Aerie Backcountry Medicine


The Montana-India Semester is a backcountry and international experience with emphases in wilderness medicine, international health, disaster relief and technical rescue.

The program starts with 3 weeks of intensive EMT training at the Jack Creek Preserve near Big Sky, Montana. Taught by top professionals in their fields, this course combines lectures on medical topics and significant hands-on learning with the tools of emergency medicine. Students will be given the opportunity to test for NREMT certification and given the tools to apply for state licensure. 

After the EMT section students will attend wildland fire training in the Missoula area. That training includes the Incident Qualification Card (Red Card) and REMS training. The REMS (Rapid Extraction Module Support) is a pre-staged rescue team assigned to a wildland fire to provide firefighters with a safe, effective, and efficient method of evacuation off the fireline in the event of injury or illness incurred during firefighting operations. REMS personnel must be able to quickly extricate a patient from very steep and unstable areas where walking a patient out of an area with the litter basket and wheel combination may not be possible due to terrain features.  Rope systems may be deployed to ensure that a victim and the REMS team can safely transition from the incident location to the medical evacuation site.  REMS personnel should be certified as Rope Rescue Technicians or NPFA 1006 equivalent.  

This course awards the Rope Rescue Technician certification upon successful completion. 

Students then fly to Delhi, India and travel north to the Hanifl Centre in Mussoorie. Several days are spent at Hanifl learning about the area and culture and preparing gear for a trek into the Himalaya. A day of driving into the mountains ends in Sankri, a town that serves as our gateway to the Himalaya. Students spend over a week on a spectacular trip to the Har Ki Dun valley, studying outdoor leadership and wilderness medicine. 

The last section of the course is spent in local clinics with our partners in northern India. These clinical rotations provide a unique opportunity to be immersed in rural, international medicine. Instructors are with the students in the clinics to help guide them through the experience and make sure they get a quality experience. 

Credits & Certifications*

  • 15 upper-division University of Montana credits
  • Aerie Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician (W-EMT) certification
  • National Registry EMT (EMT) certification
  • State of Montana EMT certification (optional)
  • American Heart Association BLS CPR certification
  • Red Card Wildland Firefighting certification
  • Rope Rescue Technician certification
  • Search and Rescue certification
  • Leave No Trace Trainer certification

*Earning credits and certifications is dependent on successful completion of required physical and practical examinations as well as final payment of tuition.

For more information about each of the certifications listed above and their recertification requirements, refer to the FAQ section of the website.

For a general overview of the (optional) credits offered through the Semester, click here. University credits consist of three separate, 5-credit upper-division courses from the University of Montana: Emergency Medical Technician and Incident Management; Wilderness Medicine and Risk Management; and Wilderness Rescue and Survival Skills. Our students receive official transcripts from the University of Montana for Semester coursework.

To transfer credits to your university, you will need to get approval from your advisor and possibly your university's registrar. Most schools allow transfer of credits from other degree-granting institutions. Assuming your university will accept transfer credits from UM, your advisor will need to make a determination about HOW the credits will transfer to your degree. They may come in as upper-division electives, or your advisor may agree to use them towards a specific degree requirement. Please write us for more information, and feel free to forward the syllabi above to your advisor for review.



The course is hosted at the following locations:

Jack Creek Preserve in beautiful Big Sky, Montana.

Whitewater Rescue Institute in Alberton, Montana.

Hanifl Centre in the mountains of northern India.


