NWCG Standards for Course Delivery, PMS 901-1

The NWCG Standards for Course Delivery establishes the standards for delivery, instruction, and evaluation of National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) training courses.  Course descriptions, objectives, hours, target groups, instructor qualifications, prerequisites, and instruction levels are approved for all NWCG-certified courses by the NWCG Incident and Position Standards Committee (IPSC). To ensure consistent and quality training across all agencies and geographic areas, NWCG members should adhere to these expectations and standards. These standards should be used in conjunction with the NWCG Standards for Wildland Fire Position Qualifications, PMS 310-1. The NWCG Training Catalog is the source for specific course details.

This publication will be updated twice annually (May and October).  The NWCG Standards for Course Delivery is developed and maintained by the Incident and Position Standards Committee (IPSC), an entity of the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG).  

Prior to May 2019, these standards were known as the Field Manager’s Course Guide (FMCG).  While previous versions may contain current or useful information, the FMCG is obsolete. The user of this information is responsible for confirming that they have the most up-to-date version. NWCG is the sole source for the publication.

Comments, questions, and recommendations shall be submitted to the appropriate agency program manager assigned to the IPSC. View the complete roster at https://www.nwcg.gov/committees/incident-and-position-standards-committee/roster.

NWCG Training Program Position on Course Presentation and Materials

Course Certification Date

Course instructors are required to use the most current certified version of NWCG courses. Old versions may be taught up to six months after a new certified version is available. NWCG does not approve of course delivery varying greatly from the recommended course hours (refer to Course Length for NWCG Courses).

NWCG Certified Course Guidelines

NWCG members recognize a delivered course as certified when instructors follow the guidelines below:

  • Course Objectives: Course and unit objectives are written to achieve specific performance outcomes; therefore, alteration or omission of any course and unit objectives is not allowed.
  • Course Materials: Instructors are encouraged to enhance course materials to reflect the conditions, resources, and policies of the local unit and area.
  • Exercises: Exercise objectives and intent must remain intact. Exercises can be enhanced to reflect local fuel types, resources, and conditions where the student will be likely to fill incident assignments.
  • Exams/Quizzes/Evaluations:
    • To ensure accurate testing of course and unit objectives, questions cannot be deleted.
    • In the event a question/answer becomes invalid or incorrect due to changes in policy or incident business practices, students should receive full credit for the question/answer.
    • Questions may be added to reflect local information that may have been added to the course but cannot be counted towards the final score.
    • If the course has a rubric (matrix) evaluation, the original evaluation items must be used to determine successful course completion. Additional evaluation items may be added to reflect local fuel types, resources, and conditions but cannot be used to determine successful course completion.

Reporting Course Inaccuracy

Instructors should submit course feedback using the online feedback form https://www.nwcg.gov/course-evaluation-feedback or email BLM_FA_NWCG_Training@blm.gov.

Course Length for NWCG Courses

The recommended hours listed in the Training Catalog are developed by subject matter experts (SMEs) based on their estimation of the time required to present all material needed to adequately meet course objectives. The hours listed may vary slightly due to factors such as number of students, types and complexity of course activities, and the addition of local materials.

Course hours for all NWCG courses can be found in this Guide. If the hours are a minimum versus recommended they will be stated as such. Recommended course hours and the NWCG Training Program Position on Course Presentation and Materials above will be adhered to by the course instructors.

  • Unit times represent the allotted time to teach the unit and complete the exercises, simulations, and tests.
  • Recommended course hours are given to help the students and the course coordinator plan travel, room reservations, and facilities usage. This represents the time estimated to present the NWCG--provided materials, including time for breaks, lunch periods, and set up for field exercises or simulations, etc.
  • If the course is criteria-based, e.g., L-380, and has been developed using NWCG course criteria, minimum course hour requirements have been established and must be adhered to by the course developer and course instructors.

Course Prerequisites

The intent of course prerequisites is to ensure a common standard of knowledge and experience is held by all students. Course Prerequisites are listed for each course within the Training Catalog. It is recognized that exceptions to the course prerequisites may be necessary to meet specific agency requirements. It is the responsibility of the nominee's supervisor to request and document the exception for consideration on the nomination form prior to submittal. These exceptions will be managed on a case-by-case basis.

Establishing a Course as a Prerequisite for Another Course

To establish a course as a required prerequisite for another course, the proposed prerequisite course must be in direct support of an NWCG incident management qualification and be identified in the NWCG Standards for Wildland Fire Position Qualifications , PMS 310-1 , as a required course. Exceptions will be made on a case-by-case basis by the NWCG Incident and Position Standards Committee (IPSC) (https://www.nwcg.gov/committees/incident-and-position-standards-committee/roster).

