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HOW TO BECOME AN OUTDOOR ADVENTURE GUIDE: A CAREER PATH GUIDE

Posted by Andrew Stuart on

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HOW TO BECOME AN OUTDOOR ADVENTURE GUIDE:  A CAREER PATH GUIDE

Have you ever dreamed of working in the great outdoors as an Outdoor Adventure Guide or an Outdoor Instructor.

* Do you hold an active interest in adventurous activities?

* Do you have a strong passion for working the outdoors in all types of weather conditions?

* Do you handle stressful situations well – particularly with a wide range of people?

* Do you thrive in an environment that enables you to work with individuals that share your interest in the great outdoors?

If you’ve answered “yes” to these questions, then pursuing a future as an outdoor adventure guide may be the perfect career path for you! If we’ve got your attention, let’s figure out how you can break into this outdoor field!

You’ll need to know what type of education, experience and skills you will need, and you’ll probably want an idea of what you’ll actually be doing, where you could be working, and what you could earn. As luck would have it, all of this information is provided below here for you!

Education Needed to Become an Outdoor Adventure Guide:

You don’t necessarily need any formal post-secondary education to work as an outdoor adventure guide. Pursuing education in a related field however, can provide you with skills, knowledge and competencies that can be very helpful in this career.

For example, if you plan on running your own outdoor adventure business, having a previous background in business management, marketing, sales, customer service, and business administration, certainly can be extremely helpful.

Certification You May Need to Acquire:

Some specialties within the umbrella of “Adventure Guide” require special training or certification; for example, abseiling instructors, white water rafting guides and even mountaineering guides must almost always be accredited. Other forms of certification may be voluntary. Below are some of the certifications you may require:

  • Certification in wilderness first aid and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation)
  • Additional health and safety training is typically an asset.
  • The appropriate level of swimming, skiing, mountain guide, rafting, or other outdoor certification (if applicable to your choice of speciality activity).
  • Valid industry licenses, where applicable (for example, if working as an adventure tour guide, need a valid area permit or even a license to operate in that specific region).
  • You may also need a valid driver’s license, and in some cases an ‘F’ endorsement on your bus licence to cover you for paying passengers.

  • Success Tip:  “For more specific information regarding certification you’ll need for your chosen area of specialty, you could contact any employers in your region that you wish to work for, as they may require certification that other employers do not require (or even some areas of specialization as a whole). Google search any local employers and send them an e-mail or phone and chat with them about the possibility of ‘volunteering’ for them until you get all your permits, qualifications or permits together. Some employers welcome the extra support with keen and hard working volunteers, especially as they don’t have to pay them!”

    Outdoor Adventure Guide Job Description:

    As an outdoor adventure guide, you would be responsible for organizing and conducting outdoor expeditions for adventurers, tourists, the general public, hotel guests or sports and outdoor enthusiasts. These day trips or expeditions may come in a variety of forms, including:

  • Mountain climbing expeditions
  • Flat water rafting float trips
  • Extended backpacking expeditions
  • Hiking day trips
  • Hunting trips
  • Fishing trips
  • Trail horse rides
  • Heli-skiing
  • White water rafting
  • Canoe day trips
  • Sea kayaking day trips
  • River kayaking trips
  • Ecotourism or environmental day trips
  • Wilderness-adventure therapy programs
  • or even a combination of any of the above

  • Outdoor Adventure Guide Job Duties:

    The specific duties you would be responsible for will vary from employer to employer. In general however, you would be responsible for performing the following duties as an outdoor adventure guide:

  • Guiding individuals or groups during outdoor adventure based activities.
  • Creating safe yet exciting customer experiences.
  • Assembling any necessary equipment & supplies.
  • Demonstrating necessary skills & techniques, providing individual instruction when necessary.
  • Providing fun & engaging information to trip participants about the region they are exploring.
  • Administering first aid or even medivac rescue services when necessary.
  • Organizing and/or preparing meals & refreshments for paying customers.
  • Providing safety & risk management techniques & supervision services.
  • Continuously learning about your territory & the region you will be working in.

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    Experience Needed to Become an Outdoor Adventure Guide:

    Nothing can replace experience on an outdoor adventure guide's resume. For example, if you're applying for a white water rafting guide or leadership position, you had better have a decent list of personal trips to prove that you have the fundamental skills necessary to be a white water rafting guide. This rule of thumb applies to any other type of outdoor leadership role from canoeing to rock climbing.

    Success Tip:  Get out there and practice your outdoor skills! Volunteer if you have t,o as this will enable you to gain valuable life skills as well as the technical skills to get into the outdoor industry.”

    Who Employs Outdoor Adventure Guides?:

    If you become an outdoor adventure guide, your possible employers may include adventure tourism companies, resorts, parks and lodges, or even privately owned adventure businesses. Alternatively, you may wish to be self-employed, and operate your own adventure guiding business. The world is your oyster!

    Career Advancement for Outdoor Adventure Guides:

    As an outdoor adventure guide, you have the ability to move into different roles as you accumulate experience and technical skills and expertise. For example, you may move into supervisory or management roles, or decide to commence your own private business.

    With additional education, you may also potentially move in to different roles within your organization. For example, with some marketing training courses under your belt, you may be able to work in marketing for the adventure company that already employs you. With a combination of experience and education, you will likely also be attractive to outside employers in the industry.

