Outdoor activities instructor

An outdoor activities instructor


Outdoor activities instructors organise and lead recreational outdoor trips through which the participants learn skills such as hiking, climbing, skiing, snowboarding, canoeing, rafting, rope course climbing etc. They also provide team-building exercises and activity workshops for disadvantaged participants. They ensure the safety of the participants and the equipment and explain safety measures for the participants to understand themselves as well. Outdoor activities instructors should be prepared to deal with the consequences of bad weather conditions, accidents and should responsibly manage possible anxiety from participants concerning certain activities.

The duties of an outdoor activities instructor may include:

  • Planning and leading outdoor activities and excursions, including assessing risks and ensuring safety measures are in place.
  • Instructing clients in specific skills and techniques, such as climbing or kayaking.
  • Providing guidance and encouragement to clients to build their confidence and overcome challenges.
  • Developing and adapting lesson plans to meet the needs of clients of all ages and skill levels.
  • Maintaining and organizing equipment, including checking for damage and ensuring it is in good working condition.
  • Keeping accurate records of client progress and participation, as well as maintaining necessary paperwork and documentation.
  • Ensuring that all participants follow safety rules and procedures.
  • Communicating effectively with clients, co-workers, and other professionals to ensure that everyone is informed and aware of relevant information.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to outdoor activities instructor:

outdoor pursuits group leader
instructor in outdoor activities
outdoor activities instruction practitioner
practitioner of instruction in outdoor activities
instructor in outdoor pursuits
outdoor pursuits instructor

Working conditions

Outdoor activities instructors work in a variety of settings, from outdoor adventure centers to schools and summer camps. They may work part-time or full-time, and their schedules can vary depending on the season and demand for their services. Instructors should be prepared to work in various weather conditions, and may need to travel to different locations to lead activities.

Minimum qualifications

To become an outdoor activities instructor, a high school diploma or equivalent is required, and it is beneficial to have experience in outdoor activities. Some employers may require certification from organizations such as the American Mountain Guides Association or the Association for Challenge Course Technology. In addition, many outdoor activities instructors obtain a degree in fields such as outdoor education, recreation management, or a related field. It is also essential for outdoor activities instructors to stay up-to-date with the latest safety procedures, equipment, and techniques.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Outdoor activities instructor is a Skill level 3 occupation.

Outdoor activities instructor career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to outdoor activities instructor.

survival instructor
tennis coach
snowboard instructor
sports instructor
horse riding instructor

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of outdoor activities instructor. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of outdoor activities instructor with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

adult literacy teacher
early years teacher
further education teacher
digital literacy teacher
hospitality vocational teacher

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of outdoor activities instructor.

  • Protection from natural elements: Forces of nature, such as weather patterns and seasonal conditions, their characteristics and any means of protection against them.
  • Outdoor activities: Sportive activities performed outdoors, often in nature, such as hiking, climbing, skiing, snowboarding, canoeing, rafting, and rope course climbing.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of outdoor activities instructor.

