Want CleanTech Street Cred? Consider Becoming a CEM (Certified Energy Manager)

I wrote earlier about the US Green Building Council’s LEED AP (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional) certification program.  LEED is a 4-tier rating system for high-performing buildings that encourages a systemic approach to sustainable design.  Historically, most LEED APs were architects, mechanical engineers, and other niche green building professionals.  With the demand for green buildings and sustainable design booming, an increasing number of professionals are becoming LEED AP certified (more than 75K and climbing rapidly). For about $650 and a lot of focused studying and serious dedication, you too can become a LEED AP.

Becoming a LEED AP is one way to establish your CleanTech street cred if you’re transitioning from high tech or other industry, but it’s not the only professional certification available.  Other professional certifications are available from the Association of Energy Engineers, including:

  • Certified Energy Manager (CEM) – what I’ll highlight in this post
  • Certified Sustainable Development Professional (CSDP)*
  • Certified Carbon Reduction Manager (CCRM)*
  • Certified Green Building Engineer (CGBE)
  • 9 others focused on Air Quality, Power Quality, Lighting Efficiency…you get the picture

* These two are new and sound pretty cool.  I’ll cover these in a subsequent post.

The AEE takes their certification process very, very seriously — much more than the USBGC, which has an increasingly rigorous process for LEED APs.  Clearly, they don’t want their brand tarnished.  So, what is that brand, and what does it mean?

Simply put, the designation CEM, which stands for Certified Energy Manager, recognizes individuals who have demonstrated high levels of experience, competence, proficiency, and ethical fitness in the energy management profession. By attaining the status of CEM, you will be joining an elite group of 6,000 professionals serving industry, business and government throughout the U.S. and in 22 countries abroad. These high-achieving individuals comprise a “Who’s Who” in the energy management field.

Sounds good to me.  So what does it take to even be eligible to become a CEM?

  • A four-year engineering degree or architecture degree. Or a P.E. with at least three years experience in energy engineering or energy management.
  • A four-year business or related degree, with at least five years experience in energy engineering or energy management.
  • A two-year technical degree, with eight years experience in energy engineering or energy management.
  • Ten years or more verified experience in energy engineering or energy management.(Note: Letters of reference and verification of employment must be submitted.)

Sounds serious.  Is that all?  Not really, and unlike the LEED AP process, you can’t pay some money, study real hard, pass a test and presto!  No, the AEE makes you fully document your energy-related work history and personal references several weeks before you even register for the exam.  Here’s what it takes to become a CEM:

The Application Form provides an organized method for documenting professional and educational background, achievements and community service.

The Personal Data Form is divided into the following three parts:

Division I – Education

Division II – Professional Registration (i.e. PE, Registered Architect)

Division III – Experience and Activities in Energy Management

The applicant is requested to list on the Application Form all pertinent information in these categories for evaluation by the CEM Board.

The two areas of evaluation shall receive points as follows:

Application Form Data Maximum Score 1050 points Minimum Score Required 700

CEM Examination Maximum Score 1040 points Minimum Score Required 704

Total Required: Maximum Score 2090 points Minimum Score Required 1404

To be awarded the CEM designation, candidates must achieve the minimum total of 700 points on the CEM Application Data and minimum score of 704 points on the CEM examination individually for a total not less than 1404 points.

Get that?  You have to have a minimum profile score of 700 or it doesn’t even matter what you score on the exam.  The good news is that exam, if you’re qualified to take it, is open book.  You have to pass 3 mandatory* sections, then pick and pass 8 of the remaining 14 sections.

1. *Codes and Standards

2. *Energy Accounting and Economics

3. *Energy Audits and Instrumentation

1. Electrical Systems

2. HVAC Systems

3. Motors & Drives

4. Industrial Systems

5. Building Envelope

6. Cogeneration & CHP Systems

7. Energy Procurement

8. Building Automation and Control Systems

9. Green Buildings, LEED and Energy Star

10. Thermal Energy Storage Systems

11. Lighting Systems

12. Boiler and Steam Systems

13. Maintenance & Commissioning

14. Alternative Financing

I was seriously interested in becoming a CEM, but now, not so much.  I’m delighted with my LEED AP certification and appreciate how the training has got me thinking more holistically about sustainability.  I’m eager to learn more about the new AEE categories (Sustainable Development and Carbon Reduction), though I imagine prospects have to clear the same high qualifying hurdles as aspiring CEMs.  Either way you go, you need to stand out in a tremendously crowded job market if you want to get noticed — especially if you’re transitioning to CleanTech from another field.

Have any Question or Comment?

4 comments on “Want CleanTech Street Cred? Consider Becoming a CEM (Certified Energy Manager)

Nicholaus Harris

Wow, what a thing to work towards at least!


This is very good information. However I do not have energy related backgoround and I want to switch to clean tech industry.

Given my education background and limited amount of research in this field, I am reasonably sure that I can complete this certification.

All theses certifications have prior experience in energy management as a pre-requisite.

I woould like to know which certifications allow an outsider to this industry qualify and get certified.


I have just passed the CEM exam and would tell everyone to at least to try and pass it . They have a seminar that is 10 hour days over five days with the exam on the last day. Don’t think! you can just take the seminar and then pass ! its more of a review over the topics and it goes at high speed so if you are not familiar with the math the process’s and theory’s you would be better off to study for several months before you take the seminar and exam . i don’t want to scare you just prepare you for a brutal 4 hour exam which gives you about 2 minutes for each problem . To put this into perspective it took me just shy of a year until i achieved this …. But was well worth the investment of money and time, I have also passed LEED AP exam which took me 2 months.GOOD LUCK !!!!


If you do not have experience in energy engineering you can still take and pass teh exam and get a EMIT (engineerng manager in traing)certification. You then have 3 or 4 years to get the experience and qualify for CEM desigination. Good Luck

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