LEED Certification

Become a LEED AP: An Introduction to LEED Terms & Processes

An Explanation on How to Become a LEED Accredited Professional

Become a LEED AP: An Introduction to LEED Terms & Processes

What’s funny about our service – sustainability training – is that we’re selling an intangible product (education). In other retail situations, a customer goes in looking for shoes – blue or green. It’s pretty straightforward. For us, gaining a prospective customer’s loyalty begins long before the sale actually occurs. With our LEED AP training and LEED exam prep, in particular, we begin the education weeks and months in advance. Today, we’re going to talk about how to become a LEED AP.


You’re probably looking at this page because you want to get LEED AP training or want to get LEED Certified, right?

LEED APWhen someone first hears about LEED, they generally pick up the term “LEED Certification.” Common sense tells you that certification is a personal achievement and LEED is the area of expertise. Awesome. So they go on to think “I want to get LEED Certified.” BUT the truth is, this is not the correct terminology for this credentialing path! LEED Certification actually refers to a label for green, or sustainable, buildings that live up to the LEED standards. LEED Accreditation, on the other hand, refers to a person’s knowledge and competence regarding the LEED standards – knowledge you’ll acquire during a LEED Green Associate or LEED AP training course. So, our candidate is actually looking to get LEED Accredited.

Then the next tidbit of info one might hear is LEED AP. Ah, ok, this must be the name that a LEED-accredited professional earns. Wait, there it is! LEED AP = LEED Accredited Professional. Done. Ok, got this. Our candidate decides that he/she wants to become a LEED AP. Gosh, I’m sorry to say…that this is again incorrect terminology…kind of 🙂

A Brief History 

When the LEED exams first launched, a candidate who passed the exam indeed became a LEED AP – because this was the only credential available. Then, in April 2009, the standards and credentialing process got updated. A tiered hierarchy was introduced, where LEED Green Associate became the first step, followed by LEED AP (with Specialty) and then LEED Fellow. What happened to the original title? It went away.

LEED Certification Credentials

To be fair, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) gave “Legacy LEED APs” several opportunities to opt into the new system and become a LEED AP with Specialty. Here we are years later, if a Legacy did not opt into the new system, then he/she is simply considered an inactive LEED AP. The LEED AP credential never goes away for this group; they’ll just move forward with an outdated credential.

So…here are the key takeaways for today:

  • LEED Certification = refers to green buildings
  • LEED Accreditation = refers to green people 😉
  • LEED AP is not the first step
  • LEED AP is not the same thing as LEED Green Associate
  • LEED AP is not the same thing as LEED AP Specialty (BD+C, O+M, ID+C, ND, Homes)

For more information about earning a LEED credential or to attend our LEED training online, please join one of our LEED Green Associate Exam Prep courses. We offer a live 2-day class, live webinar series, and an on-demand webinar. With our LEED training online and in-person courses, we’ll teach you everything you need to know!

Register now for LEED Green Associate Exam Prep

About Lesley Baulding

Lesley has been passionately advocating for and working with green building and renewable energy since 2009. She has experience with LEED certification, home energy auditing, blower door testing, solar energy, and more. She holds many certifications, including LEED Green Associate and NABCEP Certification. Her work has won numerous awards over the past decade.