NALMS Professional Certification Program

The aim of the Professional Certification Program is to identify individuals who have exceptional training and experience in lake ecology and management. The three-year recertification system guides the certified professionals to continue their professional growth and contribution to the NALMS mission by sharing their lake management expertise beyond their daily professional obligations.

To gain a NALMS certification, an individual must demonstrate training and expertise through a specified combination of education and experience. To maintain certification, one must continue learning through the acquisition of NALMS Continuing Education Units (NCEUs). This learning is best accomplished by participation in NALMS programs, but alternative sources are recognized with proper documentation. While initial certification requires a substantial commitment on the part of the applicant, NALMS places a high premium on continuing education for recertification to ensure that the highest standards of professional awareness and performance are maintained. NALMS issues three levels of certification as follows:

Certified Lake Manager (CLM) (top tier certification)

The term “lake manager” generally refers to a person who manages a pond, lake, or reservoir and its watershed and makes decisions that affect the quality and uses of the waterbody. A typical lake manager is primarily responsible for making recommendations to the governing management body regarding the implementation of a management program and for supervising or conducting that implementation.

A NALMS Certified Lake Manager (CLM) is a highly competent lake manager who has satisfied the NALMS certification requirements in terms of scientific knowledge as well as professional experiences. CLMs make lake management decisions and/or provide final technical recommendations to legislative bodies or non-technical final decision-makers. Three years minimum of full-time professional experience as a management decision-maker is a prerequisite before the quality of the experience is closely vetted by the evaluators. CLM is the highest professional certification issued by NALMS.

As of 2022, the certification category of Certified Lake Professional (CLP) is merged with CLM to equitably recognize dynamic and diverse career paths of highly trained lake professionals today and to facilitate early career lake managers to develop theirs without being restricted within silos. Previously issued (provisional) CLPs are still valid as long as they are unexpired and accompanied with current membership in good standing. Current CLPs will be automatically converted into CLMs as of 1 January 2023 unless they opt out by emailing Current provisional CLPs and provisional CLMs (pCLMs and pCLPs), according to the rules at the time of their certification, are valid for 3 years after the initial certification and need to apply for LMT or CLM before their current pCLM/pCLP expires to transition into the new 3-tier system.

Lake Management Associate (LMA, 2nd tier certification)

A NALMS Lake Management Associate (LMA) is an early career professional with solid (typically 1 to 3+ years) full-time professional experience who is yet to reach the career stage of routinely making final lake management decisions. Applicants with > 3 years of non-decision-making full time experience are in this category (e.g., a field technician with decades of experience but limited involvement in lake management decision-making). LMA is equivalent to the more experienced subgroup of the early career professionals previously certified as provisional CLPs and provisional CLMs (pCLMs and pCLPs). NALMS LMA signifies a professional with solid competency in routine lake management operations who has good potential to earn a CLM in the future if they increase their competency in lake management decision making.

Lake Management Trainee (LMT, 3rd tier/entry level certification)

A NALMS Lake Management Trainee (LMT) is an early career professional who satisfies the educational requirements and have recently entered the lake management profession on a full-time basis. An LMT is either a new or recent graduate who has completed college or university coursework suitable for a successful career in lake management OR a person who has achieved the same level of career-preparedness through a combination of college/university coursework, continued education, and/or on-the-job training. NALMS LMT signifies an entry level person with an optimal combination of education in lake and watershed science, communication, business, and policy who is ready for rigorous on-the-job training in lake management that prepares them for accelerated professional advancement. LMT requires demonstrated engagement in lake management; it will not be issued to those who are collecting certifications across various professions.

What do you get when you receive a NALMS certification?


  • You will receive a framed certificate and an electronic seal (upon request) to display your expert status to your current and potential clients/customers, employers, partners/collaborators, etc.
  • Get noticed in our online CLM, LMA, and LMT directory. The directory connects you with people or groups seeking help. (Viewable to the general public.)
  • Certified members are searchable in the main NALMS Member Directory. (Viewable to NALMS members only.)

Special Attention

  • NALMS leadership and staff use CLMs, LMAs, and LMTs as primary resources for references and referrals.

Continued Professional Growth

  • The 3-year recertification system ensures that CLMs, LMAs, and LMTs maintain their professional knowledge current and give back to the lake management community via service and leadership activities.

Submit Your Application

For complete details on professional certification, please refer to the NALMS Professional Certification Program (PCP) Handbook. Please read the handbook thoroughly before beginning your application.

Download the PCP Handbook.

Certification Application Recertification Application


Contact the Professional Certification Program Lead at