Summer Semester in Montana

Certifications/Credits Earned and Areas of Focus

  • 15 upper-division University of Montana credits
  • Aerie Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician (WEMT) certification
  • National Registry EMT (EMT) certification
  • State of Montana EMT certification
  • American Heart Association Healthcare Provider CPR certification
  • Red Card wildlands firefighting certification
  • Search and Rescue certification
  • High Angle Rescue certification
  • Leave No Trace (LNT) certification
  • Whitewater Rescue Technician (WRT) certification
  • Wilderness Survival
  • Wilderness Navigation

Program Highlights

The Summer Semester program provides students with an opportunity to study wilderness medicine, rescue skills and outdoor leadership in the mountains of western Montana.

It all starts with 4+ weeks of intensive EMT training at the Swan Valley Connections facility in Condon. 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. The EMT section culminates with clinical rotations in the emergency room and on Advanced Life Support ambulances in Missoula.

Next, students will spend several weeks backpacking in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, one of the largest and most stunning wilderness areas in the lower 48 states. Each year, there is the opportunity to see some of the rarely visited areas of this amazing place. The trip will include training in Leave No Trace, outdoor leadership and land navigation. After a resupply by mule train, students will study high angle rope rescue in the alpine of the Swan Crest.

The program then transitions back to the Swan Valley, where students study Search and Rescue tactics, execute large scale search and wilderness medical scenarios and are asked to put their knowledge to the test in a variety of exercises.

The semester ends with a five day swiftwater rescue class taught by the Whitewater Rescue Institute in Alberton, Montana. Students spend the week taking in the Montana summer from the Clark Fork River.

A beautiful Montana sunset above the Swan Valley Connections facility, in Condon, where students stay during the EMT section.

Instructor Rachael Wilson takes in the view from a camp in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

Students using their route finding and land navigation skills to climb a peak on the Swan Crest in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

Bob Marshall Wilderness, students learn wilderness medicine, technical rescue and outdoor leadership in this amazing setting.

Student tents at the rope rescue location high in the Montana backcountry

2019 Dates

  • May 22 – June 16: on-line course work (6-10+ hours per week)
  • June 17: Course begins at the Aerie Office in Missoula, Montana at 9:00am.
  • June 18 – July 2: EMT Section at the University of Montana. Students will be housed in dorms during this section
  • July 3 – July 6: Backpacking in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Leave No Trace trainer certifications and Outdoor Leadership topics.
  • July 7 – July 12: EMT Section at the Swan Valley Connections facility in Condon.
  • July 13 – July 20: Clinical week, students will stay in Missoula and attend emergency room and ambulance clinical rotations.
  • July 21 – July 22: Red Card certification class
  • July 23 – July 31: Backpacking in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Land Navigation and Outdoor Leadership topics.
  • August 1 – August 6: High Angle Rescue certification, course is held in the Bob Marshall Wilderness
  • August 7 – August 11: Students will return to the Swan Valley Connections facility after the backpacking section and do Search and Rescue training and final scenarios.
  • August 12 – August 16: Whitewater Rescue certification put on by Whitewater Rescue Institute at their Montana facility in Alberton, Montana.
  • August 17: Graduation, please do not plan travel or flights before 3:00pm


    • $16,000 base cost (see Scholarships/ Discounts, below), including
      • 15 upper division credits from the University of Montana
      • Room, board
      • These course texts
        • Leave No Trace
        • Rope Rescue
        • Outdoor Leadership
      • These certifications
        • Leave No Trace
        • Rope Rescue
        • Search and Rescue
        • Wilderness EMT
    • Not included
      • EMT text book (approximately $100)
      • National Registry of EMT on-line registration and computer testing fee (approximately $100)
    • Scholarships/ discounts available for:
      • Early-Bird Registration: $1,000 for any student paying their non-refundable $2,000 deposit by January 1, 2019

    • Students may be eligible for no more than one of the follow tuition discounts:
      1. AmeriCorps members/ alumni using their AmeriCorps awards will have their awards matched, up to $3,000 or
      2. Alumni of the following: Student Conservation Association, Washington Conservation Corps, Minnesota/ Iowa Conservation Corps and Montana Conservation Corps, $3,000 or
      3. Montana-state residents or students enrolled at a Montana school (for example, the University of Montana, Montana State University, Montana Tech), $3,000 or
      4. US Military Veterans, $3,000
    • In addition to Aerie's scholarships, students may also be eligible for:
      • FAFSA Awards
        • Because the program is offered through the University of Montana, students from the MT University System or other universities who are currently receiving FAFSA awards are often able to use their awards for the Semester. Aerie can help facilitate this process.
      • 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. The process for doing this is described here. You can also contact our office for information.
      • GI Benefits


Q: Will I have time off during the program for personal travel or recreation?

