Courses and Certifications

About our Courses and Certifications

The Interpretive Guides Association offers a series of training courses and exams that help individuals create the skills and knowledge to effectively communicate our unique local natural and cultural heritage to visitors while also keeping them safe when taking them outdoors.

Our training and certification programs will help people working in the following areas:

  • hiking guides
  • teachers
  • outdoor leaders
  • museum educators
  • bus tour guides
  • information centre staff
  • rafting guides
  • cycling and mountain biking guides
  • horse packing guides
  • scuba guides
  • mountain guides
  • writers, YouTubers, and influencers
  • anyone interested in learning more about how to effectively communicate their messages with others and/or keeping them safe in the outdoors.

Our courses range from 4hrs – 48 hrs in length to suit the needs of different individuals from mountain enthusiasts to professional guides.

We offer courses in:

  1. knowledge acquisition of the Mountain National Parks -Basic knowledge course, Apprentice Interpreter 2-day course, and the Professional Interpreter Course
  2. Interpretation - Apprentice Interpreter (1 and 2-day course), Interpretive Specialist, and Professional Interpreter
  3. Safety certification for land-based guiding - Three-season and four-season Group Management Course.

Please explore this page and the individual pages for each of our courses to learn more about our courses and certification options for Interpretive Guides and Interpretive Hiking Guides.

Course Schedule and Languages

Our public courses are generally scheduled in May, June, November and February each year and are available in English, French, and Japanese. If you have a group of 10 or more we may be able to schedule a private course to fit your schedule.

Upcoming courses are listed at the bottom of this page. If you don't see the course you want listed, please contact us.

Tous nos cours de certification sont disponibles en français. Veuillez nous contacter si vous souhaitez en savoir plus.

What is Interpretive Guiding?

These days, many travellers are seeking out adventure-based experiences that do more than just get them to that beautiful viewpoint or a spectacular sunset.

Interpretive guiding is a profession. We earn a living by showing our guests special places or resources, entertaining them, and, most importantly helping them discover these places or resources in a way they couldn’t on their own. Being able to do this well, takes skill, knowledge, and expertise.

Our interpretation courses and certifications will help you focus your knowledge and expertise in a way that will offer your guests the best experience possible. As professionals, it is important that we are well trained so we can provide authentic and inspiring experiences.

“Interpretation attempts to communicate in a thought-provoking way to an audience that’s completely free to ignore it.”

Sam Ham

We have three levels of Interpretation training

Group management (Hiking Guide) training

A Group Management course paired with an Interpreter Certification will certify you as an Interpretive Hiking Guide.

Interpreter and Apprentice Hiking Guide

Basic Knowledge Courses

We also offer a general introductory course called the Basic Knowledge Course. This course is currently available for Banff/Kootenay/Yoho National Parks, Jasper National Park, Waterton Lakes National Park and the Tofino, BC region.

The Basic Knowledge course is a 4-hour overview of each region’s natural and cultural heritage and the guide’s role in protecting and presenting that heritage. Basic Knowledge Courses are designed to introduce course participants to what makes the region unique, and inspire them to learn more about the area to captivate their guests through the stories they tell.

This course is an excellent training tool for van and bus drivers, tourism staff and activity guides such as raft guides, ACMG guides, horse outfitters, scuba guides, or anyone who wants to augment their knowledge.

Our Certifications

Basic Knowledge

The Basic Knowledge Certification is required to work as an activity guide in a number of locations.

It's an attestation that you know the local natural history, cultural history, and resource management of a region and have a basic understanding of the role and purpose of interpretation.

We currently offer Basic Knowledge Certifications for Banff, Kootenay, Yoho National Parks, Jasper National Park, Waterton Lakes National Park, and the Tofino, BC region.

To keep your Basic Knowledge Certification in good standing with the Interpretive Guides Association, you must pay a yearly administration fee.


Apprentice Interpreter

The Apprentice Interpreter Certification allows you to work as an interpretive guide in the Canadian Rockies (Banff, Canmore, Kootenay, Yoho and Jasper) National Parks.

It demonstrates that you have a good understanding of practical interpretation skills and knowledge of this region's local natural history, cultural history, and national park management.

The Apprentice Interpreter certification is intended as an entry-level certification. It is designed as a stepping stone to the Interpretive Specialist or Professional Interpreter certification.

