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Adventure Guiding Certificate

Eight-month certificate

Where: Comox Valley
Starts: September
  • Develop certifications and/or field skills in sea kayaking, canoeing, sailing, interpretation, leadership, risk management, wilderness first aid, navigation and more.
  • Understand the importance of environmental, social and cultural sustainability when designing and delivering dynamic guest experiences.
  • Enhance job prospects and gain hands-on experience through a two-week (80-hour) work practicum.
  • Learn from industry leaders who are respected for their varied skills, applied experience, adaptability and teaching ability.
  • Qualify for an exciting and diverse career as a guide in BC’s growing adventure tourism industry.
  • Earn credit toward NIC's Tourism & Hospitality Management diploma with university transfer and business degree bridging options.


  • Experiences you can’t get elsewhere. Vancouver Island is Canada’s hub for coastal and eco-tourism. You’ll experience a rich variety of coastal, rural and urban environments while receiving instruction from top industry leaders. You’ll experience life-changing wilderness, wildlife, and Aboriginal cultures.
  • Head out and explore. Participate in multi-day outings to unique areas including the Discovery Islands, the Gulf Islands and the West Coast of Vancouver Island. You’ll be exposed to the same ocean and weather conditions, social dynamics and leadership decisions that a guide would encounter, giving you strong practical knowledge for your future career.
  • Skills for careers, skills for life. As a graduate, you will be prepared for immediate year-round employment locally and internationally. The skills and experiences from the Adventure Guiding certificate are essential for guiding and open doors to a variety of career paths and life pursuits.
  • Go further. The Adventure Guiding certificate can be taken as part of the two-year Adventure Guiding option in NIC's Tourism and Hospitality Management diploma, which will advance your business education and provide further credit toward business degrees at NIC as well as tourism management degrees province-wide.
  • Community-based training options. We’ve had great success delivering tailored modules of this certificate in remote locations away from our NIC campuses. Ask us about custom delivery for your group.



The eight-month Adventure Guiding certificate is designed to give you certified guiding skills for employment across a wide range of recreation and adventure tourism activities, plus an applied tourism education that provides credit toward further studies and opens the door to multiple career pathways.

Guiding requires strong leadership, interpersonal, and interpretative skills as well as a high level of expertise and knowledge in specific skill areas. During the program, you'll develop and practice these skills while training in sea kayaking, canoeing, sailing, wilderness first aid or other field specialties. All courses are highly experiential, giving you the opportunity to progressively build your knowledge and confidence.

Applied theory courses will provide you with a more comprehensive view of the adventure tourism industry, including a focus on sustainability, ethics and cross-cultural skills. This includes learning through Aboriginal tourism interactions as part of guiding on the coast. Course hours are divided between the classroom and the field. Outings include multi-day trips on Vancouver Island's West Coast and exploring the uniqueness of the Discovery Islands, the Gulf Islands and other areas. You will be exposed to a variety of leadership decisions, trip dynamics, ocean and weather conditions that a guide regularly experiences. Classmates frequently take turns co-leading while instructors provide support, direction and feedback.

Formal and informal evaluation is ongoing throughout this program. In addition to achieving industry-recognized certifications, you will receive college grades and credit based on participation, contributions to group learning, presentations, assignments, quizzes and exams.


You may choose to replace the sailing and/or canoeing courses with other field specialty options. If you take TGA-131 and TGA-132, Field Specialty Options, you may incur additional tuition and equipment costs unless satisfied through credit from previous training and/or certification. Examples of suitable field specialty training can be found in the BC Provincial Adventure Tourism Certificate Program Core Curriculum (rev. 2007; p.12) and include industry certification options across varied environments and guiding contexts. This can include training and certification alpine, snow sport, moving water, underwater, fishing, cycling and hiking . Some suitable training and certification examples are:

  • Swiftwater Rescue Technician
  • Raft Operations/Restricted BCROA Guide (Class 2 and under)
  • Certified Tidal Angling Guide
  • Paddle Canada Instructor
  • Ski Instructor (Nordic, Alpine, or Snowboard)
  • Avalanche Skills Training
  • Rock and/or Mountain Skills Training

Applicants requesting TGA-131 or TGA-132 instead of TGA-105 or TGA-107 will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. TGA-131 or TGA-132 can be accomplished using multiple training courses by a recognized provider in a specific field to satisfy the equivalent of 40 hours training for each of these two-credit adventure field courses.

