Careers in Outdoor Learning

Making a positive difference with others

The Outdoor Sector offers a wide range of career options for people of all ages.


If you work in the outdoor sector you can expect to meet people with a passion for the outdoor environment, a desire to meet and get to know others, a love of developing knowledge, skills and experience, and a willingness to contribute to a strong team atmosphere.
There are full-time, part-time, voluntary and self-employment opportunities in delivering, leading or managing outdoor learning as well as in operations, hospitality, logistics, accounts, maintenance, etc.

What is working in outdoor learning like?

Working in the outdoors to provide fun, developmental and often transformational experiences to children and adults can be a rewarding and deeply fulfilling career. You can turn a personal interest in an outdoor adventurous activity or appreciation of nature and the natural environment into a job rather than a hobby. If engaging others in your passion, helping them learn, develop and grow as individuals is what gets you out of bed in the morning come rain or shine, you can do it again and again in outdoor learning. It’s a lifestyle thing.

What will you need to be a teacher, instructor or leader outdoor learning?

Jobs in the sector include outdoor activity instructor, environmental education leader, or activity tutor and may specialise in one activity or topic or provide introductions to a range of experiences. Roles vary and you are likely to be involved in setting up and running half or full day experiences for school children, young people, families, or adults. Some aspects of this may happen indoors too – such as planning and reviewing experiences with groups.


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The Outdoor Learning Community expects its colleagues to actively promote inclusion, equality and participation by all; to overtly respect the environment and encourage behaviours in others that preserves it; to encourage all participants regardless of aptitude to achieve to their limits; to promote on-going use of the outdoors and onward progression.

What will you gain?

A career in Outdoor Learning is a foundation for your personal, social and professional life. Many employers value the transferable skills (like planning, motivating others, communicating, taking responsibility, can-do attitude, etc.) that people who work in outdoor learning can bring to their future jobs.

Who could you work with?

You might work with children, young people, young adults, families, or adults. Many people specialise in one or two areas. Some people work across several areas of outdoor learning.


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Where can you start, and where you can get to?

Whether you have just completed school or university, are changing your career, or looking to make the most of retiring early, there are many routes into in Outdoor Learning. All ages are welcome but you need to be at least 18 to have instructional or leadership responsibility. There is no upper age limit. You craft your own career path and choose where you want specialise – here are some options:


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Who can you work for?

Most people who work full time in outdoor learning work with a residential centre, outdoor centre, activity provider, expedition provider, holiday company, or national or country park. You’ll also find Outdoor Learning professionals working in pre-schools, schools, wildlife trusts, and with youth groups, in fact anywhere where people are learning in the natural environment.

Where to begin?

If you are new to the sector, here are some ways to get into outdoor learning. They each have their pro’s and con’s – if you can, talk to someone who has been there and done it so you can see which ones would be the best fit for you.

If you are considering higher education have a look at the IOL Approved HE Courses. They have demonstrated the course is relevant to working outdoor learning, the teaching staff are skilled, knowledgeable and experienced, and the institution shows active support for IOL and the sector.


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Will I need specific qualifications or awards?

The outdoor learning sector is subject to some specific Health & Safety legislation when providing experiences for under 18 year olds. Employers provide their own training and also use awards provided by the National Governing Bodies (NGB) of outdoor sports such as climbing, canoeing, orienteering etc. to comply with this legislation.
At the start of your career most employers value your experience and commitment to activities in the outdoors and provide access to training as required. If you want to work specifically with adventurous activities then NGB certificates or awards can be a helpful addition.
To work freelance you will need to be up to date with your DBS, D1, First Aid, Safeguarding and Data Protection awareness as well as have the technical knowledge and skills in the subjects/activities you offer. Read the IOL Guide to Working Freelance in Outdoor Learning.

At the start of your career most employers value your experience and commitment to activities in the outdoors and provide access to training as required. If you want to work specifically with adventurous activities then NGB certificates or awards can be a helpful addition.


Developing your career

The Institute for Outdoor Learning can support you throughout your career.

  • Have a look at the IOL Jobs Directory to find your first (or next) job
  • Get professional recognition by completing an IOL Accreditation award
  • Follow the IOL 7 Steps to CPD guide to plan your Continuing Professional Development


The IOL Home Nation and Regions are your first port of call. They hold meetings, workshops and conferences where you can get to know your local outdoor learning community, find out about opportunities in your area and talk through the options of where to start, and where to go next.

Careers in Outdoor Learning



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