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How to become an Outdoor Pursuits Instructor

outdoor pursuits instructor careers

What does a Outdoor Pursuits Instructor do?

Outdoor pursuits instructors lead adults and children in a range of recreation and training activities. These include: canoeing, caving, rock climbing, sailing and mountain walking.

The work splits into three main, but overlapping, areas:

Outdoor Recreation: instructors help participants of all ages to enjoy and experience outdoor sports or activities. Instructors may be referred to as activity leaders.
Outdoor Development Training: instructors aim to develop participants' personal skills and qualities through adventure activities such as challenging adventure exercises. Instructors may be known as development trainers.
Outdoor Education: includes teaching about nature and the environment, geography and biology, as well as outdoor activities. Participants are mainly children and teenagers. Their job title may be outdoor education teacher.

Some instructors may specialise in one or two of these or have a more general, multi-activity or leading/guiding role.

Much of the work takes the form of short courses, which can be residential. Instructors consult with supervisors, teachers, social workers or managers to get a clear idea of a group's needs. A programme of activities is then drawn up.

Duties may also include practical tasks such as cleaning, looking after equipment, preparing reports and keeping records.

What's the working environment like working as a Outdoor Pursuits Instructor?

This job involves long hours. Evenings and weekends are also required.

Instructors may be employed on a permanent contract or a short-term contract during the summer. Part-time work is possible.

The work often takes place in the country or National Parks. Some jobs may include office work. Briefing sessions may take place in classrooms and seminar rooms.

The role involves being outside on all terrain and all weathers. Many activities call for bending, lifting and carrying, running, walking and climbing.

Travel is sometimes involved.

What does it take to become a Outdoor Pursuits Instructor?

To be an outdoor pursuits instructor you should:

  • be fit and have stamina
  • have good eyesight and hearing
  • have skills in at least two outdoor pursuits and be able to pass on these skills
  • have leadership qualities and be able to motivate individuals and groups
  • have good communication skills for explaining and getting people to understand difficulties and dangers
  • have a responsible attitude
  • be able to stay calm and show initiative in emergencies
  • be responsible for the safety and wellbeing of students, especially under-17s.
A driving licence is an advantage.

Outdoor Pursuits Instructor Career Opportunities

There are opportunities around the country, but strong competition for places. Growing areas are management development, activity tourism, environment, and outdoor youth and community activity. Declining areas include local education authority residential centres.

Centres can be run by charitable trusts, local authorities or commercial firms.

With experience, it may be possible to operate on a freelance basis. Some set up firms offering to organise development courses for industrial and commercial businesses or create and operate a new centre.

Promotion to supervisory and management posts may be possible. Higher posts include chief instructor, administrator, co-ordinator, deputy head and head of centre.

Most instructor or activity leader vacancies are for the summer season, which may last from March to September.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Outdoor Pursuits Instructor that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Sport England
Information Centre
16 Upper Woburn Place
Tel: 020 7273 1500

Sport Scotland
Caledonia House
South Gyle
EH12 9DQ
Tel: 0131 317 7200

Institute for Outdoor Learning
12 St Andrews Churchyard
CA11 7YE
Tel: 01768 891065

24 Stephenson Way
Tel: 020 7388 7755

The Sports Council for Northern Ireland UK Outdoor Institute
Eastgate House
Tel: 01392 72372

The Sports Council for Northern Ireland
House of Sport
Upper Malone Road
Tel: 028 9038 1222

National Training Organisations (NTOs) ceased to be recognised by the government on 31 March 2002. However, some will continue operating for several months. Please contact individual NTOs with queries regarding their current status.

From March 2002, the Secretary of State for Education and Skills began licensing new Sector Skills Councils - charged with boosting skills and productivity in business sectors. For information about Sector Skills Councils, their roles and responsibilities, please visit the Sector Skills Development Agency website: www.ssda.org.uk

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