Could you be an Outdoor Activities Instructor?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Have you ever considered turning your love of the outdoors into a career? If so, becoming an Outdoor Activities Instructor just might be for you!

The role of an Outdoor Activities Instructor may involve many different things. You might work freelance, or for an activities centre. In time, you might run your own centre!

A typical day might include:

  • Preparing and planning for activities
  • Checking all equipment and premises or facilities for health and safety factors
  • Explaining health and safety procedures to participants
  • Supervising, explaining and demonstrating activities to participants
  • Providing specialist instruction, for example to climbers

You may be working from a Centre, or guiding people through the Countryside! You could be doing a 9 to 5 role, or you might be working unsociable hours in all weathers. This role is very varied.

Skills and experience

You’ll need:

  • skills in at least one outdoor activity such as spearfishing or climbing.
  • relevant coaching or instructor qualifications as approved by the relevant national governing body for each of your activities.

The exact skill set depends on the activities that you’re supervising. For example, if you were teaching spearfishing to a group, you’d need to:

  • have AIDA certifications for the freediving aspect
  • have a life saving certificate
  • have a first aid certificate
  • be a skilled, experienced spearo or speara
  • be fully familiar with all equipment used as part of this sport
  • fully understand trained in the health and safety issues that can arise whilst participating in this sport

In addition to specific knowledge and qualifications, relating to your activity, you’ll need a range of soft skills that are universal to all Outdoor Activity Instructors and ensure you are effective in your role. For example:

  • Leadership skills
  • The ability to remain calm in difficult situations
  • Patience, understanding and empathy
  • The ability to work well in a team
  • Good attention to detail and the ability to be thorough
  • Independence – you’ll often work alone
  • A strong grasp of English (or whatever the first language is of your typical client)
  • The ability to put together material to teach with a logical progression
  • The ability to teach!

You’ll also need to be able to use all equipment associated with your activity, including any safety and emergency equipment.

If you are working with children, you’ll also need a DBS Certificate – in most cases this will be an enhanced DBS.

Where to start

There’s no set career route to becoming an Outdoor Activities Instructor but generally speaking, you need to train both for the activity itself and for the teaching aspect of the activity.

As a starting point, you might for example take Pearson’s BTEC Level 2 Award in Skills and Activities for Sport and Active Leisure (Outdoor Education) which covers Activity Leadership, Coaching, Teaching and Instructing, and Operational Services.

You will also need to research any specific requirements for instructors for your sport, usually set by the bodies representing those sports. For example,

The body representing spearfishing is the British Spearfishing Association, although spearfishing instructors and courses do not have to be BSA-approved.

Once you have completed your training, you might then go on to become an apprentice or trainee at an activity centre.


Volunteering is an excellent way to build your work experience. Not only will you learn valuable skills and develop a better understanding of the role, but you will also make contacts that can help you to find work in the future. Try volunteering at activity clubs and outdoor centres, or through the Duke of Edinburgh awards.

Find out more

The Institute for Outdoor Learning champions safe activities and effective learning in the outdoors. It is a professional membership institute working towards an application for a Royal Charter. Joining the Institute can help you to connect with like-minded people and learn from a trusted and vibrant network of outdoor learning professionals.

Leave a comment