Career Opportunities

As a graduate, you will qualify for entry-level leadership and guiding positions with sea kayaking companies, coastal resorts, sailboat-based tours, whale and wildlife  tour operators, outdoor centres, youth wilderness programs and camps, adventure therapy programs, interpretative centres and other rewarding settings. You will be well-prepared with relevant skills that transfer across a variety of career paths and professions such as conservation officer, park ranger, teacher, community recreation programmer, field researcher or assistant (biology, geology, etc.), professional ski patroller and other marine industries and services.

Transfer and Degree Pathways

The Adventure Guiding certificate provides transfer credit toward many adventure, outdoor recreation, outdoor leadership and tourism diplomas at other post-secondary insitutions in BC, including VIU, Capilano University and Thompson Rivers University.

Supply List

Gear is an important part of the Adventure Guiding program. NIC provides some group equipment but you are required to have certain articles of clothing and equipment to participate in field activities. Please review the supply list document for complete information.

Admission Requirements

  1. C+ in one of Provincial English 12, English 12 First Peoples, NIC ENG-060, ENG-096, ENG-098, or ESL-090; or equivalent assessment; and
  2. C+ in one of Principles of Math 10, Foundations & PreCalculus Math 10, Apprenticeship & Workplace Math 11, NIC Math-033 or equivalent, or successful NIC Math assessment.
  3. Or, permission of the Department.
  4. Completed medical forms and suitable fitness level assessment.

Upgrade with us to meet prerequisites

Upgrade your English, math and science courses for entry into the program of your choice. Succeed with the help of NIC’s supportive instructors. Courses are flexible and start several times a year so you can learn at your own pace. We offer daytime and evening options. Learn more

International Language Requirements

For international language requirements click here.

To Be Successful

Success in this program and the industry requires much more than simply liking the outdoors or paddling a kayak!

  • FoodSafe Level 1 is required before the program begins so that you are ready to prepare meals during multi-day field trips while avoiding food-borne illness. Seperate fees are required for registration in this course.
  • As a successful adventure guide, you learn from everything you encounter. You are hungry to learn from an intense mix of classroom and field experiences.
  • You must care for yourself and others, developing skills in helping individuals to learn to be comfortable in unfamiliar and sometimes challenging situations.
  • Guiding needs a “service” attitude where you shape, meet, and exceed client expectations. With creativity and knowledge, successful guides cheerfully adapt to constantly changing dynamics, such as weather, sea conditions, personalities and equipment limitations. Owning or managing a company requires these same principles to be applied in your full-cycle relationship with clients or guests. From the moment they learn about your company until after their trip or experience, all your communications count!
  • Pay attention to details, deadlines, and the quality of your interactions. Come ready to learn, practice, have fun and refine these same skills with your classmates and instructors.
  • We encourage you to read "Risk Management for Outdoor Programs: A Guide for Students" prior to the start of classes. This document is used as a reference for the Guiding Skills course, and is good preparation for your studies. 

Program Requirements

 Field Focused

Applied Theory

  • THM-211 Sustainable Tourism
  • THM-212 Tourism & Hospitality Law and Ethics
    or THM-100 The Tourism Industry
  • THM-225 Cross Cultural Tourism
  • ENG-160 Effective Organizational Writing or ENG-115 Essay Writing and Critical Analysis

*These courses meet the BC Provincial Adventure Tourism Certificate Program Core Curriculum requirements (revised 2007).

Work Experience

You will complete a two-week (80 hour) work practicum that greatly enhances your job prospects. Work placements connect you with industry leaders and prepare you to enter the industry and work in your chosen field and location.

