Who Are Rustic Pathways Program Leaders?

Who Are Rustic Pathways Program Leaders?

The Rustic Pathways global team around the world, from interns to our CEO, all play a critical part in delivering transformative, safe experiences to students. However, no role is more integral to that success than our Program Leaders.

In addition to facilitating the program experience, our leaders are mentors and teachers, risk managers and discussion facilitators, first responders, and translators of culture and language.

Rustic Program Leaders come from diverse personal and professional backgrounds. They are experiential educators, activists, wilderness guides, camp counselors, nurses, classroom teachers, youth mentors, park rangers, social workers, coaches, graduate students, returned Peace Corps Volunteers, Rustic Pathways alumni, and more.

What's the Program Leader job exactly?

Program Leaders’ primary responsibility is the protection of students when they travel. They facilitate life-changing experiences that leave our students inspired, humbled, and drawn to action, while ensuring that we’re having a positive impact on the people and communities our students interact with.

Program Leaders participate in all of the amazing experiences listed on our itineraries. They are with student groups from the time they arrive in country until they return to the airport after their program, ensuring that students are safe, healthy, happy, and engaged. They lead safety briefings, facilitate discussions, coordinate logistics, run games, manage group dynamic, teach program content, and more.

What's the work schedule like?

We have three types of travel programs at Rustic Pathways:

  • Student Travel – spring break and summer programs for middle and high school students (and three programs for college students)
  • Gap Year – programs for recent high school grads and other college students,
  • Group Travel – teacher-led trips for high school students

The vast majority of our Program Leaders begin by working on Student Travel programs during spring break (March and April) and summer (June, July, and August) months. Those programs are one to three weeks and repeat throughout the spring break or summer season. A seasonal period of employment generally involves leading multiple programs over an average of seven weeks.

See below for examples of spring break and summer seasonal schedules.

Spring Break

March 18-21 March 24-30 March 31-April 6 April 7-13 April 14-20 April 20-27
In-country training Spring to Fiji OFF Spring to Fiji Spring to Fiji Private Group Program


May 23-30 May 30-June 3 June 4-13 June 13-20 June 20-27 June 27-July11 July 11-25 July 26-Aug. 2
In-country training (Thailand) Site-specific training (Laos) OFF Amazing Thailand Amazing Thailand Laos Service Adventure Laos Service Adventure Amazing Thailand

How are Program Leaders trained?

Our Program Leader training consists of online and in-country training. The online training is completed before beginning the in-country training. We’ve designed it to familiarize Program Leaders with Rustic Pathways’ protocols and approach to student travel. In-country training is devoted to practicing skills through role play and scenarios, getting to know the team, and learning more about the country and its programs.

Through this two-part training, Program Leaders develop knowledge and skills related to fostering positive group dynamics, facilitating the program experience, and helping students understand and respect the culture their visiting and travel responsibly. Program Leaders spend time learning Rustic’s detailed safety and risk management protocols.

Learn more about our Program Leader training.

How many Program Leaders are hired?

We hire about 350 Program Leaders each spring break and summer, which helps us maintain a Program Leader to student ratio of seven to one. We hire from all countries where we operate. so Program Leader teams include at least one leader from the country where the program is running. This ensures we are exposing our students to genuine local narratives as they travel.

What are the compensation and benefits for Program Leaders?

  • Competitive weekly rate and stipends for trainings
  • Pay increases in second and third year with Rustic Pathways. Pay also increases for gap year semester Program Leaders and Photo Guides
  • Roundtrip airfare to your country of employment with flexibility to accommodate personal travel plans before or after employment dates
  • Meals, lodging, transport, and activities while leading programs
  • Wilderness First Responder certification or recertification stipend, pending manager’s approval
  • Time off determined at the country or program level
  • Medical and travel insurance provided by IMGlobal Travel Insurance during the period of employment, applies to all Program Leaders working outside their home country
  • Free 24/7 counseling services for you and your immediate family members through our Employee Assistance Program
  • Rustic Pathways t-shirt and other travel swag

What are the opportunities for growth?

  • Lead programs in a different country each season
  • Work year-round leading Group Travel and Student Travel programs
  • Lead gap year programs September to December and / or February through April. These Program Leaders can continue to lead Student Travel programs June through August.
  • Leaders can continue to lead Student Travel programs June through August as well
  • Join our team of full-time staff as a Program Manager
  • Join our team of full-time staff in another department, such as sales or marketing

Want to learn more?

Check out these additional resources about Rustic Pathways Program Leaders:

Ready to apply? Click below to review our current openings to see if we’re currently hiring Program Leaders