Outdoor Studies (OS) prepares students for meaningful lives and careers working with people in the outdoors through expedition and active learning. Students earn a Bachelor of Arts in Outdoor Studies.
Our classes explore Alaska’s millions of acres of wildlands and thousands of miles of coastline and rivers. Competent outdoor professionals help provide unmatched opportunities to learn the skills and knowledge needed for a career and life in the outdoors. Your education and experience in OS will help prepare you for positions in parks and recreation, tourism, outdoor and environmental education, adventure therapy, and snow science. Students learn professional standards enabling them to lead and teach others, manage risks, plan programs, run businesses, and work on public and private lands.
Whether you want a degree that puts your passion for outdoor recreation at the center of your education or one that will develop field proficiencies you gained through military service into a profession, APU’s Outdoor Studies program leads to relevant practicum and employment opportunities while you’re still in school and prepares you to graduate with the knowledge, the real-world experience and the professional network you need for a career in the outdoor profession of your choice.
Jobs? Our alumni have been or currently are:
- Educational Specialists: Alaska Avalanche School, Alaska Geographic, Anchorage Zoo, Campbell Creek Science Center,
- Winterberry School
- Ski Patrol/Assistant Ski Patrol Director: Alyeska Ski Resort
- Backcountry Ski Guide: Chugach Powder Guides
- Ranger: Chugach National Forest, Alaska State Parks
- Mountain Guide: Alaska Mountaineering School, Mountain Trip, Ascending Path, Wild Alpine
- Military Recreation Coordinator: Joint Base Elmendorf – Richardson
- College Outdoor Program Director: Alaska Pacific University
- Outdoor Apparel Company: Voormi
- Reality TV/Film work: “Life Below Zero.” “Ultimate Survivor: Alaska,”
- Outdoor Instructor: National Outdoor Leadership School, Outward Bound
- Wilderness Therapy: Alaska Crossings, Northstar Behavioral Health
- Sea Kayaking: Sunny Cove Sea Kayaking, Alaska Sea Kayakers
- International: Terratribes: China
Sample classes at the undergraduate level:
- Core Curriculum:
- Introduction to Outdoor Studies, Recreation Program Design, Wilderness First Responder, Risk Management, Topics in Outdoor Leadership, and Research Methods
- Skills Classes:
- Wilderness Skills, Winter Wilderness Skills/Avi I, Climbing Systems, Search and Rescue, Packrafting, Swiftwater, Nordic Skiing, Sea Kayaking, Dog Mushing, Ice Climbing, and Snow Science I and II
- Leadership (backpacking)
- Sea Kayaking
- Academic/Upper division courses
- Human Impacts on Wildland Ecosystems
- Applied Exercise Physiology
- Outdoor Education and Interpretation
- Business of Recreation
- GIS and Remote Sensing
- Natural History
- Weather and Climate, Glaciology and Glacier Travel, Oceanography and Surfing, Sea Birds and Marine Mammals, Physical Geology, Ecology, Natural History of Alaska, Climate Change, and more
Outdoor Education is a concentration that often attracts students who dream of guiding, only to discover that instructing is more dynamic. Think of it this way – as a guide, you’ll tie other people’s knots. As an outdoor educator, you’ll teach people how to choose the right knot and safely tie it themselves. An OS concentration in Outdoor Education readies you for careers at outdoor recreation centers around the world, including the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and Outward Bound (OB). We should know. Your Outdoor Studies Faculty members include four former instructors with NOLS, OB – or both!
An OS concentration in Land Management helps prepare you for careers with state and national agencies that oversee public lands. This OS program concentration develops your ability to balance best-practice land use and best interests of people who use the land for recreation. Whether you’re rangering at Gates of the Arctic National Park or just starting out on a trail crew, your concentration in Land Management deepens your understanding of land as resource.
APU’s Snow Science concentration helps you meet a nationwide need for professionals with avalanche hazard training. Snow Science students like you present at national conferences, displaying OS research that relies on thermal imagery and geographic information systems. APU’s relationship with the Alaska Avalanche School and its work with the U.S. Forest Service add to your professional network as you gain real-world knowledge about avalanche forecasting.
Tourism is an interdisciplinary OS concentration that blends your interest in outdoors skills with business courses needed for success in private industry. Focused coursework in topics like ecotourism and entrepreneurship lets you network with like-minded peers while developing knowledge and skills in business fundamentals.
The OS concentration in Wilderness Therapy at APU combines your love of outdoor activities with your desire to help people to thrive. Through courses like Eco-psychology and Therapeutic Uses of the Wilderness and challenging practicum experiences that can take you deep into the Alaska backcountry, you will gain insight into traditional therapeutic models and skills while enhancing your personal growth as an outdoor professional.
Many undergraduate students combine their interest in science, psychology, business, or liberal studies with their passion for the outdoors by combining a minor in Outdoor Studies with their major degree program. The OS minor gives students the basic skills and knowledge to travel in the backcountry and includes a Wilderness First Responder certificate.
“The Outdoor Studies program at APU provides excellent mentorship that taught me leadership in the field, to think creatively and outside the box in stressful situations in the outdoors, to think fast, deal quickly and keep people safe.” -Raina Panarese, 2001, Outdoor Studies
“The whole program was awesome and I enjoyed ever moment of it! As a hands-on learner, I liked the project-oriented assignments where I could focus on my interests. Field-based learning appealed to me, too.” -Heather Thamm, 2003, Outdoor Studies
“I enjoyed the outdoor adventure aspects of my military duty. I knew this was what I wanted to pursue afterwards. Outdoor Studies at APU is totally in sync with what I wanted to do. You get important certifications while you’re still in school. You get summer jobs and internships because you’re studying OS at APU. The GI Bill more than covers housing on campus. OS at APU is an excellent choice for me.” -Sean Johnson, Veteran, U.S. Marine Corps – 2016, Outdoor Studies
Institute & Program Area
Moving and craving adventure? Get paid to do what you love. In Outdoor Studies, we prepare students for meaningful lives and careers working with people in the outdoors through expedition and active learning. Students earn either a bachelors in Outdoor Studies or a master of science in Outdoor and Environmental Education.
Our classes utilize Alaska’s millions of acres of wildlands and diverse human resources to provide unmatched opportunities to experience and learn the skills and knowledge needed to be an outdoor professional. You will be prepared for positions in parks and recreation, commercial recreation, outdoor and environmental education, wilderness therapy, and snow science.