New Features Added to ESA Certification

This post was provided by Carmen Cid, Chair of the ESA Board of Professional Certification.

The Ecological Society of America has been validating the credentials of professional ecologists through our certification program for nearly 40 years. Beginning in 2021, we aim to take the program to a new level.

Hundreds of environmental scientists—working in all sectors from consulting to government to education—have gained certification by ESA over the years. Certification can be a boon to one’s career, as it exists to validate a scientist’s credentials and demonstrate to employers, colleagues and clients that our ecologists have trusted expertise in the field. This is especially important in today’s environmental outreach work, where ecologists interact with policymakers and community stakeholders who expect to interact with experts who are certified by their professional societies.

Thanks to the hard work of a task force of ESA members and the leadership of our Board of Professional Certification and Governing Board, we are adding some important features to the certification program beginning in 2021. These changes are intended to keep our certification competitive with those of other professional societies in the biological and evolutionary sciences, and to build value in our program that will make our Society an attractive home to more scientists in the field.

Interested in ESA certification? Curious about the effect that certification can have on your career? Have questions about how the program works and what you can expect? Join our webinar on December 9!

We are initiating a program to help applicants provide evidence of their professional development enhancement through required continuing education units (CEU) over the normal 5-year term of certification. These units can be gained by participating in scientific and professional development from validated, credible sources in addition to ESA programs—and to provide them, we are building relationships with a plethora of organizations to ensure that ESA-certified ecologists have a wealth of options to choose from. Staff is simultaneously working to increase awareness of the program and its value. And to make the new program model more accessible, we have significantly lowered the application fees for new certifications.

If you’re applying for certification for the first time in 2021, your future recertifications and upgrades will hinge on your completing 40 units’ worth of continuing education over the five years of your certification. Much of this can be completed by attending ESA events, joining professional development events that you would already be participating in, and volunteering your expertise with us or in your community, but we do require that at least 50% of your units come from other sources. The Board of Professional Certification is meeting soon to finalize the values assigned to any particular activity, but you can get an idea of what our framework will look like here. This updated FAQ will help as well. We also encourage you to join our webinar on Dec. 9 to ask questions directly of the Board and ESA staff.

If you are already certified, you’ll be able to continue your current certification until 2025. At that point, should you wish to recertify or upgrade your certification, you will need to have met the CEU requirements as well.

Please take a few minutes to explore the certification program’s website and get acquainted with the program’s new direction, and feel free to ask us any questions you may have. We look forward to continuing to develop ESA’s certification for you!