and destruction, and sustainable ecological systems. This expertise is provided by ecologists in academia, government, non-governmental organizations and the private sector. 

Read this Frontiers editorial by the Board of Professional Certification

Certified ecologist Arona Bender poses at the side of a lake in the autumn

“As an aspiring marine biologist, it is important to me to develop interdisciplinary skills to better manage the environmental challenges we face in today’s world. I chose to be certified to establish my scientific credibility and demonstrate within the science community and society that I have developed the necessary education, skills. and experience required to apply ecological principles in my professional career.”

— Arona Bender, Ecologist in Training

It has been shown that only a small minority of individuals with graduate degrees find full-time employment in academic institutions. Private environmental companies, federal, state and local environmental and natural resource agencies, applied research laboratories, and non-governmental organizations, including private foundations, offer major employment opportunities for ecologists.

Recognizing this new direction for professional ecologists, the Ecological Society of America provides the certification program for its members, as well as nonmembers and the public who desire a statement of their professional qualifications. We aim:

  • To serve the needs of ecologists who wish to establish and validate their professional credentials.
  • To guide biologists, government agencies, courts, and the public in defining minimum standards of education and experience for professional ecologists, and to encourage all practicing ecologists to meet such standards.
  • To create and maintain public confidence in the advice and opinions of certified ecologists as well as educated and experienced professionals who have pledged to uphold the Code of Ethics of the Ecological Society of America and to act in the best interest of the public.
  • To assist the public in identifying ecologists by establishing a procedure for critical peer evaluation based upon defined minimum education, experience and ethical requirements.

ESA leader and certified ecologist Carmen Cid poses for a professional photo“My work in protecting urban ecosystems requires frequent interaction with many stakeholders who are not familiar with the ecological literature. Being certified  as a Senior Ecologist for 20 years has effectively validated my expertise to diverse workforce and community audiences with varied understanding of environmental assessment credentials.”

— Carmen Cid, PhD, Senior Ecologist

The Benefits of ESA Certification

Certification through the Ecological Society of America is a way for ecologists, at all levels of education and training, to add a credential to their resume, demonstrate their expertise, and exhibit their skill level to potential employers, clients or colleagues. The goals of the certification program are to:

  1. Establish and validate the credentials for certified ecologists.
  2. Recognize individuals whose education, training, and experience meet ESA’s certification standards.
  3. Attest that certified ecologists have met minimum education and experience requirements for their certification levels; further attest that each certified ecologist acknowledges adherence to the ESA Code of Ethics.
  4. Foster the incorporation of ecological principles in the decision-making processes for consultancies, environmental and national resource agencies, applied research labs, government agencies and NGOs, foundations, and other organizations requiring the expertise of certified ecologists.
  5. Provide public access to a directory of professional ecologists for advice and technical guidance on public policy and regulatory issues facing society.

Certified ecologist Tanzeel Farooqi posing with plant specimens in a forest

“It’s my prime career goal to be a well-known professional in forest ecology at the national and international level, which has enhanced after getting the certification as Ecologist from [ESA]. The certificate [has] boosted my professional reorganization in both the public and private sectors. Most importantly, it helps me enhance my professional excellence while practicing the science of ecology. “

— Tanzeel Farooqi, PhD, Certified Ecologist

Get Started

Review the requirements, look through these frequently asked questions, and start to collect your materials to apply! If you have any questions, please contact