Qualifications - Starting a Career as an Activity Instructor?

orange square This is a difficult question to answer, yet one we get asked all the time. The quick answer is that some National Governing Body (NGB) awards are more useful than others in that there are more jobs associated with them, but the type of instructing you wish to undertake will determine which is the most valuable to you, meaning there isn't really a simple answer to the question. Let's try to answer in more detail. The majority of people who become Activity Instructors can be loosely divided into three camps.


sailing boat training

Multi activity instructors

This is a popular way for people getting started in adventure industry. Often the bigger companies realise that they can struggle to get enough qualified applicants, so instead they are looking for people with potential. They will then train you up to meet the standard required to act as an instructor at their centres. Clearly people who do already have some qualifications may stand a better chance of gaining employment, but even if you have no previous experience, this type of instructing can still be within your reach.

Generally the types of activities associated with multi activity centres include open canoes and kayaks, climbing and abseiling, archery and rifle shooting, as well wide games, obstacle courses and outdoor pursuits as obscure as frisbee golf. Clearly you are not going to be applying form many jobs in the future where you will be boasting about how you are qualified to teach the wacky stuff, but if as part of your training you pick up some canoe or climbing qualifications, then these can certainly help you advance a career in outdoor activity instructing. Another great qualification that you will always get at a multi activity instructor, and should really do off your own back if you are serious about teaching outdoors, is first aid. There are different options, but something like the ITC Certificate in Outdoor First Aid is an HSE approved award.

More information about multi activity career training.

Land based activity instructors

While it is possible to get recognised qualifications in a wide range of terra firma adventure activities, probably the most popular would be related to walking and climbing and come in the form of WGL (Walking Group Leader), CWA or CWLA (Climbing Wall and Climbing Wall Leader Award), SPA (Single Pitch Award) and ML (mountain leader Award). Many of these lead on to more advanced mountaineering courses, allowing you to teach people in progressively more hostile or challenging environments.

More information about climbing/mountaineering career training.

Water based activity instructors

If you are happiest on the water then you should be thinking about canoeing, sailing or even windsurfing awards as the most valuable. The British Canoe Union offer a series of qualifications starting out with UKCC Level 1, while the Royal Yachting Association offer the Dinghy Instructor as their starter qualification. Windsurfing is actually very popular, especially if you are hoping to teach around the coast or even around the Mediterranean.

More information about Paddlesports and Sailing career training.


Instructor characteristics

Instructor characteristics

If you want to work outdoors as an activity instructor you need to know the qualities that employers are looking for, and therefore, whether you are going to be suitable for the role. Instructing introduces you to lots of new people, often on a daily basis. You are required to quickly gel so that you can help them get the most from the new skills and experiences that they are there to take part in. That means you need to be a certain kind of person. In this article we look at the characteristics that separate good instructors from the rest, and discuss why these character traits are so important for the role.

Instructor characteristics >>

Climbing awards

Climbing awards

In an effort to find out more about why people choose to take the rock climbing courses that allow you to introduce other people to the sport, namely the Climbing Wall Award (CWA), and the Single Pitch Award (SPA), we spoke to a couple of professionals who have achieved these NGBs and who are now aiming to progress their climbing careers. Click through to read about how these industry standard qualifications allow you to supervise other climbers, and tips for passing the exam.

Climbing awards >>

Parent's Guide

Parent's Guide

Are you the parent of a child hoping to work in the outdoor industry? Or are you a young adult worrying about telling your parents that you would rather be working outdoors than sitting accountancy exams? As with most industries, career progression is competitive and based on an individual's performance, but skills acquired are readily transferable and so can aid your future career whether or not you choose to stay in the industry for a prolonged period. This handy guide discusses why the outdoor industry can provide a stable and fulfilling career path for young people.

Parent's Guide >>