Outdoor Education Academic Programs in the United States


The growth of outdoor adventure programs developed, in part, from the Outward Bound movement in the 1970s (MacArthur, 1979; Outward Bound, 1968), which created a demand for specialized collegiate training. Since the inaugural conference on outdoor pursuits in higher education at Appalachian State University in 1974 (Smathers, 1974), approximately 100 academic programs granting baccalaureate degrees in outdoor recreation, outdoor experiential education, and related areas have emerged in the United States. This study reports on academic degree-granting outdoor programs in the United States more than 40 years after their development, addressing the questions, what types of institutions offer degrees in outdoor education? What labels are used for programs? What is their concentration in different geographic regions of the United States? What is the cost of programs? Are enrollments increasing or decreasing? At what rate do first-year students enter into these programs, and at what rate do they transfer from other programs or majors within the institution?



Publication Date


Journal Title

Journal of Outdoor Recreation, Education, and Leadership


Sagamore Publishing

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Document Type

Book Chapter