North Carolina | Gap Year/Semester

A semester of adventure in our own backyard.

Questions? Call NCOAE Support (910) 399-8090


The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE) offers a semester of adventure in our own backyard. Let the locals show you around, and you’ll earn a handful of certifications around every bend in North Carolina. We love it here. Let us show you why.

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84 days

Course Information

Adventure First

North Carolina has it all. From steep mountain trails, to warm ocean waves, to world-class rivers, and accessible rock climbing, North Carolina is an outdoor enthusiast's dream.

A semester in North Carolina is for you if you want to explore the mountains to the sea, while earning the top certifications required in the outdoor industry, including Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification, Leave No Trace (LNT) certification, AMGA (American Mountain Guide Association) Single Pitch Instructor training, American Canoe Association (ACA) Swift Water Rescue certification, and ACA ‘Trip Leader’ certification in Sea Kayaking.

Join us in our backyard as we explore the Appalachian Mountains, the Pisgah National Forest, and at the Atlantic coast. Additionally, we’ll drop in on the Linville Gorge wilderness area, and spend days in the wilderness, developing skills in backpacking and climbing. Finally, we’ll head to the ocean, visiting remote barrier islands and gaining paddling and surfing skills. We want to share our home with you.

Spend a semester with some of the best outdoor leaders in the industry. Gain mastery from their instruction based in the powerful NCOAE curriculum, with additional lessons in local environmental responsibility, critical thinking, communication, leadership, decision-making and teamwork.

And at the end of this course, you’ll be able use these newly developed skills to guide groups in the backcountry or pursue a summer job in the outdoor travel industry.

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  • Duration: 84 days
  • Minimum Age: 18
  • Tuition: $15,700.00
  • Credit Hours: 22

Education Always

  • Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification
  • Wilderness Upgrade for EMT’s
  • Leave No Trace (LNT) certification
  • AMGA (American Mountain Guide Association) Single Pitch Instructor training
  • American Canoe Association (ACA) Swift Water Rescue certification
  • ACA ‘Trip Leader’ certification in Sea Kayaking
  • Expedition planning
  • Wilderness Risk Management
  • Remote wilderness camp craft
  • Backcountry navigation
  • Expedition cooking and food planning
  • Experience best practices in environmental and civic responsibility
  • Teaching-level knowledge of the NCOAE core curriculum
  • Itinerary
  • FAQs
  • Credits
  • Outcomes
  • Downloads

Itinerary Highlights

  • For amazing mountain views, we’ll hike to the top of Mount Mitchell, the highest point in the East, and explore Whitewater Falls, the tallest waterfall in the East, in the Nantahala National Forest.
  • Jump in the ocean to learn skills in sea kayaking, surfing, and stand-up-paddle boarding, while earning your ACA trip leader training/certification.
  • Explore the Appalachian-Blue Ridge forests, an ecoregion with one of the world’s richest temperate deciduous forests in terms of biodiversity.

Why Take This Course

  • WFR, LNT, and Swiftwater Rescue certifications
  • AMGA Single Pitch Instructor certification training
  • ACA Kayak Instructor certification

Where You’ll Be

  • North Carolina beaches
  • Pisgah National Forest
  • Linville Gorge Wilderness
  • Black Balsam Knob
  • Shining Rock Wilderness
What is the North Carolina Semester course?

The North Carolina Semester course is an 84-day wilderness adventure and experiential education course all rolled into one. You’ll spend much of the semester in the Appalachian Mountains and the Pisgah National Forest sharpening your backpacking and climbing skills, and then head to the Atlantic coast, where you’ll visit remote islands and develop valuable paddling and surfing skills. As you engage in various hands-on training sessions and wilderness experience, you develop the knowledge and skills required to guide novice wilderness explorers toward a deep appreciation for wilderness adventure.

If you love spending extended periods of time in the outdoors, learning, and sharing your appreciation of wilderness and backcountry experiences with others, then this course is for you.

A semester in North Carolina seems like a great adventure, but will I like it?

NCOAE’s semester revolves around our scenic campus in our home state. We have spectacular outdoor opportunities in our backyard, and we would love to share them with you. Our access to the wilderness is unparalleled, and you’ll have the opportunity to explore the amazing variety of natural wonders North Carolina has to offer. Our instructors would love to share their secret spots, and our semester is full of everything from the ocean to the river to the mountains – please join us!

What are the instructors at NCOAE like?

Our instructors are capable and professional and are some of the best people you’ll ever meet. NCOAE instructors have earned their reputation for expertise, and they sincerely care about sharing their wilderness skills and passion for the outdoors with you. With an entire semester in North Carolina, you’ll find that your teachers have become your friends and, along the way, have passed along to you top-level technical skills, and put you on the path to joining them in the ranks of professional outdoor educators.

Will I be able to get a job in the outdoor industry after this North Carolina semester?

A semester in North Carolina is designed to provide you with experience and the technical skills and certifications to work in the outdoor industry as a professional outdoor educator:

  • Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification
  • Leave No Trace (LTN) trainer education
  • American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) single-pitch instructor training
  • American Canoe Association (ACA) sea kayaking instructor certification
  • Expedition planning training and experience
  • Wilderness campcraft training and experience
  • Wilderness Risk Management (WRM) training and experience
  • Backcountry navigation training and experience
  • Outdoor, human, and technical skills training

We appreciate the commitment you make when you enroll in one of our semester courses, and our instructors are prepared to deliver an experience that’s one of the best in the industry.