September 1st - November 6th, 2024

Please note that the program ends in Delhi, India on 11/06/2024. You are free to continue traveling or return directly home. Any travel arrangements after 11/06 need to be planned independently of the Aerie program and may require different visas. There is more info on visa requirements below.
I have tweaked a couple things in an effort to reduce travel costs and simplify travel for some participants. The program will begin in Missoula, and that is the last stop before India as well. We will travel to Bozeman but you only have to worry about two airports: Missoula (MSO) and Delhi (DEL). 
I have built in a five day recess between the Montana and India portions. Aerie will not provide food and lodging during this time, you are on your own to get prepared for the international section. 
The recess allows for students to travel home and depart from India there if they would like. I am trying to give as much flexibility as possible for itineraries. Whatever itinerary you choose, it is strongly recommended to arrive on United Airlines flight 82, landing in Delhi at 21:30 on 10/09/2024. Aerie staff will be on that flight and it will make pick-up and hotel shuttles easiest to have students on UA 82 as well. I have included an example itinerary below that would be efficient and arrive on the proper flight.

Missoula - Delhi on United Airlines
06:30 MSO - DEN on UA 2255
13:49 DEN - EWR on UA 1393
21:20 EWR - DEL on UA 82
Arrives 21:30 on 10/09/2024

Delhi to Missoula on Air Canada/United Airlines
00:05 DEL - YUL  on AC 51
08:30 YUL - DEN on AC 1073
13:30 DEN - MSO on UA 5462
Arrives 15:39 on 11/06/2024

Here are the important travel dates:
Arrival in Missoula (MSO): 09/01/2024 - just a check-in day, no classwork
Program recess begins: 10/03/2024 - no class work until India
Departure for Delhi, India (DEL): 10/08/2024 - that will have you arriving on 10/09/2024 after the time change. 
Return from Delhi, India (DEL): 11/06/2024 - You can book evening or red eye flights for the night of 11/06. You can also book a flight anytime on 11/07.


$19,900 program cost includes the following:

  • Tuition
  • All room and board
  • The following certifications:
    • EMT and Wilderness EMT
    • American Heart Association BLS CPR
    • Red Card Wildland Firefighting
    • Rope Rescue Technician
    • Search and Rescue
    • Leave No Trace Trainer
  • The following course texts:
    • Aerie Wilderness Medicine
    • Swiftwater Rescue
    • Leave No Trace
    • AMC Guide to Outdoor Leadership

The following items are NOT included with program cost:

  • Registration fee for 15 upper division credits from the University of Montana (optional - approximately $500)
  • EMT text book (approximately $100)
  • National Registry of EMT on-line registration and computer testing fee (approximately $100)
  • Health insurance while in the US
  • Any costs associated with early departures or personal medical emergencies. 
  • State of Montana EMT licensure costs (optional - approximately $50)

Scholarships/ discounts

Please contact our Semester Coordinator, James Pyke, if you are eligible for any of the following:

  • Early-Bird Registration
    • $2,000 tuition discount for any student paying their non-refundable $2,000 deposit 6 months or more before the start of the program.
  • Students may be eligible for no more than one of the following tuition discounts:
    • AmeriCorps members/alumni using their AmeriCorps awards will have their awards matched, up to $3,000 or
    • AmeriCorps members/alumni without education awards - $3,000 tuition discount or
    • Alumni or staff of the following: Student Conservation Association, American Conservation Experience, and any other state Conservation Corps or Youth Corps programs - $3,000 tuition discount or
    • Montana-state residents or students enrolled at a Montana college - $3,000 tuition discount

Students may also be able to use the following options to pay tuition:

Federal Financial Aid (FAFSA)

Because Aerie's Fall Semester program is offered through the University of Montana, students who are currently receiving federal financial aid through the FAFSA are often able to use their financial aid to pay for Semester tuition. The process for doing this is described here. Aerie will help facilitate this process; contact Semester Coordinator James Pyke with questions.

AmeriCorps Awards

Because the program is run through an accredited Title IV university, AmeriCorps members and alumni can use their Segal Education Awards to pay for their tuition. If you have completed more than one AmeriCorps program, you are able to use all your awards, cumulatively, for tuition. The process for doing this is described here. Aerie will help facilitate this process; contact Semester Coordinator James Pyke with questions.

GI Bill® Education Award

Military veterans are approved through the VA to use their GI benefits to pay for the Fall Semester. Please contact our Semester Coordinator James Pyke to find out where we are in the process for the Fall.

