Watershape University


Certifications document a student’s progress through Watershape University (WU) and, ultimately, to the International Watershape Institute (IWI). Credentials can be obtained at multiple steps as the student progresses from a beginning student (“freshman”) to more advanced levels of training and expertise (“senior” and “post-graduate” levels). Credentials are acknowledged via wall certificates and digital badging that is verifiable at verify.watershape.org.

The Certified Watershape Designer (CWD) validates that the recipient has met the globally-recognized professional standard established to professionally design pools, spas, and waterfeatures. This standard requires verification of professional education and training as well as passing a professional certification exam. This designation is a prerequisite to some advanced credentials.


The Certified Watershape Designer (CWD) certification may be used for contractor licensing and required continuing education in certain jurisdictions. The CWD certification builds upon the CWF certification; therefore, all Certified Watershape Designers (CWDs) are also CWFs which support licensing in the following jurisdictions:

Application Requirements

Equivalent Classes

Watershape University was founded with a principle of accessibility — allowing students of all levels to obtain meaningful high-quality education at lower cost and reduced travel expense. Portability is a key component of access and is an important principle and reason for institutions to obtain and maintain accreditation such as IACET.

All Non-WU courses need to be pre-approved if you wish to use them as a substitute for education requirements. We will happily accept any third-party accredited program that achieves the same learning outcomes as Watershape University’s Essential Classes:

DESIGN 1111: Essential Perpsective Drawing Workshop:

  • 8 hour minimum duration
  • 3rd party accreditation (e.g., ABET, ACCE, CMAA, IACET, NAAB)
  • List basic perspective drawing and presentation skills.
  • Define visual attributes including plan views, elevations, sections, detailing and lettering.
  • Explore linear perspectives through one- and two-point techniques used to create visual depth in two dimensions.
  • Identify common drawing flaws and errors in perspective.

PHTA/GENESIS DESIGN 101: Introduction to Perspective Drawing is an approved equivalent

DESIGN 2211: Essential Principles of Design Workshop:

  • 16 hour minimum duration
  • 3rd party accreditation (e.g., ABET, ACCE, CMAA, IACET, NAAB)
  • List architectural elements of design including point, line, shape, space, texture, color and form.
  • List architectural principles of design including balance, hierarchy/emphasis, repetition, rhythm, proportion/scale, movement, contrast and unity/harmony, variety, pattern, and negative space.
  • Discuss design vocabulary, space programming and adjacency, design theory visual design basics, pool design trends and site features and the Blue Ocean Strategy.
  • Apply elements and principles of design to an in-class project.

PHTA/GENESIS DESIGN 211: Elements of Design is an approved equivalent

DESIGN 2311: Essential Architectural Styles Workshop:

  • 16 hour minimum duration
  • 3rd party accreditation (e.g., ABET, ACCE, CMAA, IACET, NAAB)
  • Define the concept of architectural style and historical influence.
  • Review and describe 20th Century design traditions including Arts and Crafts, Prairie Style, Art Deco, Bauhaus, California Bungalow, Mid-Century Modern, Brutalism and many others.
  • Consider the role of water in architectural motifs.
  • Explore how 20th Century architectural styles continue to define 21st Century design.

PHTA/GENESIS DESIGN 271: 20th Century Architectural Styles is an approved equivalent.

DESIGN 2321: Essential History of Water in Architecture Workshop:

  • 16 hour minimum duration
  • 3rd party accreditation (e.g., ABET, ACCE, CMAA, IACET, NAAB)
  • Discuss the importance of water in the built environment.
  • Describe how water shaped civilization, the birth and growth of cities, and its influence on architecture throughout history.
  • List several important water related projects you should know about as an architect or landscape architect.
  • Describe design lessons inherited from these historical places and projects and what it might predict for our future in the watershaping world.

PHTA/GENESIS DESIGN 280: History of Pools and Water Features is an approved equivalent.

DESIGN 2611: Essential Color Theory, Materials & Textures Workshop:

  • 16 hour minimum duration
  • 3rd party accreditation (e.g., ABET, ACCE, CMAA, IACET, NAAB)
  • List the properties of light, vision and optical physics. Define color theory, primary colors, color “DNA”, blends and color mixing.
  • Discuss the use of color wheels. Explore the concept of color psychology and how impacts mood and ultimately purchasing decisions.
  • Consider how color can make or break design concepts.
  • Introduce color psychology, how color can influence purchasing decisions.

PHTA/GENESIS DESIGN 231: Color Theory & Its Application is an approved equivalent

Please submit certificates of completion or transcripts from other institutions by uploading via your personal account on the University Portal here.

Exam / Assessment

  • Proctored online exam
  • Schedule exam at your convenience 24/7
  • Pass with a minimum score of 75%


Is this certification accepted by PHTA?

Watershape University is completely independent of PHTA and has obtained approvals from licensing jurisdictions directly. PHTA has no authority over Watershape University and is not required to approve anything.

Will I still need a PHTA CBP to maintain my license?

No. Licensing authorities cannot single-source education and certifications. Continuing education, certifications, and licensing requirements can be obtained through Watershape University completely independent of PHTA.

If you have any other questions, please send an email to certification@watershape.org.

Certification Path

The Certified Watershape Designer (CWD) certification builds upon the CWF certification and is a prerequisite for the CWP and IWI certifications.

Pathfinder Infographic

Click badges for details.

International Watershape Institute (IWI)
International Watershape Institute (IWI)
Certified Watershape Professional (CWP)
Certified Watershape Professional (CWP)
Certified Watershape Foreman (CWF)
Certified Watershape Foreman (CWF)