NABCEP Certification

NABCEP Installer Certification: Should You Get NABCEP PVIS or PVIP?

NABCEP Installer Certification: Should You Get NABCEP PVIS or PVIP?

The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) is the most respected and widely recognized certification organization for solar installers. Because “solar PV installer” is one of the fastest growing jobs, many people are pursuing NABCEP Installer Certification as a way to stand out from other solar professionals and to highlight their technical knowledge.

But, NABCEP actually offers more than one NABCEP installer certification. So, which should you get?

NABCEP PV Installation Professional (PVIP) was the first NABCEP installer certification. It dates back to 2003 and is still the most distinguished and well-known of all of the NABCEP credentials.

If you want to earn a solar panel installation certification and/or start a solar PV business, you’ll want to pursue the NABCEP PVIP Certification.

Here at Everblue, we offer NABCEP-approved and IREC-accredited solar training programs. Our popular NABCEP PV Installation Professional package aligns perfectly with the educational prerequisites to sit for the NABCEP PVIP exam. We’ll discuss the prerequisites in greater detail below.

Why is there more than one NABCEP Installer Certification?

In October 2017, NABCEP added the PV Installer Specialist (PVIS) to its solar certification program.

Other than showing the list of knowledge areas covered on each certification exam, NABCEP hasn’t explicitly explained how PV Installer Specialist is different from PV Installation Professional.

When you look at the knowledge areas for each certification, you can reasonably assume that NABCEP introduced the PV Installer Specialist to create a lower tier for solar installers who don’t need the same depth of knowledge that certified PV Installation Professionals have.

The Difference Between NABCEP PVIS and NABCEP PVIP Certification

The short answer is that PV Installer Specialists focus only on solar installation technique, whereas PV Installation Professionals add PV system design, commissioning, and operations/maintenance strategies to their installation knowledge to offer the most efficient and effective system.

Therefore, if you’re only interested in becoming a solar panel installer, you might consider the NABCEP PV Installer Specialist Certification. But if you want to hold more of a leadership position on a solar installation job site and/or own a solar installation business, you’ll probably want the NABCEP PV Installation Professional Certification.

NABCEP Installer Certification topics

There are additional similarities and differences between the two certifications, in terms of exam prerequisites and recertification requirements. Before we dive into that information, let’s look at the basic structure of the NABCEP Certification process.

How to Qualify for the NABCEP Certification Exams

Before you can sit for the NABCEP Certification exams, you must:

  • Complete educational prerequisites
  • Show proof of work experience
  • Submit an application that shows your education & work experience (pay NABCEP $125 to review)
  • Pay $375 for the exam
  • Schedule date & time of your 4-hour exam appointment

Each exam for the NABCEP Board Certifications (except for PV System Inspector) has 70 equally weighted multiple-choice questions, with four choices per question. Sixty of the questions are scored, and ten are un-scored pilot questions.

NABCEP Certification facts

How to Qualify for the NABCEP PV Installer Specialist Exam

To sit for the NABCEP PV Installer Specialist exam, you must:

  • Education: Complete of a minimum of 10 hours of OSHA Outreach Training Program for the Construction Industry AND complete 24 hours of training
  • Work Experience: Complete installations with a decision-making role equaling at least 6 Project Credits (system size 1-999 kW = 2 project credits, 1 MW and up = 3 project credits), installations to have been completed within 2 calendar years prior to the application submission date, all systems must have a minimum rating of 1kW DC (STC).
  • Submit an application that shows your education & work experience (pay NABCEP $125 to review)
  • Pay $375 for the exam
  • Schedule date & time of your 4-hour exam appointment

How to Qualify for the NABCEP PV Installation Professional Exam

To sit for the NABCEP PV Installation Professional exam, you must:

  • Education: Complete of a minimum of 10 hours of OSHA Outreach Training Program for the Construction Industry AND complete 58 hours of training
  • Work Experience: Complete installations with a decision-making role equaling at least 6 Project Credits (system size 1-999 kW = 2 project credits, 1 MW and up = 3 project credits), installations to have been completed within 2 calendar years prior to the application submission date, all systems must have a minimum rating of 1kW DC (STC).
  • Submit an application that shows your education & work experience (pay NABCEP $125 to review)
  • Pay $375 for the exam
  • Schedule date & time of your 4-hour exam appointment

Both of these NABCEP installer certifications have recertification requirements (every 3 years) that include education and work experience.

comparing the NABCEP Installer Certifications

As you can see, the NABCEP PV Installation Professional Certification offers a more broad range of knowledge, which opens more doors in the solar industry.

The second page of the NABCEP Certification brochure shows all of the possible PV career pathways, based on which NABCEP installer certification you choose to pursue.

You’ll see that the solar careers linked to NABCEP PVIP include jobs working in design, installation, maintenance, and even project management. NABCEP PVIS, on the other hand, only offers a pathway to solar installation jobs. (Note – the six solar installation jobs listed under PVIS and PVIP are the same too!)

NABCEP PV Installation Professional Certification is known as the “gold standard” for solar installers. Why would you settle for any less? Set yourself up for success by pursuing the top solar installer certification on the market!

If you have any other questions about NABCEP installer certification, give us a call at 800-460-2575.

Learn more about Everblue's NABCEP Certification Training

About Lesley Cowie

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.