Professional Certificate in Conservation Practice

This non-credit certificate is designed for conservation researchers, managers, and practitioners in government, non-governmental organizations and research institutions worldwide who seek to gain enhanced knowledge and skills to help meet today’s biodiversity conservation needs. The certificate trains participants in essential skills in conservation research and practice, while guiding their development of a crucial understanding of the principles and philosophies underlying effective conservation and biodiversity programs. Through core courses and electives, professional certificate candidates learn how to apply cutting-edge analysis techniques and tools to address conservation questions and evaluate conservation outcomes. Upon completion of the professional certificate, participants will have developed a suite of practical and analytical skills essential to today’s landscape of applied conservation science research, policy, and practice.

Participants in this professional certificate program, which is comprised of two core and at least three elective courses, are taught by conservation experts from Smithsonian, George Mason University, and governmental and non-governmental conservation partner organizations. The intensive one-to-two-week residential courses in this program are held at SMSC’s new Academic Center on SCBI’s 3,200-acre research and training facility in Front Royal, Virginia.

Note: This certificate does not confer any academic credit.


Candidates for the Professional Certificate in Conservation Practice must complete at least two core and at least three elective courses within five years after first enrolling in the program, and earn a total of 30 CEUs (Continuing Education Units). Successful completion, reflected in a grade of satisfactory, is required for each course. Upon the candidate’s completion of all certificate requirements, the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation will confer the George Mason University non-credit Certificate of Completion in Conservation Practice.

Courses completed must include: At least two core courses (12 CEUs) and at least 18 CEUs of elective courses, including at least one course (or 6 CEUs) in conservation science and at least one course (or 6 CEUs) in a human dimensions topic.

Core Courses

Elective Courses (note that additional courses may be offered on a limited basis and most will count toward your certificate)

How to Apply

Applicants for the Professional Certificate in Conservation Practice must complete an overall professional certificate application and submit a resume (CV) and a letter of recommendation from a work supervisor or other person familiar with their professional activities. As prerequisites for admittance to this certificate program, an undergraduate (baccalaureate) degree from a regionally accredited institution of higher education or international equivalent and successful completion of a one-semester, college-level organismal biology, ecology, or conservation biology course and a basic statistics course must be verified from the applicant’s submitted unofficial transcripts. Applicants whose transcripts demonstrate a minimum of two years’ earned college credit from a regionally accredited institution of higher education or international equivalent may be accepted by the MCCS Program Director based on their demonstrating work experience equivalency for another two years worth of college credit and/or the specific coursework requirements. All participants must be proficient in English (reading, writing, and speaking).

To apply to the certificate, please fill out and return this application, along with your resume (CV), letter of recommendation and unofficial transcript to with the subject: “Professional Certificate in Conservation Practice Application”. If necessary, the letter of recommendation can be sent separately.

NOTE: After acceptance to the certificate program, you must still apply for individual courses separately, following the application instructions on each course’s webpage.