Pathways into the Outdoor Industry Explained

Before deciding on a career in the outdoors, it is worth knowing the different Pathways into the Outdoor Industry and figuring out which method of approach is appropriate and best for yourself.

If you have decided that you want to work in the outdoor industry as an outdoor instructor, you’ll need to develop a number of skills:

  • Patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • The ability to work well with others
  • Sensitivity and understanding
  • Leadership skills
  • Thoroughness and attention to detail
  • The ability to work on your own
  • A dedication to the outdoors
  • A willingness to work or train in unsocial hours.

The Four Main Pathways:

There are four main pathways into the outdoor industry to choose from. We have helped many people get into the industry over the last two decades, and can safely say that, while it is not necessarily the easiest industry to gain a footing in, any of these four options can set you up … but each has its own merits and downsides.

Seasonal Work:

Many people straight out of school go travelling and work either at summer camps or as chalet/ski lift staff. These can be fun initially and there is lots of partying and socialising; furthermore, unlike the other three pathways, you are paid – although not very much. However, this option does not provide you much in the way of career development or qualifications, and is more of a temporary job in the outdoors rather than the start of a career.

Voluntary Work

You can take a similar unpaid pathway into the outdoor industry by volunteering, either through the DofE programme, through clubs and memberships, or directly with outdoor centres (who may help your development as well and put you through courses while you are there).

Again, this is more often a temporary route into the outdoors, before people decide what to do. However, some people do manage to start their careers this way.

College/University Course

There are numerous outdoor university or college courses across the UK and elsewhere in the world. Some of them are pretty good, and some less so… One of the major downsides to any university or college course is the number of professional qualifications that you gain from them. Of course, you gain the theoretical knowledge and understanding, but few offer many actual qualifications which does not necessarily make them particularly good value for money.  However, if you are truly set on going down this path, then the best course we have come across is the Glasgow Kelvin College Outdoor course. We know many people who have gone down this line over the years and are happy to recommend this provider.

Outdoor Instructor Training Courses

Often called fast track courses because they are the quickest direct pathway into the outdoor industry. There is no quicker way to gain the qualifications required to become an all-round professional outdoor instructor. There are a few different companies in different areas of the UK which offer this type of structured training – each one is placed in relation to the sorts of qualifications they offer – i.e. by the sea (where the emphasis will be on coasteering and surfing) or in the mountains (where the emphasis will be on day expeditions and mountaineering). So, before you decide to do a course, you have to decide what qualifications you want and what each one is worth in terms of career prospects. To put it in perspective, the Summer Mountain Leader is probably the most sought-after course from any employer of outdoor professionals, and you will not gain this from a coastal course. Active’s Course, and Plas Y Brenin are the two main providers of Outdoor Instructor Training Courses offering this as part of the package.

The total cost of the courses can range anywhere from five to over ten thousand pounds, depending on the duration of the course, the qualifications gained, and the profit margins of the company. Despite this sounding like a lot, in relation to the other options, this is perhaps ultimately the cheapest and easiest way into the industry. But it is not without its downsides as you must be a committed individual: the courses are generally full on and full time – regardless of weather conditions … but that is good preparation: as an Instructor, you must be able to handle the harshest of weather – and it is likely whatever course you decide on that there will be some interesting weather days!

Active Outdoor Pursuits in the Cairngorms offer courses ranging from 16-23 weeks long starting at just £5,595.00 – which sounds like a lot … until you see that, so far as we know, Active offers more qualifications from our course than any of the other providers … And if you find a course that offers the same outcomes or more outcomes for less then not only would we like to know about it (so that we can strive for improvement), but we will also offer to match their price for you.

It is important to know the quality of what you receive on the course; for that reason you cannot just book the Active course online. We request people to come and visit the centre, take part in an activity, meet the staff and see the place for themselves so everything is transparent, and you know exactly what you will get for your money.

Not only is our course the best one available in relation to the amount of qualifications you gain (in fact, we are priced in the same bracket as courses which offer only half the number of qualifications that we do), we are confident there is no better place to train in the country and that our instructors, trainers and assessors will leave you inspired and a well qualified outdoor instructor. And we get better and better … the company has been going for over two decades and has a lot of experience delivering training courses – a lot more than most providers – and over our time, we have adapted the courses to what our students have told us they wanted in their feedback.

As well as our attractive pricing and the sheer number of qualifications our trainees gain, Active has another great strength as a provider.  At the end of the course, we offer successful trainees the chance to further develop their abilities on our IDP course should they wish – and normally a lot of our trainees do so wish! Effectively, you pay us for the course, you complete the course and are set up as an outdoor instructor … Then – if you choose, and it suits us – you move on to our IDP scheme where we pay you back! … and continue your development with further qualifications while you work as an outdoor instructor for us, picking up crucial group experience in all the activities we offer.

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So that is an outline of the four possible pathways into the Outdoor Industry.  If you are interested in finding out more, drop us a line or give us a call.

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