Planning ahead for outdoor education career

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of August 27 — September 2, 1998
Hiking in South America
Spectacular bike rides in the Midwest
Finding fellow adventurers in Boston
Planning ahead for outdoor education career

Planning ahead for outdoor education career
Question: A 15-year-old friend of the family would like to have a career in outdoor education. He is a friendly, intelligent kid with a lot of skill and energy for his various pursuits — mountain biking, rock climbing, river rafting, etc. He doesn’t know where to begin with getting started in his chosen career and I told him I would check for him on the Internet. Any ideas?

Mary Lin
Prescott, Arizona

Adventure Adviser: Well, one of the country’s best resources for outdoor education is in your backyard at Prescott College (520-778-2090). At this non-traditional institution of higher education, students are given the leeway to design their own curriculum in one of four areas: human development, environmental studies, outdoor action, and humanities. Incoming freshmen (if Prescott even uses the word “freshmen”) take a three-week wilderness expedition in the Southwest as part of an orientation to the philosophy that the school is trying to impress upon its students. Though your friend has a few years to go before he decides which college to pursue, if any, I’d have him request a catalog from Prescott. It’ll give him food for thought for the next couple of years. He can reach Prescott College by writing to 220 Grove Ave., Prescott, AZ 86301, or calling 520-778-2090. In the time being, your friend may want to consider taking one or more nationally known and respected outdoors courses. The two obvious organizations that pop into my head are the National Outdoor Leadership School (307-332-6973) and Outward Bound (800-547-3312). The two schools’ philosophies vary slightly, but both provide excellent opportunities for your friend to learn new skills as well as develop leadership qualities that might make him a marketable candidate in the outdoor job market. Who knows, his experience with either of these programs could eventually lead to a job.

With Outward Bound, the instructors are selected on the “basis of their maturity, judgment, teaching experience and outdoor skills. A genuine interest in people and a love for teaching are as important as an extensive wilderness resumé.” With NOLS, oftentimes you can take one of their courses to become a certified instructor. In fact, the large majority of their instructors started out as students. There are currently 800 certified instructors, 300 of which work for the school in a given year. For both programs, there is a long apprenticeship program, and either Wilderness First Responder or Wilderness Advanced First Aid certificates are required. Beyond that, I suggest your friend sign up for as many outdoor-related courses, classes, and camps he possibly can, and save his money for outfitted trips. I’d also suggest that he focus on one or two activities that he really loves and become an expert in. Believe it or not, this field is getting very competitive and sometimes only the best succeed. The more experience and expertise he gains now, the better off he’ll be in the future.

Search the archives | Ask the Adventure Adviser

©2000, Mariah Media Inc.

More at Outside

Elsewhere on the Web