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Outdoor pursuits managers are responsible for every aspect of the day-to-day management of centres dedicated to providing instruction on a variety of outdoor activities including horse riding, mountaineering, caving, cycling and water sports.

Experience and knowledge of an outdoor activity is usually required.

What does an outdoor pursuits manager do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Due to Covid-19, you may find it difficult to kick-start your career in outdoor pursuits management at the moment. As we explain here, however, recruiters will not view time out of work due to the pandemic as a 'gap' in your CV. For guidance on searching for work during this difficult time, take a look at our advice for job hunting during a pandemic.

Outdoor pursuits managers run centres that provide facilities for outdoor activities, often catering for particular groups such as children, people with special needs or disadvantaged young people. Centres may offer residential courses or activities suitable for a day visit. Job titles for similar roles include outdoor activities manager, outdoor education manager, head of centre, operations or facilities manager, or chief instructor.

Typical responsibilities include:

  • recruiting, training and supervising a team of staff, including instructors
  • planning and organising appropriate outdoor activity programmes
  • handling booking enquiries
  • ensuring compliance with safety regulations
  • instructing groups in specialist areas
  • managing budgets
  • developing new activities
  • liaising with group managers, social workers and teachers
  • dealing with queries, complaints, accidents and emergencies
  • producing educational materials
  • promoting and marketing the business
  • maintaining customer service standards
  • attending training courses to keep qualifications up to date
  • recording and reporting accidents
  • buying, maintaining and checking the safety of facilities and equipment
  • writing and submitting funding bids
  • undertaking financial administration.

Typical employers of outdoor pursuits managers

  • Local authorities
  • Independent outdoor pursuits centres
  • Larger commercial organisations
  • Charitable organisations, including organisations that support people with special needs to enable them to take part in outdoor activities
  • Sports governing bodies
  • National sports centres.

Opportunities are advertised in specialist publications such as the Times Educational Supplement, which is available online. Websites that list vacancies include Leisure Jobs, Leisure Opportunities and the local government jobs website. You will also find jobs listed on the websites of organisations such as the Youth Hostel Association (YHA), the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA) and the Institute for Outdoor Learning (IOL).

Qualifications and training required

There are routes into a career in this area for both university graduates and school leavers. Regardless of the route you take to working as a centre manager, it is essential to possess experience in and knowledge of a minimum of one outdoor activity. It is also normally necessary to have a formal instructor's qualification in that activity and to have worked as an outdoor pursuits instructor. Instructors' qualifications may be offered as part of a degree course, through clubs, or by the national governing body for a particular sport.

Centre managers often start off working in an instructor role and progress towards management. Instructors typically work on a seasonal or freelance basis at the beginning of their careers. You could move into an instructor or management role at an outdoor activity centre after a career in teaching, the armed forces or youth work.

A degree in any subject is acceptable, although employers may prefer graduates with qualifications in relevant subjects such as business management, sports science, physical education, recreation management, leisure studies, health management or tourism.

A postgraduate qualification in recreation management or outdoor education can be useful, particularly for graduates without relevant first degrees.

Experience gained from seasonal activity holidays, expeditions, the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme or any other relevant activities is beneficial. Lifesaving and first aid qualifications may be required.

Key skills for outdoor pursuits managers

  • Physical fitness
  • Good state of health
  • Energy
  • Excellent leadership skills
  • Decision-making skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Verbal communication skills.

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