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How to Become a COE
COE Assessment & Portfolio Review Process


As skilled leaders in outdoor and environmental education and recreation, Outdoor Educators range from university professors to professional guides with a variety of professions in between. With a passion for the outdoors and appreciation for the wilderness, Outdoor Educators are leaders in their field.

Responsibilities of WEA trained Certified Outdoor Educators include:

  • Lead WEA Outdoor Leadership Training Courses, with an approved organizational member host and Certified Outdoor Leader programs with an Accredited Organization.  

  • Create necessary documentation to run multi-day or multi-week expeditions, including planning proper rations plans, route plans and Emergency Action Plans.

  • Provide useful feedback to students throughout a course and after a program is completed.

  • Execute curriculums and lesson plans, assessment/evaluation tools.

  • Take responsibility for risk management in the field for themselves and students.


WEA trained Certified Outdoor Educators have previous outdoor experience with 1-2 years of professional work experience. COEs have IROEL (International Registry of Outdoor Educators and Leaders) portfolios that demonstrate ability to teach using existing curriculum, with proven expertise in WEA 8.x, 9.x, and, where relevant, 11.x standards. Certifying Examiners evaluate Outdoor Educators to ensure competence of program knowledge and curriculum instruction proficiency.


Certified Outdoor Educators are leaders in the outdoors. They have the opportunity to  teach WEA Outdoor Leadership Training Course and Outdoor Leader curriculum with an approved organization. COEs lead trips and teach based on curriculum curated by their employer.

After program completion, Certified Outdoor Educators must maintain professional membership dues with the WEA, as well as maintain an active IROEL account along with Continuing Education Credits necessary to maintain certification.


Assessment of Outdoor Educators is based on their IROEL portfolio. The portfolio includes samples of skills as a leader in the outdoors through a variety of multimedia. Final assessment is based on a specific rubric outline and graded by Certifying Examiner within the WEA program. IROEL portfolios must comply to standards of the WEA 8.x, 9.x, and (perhaps) 11.x standards.


Certified Outdoor Educators continue to expand their knowledge as an instructor, lead research-based education and outdoor initiatives and participate in the community as outdoor subject matter experts.



There are two paths to certification.  Certification through an accredited organization or through a professional path. Regardless of the path chosen, the COE must maintain membership with the WEA at the highest level and maintain medical training appropriate for the specific context and setting.

The accreditation path involves progression through an Outdoor Educator certification program at an Accredited Organization, including all classroom and field requirements.  You can find a list of Accredited Organizations here.

The professional path to the Certified Outdoor Educator credential is for individuals who are currently working or seeking to work in a professional role in the delivery of education and/or recreation programs based in the outdoors and are unable to enroll in a program at an accredited organization. Look below for a Quick Glance at COE criteria and click here for a detailed document on how to achieve certification through this option.



Individiuals interested in pursuing a professional path to become a COE should contact the WEA National Office for enrollment. There is a $30 enrollment fee which initiates the first year of the required Foliotek portfolio account. Once a COE candidate’s portfolio is ready for review, s/he will have a portfolio review team assigned through the Commission on Outdoor Education and Leadership (COEL). The review team will either approve the portfolio, ask for revisions, or deny approval. Once the review team approves the portfolio for certification, the COE candidate will pay the certification fee to finalize the certification process. A digital certificate will be given to verify certification.