Wages in the Outdoor Industry

Wages in the Outdoor Education and Adventure Sector  

Historically, wages in the Outdoor Education and Adventure Sector have been lower than the UK Average (.gov.uk)

Many outdoor staff appear prepared to offset a generally high quality of life and good job satisfaction against lower-than-average wages.

We put together some simple surveys and spent a few hours on Google.

It’s important to say that some of what we describe below is based on logical assumptions rather than purely empirical data.

Average = mean (unless otherwise stated).

The average wage of an Outdoor Instructor is £12,000 (Starter) – £30,000 (Highly Experienced) a year. (.gov.uk). Source

For comparison…

The average wage of a Secondary School Teacher is £22,500 – £66,750 a year.

The average wage of a Plumber is £18,000 – £40,000 a year.Wage comparison in the Outdoor Industry

How much are people really getting paid?

For ‘instructor jobs’ advertised on www.outdoor-learning.org on 24/01/2017 the average advertised salary was £18,800.

We published a survey across various outdoor forums and groups. We had more than 500 responses, the most common salary bracket for instructors was £15,601 – £20,264.  Most people (80%+) within that salary bracket were working for private companies as instructors or line managers and were aged between 26 and 35.

It seems reasonable to conclude that average salaries for outdoor instructors are at the lower end of the range described by government. We’re going to approximate this figure to £18,500 (average advertised salary + mid point of most common (80%) wage bracket divided by 2 and rounded up).

Based on average salaries for outdoor instructors as described by government, average advertised salaries for ‘instructor jobs’ and responses to our survey, the average salary for instructors or line managers within outdoor education and adventure is £18,500. 

It’s interesting to note that only 9% of those that responded to the survey, stated they earned more than £30,659.

On 24/01/2017 we could only find 4 adverts for outdoor sector jobs (at all levels and across all websites) that attracted a starting salary of greater than £30,000.Power Boat Training in Dorset

Freelance Rates for Outdoor Instructors in the UK

We employ freelance staff on a very regular basis. The freelance instructors that we employ work for a set day-rate if they are working with our ‘normal clients (school children, stags etc). The freelance instructors we employ to run specialist training and courses dictate their own day or course rates.

We spoke to approximately 40 outdoor instructors (that work all over the UK) that freelance regularly (2+ days per month) in the UK.

We surveyed 398 freelance outdoor instructors to try and determine the relationship between qualifications and pay.

We surveyed 204 freelance outdoor instructors to try and determine the relationship between experience and pay.

School Trip Coasteering in Dorset

Of those surveyed…

We were interested to determine the relationship between experience, qualifications and freelance pay.

Qualifications 

24% of freelance staff held qualifications in just one area of outdoor work (Summer Mountain Leader + DofE).

26% of freelance staff held one or more higher level qualifications (MIA etc).

76% of freelance staff held a range (3+) of mid-level qualifications (Summer Mountain Leader, SPA, 4* in one or more discipline).

Experience

19% of freelance staff have been working regularly in the outdoor industry for 8-11 years.

25% of freelance staff have been working regularly in the outdoor industry for 1- 3 years.

26% of freelance staff have been working regularly in the outdoor industry for 4-7 years.

30% of freelance staff have been working regularly in the outdoor industry for 11 or more years.School Trip Raft Building in Swanage, Dorset

How much Freelance Outdoor staff get paid in the UK

The information below is solely based on our own research. We make no claims as to its accuracy and understand completely that our data collection has not been rigorous. We invested some time and energy on this subject as we were interested in it and see lots of speculation within the outdoor community.

We asked freelance staff for their average daily earnings; we understand that there is variation in pay between types of work, geographical areas, times of the year and different companies.

Of those people that we employ as freelance staff, spoke to as part of this research or surveyed…

34% freelance outdoor staff earn £101 – £110 per day.

74% of freelance staff earn £81 – £130 per day.

9% of freelance staff say that they earn more than £141 per day.

Freelance staff with 1-3 years experience were much more likely to earn less than £101 per day.

There was no significant difference in pay when comparing staff with 4-7 years experience, 8-11 years experience or 11+ years experience.

Freelance staff that held qualifications in just one area of outdoor work were much more likely to earn less than £101 per day.

Freelance staff with a range of mid-level qualifications usually earn the same as freelance staff with one or more higher level qualification.

Almost all of the freelance staff that said they earn more than £141 per day held at least one higher level qualification. Adventure School Trips in Dorset Additional Qualitative Research 

Most freelance outdoor staff told us that, in real terms (in line with inflation) freelance outdoor wages had not gone up for 5 – 10 years.

Some freelance staff told us that freelance rates had not gone up at all for 5 – 10 years.

Some freelance staff told us that freelance rates have gone down over the last 5 – 10 years.

Most freelance outdoor staff told us that they had to travel more and accept less desirable work than in the past to ensure a stable income.

Most freelance staff told us that they were happy and healthy and enjoyed the great majority of their work.

Paddle Boarding near Bournemouth 55In Summary 

We think that the average salary of an outdoor instructor in the UK is £18,500 (normally aged 25 – 36).

We think that the average ‘equivalent salary’ of a freelance outdoor instructor in the UK is £23,540  (average earnings per day x 220).

The great majority of freelance staff in the UK earn £81 – £130 a day, with most earning £101 – £110 a day.

Real Adventure in Dorset 50We like to be candid…

Land & Wave pay our seasonal instructors £15,912. 

Land & Wave pay our seasonal lead instructors £18,000.

Land & Wave pay our full time instructors and line managers an average of £30,167.

Land & Wave pay £100 a day for ‘normal’ freelance staff. We pay an extra £48 for an additional 3 hour evening session. We pay an extra £24 for an overnight (DofE).

Land & Wave pay between £120 and £160 a day for specialist freelance staff to run staff training and specialist courses.

We haven’t increased our normal freelance rates for 3 years.

Over the last three years, we’ve worked hard to increase wages for full time staff; once we find brilliant people we do our best to keep them.

Land & Wave Team 05