Instructor Course

Gain the skills necessary to become a full-time outdoor educator on a NCOAE instructor course!

Questions? Call NCOAE Support (910) 399-8090


Interested in starting or furthering your career in outdoor and adventure-based education? The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education’s (NCOAE) Instructor Course can help.

Here at NCOAE, we know outdoor-based experiential education and how to organize and guide safe backcountry adventures. We’re so good at in fact that we’re accredited by the Association for Experiential Education. We also know what it takes to become a field instructor or guide at leading organizations like ours. Join us for an upcoming 9-day Instructor Course. Everything you need to know is below.

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Course Information

Adventure First

Join outdoor education and adventure-based recreation professionals for a 9-day educationally-focused immersion in the wilderness.

Our 9-day Instructor Course takes potential and up-and-coming field instructors and outdoor educators to a variety of remote areas. Depending on location, you’ll paddle, hike, and/or rock climb your way through the backcountry.

Field Instructors are responsible for leading a variety of outdoor adventure courses which may expose them to backpacking, camping, rock climbing, kayaking, whitewater rafting, mountaineering, and surfing, all in remote destinations where a working knowledge of wilderness medicine is required. Instructors must be committed to contributing to each participants’ interpersonal, academic, and leadership development, and be invested in creating a positive impact at a community level. Additional duties of field instructors include leading lessons based on a set curriculum, facilitating meaningful group processes and debriefs, managing risks, and setting an emotionally and physically safe, fun, and engaging tone for participants on the courses they lead.

Here at NCOAE, we are committed to planning and facilitating professionally guided outdoor adventure and education experiences that foster teamwork, environmental stewardship, and the acquisition of technical outdoor skills.

If you have a deep passion for education and the outdoors and take immense pride in your work and ability to positively impact the lives of others; if you embrace change and believe mountains, rivers, and surf are opportunities for growth and development, then we invite you to join us on an upcoming 9-Day NCOAE Instructor Course. Email your cover letter & resume to to finalize your application.

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  • Duration: 9
  • Minimum Age: 21
Available Dates
Apr 28, 2020 - May 05, 2020

Education Always

  • Leave No Trace (LNT) training
  • Expedition planning
  • Wilderness risk Management
  • Remote wilderness camp craft
  • Backcountry navigation
  • Expedition cooking
  • Professional development and extensive training in NCOAE core curriculum
  • Itinerary
  • FAQs
  • Credits
  • Outcomes
  • Downloads

Itinerary Highlights

  • Professional development experience in backcountry travel, planning, wilderness risk management, campsite selection, backcountry navigation, and more
  • Immerse yourself in a wonderland of densely forested hills, cool mountain streams, cascading waterfalls, and stunning rock formations
  • Dive deep into NCOAE’s core curriculum
  • Network with leaders in outdoor and adventure-based education

Why Take This Course

  • To further your knowledge and development as an outdoor educator, field instructor, and backcountry guide
  • Discover in just nine days whether a career in outdoor and wilderness education is suited to you and your goals and objectives
  • Acquire skills for an exciting job that takes you to pristine destinations in the great outdoors instead of an office cubicle
  • For experienced outdoor educations and backcountry guides, learn the latest tips, tricks, strategies, and warnings for teaching, guiding, and placing your career on an advanced track

Where You’ll Be

  • Remote wilderness locations depending on the course

Current NCOAE Job Openings

Field Instructors & Lead Field Instructors

What is The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE)?

Founded in 2009, The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE) is one of only 14 Wilderness/Adventure-based programs in the United States to be accredited by the Association for Experiential Education (AEE). That means we have purposely opened ourselves up to safety audits and complete transparency with the aim to be among the best in the fields of outdoor education and adventure-based recreation — as recognized by AEE, the only governing body in our sector of the outdoor industry.

At NCOAE, we have made it our business to help people and organizations get outside of their daily comfort zones, push themselves through guided challenge-by-choice experiences, and arrive back home with new perspectives, insights, and technical outdoor skills. Our staff is certified in numerous outdoor recreation-related disciplines. For example, our climbing guides are certified through the American Mountain Guide Association (AMGA); all our field staff and guides possess at least a current Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification, enabling each to manage medical needs should they arise in the backcountry. Many of our staff hold certifications related to Leave No Trace, AIARE Avalanche, Wilderness EMT, American Canoe Association Whitewater Kayak, Swiftwater Rescue, and more.

What is the Instructor Course?

NCOAE’s Instructor Course features nine (9) days of professional development focused on risk management, expedition planning, curriculum design and lesson planning, principles of outdoor experiential and adventure education, wilderness navigation, Leave No Trace, backpacking, campsite selection and management, rock climbing, sea kayaking, and in-depth application of the NCOAE Curriculum.

