PCIA - Climbing Wall Instructor Certification

Friday, September 23, 2022
5:00 p.m.
Allendale Campus
Faculty, Staff, Students

The PCIA Climbing Wall Instructor Course provides climbers with an in-depth, standardized understanding of the skills essential to teaching climbing in an indoor setting. It is a required certification for all Floor Staff at the GVSU Climbing Center as it's a vital step to professional climbing instructor development. The course reinforces the importance of teaching technically accurate information and debunks many common climbing myths. The course emphasizes the presentation of sound fundamental skills to climbing gym participants, the formation of risk assessment and risk management skills and basic problem solving skills such as belay transitions and on-wall coaching and assistance techniques.

Participants are assessed on both their core knowledge and their ability to effectively teach and coach related skills.

This course is currently only available to GVSU students, faculty & staff.

Climbing Wall Instructor Course Format

The course is ~20 hours including online study and lesson preparation. The course will consist of 2.5 days of in-person instruction.

Tentative Course Schedule (attendance required)

Friday, September 23 @ 5pm-9pm:  Welcome Meeting/ Course Kickoff
Saturday, September 24 @ 9am-6:00pm:  Fundamentals of Instruction & Basic Climbing Knowledge
Sunday, September 25 @ 9:00am-5pm:  Risk Management, Personal Lessons & Evaluations

Climbing Wall Instructor Course Pre-requisites

  • Shows an adequate experience level to the course provider illustrating that he/she is ready for the course. Examples include periodic climbing for 2 – 3 years, a high intensity of climbing in the past few months, etc..
  • Has the ability to easily put on a harness and tie-in appropriately.
  • Has the ability to belay with an aperture belay device and an assisted locking device in a competent, comfortable and confident manner.
  • Possesses the personal equipment necessary for the course (Climbing Center can provide as-needed but not having personal gear will affect your certification level).
  • Is capable of comfortably top roping 5.9 on an artificial climbing wall.


  • Varies by affiliation ($60 for GVSU Students; $20 Audit option)
    • Audit Option: Participants may take the course without receiving a formal certification at the conclusion. 
      To Audit the course, use the Coupon Code: AUDIT during registration to receive $40 off your fee. The certification will be valid from the date of the course's conclusion.
  • Deposit Option: Participants may register with a deposit of 50% of the total registration fee.  The remainder will be due on the first day of the course.  Please email Joe Bitely at [email protected] to receive a coupon code to take advantage of this option.
    Note: Students are not able to take advantage of both the Audit & Deposit options and will need to choose one or the other when registering.

Climbing Wall Instructor Course Certification Levels

  • CWI - A - Climbing Wall Instructor Assistant
  • CWI - Climbing Wall Instructor
  • CWI - L - Climbing Wall Instructor with Lead Climbing endorsement
  • Audit - All the knowledge but without formal certification

Climbing Wall Instructor Core Component Skills

Professional Skills

  • Presents her/himself with a professional demeanor and appropriate attire.
  • Presents her/himself with essential and well-maintained personal equipment.
  • Discusses differences between recreational climbing and climbing instruction and supervision.
  • Understands legal and administrative aspects of wall management.
  • Designs and demonstrates professional client greeting and facility introduction
  • Discusses options for working with youth populations vs. adult populations.
  • Discusses professionalism, professional training programs and the role of organizations such as the PCIA, CWA, ACCT and the AMGA.

Climbing Ability

  • Models a top rope climb at the 5.8 standard, illustrating confident, smooth, and controlled movement.
  • Demonstrates a variety of basic and intermediate physical climbing movement skills.

Technical Understanding

  • Possesses a working knowledge of and an ability to inspect basic climbing gear such as ropes, belay devices, carabiners and climbing shoes.
  • Demonstrates the ability to confidently tie and discuss the use of the following knots: Figure 8, Overhand and Bowline.
  • Demonstrates the ability to confidently belay using a variety of belay methods including aperture devices, assisted locking devices, and the Munter Hitch.

Safety Skills

  • Possesses a working knowledge of fundamental gym set-up and on-going inspection tasks such as the maintenance of: holds, landing surfaces, floor areas, bolts, quick draws, and rope set-ups.
  • Discusses the creation of safe climbing routes for varying abilities and styles of climbing.
  • Designs and demonstrates the administration of a basic climbing skill test.
  • Designs and demonstrates the administration of a lead climbing skill test.
  • Demonstrates effective skills intervention and skills remediation.
  • Evaluates and problem-solves the need for back-up belays and the use of anchors.
  • Performs basic assistance and rescue skills such taking over a loaded belay, counter ascending / rappelling, and a climber pick off.
  • Prepares an emergency plan for a sample facility.
  • Demonstrates effective supervision of both bouldering and roped climbing areas.
  • Demonstrates effective spotting techniques.

Educational Ability

  • Designs and demonstrates an appropriate teaching sequence of harness application, knot use, belaying and communication.
  • Designs and demonstrates a lesson showing effective coaching of movement skills through activities, verbal direction and modeling.

Climbing Wall Instructor Certification

Certification is granted to candidates who successfully meet all component skill objectives, complete pre-course requirements, and score a minimum of 75 on the written exam. The target goal for the certification standard is for candidates to be able to generalize learned information. In other words, candidates must be able to utilize various principles to create solutions for problems at hand. Generalization is considered the fourth learning stage following memorization, comprehension, and application.

Maintaining Certification

PCIA Climbing Wall Instructor certifications can be maintained in multiple ways.

  • A standard one-day recertification course taken within three years of the last date of certification.


  • Recertification by continuing education credit. A minimum of five hours focused on technical skills and five hours focused on education skills is required.  Courses should be pre-approved by the PCIA, but certified individuals may petition the PCIA for the consideration of activities that have not been pre-approved.


  • Achievement of a higher level PCIA certification. An upper level PCIA certification supersedes the Climbing Wall Instructor Certification and both will remain valid as long as the continuing education requirements of the higher level course are met.

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Location Information

Fieldhouse 170 - Climbing Center

Download parking map for the Allendale Campus

Contact Information

Joe Bitely, PCIA, CWI Course Provider
[email protected]


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This event was added to the calendar by Joseph Bitely (bitelyj@gvsu.edu) on Monday, September 14, 2020 and was last updated on Monday, September 19, 2022 at 6:19 a.m.