Outdoor Recreation Guide/Instructor
Kaiārahi o Waho/Kaiwhakaako o Waho
This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Outdoor recreation guides and instructors teach or guide outdoor activities such as rafting, kayaking, diving, skiing, hunting, fishing, climbing, tramping and caving.
New outdoor recreation guides/instructors usually earn
$33K-$46K per year
Outdoor recreation guides/instructors with over three years' experience usually earn
$46K-$58K per year
Source: New Zealand Outdoor Instructors Association and Mountain Education Centre New Zealand
Pay for outdoor recreation guides and instructors varies depending on the type of work they do, and their experience and qualifications.
Pay for outdoor recreation instructors
- New outdoor recreation instructors usually start on between the minimum wage and $36,000 a year.
- With experience, they can earn up to $46,000 depending on where they work.
Pay for outdoor recreation guides is likely to be per hour, day or trip
Outdoor recreation guides tend to be paid by the hour, day or trip. They can earn between the minimum wage and $22 to $28 an hour, depending on their experience and where they work.
Both outdoor recreation guides and instructors may also get cheap housing and other allowances.
Source: New Zealand Outdoor Instructors Association and Mountain Education Centre New Zealand.
What you will do
Outdoor recreation guides and instructors may do some or all of the following:
- plan outdoor recreation activities and instruction programmes
- assess risks involved in an activity, taking into account the weather and different clients' abilities
- lead, guide and teach people taking part in activities
- organise safety procedures including checking equipment, running rescue practices, and providing first aid if necessary
- prepare recreation areas by doing things such as signposting or fencing off paths and hazards
- organise bookings, transport, food and accommodation
- keep logbooks of their trips and do other administrative tasks.
Skills and knowledge
Outdoor recreation guides and instructors need to have:
- a high level of skill in their outdoor activity or activities
- knowledge of occupational safety and health (OSH) procedures relating to activities they undertake
- outdoor survival and first aid skills
- knowledge of weather conditions and geography in the area where they work.
Outdoor recreation guides and instructors:
- may work long and irregular hours, including weekends and nights. They may work seasonally or year-round, depending on their specialist activity
- work at locations such as national parks, mountains, forests, caves, rivers, lakes and the sea
- may work in hot, cold, wet, windy or dangerous conditions
- may travel within New Zealand or overseas to areas where the outdoor activities take place. They may be away from their home for long periods. Trips may require camping out or staying in huts and lodges in remote areas with few facilities.
What's the job really like?
Ben Murphy started his job as a glacier guide on Franz Josef Glacier by watching other guides lead trips. "After three trips you might do safety briefings for clients, and on each trip you take on more. By the end, the senior guide is just watching you, and gives you feedback at the end of the day."
Dealing with people who are frozen with fear
Now a fully-fledged guide in his own right, Ben loves sharing the outdoors with his clients – even if some of them do have some problems on the ice.
The guys think, 'I'm a man, I can go fast', but then they might get claustrophobic from being under the ice, or freak out because they are up high and can see a long way down. It's pretty much impossible that they'll fall – because we've cut steps and they've got ropes – but they panic."
"It's not like a job"
Ben says he sees himself guiding for at least five years. "It's all about trying to get experience. I'd love to be a mountain guide. Guiding is what I see myself doing."
"It's just so scenic out here, it's not like a job".
(Video courtesy of Skills Active Aotearoa)
We kind of have a saying - you know: fun, safe, positive experience. And it's getting youth into the outdoors, we're getting kids out rafting and kayaking and it's teaching them to step away from the play stations and computers. So it’s a real positive experience for me to see them enjoying the outdoors as much as I do.
My name is Todd Murray and I work here at Wild Earth Adventures as one of the main staff doing a wide range of different activities, like, from rafting to sea kayaking to bush craft survival with some day walks, mountain biking, a bit of white water kayaking and canoeing. So it’s a huge wide range of different activities that I absolutely love doing.
Well, it started out when I was heading to polytech for a year. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, I thought I wanted to be a jet boat driver. After one year I still didn’t really know what I wanted to do, and I did a short award in rafting for three weeks and saw Wild Earth Adventures' name on the bit of paper and applied for a job. They weren’t hiring at the time and I’m off a farm originally so I just stayed at home and Steve rung me one day and said “Can you come up and do a day’s work?” and I said “Yeah no worries”. And that turned into a couple more days' work and then it turned into a full-time job and I’m still here today, which is awesome!
What I do in my off time during the winter – I actually head to Queenstown and work for NZ Ski. It’s quite a cool atmosphere down there and I’ve done two seasons beforehand as a lifty and really have a passion for being in the snow so it’s quite cool to have both a summer job and a winter job and I get to stay quite local – and they both line up perfectly. Having these qualifications has done quite good – it’s kinda given me a world of opportunity, you’re obviously a lot more employable and having that client work so it’s great for having a qualification while working with clients because you're building up both of those levels which every employer in the world wants; someone who’s got those quals and understandabilities of working with clients. So, yeah, it’s done wonders actually.
"Create a world of opportunity".
There are no specific entry requirements to become an outdoor recreation guide or instructor. However, employers prefer candidates who have:
- registered qualifications, such as those available through Skills Active or the New Zealand Outdoor Instructors Association (NZOIA)
- a certificate in first aid or outdoor first aid.
- Skills Active website - information on qualifications
- New Zealand Outdoor Instructors Association website - information on qualifications
You must also have a high level of skill and experience in the relevant outdoor activity.
Outdoor recreation guides and instructors can train on the job with approved employers and get a qualification through Skills Active.
