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Why do a 6- or 12-month field guide course?

We often hear this question from prospective students, “Which field guide course should I do?” At Bushwise we offer two core in-person options: our 6- and 12-month Professional Field Guide course and our 60-day Safari Guide course. 

Both are immersive wildlife experiences where you can earn your FGASA and additional qualifications, but there are some important distinctions and reasons why you might choose one over the other. In this article and its companion article “Why do a 60-day safari guide course”, we’ll help you decide which program is right for you.

Determining your purpose: why do you want to do a field guide course?

A Bushwise trainer points out a bird in the distance while on a training drive with students in a game reserve.

This is an essential question to answer for yourself. Are you hoping to enter the safari industry, work in conservation, or simply experience the African bush and learn more about wildlife? Do you have plans to go back to your home country or job after you finish, or do you want to stick around and find a permanent guiding position? 

I want a career as a field guide. If this is your answer, we highly recommend that you join our 6- or 12-month course. The reason? It’s a pivotal move in your career development as you earn essential qualifications and more (up to 8 certificates) and build a huge knowledge base. The 6-month work placement will set you up for success, as you gain real-world experience and develop your professional network. This program also comes with our employment guarantee (an industry exclusive), access to our Bushwise recruitment program, and contacts through our alumni network.

I want to get into conservation. To work in conservation you need an innate curiosity for our natural world and an ability to ask probing questions and find answers. On our 6- and 12-month course, you’ll develop a strong base of wildlife knowledge. Even if you don’t choose to become a field guide, the skills you’ll develop are easily transferred into other conservation jobs. You can also make a specific request that your work placement is conservation-specific, to help move you in the right direction for your career.

I just want an amazing wildlife experience. If you’re looking for a gap year experience, then this is definitely the best way to immerse yourself in wildlife. But if you want a shorter sabbatical or semester-long experience, it might be worth checking out our 60-day safari guide course. This short course runs at multiple times throughout the year, making it a bit easier to fit into a busy schedule than our long course, which only has start dates in January and July. 

Time: can you commit months or just weeks to training?

Bushwise students on a game drive, using their binoculars to spot birds in a forest outside of Kruger National Park

This is perhaps the easiest question to answer, depending on where you are in life and whether this course is part of your career development or more of a sabbatical or gap year experience.

I have flexibility – I want to put the time in to get the most out of this experience. If this is your answer, then the long course is definitely for you. Simply put, more time means more qualifications, more experience, more skills and more memories. Just like with any apprenticeship or college program, by committing time to a longer field guide course, you’ll come out a more qualified and prepared individual, ready to start your career.

My time is limited – two months is the most I can commit. If this is your answer, then you should consider the 60-day short course. It’s a condensed and immersive course, which means every single day is full of learning and experience. Head over to our other article to learn more about why this is the best choice for you.

Sightings: what are you hoping to see?

Life in the bush is not static, it is not constant or predictable. It’s always changing, showing us something new and surprising around every turn. There are days when all you’ll see are birds and insects, but the unique observations you make that give you so insight into the wild world around you that you can’t help but feel in awe.

When you join a 6- or 12-month course, you’ll experience the full change of seasons in the bush. From witnessing the first growth of spring, to the arrival of baby impala and other herbivores, the denning of wild dogs, changes in the night sky from winter to summer, adaptation of species to shifting weather patterns, and much more. There’s something hugely profound to be said for witnessing nature change over the course of a year. If you have the time to commit, this is definitely the way to go for the most impactful observations.

Qualifications: how will a 6- or 12-month field guide course drive your career development?

A group of Bushwise students with their trainer in the Drakensberg mountains outside of Hoedspruit, South Africa.

This is our longest and most intense training program, which provides you with the essential skills and qualifications you need to enter the industry and so much more. We believe in going “beyond the books” in our training – which means you’ll gain both practical and soft skills to make you the best guide you can be. If you really want to stand out from the crowd with a CV full of qualifications, backed by your personal experience and insight, this is the course for you.

On the Bushwise Professional Field Guide course you can earn:

  1. FGASA (NQF2) Apprentice Field Guide 

  2. CATHSSETA Nature Site Guide (NQF2) 

  3. Bushwise Professional Field Guide

  4. FGASA Apprentice Trails Guide knowledge (practical is an add-on)

  5. SASSETA Firearm Proficiency

  6. Advanced Rifle Handling certificate

  7. Wilderness First Aid certificate

  8. Reptile Handling certificate

  9. CyberTracker Track & Sign and Trailing certifications

  10. FGASA NQF4 knowledge

  11. And much more

Don’t feel like you need all this? See why you should consider our 60-day course instead.

Other things to consider when choosing a field guide course:

A herd of elephants feeding in the African savannah with the Drakensberg mountain range in the background.

Your age when joining a course. If you’re over the age of 39 with family commitments, our 60-day course may be more attractive to you. On our 12-month course, work placements are not guaranteed for students over the age of 39 (due to restrictions in the industry). Older students also sometimes find the shorter course to be easier to fit into their lives, which may be more settled than our younger students who are more often fresh out of high school or college. That’s not to say we don’t have older students doing our long course! Anyone from 18 and above is welcome to apply.

The kind of visa you need. If you’re coming from abroad, this may be an important consideration. Our longer course requires a study visa for international students. On the 60-day course, for people coming from most countries, you’ll only need a visitor’s visa. This is typically received on arrival in South Africa for 90 days. Chat with our enrollment team to learn more.

It’s your choice! When it comes down to it, choosing the right course for you is really up to you. Take some time to read through the course descriptions, check out our FAQs, watch some testimonials, read some reviews, join a virtual or campus open day, and reach out to our enrolment team. The only person who can make this decision is you, but we’re here to help! No matter which course you choose, it’s going to be a life changing experience, and we can’t wait to meet you.

Learn more about our courses here, or sign up for our next Virtual Open Day to ask all your burning questions!


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