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 or the winter season in the Southern Hemisphere. Field sessions take place mostly on and around the ocean, lakes, rivers and mountains of Vancouver Island, generally including Barkley Sound, Clayoquot Sound, Johnstone Strait, the Gulf Islands, the Discovery Islands and Strathcona Provincial Park.
Why all of the entry requirements?
Math skills are 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.
Medical and fitness assessment is required to ensure you have a suitable fitness level for outdoor field activities. 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 around Vancouver Island, BC.
What certification will I receive, in addition to NIC's Adventure Guiding Certificate, if I attend and pass all of the components?
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. In addition to your NIC adventure guiding certificate, opportunity for certifications include:
How much field time is there, compared to time spent in the classroom?
You will typically spend half your time in a classroom and the other half in practical outdoor leadership training, though the exact ratio varies depending on your field specialty choices, weather, group needs, interests and available opportunities. We know that good guiding skills, knowledge and judgment come from an important dance between theory and practice. In addition to classroom and experiential learning there is a two-week practical work placement experience at the end of the program.
How does this program differ from others?
NIC's location, holistic approach and Indigenous content set this certificate apart from other programs. Our 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.Tuition for core field courses (TGA-100, TGA-101, TGA-103 and TGA-106) includes the cost of field trips; transportation, food, accommodation and group equipment. You will learn to navigate group dynamics, changing weather, equipment limitations and ecological impacts while kayak-surfing in a following sea, catching nor'westers in your sails, dealing with an unstable snowpack, adjusting for rising river levels and numerous other challenges you'll be faced with as a guide. 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.
Why is it so expensive and what is included in the program fees?
This program offers comprehensive career preparation in just a few focused months and provides more skills, certifications, experiences and value than could be pieced together individually.You will receive an amazing introduction to a rich network of industry professionals and contacts – much more efficient and affordable than accumulating the certifications and course training on your own outside of the college program.This is not like a traditional college or university program where you can sometimes be in a class of 50 to 100 or more. As governed by the adventure tourism industry guide association standards for field courses,, you will usually be one of only three to five students per instructor. Even in regular classroom settings, NIC's ratios typically range from only 10 to 30 students per instructor. Instructor to student ratios of 1:3 or 1:5 are much more expensive than those of 1:100. Most graduates of the NIC Adventure Guiding certificate go straight into summer work with minimal living expenses while guiding. This full-time program is student loan eligible and you may be able to access funding assistance through government-sponsored employment training programs. Your tuition and lab fees cover many miscellaneous and budgeted expenses, including:
multi-day accommodation and intensive programming at off-site locations such as the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre. Discovery Islands Lodge, Tofino Sea Kayaking and the U’mista Cultural Centre in Alert Bay.
delicious and substantial meals for portions of your overnight field training in core field courses (not just beans and wieners). Food planning, preparation and presentation are essential elements to delivering quality adventure tourism experiences.
all instructional costs and group safety equipment for required courses and activities.
high instructor to student ratios for safety and quality instruction, often 3:1 or 5:1 during outdoor adventure activities.
access to sea kayaks. canoes, sailboats and rafts (paddles, PFDs, etc.) on scheduled outings
access to two-person tents, tarps and group kitchen equipment (stoves, fuel, pots, utensils, shelter, etc.) on field trips.
van transportation and ferry costs for all out-of-town core course field trips outside the Comox Valley.
certification and examination fees to many external agencies (sailing associations, Canadian Power Squadron, Red Cross, etc.).
admission fees for regularly scheduled course activities (pool time, museum visits, cultural events, etc.)
Is sea kayaking the focus of this program?
You will be exposed to a variety of important outdoor technical skills and leadership training in canoeing, sailing, mountain travel, river rafting and other aspects of wilderness and marine travel.However, sea kayak guide training is provided as a core aspect of the program 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. The skills you develop leading your peers on kayak expeditions are invaluable for honing your overall abilities as a guide in any outdoor adventure setting.
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. Previous students have spent $400 to $2,000 depending on what they previously owned and what they intend to do after graduating. All technical gear is supplied for use during the program (kayaks, canoes, rafts, sailboats, paddles, tents, tarps, kitchen equipment, VHF radios, flares, avalanche beacons, 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. 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.
What are the job prospects when I graduate?
We have a very high rate of graduate employment within and outside of the college region on Vancouver Island. You will make industry connections and on-the-job experience during a two-week (80-hour) work practicum that greatly enhances job prospects, ensuring you are well-prepared for entry and mid-level positions on Vancouver Island and around the world. Wages typically commensurate with experience. A starting wage for a sea kayak guide could be between $100 to $160/day plus gratuities (and meals if guiding multi-day tours) with opportunities for advancement each season. Past students have found excellent work placements and subsequent employment with adventure tourism industry leaders such as:
Tofino Sea Kayaking Company
Majestic Sea Kayaking
West Coast Expeditions
Coast Mountain Expeditions
Spirit of the West Adventures
Comox Valley Kayaks
Knight Inlet Lodge
T'ashii Paddle School
Spirit Bear Lodge
Kingfisher Wilderness Adventures
Tribune Bay Outdoor Education Centre
Strathcona Park Lodge
Aren't the guiding jobs seasonal?
Coastal guiding in BC is seasonal with some shoulder season (spring and fall) opportunities. Many guides balance this with off-season employment in winter resorts (e.g., ski patrolling or instructing), consulting, outdoor retail, teaching, health care, writing, photography, fine arts, carpentry and other trades. Many of our instructors have international experience teaching and guiding in Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Belize, Tonga, Vietnam, Croatia and Alaska. They can provide valuable perspectives and steer you toward potential contacts. For those that want to adventure further from home, 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 international employment, it is a good idea to acquire a second language.
Do I have to attend all of the program components to obtain my certificate?
Absolutely. Daily attendance and full participation is mandatory to develop and demonstrate specific competencies. You must successfully pass all program components to graduate. Each component of your training is relevant for guiding, including many industry certifications which qualify you to move forward as a guide..
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. Come prepared to stretch your personal comfort zones, physically, mentally and emotionally. You must be willing to participate fully and enthusiastically in all facets of the program. The fundamental leadership and communication skills required as an adventure guide are acquired through study, reflection and participation in group processes. 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 climbing, swimming, hiking and paddling which involves lifting kayaks, canoes and gear.
Can I get advance credit for experience or certification I already have?
If you provide proof of having an up-to-date certificate otherwise offered in the program, you can apply to receive credit toward the program certificate and receive permission to sit out that specific component, but you will miss group learning and development with your classmates which is often equally, if not more, valuable. The program coordinator and department chair will determine prior learning or transfer credit on a case-by-case basis according to specific course outcomes and certification requirements.