  • Guarantee students’ safety: Ensure all students falling under an instructor or other person’s supervision are safe and accounted for. Follow safety precautions in the learning situation.
  • Provide first aid: Administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation or first aid in order to provide help to a sick or injured person until they receive more complete medical treatment.
  • Instruct in outdoor activities: Instruct students in the theory and practice of one or several outdoor sport activities, usually for recreational purposes, such as hiking, climbing, skiing, snowboarding, canoeing, rafting, or rope course climbing.
  • Observe student’s progress: Follow up on students’ learning progress and assess their achievements and needs.
  • Adapt teaching to student’s capabilities: Identify the learning struggles and successes of students. Select teaching and learning strategies that support students’ individual learning needs and goals.
  • Apply teaching strategies: Employ various approaches, learning styles, and channels to instruct students, such as communicating content in terms they can understand, organising talking points for clarity, and repeating arguments when necessary. Use a wide range of teaching devices and methodologies appropriate to the class content, the learners’ level, goals, and priorities.
  • Use rope access techniques: Apply ropework to work in elevated position. Safely ascend and descend ropes, wearing a harness.
  • Apply risk management in sports: Manage the environment and athletes or participants to minimise their chances of suffering any harm. This includes checking appropriateness of venue and equipment and gathering relevant sport and health history from athletes or participants. It also includes ensuring appropriate insurance cover is in place at all times
  • Demonstrate when teaching: Present to others examples of your experience, skills, and competences that are appropriate to specific learning content to help students in their learning.
  • Assess nature of injury in emergency: Assess the nature and extent of injury or illness to establish and prioritise a plan for medical treatment.
  • Give constructive feedback: Provide founded feedback through both criticism and praise in a respectful, clear, and consistent manner. Highlight achievements as well as mistakes and set up methods of formative assessment to evaluate work.
  • Provide lesson materials: Ensure that the necessary materials for teaching a class, such as visual aids, are prepared, up-to-date, and present in the instruction space.
  • Assist students in their learning: Support and coach students in their work, give learners practical support and encouragement.
  • Organise sporting environment: Organise people and the environment to achieve desired objectives safely and efficiently.
  • Motivate in sports: Positively foster athletes and participants’ intrinsic desire to carry out the required tasks to fulfill their goals and to push themselves beyond their current levels of skill and understanding.
  • Encourage students to acknowledge their achievements: Stimulate students to appreciate their own achievements and actions to nurture confidence and educational growth.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of outdoor activities instructor. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Lip reading: The methods used to understand speech by interpreting the movements of the lips, face and tongue for people affected by hearing impairment or to understand people from a distance.
  • Compass navigation: The monitoring of movement from a starting to a finishing point using a compass, rotated until the compass’ orienting arrow aligns with the cardinal direction north represented by an ‘N’.
  • Teamwork principles: The cooperation between people characterised by a unified commitment to achieving a given goal, participating equally, maintaining open communication, facilitating effective usage of ideas etc.
  • Belay techniques: Various methods for safely fastening yourself during (rock) climbing activities using equipment such as carabiners, quickdraws, and harnesses.
  • Team building: Principle usually combined with a type of event that stimulates team effort, usually to complete certain assignments or to perform a recreational activity. This can apply to various kinds of teams, often to a team of colleagues socialising outside of the workplace.
  • Rope lashing: The process of attaching several objects, such as poles, together by use of rope, wire, or webbing often to secure or create a rigid structure, such as a self-fashioned table, tree house, or latrine. Types of lashing include square lashing, round lashing, and diagonal lashing.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of outdoor activities instructor. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Use modern electronic navigational aids: Use modern navigational aids such as GPS and radar systems.
  • Represent the organisation: Act as representative of the institution, company or organisation to the outside world.
  • Prepare lesson content: Prepare content to be taught in class in accordance with curriculum objectives by drafting exercises, researching up-to-date examples etc.
  • Facilitate teamwork between students: Encourage students to cooperate with others in their learning by working in teams, for example through group activities.
  • Read maps: Read maps effectively.
  • Lead hiking trips: Guide participants on a nature walk on foot.
  • Use rigging tools: Employ rigging tools such as cables, ropes, pulleys and winches to safely secure high structures.
  • Work with different target groups: Work with a variety of target groups based on age, gender and disability.
  • Inspire enthusiasm for nature: Spark a passion for the natural character of fauna and flora and human interaction with it.
  • Plan sports instruction programme: Provide participants with an appropriate programme of activities to support progression to the required level of expertise in the specified time taking into account relevant scientific and sport-specific knowledge.
  • Assess students: Evaluate the students’ (academic) progress, achievements, course knowledge and skills through assignments, tests, and examinations. Diagnose their needs and track their progress, strengths, and weaknesses. Formulate a summative statement of the goals the student achieved.
  • Maintain customer service: Keep the highest possible customer service and make sure that the customer service is at all times performed in a professional way. Help customers or participants feel at ease and support special requirements.
  • Manage resources for educational purposes: Identify the necessary resources needed for learning purposes, such as materials in class or arranged transportation for a field trip. Apply for the corresponding budget and follow up on the orders.
  • Use geographic memory: Use your memory of geographic surroundings and detail in navigation.
  • Climb trees: Ascend and descend from trees in a safely manner.

ISCO group and title

3423 – Fitness and recreation instructors and program leaders

  1. Outdoor activities instructor – ESCO
  2. Outdoor Recreation Guide/Instructor – careers.govt.nz
  3. Planit : Job Profiles : Outdoor Activities Instructor or Leader Sport and Fitness
  4. Featured image: By TreeMinion15 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
Last updated on April 27, 2023

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