The Benefits of the Certified Energy Manager (CEM) Designation for Energy-efficiency Professionals

It seems every industry has accreditations and certifications administered legally and by trade organizations. Many people wear them as a badge of authority proudly behind their name on their business cards and email. Some are readily identifiable while many others seem meaningless unless you are in that trade.

I have a lot of letters behind my name: AIA, LEED-AP O+M and CEM. There are a few others that I don’t bother to use on a day-to-day basis—not quite a full alphabet’s worth yet, but I’m working on it. Mine are fairly standard for my industry, but there is one that a lot of people don’t recognize and I get asked about frequently: my CEM designation.

The CEM designation is an acknowledgement of being a Certified Energy Manager sanctioned by the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE). The AEE is a well-respected trade organization based out of Atlanta that was founded in 1977 and is the main professional trade organization for those of us in the energy-efficiency business. By last count, there are over 14,000 CEM certified professionals.

CEM certification is an extremely rigorous certification that covers all aspects of how buildings use energy and how to examine them for potential savings. The certification is not available to just anyone and requires a balance of education in a related background (architecture, engineering, etc.) and experience in the field. Training for the certification can be done in a five-day class or a compressed three-day class. There are options for online training, as well. When I took the exam I opted to take the three-day compressed class. When they say compressed, they mean it. I took in enough information in those three days to make my head spin, and I had been working in the field for quite some time. The exam was extremely thorough and quite challenging. The material ranges from basic energy-efficiency knowledge to knowledge of the economics of energy efficiency and then deep dives into specific building systems.

So who is the type of person to benefit from a CEM designation? Typically, any individual involved with energy reduction or energy management in their line of work. Many large and small companies have dedicated staff to monitor building energy use or employees tasked with finding energy savings. Job seekers in energy-related fields typically are favored over candidates that do not have the designation. It is also a worthwhile designation for people like myself that work in the consulting world. I work with many different companies to help them reduce energy use. The CEM designation helps to show that I have had the proper training and am knowledgeable about how buildings use energy.

In some instances, governmental units and utility companies are now requiring that anyone performing energy-related work on buildings owned by the government or with utility energy optimization programs have a CEM certified team member. Many states are now requiring this, including Virginia and California.

To me, the CEM designation is a mark of my professional achievement in the energy-management world. As a consultant, I can say there are many jobs that I have won because the CEM designation helps me demonstrate I am one of the top professionals in my field and I bring good value to a project.

About the Author

Nathan M. Gillette
Nathan M. Gillette, AIA, LEED AP O+M, CEM, is director of Natura Architectural Consulting, Grand Rapids, Mich., and a retrofit editorial advisor. He works with clients to successfully implement and manage energy efficiency and sustainability projects.

6 Comments on "The Benefits of the Certified Energy Manager (CEM) Designation for Energy-efficiency Professionals"

  1. Nathan M. Gillette | August 31, 2016 at 8:42 am |

    Hi Andre, great question. While the CEM certification has a definite lean toward buildings and building systems, the principles of energy efficiency are universal. They just have to be applied to the specific industry. With mining you still have motors and process equipment that consume energy. All of which can usually be made to run more efficiently.

  2. It seems like a lot of focus has been placed on energy related work on buildings. Would you say that the CEM is just as applicable to the Mining and Industrial sectors?

  3. Hello Michael,

    I’ll be happy to follow up with you by email. Look for one shortly.


  4. Michael Leal | February 27, 2016 at 3:39 am |

    Hello Nate,

    Thanks very much for writing about this subject. I am an Army power generation veteran looking for some advice. I have an AAS in powerplant technology, and I have about 3 semesters left for a BAS-Energy Management Degree. I currently work in a Data Center as a Facility Engineer basically maintaining all of the electrical equipment and ensuring 100% up-time. I am very interested in a CEM credintial once I graduate. What types of things can I be doing while in school to start to gain more knowledge about the industry and what types of career opportunities are there for a fresh graduate? What other type of certifications could I be working on in the meantime? Thank you very much for any advice you give. Please respond via email if possible. [email protected]

  5. Hello Mitch,

    Gland to hear you’ve passed the exam. It’s a tough one for sure. AEE raised the bar high on that one.

    The CEM credential is a great one to leverage in commercial energy auditing. More and more programs are requiring that a CEM manage the energy auditing process. We’re seeing this is RFP’s that come out from from the various entities.

    Another area we’re seeing more traction with the CEM credential is in multifamily energy auditing. The credentials are a good compliment to a BPI or HERS accreditation.

    Another avenue that you may want to consider is being an in-house energy manager. More and more companies large and medium size are employing in house energy professionals to manage energy use and implement energy saving projects. Chain retail stores are a common group that have this.

    Hope that gives you a few avenues. Keep us posted on your progress as a CEM.

  6. Hi Nathan –
    I passed this exam earlier this year and I was hoping you could share some other ways to leverage this accomplishment. I agree that the credibility
    factor weighs in nicely with consulting work but what other avenues can be marketable? Federal incentives (179d) or other programs?

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