How to Become an Outdoor Activities Instructor

How to Become an Outdoor Activities Instructor

Outdoor activities instructors lead and supervise people in individual or group settings performing activities such as fill climbing, canoeing, sailing and snowboarding. They focus on ensuring participants perform outdoor activities safely and effectively. If you have good interpersonal skills, a good level of physical fitness and love outdoor work, you could become an outdoor activities instructor.

The Work

As an outdoor activities instructor, you would be required to develop activities that help people enjoy their leisure time, team-building exercises for employees and activity courses for the disabled.

To achieve this, you would be involved in the following activities;

  • Preparing activities that suit a specific client or group
  • Taking clients through the procedure of each activity
  • Ensuring all equipment and facilities are safe for use
  • Explaining to clients about safety measurers
  • Carrying out risk assessments before an activity kicks off
  • Maintaining equipment and availing them to the outdoor activities sites.

Work Environment

Outdoor activities instructors have irregular working hours. Depending on their clients’ schedules, they could work in the evenings, during the day, weekends or public holidays.

These instructors can work in a variety of settings, including water bodies, mountains and caves. As such, they are often exposed to various weather conditions. Because some outdoor activities are quite risky, instructors wear protective gear such as helmets and floating jackets to avoid accidents.

During expeditions, outdoor activities instructors may spend some time away from their homes and families.


Lie most professions, the salaries for outdoor activities instructors vary with the level of experience, as summarized in the following table;

Level of experience

Annual pay

Starting instructors


Experienced instructors


Senior instructors


Source: National Careers Service

Entry Requirements

To become an outdoor activities instructor, you must meet the following requirements;

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Possess skills in at least one outdoor activity
  • Have coaching or instructor qualifications approved by the relevant National Governing Body for each sport or activity
  • Have a first aid certificate, and life-saving certificate if you plan to instruct water-based activities
  • A clearance by the Disclosure and Barring Service – You need it to work with children and vulnerable people.

Examples of recommended qualifications include;

  • Mountain Leader Training England Award in Mountain Leadership
  • British Canoe Union Certificate in Coaching Paddle-sport
  • United Kingdom Snows-ports Coach Awards Scheme
  • NGB courses in sports, leisure, and recreation.

When seeking employment, previous experience in youth work, teaching or sports coaching could come in handy.

Important Skills and Abilities

To work as an outdoor activities instructor effectively, you should have the following skills;

  • Excellent activity-specific skills, such as diving skills.
  • Ability to supervise and instruct a group of people
  • Good communication skills to give instructions clearly
  • Ability to inspire and motivate nervous clients and handle dangerous situations
  • Awareness of health and safety precautions especially when dealing with children
  • Good organizational skills.

Training and Career Development

Once youfind employment, you could pursue the following qualifications to enhance your competence and career development prospects;

  • Level 2 Award in Introductory Work in the Outdoors
  • Level 2 Certificate in Outdoor Activity Leadership
  • Level 3 Diploma in Outdoor Programs.

You can also apply for professional accreditation through the Institute of Outdoor Learning Accredited Practitioner scheme. Pursuing additional courses in areas such as facilities management, counseling and marketing can help push your career to the next level.

It is important to keep your skills up to date throughout your career. This involves updating your first aid and life-saving certifications.

Job Opportunities

Although most outdoor activities instructors work on a freelance basis, you can find full-time employment opportunities in;

  • Local authorities
  • Charitable organizations
  • Independent activity centers
  • National governing bodies

You could also be hired as a resident instructor at various companies.

With enough experience, more qualifications and a solid reputation, you could set up your own activity center or secure teaching positions in institutions that provide training for aspiring outdoors activities trainers. 

Useful Links

It is important to note that employment in this industry is currently experiencing rapid growth. In fact, between 2014 and 2020, there will be around 115,000 new jobs for sports and culture professionals, including outdoor activities instructors, according to the National Careers Services. Therefore, your job is to develop the required job skills, earn the relevant knowledge and wait to land a job! Good luck!

Photo Credits - Proactive Adventure