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

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. 

    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?

    Training sessions are typically offered one day a week over a three-month period and are led by expert educators in the region. The next hybrid training opportunity will be in 2025.


    What are the expectations of a volunteer?

    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 Handbook

    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.

    A monarch butterfly

    Policies and Guidelines

    After reviewing the Master Naturalist handbook, volunteers should complete the Volunteer Agreement and Code of Conduct each year.


    Master Naturalist volunteers must stay active in the program by investing their time and talents in local volunteer opportunities. Use the Givepulse Website to track and report your hours.

    For More Information