Frequently Asked Questions

1.  Why should I get a Certificate?

Participants in the Certificate Program have fun exploring the natural world with like-minded people; learn from regional naturalists about the biodiversity and ecology of the Blue Ridge; learn how the geology and the environment have shaped the flora and the fauna of the mountains; and give back to the community through education and service opportunities that enhance the environment of the Western North Carolina. 

2.  What steps are involved in getting a Certificate of Merit?

First, enroll as a Certificate-seeking student by completing the form found on the Arboretum's website. Click here for an application.

Second, complete the core and elective courses required by the Certificate of Merit curriculum. Click here for an outline.

Third, complete a 30-50 hour community service project after all course work is finished. As you progress through your classes, opportunities for projects will be presented.

3.  What types of projects are eligible?

Students in the past have developed and taught education courses, hosted environmental education programs for children, trained volunteers to work with visitors at local environmental sites, created websites and educational materials, and developed new habitats and trails.

4.  How long will it take me?

Students in the Certificate of Merit program will participate in approximately 240 hours of study in a curriculum designed to be completed in 24 months but may take up to 60 months depending on your schedule and instructor availability.

5.  Does it count for college credit?

No, at this point the Certificate of Merit is for personal fulfillment. However, you may mention this certificate on a resume or job application.  

6.  How much will it cost?

The final cost will depend upon Arboretum Society membership status, as all Members receive a discount on education programs.  At the Member rate, the total cost of the enrollment fee plus all course fees (not including books, materials, equipment, etc.) is approximately $1200 which would be spread out over the 2-5 years it might take you to complete the course work.  You will pay for each class individually as it becomes available.

7.  Are there exams?

Some courses use open-book exams as a way to reinforce the class subjects. 

8.  Does attendance count?

There is a 75% attendance requirement for all BRN curriculum classes to receive credit for qualifying for the Blue Ridge Naturalist Certificate.

9.  I have taken a couple of natural history courses in the past, do they count towards the Certificate of Merit?

Once you have completed a Certificate of Merit Student Application, any Arboretum courses that you completed in the last 12 months (from the date you apply) will count toward fulfilling requirements for the Blue Ridge Naturalist Certificate of Merit!  Unfortunately courses at other institutions will not apply towards completion of the Certificate of Merit.

10.   What classes are available now?

Click here for a link to the Fall 2013 Adult Education Catalog. The Spring 2014 catalog will be available in late January. Go to the Natural History section.  All of these classes are either core requirements or electives for the BRN program.

11.   I need to know . . .

If you have additional questions, please email  Beth Johnson at  or call The North Carolina Arboretum's Adult Education Coordinator, Beth Johnson at 828-665-2492, x 222.