The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children.
There are no specific secondary educational requirements, although NCEA Level 1 is recommended. Useful subjects include English, geography and physical education.
Secondary school students may be able to take part in ServiceIQ's Gateway travel programme or programmes run by Skills Active. Students earn NCEA credits while doing work experience in the travel and tourism industry or recreation sector.
- ServiceIQ website - information on Tourism Gateway programme
- Skills Active website - information on school programmes
Additional requirements for specialist roles:
Mountain or Glacier Guide
The New Zealand Mountain Guides Association provides advanced training and qualifications for climbing and trekking guides. This includes the International Federation of Mountain Guide Associations (IFMGA) qualification.
- New Zealand Mountain Guides Association website - information on climbing, trekking and skiing qualifications
Ski Field Patroller
Many employers prefer ski field patrollers to have a Certificate in Ski Patrol.
To work on bigger ski fields, such as Coronet Peak, you also need to have passed:
- an Avalanche Safety Stage One training course
- a Pre-Hospital Emergency Care course.
Whitewater Rafting Guide
Whitewater rafting guides need a National Raft Guide Award that relates to the grade of river they want to work on. For example, guides working on a Grade 2 river must have a National Raft Guide Award, Grade 2.
Outdoor recreation guides and instructors need to be:
- mature, responsible and able to stay calm in emergencies
- able to make good decisions under pressure
- patient, sympathetic and enthusiastic
- confident in their own abilities and able to inspire confidence in others
- excellent leaders with good communication skills
- good at planning and organisation, with strong problem-solving skills
- good at dealing with people and able to work as part of a team
- alert and observant
- physically fit and healthy.
Useful experience for outdoor recreation guides and instructors includes:
- paid or voluntary leadership of outdoor recreation groups
- sales or customer service experience
- work involving contact with the public
- first aid and accident emergency work
- conservation work.
Registration is not compulsory.
However, people who have specific qualifications can be registered by bodies such as:
- New Zealand Outdoor Instructors Association (NZOIA)
- New Zealand Register of Recreation Professionals (NZRRP)
- Sea Kayak Operators Association of New Zealand (SKOANZ)
Workers who register their qualifications must renew their registration every three years.
Adventure tourism operators are required to register with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and pass safety audit inspections to legally operate.
- Support Adventure website - information on registration and safety audits for adventure tourism operators
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website - information on audits and registration.
Find out more about training
- Adventure Jobs New Zealand
- firstname.lastname@example.org - adventurejobs.co.nz
- New Zealand Rafting Association (NZRA)
- 03 696 3537 - email@example.com - www.nz-rafting.co.nz/
- NZ Mountain Guides Association
- (03) 435 0864 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.nzmga.org.nz/
- NZ Outdoor Instructors Association (NZOIA)
- (03) 539 0509 - email@example.com - www.nzoia.org.nz/
- Sea Kayak Operators Association of New Zealand
- 0274 529255 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.skoanz.org.nz/
- Skills Active
- 0508 4SKILLS - email@example.com - www.skillsactive.org.nz/
What are the chances of getting a job?
Lots of part-time and seasonal jobs available for outdoor recreation guides and instructors
Many outdoor recreation guide and instructor jobs are part-time positions for tourism operations. So, you have better opportunities if you are willing to work casually or for short periods of time. Some outdoor recreation guide and instructor jobs are also season-specific, such as skiing-related jobs.
Being qualified to work in jobs that operate during the different seasons increases your chances of gaining full-time employment. For example, you might work as a kayaking instructor in summer, and a fishing guide in winter.
With other jobs, such as ski field patrolling, it is possible to work year-long by swapping between the northern and southern hemisphere seasons.
Outdoor pursuits centres offer best chances of getting full-time position
Outdoor pursuits centres offer the best chance of finding full-time work, as they operate all year round. However, these centres have a lower turnover of workers as there are few other full-time opportunities.
Range of employers varied
Outdoor recreation guides and instructors may work for:
- tourism businesses
- ski fields
- outdoor education centres
- outdoor pursuits centres.
- BERL Economics, ‘Sport and Recreation Sector Workforce to 2026’, March 2013.
- Eldvidge, N, learning and development advisor - sport, coaching and events, Skills Active, Careers New Zealand interview, April 2015.
- Sport New Zealand 'Outdoor Recreation Strategy 2009 - 2015', accessed June 2015, (www.sportnz.org.nz).
Progression and specialisations
Outdoor recreation guides and instructors may move into senior, management or training roles, or into running their own guiding businesses. They may also teach at polytechnics or outdoor recreation centres.
Outdoor recreation guides and instructors usually specialise in an area such as:
- Bungy Jump Master
- Bungy jump masters direct, supervise and control bungy jumping activities.
- Fishing Guide
- Fishing guides organise and run guided fishing trips for individuals or groups.
- Hunting Guide
- Hunting guides organise and run guided hunting trips for individuals or groups.
- Mountain or Glacier Guide
- Mountain or glacier guides organise and run guided trips of mountains and glaciers.
- Outdoor Adventure Instructor
- Outdoor adventure instructors provide education in outdoor adventure sports and bushcraft.
- Ski Field Patroller
- Ski field patrollers provide a safe environment for skiers and snowboarders by ensuring conditions are safe, and educating visitors about mountain safety.
- Trekking Guide
- Trekking guides organise and run guided bushwalking and trekking trips.
- Whitewater Rafting Guide
- Whitewater rafting guides organise and run guided rafting and kayaking trips for on whitewater rivers.
Last updated 20 February 2018