Establishing Required Training for Technical Specialist Positions

NWCG does not establish required training for technical specialist (THSP) positions; required training for THSP positions is an agency-specific determination. However, if all federal wildland fire agencies support the addition of a specific course as required training for a THSP position, the required training will be entered under the NWCG SetID in IQS/IQCS.

NWCG Course Equivalency Guidelines

An equivalent course is determined by agency-identified evaluators (at the national/state level) to be equal to a NWCG-approved course. Awarding course equivalency is an agency-specific responsibility. Only agencies have the authority to certify that their employees meet NWCG training requirements when alternative course offerings are used. Individual agencies will set guidelines for equivalency determination and may grant credit for courses they deem equivalent.

Courses being reviewed for equivalency must have:

  • A reason the alternative course was used or developed;
  • Benefits gained by awarding course equivalency include:
    • cost savings
    • broadened target audience
    • enhanced learning experience for students

The agency seeking course equivalency should conduct a detailed analysis and document their findings according to agency policy.

When conducting this analysis, the following guidelines apply:

  • All learning and performance objectives of NWCG course are met or exceeded in the equivalent course;
  • The same minimum instructor qualifications required for the NWCG course apply to the equivalent course;
  • Course prerequisites have not been altered;
  • The equivalent course does not conflict or contradict established NWCG guidelines or standards; and
  • The equivalent course is not numbered using the NWCG course numbering system.

A new analysis must be completed when the equivalent NWCG course is revised to ensure course equivalency continues.

FEMA National Incident Management System (NIMS) Training

NWCG recognizes the following FEMA NIMS courses:

Additional information on the use of the FEMA NIMS Training Program can be found at https://www.nwcg.gov/fema-nims-training.

Course Level Descriptions

The NWCG Training Development Program will assign each course an appropriate letter and number code relative to the subject area and the complexity/organizational level of instruction. Assignments are based on the formula listed below, the analysis of the project development team, the target group, the recommendations from the project leader, and input from other NWCG entities that may be involved.

The first digit of a course number designates the complexity level at which the course is designed to be presented and also indicates the organizational level at which the course should be given.

  • 100 – 200 – Entry-Level: Local Level Skills Development
  • 300 – 400 – Mid-Level: Regional, State or Geographic Area Level Management Skills
  • 500 – 600 – Advanced: National Level Management Skills

Current exceptions to the established course numbering protocol include the following courses:

Training Record Retention

Records retention requirements differ by agency. Refer to agency policy on records retention for specific guidance. Individuals should retain copies of personal training records for their own documentation.

Course Component Chart Definitions

  • Pre-selection assessment – An assessment that must be passed before admittance into the course.
  • Pre-course work – Work that is accomplished before beginning the course.
  • Online training – Required course materials that are delivered online.
  • Instructor-led training (ILT) – Required course materials that are delivered by an instructor.
  • Blended learning – Learning events that combine online and instructor led training.

NWCG Instructor Certification

A qualified instructor means the instructor meets the position currency requirements as described in the NWCG Standards for Wildland Fire Position Qualifications, PMS 310-1. Instructors are not required to meet Work Capacity Test (WCT) and RT-130, Annual Fireline Safety Refresher, requirements to be considered qualified. Certification of instructor qualifications is the responsibility of the employing agency. See table on page 5 and refer to courses within this Guide for specific instructor requirements.

The NWCG has established the following general instructor requirements and levels:

  • 300 – 600 Level lead instructors oversee presentation of the entire course and assure course objectives are met in accordance with the criteria of the current Training Catalog and/or Course Introduction. The lead instructor must meet the certification criteria listed in the table below. They should have sufficient experience in presenting all units of the course to be capable of last-minute substitution for unit instructors. It is recognized that exceptions may occur where courses are of such a technical nature that no one person may be technically competent to instruct all units.
  • Unit instructors are responsible for successful presentations of one or more units and should be experienced in the lesson content they are presenting.

Adjunct instructors may be utilized to provide limited instruction in specialized knowledge and skills at the discretion of the lead Instructor. They must be experienced, proficient, and knowledgeable of current issues in their field of expertise.

Instructor Criteria for 100 - 200 Level Courses

All 100 and 200 level instructors must meet one of the following criteria:

  • Qualified and current (minus the WCT and RT-130) in any required positions identified as an instructor prerequisite for the course description in the Training Catalog, OR
  • Written approval by course coordinator to instruct a specific unit or technical portions of a unit or units.

