The Browne Center

What’s up with certification?

What’s up with certification?

UNH’s answer to that question when asked by our challenge course students

by Tara Flippo, Associate Clinical Faculty in Outdoor Education and Youth Programs Director

Students at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) who complete KIN 541, Challenge Course Management class, often do so with questions about what they “qualified” and/or certified to do. Good questions!

What does certification for challenge course facilitators look like and who provides this certification?

According to the Association Challenge Course Technology, ACCT (, the trade organization for the U.S. challenge course industry.

Certification is the indication that a particular individual has met a certain set of criteria at a given time through testing and skills verification following training.

Part of the requirement is a portfolio outlining all of the different kinds of experience that a practitioner has acquired over the years.

Certification is intended to be transferable to different courses, with the exception of the Site Specific certification. An individuals’ certificate will also outline any specialty elements on which they have been trained, such as a zip line or climbing tower. Certification does not replace good hiring practices, but complements them.

The certification itself is issued by a challenge course vendor, not ACCT. Certifications from ACCT Professional Vendor Members will indicate that they have been accredited to issue certifications or not.

Colleges/Universities are not currently approved vendors of certification exams. It is my understanding that the only ones providing certification are vendors who do training AND construction as opposed “training only” institutions (like UNH’s The Browne Center). This has created waves for colleges and universities who are providing initial training. In that we train and graduate future professionals, it is my assertion that vendors should be working with universities to capture the next generation of professionals.

UNH has partnered with our challenge course repairs/installation vendor, Project Adventure (, an ACCT Preferred vendor member, to provide an exam if students are interested, but for the average college student, the cost is a deterrent to pursue certification, as well as the short certification period of one year most likely would have expired before they even graduate.

As for qualifications, we tell our students up front in our syllabus:

KIN 541 is an in-depth course covering the basic skills required on the challenge course. Simply completing this course does not guarantee your readiness to work on a challenge course. Being hired to work at a qualified challenge course facility involves an individual’s background, readiness to manage groups, work history, passion and interest in challenge course work, as well as one’s competency and aptitude for the technical components of the challenge course.

 In the past, students in 541 have been hired as technicians at The Browne Center, occasionally as new facilitators, and a few folks as TAs in future Challenge Course classes.

Requiring staff to be certified is not commonplace at this point. If it becomes so, the conversation will certainly heat up at colleges and universities. For now, the language used in the hiring process is usually something akin to “ACCT PCL1 or equivalent” etc. along with other qualifications.

The Browne Center has been providing innovative experiential learning programs since the early 1980s. We provide a wide range of programming from comprehensive trainings to shorter one-day sessions. Our learning programs evolve to meet the needs of our clients and our diverse client base allows us to draw upon best practices from a variety of disciplines and remain sensitive to specific needs and outcomes.

Creating a dynamic program based on your group's specific goals is our approach with every single client. We can provide an action-packed program to meet your needs – whether you are coming together as a new group, integrating new members, building positive group relationships, addressing specific behaviors, or striving for performance excellence.