Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Master Naturalist program?

The University of Illinois Extension Master Naturalist program provides science-based educational opportunities that connect people with nature and help them become engaged environmental stewards. The program educates and trains adult volunteers to help disseminate natural resource information to the public and to assist with conservation and restoration activities in their community.

Why should I become a Master Naturalist?

Caring for and sharing our natural resources is everyone’s responsibility. It is important to care for and protect the place where we live to ensure that it is “fit for the future.” As a Master Naturalist, you will learn about many aspects of our natural resources including plants, wildlife, archaeology, geology, and ecology. You will learn practical techniques that help professionals with managing natural areas. You will discover exciting ways to educate others in your community about the wondrous natural world.

What qualifications do I need to become a Master Naturalist?

Any adult can become a Master Naturalist. It does not require a degree or years of experience. You do, however, need to:

  • Successfully complete local training.
  • Have a sincere desire to learn and share natural resource information.
  • Be able to communicate effectively.
  • Be willing to devote time to volunteering and to continuing education each year to remain certified.

What does the training and certification involve?

Training sessions are typically offered one day a week over a two-month period and are led by expert educators in the region. Training includes both classroom instruction and field study. 60 hours of volunteer work is 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 or advanced training are required each year.

What topics will be covered in the program?

During the program you will learn about many different facets of natural resources. A combination of classroom instruction and field study will be used to present topics such as:

  • Archaeology
  • Birds
  • Insects
  • Reptiles and Fish
  • Mammals
  • Plants
  • Ecology
  • Urban environment
  • Geology and Soil
  • Forest
  • Prairies
  • Wetlands

Note: Local programs only provide the most appropriate topics for that location, and thus may not include all of these topics.

How do I participate in Master Naturalist volunteer opportunities in my area?

To become a certified Master Naturalist and to maintain certification, your volunteer hours can be completed at a variety of locations in your area. Projects are pre-approved by your local University of Illinois Extension staff. Volunteer opportunities may include, but are not limited to:

  • Assisting in the management of local natural areas.
  • Completing natural resource related office work with special interest groups or not-for-profit agencies.
  • Teaching about natural areas to adults or children.
  • Giving demonstrations and presentations to local groups.
  • Serving as a liaison between natural resource agencies and the public.
  • Serving as a resource person to groups in need of natural resource assistance.

What are some requirements for Master Naturalist volunteers?


  • Attendance is expected at all classes to become an intern.
  • Any missed classes should be attended either the next training cycle or at other training locations.


  • It is up to each volunteer to self-report their hours using an online database.
  • Although volunteers are encouraged to report hours quarterly, all hours for the year should be reported by December 31 of each year.
  • Volunteers should report all hours even after they have reached their required hours. This is very important for funding of the program.

Volunteer Hours

  • Volunteer Hours needed to become certified = 60
  • Volunteer Hours needed each year to remain certified = 30
  • Trainees can start accumulating hours as soon as class starts.
  • Travel time can be included.
  • Hours can be accrued in many ways and through many avenues.
  • Interns have over a year to accumulate volunteer hours – from the beginning of training until Dec. 31 of the following year.

Continuing Education Hours

  • Continuing Education hours are not needed the first year as a trainee.
  • Continuing Education hours needed each year to maintain certification = 10.
  • Continuing Education hours can be accrued in many different programs including advanced training.
  • Repeating any Master Naturalist training class counts as continuing education.
  • Travel time to and from events is not included in continuing education hours.