Outdoor Recreation Guide/Instructor
Kaiārahi o Waho/Kaiwhakaako o Waho
Outdoor recreation guides and instructors teach or guide outdoor activities such as rafting, kayaking, canyoning, skiing, hunting, climbing, caving and mountain biking.
Outdoor recreation guides and instructors usually earn
$47K-$58K per year
Source: careers.govt.nz research, 2018.
Pay for outdoor recreation guides and instructors varies depending on experience, qualifications, and the type of work they do.
Pay rates for outdoor recreation instructors
- New outdoor recreation instructors with entry-level qualifications usually earn minimum wage.
- Instructors with higher qualifications can earn up to $58,000 a year.
Instructors at outdoor education centres may receive an allowance for gear.
Pay rates for outdoor recreation guides
Outdoor recreation guides are often paid by hour, day or trip.
- New guides or guides in training can expect to earn minimum wage.
- Guides with more qualifications and responsibilities can earn up to $28 an hour.
Guides may be paid extra for longer trips with more clients.
Source: careers.govt.nz research, 2018.
- PAYE.net.nz website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Employment New Zealand website - information about minimum wage rates
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
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, and drive clients to activities
- clean and store equipment after use
- keep logbooks of their trips.
Skills and knowledge
Outdoor recreation guides and instructors need to have:
- a high level of skill in their outdoor activity or activities
- knowledge of health and safety 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
- work at locations such as national parks, mountains, forests, caves, rivers, lakes and the sea
- may work in hot, cold, wet, windy or hazardous conditions
- may travel within New Zealand or overseas to areas where the outdoor activities take place.
What's the job really like?
Working in an outdoors office
The best part of Miki Wills' day is jumping into waterfalls with clients. "It’s an awesome job. If you’re into seasonal work, the work is super fun."
Miki works over summer as a canyoning guide in Queenstown. During winter she works at a ski field.
Commitment is key
Putting on a happy face is part of the job whatever the weather, Miki says. "Sometimes it’s cold – and when you’re cold you have to act happy and look after your cold clients.”
It takes commitment to be a guide, she says. "Since it’s guiding and you’re relying on clients to get work, you have to be available seven days a week. I’m on standby. You don’t find out if you’ve got work until the night before. It’s very inconsistent income. You get paid per trip."
Be willing to learn
Miki studied a two-year certificate in outdoor recreation, then received on-the-job training. She didn't have a canyoning qualification when she started her job, but she had many useful skills from her certificate course, such as knowing how to use ropes and manage herself and others in white water.
Being willing to get out and explore was also important for growing as a guide. "If you do get a job, go the extra mile to learn as much as you can."
Recreation Co-ordinator video
Sophie Dudfield talks about life as an adventure park guide - 2.25 mins
So I work in an adventure park where we have a whole heap of high wire courses.
They range in lots of different heights and difficulty with the obstacles. So a
typical day out here, we all come in in the morning, we open up the courses.
So we each go through 2 courses to make sure that nothing has happened
overnight. Then we just start the day by having our customers come through,
harnessing [them], helmet them up,
and we take turns taking them for safety briefings. Our customers range in age,
so our youngest is 5 years old and they go up all the way to adults.
I'd say my key responsibilities are just making sure customers are happy and
safe and making sure that everyone knows what they are doing. So we are going to be
harnessing these customers up. We are going to then pop some helmets on them.
They're going to have a read of our Rule Board.
Then we'll be taking them for a safety briefing.
We have a lot of on-the-job training,
so we go through about 3 to 4 months of extensive training.
So we learn everything that we need to know and make sure we are comfortable and
competent. You don't actually need a formal qualification to work here,
but it is highly sought after and preferred.
I myself did a 2-year qualification in outdoor and adventure education.
So we covered a lot of different pursuits such as rock climbing, kayaking,
and tramping. It definitely helps to be physically fit for this job,
but it just all comes with it.
I think a lot of patience is required because if customers don't understand
how the equipment works first time around,
we've got to take the time to make sure they do understand it to a level that's
safe. So this here is the beginning of one of our zip lines.
If the customer is scared to continue through,
we will end up lowering them off the activity,
or we may just end up walking them through the rest,
just making sure that they're comfortable and we can go at their own pace. So the
benefits of this job outside of work,
it's brought back my love for rock climbing.
So it's what I do a lot with my friends after work. .
It's always different from day to day, you know,
with weather and also who comes out here,
and it gives everyone a chance to experience something slightly different.
There are no specific entry requirements to become an outdoor recreation guide or instructor. However, a diploma in outdoor recreation (Level 5 or 6) may be useful.
Outdoor recreation qualifications from Te Mahi Ako or the New Zealand Outdoor Instructors' Association (NZOIA) may also be useful. Te Mahi Ako oversees outdoor recreational apprenticeships.
