Upon completion of training from a NABCEP Entry Level provider, you can take the PV or Solar Heating Entry Level exam. If you successfully complete this exam, NABCEP sends you an acknowledgement of your passing score, which can be used to demonstrate your knowledge to prospective employers.
Achieving an Entry Level acknowledgment is an appropriate first step for a career in installation, design, manufacturing, and sales. It is also great for complementary industries that may encounter solar projects. For example, architects and engineers in a market with numerous solar installations can benefit greatly from increasing their solar literacy through the NABCEP Entry Level program. Find a current list of approved Entry Level providers at nabcep.org.
In some locales, an installer is required to be licensed. A license is issued by a jurisdiction (typically a state licensing board). Most jurisdictions require an electrical or plumbing contractor’s license if they are being paid to install wiring or potable water piping. This helps protect public safety by assuring training, experience, and knowledge of the regulations.
Solar contractors in some jurisdictions must pass a business exam and a solar exam, as well as document the minimum amount of field experience for the credential. Different states have different requirements of their licensed contractors. For example, licensed electricians in Florida may install PV systems, but they may be required to subcontract roofers to install the PV array. Visit irecusa.org to access the Interstate Renewable Energy Council’s solar licensing database, which details the local licensing requirements for installing solar energy systems.
Certification, on the other hand, is voluntary. But the line between voluntary and required can be thin in jurisdictions where certification qualifies installers for utility or state incentives. In these cases, while a license might be sufficient to legally install a system, it would be difficult for an installer to compete with the access to incentives covered by certification. Also, policies such as this promote quality by offering solar-specific credentials in areas where solar licensing is not available.
NABCEP offers the most widely recognized certifications in the industry for solar heating and PV installation professionals. To become certified, installers must document field experience and pass a rigorous exam based upon a job-task analysis developed by experts in each discipline. These analyses describe the specific skills required to install and maintain solar energy systems. The PV Installation Professional Certification requires that participants document training in workplace safety and solar technology to be eligible for the exam. NABCEP certification is valid for three years and can be renewed by fulfilling requirements for continuing education and work experience.
While the NABCEP Entry Level exam is offered by individual training institutions upon completion of their courses, the NABCEP Certification exams are proctored twice per year at select regional sites. To qualify for the exam, applicants must document their professional experience and training prior to an application deadline. For example, installers who would like to take the October 4, 2014, certification exam must submit their applications by July 18.
Solar sales professionals, site assessors, financial analysts, or application engineers may pursue NABCEP PV Technical Sales certification, which requires solar sales experience and some formal training. The type and extent of required training depends upon the applicant’s professional experience. NABCEP has seven qualifying categories that are a combination of experience and training. An applicant needs to meet one of these categories to qualify to take the exam.