Welcome to our program!

The Interpretive Guides Association offers a series of training courses and exams designed to provide and certify guides with skills and knowledge to effectively communicate our unique local natural and cultural heritage to visitors. We provide training focused on sharing the natural and cultural heritage of the areas we work in for:

  • hiking guides
  • museum interpreters
  • bus tour guides
  • information centre staff
  • rafting guides
  • cycling and mountain biking guides
  • horse packing guides
  • scuba guides
  • mountain guides
  • and anyone interested in learning more about the the areas we teach.

We also offer group management training for Interpretive Hiking Guides.

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

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. Please explore these pages to learn more about our courses and certification options for Interpretive Guides and Interpretive Hiking Guides.

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


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 two “streams” that most of our training courses and certifications fall into:

1) Interpretive Guide. Course offerings and certifications include:

  • Apprentice Interpreter
  • Interpretive Specialist
  • Professional Interpreter
  • Master Interpreter (Note: The Master Interpreter certification appointed to individuals who stand out as true masters of interpretive guiding. There is no course for the certification)

2) Interpretive Hiking Guide. Course offerings and/ certifications include:

  • Apprentice Hiking Guide
  • Interpretive Hiking Guide
  • Professional Interpretive Hiking Guide
  • Note: To be certified as a Hiking Guide you must complete a Group Management course

We also offer a general introductory course called the Basic Knowledge Course

All of our courses are offered in English, French, and Japanese; please look under course registrations to find the course that suits you best.


The Basic Knowledge Course provides a broad overview of the local natural history, cultural history, park management and a brief introduction to the role and purpose of interpretation. It is great as a staff training tool for van drivers, tourism staff and for activity guides like raft guides, ACMG mountain guides, and scuba guides.


The Apprentice Interpreter certificate is designed as a stepping stone to the Professional Interpreter Accreditation. This 2-day course covers natural history of the Rocky Mountain national parks, cultural history of Banff, Jasper, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks, management of Canada’s National Parks and an introduction to effective interpretation skills.  Apprentice Interpreters who successfully complete the 2-day Group Management course are awarded the “Apprentice Hiking Guide”  certification.


The Interpretive Specialist certificate offers a more in-depth look at the fundamentals of Heritage Interpretations. In this 2-day course, we begin with the theory of the 4 qualities of thematic interpretation – T.O.R.E. Once the foundation has been set, we workshop our way through an interpretive program. This hands-on course focuses on group interaction to help the creativity flow. By working on building your program ideas in a safe group setting you’ll begin to feel comfortable and confident with the materials and be inspired to carry this effective communication process into your daily guiding.


The Professional Interpreter accreditation formally recognizes the knowledge, experience and interpretive skill of guides working in the mountain 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 and written exams. Professional Interpreters who successfully complete the Group Management course are upgraded to the “Professional Interpretive Hiking Guide” accreditation.


The Master Interpreter is the highest level of accreditation we offer. Only those with extensive knowledge of local natural and cultural history and whose actions in the field demonstrate masterful application of interpretation skills are considered for this level of accreditation.


The Group Management  course is designed to complement the training provided in tour interpretation courses and prepare Interpretive Guides to safely lead interpretive day hikes on established park trails.

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 Course. In the spring, we offer a 2-day, 3 Season course. This course will certify you as a 3 Season Hiking Guide (spring, summer and fall). In the late fall and winter, we offer a 3-day, 4 Season course. This course will certify you as a 4 Season Hiking Guide.

Currently Available Courses & EventsCalendar View

October 05, 2021

Climate Change, Interpretation, and Hope: How to talk about the elephant in the room

As Interpreters, we often need to speak about challenging or divisive hot topics. In this professional development session lead by Gareth Thomson we will explore best practices for Interpreters, approaching issues in positive and constructive ways, as well as strategies and tactics when speaking about climate change.

Course Details Register Now

October 15, 2021

Interpretive Specialist - October 15, 19, 22 & 26, 2021

Interpretive Specialist - October 15, 19, 22 & 26, 2021 online Via Zoom. This 17-hour course covers thematic interpretation creation and delivery that will help you take your interpretive programs and career to the next level.

Course Details Register Now

Purchase Group Management Handbook

Purchase Group Management Handbook

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Purchase Canadian Rockies Natural/Cultural History Handbook

Purchase Canadian Rockies Natural/Cultural History Handbook

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Achetez le manuel d'interprétation

Achetez le manuel d'interprétation

Course Details Register Now

Purchase Interpretation Handbook

Purchase Interpretation Handbook

Course Details Register Now

Basic Knowledge Online Course - Banff, Yoho, Kootenay

Basic Knowledge Online Course - Banff, Yoho, Kootenay

Course Details Register Now

Basic Knowledge Online Course - Jasper National Park

Basic Knowledge Online Course - Jasper

Course Details Register Now