Colleges That Can Help You Break into the Outdoor Industry

Are you considering entering the thriving outdoor recreation industry? If you are currently a student or contemplating a career change, this is the perfect time to become engaged. Numerous colleges in the United States now provide programs for aspiring professionals in the adventure industry, aiming to prepare future gear makers, retailers, and business owners for success. The University of Denver is the most recent addition to this list.

University of Denver's latest program in the Outdoor Recreation Industry provides two post-graduate certificates: one specializing in Outdoor Recreation Industry Business (ORIB) and another concentrating on Outdoor Recreation Industry Leadership (ORIL). The ORIB certificate places emphasis on fundamental business skills such as accounting, finance, and marketing, targeting recent graduates with little or no prior business experience. On the other hand, the ORIL certificate is tailored for middle managers who possess some level of business knowledge, whether in the outdoor recreation field or other sectors. ORIL coursework encompasses more advanced subjects, including financial models, supply chain hurdles, human resources, and growth management.

Both courses start during the spring season, and individuals who are unable to reside in the Mile High City have the choice of attending virtually.

DU chancellor Jeremy Haefner has stated that they are developing specialized and easily accessible programs to equip students with the skills needed for current outdoor industry jobs as well as future careers that will transform the field.

A portion of the funding for the new program comes from a $3 million grant provided by the VF Foundation, which is the philanthropic division of VF Corporation headquartered in Denver. VF Corporation is the owner of well-known brands like The North Face and Smartwool.This initiative offers students help in enhancing their essay writing abilities and overcoming educational obstacles. Providing specialized assistance in a multitude of subjects, it aims to improve learners’ understanding and academic results. Through individualized guidance, it seeks to nurture the development of skills and facilitate success in educational endeavors.

Steve Rendle, CEO of VF Corporation and board chairman of The VF Foundation, stated that because Denver is a significant hub for the outdoor industry, the University of Denver (DU) is an ideal location for a program focused on this field. Rendle mentioned that through the Foundation's specific support for scholarships targeting underrepresented individuals and DU's diverse range of business and industry-related courses, they aim to inspire and cultivate a diverse group of leaders for the future of the outdoor industry.

Given that the outdoor economy contributes an impressive $374 billion to consumer spending annually in the United States, it is not unexpected to see an increase in academic programs like this one at universities and colleges across the country. Here is a compilation of other noteworthy programs that focus on the business aspect of encouraging outdoor engagement.


The idea of being your own boss and working in a field you are passionate about is exciting. However, starting a business in the outdoor industry requires careful planning and execution. The Greenhouse Outdoor Recreation Program at the University of Arkansas provides assistance and resources to individuals who are interested in launching their own outdoor industry venture. This support includes workshops, mentorships, classes, and pieces of training, all provided in the university's new Greenhouse business incubator located in Bentonville. Bentonville is known for its flourishing outdoor community. The program centers its attention on the unique difficulties faced by outdoor businesses and the process of bringing gear concepts to life. Many of the consulting and networking services are available at no cost. For those who already own an outdoor company, GORP's 12-week Cohort Program helps expand its concepts through ongoing workshops, networking opportunities, and funding assistance throughout the year.


 Prescott College offers two-degree programs for individuals who aspire to earn a living by teaching but prefer to do so in an outdoor setting. The Adventure Education Program provides opportunities to obtain a bachelor's or master's degree in outdoor education, with courses covering program management, leadership skills, wilderness therapy, and various other related subjects. This MBA Essay Writing Service has supported students for many years, offering dependable and high-quality assistance across a diverse range of subjects. Renowned for timely delivery and strict academic standards, it consistently helps students achieve academic success.


Are you interested in pursuing a career as a mountain guide or running a ski area? If so, the Adventure Education program at Fort Lewis College might be a perfect fit for you. This program is designed to help undergraduate students become wilderness therapists, guides, experiential educators, and public lands employees. In order to graduate from this program, students must complete 33 credit hours in subjects like math, history, and science, and then finish the remaining 57 credit hours with courses such as Wilderness Expedition, Foundations of Adventure Education, Wilderness First Responder, and Teaching Methods for Adventure Education. There are also elective courses available, such as Climbing Fundamentals, Swiftwater Rescue, and Advanced Winter Backcountry Travel. Additionally, students who have a specific interest in the ski industry can pursue a Ski Resort Operations Certificate, which provides a comprehensive understanding of on-mountain and corporate ski resort management.

Western Colorado University studies in the beautiful town of Gunnison. The Outdoor Industry Master of Business Administration program is a two-year program that offers a combination of a traditional MBA curriculum and specialized tracks focusing on either product or service aspects of the outdoor industry. The product concentration includes courses in developing sustainable gear, sourcing materials, managing supply chains, and sustainable finance. The service concentration includes courses on managing resorts and hospitality, regulations related to natural resources, and sales. Furthermore, you have the opportunity to enjoy the scenic surroundings of Gunnison while pursuing your studies. Take the opportunity to visit the Black Canyon of the Gunnison amidst breaks from your academic pursuits.