Past students have found excellent work placements, and subsequent employment, with organizations such as Tofino Sea Kayaking Company, Majestic Sea Kayaking, Spirit Bear Lodge and West Coast Expeditions

Completion Requirements

This is a 1 year (2 term) program; requiring completion within 3 years of admission.

Tuition & Costs Estimate for
Fall 2016, Winter, Spring & Summer 2017

Costs indicated are estimates for a 100% course load per year, unless otherwise noted. Additional fees may also include necessary equipment, supplies, NIC appointed uniforms, or field trips not included in these estimates.

While we do our best to share accurate and timely fee information, changes may occur. For more information, visit tuition page.

Domestic Fees

Year 1
Tuition $8,785
NISU Fees $130
Learner Resource $135
Health and Dental $275
Total $9,325
Equipment: costs for clothing, personal gear, and books vary. Students may spend up to $2000.

International Fees

Year 1
Tuition $15,600
NISU Fees $120
Learner Resource $135
Health and Dental $275
Total $16,130
Additional Costs for International Students include the $100 Application fee and the $250 Accommodation Application Fee (optional).
Equipment: costs for clothing, personal gear, and books vary. Students may spend up to $2000.
  1. When and where does the program take place?
    The Adventure Guiding program runs from September to April/May. Classroom learning and field trip preparations are based out of the Comox Valley campus in Courtenay. This program is well-timed for you to find immediate work during the primary summer adventure tourism season in BC. Field sessions take place mostly on and around the waters of Vancouver Island, generally including Barkley Sound, Clayoquot Sound, Johnstone Strait, the Gulf Islands and the Discovery Islands.
  2. Why all of the entry requirements? Math and English skills are required for success in the program and subsequent industry work. For example, math skills are mainly necessary for accurate and safe navigation (e.g., calculating tides and currents, compass bearings and speed/distance/time estimates) which are required and evaluated in, for example, sea kayaking courses. English skills are helpful in all courses, especially for comprehension when reading or researching a topic for assignments, class discussions, presentations or when preparing for industry-established exams. You are required to complete a medical information form, a physical exam with doctor’s permission, and to have a suitable fitness level for paddling heavily-loaded sea kayaks or canoes (sitting for up to three hours including a lot of torso rotation), travelling by foot over uneven terrain, carrying heavy loads, etc. It is essential for group learning and safety that you are comfortable in what can often be cold and wet conditions for several days in a row, albeit in beautiful and inspiring locations. 
  3. How much field time is there, compared to time spent in the classroom?
    Like the best things in life, it’s balanced: about half and half. Classroom time is complemented with practical expedition experience, training, and field trips. Usually about half of our instructional time is outdoors, though the exact ratio varies depending on weather, group needs, interests and available opportunities. There is a two-week practical work placement experience at the end of the program. We know that good guiding skills, knowledge and judgment come from an important dance between theory and practice. Our formula works well for developing skills, making industry contacts, researching topics of interest, getting wet, staying active, spending part of the winter warm and dry, caring for yourself and pets, repairing vehicles and having contact with family and friends.
  4. How does this program differ from others?
    NIC's location, coastal focus, Holistic approach and First Nations content set this certificate apart from other programs. Field trip transportation, food, accomodation and equipment are included. The whole is much greater than the sum of the parts and as much is learned from experiencing new adventures alongside your classmates as from the individual courses themselves. The program is busy from start to finish with high expectations both in and out of the classroom. Whether kayak-surfing in a following sea or catching nor'westers in your sails, you need to understand all of the forces at play, including group dynamics, changing weather, equipment limitations and ecological impacts. NIC courses emphasize industry familiarity, risk management, communication, interpretation, and resource stewardship alongside opportunities to develop strong nautical skills for navigation, trip planning and emergency response. We will expose you to an array of highly respected educators and operators who shape and lead the industry.
  5. Why is it so expensive and what is included in the program fees?
    Our graduates keep telling us that the program is well worth it. This rich learning experience offers comprehensive career preparation in just a few focused months and provides more skills, certifications, experiences and value than could be pieced together individually. Included in the program fees are multiple field trips that include food, transportation, accommodation, equipment and individualized attention thanks to low instructor to student ratios. This is not like a traditional college or university program where you are one student in a class of 50 to 100 or more. As governed by the guide associations and industry standards, you will be one of only three to five students per instructor during most field-based activities. Even in the classroom, NIC's ratios typically range from only 10 to 20 students per instructor. Student to instructor ratios of 3:1 to 5:1 are much more expensive than those of 100:1. Most graduates of the NIC Adventure Guiding certificate go straight into summer work with minimal living expenses while guiding. When applying to this full-time program, you are eligible for student loans and may otherwise be able to access funding assistance through government-sponsored employment training assistance.