A: Very little. You should plan time before or after the program for personal travel. During the first half of the Summer Semester, students will have most weekends free; however, at least one of these 4 weekends will need to be spent in Missoula on your ambulance and emergency room shifts (each twelve hours long) and the final weekend will be spent preparing for the National Registry practical exam. During the second half of the Summer Semester, students will be in the backcountry for four consecutive weeks with only brief periods off to resupply and move base camp.

During the expedition portion of the program, students will share tents and cook communally at backcountry base camps.

Q: What is the food like?
A: During the first half of the Summer Semester, a cook will prepare 3 meals a day for the student group. Meals will be healthy and fresh, including abundant coffee and snacks. On weekends, food will be available for students to prepare themselves. We can accommodate vegetarian and many other diets; please let the Aerie office know about other dietary restrictions (which may not be possible to accommodate). During the expedition portion of the program, students will share cooking responsibilities within small cook groups at our backcountry base camps.


Q: What credits are offered and how do I get my university to transfer the Semester credits?

  • For a general overview of the credits offered by the Semester, click here. The Semesters all consist of three, five-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. Please write us for more information, and feel free to forward the syllabi to your advisor for review.
  • The issue of transferring credits is determined by your advisor - and possibly by your university's registrar. That said, most schools allow transfer of credits from other degree-granting institutions. Our students receive official transcripts from the University of Montana, as if they had taken classes on campus. That would be important information for your advisor to know.
  • Second, 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.

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: What does the "online coursework" consist of?
A: Because of the heavy reading load in the National Registry EMT text, we assign two 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: What are the physical requirements for the program?
A: All Aerie Semesters are physically challenging. Students will carry 30-60 lb backpacks 6-8 miles per day during certain sections of the program. During these days, they will climb 2000-3000 vertical feet and will be living at elevations of 3000-12000 feet above sea level. They will carry litters and gear across uneven terrain and rivers and will be expected to swim and climb. They will be in snow, rain and ice and will be expected to maintain a positive learning attitude regardless of the weather or activity. Great athletic, climbing or swimming experience are not necessary to successfully complete the program; however, all of these activities require physical conditioning and body habitus that are conducive to constant movement in these environments. Please contact us if you have any concerns.

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: How long do the certifications last, who issues them, what are the their 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 lists 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 require 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, 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 MT 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.
  • Search and Rescue certification is offered through Aerie. It is a two-year certification and is recertified by taking another SAR course through Aerie. This certification is typically not required for an employing agency but demonstrates skills and competencies necessary in an outdoor leader.
  • Leave No Trace certification is offered through and is taught by Aerie instructors who are also LNT Master Trainers. It is recertified by taking another LNT course. This certification is viewed by employing agencies as a standard for outdoor leaders and educators.
  • High Angle Rescue. This certification is offered by Aerie. It is a two year certification and is recertified by taking another high-angle rescue course. High Angle Rescue certification is typically not required for employment but is seen as a level of competence and skill necessary for outdoor guides and leaders working in mountainous environments.
  • Whitewater Rescue Technician (WR-Technician) certification, offered by the Whitewater Rescue Institute. WRT certification lasts three years and like Level 1 Avalanche is recertified by taking another course. Other course details can be found here. This certification is often required for raft and/ or river guides.
  • Wilderness Survival. There is no certification for wilderness survival training. It's stuff you need to know to keep yourself and others alive.
  • Wilderness Navigation. The wilderness navigation skills are essential knowledge for any outdoor traveler and do not come with a specific certification.

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. 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, health costs, are solely the student's responsibility.

Gear List

Please read through the following carefully and make sure you contact the Aerie office with any questions. In general, you need to be prepared for outdoor scenarios in all types of weather and for living in the backcountry, as well as for living at a remote teaching facility.


