Author: Christine Garvin

Worldwide University Programs in Ecotourism

Our “Sustainable Travel“ series is sponsored by Global Basecamps.  Global Basecamps is specialty travel company that helps independent travelers research and book locally owned boutique hotels, off-the-beaten path lodges and multi-day excursions all over the world. Whether hiking the Inca Trail, experiencing a traditional Japanese Ryokan, or relaxing on the beaches of Thailand, Global Basecamps specializes in designing completely customized itineraries to meet each travelers specific priorities and match their travel style.

Ecotourism has become a hot buzz word for caring about the impact your travel has on the environmental world and local culture. New companies that specialize in ecotours emerge every day, and entire countries such as Belize focus almost solely on this form of tourism.

But what if you want to go beyond simply taking an ecotour or trusting a company’s approach to sustainability? There is a larger option to dive headfirst into this emerging field: get a degree in ecotourism.

There are more programs in more places around the world than you might think. Depending on the amount of time and money you want to put in, a range of certifications are available that will put you on the track towards becoming an Ecotourism Guide or Adventure Therapy Program Coordinator, among many other job choices.

The coolest part is that most of the programs include some training in adventure sports or hiking, and offer their own twist on sand, surf, and the great outdoors.

Here are five of the best ecotourism programs available around the world:

1) Bachelor of Applied Ecotourism and Outdoor Leadership, Mount Royal University, Alberta, Canada


If you want to learn about tourism and business, environmental science and leadership, and sociocultural heritage so that you can work as an Ecotourism program planner, a Bachelor of Applied Ecotourism and Outdoor Leadership from Mount Royal University might be the right program for you.

Along with classes in Sustainable Tourism and Introductory Rock Climbing (yes, really), you also take a Critical Writing and Reading class and Entrepreneurship Studies, so that you’re able to take what you learn in “Mountain Bike Trekking” and apply it to the real world of business.

This program is a good mix of adventure sports training and practical business application, with a mandatory practicum for two semesters that provides real world experience, and five day expeditions on the river or in the mountains.

  • General admission requirements.
  • Cost: Approximately $7,300 Canadian for tuition, fees, and books for 1 year
  • Job Opportunities: Outdoor Education, Eco and Adventure Advocacy, Parks Protection, Small Business Development

2) Bachelor of Science in Ecotourism, University of Derby, Derbyshire, England


It might be studying at the 58 acre Outdoor Leadership Centre that perks your interest. Or it may be the possibility of spending up to six weeks in Botswana working on and learning about conservation projects. It might just come down to being able to study resource management and examining land-use conflicts.

Whatever it is, if you are looking for an in-depth study of the environment and ways to protect local resources and people as tourism increases, the University of Derby at Derbyshire provides a sound, internationally linked-in degree. With this undergraduate degree, you can go into Outdoor Recreation or Adventure Tourism, or specialize in responsible tourism initiatives. You’ll also be connected to the Tourism Management Institute and the International Tourism Society.

  • General Undergraduate Admission requirements.
  • Cost: £9,000 per year for UK/EU students (this includes most of the fieldtrip costs)
  • Job Opportunities: Specializing in sustainable/responsible tourism initiatives

3) Sustainable Tourism Management Certificate, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA

San Diego

Understanding the impact of tourism beyond just the tourist’s experience is the backbone of ecotourism. Obtaining a Sustainable Tourism Management Certificate from San Diego State University will provide a deeper understanding of the challenges and innovations of this industry. At the same time, you’ll tap into the world of sustainable tourism through a tourism planning class and an internship in the field.

Beyond the Tourism Management certification, SDSU also offers a Sustainable Surf Tourism Certification as part of their Center for Surf Research. This means that if you plan to develop – or already have – a surf tourism operation, you can get certified as a business that takes into account sustainability, social, economic, and environmental impact, and cultural heritage impact. The certification also sets up international standards for responsible surfing for tourists.

  • English language requirement
  • Cost: $6,530 for 17 weeks
  • Job Opportunities: Working in a sustainable tourism business

4)  Bachelor of Applied Science in Adventure Ecotourism, Charles Sturt University, Albury-Wodonga, Australia


Another degree in ecotourism can be found in a place intimately connected to its environment – Australia. Charles Sturt in Albury-Wodonga offers a Bachelor of Applied Science in Adventure Ecotourism that dives deep into one of two areas – Outdoor Recreation or Planning and Policy. Each student chooses their specialization during this three-years full time (or six years distance learning) program.

Field-based equipment, fully equipped lab facilities, and a stocked library are found alongside classes such as “Earth System Processes” and “International Practical Experience”. If you go the Outdoor Recreation path, you can impress all your friends as you become professionally trained in bushwalking, rock climbing, and abseiling.

  • Admission requirements
  • Cost: $8,400 Australian per year (Aus and New Zealand students), $22,800 International students
  • Job Opportunities: Adventure Ecotourism Instructor, Ecotourism Guide, Outdoor Development Trainer, Environmental Educator

5) Associates degree in Ecotourism & Adventure Travel, Hocking College, Nelsonville, OH

Hocking College

Though Ohio may not automatically come to mind when thinking about protecting the rainforests or oceans, the Ecotourism & Adventure Travel program offered at Hocking College in Nelsonville might change your mind. This Associates degree provides an overview of nature and ecological sciences, tour guide services, wilderness skills, and hospitality and lodging.

It also covers the whole spectrum of ecotourism management, from running the front desk of an eco-hotel to the environmental impact of any number of outdoor adventure activities. Besides, what other program out there offers “Chain Saw Operations and Maintenance?”

You’ll even get a chance to lead inexperienced backpackers into a remote wilderness setting.

  • Admission requirements
  • Cost: $5,355.00 for 65 credit hours (four semesters)
  • Job Opportunities: Work in National Parks, Environmental Education centers, Resorts or Lodges, Adventure Camps or Therapy programs, in the Tourism Industry.

What are some other great ecotourism programs offered around the globe?

Obviously, sustainability in travel is here to stay. Global Basecamps is proud to support its destinations directly through travel. Take a peek at our social responsibility page to learn how travel through Global Basecamps helps your destinations. Whether it’s supporting a Maasai primary school with your cultural Tanzania safari, or the survival of a unique Amazon tribe with your once in a lifetime Ecuador adventure, you can rest assured that your travel is supporting localities simply by booking through a trusted travel agency.

Photo credits: Declic, PhillipC, SD Dirk, aussiegall, Wayne National Forest