Want to Become a LEED AP?

Tue, 2015-03-03 09:23

Last Updated: 2017-04-20 03:13

Many moons ago, when LEED credentials were first established for green building professionals, there was a designation called LEED AP. It stood for LEED Accredited Professional. Things were simple back then. If you wanted to pursue a LEED credential, you became a LEED AP.

What Changed?

In April 2009, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) modified its LEED standards. The new version was called LEED 2009, or LEED Version 3. This version modified the credentialing process significantly. Instead of just one designation, three levels were born: LEED Green Associate, LEED AP with Specialty, and LEED Fellow.

Although they were given opportunities to opt into this new tiered process as a LEED AP with Specialty, the individuals who passed the LEED AP exam prior to 2009 were able to retain their namesake of a LEED AP if they wanted to. Now, six years later, there’s a new LEED version in town. Launched in July 2014, LEED Version 4 replaced LEED 2009. Given that so much has changed, the original LEED APs are no longer allowed to opt into the new system as quickly and easily as before. If they want to opt into the new version, they have to start at the beginning, with LEED Green Associate. Sure, they can keep the LEED AP status, but since it is somewhat outdated at this point, these individuals will be recognized as inactive LEED professionals.

LEED AP vs. LEED AP Specialty

So this brings us to an interesting conversation about LEED AP versus LEED AP with Specialty. They are not the same thing! You can identify a professional from before LEED 2009 if his or her name is followed simply by LEED AP. You can identify a professional from LEED 2009 if his or name is followed by a series of acronyms, such as LEED AP BD+C, LEED AP O+M, LEED AP ID+C, LEED AP ND, or LEED AP Homes. These five acronyms represent the five LEED AP specialties available under LEED 2009 (and going forward under LEED Version 4). Spelled out, these specialties are:

LEED AP Building Design and Construction

LEED AP Operations and Maintenance

LEED AP Interior Design and Construction

LEED AP Neighborhood Development


Nowadays, if you say that you want to become a LEED AP, you may or may not be referring to one of these advanced LEED AP specialties. Yes, I said advanced.

The first step to earning a LEED credential is to be a LEED Green Associate.

This is the mandatory first step for everyone, regardless of occupation, education, and experience. Everyone has to pass the LEED Green Associate exam before proceeding to a LEED AP with Specialty designation.

LEED Credential Process

For most people, LEED Green Associate is sufficient. If you work in the sustainability industry but maybe you don’t work on LEED projects, then a LEED Green Associate accreditation is perfectly sufficient for you. If, however, you do work on LEED projects in some regard, then you should consider advancing to the LEED AP specialty that most corresponds with your job responsibilities.

By and large, the most popular LEED AP specialties are LEED AP Building Design + Construction and LEED AP Operations and Maintenance. At Everblue, we provide exam prep training for LEED Green Associate as well as these two specialty designations. The LEED v4 exams for these designations debuted in July 2014.

But guess what? If you want to pursue LEED AP certification, you still need to work toward your LEED Green Associate first. Why? Because LEED Green Associate is the mandatory first step for everyone. Focus your efforts on earning the LEED Green Associate first so that you're eligible for the advanced LEED AP exams later.

The lesson for today is this: So you want to become a LEED AP? You must first earn your LEED Green Associate. No matter what. Get started now!

By Lesley Cowie