Outdoor activities instructor

outdoor pursuits instructor
Sport and leisure

Career outlook for outdoor activities instructor

UK Salary Ranges





Currently employed in Scotland


Salary information is provided by the "National Careers Service". "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You would lead groups of people on trips to the countryside and wilderness areas. You’d teach them new skills so they can safely enjoy outdoor sports and activities.

It would be important to have excellent skills in at least one outdoor activity such as:

  • Hillwalking and mountaineering or climbing
  • Canoeing, sailing or surfing
  • Skiing or snowboarding

There are different types of courses you could provide, including:

  • Leisure activities for adults and young people
  • Team-building exercises for employees of a company or organisation
  • Activity courses for disadvantaged young people

You would:

  • Plan and prepare activities to suit the needs, abilities and experience of each group
  • Explain, advise on and demonstrate activities
  • Instruct in one or more specialist areas, such as sailing or climbing
  • Make sure that all equipment and facilities are safe
  • Explain safety procedures
  • Check weather conditions before starting the session
  • Assess the hazards and manage risks

Outdoor activities can be dangerous so you’d need to have a very high awareness of health and safety issues and be able to deal with accidents. People will trust you to keep them safe.

Some people may scared or nervous about taking part; you’d need to gently motivate and encourage them.

If you are working with young people sometimes you might need to work hard to inspire them to take part. You may also sometimes have to deal with challenging behaviour.

Working conditions


You would usually work long, irregular hours, including evenings, weekends and public holidays. Many jobs are seasonal, and part-time work is common.


Your work will be physically demanding, and will usually involve being outside in all weather conditions, often in remote areas. You could work in open countryside with natural features such as mountains, caves, rivers and lakes, or in urban-based outdoor education with facilities such as dry ski slopes, indoor climbing walls and canals.


Courses and expeditions will often involve staying away from home, sometimes camping.

UK employment status





Self employed


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  • Positive attitude
  • Coaching
  • Attention to detail
  • Verbal communication
  • Cooperating
  • Supporting
  • Respecting

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you'll need.


There are a number of routes into this role with many employers asking for relevant experience and a passion for outdoor activities. 

You can do an outdoor pursuits National Certificate or National Qualification courses (SCQF level 3-6) with no formal qualifications but some courses ask for National 4/5 qualifications (SCQF level 4/5).

There is a Modern Apprenticeship in Active Learning, Leisure and Wellbeing (SCQF 5/6 or 6/7) which includes qualifications in activity leadership and outdoor programmes. 

To enter Higher National Certificate (SCQF level 7) or Higher National Diploma courses (SCQF level 8) you will need National 4/5 qualifications and one to two Highers or equivalent qualifications.

Degrees are available in Outdoors Pursuit Management and Environmental Science and Outdoor Education (SCQF level 9/10) and require National 5 qualifications and a minimum of four Highers. You could also have a degree in childcare, education or social work and gain additional outdoor education training or postgraduate qualifications. 

To enter a postgraduate qualification in outdoor education requires a degree; some courses ask for relevant experience. 

It's also possible to gain a role in this area without formal qualifications if you have extensive outdoor activity and leadership experience. 

Useful subjects

  • English
  • Maths
  • Sciences
  • Physical education

You will also need

If you are employed in a commercial outdoor activity centre that works with young people who are under 18 and not accompanied by a parent you will need to meet Adventure Activities Licensing Scheme safety standards which ensure employees are suitably experienced and qualified to carry out activities. This may involve additional training or qualifications.

A life-saving qualification is required if you are doing water activities.

Helpful to have

Qualifications and experience, such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award, that show: 

  • Physical fitness
  • Experience with outdoor activities
  • Knowledge of health and safety
  • Leadership skills 

It's helpful to have relevant work-based qualifications or be willing to work towards qualifications once in a job, such as a Modern Apprenticeship. 

A driving licence.