Clinical Experience

Aerie's Semesters are, above all else, about the medicine. Aerie students complete their education and training with more clinical experience and practice than any other wilderness medicine training provider offers. We believe excellent patient assessment and care is at the heart of all other advanced skills. Aerie Semesters not only offer extensive practice for EMT skills, leading to universally high rates of National Registry certification, we also offer actual patient assessment experience and observation time in hospitals, on ambulances, and in rural medical clinics to ensure that our students leave with outstanding clinical skills. Our partners in Missoula's ambulance service (Missoula Emergency Services, Inc.) and City Fire provide hours of training to Semester students.


Q: Will I have time off during the program to sightsee and visit local areas?

A: There will be very little time for traveling/sightseeing in Montana or India. You should plan time before or after the Fall Semester for personal travel.

Q: Will I be able to communicate with friends and family?

A: In Montana, there should be wireless internet service students can hook in to with their own laptop. Cell phone coverage is tentatively available at this time at a few good spots at Jack Creek. In Missoula, communication possibilities should be excellent. Communications will be challenging during certain elements of the program in India, particularly on the Har Ki Dun trek and rope rescue segment in Sankri, where there is no cell coverage expected. Back at the Hanifl Centre, there is excellent service; the time zone is 11.5 hours ahead of Mountain Standard Time.

Q: What are the physical requirements for the program?

A: All Aerie Semesters are physically challenging. Students will carry 30-50 lb backpacks up to 5 miles per day during certain sections of the program. During these days, you may climb 2000-3000 vertical feet and will be living at elevations of 8000 feet above sea level. You will carry patient litters and gear across uneven terrain and rivers and will be expected to swim and climb. You will work outdoors in snow, rain and ice and will be expected to maintain a positive learning attitude regardless of the weather or activity. Great athletic, climbing, skiing or swimming experience are not necessary to successfully complete the program; however, all of these activities require physical conditioning conducive to constant movement in these environments.

The Red Card "arduous pack test" involves walking 3 miles carrying a 45 pound pack in under 45 minutes. If you cannot, or choose not, to complete this Pack Test, you will not receive a Red Card but you will still be able to complete the Semester and receive UM credits. Please contact us if you have any concerns.

Q: Will there be tests and homework?

A: Yes. Homework is assigned each night and initially may include up to 100 pages of reading per night. At least two written exams are given each week in addition to a weekly practical exam.

Q: Is this program considered an "international program" by university standards?

A: Aerie's Fall Semester is approved by the University of Montana's Office of International Programs (OIP) as a Faculty Directed Program and students in UM's Global Leadership Initiative, required to pursue a study abroad program, can choose an Aerie Semester as one of those options.

Q: What does the "online coursework" consist of?

A: Because of the heavy reading load in the National Registry EMT text, we assign chapters of reading and associated online quizzes during each of the three weeks preceding the start of each Semester. Students can complete this work wherever they happen to be, as long as they have internet access to submit their quiz answers. Grades for these quizzes count towards the final score in the Emergency Medical Technician and Incident Management course.

Q: What are Aerie's academic expectations?

A: High. Aerie's course policies outline our academic expectations; you will be given a handbook outlining our course policies once you have been accepted into the Semester. Students must receive passing grades on weekly exams to be eligible to test for the National Registry final exam; this is not an Aerie policy – it is a National Registry policy. Poor grades may result in expulsion from the program and may result in not being able to test for, or receive, your National Registry EMT certification.

Q: How long do the certifications last, who issues them, what are the recertification requirements, and what types of jobs and/or further opportunities can I get with the experiences and certifications the Semester offers?

A: The certifications and experiences the Semester offers are unique, professional-level, and rewarding, designed specifically for the highly competitive professional outdoor and medical/ nursing/ PA ambitions of our students. The following list shows where our students use their certifications, but please remember that there are no guarantees that any organization or school is going to hire or admit you based on a certification or transcript.

