Master Naturalists

University of Illinois Extension's Master Naturalist Program is designed for adults of any age that want to learn about and positively impact their local environment. The goal of the program is to engage participants with the natural world and encourage them to seek lifelong learning opportunities to further their development as a naturalist.

Master Naturalist Program participants have the opportunity to:

  • Learn about Illinois' natural history, ecosystems, plant and animal communities, and environmental issues
  • Enhance your love of nature through hands-on training and community-based service,
  • Practice lifelong learning and sharing
  • Interact and build relationships with new acquaintances with similar interests
  • Give something back to nature and your local community
  • Learn from and work side-by-side with experts

To become a Certified Master Naturalist, you must complete 60 hours of field and classroom learning which is offered each spring. During and after training, you may begin working on the 60 hours of volunteer service required to complete your Master Naturalist internship. You have 24 months to complete your internship and become a certified Master Naturalist. To remain certified, an additional 30 hours of volunteer service and 10 hours of continuing education should be performed and reported annually. Read more in the Master Naturalist policies and bylaws

    Become a Master Naturalist

    The Illinois Master Naturalist program is coordinated by University of Illinois Extension, with consultation from local program partners.

    Why become a Master Naturalist?

    Nature is everywhere, in your neighborhood, in your backyard, and in your house.  Becoming more educated about the natural world increases your awareness and appreciation of it, enriching your everyday life.  In the tradition of John Muir, John James Audobon, and even Teddy Roosevelt, as a naturalist, you can contribute to conservation and a greener world.  And you can play an important role in sharing that world with others in your community.

    When is the next training?

    Please check with your local Extension office for future training opportunities.

    What qualifications must I meet?

    Anyone can become a Master Naturalist - it does not require a degree or years of experience.  You do, however, need to:  

    • Have a sincere desire to learn and share natural resource information within your community
    • Be able to communicate effectively
    • Be willing to devote time to volunteering and continuing education

    What does the training involve?

    Training sessions are typically offered one day a week over a three-month period and are led by expert educators in the region.  Approximately 60 hours of classroom instruction and field study and 60 hours of volunteer internship work are required to complete the program and become certified.  In order to remain a certified Master Naturalist, 30 hours of volunteer work and 10 hours of continuing education are required each year.

    What is the program fee?

    The Illinois Master Naturalist course fee is $250.

    This fee covers:

    • Training (classroom instruction and field learning) and Master Naturalist manual.
    • Assistance in finding a volunteer position that fits your personal interests, abilities, and time restraints for as long as you remain a Certified Master Naturalist.
    • Continuing-education events and opportunities.

    After an application is received and accepted, you will be notified of your payment options.

    How do I join?

    1. Download and complete an application packet and submit it to your local Illinois Extension office.

    2. Attend an informal interview.

    3. Pay $250 program fee, covering cost of training and Master Naturalist manual.

    4. Complete the weeks of training.

    5. Complete the 60-hour volunteer internship.

    6. Continue to volunteer 30 hours each year and attend 10 hours of continuing education programs.


    Master Naturalists frequently volunteer at the Rend Lake Recreation Nature Sites, Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge, Giant City State Park, Shawnee National Forest and more. Generally, volunteer work is done in the community, but need not be limited to local programming efforts.  Many projects involve interaction with parks and recreation departments, schools, county or city agencies, and other civic organizations. Individuals can read more in the Policy Handbook.

    Educational Efforts - This includes presentations at demonstrations, fairs, and to identified audiences, such as environmental clubs, school groups, homeowner associations, and church groups. This also includes training of other volunteers, such as other Master Naturalists, Master Gardeners, Boy Scouts, civic groups, or other identified groups of volunteers.

    Volunteers must complete their annual volunteer agreement form and code of conduct and submit them to their local Extension office.

    Volunteer Time Tracking System

    We are transitioning to a new tracking system. Stay tuned for more details as well as instructions on how to record volunteer hours in GivePulse. 

    Master Naturalist Newsletters

    Check out the quarterly newsletter for Master Naturalists.


    For More Information