About the Professional Climbing Instructors Association

Excellence through education!

Welcome to the Professional Climbing Instructors Association! The PCIA is a non-profit organization focused on providing quality education and instruction for new and existing climbing instructors who teach basic skills and/or facilitate climbing experiences. The PCIA Accreditation Program helps assure land managers, insurance providers and the public that employees of PCIA accredited schools have been peer reviewed and demonstrate core competencies appropriate to the climbing venue.


The PCIA’s sequentially designed instructional programs recognize the important differences and similarities that exist between climbing instruction that occurs on artificial structures, base managed, top managed and single pitch climbing sites. By providing a more consistent, standardized approach to entry level climbing instruction, the PCIA hopes to improve the safety and enjoyment of climbing for all participants.


The PCIA complements other related professions and is accessible to anyone interested in climbing instruction. Our continuing education requirements recognize the benefits of alternative technical training such as ropes courses, technical rescue, mountain guiding, canyoneering, and caving. We also recognize and value the importance of continually improving our educational and environmental knowledge. PCIA training and continuing education programs are available through many organizations and at a variety of national and regional professional conferences.


There are many talented climbing educators in America and the PCIA seeks to include the “best of the best” in its instructor pool. There are a variety of ways for interested people to become involved with the PCIA instructional team, ranging from teaching a continuing education class to becoming an Instructor Trainer.

Why the PCIA?

The PCIA was established to specifically serve the needs of climbing instructors – those people who introduce thousands to the sport of climbing each year, whether they are in a climbing gym or outdoors. We strive to create great climbing educators – people who are capable climbers, technically proficient, and passionate about teaching climbing. The PCIA delivers important core skills to climbing instructors, some of whom will go on to become great mountain guides as well. Guides generally work with small group sizes, often just one or two people, making instructing rock climbing a very different field. By comparison, many rock climbing instructors, especially top rope climbing instructors, often work with large group sizes and the goals are typically focused on skills acquisition or human objectives such as personal development or team building. The PCIA training and evaluation program significantly broadens the knowledge and skill base for both climbing instructors and guides.


In today’s diverse world of rock climbing venues, professional instructors should receive formal training and evaluation. Each of the PCIA’s courses has a formal evaluation component. In order to achieve certification, the instructor must pass an exam. These exams are not a mere formality – they require a significant understanding of specific climbing skills as well as the ability to apply these skills in a timely and appropriate manner.