Outdoor wilderness jobs are typically broken into three different categories, Outdoor Education, Outdoor Recreation, and Wilderness Therapy.
Outdoor Education specifically relates to experiential learning – the process of learning by doing. There are many school programs that will often engage a group of students in an outdoor activity, potentially something specific to wilderness like identifying wildlife, the fundamentals of building a campfire, or mapping for example.
Outdoor Recreation is often a scenario where a person or group hires a guide or professional to lead them in an outdoor recreational activity like climbing or whitewater rafting.
Wilderness Therapy is the process of using the wilderness as a therapeutic tool to help students make growth and change the way they operate in the world. It’s a reset where a student is able to step away from the stressors and negative influences in their current environment, step into a setting where everything is new, and experience true healing.
When people hear that a person is working with students in the wilderness, it is often assumed that it’s at a summer camp or with an outdoor recreation company like rafting or rock climbing. Many of these opportunities are seasonal and hard to turn into a long-term career. What sets wilderness therapy jobs apart is that they can often lead to legitimate & professional career options as well as being a great environment to learn new skills. Many of the people who come into the wilderness therapy field often have interests in psychology or some type of therapeutic pursuit. They also come into the field with some soft skill sets and a sense of how to engage with kids, build rapport, and how to de-escalate. What they might not have is the wilderness experience, which can be learned.
What also sets wilderness therapy program jobs apart is the amount of time that is spent with the student. Outdoor wilderness jobs like summer camps are short durations, so your ability to connect with the student is limited from the start. Being able to spend larger amounts of time with a student; talking, teaching, engaging, and learning about how they operate opens new doors in making meaningful connections.
Wilderness therapy jobs are not seasonal jobs. They can be a real launchpad into a legitimate professional career with many different avenues of opportunity. These are programs that operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, offer full-time careers with mentorship, peer-to-peer support, continuous training, and education.
With such a great need and advocacy for mental health in the U.S. today, options for those interested in beginning a career in outdoor wilderness therapy is truly limitless. Starting positions typically open up frequently. Beginning careers such as Wilderness Field Instructor and Field Guides are great ways to learn the ins and outs of wilderness therapy. Both the hard and soft skills learned in positions like these provide many fundamentals and structure that can be beneficial in different industries.
As a specialized field, many programs are eager to promote and advance from within. Many Therapists, Mentors, Teachers, and Executive Directors began their career as a Wilderness Field Guide or Field Instructor. Wilderness Therapy Jobs can be some of the most purposeful and powerful of one’s career development. They are often mission based and provide many tools and strategies utilized in both your personal and professional life.
“If you come into this work, and you don’t change too, you’re doing it wrong.”
So what types of roles are typically available at a Wilderness Therapy Program like Trails Carolina or Trails Momentum? Below is a list of the common positions a person would find when looking for a job at a Wilderness Therapy Program
Field instructors serve as examples of ideal behavior in the wilderness while being able to teach the necessary skills for the outdoors.
Field Guides plan and coordinate the overall activities of the students. They take into consideration the goals of the teachers, instructors, and therapists to foster better emotional and physical support when needed.
This person develops a more personal role with students. They assist with keeping them on track both academically and with their therapeutic work.
Wilderness therapy combines therapy work with the rehabilitative and contemplative power of nature. The wilderness aspect reinforces the standard therapy and allows new avenues for discussion and contemplation.
this person uses activities that involve risk in order to progress toward a mental/emotional health goal by applying counseling and therapeutic techniques
this person combines creative, social, and physical recreational activities to develop better mental/emotional resilience, confidence, and empathy through teamwork and cooperation.
Not all of wilderness is meant to be adventure and survival skills. Keeping a sharp, educated mind is important for critical thinking and being a well-rounded individual. Teachers work alongside the group to ensure that students aren’t falling behind in their studies and provide better insight into their developing mind for other staff.
The path to starting your journey to an Outdoor Wilderness Job can be pretty simple. We would recommend sending an email or making a call to a hiring manager to begin a two way conversation. You’ll have the chance to learn as much as you can about the program while gaining the insight needed to make sure that the goals, values, and interests of both parties are a great fit.
An Outdoor Wilderness Job can be one of the most rewarding of your career. You’ll find strengths you’ve never known you had and develop tools that will help you be successful in many of life’s challenges.