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Wilderness First Responder: Employment Info & Career Requirements

Find out the skills needed to become a wilderness first responder, who supplies appropriate medical attention in a medical emergency in a remote location when traditional medical assistance may not be available. Learn about the educational requirements to get started in this field, as well as the career and salary projections and alternate job options.

Career Definition of a Wilderness First Responder

A person wishing to be certified as a wilderness first responder may already have or is seeking employment as an emergency medical technician, a wilderness guide, or another kind of outdoor professional. It is the responsibility of a wilderness first responder to react to medical emergencies in remote locations where no other medical assistance may be available. Certification courses generally require 72 training hours that may be spread over several days according to the program.

Education Completion of a certification program is required
Job Skills Leadership, quick and calm thinking, physical fitness
Median Salary (2019)** $37,140
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 9% increase, for recreation workers

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

Required Education

Generally, participants in a wilderness first responder certification program must be at least 16 years old. Participants under the age of 18 must have parental consent and may need to have already been certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The curriculum may cover topics such as hypothermia, emergency preparedness, toxins, and wound care. It is important to note that certification requirements for a wilderness first responder vary from state-to-state, so your local emergency services office should be contacted for specific information. Certification as a wilderness first responder is often required for camp directors, supervisors of outdoor schools, and wilderness guides.

Skills Required

A wilderness first responder must be a leader who is willing to take responsibility during a medical emergency. Because medical assistance might be several hours away from a remote location, a wilderness first responder must think clearly, act quickly, and possess the ability to calm others in a stressful situation.

Career and Economic Outlook

March 2019 information from PayScale.com determined that wilderness first responders with 1-4 years of experience earned a median salary of $37,140. In general, recreation workers were to see a 9% rise in jobs from 2016-2026, based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Alternative Career Options

Other potential career options in this field include:

Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and Paramedics

A formal education program is required of all EMTs and paramedics, according to the BLS. A 15% rise in jobs was to occur for these workers from 2016-2026. Those choosing to work in emergency services, such as EMTs and paramedics, earned a median annual income of $33,380 in May 2017.

Forest and Conservation Workers

Forest and conservation workers aren't medical professionals, but they work outdoors such as wilderness first responders do. These conservation workers typically learn on the job, but they often complete training programs. The BLS reported that from 2016-2026, a 2% decrease in jobs was projected for these workers. They earned a median salary of $27,650 in 2017.


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