I am on a really tight budget. Can I afford this?

North Carolina is our backyard, and a semester in North Carolina is the most affordable course we offer. Yet, we recognize that, for many of our students, raising the money for tuition is a challenge. Our North Carolina semester is an opportunity to gain the certifications and technical skills you’ll need without breaking the bank. And if you still don’t think you can afford it, please give us a call. We have lots of fundraising ideas, scholarship opportunities, and creative financing options we’d like to share with you.

Will I like NCOAE’s campus?

We work hard to create a place that feels like a home away from home. You’ll find that our campus is bustling with people who share the same passion for the outdoors and wilderness as you do. During your semester, you’ll have the opportunity to call our campus home. Come and get to know us – we’d love to take the time to share stories around the campfire and give you the opportunity to explore our backyard.

Is North Carolina better than the Pacific Northwest for a semester?

That’s really up to you and what you prefer. Both geographical areas feature a wide variety of wilderness settings, from rivers to oceans and from forests to mountains. You participate in many of the same activities, during which you develop the skills you need to plan and prepare for outdoor adventure-based experiential education courses.

What North Carolina offers is access to some of the best wilderness in the world, all within a day’s drive. And, the people in North Carolina are world-renowned for their friendliness. Our objective is that as soon as you step foot on our campus, you feel that you’ve finally come home to the place you were destined to be all along.

What are the best parts of a semester with NCOAE?

You’ll have to join us to answer this for yourself. Each semester is different, and you’ll find that your experience with NCOAE is unique to your group. Our instructors make sure that each course has a foundation of the NCOAE curriculum and outdoor technical skills. But we think the best experiences during a semester are the unexpected moments – when everyone is laughing at a joke around the campfire or hiking on a rainy day. Give us a call and we’ll tell you our favorite stories, because we think a semester with NCOAE in North Carolina is a dream come true.

Do I need the NCOAE Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician (WEMT) certification to participate in the North Carolina Semester course?

You must hold or obtain a current Wilderness Medicine Training Center (WMTC) Wilderness First Responder (WFR) or WMTC EMT certification to participate in this course. A valid WMTC WFR is the minimum required. WMTC wilderness medical courses and teaching methodologies provide students with a far more detailed level of physiological and pathophysiological knowledge and hands-on experience than training offered by other providers. Successful completion of a WMTC course is required to ensure that all North Carolina Semester students will be able to perform in the field at WMTC’s level of skill and understanding.

The North Carolina Semester course is a remote expedition geared toward those interested in emergency medicine and outdoor education, and all North Carolina Semester team members are expected to have a high level of wilderness medical training. You may elect to complete only the NCOAE Semester WFR class at the end of the EMT training in order to acquire a current WFR certification.

Academic Credit

You are eligible to receive  a maximum of 16 credit hours from the list below during this semester program. You will need to align any of the listed academic credits/courses with your degree program. Please call NCOAE with questions on applying for transferable credit hours.

Your work during our Fall Semester – North Carolina may be eligible for college-level credits through Keystone College:

  • COMM 3135 — Small Group Communication: 3 credits
  • EXPL 2110 — Experiential Learning: 3 credits
  • LEAD 1110 — Foundations of Leadership: 3 credits
  • LEAD 2110 — Team Building: 3 credits
  • PHED 1125 F2F 001 — 1st Aid/Safety: 2 credits
  • SRM 1018 — Hiking and Habitat: 2 credits
  • SRM 2110 — Program Development and Planning: 3 credits
  • SRM 3135 — Facilitation of Leadership Activities: 3 credits

Course Outcomes

The NCOAE Fall Semester – North Carolina course is the affordable adventure option if you are seeking exceptional outdoor skill development, including: wilderness medicine, wilderness risk management, backpacking, climbing, backcountry cooking and living, and expedition planning.

Where do you want to go (physically, mentally, socially, academic, etc.)?

You’ll climb, backpack, and paddle your way through a full semester of adventure – and learn about the theory and principles of Outdoor and Adventure Education. Instruction in wilderness risk management will teach you to recognize hazards and manage groups during incidents and crisis situations.

Additionally, you will gain the know-how and professional-level competence to guide less-experienced explorers on high-altitude backpacking trips in diverse environments.

How will NCOAE help you get there?

The handful of certifications you’ll earn during this course will put you ahead of the competition in your life and your career. You’ll develop your personal teaching style, understand your leadership style, and develop an increased ability to communicate effectively with others.

In our beautiful home state, you’ll acquire self and group assessment and management skills, which makes you uniquely qualified to guide novice wilderness explorers toward a deep appreciation for the outdoors. NCOAE will help you to find your voice as a leader, and teach you to address and facilitate a myriad of group dynamic and interpersonal issues.

Best of all, you’ll advance your opportunities — to work in the wilderness, and to affect positive changes in the world, starting right here at home.

This Fall Semester – North Carolina course and academic adventure is only offered through NCOAE, which is why we’re excited to offer it in our backyard.

Upcoming Dates / Reserve Your Spot

This Fall Semester – North Carolina course and academic adventure is only offered through NCOAE, which is why we’re excited to offer it in our backyard.