Navigating the different NABCEP certifications and credentials can be difficult if you aren’t immersed in the details day in and day out. NABCEP offers one credential (which is the PV Associate) along with 7 professional certifications. 

What’s the difference between all of them? Each one offers hints in the title, of course, but beyond that – how are they different and how do they compare to each other? 

To help make it make sense, HeatSpring has created this handy mind map. To walk through the details, tune into the video below. 

In this short video, we are going to walk through which NABCEP certification or credential is right for you. It’s a question we get all the time here at HeatSpring.  To help everybody visualize the process a little bit better, we created this mind map.  

Here is our mind map where you can see all seven professional certifications, as well as the one PV associate credential. And that’s where we’re going to get started.  

The PVA is a great first step towards NABCEP certification. This is ideal for folks who are either wanting to break into the solar industry or are pretty new to the industry.

And it demonstrates that the folks who have this credential have a solid understanding of solar PV.  Folks can be eligible for this credential one of two ways. The first is that they’ve worked in the industry for at least six months or they have taken an official prep course designated by NABCEP.  

All right, next we’re going to dive into what I kind of think of as the top tier of NABCEP professional certifications and I’ll explain why in just a sec. Each of these three certifications have the more stringent requirements when you look at the other NABCEP professional certifications. Right now, we’re talking about the PV Technical Sales (PVTS), the PV Installation Professional (PVIP), and the new Energy Storage Installation Professional (ESIP) certification. They all require 58 hours of advanced training, as well as either OSHA 10 or 30 and documented experience in the field of the exam. So installation for installation professional certifications and sales for the sales certification.  

We are zooming back out now to look at the specialist certifications. We are looking at the Design Specialist (PVDS), Installation Specialist (PVIS), and Commissioning and Maintenance Specialist (PVCMS) certifications. 

In my mind, I almost think of these as under the Installation Professional (PVIP) certification umbrella. I think of it that way because each of these certification exams require just 24 hours of advanced training, so quite a bit less than the Installation Professional (PVIP). They also each cover a different specialization area, like design, installation or commissioning and maintenance, as opposed to the Installation Professional (PVIP) exam, which encompasses all of those areas.  

All of these specialist certifications do still require documented experience and they are all considered NABCEP certifications.  

Zooming out to talk about our very last NABCEP certification – the PV System Inspector (PVSI). This is the simplest certification and exam to sit for. That’s because there are no prerequisites required to take this exam. You don’t have to have any training, no OSHA, no documented experience. You could sign up today and sit for that exam immediately. If you take the exam and pass it, you would be considered NABCEP certified with a System Inspector (PVSI) certification. This is intended to be mostly for city inspectors, municipal inspectors, different people who may not be directly in the solar industry, but work quite a bit with inspecting these types of systems. Anybody can go for this particular NABCEP certification.  

All right, folks, that is how I think about all these different NABCEP certifications and how they fit sort of next to each other and around each other.

If you have any questions at all about what NABCEP certification would be best for you, just hit us up. Our email is and we’ll be happy to answer your questions. Thanks for tuning in!