The Semester in Wilderness Medicine



Overall Semester Description

Aerie's Semesters are rigorous academic programs designed to prepare students for careers in medicine as well as to provide them with the skills and certifications necessary for competitive jobs in the outdoor field. Aerie offers three full Semester programs:  Spring, in Costa Rica and Montana; Summer, in Montana (field portion June 19-August 20); and Fall in Montana and the Indian Himalaya (field component August 31 - November 5).  All offer 15 upper-division University of Montana credits.  All use realistic scenarios, interactive lectures, as well as clinical observations in a variety of settings (an urban American emergency room; an advanced life support ambulance service; a developing-world rural health clinic during the Spring and Fall Semesters) to ensure a well-rounded, challenging and rewarding educational experience.  

Our goal is to provide not only professional-level certifications, but also a broad education in wilderness skills to ensure that our students are capable of preventing and responding to emergencies in any environment. Our Semester students receive the most comprehensive education in wilderness and emergency medical skills available anywhere.

Want to learn more?  Contact aerie at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).  

Applications Now Being Accepted




Spring Semester in Costa Rica and Montana (Summer and Fall Semester Descriptions are Currently Being Updated)

 Certifications/Credits Earned:

  • 15 upper-division university semester credits 
  • Aerie Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician (WEMT)
  • National Registry EMT-Basic  (EMT)
  • State of Montana EMT-Basic 
  • American Heart Association Healthcare Provider CPR 
  • Avalanche Rescue
  • Swiftwater Rescue Technician (SRT)
  • Search and Rescue Technician 

Program Highlights:

Aerie's Spring Semester is a unique program, providing students with the opportunity to learn wilderness medicine and rescue skills in the Costa Rican rainforest and the snowy Montana mountains.  The programs beings with 4+ intensive weeks in Costa Rica, where students complete most of their EMT training and then immediately use that training to help Aerie physicians and medics organize and run a free health clinic in small indigenous community. After the clinic, they head to the beautiful Sevegre River for Swiftwater Rescue Technician training.  There, Aerie instructors who founded the Whitewater Rescue Institute teach students how to manage complex rescues in a challenging whitewater environment.  

Immediately after the swiftwater program, we pack up and fly to Montana, and, on arriving there, put on snowshoes and head up for a week of avalanche rescue and wilderness survival and navigation training.  Here, students earn their Level 1 Avalanche certification.  When digging around in the snow, it is always hard to imagine that just a week before you were rescuing patients out of a warm Costa Rican river, but that is the essence of the Semester.  Environments do not change medicine, but the opportunities and obstacles provided by each environment are unique and require specialized training and preparation.

After completing avalanche training, students return to the base of the mountains and continue with their Search and Rescue and wilderness EMT training.  They also augment their EMT skills with human anatomy instruction at the University of Montana cadaver lab, vehicle extrication training with local firefighters, and clinical hours both on an Advanced Life Support Ambulance and in an emergency room. 

The program culminates with students putting their route-finding and wilderness medical treatment skills to the test in an overnight RATRACE ("reach and treat") adventure race, where they are evaluated on all skills they learned in the program.  At the conclusion of the RATRACE, students have truly earned every certification, credit and experience they have gained.

Dates (please note that while these dates are accurate, a more precise schedule will be handed out as the program approaches):

  • January 9-29: on-line coursework
  • January 30:  Meet at SJO Airport, Costa Rica, and take shuttle to Mastatal.  Or, if traveling independantly, meet at Mastatal in afternoon.
  • February 1-29: Costa Rica Section
  • March 1: Travel back to US
  • March 7-April 15: Montana section



  • In-state MT residents should expect to pay about the same as they would at the University of Montana.  Out of state students should expect to pay slightly less than out of state students atteding the University of Montana.  
  • Costs are variable and depend on whether students qualify for discounts and scholarships.  Call our office for details. 

Click the following links for more information:

You may also contact Aerie directly if you would like to speak with someone from the SWM Program.


Spring 2015 Semester blog
Summer Semester blog


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.

How to Register

You can download and mail in our registration form, call our office (406.542.9972), email us, or visit our office at 100 North Ave. West, Missoula, Montana, 59801. (Find us on Google Maps).

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