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Wilderness First Aid Training Programs and Requirements

Wilderness first aid training programs are available at basic and advanced levels through organizations such as the Wilderness Medical Associates and the Wilderness Medicine Institute.

Essential Information

Wilderness first aid training can be the difference between life and death during medical emergencies that might occur on camping trips or excursions in remote areas. Enrollees in first aid courses must generally be at least 16 years old. To complete a wilderness first aid program successfully, participants must pass written and practical evaluations. Basic courses last two days, with advanced ones can take 3-5 days to complete.

Participants of a wilderness first aid training program learn to treat injured patients until medical help arrives. Formal courses in wilderness first aid lead to certification. Training programs are offered through institutes, societies and organizations and consist of classroom teachings, skills labs and situational scenarios.


Basic Wilderness First Aid Course

Basic wilderness first aid courses teach students to evaluate the injured and check for signs of shock. They also gain skills for managing head, spinal cord and bone injuries as well as injuries resulting from extreme heat or cold conditions. Some common courses in these programs might include:

  • Patient assessment system
  • Stable injuries
  • Wounds and burns
  • Backcountry medicine
  • Moving extrication

Advanced Wilderness First Aid Course

Advanced courses focus on head and bone splinting, spinal traction and carrying techniques. Burn, infection and wound care practices are also taught. Advanced first aid courses also often incorporate CPR training. Course topics might include:

  • Medical legal
  • Head injuries
  • Cold injuries
  • Altitude illnesses
  • Submersion

Popular Career Options

Individuals who can benefit from wilderness first aid training include forest workers, park rangers, camp counselors, trail guides and river rafting leaders. This type of training can also prove helpful to wilderness scouts and extreme sports lovers. Wilderness first responders, who are trained to take care of severely injured parties for longer lengths of time, may also take part in a basic wilderness first aid course, since it is a means of first responder recertification.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the BLS, foresters make an average income of $58,230 per year as stated in May 2015 data. The job outlook for this career is expected to grow 7% from 2014-2024.

Continuing Education Information

Wilderness first aid certification is valid for 2-3 years, depending on the certifying organization. Depending on the course taken, individuals earn either the Wilderness First Aid (WFA) certification or Wilderness Advanced First Aid (WAFA) certification. Basic wilderness first aid certification programs often do not teach CPR, so individuals who have completed this type of training may decide to seek CPR certification.

Those who have completed wilderness first aid training may decide to attend industry conferences, which often last for several days. While there, attendees can participate in workshops and discussions or listen to guest speaker lectures. Topics may include relating to the injured or responding to crisis situations.

Individuals can also stay abreast of environmental or wildlife dangers through organizational websites, which may offer related online videos, news articles and recertification information. Social media links and blogs also provide information, which may include 'ask the expert' columns. Additionally, individuals who have completed a wilderness first aid course may decide to pursue more complex wilderness first responder or wilderness emergency medical technician (EMT) certification.

Those interested in wilderness first aid can enroll in basic and advanced training programs that teach various aspects of emergency wildlife care. These programs can lead to careers as foresters, with certification lasting 2-3 years.


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