Outdoor Leadership

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Articles on Outdoor Leadership:
   Major in Outdoor Leadership
    A future in Outdoor Leadership
   Explore a Major in Outdoor Leadership

Major in Outdoor Leadership

Article by Rachelle Wiggins

“When we see creation, we see behind the creation and get a picture of…the Creator.”

 ~John Mark Comer

There is arguably nowhere to see the fullness of God’s glory more perfectly than on a majestic mountain peak, under a solitary night sky or watching the waves crash against the sand of a vast beach. It’s no wonder we come alive when we interact with what He’s made through adventure and outdoor activity! Outdoor leadership, as a college major, explores the unique relationship between humans and nature and prepares you to turn your passion for outdoor recreation into a sustainable career. Whether your preferred activity involves water (rafting, scuba diving, canoeing, surfing, kayaking), snow (skiing, snowboarding, snow shoeing, snowmobiling) or land (rock climbing, caving, hiking or mountaineering) an outdoor leadership degree will teach you to survive and excel in outdoor environments. You’ll dive into topics like group dynamics in learning, leadership, risk assessment, wilderness first-aid, decision-making, land management and outdoor counseling technique. You’ll arrive at a place of competence in teaching and guiding outdoor activities in all sorts of settings: camps, state or national parks and adventure-based programs.

A major based on exploration and open-air activity may sound like all play and no work. But, more is required to succeed than first meets the eye. Part of the test is that a love of recreation is only one half of the equation. You must also possess a heart for people and/or mind for business. For example, if you plan to bring others along with you in your outdoor pursuit then you must be highly relational, and possess the strong communication and interpersonal skills necessary to work with diverse populations. Being an expert on your discipline is not enough if you’re not able to skillfully and patiently instruct others. Additionally, a desire for excitement and thrill must be balanced with a concern for safety and professional consideration for those you are leading. Finally, an outdoor leader of any kind must be adaptable to a myriad of surroundings and the changing conditions inherent in nature. It is necessary that you remain calm under pressure and level-headed in emergencies since there is a built-in danger factor when it comes to outdoor adventure work.

It is possible you may tailor your degree to fit your desired learning outcomes. Depending upon your angle of career concentration, you might choose to focus on environmental studies, social work or business. Generally speaking, you will become grounded in the life sciences and engage in plenty of hands on learning which may involve field studies and logging the hours you gain outdoors both learning and leading. It is possible you will complete an internship with a local Park and Rec program or in a state or national park setting. Elective courses you take will be wide-ranging, including options such as:

  • Resource management
  • Ropes course
  • Survival skills
  • Wilderness ethics
  • Ecology

There are a number of career paths you may choose to follow. If your bent is entrepreneurial, you may choose a path of self-employment and become a fishing, hunting or back-packing guide. You may find employment in the government sector, becoming a park ranger or public educator. Or work for a non-profit such as a camp, outdoor ministry or charter school recreation program. Other opportunities include:

  • Search and rescue worker
  • Wilderness therapy guide or field instructor
  • Outdoor photographer/writer/journalist
  • Recreational programmer
  • Outdoor equipment sales/marketing

If your appreciation for God’s great outdoors inspires you to serve and lead others, then maybe the next adventure He has for you is a major in outdoor leadership!