The Summer Semester in Wilderness Medicine provides students with an opportunity to study wilderness medicine, rescue skills, and outdoor leadership and to gain extensive experience with actual patients in a clinical setting - all in gorgeous western Montana.
It all starts with 4 weeks of intensive EMT training in Missoula, 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. The EMT section culminates with clinical rotations in the emergency room and on Missoula's Advanced Life Support ambulance.
Next, students train for their Red Card Wildland Firefighting Certification with Aerie's team of wildland firefighters and instructors. Students then leave in late July for a week long backpacking trip in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, one of the largest and most stunning wilderness areas in the lower 48 states. The expedition focuses on application of wilderness medical skills in a true Wilderness setting, and will include training in Leave No Trace, outdoor leadership and land navigation.
The program then transitions to the Swan Valley, where students study Search and Rescue tactics, execute large scale search and wilderness medical scenarios and put their knowledge to the test in a variety of field exercises.
The semester ends on the Clark Fork River - a perfect way to spend the dog days of summer! Students are trained in swiftwater rescue and rope rescue by the Whitewater Rescue Institute in Alberton, Montana.
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
- Swiftwater Rescue Technician 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 Summer Semester begins with 3 weeks of EMT training in Missoula, Montana. In summer at our northern latitude, days are long so there is plenty of time after class to both study and hit a trail, the river, or a downtown venue. You will live in a dorm at the University of Montana and eat meals on campus.
The program then moves up to the Swan Valley, north of Missoula. While in the valley, you will be based at the Beck Homestead, home to Swan Valley Connection's education facility in Condon, Montana. Here you will share rustic dorm rooms in a renovated log barn and cook in a log cabin set in a wildlife-rich forest above the Swan River. Opportunities for hiking, biking, swimming and paddling stretch in every direction. The Swan Valley is still home to its original complement of large wildlife species, including grizzly and black bears, wolves, elk, wolverine and mountain lions. The opportunity for wildlife viewing here is unparalleled.
For the wilderness navigation and outdoor leadership section of the program, you will backpack into the expansive Bob Marshall Wilderness which borders the valley. During the backpacking section, you will carry your equipment and food, hiking and camping throughout the southwestern portion of the Wilderness. You will learn best practices for safely traveling and camping in bear and lion country with experienced instructors.
The program concludes near Alberton, Montana at the Whitewater Rescue Institute headquarters. You will spend almost two weeks there studying technical Rope Rescue and Swiftwater Rescue. You will live at the WRI training center on the banks of the Clark Fork River. The training center is uniquely positioned for you to transition from breakfast to classroom sessions to the river in the span of 100 yards.
June 14-August 15, 2020
- May 20 – June 13: optional on-line course work (6-10+ hours per week)
- June 14: Course begins at the Aerie Office in Missoula, Montana at 9:00am.
- June 15 – July 4: EMT Section at the University of Montana. Students will be housed in dorms during this section
- July 5 – July 20: Clinical Shifts: students attend emergency room and ambulance clinical rotations in Missoula
- July 21 – July 22: Red Card certification class
- July 23 – July 30: Backpacking in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Land Navigation, Outdoor Leadership and Wilderness Medicine topics.
- July 31 – August 3: Students will return to the Swan Valley Connections facility after the backpacking section for Search and Rescue training and final scenarios.
- August 4 – August 9: Rope Rescue Technician certification offered by instructors from Whitewater Rescue Institute at their training facility in Alberton, Montana.
- August 10 – August 15: Swiftwater Rescue Technician certification offered by instructors from Whitewater Rescue Institute at their training facility in Alberton.
- August 15: Graduation. Please do not plan travel or flights before 3:00pm
$17,000 program cost includes the following:
- Tuition ($15,465)
- All room and board ($885 for housing, $525 for food)
- The following certifications:
- EMT and Wilderness EMT
- American Heart Association BLS CPR
- Red Card Wildlands Firefighting Certification
- Swiftwater Rescue Technician Certification
- Rope Rescue Technician Certification
- Search and Rescue Certification
- Leave No Trace Trainer Certification
- Course texts ($125):
- Aerie Wilderness Medicine
- Swiftwater Rescue
- Rope Rescue
- Leave No Trace
- AMC Guide to Outdoor Leadership
The following items are not included with tuition:
- 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)
- State of Montana EMT licensure fees (optional - approximately $50)
- Any costs associated with early departures or personal medical emergencies - including shuttles to and from health care clinics.
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 or alumni using their AmeriCorps awards will have their awards matched, up to $3,000 or
- Alumni of the following: Student Conservation Association, Washington Conservation Corps, Minnesota/ Iowa Conservation Corps and Montana Conservation Corps are eligible for a $3,000 tuition discount or
- Montana-state residents or students enrolled at a Montana school (for example, the University of Montana, Montana State University, Montana Tech) are eligible for a $3,000 tuition discount
Students may also be able to use the following options to pay for tuition:
Federal Financial Aid (FAFSA)
Because Aerie's Summer 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.
Because the Summer Semester 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 Benefits
Military veterans are approved through the VA to use their GI benefits to pay for the Summer Semester. The process for doing this is described here. Aerie will help facilitate this process. Contact Semester Coordinator James Pyke with questions.
Aerie's Semesters are, above all else, about the medicine. Our 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 provide actual patient assessment experience in professional settings.
During the Summer Semester, you will ride along with paramedics and EMTs on an Advanced Life Support Ambulance during a 12-hour shift. You will also work a 12-hour shift in the emergency department of St Patrick Hospital.
Q: Will I have time off during the program for personal travel or recreation?
A: Very little. You should plan to come to the program early or stay afterwards for personal recreational travel of more than a day.
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 optional "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 the Semester. Students
can complete this work wherever they happen to be, as long as they have
internet access to submit their quiz answers. While this online
coursework is optional for Summer students, we highly encourage students
to complete this section to be in the best position for success.
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. You will carry 30-50 lb backpacks 6-8 miles per day during certain sections of the program. During these days, you can expect to climb 2000-3000 vertical feet and to live at elevations of 3000-9000 feet above sea level. With your team, you will carry 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 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. 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 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 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.
- Rope Rescue Technician certification is offered by the Whitewater Rescue Institute. It is a two year certification and is recertified by taking another rope rescue course. Rope 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.
- Swiftwater Rescue Technician (SR-Technician) certification, offered by the Whitewater Rescue Institute. SRT certification lasts three years and is recertified by taking another course. This certification is often required for raft and/ or river guides.
- 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 demonstrates skills and competencies necessary in an outdoor leader.
- Leave No Trace certification is offered through LNT.org 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.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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, 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.