Job as an Outdoor activities instructor

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Sam Turner is a multi-activity instructor at a PGL centre. Sam was working as an assistant bar manager when she decided that, as she enjoyed her outdoor hobbies so much, she would like to take up the challenge of a career that involved working outdoors.

What are your responsibilities?

I deliver multi-activity sessions, mainly to groups of children between the ages of seven and 18 (although I take adult groups too) to help them to become interested in the outdoors. In addition, I train other staff members in a range of rope activities and canoeing.

What is your daily schedule?

I go to a morning meeting to find out if there is any special information I need to know or if there are any changes to the day's activities. After this, I run either four activities (each lasting one-and-a-half hours) or two activities (each lasting three hours). The activities I lead include archery, abseiling and canoeing. Usually, one night a week I also have a night duty, which means that I help out with providing the evening entertainment.

What do you do in the winter?

Our centre is closed for the winter, so I spend some of the time training and some of the time doing jobs around the centre, for example, paining. Sometimes, I get the opportunity to work at one of our centres abroad for a short while.

What kind of equipment do you use?

I use a lot of equipment in my job, such as bows, arrows and arm guards for archery; dynamic and static ropes, harnesses and metalwork for rope activities; and buoyancy aids, paddles and canoes for open canoeing.

What are the main challenges?

There are so many different types of people that come to do activities at the centre, so it can be a challenge to change every activity to suit the various individuals' needs.

Who do you work with at the centre?

I work in the activities department with a number of other instructors. We work alongside the group leaders (who look after the children when they are not doing activities), domestic assistants and catering assistants.

What qualities does an outdoor activities instructor need?

You need to be cheerful, outgoing, willing to learn and able to adapt to most situations. Most o fall, you have to love the outdoors and enjoy working with children.

How did you train?

I did a multi-activity instructor award before becoming an instructor. Since then, I have achieved National Governing Body (NGB) awards in fencing, archery and orienteering, a Level 2 Canoe Coach qualification, a first aid at work certificate and an NVQ Level 2 in Outdoor Sports and Recreation. I have also got a Single Pitch Award (SPA) in climbing and I've had my rope activities assessed by a mountaineering instructor. I am due to begin my NVQ Level 3 next month.

Why did you choose this career?

It's something I have passion for. I love being outdoors and the work is challenging and fun. I meet so many different people, it gives me a sense of achievement and there is plenty of potential to improve my skills. The lifestyle is fantastic. It's great to be paid to do something I love.

What are your plans for the future?

I want to be a freelance instructor so that I can instruct outdoor activities anywhere in the world.

Sam's route to becoming an outdoor activities instructor

  • A levels.
  • Became bar worker, achieved National Licensee's Certificate at college and gained assistant bar manager role.
  • Multi-activity instructor award.
  • National Governing Body (NGB) awards.
  • NVQ Level 2 in Outdoor Sports and Recreation.

Sam's tips

  • Choose who you work for carefully and find out about on-the-job training opportunities.
  • If you love the outdoors, go for it!

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Salary information

  • Those with a season or two's experience and some basic National Governing Body (NGB) awards can earn between about £8,000 and £10,000.
  • Experienced instructors earn between around £12,000 and £18,000.
  • Salaries can go up to £25,000 or more for those moving into supervisory and management roles.
  • Accommodation and food is often provided in addition to these salaries.

Qualifications for an outdoor activities instructor

  • There are no set qualifications required to become an outdoor activities instructor.
  • Before applying for jobs, it is helpful to gain personal experience of outdoor activities by taking courses or helping as a volunteer. Applicants usually need two or more proficiency or coaching awards in outdoor sports. These are awarded by the relevant NGB for each sport. A first aid certificate is also needed. Some employers provide opportunities for staff to gain these qualifications.
  • Applicants usually have to be 18 years old, and over 21 if required to drive a minibus.
  • Training is often provided on the job by the employer, sometimes with study at college. Some employers offer training programmes and Apprenticeships leading to national qualifications.
  • Degrees are available in adventure education, outdoor education and outdoor pursuits.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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