  • Aerie Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician (WEMT) certification: Aerie WEMT certifications last for two years. To recertify, WEMTs need to also recertify their urban EMT (see next bullet) and complete 8 additional hours of wilderness-specific training. For jobs, the National Park Service, US Forest Service, many guiding and outdoor organizations such as NOLS, Outward Bound and the Student Conservation Association look for Wilderness EMTs to lead their backcountry crews. Wilderness EMTs must be current urban/ state/ National Registry EMTs to keep their "wilderness" certifications.
  • National Registry EMT (NREMT) certification. NREMT certifications are valid for two years. To recertify, NREMTs must complete 48 hours of continuing education, a 24 hour EMT refresher, and have six months' affiliation with an agency providing EMT-level care. These requirements are listed here. This is the standard certification for working on an ambulance or in an Emergency Room as a Technician in many parts of the US. If you are looking to see what your home state requires for EMT licensure/ certification, click here. Many ambulances around the US require EMTs to be 21 years old to drive the ambulance.
  • State of Montana EMT certification is offered through the Montana Board of Medical Examiners. Montana EMTs must recertify every two years, complete 48 hours of continuing education, a 24 hour EMT refresher class, and have 6 months' affiliation with an agency providing EMT-level care. You do not need your Montana EMT certification if you are not planning on working in Montana as an EMT. This is the certification you will need if you want to work as an EMT in the state of Montana.
  • American Heart Association Healthcare Provider CPR certification: This certification lasts for two years and is recertified by taking a 2-8 hour refresher course. This is the highest level of CPR certification, is required for EMTs, and can be used for any job requiring CPR certification.
  • The wildlands firefighting certifications are offered through Aerie, the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG), and the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA). They vary in duration of certification. For more information about Aerie's firefighting training, visit our Wildland Fire page or contact Wildland Fire Director Randy Okon at

Q: Do I need to be enrolled in college to participate in the Semester?

A: No, participants do not need to be university students to enroll. However, they may need to be enrolled to receive federal financial aid and university sponsored health insurance.

Q: Are there any prerequisites for the Semester?

A: Students must be ready for an intense, challenging experience, but there are no specific academic prerequisites. Many of our best students have had no previous medical training. Students must be 18 years of age. In addition, to test for and receive National Registry EMT certification, students must have a high school diploma/ GED and have no current felony convictions. Otherwise, we expect students to arrive with a solid work ethic, open mind and positive attitude.

Q: What are the refund policies for the Semester?

A: No refunds are given for any reason, including sickness, family emergencies, or expulsion from the program. For this reason, we STRONGLY encourage all participants to have travel and health insurance to cover the possibility of their not completing the program. Aerie recommends contacting Global Rescue for this insurance. In the event that a student leaves the program early, whether voluntarily or at Aerie's discretion, all expenses associated with their departure from the program, including airfare, travel to and from field sites to airports/ bus facilities, and health costs, are solely the student's responsibility. If, for example, a student is injured or becomes ill and they are unable to complete some or all of the program, they will be responsible for their own food, housing and any other costs associated with their recovery.

Q: Is this program safe?

A: Our Semester programs have inherent risk. Aerie believes that students learn best when they are involved in realistic, engaging scenarios and practical sessions. As a result we simulate these environments in our classroom scenarios and head out into the field to swim, hike, snowshoe, carry heavy packs and cross difficult terrain depending on the season and location. In addition, the international components of the Semester have their own unique risks, including significant distance from advanced medical care as well as potential exposure to illness during clinical rotations. The risks we face during these exercises are similar to those faced in an austere, remote environment. We encourage you to talk with our staff about risks inherent in our training programs before enrolling. Depending on course location, injuries and illnesses that occur may require prolonged evacuations and may necessitate repatriation to the United States.

Please do not register for any Aerie course, particularly our Semesters, without exploring, understanding and accepting these risks.