100 level instructors: No additional instructor training requirements beyond those set forth in the Training Catalog for each particular course.

200 level instructors: Lead instructors are required to meet both Unit Instructor – Teaching Skills and Lead instructor – Teaching Skills portion of Instructor Criteria for 300 – 600 Level NWCG Courses. See attached table.

Unit instructors should have 32 hours of acceptable formal instructional training (e.g., state fire training certificate, college teacher’s credential, college education courses, or M-410, Facilitative Instructor).

Instructor Criteria for 300 - 600 Level Courses

Instructor LevelTeaching SkillCourse Content KnowledgePractical ApplicationEthics Criteria
Adjunct InstructorNoneKnown or demonstrated expertise on one or more subjects associated with the course.Subject matter expert on course related materials
Demonstrated course related technical expertise
Published subject related article or paper in previous 5 years.
As required by agency.
Unit InstructorAccepted formal instructional training (e.g., state fire training certificate, college teacher’s credential, college education courses, or M-410, Facilitative Instructor)
40 hours of successful fire service instruction.
Successful completion or audit of course being taught
Successfully assisted in instructing the course
Successfully completed Train-the-Trainer course (if applicable) and successfully taught the course in the past 5 years as determined by the Course Coordinator.
Qualified and current (minus WCT and RT-130) as required in the course page Training Catalog
Qualified and current (minus WCT and Refresher) one level above that identified in the course outline of Training Catalog
Qualified as a Type 1 or 2 Command or General Staff position in the same functional area as the course being presented
Meets the NIMS Training Program instructor criteria for specific course (supplemented by the NIMS ICS All-Hazards Position Specific Training Program: Administrative Guidelines).
NOTE: Written approval of an NWCG member regional or state fire director can be substituted for currency requirement above.
As required by agency.
Lead InstructorSame as Unit Instructor
40 additional hours (80 total hours) of successful fire service instruction.
Known or demonstrated expertise on one or more subjects associated with the course.Same as Unit Instructor.As required by agency.

Certification is based on ability to meet one standard in each column.

Decertification of Instructors

Instructor certification is a privilege, not a right. Whenever a questionable situation arises, the case will be reviewed by the appropriate course or training center coordinator (Reviewing Official). If it is determined that the individual instructor has performed poorly during one or more courses, the Reviewing Official can recommend to the Certifying Official who certified the individual as an instructor that their certification be withdrawn for a specific course, group of courses, or all courses. If the individual is a contractor, performance below those standards identified in a contract may be cause for nonpayment or voiding the contract and the Contracting Officer shall be consulted and be involved in the final disposition. Decertification shall remain in place until the problem has been remedied. Decertification should include removal from active instructor list(s) in IQS/IQCS.

Recertification of Instructors

The Certifying Official shall determine, in consultation with the Reviewing Official, the requirements to regain certification. Recertification is the responsibility of the Certifying Official or body managing the instructor’s certification.

Exceptions for Lead Instructor Qualifications

Exceptions to the lead instructor qualifications may be granted by the host agency(s) on a case-by-case basis. Instructors not currently qualified in the position(s) called for in the instructor criteria, but who hold a higher qualification in the same functional area, and have been certified in the position in the past, may be granted lead instructor status.

NWCG L-curriculum course instructors for L-380 and above are subject to the requirements and certification process identified on the NWCG L-curriculum courses webpage. Approved lead instructors are identified at https://www.nwcg.gov/committees/leadership-committee.

Testing Standards

The standard for passing an NWCG course is a score of at least 70 percent. The instructor guides will identify the evaluation criteria for each course. Some courses may use course components (pre-course tests, unit tests, class participation, or final exams) to aggregate the passing score. The passing score is based on the final exam unless otherwise stated.

Use of NWCG Certificates

Students successfully completing an NWCG course sponsored by an NWCG member agency will receive an NWCG certificate (list of member agencies at https://www.nwcg.gov).

Educational institutions, contractor associations, and non-member agencies may issue the NWCG course certificate if the lead instructor is an authorized representative of an NWCG member agency OR they have a formal agreement established with an NWCG member agency.

The National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) provides national leadership to enable interoperable wildland fire operations among federal, state, tribal, territorial, and local partners. NWCG operations standards are interagency by design; they are developed with the intent of universal adoption by the member agencies. However, the decision to adopt and utilize them is made independently by the individual member agencies and communicated through their respective directives systems.




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