Outdoor Leadership

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   Explore a Major in Outdoor Leadership

Explore a Major in Outdoor Leadership

photo By Marsha Kearns

The great outdoors is your playground…and you want it to be your workplace, as well. In an Outdoor Leadership program, you will acquire the academics, skills, and experience you need to be involved with outdoor programs. Theory will blend with hands-on learning experiences that include technical training in such activities in backpacking, rock climbing, and canoeing, to name but a few.

You will use people skills as a leader, counselor, and manager of an outdoor program. Depending on your career path, you may take other liberal arts coursework, such as social work, business, and environmental studies. A variety of science courses will flesh out your degree program.

Your core studies will focus on concepts of using outdoor resources, the impact of people, and managing both in an outdoor adventure program. You will end up being able to teach people how to appreciate and enjoy the outdoors while treating it with respect. You will learn land management and “leave no trace” skills. There are a huge number of options for career paths with a degree in outdoor leadership.

Choosing a Career in Outdoor Leadership

High or low, dry or wet, hot or cold, outdoor leadership opportunities abound in every type of environment. Whether you choose mountain climbing, scuba diving, or simply camping out, you will focus on the area of highest interest to you. However, there are courses that apply to any path. Some of these are ecology, land management, outdoor skills, field studies, group dynamics, wilderness skills, survival skills, conditioning, wilderness ethics, leadership, business management, and risk management.

All of these skills will come together into a relationship-based hands-on learning in the field. You will spend lots of time actually putting into practice what you have learned, immersing yourself in outdoor activities. This means fun—and work—will be a big part of your education and real-life preparation for the career you choose.

With recreation and leisure continuing to grow rapidly, the outlook for jobs with a degree in outdoor leadership is very good. If you’re unsure of the direction to take with the many options available, you may want to talk with an academic advisor to select the career path that will best suit your interests and temperament.

Types of Skills/Attributes

  • flexibility
  • interpersonal skills
  • leadership skills
  • critical thinking
  • verbal communication
  • teaching ability
  • self-confident
  • problem solving
  • stamina
  • problem solver
  • responsible
  • collaborative
  • sensitive to environment
  • patient
  • curious
  • energetic
  • enthusiastic

Types of Jobs/Fields

  • tourism/ecotourism
  • marine park
  • city park
  • nature preserve
  • nonprofit organization
  • government agencies
  • camp director
  • educational instructor
  • adventure leader
  • facilities management
  • sport marketing
  • equipment sales
  • search and rescue
  • natural resource management
  • forest ranger
  • self-employed guide/teacher
  • writer/journalist
  • photographer
  • recreation park manager
  • interpretive park guide


Do I love spending most of my time outdoors?

Do I enjoy teaching and leading other people?

Am I calm under pressure?

Do I have physical stamina?

Am I adventurous but careful?

Do I like to plan outdoor activities and excursions?

Can I carefully analyze and assess risk?

Am I willing to treat outdoor leadership as a business?

Am I concerned with resource management?

Am I willing to work for the preservation of outdoor spaces and wilderness?

*If you answered “yes” to at least 8 of these questions, a major in Outdoor Leadership might be right for you.