Participants actively sample and learn key aspects of  our core curriculum, which is focused on self, community, action, and impact. Participants also network with outdoor education and adventure recreation leaders, guides, and instructors.

Depending on course location, you’ll visit remote areas such as North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest, Oregon’s Three Sister’s Wilderness, Virginia’s Grayson Highland, Chile’s Patagonia, or other remote and captivating destinations. Along the way, you’ll explore mountainous areas while learning and practicing many aspects related to teaching and guiding in the backcountry.

Where will we be staying during our Instructor Course?

We’ll be living in tents and enjoying our evenings in different areas most nights, identifying the stars and sharing highlights of our learning along the way.

How is the NCOAE Instructor Course different from the NCOAE Outdoor Educator Course?

The NCOAE Instructor Course is designed as professional development training for participants with a current background in outdoor education, outfitting, and guiding or adventure-based team building. It is meant for those committed to facilitating professionally guided outdoor adventure and education experiences for both youth and adults. For the Instructor Course, we pack a lot into just nine (9) days of training.

The longer, 25-day NCOAE Outdoor Educator Course, combines learning technical outdoor skills with our frequently sold-out Wilderness First Responder (WFR) Course. This longer course allows for a wide variety of activities set against the backdrop of lush greenery, winding rivers, and some of the oldest mountains in the world. On an NCOAE Outdoor Educator Course, you’ll explore the highlights of local topography, geography, and culture. If you’re just getting started in the outdoor education field — especially if you’re a college student looking to earn college credits — and you’re looking for a more intensive experience, we suggest joining us for an upcoming Outdoor Educator Course.

Is the Instructor Course offered in a variety of locations or on different dates?

We offer the Course in locations throughout the United States and Internationally, and during different periods throughout the year.

How much does the NCOAE Instructor Course cost?

Believe it or not, course tuition ranges from just $100-$450 depending on a variety of factors, including course area, activities, and the experience of participants.

Beyond my tuition, what will I need to pay for?

Upon arrival at the course area, your tuition includes all lodging, group camping equipment, safety equipment, ground transportation expenses, and food for the duration of the course. You may request an optional meal out when we are in an urban area, which you would need to pay for separately. Additionally, you’ll want to budget a small stipend for your personal items, including souvenirs, extra snacks, and anything you may find along the way that you’d like to purchase for yourself or people back home.

Is work guaranteed after the training?

After successful completion of the Instructor Candidate Training Course, NCOAE trip contracts are available to course graduates. The number of trip contracts depends on a variety of factors, including prior experience and our own organization’s programming needs. NCOAE seeks to hire a core staff of instructors for each summer season (May-Sept). Additional contracts may be available in the fall/winter.

What is pay like for NCOAE field instructors?

Field instructors are typically paid a daily rate, based on experience. Starting pay at NCOAE is typically $75-$80 a day for field staff. Senior Field Staff can earn more.   

What kind of food will I be eating on an NCOAE Instructor Course?

Since we will be carrying all of our food, we’ll be eating many of the items that begin in their dehydrated forms. Water weight is not something we want to carry. Expect meat, vegetables, fruits, grains, and even fresh baked bread and pizza! Of course, you’ll be learning how to  prepare meals all from scratch (you’ll be a  backcountry gourmet before you know it).

Credits Available

Your work during our Instructor Course may be eligible for up to eight CEU’s (continuing education units). To find out if you qualify, contact the NCOE office in North Carolina by calling (910) 399-8090.

Course Outcomes

You’ll acquire self and group assessment & management skills throughout this 9-day course, while exploring a variety of unique natural environments. Enrich your outdoor educator instruction skills as you hike, climb, paddle, backpack and/or rock climb — exploring mountains and rivers, and encountering remote flora, fauna, and landscapes along the way.

This course will prepare you with the skills necessary to lead others as a paid backcountry leader or guide, or outdoor educator or instructor.

How will NCOAE help me get to where I want to be?

The NCOAE Instructor Course is the affordable option for anyone seeking extraordinary outdoor skill development, including expedition planning wilderness risk management, campsite selection and management, backpacking, rock climbing and mountaineering, backcountry cooking, and more.

Best of all, you’ll advance your career opportunities for work in the wilderness and exit the backcountry itself with more of an ability to affect positive changes in the world.

Upcoming Dates / Reserve Your Spot

Available Dates
Apr 28, 2020 - May 05, 2020

Instructor Course graduates who are hired by The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education receive a number of benefits, including eligibility for pro-deals on gear from companies such as Black Diamond, Patagonia, Osprey, NRS, Cascade Designs, and others.