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Certified outdoor educator

Use these links to navigate through this page and to review the information regarding the process to pursue recognition as a Certified Outdoor Educator.


The Certified Outdoor Educator (COE) credential recognizes the professional qualifications of individuals who work in programs that provide structured training and assessment/evaluation in outdoor leadership development. These professionals are committed to excellence and have proven their ability to deliver quality outdoor leadership experiences. In addition, COEs have also demonstrated proficiency in educating, evaluating, and assessing outdoor leadership training and development experiences based on the WEA 6+1. The COE is critical to the training and recognition of WEA Certified Outdoor Leaders (COLs).


There are two pathways to becoming a Certified Outdoor Educator:

1. WEA-accredited Organization. Educational organizations that provide outdoor leadership and education training can be accredited by the WEA. Accredited organizational members have established approved processes for training COE candidates within their program. Candidates must follow the process outlined by their organization; final approval of certification comes from the attending COE.

2. The Professional Path. The vast majority of outdoor professionals interested in and eligible for the COE have already completed a post-secondary or graduate degree and have accumulated extensive field time and experience. The professional path provides access to the COE certification without enrolling in another extensive educational program. In summary, the current outdoor professional provides evidence of field and teaching experience directly relevant to the WEA 6+1 via a digital portfolio filled with original-work artifacts (other certifications, lesson plans, created rubrics, professional training, presentations/ publications, etc.). Individual artifacts are weighted  according to relevance and connection to the WEA 6+1. The portfolio is reviewed by current Certified Outdoor Educators and approved once the minimum point threshold is reached.

Individuals interested in pursuing the Professional Path should contact the WEA National Office with any questions and to complete the Certified Outdoor Educator Enrollment Application ($30 application fee). Attending a COE Clinic is one step in the process of building a digital portfolio.

Two Pathways to the COE Credential

Accredited Organization Pathway

  1. WEA Training: Satisfactory completion of the training program with WEA-accredited organization
  2. Minimum Fieldwork: Completion of 100 days (refer to Professional Field Experience below)
  3. Portfolio:
      • Introductory Cover Letter
      • Resume
      • Wilderness Education Philosophy Statement
      • Field experience Inventory/trip log

Professional Pathway

  1. Submission of application.
  2. WEA Training: completion of COE Clinic
  3. Minimum Fieldwork: completion of 100 days (refer to Professional Field Experience below)
  4. Portfolio:
      • Introductory Cover Letter
      • Resume
      • Wilderness Education Philosophy Statement
      • Field experience Inventory/trip log
      • Recommendations letter from current supervisor
      • Artifacts and Evidence

Target Audience

Program directors, university faculty, full-time staff, owner/operators of outdoor programs

Medical Qualifications

The Certified Outdoor Educator credential is not valid without medical training appropriate for the specific context and setting.

Certification Fee

  • COE Application and $30 Application Fee
  • Either: $125 (Accreditation Path) OR $275 (Professional Path)
  • Maintain WEA Professional Membership
  • Recertification Fee of $150 along with maintenance requirements

Maintenance (includes renewal and/or expiration)

  • Document a minimum of 10 professional days annually
  • Maintain WEA Professional membership
  • Maintain digital portfolio (audited annually)
  • Maintain medical training appropriate for your professional setting.
  • Acquire continuing education units with recertification cycle (Initially 3 years, 5 years thereafter)


The WEA Certified Outdoor Educator must have a strong history of professional field experience as an outdoor leader and educator: a minimum of 100 field days in leadership, as assistant or apprentice, or as Leader-in-Training within an outdoor program. Fieldwork will be documented in a trip log, Field Experience Inventory, or similar document that can be uploaded to the required digital portfolio.


The COE Clinic is an approximately 20-hour course designed to familiarize participants with the WEA certification levels and process and communicate to participants how to incorporate the WEA Credentialing Program into their curricula and outdoor expeditions. We will also review the curriculum associated with various credentials and applicants may also expect to participate in teaching during the clinic. The clinic is an opportunity for professionals to share ideas and collaborate with other instructors.

The next Certified Outdoor Educator (COE) clinic will be held in Black Mountain, NC in February 2024.

Dates: February 5-7, 2024

Cost: $500

Location: Black Mountain, NC

Duration: 20-hour clinic

Clinic Details: More Info Here

Registration: NOW OPEN!

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Wilderness Education Association, Inc.
151 NC Highway 9, Ste B, Box 136
Black Mountain, NC 28711

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