Certification Maintenance

Certification Maintenance Requirements for the ELS Credential

Beginning in January 2024, individuals who are certified as Editors in the Life Sciences, ELS or ELS(D), by the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences (BELS) must renew their certification every 5 years. The renewal deadline will be December 31 of the fifth year from when the certification was earned or last renewed.

Certificants may renew their ELS/ELS(D) certification by earning credits for qualified professional development and related activities (documented with a credit tracker) OR by retaking and passing the BELS exam.

Recertification Fees:

  • Recertify by Credits: The fee for recertification by credit tracking will be $100 per 5-year cycle for dues-paying BELS members and $200 for nonmembers.
  • Recertify by Exam: Those who choose to recertify by taking the examination will pay the current examination “retake” registration rate but not the fee for initial application.
  • Request an Extension: An additional fee of $50 can be paid to obtain an extension of 6 months (that is, until June 30 after the original renewal deadline) for submitting the renewal materials (but not for earning additional credits past the renewal deadline). This extension request must be received no later than January 31 of the year after the renewal deadline. In this instance, if certification is renewed within the extension period, it is done so retroactively such that the original 5-year cycle schedule will stand for the next renewal period.

Names of certificants who do not renew their certification or request a 6-month extension by the end of the 5-year cycle will be removed from the online roster of current Editors in the Life Sciences, and these individuals may no longer use the ELS or ELS(D) credential after their names. At that point, taking the examination again will be the only way to reobtain the credential (note that the usual application and registration processes and fees for the exam will apply).

Certificants who retire (and therefore are no longer working as editors in the life sciences) are not expected to renew their ELS/ELS(D) credential every 5 years. Instead, they may complete a form to notify BELS of their change in employment status, and their names will be moved to a “Retired” category of the ELS/ELS(D) roster.

To renew certification through the credits system:

  • Certificants must complete a minimum of 50 credits to demonstrate ongoing professional growth through various qualified activities, each being worth a specified number of credits. For example, educational activities are granted 1 credit per hour of learning activity. Other types of activities are also assigned credit values, sometimes with a limit. For example, membership in a professional organization is limited to 1 credit per year (even if memberships exist in multiple organizations), with a maximum of 5 credits per 5-year renewal cycle.
  • All requirements and eligible activities must be complete when the renewal application and tracker are submitted, and credits must have been earned within the 5-year renewal period. For example, those who passed the BELS exam between January 1, 2023, and December 31, 2023, may use credits earned for activities they complete between January 1, 2024, and December 31, 2028.
  • When renewing for the first time, certificants who are dues-paying BELS members and who earned their ELS or ELS(D) before January 2024 may submit their renewals early for both a discounted fee and a reduced credit requirement (for eligible activities from within the previous 5 years to the renewal application, i.e., activities from January 1, 2020 for a renewal application made by December 31, 2024), as follows:
    • 25 credits submitted by December 31, 2024, for $50 (next 5-year renewal cycle begins January 1, 2025) – 13 credits from Education and Professional Development category
    • 30 credits submitted between January 1 and December 31, 2025, for $60 (next 5-year renewal cycle begins January 1, 2026) – 15 credits from Education and Professional Development category
    • 35 credits submitted between January 1 and December 31, 2026, for $70 (next 5-year renewal cycle begins January 1, 2027) – 18 credits from Education and Professional Development category
    • 40 credits submitted between January 1 and December 31, 2027, for $80 (next 5-year renewal cycle begins January 1, 2028) – 20 credits from Education and Professional Development category

Otherwise, the standard 5-year renewal cycle will apply for these individuals (50 credits submitted by December 31, 2028, for $100, with the next 5-year renewal cycle beginning January 1, 2029).

  • To renew with credits, the application form and credit tracker must be completed and submitted or sent to BELS with the appropriate recertification renewal fee. No additional documents are needed. However, 10% of all renewal applications will be audited to ensure the integrity of the honor-based system. Upon request from BELS, applicants will be required to send the appropriate documentation electronically or by mail for each qualifying activity listed in the credit tracker.
  • Credits are awarded in 4 categories as described below. Please refer to the credit tracker for detailed activity descriptions and examples. A minimum of 50 credits must be earned within each 5-year renewal cycle to demonstrate ongoing professional growth (with a one-time exception for those achieving the Diplomate designation, as noted below).
    • At least 25 of these credits (and no more than 40) must be earned through editing-related Education and Professional Development. While there are many eligible activities offered by multiple groups and organizations to earn credits in this category, each activity should relate directly or have some relevance to the work of editors in the life sciences.
    • Certificants may earn the remaining 10 to 25 credits through one or more of the remaining categories: Service, Contributions, and Experience.
    • Of note, earning the Diplomate designation, ELS(D), will automatically count for the next certification renewal requirement. Certificants should simply complete the credit tracker with the “Diplomate” option and return with the appropriate fee to renew certification for another 5 years. The time when the Diplomate was earned will not matter, but this option may only be used once by any individual to renew certification. The certificant’s original certification cycle will not change regardless of when the Diplomate is earned during the 5-year renewal period. This option of applying the Diplomate designation to fulfill the certification maintenance requirement is available to a certificant only once; once applied, the usual renewal process shall be followed. 
Category Subcategories Annual Max Total Max
Diplomate Diplomate Status 50 50
Education and Professional Development Presentation (Attendee) 30 40
Academic Course (Attendee)* 30 30
Self-directed Study 3 15
Mentorship (Mentee)* 3 6
Professional Service Committee Volunteer 6 25
Portfolio Review 6 25
Exam Proctor 3 15
Membership 1 5
Recognition 1 5
Contributions to the Profession Mentorship (Mentor)* 4 20
Presentation (Presenter)* 25 25
Writing Article* 25 25
Professional Experience Work Activity* 5 25


Click here to download the table as an image.


  • Each academic course is worth 10 points for a typical semester-long course.
  • Each instance of writing an article for newsletters, trade publications, or peer-reviewed journals (including websites, blogs, etc.) is worth 5 points. There is no word count minimum, but the article should be about a topic that relates to editing in the life sciences.
  • Being a presenter is worth 3 points per presentation.
  • Work activity is worth up to 5 credits per year and is defined as full time employment of at least 3 months or ~500 hours (roughly based on a 40-hour work week). For freelancers, 100 hours of billed work is required per 1 credit, with up to 5 credits maximum per year.
  • Mentorship activities must be outside of day-to-day work activities, such as between senior team members or managers and junior team members or new hires.

Additional Notes:

  • For the category "Educational and Professional Development", 1 credit shall be granted per hour of documented activity; additional time outside of the activity (for example, preparing for the activity or doing homework) do not count as additional credit hours. 
  • For the category "Educational and Professional Development", eligible activities include seminars/webinars, workshops, conference sessions, etc. offered through BELS or other allied organizations that are relevant to the work of editors in the life sciences.
  • For the category "Professional Service, subcategory Membership", 1 credit will be granted per year of membership in a professional organization.

Certification Maintenance FAQ

Click here to view the BELS Certification Maintenance: Panel Discussion and Q&A Town Hall event recording.

Ready to renew your certification?

STEP 1: Access Credit Tracker – Add and View Credits

STEP 2: Complete the Certification Maintenance Form