Thursday, April 30, 2009

FIRESIDE CHAT: Three Decades of the CEP Credential and Environmental Professional Certification (d)


Mechanics of Certification

Certification Program expenses are paid primarily from administrative fees to applicants and annual dues of CEPs. Environmental professionals usually download the CEP application from the ABCEP web site, as electronic information transfer is fastest and least expensive. CEPs are awarded in any of five functional areas, which represent areas of emphasis of a practitioner. Applicants have a choice of five functional areas, ranging from emphasis on technical to academic to administrative functions, as follows:

--Environmental Assessment: evaluation of risks to (or past impacts upon) the occupants of ecosystems, workplaces, or residences exerted by physical, chemical, or biological agents to which exposure may occur (or may have occurred);

--Environmental Documentation: preparation of reports, presentation of facts, and completion of other actions to establish administrative records demonstrating compliance with environmental statutes, regulations, and permits;

--Environmental Operations: management of facilities in accordance with requirements of environmental statutes, regulations, and permits;

--Environmental Planning: arrangement for future facility construction, operation, and/or management in accordance with anticipated requirements of environmental statutes, regulations, and permits (or permit renewals); and

--Environmental Research and Education: conducting and reporting on original investigations into the dynamics of environmental phenomena, and teaching about such phenomena as investigated by oneself and/or other investigators.

When completed, the application is returned to ABCEP’s office via the internet, and an administration fee is paid. Applicant files are sent to the CRB Chairperson, who assigns a Certification Review Panel (identified by a unique number). Assigned CRB members may recuse themselves if they have a conflict of interest, which happens from time to time.

Candidates arrange to have official transcripts attesting to their studies and degrees, and eight supporting letters, sent to ABCEP’s office, from which they are distributed with other application materials to the candidate’s Certification Review Panel. The Lead Reviewer arranges separate interviews with the candidate and a designated supervisor or client, at which any issues of concern expressed by Panel members may be raised. Although not all Panel members participate in interviews, each candidate is richly represented to each Panel member. Indeed, Panel members become quite familiar with candidates’ education, affiliations, experience, publication record, and abilities.

ABCEP aims for completion of candidate evaluation within about three months of application assignment to a Panel. Panel members are asked to return their reviews (‘Action Reports’) to the Lead Reviewer, ABCEP office, and CRB Chairperson within one month of assignment. The Lead Reviewer is asked to complete his/her own evaluation, as well as conduct interviews, within three months of assignment. The Lead Reviewer recommends to me as CRB Chairperson either certification or denial of certification based upon synthesis of all individual Panel member peer reviews into a single full-Panel recommendation. My role is to make the final decision to certify or deny certification based upon consideration of all peer reviews and other communications, to assure that the full-Panel recommendation was fair rather than biased. I rarely if ever have reversed a Lead Reviewer. CEP certificates are issued, signed by the Lead Reviewer and CRB Chairperson.

Certification Maintenance. To remain certified, CEPs must keep current in their field. In 1994 ABCEP established the Certification Maintenance Program, requiring CEPs to demonstrate via a point system that they have kept current by engaging in a range of professional activities. Such activities have included employment, attending conferences, teaching courses and workshops, publishing articles, and serving the profession on committees or in other ways. ABCEP’s program functioned on a five-year cycle of Certification Maintenance Point evaluation. Requirements of the Council on Engineering and Scientific Specialty Boards for our continued accreditation, however, have required ABCEP to join many if not most other professions by adopting an annual certification maintenance cycle period.

Status and Stature of the CEP Credential

As shown, the CEP credential was unique and forward-looking in 1979, its year of inception. Today it remains so. I know of no other credential that has achieved accreditation based upon such a dynamic, broad body of knowledge that is defined, not as much by a list of facts, but by a list of the journals and other sources of emerging information. CEP examinations are tailored to the specialization of each candidate via the choice of responding to five essay questions from a larger, wide-ranging list.

CEPs are certified based not upon their ability to memorize lists of facts, but based upon their ability to function in a regime of fast-paced publication of research and administrative developments. In my own experience, for example, regulatory changes soon may respond to findings in recent years that airborne particulate matter (PM) can exert adverse health effects with brief (real-time) exposure (Michaels 1996, 1997, 1998; Michaels and Kleinman 2000). Regulatory limits on airborne PM currently reflect the previous belief that only longer-term exposures could damage health, resulting in today’s regulatory limits on only the daily and annual average concentrations of airborne PM. This example indicates clearly that no short-answer or multiple-choice questions will reflect our evolving understanding of the public health and regulatory issues relating to airborne PM… but essayists can conduct research into the scientific and/or regulatory literature to produce a professional-quality explication of the pros and cons of adding, say, a one-hour average to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency’s arsenal of airborne PM regulations.

The uniqueness of the CEP credential has garnered respect and acceptance. Indeed, as a result, the CEP has earned broad recognition in hiring, salary determination, and career advancement in government, industry, consulting, academia, and the military. The military, for example, has exhibited a special interest in the CEP credential, in part because military environmental professionals must maximize their credibility among civilian populations where military base closures in or near civilian communities are planned or underway. These projects are enormous, and enormously expensive. Their costs can be mitigated significantly if base closure proposals are accepted by civilian stakeholders. In short, competence enhances credibility, and credibility enhances economy.

That reasonable people are more likely to accept reasonable proposals that are presented by credible professionals is a truism in almost any arena, not just in the military. The CEP credential has contributed significantly to validation of senior environmental professionals in many or most arenas. Having earned my own CEP in the Functional Area of Environmental Assessment has enhanced my career as an environmental professional specializing in toxic substances and assessing risks to human health potentially posed by environmental factors. I am proud of ABCEP and the CEP credential conferred on me, which have enhanced my credibility and career, just as so many of my CEP colleagues have expressed similar feelings about the positive role of ABCEP and the CEP credential in their careers.

Literature Cited

Michaels, R. A.; and M. T. Kleinman (2000). Incidence and apparent health-significance of brief airborne particle excursions. Aerosol Science and Technology, 32:93-105, February;

Michaels, R. A. (1998). Permissible daily airborne particle mass levels encompass brief excursions to the ‘London fog’ range, which may contribute to daily mortality and morbidity in communities. Applied Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, 13(6):385-94, June;

Michaels, R. A. (1997). Particulate matter policy. Science, 278:1,696 (letter); 5 December;

Michaels, R. A. (1996). Airborne particle excursions contributing to daily average particle levels may be managed via a one-hour standard, with possible public health benefits. Aerosol Science and Technology, 25:437-44, November.


The National Association of Environmental Professionals (NAEP) and involved NAEP members exhibited pioneering vision in establishing the CEP credential. They exhibited continued vision in sustaining it throughout its tenure within NAEP, and they exhibit continuing vision today in supporting the Academy of Board Certified Environmental Professionals (ABCEP) as the CEP’s new guardian. Past and present members of the Certification Review Board (CRB) and of ABCEP have exhibited admirable dedication and volunteerism in serving the CRB, ABCEP, and the environmental professions. They did so, and they continue to do so, in a manner that has preserved and enhanced our credibility over the past three decades. I especially acknowledge the inspiring contributions of my predecessors as CRB Chairperson: Sherman Rosen (1979-‘86) and Charles F. (‘Chuck’) Zirzow (1986-‘93), whose funeral at Arlington National Cemetery I proudly and sadly attended in 1997.

For published version see:
Michaels, Robert A. Three decades of the CEP credential and environmental professional certification. Environmental Practice (Cambridge University Press), 11(1):52-56, March 2009

Copyright © 2009 by The Center for Health Risk Assessment and Management, a Division of RAM TRAC Corporation