Naturalist Interpretation Certificate


You seek to apply your passion of cherishing, preserving, and sharing our world with others by building connections. You connect the dots with what is with what could be—with what should be. Whether you are interested in natural, historical, or cultural interpretation, you are a steward of yesterday for the sake of tomorrow—to shape the future of our world in a lasting and meaningful way.

Real-World Experience & A Meaningful Network

PLNU’s relationships with organizations like the Cabrillo National Monument provide built-in internship and fieldwork opportunities to ensure you earn real-world experience while gaining access to a network of industry leaders and professionals.

A Better Communicator and Educator

Meet the needs of diverse audiences through a deep understanding of learning methodologies and formal, informal, and non-personal interpretive techniques.  These skills can be applied to all fields of interpretation, equipping you to be a more effective educator and communicator.

NAI Certification that Matters to Employers

The program’s capstone project is aligned with the National Association of Interpreters (NAI) Heritage Interpretation Certificate requirements, giving you the opportunity to earn the professional certification that employers seek--and many require--within the industry.

Expected Completion Time

7 months

Program FormatHybrid (online and face-to-face instruction)
LocationMission Valley
Needed Units to Graduate


Program Start Date

Currently accepting applications


$430 per unit

Are you ready to get started?

Quality & Experience

Naturalist Interpretation Certificate

The Center for Student Success and Career Development provides financial, academic, and career support for students, giving them the tools they need to be successful at PLNU and beyond.

Learn More

When you complete the Certificate in Naturalist Interpretation, you will be able to:

  • Understand how people learn and how to effectively communicate through various mediums in order to help others contextually understand the subject matter.
  • Assess the needs of audiences from diverse backgrounds, age groups, nationalities, abilities and cultures.
  • Use interpretive techniques to intentionally craft opportunities for both intellectual and emotional connections to resource meaning for audiences from diverse backgrounds, age groups, nationalities, abilities and cultures.

Sarena Gill

Sarena Gill

Community Engagement Manager, Phoenix Zoo |

Regardless of your experience as an interpreter, from novice to experienced, this certificate program offers you something new to build your skills and contribute to the field.

Important Dates

Program Start Date: 

Currently accepting applications

The Selection Process

To be admitted, you must have a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution, as evidenced by an official transcript.

We understand that your application is not only a reflection of you as a student; it’s a reflection of you as a person. At PLNU, we holistically evaluate your academic history, work and life experience, background, and circumstances to determine admission into a graduate program. 

While your undergraduate GPA is an important piece of your application, if you do not meet the minimum GPA requirement of a 3.0 or higher, you may still be eligible for admission. Your application package and the exceptions policy for the program are key for the final determination of admission. Please contact your enrollment counselor, who will advise you regarding your qualifications and provide specific information about the admission under exceptions process.

If you have any questions about your qualifications or the program in general, we encourage you to contact your enrollment counselor.

*Note: The application is completed entirely online with the exception of transcripts, which can be submitted electronically or directly to PLNU, and test scores, which should be submitted electronically.

  • Submit online application for admissions (includes $50 non-refundable application fee—fee waived if applicant is one of the following: PLNU alum, current or former military and their dependents, or PLNU employee).
  • Submit official transcripts with proof of earned baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution. *If you have higher degree work, transcripts may be submitted but only the baccalaureate transcripts are required.
    • Official transcripts must be sent to: 
      Point Loma Nazarene University 
      Office of Graduate Admissions 
      3900 Lomaland Dr. 
      San Diego, CA 92106
    • Official electronic transcripts must be emailed to:
  • Submit personal essay. The essay should be 2-3 pages in length, double spaced. 
    • Describe your professional career goals for the next five years. 
    • Describe the variety of experiences that helped you determine these goals. 
    • Explain why you are applying to PLNU, a private Christian university.
  • Provide two professional recommendations—you will be asked to register your recommenders by providing their names, titles, and email addresses.

Exceptions Policy: If you have below a 3.0 GPA in your baccalaureate degree, you will need to speak with your enrollment counselor for more information on the exceptions materials needed for this program.

