Which Commissioning Certificate Is Right For You?

Get the career boost you need to take on more responsibility, land a new job or project, or become more recognized in the industry, by earning a commissioning certificate from UW-Madison.

But which one is right for you?

UW-Madison currently offers two options: a Commissioning Certificate and Building Enclosure Commissioning Certificate. Both certificates can be extremely helpful, but they have different emphases.

Joy Altwies, UW-Madison program director, recently shared her thoughts on how to choose the right credential.

  1. UW: Which certificate do most people pick?
    JA: Most people choose the broader Commissioning certificate. However, if your primary work area is architecture or structural engineering and you’re interested in getting into commissioning, roofing, wall systems—enclosure is your primary target. Enclosure is specific—and for people who are, for example, trying to avoid roof-wall failures or prevent water intrusion.
  2. UW: Can you complete both? Are there any advantages to doing this?
    JA: Yes, and that has really helped some people. In regards to advantages, even just taking the three-day course (without the exam) can be extremely helpful to get the ASHRAE Guideline 0 knowledge.
  3. UW: Do I need a college degree?
    JA: There are no prior requirements, and no degree requirements. Basically, if you can pass the exam, you’re good to go.
  4. UW: There are two course options to choose from. Which option should I take?
    JA: Both options are suitable for everyone. They cover the same material, but with a different focus.

    • That said, Option 1 is a three-day course plus one of the two-day courses. It’s the broadest class, and it has more information about why you would do commissioning, its benefits and costs. This course is heavily aimed at owners or commissioning authorities, and is good for anyone who is specializing in LEED or existing buildings.
    • Option 2 is a straight five-day class and is referred to as the “advanced” course because of its intensity. During the course, we do workshops, write checklists, complete tests, etc. This course was written by the BCA and was originally intended to train commissioning authorities. However, many attendees aren’t commissioning authorities.
  5. UW: Do I need to know HVAC?
    JA: It doesn’t hurt, but it is not required.
  6. UW: Does UW’s certificate differ from other institutions’ programs? If so, how?
    JA: All of the certifications from UW-Madison are education-based, which means that you need to complete courses before taking the exam. We do not focus on your past degrees or project work. We are strictly interested in knowing whether you have the knowledge.
  7. UW: Why is a certification helpful?
    JA: There are several reasons. First, some employers look for these certifications when hiring. Second, those who are more advanced in commissioning could use this to go out on their own and start a consulting firm. Third, it’s something a client could use. For example, a client might prefer to hire someone who has completed this training. Some government clients are starting to require a commissioning certificate. While it’s not the only factor when hiring, it can definitely help.
  8. UW: How many people have completed a certification?
    JA: More than 1,300. Every time we run a course, the number of attendees increases.
  9. UW: What about the advanced certifications?
    JA: They are more long-term. They are based on project experience and are not necessarily easy to get because the projects must follow ASHRAE guidelines. I recommend waiting until after you complete your initial commissioning certification before working toward the advanced certifications.
  10. UW: Do you have to renew your commissioning certificate?
    JA: Yes. The renewal process consists of an online test—which is really just a short quiz that can be retaken if necessary.
  11. UW: Are certification recipients generally from the Madison, Wisconsin area?
    JA: We attract people from around the globe. Many are from Europe, Mexico, and South America. We also have a lot of military contractors—civilian employees in the military doing construction.
  12. UW: Is the commissioning exam difficult?
    JA: Yes. Not everyone passes the first time, but you can retake it for free. (You do not have to complete the course again to retake the exam).
  13. UW: If I had to retake the exam, how would I prepare?
    JA: I try to give students feedback on which parts of the exam they should focus on during the retake. If you decide to retake the exam, I recommend that you attend the review session again.