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Certified outdoor leader

The qualifications and competence of the Certified Outdoor Leader have been demonstrated, assessed, and evaluated according to the WEA standards of outdoor leadership. The COL is not a casual participant on an outdoor trip, but clearly an experienced leader who is committed to personal growth and development. The goal of the WEA Certified Outdoor Leader (COL) is to recognize leaders who are proficient in the WEA 6+1 and equipped to:

  • Plan and deliver high-quality wilderness experiences;
  • Model responsible minimum impact practices; and
  • Exercise good judgment and effective decision-making across a range of program settings.

The COL program is a practical, frontline leadership training process, i.e., the Certified Outdoor Leader has been trained in the WEA 6+1, has demonstrated competence in outdoor leadership, and is ready to integrate that training with activity-specific skill development (rock climbing, paddlesports, mountaineering, skiing, etc.).

NOTE: This certification is not valid without current medical qualifications appropriate for the specific context and setting where the COL operates.


The current Certified Outdoor Leader certification was designed to privilege professional field experience as well as rigorous and comprehensive training and assessment. As a brief overview, the COL has:

  • Completed a minimum of 10 days of WEA-specific training (the OLTC);

  • Documented a minimum of 30 days of professional field experience (verified by the COE); 

  • Successfully passed a 5-day minimum WEA field assessment course demonstrating proficiency in all of the WEA 6+1;

  • Maintained a Professional membership in the WEA; and

  • Maintained medical training appropriate for the specific context and setting in which the COL is teaching and leading.


The intent of COL assessment is to provide the candidate with the opportunity to demonstrate cognitive, behavioral, and affective competence in the WEA 6+1 standards, outcomes, and targets via comprehensive measures (self, peer, and instructor evaluations; field performance; journals, etc.).


The certification is valid for an initial period of three years; provided that the COL maintains appropriate medical training and their professional membership with the WEA. Other requirements may apply in order to renew the certification.

Progression to the next level (Certified Outdoor Educator) entails accumulating field experience and additional training in instructional design and evaluation.

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

© 2021 Wilderness Education Association, Inc.

Black Mountain, NC, is located on the ancestral lands of the ᏣᎳᎫᏪᏘᏱ Tsalaguwetiyi (Cherokee, East), S’atsoyaha (Yuchi), & Catawba Nations.

Driggs, Idaho - launch site of the first WEA courses - is located on the ancestral lands of the Shoshone, Bannock, Blackfoot, Crow, Flathead, Gros Ventre, Nez Perce and other peoples.

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