Get Credentialed: No Question About it

What’s the big deal about having a whole bunch of letters following a name? Does it mean that person can do the job better?

Actually, the letters can be quite significant. REM, CEA, REPA, CSP and some others easily identify the bearer as someone who is skilled, knowledgeable and experienced.  

Before accrediting procedures existed, anyone could claim to be proficient in environmental matters. In the last 40 years, the field has changed dramatically:

  • now more than 300 U.S. colleges and universities offer degrees in various environmental disciplines, and
  • the laws, methodologies, and technologies are far more sophisticated.
As a result, qualifications may mean more than they ever have before.

At some public hearings, citizens have strongly express doubts about environmental professionalism ─ whether in industry, consulting, or the government. Accreditation helps the public and government identify environmental professionals as capable individuals. In addition, credentials signal a solid level of knowledge recognized by peers and employers.

There are 400 instances in federal environmental law that say an individual must be qualified to do specific jobs. If not, that individual and his or her employer are liable and subject to civil and criminal penalties. That scares banks, insurance companies, and corporate lawyers. They support certification.

Some people are reluctant to seek credentials because they fear failing the certification exam. This fear is understandable (especially for those who have been out of school for a number of years); the exam represents an unknown. Like other "unknowns," the fear of the accrediting exam is often exaggerated.

Once you get past the fear and understand the concrete benefits of credentials, you surely will be joining the hundreds of people who are seeking and obtaining environmental credentials each month through state or private organizations. It's a great way to upgrade professionalism in the industry.

About the Author

Christopher Young is director of operations for the National Registry of Environmental Professionals, based in Glenview, Ill.

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