By now, all solar professionals have heard of the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certifications. But, what does it mean to be NABCEP certified, and how can you get certified? How is the new Associate Program different from the old Entry Level Program? Program Manager Kathryn Casey discusses these questions and more in this interview.
Tell us a bit about the NABCEP certifications. Why should a renewable energy professional get certified?
There are many benefits that come with achieving NABCEP PV Installation Professional, PV Technical Sales, Solar Heating Installer Certification, and/or NABCEP company accreditation. Certified Professionals and Accredited Companies gain increased credibility and marketing value, giving them a competitive advantage over other solar professionals that do not hold the same certification or accreditation. This, in turn, provides greater career mobility and peer recognition. NABCEP certification is the ultimate validation of experience and knowledge in the growing solar industry and NABCEP company accreditation is the highest recognition of quality assurance for solar installation companies.
Why (and when) was NABCEP formed?
NABCEP is a not-for-profit organization founded in 2002 with a mission “to support, and work with, the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries, professionals, and stakeholders to develop and implement quality credentialing and certification programs for practitioners.” The first NABCEP Solar PV Installer certification exam (now called PV Installation Professional) was administered in 2003. The Solar Heating Installer certification was first administered in 2006 and the PV Technical Sales Professional was launched in 2011. NABCEP administered the Entry Level Program from 2006-2016, when it was re-branded as the NABCEP Associate Program. Our Company Accreditation Program started in 2012.
Tell us about the Entry Level Program, which became the Associate Program in August 2016. What does this change mean?
The Associate Program is essentially a re-branding of the popular Entry Level Program. Major changes include the addition of an experience pathway to qualify for the exam instead of having just one pathway where candidates needed to complete a course with one of our 250+ registered NABCEP Exam Providers. NABCEP will now maintain an online directory where employers or other interested parties can verify the credentials. Additionally, NABCEP Associates will need to document at least 12 hours of continuing education every three years to maintain the credential. Individuals who have previously passed the NABCEP Entry Level Exam will be able to obtain this new designation through a simple registration process.
These changes will facilitate greater access to the credentials and increased use by employers as a way to identify those who have demonstrated a basic knowledge of fundamental principles and concepts in the application, design, installation, and operation of photovoltaic, solar heating, or small wind systems.
What qualifies someone to sit for one of the Associate exams? What about the PV Installation Professional, PV Technical Sales and Solar Heating Installer certification exams?
There are 3 pathways to obtaining a NABCEP Associate credential:
- Successfully complete a photovoltaics, solar heating, or small wind training course with a NABCEP Registered Associate Provider, and pass the relevant NABCEP Associate exam.
- Document at least 6 months of full time equivalent work experience in a job that is directly involved with photovoltaics, solar heating, or small wind technologies, and pass the relevant NABCEP Associate exam.
- Already have a NABCEP Entry Level Achievement Award for photovoltaics or solar heating and pay a small conversion fee. If the award was earned more than three years ago, documentation of at least 12 hours of continuing education will also be required.
To qualify for PV Installation Professional, PV Technical Sales, or Solar Heating Installer certifications, candidates will need to document some combination of work experience and formal classroom training. There are many pathways to qualifying for these exams, so interested parties should read our Certification Handbook for a full description of qualifying categories.
How are NABCEP credentials viewed outside of North America? (We get this question periodically from prospective students.)
We have a sizeable number of credential holders who live in countries outside of North America. We can’t speak for how other countries interpret our credentials, so we recommend that any interested candidate inquire about the value of NABCEP credentials in their area.
If I’m a solar professional and I’ve had years of field experience but haven’t formally collected NABCEP credit hours, do I still have to complete continuing education training to sit for the exam?
For our PV Installation Professional certification, all candidates must complete a total of 58 hours of classroom training regardless of professional background. For details on what that training must cover, please read section 3.5.2 of our Certification Handbook.
How many NABCEP-certified people and organizations are out there?
We currently have 6 NABCEP Accredited Companies and approximately 3,000 certified professionals.
For more information check out NABCEP’s website, their job board and their resource center.
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