    Outdoor Adventure Guide Salary Range:

    As you contemplate your future and weigh the pros-and-cons of potential career paths, one of the key factors that could influence your decision is money, specifically how much you can expect to earn in your chosen field.

    If you’re curious to find out how much you could earn as an outdoor adventure guide, then take a peek below. But first, be aware that there are several factors that can influence your earnings, including:

  • Any relevant certifications you’ve earned (such as CPR, wilderness first aid).
  • The specific responsibilities within your role.
  • Other technical skills and prior work experience.
  • Terms of employment: permanent employee or casual contract work.
  • Geographic location within your state, region, or even internationally.
  • Whether or not your work is seasonal (affecting your salary).

  • Outdoor Adventure Guide Wage:   According to the Department of Commerce (2018), the Minimum Wage in WA for an adult (age 21 & over) casual is $22.95. If you’re younger, it’s much less. This is the ‘minimum’ wage that they have to pay you. Of course there are some exclusions and your potential employer may fit into these different categories.

    The information in this section applies only to employers and employees in the WA state industrial relations system. The state system covers businesses which operate as sole traders, unincorporated partnerships, unincorporated trust arrangements as well as any incorporated associations or not for profit bodies that are not trading or financial corporations. The Guide to who is in the state system has more detail.

    This information does not apply to any business which operates as a Pty Ltd business and is a trading or financial corporation nor to any incorporated association or not for profit body that is a trading or financial corporation. These businesses and organisations are in the national fair work system and your should visit the Fair Work Ombudsman website for information on employment laws.

    Minimum pay rates for award free employees:

    The pay rates below are the minimum pay rates for an employee whose job is not covered by a WA award. Naturally, some exclusions apply for specific groups.

    The minimum weekly rate of pay is for a 38 hour week and the minimum hourly rate applies to all hours worked above 38 each week. Award free employees do not have a minimum entitlement to be paid a higher rate of pay for hours worked above 38 each week or for work on weekends or public holidays or for shift work.

    Minimum pay rates for award free employees who are not apprentices or trainees (effective 1 July 2018)

    Age Full time weekly
    rate (38 hours)
    Hourly rate Casual hourly rate
    (includes 20% loading)
    Adult
    (21 years or older)
    $726.90 $19.13 $22.95
    20 years $654.30 $17.22 $20.66
    19 years $581.60 $15.31 $18.37
    18 years $508.90 $13.39 $16.07
    17 years $436.20 $11.48 $13.77
    16 years $363.50 $9.57 $11.48
    <16 years $290.80 $7.65 $9.18

    The Award free minimum pay rates and entitlements summary provides these rates and the pay rates for award free apprentices and trainees in a printable pdf format. This summary also provides information about other entitlements for award free employees.

    We’re also aware of various outdoor adventure companies or businesses, that also pay their staff in a day-package wage. For example, some instructors can receive $150 per day, others $200, $250, or even $350 per day upwards, depending on the activity, skills or technical expertise required. For extended wilderness trips, some staff can receive $450–$550 (upwards) per day out in the field. These trips often includes running a series of adventure activities requiring a wide range of outdoor skills, guiding experience and technical expertise and team leadership.

    Personal Characteristics You'll Need:

    If you want to become an outdoor adventure guide, it’s important to know that your personality is just as important as any certifications that you can bring to the table. Does the following describe you?

  • You have a passion for working for extended periods in the outdoors.
  • You work very well with a wide variety of different people.
  • You are able to handle stressful situations well.
  • You don’t get flustered in a crisis, or even a potential first aid situation.
  • You have a keen interest in providing your guests with an amazing outdoor experience.
  • You are willing to put the time in to continuously refine your outdoor skills & knowledge.

  • Skills and Abilities You’ll Need to Become an Outdoor Adventure Guide:

    In order to execute your job duties with competence, you’ll need to be armed with other skills, including:

  • Ability to deal with physical demands of the position.
  • Previous experience in the relevant sport or activity is required.
  • Ability to work in teams as well as by yourself.
  • Excellent communication & public speaking skills.
  • Excellent instructional skills is definitely required.
  • Good organizational skills & leadership skills.
  • Working knowledge of terrain, environment & the local area.
  • Good customer relations & customer service skills.
  • Working knowledge of relevant legislation.
  • Knowledge & mechanical skills necessary to maintain your equipment.
  • If self-employed, you’ll need skills in small business (such as marketing, accounting, management, etc.)

  • Still interested?  

    Want to know more? Drop us a line or a pm to chat more if you would like some further information or advice...

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    About the Author: Andrew has been actively involved in the youth & community development and outdoor adventure industries over the past 38 years. He has also managed several businesses in the outdoor adventure tourism industry including: the Western Venture wilderness-experience program, Corporate Adventure Training, Wilderness Ventures, the Outdoor Adventure Network, and is also a senior outdoor instructor, rafting river guide, and workplace trainer & assessor with the WYLD Camps Project - a wilderness youth leadership development project that works with 'at-risk' children & youth and their families here in Western Australia.

    Interested, want more?  Also, see more of our posts about ongoing safety & risk management issues sadly lacking on the island of Bali... on our Facebook page blog.