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Adventure Guiding Certificate

Eight-month certificate

Where: Comox Valley
Starts: September
  • Learn from industry leaders respected for their varied wilderness leadership skills, practical experience, adaptability and teaching ability, including expertise in Aboriginal ecotourism.
  • Receive valuable certifications in sea kayaking, canoeing, sailing, river rafting, swiftwater rescue, avalanche safety, wildlife viewing, wilderness first aid and more. See our FAQ tab for a full list.
  • Make industry connections and gain on-the-job experience with adventure tourism leaders such as Tofino Sea Kayaking Company, Majestic Sea Kayaking, Spirit Bear Lodge, Knight Inlet Lodge, Spirit of the West Adventures, West Coast Expeditions, Strathcona Park Lodge and Tribune Bay Outdoor Education Centre.
  • Earn credit toward NIC's Tourism & Hospitality Management diploma with university transfer and business degree bridging options.

New courses in 2017. Gain in-demand skills to qualify for year-round employment locally and internationally. In addition to sea kayaking, canoeing and sailing you can now learn river rafting, mountain and rock skills, wildlife viewing and winter mountain travel.


  • 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 in adventure guiding. You’ll be exposed to life-changing wilderness, wildlife and Aboriginal cultural experiences.
  • Head out and explore. Gain practical knowledge on multi-day outings to unique areas in British Columbia including the Discovery Islands, the Gulf Islands, Strathcona Provincial Park and the West Coast of Vancouver Island. You’ll be exposed to the same ocean, mountain and river conditions, social dynamics and leadership decisions that you will encounter in your future career.
  • Skills for careers, skills for life. Qualify for immediate year-round employment locally and internationally. The skills and experiences acquired in NIC's Adventure Guiding certificate are essential for guiding and open the door to a variety of career paths and life pursuits.
  • Go further. Apply your certificate to 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 North Island College campuses. Ask us about custom delivery for your group.


Qualify for employment across a wide range of recreation and adventure tourism activities and earn credit toward further studies that open the door to multiple career pathways.

Outdoor 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 valuable career skills while training in sea kayaking, canoeing, sailing, river rafting, mountain travel, wildlife viewing, wilderness first aid and other outdoor education 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 guiding industry, including a focus on sustainability, law and 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. Classmates frequently take turns co-leading while instructors provide support, direction and feedback.

Formal and informal evaluation, which is ongoing throughout this program, takes place in the classroom and in the wilderness. In addition to achieving industry-recognized certifications, you will receive college grades and credit based on practical skills evaluations, contributions to group learning, presentations, assignments, quizzes and exams.

Go further with your Outdoor Leadership Career

Qualify for entry-level leadership and guiding positions with sea kayaking and river rafting companies, coastal and mountain 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 outdoor leadership 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 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 institutions in BC.

Supply List

Outdoor gear is an important part of the Adventure Guiding program. NIC provides most of the 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, 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!

  • We recommend consulting with a Program Coordinator before selecting your field specialty courses.
  • 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

Core Competencies

Field Skill Options

Plus choose a minimum of two from the following 2 credit field courses (4 credits total):

Note: field skill course availability and delivery model based on enrolment

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).

Completion Requirements

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

Tuition & Costs Estimate for
Fall 2017, Winter, Spring & Summer 2018

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 $8,960
NISU Fees $135
Learner Resource $135
Health and Dental $275
Total $9,505
Equipment: costs for clothing, personal gear, and books vary. Students may spend up to $2000.

International Fees

Year 1
Tuition $15,915
NISU Fees $135
Learner Resource $135
Health and Dental $275
Total $16,460
Additional Costs for International Students include the $100 Application fee (required) and the $250 Accommodation Placement fee (optional).
Equipment: costs for clothing, personal gear, and books vary. Students may spend up to $2000.

Frequently Asked Questions

  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 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:
  • SKGABC-approved kayak leadership course & Assistant Overnight Guide assessment.
  • Paddle Canada Sea Kayak Skills Level 1 & 2.
  • Recreational Canoeing Association of BC Lakewater Level 3 and Tripping Level 3.
  • Sail Canada Coastal Cruising Standard.
  • Wilderness First Aid and CPR Level ‘C’ (40 hours).
  • WorldHost Fundamentals
  • FoodSafe Level 1
  • British Columbia River Outfitters Association – Guide
  • Rescue Canada – Swiftwater Rescue Technician
  • British Columbia River Outfitter Association – Guide
  • Avalanche Canada – Avalanche Skills Training 1
  • Commercial Bear Viewing Association of BC (CBVABC) – Assistant Guide
  • VHF Restricted Operator Certificate (ROC-M)
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.)
  4. 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. 
  5. 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.
  6. 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:
  7. 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. 
  8. 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..
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  • Certified Tidal Angling Guide
  • Paddle Canada Instructor
  • Ski Instructor (nordic, alpine or snowboard)
  • Small Vessel Operator Proficiency (SVOP)
  • Marine Emergency Duties A3 (MED A3)

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

Harley Elias

Harley Elias


Business Administration, Professional Tourism

MBA, Strategic Planning and Marketing (University of Washington)

Subjects: Business, Tourism & Hospitaly Mgmt
Comox Valley Campus 250-334-5000 ext. 4014 | Location TTB - 114

Mike Neville

Mike Neville


Professional Tourism

Bachelor of Tourism Management, (Vancouver Island University)

Master of Recreation Management, (Acadia University)


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

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