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Construction Industry Certification Guide: Everything You Need to Know

Kim Lindros
Kim Lindros

Certifications abound in the construction industry. Get a 30-foot view of some of the most popular credentials available.

A certification can be a great asset to a construction worker's resume, and it shows an employer that you're serious about keeping your skills and knowledge current. Beyond the potential career advancement benefits, certifications are required in some instances. Today, many local and national building codes and project owners require certified personnel on job sites.

Let's look at several construction industry certifications – such as those for management, engineering, concrete and safety – that workers often seek and employers prefer.

Construction Manager Certification Institute (CMCI)

The CMCI, a subsidiary of the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA), offers the Certified Construction Manager (CCM) credential. Widely considered the pinnacle certification in construction management, the CCM recognizes construction managers who are experts in all phases of a construction project, from planning and design through construction and completion.

Eligibility requirements are hefty. Candidates must have at least four years of responsible-in-charge (RIC) experience in the domains of knowledge and skills established by CMAA and provide at least two client/owner references. It requires an additional eight years of experience in construction or general design, which may be substituted with an undergraduate or master's degree in construction management, construction science, architecture, or one of several engineering disciplines. CCMs must also recertify every three years by completing qualified training or volunteer work and paying a $200 recertification fee, or by passing the current CCM exam.

The CCM exam features 175 multiple-choice questions and takes up to four hours to complete. CMCI charges a $325 application fee ($425 for non-CMAA members), and the exam itself costs $275.

American Institute of Constructors (AIC)

Another good source of general certifications is the AIC Constructor Certification Program, which administers the Associate Constructor (AC) and Certified Professional Constructor (CPC) certifications.

The AC aims at candidates who have completed an accredited four-year construction management degree program or have four years of qualifying experience; AIC also accepts a combination of education and experience. The AC exam has 300 multiple-choice questions, is administered in two four-hour sessions over the course of a day and costs $165.

After achieving the AC certification, constructors who have accrued another four years of experience (with two of those years managing projects) can sit for the CPC exam. Without the AC certification, a candidate needs eight years of experience and/or education. The CPC exam is available only twice per year, has 175 questions, takes up to four hours to complete and costs $575 ($675 for nonmembers).

Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI)

Green building continues to be a hot area of the construction industry, for both commercial and residential projects. The GBCI's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) professional certification program starts with the Green Associate credential, which validates a person's understanding of current green building principles and practices.

From there, candidates can pursue one or more LEED Accredited Professional (AP) certifications in building design and operations (LEED AP BD+C), operations and maintenance (LEED AP O+M), interior design and construction (LEED AP ID+C), neighborhood development (LEED AP ND) and residential homes (LEED AP Homes).

The Green Associate exam costs $200 ($100 for students, $250 for nonmembers), and each specialty exam is $250 ($350 for nonmembers).

National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET)

NICET has certified more than 148,000 engineering technicians and technologists since the organization was founded in 1961. Its technician certification programs cover civil engineering (construction materials testing and transportation construction) and electrical and mechanical systems engineering (power, fire protection, security systems, etc.).

Each certification has four levels. Level I is for those with minimal experience, and Level IV requires at least 10 years of experience. A candidate must pass a single exam for each desired certification and get a letter from a supervisor that verifies their competency to sit for the exam (at certain levels but not all). Exam prices vary but are typically between $225 and $400.

A technologist certification requires a four-year engineering technology degree; no certification test is required. The Associate Engineering Technologist (AT) certification costs $155. The Certified Engineering Technologist (CT) requires a minimum of five years of related work experience in addition to a degree, as well a detailed work history and endorsements. The cost of the CT is $185.

American Concrete Institute (ACI)

While a layman might view concrete as simply mixing water and cement and then flowing it into a form, those who work in construction know the process involves a certain amount of science to get it right. ACI certifications help to ensure that technicians and inspectors are current on various facets of concrete manufacturing, such as anchoring, proportioning, testing and finishing methods.

ACI offers more than 20 certifications, each with various requirements, which usually include a written exam and a practical or performance-based exam. Exam fees vary, but typical costs are $250 for the written exam only ($300 for nonmembers) and $400 for the full exam ($450 for nonmembers).

National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER)

The NCCER is the organization behind the National Craft Assessment and Certification Program (NCACP) and the Pipeline Training and Assessment Program. There are more than 70 craft areas to choose from, including boilermaking, carpentry, construction technology, mobile crane operation and plumbing. Each credential requires the candidate to pass a written exam and agree to performance verification. Visit the NCCER program fees and costs page for details on expected out-of-pocket expenses or training and assessments.

NCCER tracks the credentials for people who have completed NCCER-approved training and received a certificate of completion. In turn, organizations can verify the qualifications of those professionals, whether looking at a new hire or someone already involved with a project.

National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE)

NACE is a member-driven organization that advocates for corrosion awareness and action, and offers certifications relevant to corrosion control. More than 36,000 people have earned NACE certifications to date. The organization's certification programs include Cathodic Protection (CP), Coating Inspector (CIP), General Coatings, General Corrosion, Pipeline, and a specialty program that covers certifications for carbon steel, chemical treatments and protective coatings.

For each certification, candidates must complete one or more training courses, meet minimum experience requirements, or both. They must then pass a written exam that costs $265 ($475 for nonmembers), and some certifications require a practical exam as well (which is part of the required training course).

Safety certifications

Construction is often dangerous work, so safety is a major undertaking throughout the industry. In fact, many construction certifications include a component on safety because of its industrywide importance.

The National Association of Safety Professionals (NASP) has several certifications aimed at managers, trainers and other safety professionals. Check out the organization's website to learn about the Licensed Safety Professional (LSP), Certified Safety Manager (CSM) and Certified Safety Director (CSD), as well as some environmental credentials.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) delivers general training and certificate programs through its education centers. The agency's Construction Outreach Training Program offers 10-hour courses for entry-level workers and 30-hour courses for construction managers. Visit the certificate and degree programs webpage and search for "construction" to see certificate programs relevant to the industry.

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Kim Lindros
Kim Lindros Contributing Writer
Kim Lindros is a full-time content developer who writes about security, technology and business. She spent nearly 10 years in tech support and as a network administrator before transitioning to tech publishing. With a background in project management, she has run large multifunction teams to produce entire book series, online curricula and on-ground training classes. She has also contributed to several books on Windows technologies and applications, and IT certification.