    Your tuition and lab fees cover the following:
    • multi-day accommodation and intensive programming at off-site locations such as Tribune Bay Outdoor Education Centre on Hornby Island, the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre and the U’Mista Cultural Centre in Alert Bay.
    • delicious and substantial meals for portions of your overnight field training, not just beans and wieners. Food planning, preparation and presentation are essential elements to delivering quality adventure tourism experiences.
    • all instructional costs for required courses and activities.
    • low instructor to student ratios for safety and quality instruction, generally 3:1 to 5:1 for all field activities.
    • access to canoes and sea kayaks (and paddles, PFDs, etc.) on scheduled outings
    • access to two-person tents, tarps and group kitchen equipment (stoves, fuel, pots, utensils, shelter) on field trips.
    • Van transportation and ferry costs for all out-of-town field trips outside the Comox Valley
    • Certification and examination fees to many external agencies (e.g., sailing associations, Canadian Power Squadron, Red Cross, etc.).
    • Admission fees for regularly scheduled course activities (e.g., pool time, museum visits, cultural events, etc.) as well as many more miscellaneous and budgeted expenses.

Graduates have always commented about the great “bang for their buck” being topped off with the program providing an amazing introduction to a rich network of industry professionals and contacts – much better than if they went out to accumulate the certifications and course training on their own outside of the college program.

  1. Is sea kayaking the focus of this program?
    Students are exposed to a variety of important technical skills in canoeing, sailing and wilderness and marine travel but sea kayaking is a key focus because extended expeditions by small self-propelled craft are one of the best tools we have for teaching fundamental leadership, judgment, risk management, navigation and customer service skills. As a guide you'll be processing and juggling weather, tides, group strength and sea state to make decisions that maximize safety, comfort, fun and learning. We use our sea kayak outings to practice these skills in a realistic and memorable way. So, whether you plan to be a whale watching or kayaking guide, the skills that you develop while leading your peers on kayak expeditions are invaluable for developing your overall abilities as a guide. In addition, many graduates have found immediately rewarding work in the sea kayaking industry, so this has proven to be a very relevant part of their training.
  2. How much will I have to spend on equipment?
    Equipment costs vary depending on what you already own, your budget, your resourcefulness and what you should have for the type of guiding you decide to do. All technical gear is supplied for use during the program (kayaks, canoes, paddles, tents, tarps, kitchen equipment, VHFs, flares, etc.), but you are responsible for providing your own personal gear such as a sleeping bag, foul weather gear, outdoor clothing, wetsuit or drysuit, neoprene booties and dry bags. Previous students have spent $400 to $2,000 depending on what they previously owned and what they intend to do after graduating. Good equipment is essential for the expedition components as we often travel in cold, wet, coastal, winter conditions. Apart from your personal clothing items, much of your personal gear can be rented through industry contacts (e.g., wetsuit or drysuit, paddling jacket, dry bags). Consult the pre-program information Student Equipment & Clothing List for more details.
  3. What are the job prospects when I graduate?
    Tourism continues to be a growing sector on Vancouver Island and around the world. We have a very high rate of graduate employment within and outside of the college region. Our Adventure Guiding program prepares you for entry and mid-level positions where wages are typically commensurate with experience. For example, a starting wage for a sea kayak guide could be between $90-$150/day plus gratuities (and meals while guiding) with opportunities for advancement each season. Students complete a two-week (80-hour) work practicum that greatly enhances their job prospects. Past students, for example, have found excellent work placements, and subsequent employment with the following companies or organizations:

    And many other smaller resort operations and companies that play important roles on the coast.

