In this article, Dr. Sean White, IREC Energy Council 2014 Trainer of the Year and ISPQ Certified Solar PV Master Trainer at HeatSpring, outlines important details about NABCEP certification, including recent updates and additions to the Entry Level Program.

Important Takeaways:

  • NABCEP certification is the only way industry professionals can differentiate themselves from non-professionals.
  • The NABCEP Board of Directors recently rebranded the NABCEP Entry Level Program to become the “NABCEP Associate Program,” which includes the addition of an experience-based pathway, where an individual who has at least 6 months of experience working in the PV, solar heating, or small wind industry will be eligible to sit for the relevant exam.
  • The rebranding allows those without experience to qualify to sit for an Associate Exam by completing training through one of over 250 registered NABCEP Exam Providers.
  • In addition to the NABCEP Associate Program, there are two more rigorous NABCEP certifications: the NABCEP PV Installation Professional Certification and the NABCEP Solar Heating Installer Certification.

Why is NABCEP important?

logo_197NABCEP is important because there is no other accepted way in the industry for professionals to stand out from non-professionals. If someone is NABCEP Certified or has passed the NABCEP Entry Level Exam, which was recently rebranded to be called the “NABCEP Associate Exam” (see the next question), then they have demonstrated that they are both smart and committed to understanding the technical aspects of the PV industry, which is very important. Anyone in the industry should (at least) take the time to pass the Entry Level Exam (now called the Associate Exam). It is possible to have job security and perhaps double your salary for taking about a week’s time to understand PV, sun paths, shading, voltage, current, power, energy, and how everything fits together. If there is anyone who is not going to get laid off when there is a change in the industry, it is going to be those who have passed a NABCEP exam. Secretaries, marketing people, sales people and CEOs would benefit greatly by taking the time to set themselves apart.

What changes to the Entry Level Program did NABCEP recently announce?

At Intersolar North America 2015, the NABCEP Board of Directors approved changes to the NABCEP Entry Level Program, a program that’s helped launch the careers of many in the solar industry and rebranded it to become the “NABCEP Associate Program.”

Here’s what you need to know about the NABCEP Associate Program: 

  • It facilitates greater access to the credentials and encourages 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.
  • It includes the addition of an experience-based pathway, where an individual who has at least 6 months of experience working in the PV, solar heating, or small wind industry will be eligible to sit for the relevant exam.
  • Those without experience can still qualify to sit for an Associate Exam by completing training through one of over 250 registered NABCEP Exam Providers. You can read more about the changes in NABCEP’s press release. 

Keep in mind that completing coursework and passing the Entry Level (Associate) Exam still does not qualify you to install solar systems and should not be confused for the more rigorous NABCEP PV Installation Professional Certification or the NABCEP Solar Heating Installer Certification.

What are the more rigorous NABCEP Certifications?

The more rigorous certifications are the NABCEP PV Installation Professional Certification and the NABCEP Solar Heating Installer Certification. These two certifications can only be achieved by highly-experienced individuals who have:

  • Passed a rigorous examination
  • Demonstrated the capability to supervise complete system installations
  • A detailed working knowledge of the electrical and plumbing codes, standards, and accepted industry practice associated with PV and solar heating installations

Read below to decide which one makes the most sense for you: 

  1. The NABCEP PV Installation Professional Certification is the equivalent to a doctor of PV degree in the fast growing solar industry. Since the industry grows so fast, if someone were to get a 4-year degree in solar, everything that they learned in the first year would be different when they finished. There is a big demand for solar PV professionals who are certified by NABCEP, and some companies will hire people because they have NABCEP PV Installation Professional certification. The NABCEP PV Instllation Professional certification exam demonstrates that professionals know how to use the NEC effectively and can solve problems quickly and correctly. There are many people who have difficulty passing this exam, and it is rumored that the pass rate is in the 40% range. If you do not pass the exam the first time, try again. Many people are able to pass the exam the second time after extensive studying and/or taking a prep course.
  2. The NABCEP PV Technical Sales Certification is a great way for someone to get NABCEP certification without having to pass the NABCEP PV Installation Professional Exam. This exam does not require certificates to use the NEC during the exam, although, like the NABCEP Entry Level Exam, it requires knowledge of the NEC. In addition to having to know how PV works, where the sun shines on earth, how to configure PV systems based on voltage and where to make the interconnection to the electrical system, this exam also requires people to understand and demonstrate compounding interest rates and depreciation.

Eligibility Requirements

The following information is published in the NABCEP Certification Handbook. We recommend you read this free document before considering earning your certification.

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More about Dr. Sean White:

person_medium_Screen_Shot_2014-12-15_at_9.54.43_AMDr. Sean White was named the 2014 Interstate Renewable Energy Council Trainer of the Year, is an ISPQ Certified Solar PV Master Trainer and has authored several books about solar. He contributed to the development of the NABCEP PV Installation Professional Job Task Analysis and has been a member of the NABCEP PV Installation Professional Technical Committee.

Dr. White currently teaches the following HeatSpring courses:

Preparing for the NABCEP certification exam with HeatSpring