LEED AP BD+C. CSBA. EBCP. SFP. CEM. Talk about an alphabet soup! With unemployment and underemployment still high, I’m frequently asked about professional credentials in the realm of green building. What do they mean? Which are best? Do I need to get one to stay competitive?
Why they Look Good
Even if the credential you are considering isn’t as widely recognized as LEED AP, professional credentials communicate an achievement and area of expertise. It’s not a bad thing to have to explain what it means—but only if you have a concise, impressive answer ready. (If your instructor or education provider can’t give that to you, go elsewhere for your credential!)
Entering the Green Job Market
As job seekers know (or eventually discover) people don’t land jobs just because of the letters after their name, or even where and what they’ve studied, the projects they’ve worked on, their professional reputation, or who they know—it’s a combination of all of those things.
If you’re looking to change careers into something related to green building, credentials can be an important way to get yourself up to speed in a new area that complements your existing skills and experience. They also add credibility and indicate you are serious about pursuing the line of work.
The credentials that introduce this article are relevant for specific areas of work. LEED AP BD+C stands for LEED Accredited Professional Building Design + Construction, and indicates experience and skill in new construction (primarily non-residential). Existing Building Commissioning Professional, Sustainable Facilities Professional, and Certified Energy Manager indicate knowledge as well as in-depth training or professional portfolio in the realm of existing building systems, though for different aspects.
With money flowing for green jobs, specialty credentials are proliferating, especially in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and green building topics. The key is to choose a credential that leads to work you’re interested in and qualified for, not just one that you think will sound good.
Speaking of money flowing, you may be able to get funding support, too. The Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County drew $10 million dollars to our area for job training. Similar funding is likely available where you are to get trained, especially if a credential (such as a certificate or accreditation) is involved. Check out your local workforce development agency to connect you with programs and funding.
Moving On Up
If you’ve already got a job in the fields of building design, construction, engineering, real estate, facility management, a new credential can help you advance in your field or transition to a related field with greater ease.
As the Class Coordinator for the Sustainable Building Advisor program in Seattle, I’ve seen carpenters transition into resource conservation managers and architects become sustainability directors for engineering firms. I would never say that having the CSBA (Certified Sustainable Building Advisor) credential was the only reason they got their jobs, but they report back that it made the difference.
Some people resent the addition of credential maintenance to the LEED AP designation, but, for all of us working in this rapidly changing field, it’s important to keep learning or be left behind. (Check out Elizabeth Power’s recent blog post on how to maintain your LEED AP credential.) Even if the credential is a requirement for holding a job, it’s something that belongs to you that you can take with you.
If you do decide to pursue a certificate program, there are many online. However it may be a better investment of your time to find a live program where, in addition to capturing content, you can network with other students and take advantage of their real-world experiences.
Kelly Kirkland, CSBA, LEED AP O+M coordinates educational consulting projects for O’Brien & Company, teaches LEED Operations & Maintenance (O+M) Study Sessions as well as Lite Bites, and is the Coordinator for the Sustainable Building Advisor program at the Seattle Central Community College. She recently completed designing and facilitating a four-day learning experience for the Washington Conservation Corps on sustainability with an emphasis on Low Impact Development.
Did you enjoy this article? You might also like these Building Capacity Blog articles:
Time to Deal with Your LEED AP Credential
SBAi: Introducing the Next Generation of SBA Education & Service
Green Building Jobs in Lousy Market