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Professional Outdoor Industry Certificate

People hiking in WNC


Build a Career with Purpose!
Online, Live Instruction



WCU is widely recognized as the Southeast’s premier outdoor recreation and adventure university. We are leveraging and combining our academic excellence and experience in professional education with our outstanding and innovative outdoor-focused curriculum and deep connection to the nation’s burgeoning outdoor recreation economy to offer this affordable, dynamic, and flexible professional outdoor certificate.

When you work in the outdoors, you're getting paid to do what you love, but you're also making outdoor recreation more welcoming and accessible to everyone. 

When people feel welcome and comfortable outdoors:

  • They live healthier and happier lives
  • Communities get stronger
  • And we all deepen our connections to this beautiful world

WCU's Professional Outdoor Industry Certificate program provides skills, insight, knowledge, and networking opportunities to students and learners from a variety of backgrounds who are interested in a rewarding career or thriving business in the outdoor recreation industry.


WCU's Professional Outdoor Industry Certificate program includes two guided tracks and an innovative, new "Trail Blazer" track that lets you create your own personalized curriculum:

  • High Impact Outdoor Leadership - Provides leadership training to enhance your communication and decision-making skills and ensure success in leading and managing teams in the outdoor industry.
  • Entrepreneurial Strategy - Provides strategic business skills and insights in finance, marketing, business law, entrepreneurial and start-up planning, brand strategy, project management, and product innovation.
  • Trail Blazer - Dial in your certificate by selecting the courses that best meet your individual needs and interests.


Career opportunities in the outdoor industry exist far beyond guiding, outfitting, lodging, and park services. The outdoor recreation industry creates jobs for an array of highly skilled workers in diverse fields such as policy advocacy, community economic development, manufacturing, sustainability. Another area is global commerce that employs product developers, programmers, media experts, content creators, small and large retailers, and many other professionals.

If you are looking for a flexible and affordable way to break into the outdoor industry, enhance your skill-set, stand out to potential employers, grow your outdoor business, or sharpen your leadership skills, WCU's Professional Outdoor Certificate program is for you!


  • We are the ONLY outdoor certificate program to offer live, online instruction from outdoor industry and subject matter experts
  • Our certificate program is affordable: Enroll today and save 20% on your registration fee
  • We offer maximum flexibility: Use our a la carte "pay as you go" option and take only the workshops you want, when you want!
  • No prerequisite requirements to enroll
  • Networking opportunities with outdoor industry professionals
  • Customizable electives to enhance your learning experience
  • General CEUs or Contact Hours upon completion of each workshop
  • You will get a Professional Outdoor Industry Certificate from Western Carolina University!

A certificate requires completion of eight 6-hour workshops taught by industry and subject matter experts. All three tracks kick-off with our popular Introduction to the Outdoor Industry workshop, followed by 7 additional workshops as listed below. The High Impact Outdoor Leadership and Entrepreneurial Strategy tracks include 8 core courses that have been pre-selected.

For the Trail Blazer track, you can customize your certificate by selecting any 7 workshops from the two tracks (In addition to the required Introduction to the Outdoor Industry workshop) for a total of 8 workshops that best meet your current position, professional development needs, and career growth desires. You will likely take one workshop at a time and earn your certificate in less than a year.

Depending on scheduling and workshop availability, you might finish in as little as one semester!

Or…take your time, go at your own pace, and earn a certificate one workshop at a time. How you do it, and how long you take, is up to you!

  • Full Certificate: $825 (A 20% discount off the 8 workshops)
  • Workshop price: $129 per person.
  • You can select your desired track and choose to pay for the full certificate or register for individual workshops during the registration process.


Introduction to the Outdoor Industry - Wednesday, September 8 - REQUIRED
Join Andy Coburn, WCU Faculty Liaison to the Outdoor Industry, and Steven Reinhold, Director of Adventure for Black Folks Camp Too and Backpacker Magazine Gear Ambassador, as they lead you on a comprehensive, interactive and engaging look at the US Outdoor Industry.

