How to Become a Wilderness Survival Instructor

Are you passionate about the great outdoors? Are you looking for a profession where you can teach outdoor skills to others while immersing yourself in the beauty of nature each day? You might thrive as a wilderness survival instructor.

In this post, we will teach you how to become a wilderness survival instructor. We will discuss the average salary for wilderness survival instructors, what to know about certifications and degrees, and how to find work in this field.

But first, let’s briefly explain what a wilderness survival instructor does.

What is a Wilderness Survival Instructor?

tying a straight know at camp

If you become a wilderness survival instructor, you will be teaching primitive skills to others in an outdoor environment.

Some of the skills you might teach could include:

  • Foraging
  • Shelter-building
  • Knot-tying
  • Fire-building
  • Trap-making
  • Water purification
  • Bow-making
  • Spear-crafting
  • Etc.

Wilderness survival instructors work in a variety of settings. They could be employed by survival schools, wilderness therapy programs, team-building/corporate event companies, and so forth. They also can work for programs that train other new instructors.

How Much Do Wilderness Survival Instructors Earn?

For data on average salaries for wilderness survival trainers, we can turn to ZipRecruiter.

This site lists a national average wilderness survival instructor salary of $41,776 per year. This comes out to around $20/hour.

At the lower end, the site found some instructors made $17,000 a year. At the upper end, salaries ranged as high as $88,500.

The highest-paid areas for instructors the site identified included San Francisco, Fremont, San Jose, and Oakland, all in California. These were followed by Tanaina and Wasilla, both in Alaska.

So, this can be a high-paying career, depending on your location, experience level, and position. And it is sure amazing to be paid to do what you love, right?

Should You Become a Wilderness Survival Instructor?

This career may be a fit for you if:

  • You are a self-reliant, adaptive, humble person. Self-reliance is at the core of a wilderness survival mindset. As for adaptability and humility, these traits are important because they allow for a recognition of our place in the natural world. However much of an expert you become, nature can always throw something new and unexpected your way. You need to be ready for that on the job.
  • You love spending time outdoors. As a wilderness survival instructor, you will be spending the majority of your working hours out in nature.
  • You can handle the physical, hands-on aspects of the job. You will need the conditioning to work hard day in and day out and keep coming back for more each day.
  • You enjoy meeting new people and helping them succeed. This job is as much about connecting with people and empowering them as it is about connecting with nature.
  • You are good at explaining things. You not only need to be ready to adapt to nature, but also to adjust your teaching methods to different learning styles.

Do You Need a Certification or Degree to Become a Wilderness Survival Instructor?

In theory, anyone with the skills necessary can teach wilderness survival to others. You do not need a college degree, and you do not have to have a certification.

That said, this field is highly competitive. So, it is in your best interests to pursue a reputable certification if possible.

Here are a few examples of relevant certification programs:

  • Thomas Coyne Survival Schools: This program allows you to earn a wilderness survival skills certification along with a wilderness first aid certification simultaneously.
  • Boreal Wilderness Institute: Based in Canada, this survival institute offers a Wilderness Survival Certificate and a Wilderness Navigation Certificate, both of which are suitable for would-be survival instructors.
  • SIGMA 3 Survival School: This school claims to have “trained more survival instructors than anyone else by a landslide.” Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 certifications are all available.

As Boreal Wilderness Institute points out, you need to learn basic survival skills and learn how to teach them to others.

If you are planning to open your own business, you may also need additional training with respect to marketing, accounting, and other aspects of business administration. Otherwise, you can look for work with an existing company.

Where Do You Find Work as a Wilderness Survival Instructor?

Here are some of the types of companies that offer work to wilderness survival instructors:

  • Survival schools: Once you have the training to instruct others in wilderness survival, you can work at a survival school. Those you teach may sign up to earn their own instructor certifications, or they could simply be people who are passionate about primitive skills and want to learn how to survive in nature.
  • Company retreat/team-building businesses: These days, there are a broad range of non-traditional, team-building activities that help teach important skills to corporate employees. Some companies might opt for survival training as an intense, creative way for their employees to bond and learn new skills in teamwork and leadership. You could work as an instructor for a company that offers these services.
  • Wilderness therapy programs: Wilderness therapy programs are available to adults of all ages who are looking to uplift their moods, discover new skills, and build self-confidence. As a survival instructor, you could share the therapeutic benefits of your training with clients who enroll in these programs.
  • Colleges and universities: You may be surprised by just how many colleges and universities are hiring survival instructors.
  • Recreational non-profits: Non-profit organizations such as the YMCA sometimes have a need for wilderness survival trainers.
  • Expeditions companies: For adventurous travelers, survival training can offer a chance for deep immersion in an exciting new environment. Expeditions companies and other businesses aiming their service at tourists may hire wilderness survival instructors.

Are You Ready to Become a Wilderness Survival Instructor?

Now you know how to become a wilderness survival instructor. With wilderness survival instructor training, you have a chance to earn a certification that will help you compete for top survival instructor jobs.

Although you do not need a degree to become a survival instructor, the training program you partake in can be a challenging hands-on experience. It is one that will open the door to a rewarding career that will deepen your connection to nature and help you enrich the lives of your students.

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