Policies and Guidelines

This information focuses on qualifications to become a certified Extension Master Gardener (EMG) and policies and guidelines for currently certified Extension Master Gardeners.


Are you interested in the MSU Extension Master Gardener program? What qualifications are needed?

Extension Master Gardener Program Code of Conduct

Every EMG trainee is required to read and accept the MSU Extension Master Gardener Program Code of Conduct. This document is a contractual agreement that is accepted by volunteers who commit to the MSU Extension Master Gardener Program. These standards guide the volunteers’ behavior during their involvement with the MSU Extension Master Gardener Program. The primary purpose of this Code of Conduct is to ensure the safety and well-being of all participants.

Just as it is a privilege for MSU Extension to work with those who volunteer their time and talents to the Extension Master Gardener Program, a volunteer’s involvement in the program is a privilege and a responsibility, not a right. Failure to follow the Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Code of Conduct may lead to dismissal as an EMG. Read more here.

Educational Core Training Course

The Extension Master Gardener training course is 14 weeks long. Each trainee must commit to attending all the training classes. The course consists of reading the manual, completing open book weekly quizzes, engaging in weekly classes, and completing an open book final exam. Read more here.

Volunteer Commitment

The purpose of the volunteer requirement is to extend MSU Extension’s educational programs in horticulture, gardening and small- scale food production. To be certified as an Extension Master Gardener, trainees must complete a minimum of 40 volunteer hours educating others through preapproved volunteer projects related to horticulture and gardening. The trainee will have 12 months following the last class in which to complete and report in Volunteer Central (VC) the required 40 volunteer hours. Activities that count toward Extension Master Gardener certification must have educational value for others and be nonpaying for the EMG. Read more here. 

Protecting Volunteers and Community Members

Extension Master Gardener trainees must undergo the Volunteer Screening Process to be accepted into the training program. This process includes national and state background checks, check against the Sex Offenders Registry (SOR), submission of references, and an interview. Read more here.

Certification and Annual Recertification

Participants receive MSU Extension Master Gardener certification after successfully completing the educational training course and the volunteer requirement. Certificates and name badges are awarded. After Basic Certification, an Extension Master Gardener may recertify for participation in the program for another year by completing the online recertification process each January. Read more here.

Advanced Extension Master Gardener Status

Extension Master Gardeners who participate in 25 additional hours of training in horticulture subjects and volunteer an additional 50 hours of educating others during community horticulture volunteer service will achieve the status of Advanced Extension Master Gardener. Read more here.

Transferring to Another County

Extension Master Gardener records are maintained in the Volunteer Central (VC)  by geographic rosters. Initial trainee records are housed within the roster for the training location the EMG trainee participated in. Read more here. 

Out-of-State Transfers

Extension Master Gardeners who are certified in another state may be admitted to the MSU Extension Master Gardener program by meeting certain criteria. Read more here. 


The Volunteer Management System

Trainees and certified EMGs are expected to enter their volunteer and education hours into the web-based Volunteer Central (VC) each calendar year. Each individual is required to have a unique email address in order to access the secure system. Read more here.

Use of the Extension Master Gardener Title

The correct title for a volunteer from this program is “Michigan State University Extension Master Gardener.” This title is to be used only by volunteers who are annually certified in the MSU Extension Master Gardener program and are performing unpaid educational and public service as active Extension Master Gardeners. Read more here. 

Answering Questions

MSU Extension Master Gardeners are limited to providing gardening advice to non-commercial growers or managers of plants. Questions pertaining to commercial growing or management of plants, legal issues, food preservation and any other non-gardening related questions must be referred to the appropriate MSU Extension educator. Read more here. 

Pest Management Recommendations

When providing pest management strategies, MSU Extension Master Gardeners are required to provide an integrated pest management approach (using cultural, mechanical, biological and chemical methods). Read more here.

Affirmative Action

Like every Michigan State University program, the MSU Extension Master Gardener Program is open to all individuals without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, religion, age, height, weight, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, marital status, family status or veteran status. Read more here.


MSU liability insurance coverage is extended to re-certified MSU Extension Master Gardeners and trainees who have successfully completed the Volunteer Selection Process (VSP) and are volunteering in good faith for the University on MSU Extension staff- approved volunteer projects (via the Volunteer Project Proposal Form). Read more here.

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Extension Master Gardener Policies and Procedures

Extension Master Gardener Policies and Procedures