This is the third in Gilson’s series of blog posts on what to know when preparing for and taking a technician certification exam, and is geared to asphalt technician certifications. As with the concrete industry, expectations are that certified professionals working in asphalt paving have a higher level of expertise and experience, and a broader understanding of related standards and regulations at state and national levels. Those who award contracts for asphalt paving projects may require that the successful bidder provide workers who hold a specific certification(s). State Departments of Transportation often post certification requirements of industry professionals who work on their projects.
This post provides specifics on some of the different asphalt technician certifications available through the Asphalt Institute (AI), National Center for Asphalt Technology (NCAT), and the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET) – the three widely-used national agencies that test for and award certifications in asphalt. While many state DOTs also offer various asphalt technician certifications, keep in mind that the certification may only be valid in that state. We’ll share some links as a guide for what to search for in your own state DOT. Similarly, your State Asphalt Pavement Association or other agencies may offer workshops, seminars and courses that would help prepare for a specific asphalt technician certification examination – and even award the certification too.
Types of Asphalt Technician Certifications
Common certifications include Binder Technician Certification (AI), Asphalt Binder Technician (NCAT), and Technician Trainee Level I (NICET). These agencies or a state DOT may also offer certifications at higher designations for increasing levels of knowledge and responsibility that encompass mix design, materials control, quality control, field supervisor, lab technician, Superpave binder technician and more.
The table below highlights some basic asphalt certifications available through the AI, NCAT and NICET.
|Asphalt Institute||Certified Binder Technician||Work experience with testing of asphalt binders in compliance with AASHTO M 320 PG specification. Also 6 months or 60 days experience working directly under an NBTC or NETTCP certified technician.||Must first apply, and will be advised if qualified. Must pass both a written & laboratory proficiency examination.||Every five years.|
|NCAT||Asphalt Binder Technician||A background in asphalt is useful, but not required for this introductory course.||Must pass both a written and proficiency examination.||Determined by state the technician works in.|
|NICET||Level I: Technician Trainee||Has experience, knowledge and basic skills for working in asphalt. Designed for individuals involved in testing and inspection of construction materials.||Successfully passing required examination(s).||Every three years.|
These three agencies also offer other types and levels of technician certifications, and may additionally have study courses and programs in preparation for taking a technician examination. Some options are explored below.
The Asphalt Institute presents other education programs and training materials through its Asphalt Academy with a listing and calendar of upcoming training classes, certification examinations and locations posted online. They offer numerous basic technician training sessions for asphalt binder, emulsion and mix-design testing. One such is Mix Design Technology Certification … covering Superpave mix design process, Reclaimed Asphalt Pavement (RAP) mix design, specialty asphalt mixes, the full range of activities surrounding the design of asphalt mixtures, and more. It is a certification-optional course, with an examination on the last day. The Institute states that although several specifying agencies accept this certification in whole or part as meeting their requirements, applicants should verify this with their local agency. Check the institute's upcoming training schedule to learn when this course is offered.
National Center for Asphalt Technology offers numerous asphalt industry training and other and training educational programs as possible study resources in preparation for taking an asphalt technician certification exam. NCAT also presents a handful of other asphalt technician certification programs, most of which provide certification through the Alabama DOT. It is recommended that participants check with their own state DOT or other agency to confirm acceptance of this certification in their state.
The National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies provides technician certification programs/examinations for asphalt construction professionals at varying levels of expertise and skill.
Asphalt certification training programs encompass Construction Materials Testing Asphalt and Transportation, Highway Materials, each offering a progression of skills-based certifications from Level I to Level IV, currently in the following general designations:
- Level I – Laboratory Technician I, Field Technician, and Trainee
- Level II – Laboratory Technician II, Field Technician II, and QC/QA Technician
- Level III – Laboratory Technician III, Field Technician III, and Senior QA/QC Technician
- Level IV – Chief Technician Lab/ Field, and Chief QC/QC Technician
While no formal education is required, NICET does state “Program content at Level II and above assumes knowledge and skills based on work and/or educational experiences (college, self-study, correspondence courses, workshops, or field assignments, etc.) that develop knowledge equivalent to courses in construction or civil engineering technology or a closely related Associate Degree program coupled with internships.” Additional information on pre-requisites and prior work experience can be found in the asphalt technician profile within the Construction Materials Testing Asphalt, Concrete, Soils Program Detail Manual. This information is subject to change by year’s end (explained below).
Requirements for NICET technician certification include passing required exams (Levels I-IV), work experience (Levels I-IV), performance measures (Levels I-IV), personal recommendation (Levels III and IV), and major project write-up (Level IV). It is important to note that this information is also subject to change by year’s end based on modifications to NICET’s testing structure.
NICET transitioning to new testing format
NICET changed its Work Element (WE) certification format to a standard model Computer Based Testing (CBT) earlier this year; it will continue to phase out WE through December 31, 2017 at which point the WE component ends. Individuals who must retake a certification test, or who already took and passed a NICET certification exam and are now pursuing another certification, can still apply and test for WE through year’s-end. However, first-time applicants now test only through the CBT model – and all applicants will do so starting January 1, 2018. Additional information about WE and the asphalt standard CBT is available online. NICET’s CBT certification exams are administered at Pearson Vue Testing Centers located throughout the country.
As NICET continues to transition throughout 2017 and roll out all new exams, information will be updated online for the various asphalt, concrete and soils technician certifications, including the application process, content outlines, reference materials, fees, test structure, designations and so on. Information on CBT testing for the asphalt program, Level I, Technician Trainee and Level II, Associate Engineering Technician, is already available.
Look to others for certification programs
As stated earlier, state DOTs or asphalt associations can be resources for technician certification programs. For instance, Ohio DOT offers training and certifications through Flexible Pavements of Ohio. Similarly, the Asphalt Pavement Association of Oregon holds asphalt and mix design technician certification training and examinations several times during the year, along with other workshops.
Recertification through AI is every five years, while NICET recertifies every three years. Those holding an NCAT Asphalt Binder Certification should check with their state DOT for recertification guidelines. Keep the following in mind when recertifying:
- What is the recertification policy and criteria, including renewal date?
- How much Continuing Professional Development is required?
- What happens if the certification is lapsed?
Finally, there are other good resources to use as you pursue that asphalt technician certification – and once you achieve it, make sure your name is included in your state DOT’s online list of certified industry professionals, or any other relevant lists. Check out the links below for more information.
- Asphalt Binder Handbook, Mix Design Methods for Asphalt Concrete & Other Hot-Mix Types Book, The Asphalt Book, and Principles of Construction of Hot-Mix Asphalt Pavements
- National Asphalt Pavement Association Back to Basics Webinar Series or online training courses
- Check local colleges and state universities; e.g., Ferris State University in Michigan offers asphalt certification courses, as does Penn State University in conjunction with PennDOT
If you missed either of the first two blogs in this series, you can check them out: Construction Materials Testing: 7 Things to Know About Certification and The Road to Earning a Technical Certification in Concrete. Watch for our next post geared to aggregate technician certifications coming soon!