Discovering Your Strengths and Leadership Style – Tuesday, September 14
Having an understanding of your own strengths and leadership style will help you learn to work more effectively with employees, managers, executives and government representatives. Participants will complete a Gallup StrengthsFinder assessment in advance of the training.

Leadership Ethics - Wednesday, September 22
Moral character (i.e., ethics) is the foundation upon which leadership is built and sustained. Challenges that risk a leader's long-term effectiveness often involve moral dilemmas between two or more legitimate competing interests such as honesty versus loyalty or accountability for failure versus encouragement of innovation.

Building Key Leadership Communication Skills – Wednesday, October 13
Learn "The 10 Commandments of Effective Leadership Communication" and develop your active listening skills. Participants will identify the nonverbal communication cues that signal leadership competence and set tone and will build a speaking "presence." It is also important to analyze the critical role of leadership communication during crises,which will be done through case study examples and how to prepare for the spotlight: How to respond to media inquiries.

The Trail Guide to Leadership - Wednesday, October 6
There are few things more gratifying than successfully trekking up a mountain and enjoying the views. Good leaders, like good trail guides, help their people get there. They know the terrain they are trekking, provide the resources their team needs to reach its goals, and are confident in their ability to lead the way. This training guides individuals to become better leaders.

Employee Relations, Best Practices and Laws Leaders Should Know/Contracts, Liabilities and Risk Factors in Business – Tuesday, November 16
Attorney Jon Yarbrough will present an employee relations review and "best practices" including the laws leaders should be familiar with on a state and national level during the morning session. In the afternoon session, Nanci Carr will address the importance of contract negotiations to manage business risks. Key issues will be addressed related to working with other organizations and how to guard against legal matters related to liability.

What Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Mean to Leadership Practice – Tuesday, November 9 
Diversity? Inclusion? A welcoming and inclusive environment? What does it all mean - in practice? These are words we hear across our various sector, yet they are critical to our collective development and future. Diversity in the workplace has been linked to greater performance outcomes, but inclusion is critical for the retention of diverse employees.

The Seven Habits of Success for "Outdoor" Managers - Tuesday, December 14
Description coming soon.

Introduction to the Outdoor Industry - Wednesday, September 8 - REQUIRED
Join Andy Coburn, WCU Faculty Liaison to the Outdoor Industry, and Steven Reinhold, Director of Adventure for Black Folks Camp Too and Backpacker Magazine Gear Ambassador, as they lead you on a comprehensive, interactive and engaging look at the US Outdoor Industry.

The Outdoor Entrepreneur Mindset: Business Planning, Start-up and Navigation - Tuesday, September 21
In this one-day workshop, join us as we explore the entrepreneurial journey and what it takes to start, operate, and grow your own outdoor industry business. Whether starting up a business, focusing on strategic planning, or taking your business to the next level, it's critical to understand the entrepreneurial mindset.

Small Business Finance and Operational Strategies - Tuesday, October 26
The success of any small business is based on developing a practical yet dynamic approach to financial planning. Revenue and expense projections should account for fluctuations in the economy, industry, trends and a plan for business expansion in the future.

Tenets of Project Management - Wednesday, October 13
During this program, participants willl learn how to manage a project by using the 5 phases of project management and several other critical topics related to being a successful project manager in any industry. Participants will also learn how to lead small and large projects from initiation through close-out.

Current and Tested Social Media Strategies in the Outdoor Industry - Tuesday, November 30
Craft your organizational or product story and learn to be more memorable and shareable:

  • Identify the right audiences for your messages
  • Learn about how social media algorithms work and the art of increasing reach and engagement
  • Enhance your media outreach and public relations with social media strategies
  • Outline plans for onsite event coverage and social media communications
  • Evaluate various account management tools
  • Learn how to develop successful marketing partnerships and connect with influencers
  • Quantify the value of social advertising campaigns for event, product, and program promotion

Building Your Social Capital: Networking Strategies for Success - Fall Date TBD
Description coming soon.

Customize your program by selecting 7 additional courses from both tracks in addition to the mandatory Introduction to the Outdoor Industry course.

For more information, contact Jill Thompson, Associate Director of Professional Development at  or call 828-227-7397.

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