- Te Mahi Ako website - outdoor recreation qualifications
- New Zealand Outdoor Instructors' Association (NZOIA) website - outdoor recreation instructor qualifications
You must also have a high level of skill and experience in the relevant outdoor activity.
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 education requirements to become an outdoor recreation guide or instructor. However, geography, physical education and English are useful.
Year 11 to 13 students can learn more about the outdoor recreation industry by taking part in a school and workplace partnership through Te Mahi Ako.
Additional requirements for specialist roles:
Mountain or Glacier Guide
The New Zealand Mountain Guides Association provides advanced training and qualifications for climbing, ski, trekking and hard ice guides. This includes the International Federation of Mountain Guide Associations (IFMGA) qualification.
- New Zealand Mountain Guides Association website -climbing, skiing trekking and hard ice 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 and 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.
Riverboard guides need a National Riverboard Guide Award that relates to the grade of river they want to work on.
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
- able to work as part of a team
- alert and observant.
It’s not always easy. Sometimes the weather is terrible and you have to really focus on performing the job safely and efficiently.
Useful experience for outdoor recreation guides and instructors includes:
- paid or voluntary leadership of outdoor recreation groups
- teaching, sales or customer service work
- work involving contact with the public
- first aid and accident emergency work
- conservation work.
Outdoor recreation guides and instructors need to have excellent fitness and health. They must be strong as they may have to transport equipment, walk, cycle, ski or ride long distances, or take part in a range of physical activities.
Registration is not compulsory for outdoor recreation guides and instructors. However, they may choose to register with the New Zealand Outdoor Instructors' Association (NZOIA) or join the New Zealand Register of Recreation Professionals (NZRRP).
Outdoor recreation guides and instructors who register their qualifications are re-evaluated by NZOIA every three years to ensure they are up to date with current standards.
- New Zealand Outdoor Instructors' Association (NZOIA) website - registration
- New Zealand Register of Recreation Professionals (NZRRP) website - registration
Adventure tourism operators need to register with WorkSafe and pass safety audit inspections to legally operate.
Find out more about training
- NZ Mountain Guides Association (NZMGA)
- (03) 435 0864 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.mountainguides.org.nz
- NZ Outdoor Instructors Association (NZOIA)
- (03) 539 0509 - email@example.com - www.nzoia.org.nz
- NZ Professional Hunting Guides Association (NZPHGA)
- Te Mahi Ako
- 0508 475 455 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.temahiako.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Many outdoor recreation guide or instruction jobs are seasonal
Chances of getting a job as an outdoor recreation guide or instructor are poor due to lack of demand.
Your chances of getting work as an outdoor recreation guide or instructor are best if you're willing to work casually or for short periods of time. This is because many jobs are seasonal, part-time positions with tourism operators.
According to the Census, 2,241 outdoor recreation guides/instructors worked in New Zealand in 2018.
Ski fields and outdoor education centres offer best chances
Outdoor education and pursuits centres offer outdoor recreation guides and instructors the best chances of finding full-time, year-round work.
There is also high demand for casual skifield workers such as ski and snowboard instructors for the 2022 ski season.
Types of employers varied
Outdoor recreation guides and instructors may work for:
- tourism businesses
- ski fields
- outdoor education/pursuit centres.
- Business and Economic Research Ltd (BERL), 'Sport and Recreation Sector Workforce to 2026', accessed February 2018, (www.sportnz.org.nz).
- Dunkley, D, 'Tourism Recovery Will Be a Long Haul Journey', 17 March 2022, (www.stuff.co.nz).
- Jamieson, D, 'Hunt is On For Thousands of Workers as Skifields Welcome Return of Australian Visitors', 17 March 2022, (www.stuff.co.nz).
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
- Sutherland, S, business manager, New Zealand Outdoor Instructors' Association (NZOIA), Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission interview, January 2018.
- Tourism Industry Aotearoa, 'State of the Industry 2017', accessed March 2018, (www.tia.org.nz).
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Outdoor recreation guides and instructors may move into senior, management or training roles, or may set up 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.
- Canyoning Guide
- Canyoning guides organise and lead canyoning trips.
- Fishing Guide
- Fishing guides organise and run guided fishing trips for individuals or groups.
- Horse Trekking Guide
- Horse trekking guides organise and lead trips along beaches, parks and New Zealand's back country.
- Hunting Guide
- Hunting guides organise and run guided hunting trips for individuals or groups.
- Mountain Biking Guide
- Mountain biking guides organise and lead mountain bike tours.
- 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.
- Rock Climbing Guide
- Rock climbing guides teach different styles of climbing at indoor climbing walls or on guided climbing trips outdoors.
- 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 on whitewater rivers.
Last updated 25 September 2023