To keep your Apprentice Interpreter Certification in good standing, you must pay the yearly professional dues and complete a minimum of ten hours of professional development.

Interpretive Specialist

The Interpretive Specialist Certification is designed for individuals working in a wide variety of interpretive fields, such as:

  • Tour Guides
  • Interpretive Guides
  • Activity/Trail Guides (hiking, climbing, mountaineering, snowshoe, rafting, canoe, kayak, horseback, etc.)
  • Museum Interpreters and Staff
  • Educators
  • Information Centre Staff

The Interpretive Specialist Certificate demonstrates you have polished and well-practiced Heritage Interpretation skills.

To keep your Interpretive Specialist Certification in good standing, you must pay the yearly professional dues and complete a minimum of ten hours of professional development.

Professional Interpreter

The Professional Interpreter certification formally recognizes the knowledge, experience and interpretive skill of guides working in Canada's mountain national parks.

Interpreters at this level typically have a minimum of 1200 hrs of experience in the field, and many have relevant University or College education. They have also passed the required oral project and written exam.

Pursuing the Professional Interpreter certification means you are committed to Interpretive Guiding as a career. You have outstanding knowledge of the region's natural and cultural history and exceptional interpretive skills.

To keep your Professional Interpreter certification in good standing, you must pay the yearly professional dues and complete a minimum of ten hours of professional development.

Master Interpreter

The Interpretive Guides Association’s Master Interpreters are an integral part of our community of interpretive guides.

Master Interpreters are leaders in interpretive guiding, and their dedicated actions have moved the profession forward. Both visitors and locals have benefited from the stories and wisdom so willingly shared by this group of outstanding individuals.

To become certified as a Master Interpreter, your name must be brought forward for review. The individual who brings your name forward must demonstrate your expertise through letters of recommendation collected from other Master Interpreters and colleges who know of your work.

Interpretive Hiking Guide

A Group Management course paired with an Interpreter Certification will certify you as an Interpretive Hiking Guide.

The Group management course does provide you with a stand-alone certification. An Apprentice Interpreter, Interpretive Specialist or Professional Interpreter certification is a pre-requisite for this course.

The Interpretive Guides Association offers two versions of the Group Management certification.

  • The 3 Season Interpretive Hiking Guide certification allows you to guide in spring, summer and fall
  • The 4 Season Interpretive Hiking certification allows you to guide year round.

Upcoming Training Courses

26 May
Banff / Canmore

Forest Bathing Workshop Sale has ended

Join Ronna for a forest bathing experience to relax and rejuvenate. Following that, learn tips and tricks on how to weave in mindful moments and forest bathing opportunities during your walk.
Cost: $70
28 May

Apprentice Interpreter (MERS) – May 28, 2024

This is an in-person course in interpretation that is open to everyone, offered May 28th in partnership with the Marine Education and Research Society (MERS). Those who have taken or are registered to take the MERS marine mammal course can get a discount of $25 off the price of this course. Ask your MERS representative for your coupon code and apply it at check out. The course begins at 8:30am and ends at 6:00pm (Pacific Time). To register, ensure you have your IGA membership purchased beforehand and that you're signed in to your account.
Cost: $185
30 May
Banff / Canmore

Canadian Rockies Glacier Stories Workshop Sold Out

Hosted by IGA guide, author, and photographer Lynn Martel, this one-day field trip will immerse you in the world of Canadian Rockies glaciers while hiking along some of the Rockies' most iconic lakes.
03 - 04 June
On Zoom

Apprentice Interpreter – Canadian Rockies – June 3-4, 2024 Sold Out

The Apprentice Interpreter course takes place June 3-4 (virtually over Zoom). The course begins at 8:30am and ends at 5:30pm both days with an exam from 5:30-6:30pm on the 2nd day. To register ($369 + GST), ensure you have an IGA membership purchased and that you're signed in to your account.
  • Day 1  8:30am - 5:30pm
  • Day 2  8:30am - 6:30pm
Cost: $369
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Online Courses


Basic Knowledge Online Course – Waterton Lakes


Basic Knowledge Online Course – Jasper National Park


Basic Knowledge Online Course – Banff, Yoho, Kootenay