LEED Certification

How to Obtain LEED Certification When a New Job Requires It

How to Obtain LEED Certification When a New Job Requires It

If you’re browsing job listings on Indeed.com, you might come across a position that lists LEED Certification as a qualification. Likewise, if you work for a construction company or contractor that bids on building projects, you might also see LEED Certification as a requirement to apply or participate in the project. In this post, we’ll dissect what these scenarios actually mean for you and cover how to obtain LEED Certification.

Whether you’re searching for a new job opportunity or looking to grow your skills in an existing role, you’ll find that LEED Certification can be an excellent way to differentiate yourself from other candidates and to gain modern job skills in the building industry. Your ability to obtain LEED Certification will reap these benefits, at a minimum. Of course the more tangible benefit is whether or not you actually win the job!

Before plunging into these two scenarios, let’s get this out of the way: A person cannot obtain LEED Certification. The correct term is LEED Accreditation.

  • What is LEED Certification? It’s a term to describe BUILDINGS that have sustainable, energy-efficient characteristics designed and built into them.
  • LEED Accreditation, however, is a term to describe PEOPLE who understand the LEED Certification process.

So think about that when you are browsing job listings and project bids. If the document says you must obtain LEED Certification to qualify… then a few things should go through your head:

  • “Ok, clearly they mean that I should get LEED Accredited. I need to research that process.”
  • “Wow, this organization focuses on LEED and can’t even get the terminology right…that’s odd.”
  • “If I get LEED Accredited, not only will I have the skills they require, but I’ll impress them by actually using the correct terminology. Look at just how proficient I am with LEED!”

Scenario 1: Job Listings That Require LEED Certification

Here’s an example job listing I found on Indeed.com for an architecture and engineering design firm.

obtain leed certification image

Notice how LEED-AP Certification is listed under the Qualifications section.

As we listed above, LEED Certification is not technically a designation for people. Whoever wrote this job listing should have said LEED AP Accreditation.

But wait, there’s more to dissect here!

You’re probably wondering what LEED AP stands for. LEED AP = LEED Accredited Professional.

QUICK history lesson…

Part 1: When the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) developed the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) standards, their intent was to design, build, and operate better buildings. So a building earned LEED Certification when it effectively implemented the standards into these different construction phases. Later, USGBC thought, “Hey, people might want to showcase the fact that they understand LEED…but shucks, LEED Certification already exists as a term for buildings. Let’s create a different term for people so that it’s clear….ok, LEED Accreditation.”

Part 2: Prior to 2009, people could earn the LEED AP Accreditation. Great. After 2009, USGBC changed its LEED Credentials process and created a new hierarchy for professionals. Under the newer version, all candidates would earn the title of LEED Green Associate. After passing the LEED Green Associate exam, a candidate could progress to the LEED AP Specialty level. The word “Specialty” is key here. The pre-2009 LEED AP accreditation was phased out and considered inactive. The new “LEED AP Specialty” accreditation represents a person under the latest LEED credentialing process who has not only passed the first and second tier LEED exams (Green Associate and AP Specialty) but has chosen to focus on a specialty area of buildings.

Part 3: There are five LEED AP specialties available: Building Design + Construction, Operations + Maintenance, Interior Design + Construction, Homes, and Neighborhood Development.

Now let’s go back to that Indeed.com job listing. The company requires LEED-AP Certification. Given what you know now, you should be saying to yourself:

  • “Ok, I need to get LEED Accredited.”
  • “I need to earn the LEED AP accreditation.”
  • “Gee, the listing doesn’t indicate exactly which LEED AP specialty is required…”
  • “There are a few questions at play here… did whoever wrote the job listing not know the intricacies of this requirement? Given what the role/company is, should I assume that LEED AP BD+C is the best specialty to earn? Maybe it doesn’t matter exactly which LEED AP Specialty I earn as long as I have one…?”

I promised that we would cover how to obtain LEED Certification, so here we go. Of course now we’re looking at how to obtain LEED Accreditation, right?

Whether you pursue the entry-level LEED Green Associate or the advanced LEED AP Specialty, the process is get LEED accredited is the same: get LEED training + buy exam + schedule exam.

The USGBC offers the option to take the LEED Green Associate exam and LEED AP Specialty exams on their own or in a combined format. The combined option saves you $50 overall and is literally the 2-hour LEED Green Associate exam immediately followed by the 2-hour LEED AP Specialty exam.

Given the context of this specific job listing, where you know that your end goal is LEED AP Specialty, I would recommend the combined exam format – especially since the job listing wants you to get to the LEED AP Specialty level in the next 6 months.

So here’s what you need to do:

  1. Learn about LEED. You’ll start with the LEED Green Associate Exam Prep and then proceed to the LEED AP Specialty Exam Prep. With our LEED Training Bundles product, you can register for both LEED training courses and instantly save 10% on your order.
  2. Buy the LEED AP Combined exam. You’ll do this at usgbc.org/credentials after you create a free account.
  3. Schedule your LEED AP Combined exam. You’ll do this at prometric.com/gbci

And voila! You’re well on your way toward qualifying for this job.

Scenario 2: Project Bids That Require LEED Certification

If you skipped over scenario 1 above, let me give you a quick Cliff Notes version of the conversation: people cannot obtain LEED Certification. The proper term for people is LEED Accreditation.

So if you are viewing a Request for Proposal that asks you, as the contractor or sub-contractor, to obtain LEED Certification, you should go ahead and assume that they are actually asking you to earn LEED Accreditation.

There are different levels of LEED Accreditation.

The first step for all people – regardless of education, occupation, or experience – is LEED Green Associate. At this level, you’ll learn how LEED Certification (for buildings) works and exactly which building strategies make up the LEED Rating System. If you work in a secondary or adjacent industry to construction, such as waste removal or commercial janitorial services, the LEED Green Associate level may be sufficient.

The next step is LEED AP Specialty, where you take the foundation you’ve learned in LEED Green Associate and take a deeper dive into a specialty area such as homes or interior design. Typically, those who earn the LEED AP Specialty accreditation work on LEED building projects regularly and in a leadership role. Therefore, they need to understand the intricacies of LEED project documentation, goal setting, hiring & delegation of responsibilities, etc. Architects, engineers, construction managers, and facility managers usually earn the LEED AP Specialty designation.

If you see LEED Certification phrasing throughout the project bid, it’s likely that the building structure in question will be seeking LEED Certification. Thus, it’s important to have LEED-accredited people working on the project so they know exactly what strategies to implement and prioritize to increase the chances that the project will obtain LEED Certification.

There are different levels of LEED Certification.

Without diving too deep into how LEED Certification works, let’s just say that each building strategy equals a certain number of points. The more points a building has, the higher the level of LEED Certification.

The levels of LEED Certification are: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.

So if you see these colors/terms listed in the request for proposal, it’s very likely that they are referring to the building there and not you. For more information about what I mean here, check out our related post on becoming a “LEED Silver Certified Contractor.” Hint: That designation does not exist!

At the end of the day, if a project is looking to obtain LEED Certification and thus hire LEED-accredited contractors, you will need to take the LEED Green Associate Exam Prep and related LEED Green Associate exam, at a minimum.

Even if you decide to pass on the Indeed.com job or on the request for proposal, hopefully now you have a better understanding of what it takes to obtain LEED certification and/or LEED accreditation!

If you’re still confused about LEED terminology, give us a call at (800) 460-2575 and we’ll help you determine your next steps.

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.