  • Classroom supplies
    • 3-ring binder
    • At least 100 pages notebook paper
    • Pencils
    • EMT texts
    • Wristwatch for taking pulses and being on time to class and scenarios
    • Water bottle
  • Clothing
    • Shorts - 1-2 pairs
    • T-shirts – 2-3
    • Two pairs of long pants and long-sleeved shirts - one pair of jeans is fine, but for the expedition portion, please bring at least one pair of synthetic long pants
    • Long underwear base layer: poly-pro/synthetic or wool or silk top and bottom
    • Comfortable shoes: Chacos, Tevas or the like. It's nice to have shoes that are easy to get on and off as you will find yourself constantly having to put on and take off your shoes (no shoes in the teaching facility).
    • Light hikers or sneakers for scenarios around the teaching facility.
    • 1 raincoat or waterproof/breathable top layer
    • 1 pair rain pants or waterproof/breathable bottom layer
    • One baseball hat for shade
    • One warm hat – thin wool or synthetic for chilly backcountry evenings
    • One pair of thin wool or synthetic gloves
    • 3-4 pairs of synthetic or wool socks
    • one insulating layer - a wool or synthetic sweater or fleece layer
    • 1 set of clean dress-clothes for ER and ambulance observations
      • Button-up shirt
      • Pants (no jeans)
      • Clean, close-toed shoes (no boots, sneakers or sandals)
      • The hospitals and ambulance will not let students observe with ripped, dirty, or unprofessional clothing.
  • Camping gear
    • Backpack able to carry enough personal and group gear for a 7 day trip (minimum 70 liters in volume) - do not bring luggage that converts into a backpack by virtue of a few shoulder straps!
    • Waterproof pack cover
    • Sleeping bag. Your bag should carry at least a 15 degree rating. Either synthetic or down fill is fine in the sleeping bag; no cotton bags.
    • Sleeping pad – thermarest, ensolite or ridgerest foam pads; no open-cell foam pads
    • Crazy creek or backpacking-type camp chair
    • One pair of sturdy hiking boots. Make sure your boots are waterproofed.
    • One pair gaiters
    • Socks: polypro or silk liner sock plus a thin wool sock works well. Bring several pairs of this combination.
    • Insulated mug with lid
    • Bowl, spoon and fork
    • Pocket knife or Leatherman-style multitool
    • Compass: liquid-filled, declination adjustable - if you're not sure what this is, ask at an outdoor store. Yours must have a declination-adjusting screw built into the baseplate. Any of the Silva Ranger CL series are an example.
    • Plastic bags: 1-2 large plastic bags and a few smaller ones to keep things in your pack dry. Gallon-size ziploc bags work well for organizing socks & extra layers, and for keeping them dry.
  • Personal supplies
    • Toiletries
    • Lightweight towel
    • Medications – you may want to bring enough to last the duration of the program since it will be a bit of a journey to get to a pharmacy.
    • Headlamp – you will need a hands-free light source to do night scenarios and also during the expedition portion of the program. Turn one battery around backwards in the headlamp while traveling to avoid having a dead battery when you arrive (in case the headlamp accidentally gets turned on in transit)
      • Spare bulb and batteries
    • Sunglasses
    • Insect repellent
    • Sunscreen
    • Bedding: you are welcome to use your sleeping bag, or bring your own sheets, blankets and pillow. Bedding is not provided.
  • Money
      $200 - $300. The amount of spending money you may need is hard to predict - you will want money for laundry, for snacks or a meal out and for days when you travel to town for your emergency room and ambulance shifts


  • GPS unit
  • Bear spray
  • First Aid Kit
    • wound cleaning and dressing
    • bleeding control
    • pain control
    • splinting
  • Camera
  • Binoculars
  • Trekking or ski poles


It is important for you to know that our Semester programs have inherent risks. Semesters are rigorous. Aerie believes that students learn best when they are involved in realistic, engaging scenarios and practical sessions. As a result we simulate these environments and head out to experience them during our classes as often as possible, and the risks we face during those exercises are similar to any faced in an austere, remote environment. No course is capable of operating without the risk of injury or illness. 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. Our students take our classes because they travel, work and live outdoors, away from immediate medical care; they want to learn to care for patients under less than ideal conditions.

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