• Northland student portaging canoe

Backpacker Magazine ranks Northland second in a list of the nation’s best colleges for hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

The reasons? Our proximity to trails, rivers, forests, Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands, our outdoor rec opportunities, student clubs, Outdoor Orientation, outdoor education major, and our passionate professors.

In short, you will be working with the best in the profession in one of the wildest, most beautiful locations in the country.

You will learn the skills you need to teach people in and about the outdoors. We emphasize experiential learning, even in our most basic courses. This means that you’ll get your hands dirty and your boots wet. You’ll learn in a supportive environment and gain skills and confidence.

Make no mistake, you’ll be in the classroom too, learning the philosophies and theories at the heart of your profession. You’ll create lessons, design programs, interpret the natural world, and make the outdoors accessible to everyone. At Northland, we focus on the role outdoor education can play in social justice and environmental stewardship. Our graduates tell us that these are the things that will set them apart from the competition.

You’ll find out how people learn, and how to reach them using different teaching styles. You’ll do real teaching with diverse students and audiences, break down that experience and learn from it, then do it again. You won’t come away with a folder full of canned lessons; we’ll help you find your own voice as a teachers.


On top of the core of the major, choose to go in more depth in one of four areas (or design your own):

Adventure Leadership
You will acquire critical skills—both technical and interpersonal—for working with people in the outdoors. You’ll lead others, matching the leadership style to the situation, finding the techniques that work best for you. You’ll find out what causes accidents and how to avoid them; then we’ll let you make real decisions under our guidance, learning judgment on the ground, the way it should be. Graduates go on to instruct at wilderness schools like Outward Bound and NOLS, lead expeditions, direct summer camps, and run outdoor programs at schools, universities, cities, and military bases. course list

Outdoor Program Management
Adding to the core of outdoor education theory and practice, this emphasis will help you think about marketing, business plans, financing, and staffing. Graduates become sustainable entrepreneurs and program managers. course list

Equity and Inclusion
Explore more deeply the potential of the outdoors to help create a more just and equitable society. Learn ways to include people who don’t typically see themselves in the outdoors, whether due to culture, race, gender, socioeconomic status, or physical ability. Create outdoor experiences that are inclusive, empowering, and therapeutic. Design programs that use the outdoors to bridge perceived differences between people. Our graduates go on to lead outdoor programs for urban or underserved populations, schools, at-risk youth, people with different physical abilities, and people who are seeking solace, renewal, or belonging through outdoor experiences. course list

Natural History
The natural history emphasis gives you in-depth ecological knowledge and the added skills of interpretation to help you connect people to nature. Our graduates go on to become outdoor education instructors, naturalists, interpretive park rangers, and environmental educators. course list

See More Majors

Where Outdoor Education Can Take You