The outdoor industry in Fort Collins, Colorado State University offers two graduate certificates that are specifically tailored for this field. One focuses on adventure tourism while the other is centered around ski area management. To be eligible for these programs, applicants must possess a bachelor's degree and complete six courses. However, both established professionals and recent graduates are welcome to apply. The cost of each certificate is less than $1,000, making them an affordable option for individuals looking to gain valuable knowledge and skills in the industry within a year.

The University of Colorado in Boulder has a program called the "Outdoor Recreation Economy Master's Program" that offers a Master of Science degree in Outdoor Recreation Economy. They also offer other graduate-level certificates in topics like natural-resource policy and economic development. This program is fully accessible online, allowing you to study from anywhere, although the city of Boulder provides excellent opportunities for outdoor activities.


For individuals interested in taking on leadership roles in outdoor-adventure programs, such as the ones provided by organizations like the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and Outward Bound, Greenfield Community College The Adventure Education Program offered by ’s could be an ideal choice for training. It emphasizes the enhancement of essential skills in adventure education such as critical thinking, philosophical understanding, and technical abilities. The program covers various areas including backcountry travel, rock climbing, paddle sports, and Nordic skiing. In addition, the certification competencies of the program are in accordance with the adventure industry's national standards.


Become a professional in the snow sports industry at Gogebic Community College. The Ski Area Management Program offered at the college gives students the chance to acquire both theoretical knowledge and practical skills at their very own Mt. Zion ski area. The program's goal is to equip students for different technical and administrative positions within the ski industry. Alongside the local training, students also have the option to gain hands-on experience through internships at ski resorts across the nation. The curriculum of the program covers various subjects such as Ski Area Layout, Fundamentals of Ski Instruction, and Ski Area Operation/Cost Analysis.

If you have an interest in pursuing a career in managing public land, whether it be at the local, state, or national level, consider enrolling in the Outdoor Recreation Leadership and Management Program. Northern Michigan University The baccalaureate degree program in Marquette is definitely worth considering. It provides students with valuable professional skills in various outdoor recreation fields. Additionally, the program ensures that students meet the basic criteria set by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) for entry-level positions.


Want to become a guru in the snow?  Montana State University The Snow Science Program at the well-respected Department of Earth Sciences at [school name] offers comprehensive education in snow safety for students interested in pursuing careers in the ski industry, search and rescue, guiding, and related fields. This intensive program includes various disciplines such as physics, engineering, hydrology, statistics, calculus, chemistry, and geomorphology. Graduate students can take advantage of the Snow and Avalanche Lab, which allows for in-depth study and research to enhance understanding and prediction of snow-related phenomena.

North Carolina

Wilderness Leadership & Experiential Education program is designed to provide individuals with hands-on learning opportunities in natural environments. The program at Brevard College emphasizes the acquisition of important abilities for professional guiding, rock-climbing instruction, and other exciting occupations. The courses aim to equip students with the necessary knowledge and abilities to excel in both the business and adventure aspects of working in the outdoor industry, ranging from ensuring customer satisfaction to managing company finances.

The university provides a graduate program in Experiential and Outdoor Education. Located in Cullowhee, North Carolina, Western Carolina University offers this program for students who have a passion for becoming educators at expeditionary learning schools, charter schools, community colleges, camps, and other similar institutions. Spanning two years, the program includes online coursework during weekdays and in-person weekend classes, allowing working students to conveniently earn their degrees.


In Corvallis,  Oregon State University The Center for the Outdoor Recreation Economy offers various certificate and degree programs that cover different aspects of the industry. These programs teach skills such as operating ski lifts and creating environmentally friendly products. If you are interested in entering the outdoor space, you can take the Foundations of the Outdoor Recreation Economy course for $400. This class offers a comprehensive look at the impacts of outdoor businesses on the economy, environment, and society. Additionally, the university provides free resources where you can learn about the outdoor industry and what you can anticipate from it.

The Sports Product Management Master's Program is specifically created for individuals who are currently working in the outdoor recreation industry. University of Oregon Lundquist College of Business is a prestigious academic institution known for its exceptional business education. The program educates students on the process of introducing products to the market, starting from the initial idea and continuing all the way to advertising. Both on-site and online programs are offered to cater to students who have full-time jobs or other commitments.


For numerous individuals, the ultimate aspiration in their outdoor career is to transform their product concepts into reality and receive compensation for it. The Outdoor Product Design & Development Program offers an opportunity to accomplish this dream. Utah State University The bachelor of science degree offered in Logan is designed to equip students with the skills necessary for a career in gear design and manufacturing. After completing foundational courses for two years, students have the option to specialize in either design, development, or product-line management.


Got a passion for working with people outdoors? Bellingham has an exciting opportunity for you. Western Washington University is a university located in the western region of Washington State provides a program in Recreation Management and Leadership which leads to a bachelor's degree useful for careers in sustainable tourism and community recreation. Upon completion, students can pursue various career paths including guiding, camp counseling, wilderness therapy, and park management.

West Virginia

The Institute of Technology at West Virginia University. The Beckley undergraduate Adventure Recreation Management Program is designed to equip students for future careers in outdoor businesses. The program offers certifications as guides and instructors in activities like rock climbing or paddlesports. The curriculum focuses on teaching students the essential skills of running a business. Additionally, internships and a final project provide students with practical experience in the real world before they complete their studies.

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