The Center for Student Success and Career Development is committed to assist you throughout your educational journey. Your Student Success Advisor will walk you through your payment options, which may include federal student loans, grants, employer tuition reimbursementmilitary benefits, and the Tuition Installment Plan. We encourage you to reach out to your Student Success Advisor to learn about the financial opportunities available to you.

Still have questions? Our enrollment counselors are here to help.

List of Courses

Term I

INT 200 - Learning Methodology (3)

Students will explore what the sciences of cognitive and educational psychology tell us about the process of learning; students will learn how to understand and improve their ability to help others learn new concepts and information. The course will be focused on direct application to the interpretive process. Topics will include the major theories of learning, memory and motivation, our knowledge of how we learn various subjects, learning barriers, demographic differences and differences in individual versus group learning. 

INT 201 - Formal Interpretive Communication (3)

Formal Interpretive Communication teaches a variety of oral techniques used to connect the audiences with environmental, historical and natural subject matters. This course will equip students with the ability to communicate interesting and effective messaging to a captive audience. Among this and other concepts, techniques will be shared and developed for how to convey interesting and necessary information concisely through effective written program development. Students will learn how the role of the interpreter includes transforming standard information into an intriguing narrative that will spark meaningful conversation afterward.

INT 202 - Informal Interpretive Communication (3)

This course teaches students how to interact with small non-captive audiences in groups of various settings. Students are taught the skills to adapt complex information into communicable formats as the situation permits. Among the topics that will be covered are the appropriate methods of contextual interpretation, which includes active listening as well as effective, often spontaneous, speaking. Through practice, students will learn that interpretive communication in an informal setting takes patience, approachability, and knowledge, imparted to the audience in a compelling way.

Term II

INT 203 - Non-Personal Interpretive Communication (3)

This is a fundamental course in multimedia natural resource interpretive creation. This course will help students stay informed on changing societal trends as well as understand the design elements for signage, exhibits, websites, flyers, posters, book covers, brochures, newsletters, social media, and multimedia slide presentations. It will utilize learning methodologies to effectively communicate messaging and attract attention using alternative delivery mediums. Students will learn the techniques needed to write engaging material that is specific to its interpretive medium and format, as well as the audience’s needs and parameters, dictated by diverse backgrounds, age groups, and cultures. A background in basic computer skills required.

INT 204 - Historical and Interpretive Processes (1)

This course studies the various processes and technical practices involved in researching, maintaining and preserving in order to ensure the integrity of information and preservation of physical artifacts. This course will help students understand the validity of research and how to properly participate in the future of preservation, while communicating how information has been preserved. 

INT 205 - Interpretive Design (2)

Interpretive design focuses on the process of creating influential presentations and displays that are message-focused, factually accurate and leave lasting impressions with the ability to change and impact visitors. This course will provide an overview of historical preservation, wildlife, art, live plant, animal and building/room design. 

INT 206 - Capstone Project (3) 

The capstone project is designed to show a comprehensive mastery and application of the concepts and practices presented in the program. The project is designed to meet the requirements and allow students to use their assignment for submission when applying for NAI Heritage Interpreter Certification. The Capstone is broken into three sections: planning, interpretation, and presentation. Each section is designed to help the student with the next phase of the project. The capstone requires experience within an organization that utilizes naturalist interpretation. This can be through full or part time employment or an internship/co-op/special field experience, an investigation of a special topic and/or development of a project, directed readings/study or a research project for an organization. In meeting this requirement, it will be important for students to be able to demonstrate they are getting an “integrated” field experience in natural resources and environmental education. 


Why PLNU? No matter which PLNU program you decide is right for you, you'll discover the hallmark PLNU experience is designed to give every student the clear framework and professional tools to stand out in his or her field.

Established in 1902, PLNU is located in beautiful San Diego. Our small class sizes, focused faculty attention, and convenient online offerings are just a few of the powerful ways PLNU delivers real value to every student, no matter which physical or virtual campus he or she chooses.