Come learn from local experts who cover topics in biogeography, citizen science, ecology, geology, interpretation, native flora and fauna, weather and climate, and much more.

The Basic Training Course, the first step towards initial certification, offers fun and interactive instruction on our local environment. Becoming certified typically takes 6 to 12 months. The first step includes attending all classes and field trips (or making them up), completing the final exam and making a presentation on a topic of interest related to being a naturalist.

Initial certification, as well as annual recertification, requires 8 hours of continuing education and 40 hours of volunteer service. Basic training and continuing education are both educational and useful for preparing participants to volunteer as master naturalists in their communities.


  • Classes run February 15 through May 9, 2024, on Thursdays from 6:30-9:30 p.m. No class on Spring Break, March 28, 2024.
  • Classes will be held in person at the Fairfax County Government Center.
  • Field trips to Fairfax County natural areas will be held in person, in small groups on four Saturdays during the course from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. Tentative dates for field trips are Saturday, March 2, March 16, April 6, and April 20, 2024. A fifth Saturday on May 4 is set aside should a field trip need to be rescheduled.
  • Attendance at the 12 classes and 4 field trips is mandatory for graduation. Up to three classes (or two classes and one field trip) may be made up within 12 months of completion of basic training (e.g., during the next training cycle, with another master naturalist chapter, or by making special arrangements with approval from the Training Committee Chair).
  • Trainees are required to have an email address and internet access, since program communications, training material access, and volunteer hour reporting are all done via the internet.
  • The program is targeted toward adults, 18 or older. Youth, age 16-17, may apply under specific conditions.
  • Class size is limited to 22 trainees with a maximum of two youths.
  • There is a course fee of $200 which covers basic training and course materials and is due upon acceptance into the program.  Payment details will be provided at that time.
  • The cost for taking the class should not be a barrier to submitting an application; a limited number of need-based scholarships are available. To request a scholarship, once accepted, send an email to [email protected] stating your need and the portion of the course fee that you may be able to pay.

Click here to view the tentative 2024 Spring FMN Training Class Schedule


  • The application link opens at 9 am on Sunday, December 31, 2023.  Applications will be accepted on a rolling admissions basis, so when the class is full, the link will be closed. Applying sooner is better.
  • It must be completed in one sitting.  The program does not have an option to save and complete it later.
  • Before filling out the application, it is highly recommended that you view the tip sheet for the application instructions linked below.  It includes tips as well as a mock-up (sample) of the application for you to preview.

View the tip sheet and sample application here.

  • You will be prompted to set up a Better Impact (BI) account.  If you already have a BI account (such as with Master Gardeners) you may use the same username and password.
  • You will be asked to provide three references whom we will contact.  Provide the names of people who are familiar with your background and skills, but who are not family members.  Please provide email and phone numbers where they can be easily reached.
  • Applicants will be notified of their status by January 29, 2024.
  • Questions?  Email [email protected].