NOLS: National Outdoor Leadership School

The Leader in Wilderness Education



Working at NOLS

NOLS takes pride in its employees. Both former and current staff consistently comment on the high quality people who work here. Working for NOLS means being a leader, having a flexible schedule, living in beautiful surroundings, making a difference in people’s lives, and gaining skills and experience. NOLS employees are self-motivated, idealistic, and hard-workers. It is a great community and a fun place to work.




NOLS Instructors

There are over 500 active NOLS instructors. NOLS field work is a rewarding job that can send you all over the world. NOLS instructors work in places such as the Yukon, Patagonia, Brazil, Alaska, the Southwest, the Rockies, Australia, and India.

New instructors generally work only two summer courses during their first two years at the school (50 percent of the work available is in the summer). Senior staff, on the other hand, work from four to eight contracts–or 15 to 30 weeks–each year. This work may occur at one or several branches. Instructors typically spend seven years at NOLS before moving on. A significant number of them balance field work with school or another career.

There are a couple of ways to become an instructor. The traditional way is to take a 35-day instructors course and then work one field course.

An exciting new opportunity is also available to professionals with experience from other outdoor organizations–the instructor’s course for experienced professionals, also known as the PIC. The PIC is designed for people with extensive professional experience in programs similar to NOLS. This 17-day course gives you acknowledgement of what you already bring to the table, and helps you move quickly into the community of NOLS instructors.
More information on Instructor Courses

Wilderness Medicine Instructors: If you have wilderness medicine and patient care experience, consider becoming a NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute instructor. We teach throughout the U.S. and around the world. All Wilderness Medicine Institute instructors have successfully completed one of our two instructor training courses:

The Wilderness First Responder Instructor Training Course (WFR ITC) is designed to train Wilderness EMTs to instruct WFR and WEMT programs
The Wilderness First Aid Instructor Training Course (WFA ITC) is designed to train WFRs to teach WFA programs.

The more flexible you are–both in ability and interest–the more opportunities there are to work a variety of course types at a number of different locations. Instructors are usually employed on a contract by contract basis, and their benefits–such as pay, sick days, and health insurance reimbursement–are determined by position, amount worked in a given year, and seniority. While many instructors enjoy the freedom contract work allows, one of the primary reasons they leave the school is a desire for a less transient lifestyle. Other reasons commonly cited include physical wear and tear, and the desire for more compensation or new challenges.

Instructors can combine field courses with in-town work as salaried faculty. Salaried faculty positions range from admissions officers to program supervisors. These jobs provide benefits including paid travel, paid time off, group health insurance, and retirement.

Instructors can also opt for annual field program positions which provide year-round field work along with group health insurance, travel reimbursement, paid training days and retirement. The number of qualified candidates for both salaried faculty and annual field program positions generally exceeds the actual number of jobs available. There are approximately 15 instructors in salaried faculty positions and 25 annual field program staff.

Working as an instructor for NOLS means traveling, teaching, and living in wild and beautiful places. The work is demanding. Field staff are responsible for supervising and managing students and other instructors. They are in charge of course curriculum and progression, leadership training, and written evaluations of students and colleagues. In addition, instructors are expected to be current in first aid and rescue techniques.

Administration and Support Services

There are approximately 140 full-time positions at NOLS. We offer employment opportunities in the fields of development and alumni relations, information systems, admissions and marketing, publications, public policy, research, finance, risk management, human resources and branch school operations.

Many of the administrative staff are graduates of NOLS courses or former instructors. The atmosphere, flexible schedules, and sense of community at NOLS contribute to job satisfaction. Working at NOLS can provide an opportunity for individuals to develop or enhance office skills and to gain experience in budgeting and supervision. It’s a place where learning is encouraged and personal initiative expected.

Administration and Support Service positions require skills that range from the ability to supervise and manage people and priorities to an understanding of budgets and computers, as well as problem solving skills and decision-making accountability. Pay levels are determined by job knowledge and experience, supervision and leadership, responsibility for budgets and assets, and involvement in public relations.

Full time staff benefits include:

  • retirement package (4% of salary, no match required)
  • 23-33 paid days off per year (including holidays)
  • 2 different health insurance plans to choose from
  • course discount for employees and family members

Temporary/Seasonal Employees

We have about 100 temporary or seasonal positions at NOLS. These include everything from a managers to kitchen workers or issue room employees. Pay is usually entry level with benefits varying from branch to branch. Many seasonal or temporary employees are NOLS graduates seeking to learn more about outdoor education or to supplement their schooling. Others are trying to gain experience that may help them secure future work–either as instructors or administrators–at NOLS. While some simply want the chance to live and work in different locations.

About NOLS: National Outdoor Leadership School

We believe positive, ethical leaders change the world. Based on this belief, NOLS has become the leader in wilderness education. Founded in 1965 by legendary mountaineer Paul Petzoldt, NOLS takes students of all ages on remote wilderness expeditions and teaches them technical outdoor skills, leadership, and environmental ethics.