This is the third in Gilson’s series of blog posts on earning technical certifications in different areas of construction materials testing. This post is geared to certifications for asphalt technicians. Stakeholders in the paving industry know that certified asphalt professionals 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 specific certifications. State Departments of Transportation often post-certification requirements for industry professionals involved with 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). These are 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 help prepare for a specific asphalt technician certification examination – and even award the certification too.
Types of Asphalt Technician Certifications
AI, NCAT, and NICET all provide training programs that include examination and certification in basic areas of asphalt mix design and testing.
These agencies or state DOTs may also offer higher-level certifications reflecting elevated levels of knowledge and responsibility needed for 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.
|Agency||Designation||Required Experience, |
|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 the 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 the testing and inspection of construction materials.||Successfully passing the 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 the 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 courses and a technician certification program for testing performance graded binders. Other education and training programs serve industry professionals to increase knowledge and maintain continuing education units (CEUs). NCAT also presents a handful of other asphalt technician certification programs, some 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 home 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.
In addition to the Level I Technician Trainee certification listed earlier, there are three other asphalt certification training programs within NICET's Construction Materials Testing Asphalt. Each offers a progression of skills-based certification levels in the following designations:
- Level II – Associate Engineering Technician
- Level III – Engineering Technician
- Level IV – Senior Engineering 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 the new testing format
NICET changed its Work Element (WE) certification format to a standard model Computer-Based Testing (CBT) and phased out the WE on December 31, 2017. Applicants now test only through the CBT model. Additional information is available online. NICET’s CBT certification exams are administered at Pearson Vue Testing Centers located throughout the country.
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.
Once you earn the certification, make sure your name is included in your state DOT’s online list of certified industry professionals, or any other relevant lists.
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 the renewal date?
- How much Continuing Professional Development is required?
- What happens if the certification has lapsed?
Finally, there are other good resources to use as you prepare for and achieve that asphalt technician certification. Check out the links below for more information.
- Asphalt Binder Handbook
- Mix Design Methods, Practical Guide Book
- The Asphalt Handbook
- Construction of Hot-Mix Asphalt Pavements, Paperback Book
- 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