  1. Aren't the guiding jobs here seasonal?
    Typically, guiding on the BC coast is seasonal with some shoulder season (spring and fall) opportunities. However, there are excellent, realistic job opportunities in New Zealand, Latin America, the Caribbean and elsewhere for well-trained and motivated guides seeking year-round work. If you are seeking such employment, you have to be mobile and sometimes willing to acquire second language skills. Many of our instructors have international experience teaching and guiding in such locales as Mexico, Belize, Tonga, Vietnam, Croatia and Alaska. Faculty can provide valuable perspective on the requirements and challenges of international guiding and can steer you toward potential contacts. Meanwhile, here in BC, coastal guiding allows you to pursue other "off-season" careers in winter resorts (e.g., ski patrolling or instructing), consulting, outdoor retail, teaching, health care, writing, photography, fine arts, carpentry and other trades.
  2. Do I have to attend all of the program components to obtain my certificate?
    Absolutely. Attendance every day is mandatory and you must successfully pass all program components to receive your college certificate. Passing is largely based on full participation. Each component of your training is relevant for guiding, including many industry certifications which qualify you to move forward as a guide.
  3. What certification will I receive if I attend and pass all of the components?
    This program is about much more than the courses which provide all of the individual component certificates. Some of the most relevant learning happens in the courses without specific industry certification (such as Guiding Skills and Interpretation). NIC strives to offer the most well-rounded formal certifications and training required to work in the coastal adventure sector. This varies slightly from year to year depending on current standards, industry expectations, regulations, available instructors, and student background, readiness and motivation. These certifications have included:

• SKGABC approved kayak leadership course & Assistant Overnight Guide assessment
• Recreational Canoeing Association of BC Lakewater Level 3 and Tripping Level 3
• Sail Canada Coastal Cruising Standard (sailing)
• Wilderness First Aid and CPR Level 'C' (40+ hours)
• WorldHost Fundamentals
• VHF Restricted Operator Certificate – Maritime

After completing and receiving certification in industry standard training, you will also receive your overall program certificate in Adventure Guiding issued by North Island College.

  1. I'm interested, but how do I know if I'm suited for success in this program?
    You need to have a positive team-oriented attitude and a strong desire to teach and guide in the outdoors. You must come prepared to physically, mentally and emotionally stretch your personal comfort zones. You must be willing to participate fully and enthusiastically in all facets of the program. The fundamental skills of leadership and communication are acquired through study, reflection and participation in group processes to learn more about how groups work and function effectively. Commitment to this process, and openness to ongoing feedback, is essential for your success in this program. Also, comfort on the water is imperative, as is basic physical fitness for repetitive endurance activities such as paddling and lifting kayaks, canoes and gear.
  2. Is there a possibility I could get advance credit for experience or certification I already have?
    The program coordinator and department chair determine prior learning or transfer credit on a case-by-case basis according to specific course outcomes and certification requirements. If you provide proof of having an up-to-date certificate otherwise offered in the program, you can receive permission to sit-out that specific component, but then miss the group learning and development with your classmates which is often equally, if not more, valuable. Similarly, as noted in the curriculum description, you can pursue TGA-131 or TGA-132 Field Specialty Options instead of TGA-105 or TGA-107. Applicants with previous certification in related guiding and outdoor leadership fields can apply to receive credit toward the program certificate. Please discuss your specific situation directly with the program coordinator.


David Pinel

David Pinel

Coordinator, Faculty

Professional Tourism

Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of BC (SKGABC) Level 3 Guide, Guide Trainer and Examiner

Paddle Canada Level 2 Sea Kayak Instructor

Subjects: Tourism Adventure Guiding
Comox Valley Campus 250-334-5000 ext. 4667 | Location VLG - G3

Mike Neville

Mike Neville


Professional Tourism

Bachelor of Tourism Management, (Vancouver Island University)

Master of Recreation Management (candidate), (Acadia University)


Subjects: Tourism Adventure Guiding
Comox Valley Campus 250-334-5000 ext. 4117 | Location VLG

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