Countryside Skills with Ranger Training NQ Level 5

What is special about this course?

Take a step into a new career with this exciting course. A unique opportunity to learn skills that will develop your employment prospects while knowing you're contributing to the conservation of Scotland's countryside.

West Highland College UHI is joining with Nevis Landscape Partnership to offer this rewarding and fast-paced course through the Nevis Volunteer Ranger Scheme so you can gain nationally recognised qualifications whilst working alongside well-known conservation bodies and landowners, such as the Woodland Trust Scotland, the John Muir Trust and Jahama Highland Estates.

You'll learn a wide range of practical skills, as well as specialising in Ranger Training, land use and visitor management issues. A regular one day a week work placement will put you in touch with potential employers and help you understand  practical conservation, habitat monitoring and visitor related tasks.

You'll also gain Industry Awards in specialist skills such as Dry-Stone Walling, Chainsaw Use, Quad Bikes, Navigation, Tree Survey and Outdoor First Aid, as well as your SQA Awards, John Muir Explorers award, and College Certificate.

During your course, we introduce you to using a range of digital technologies, which will help you get the most from your course and at the same time develop your digital skills.  Find out more about key computing skills and essential student skills

Entry requirements

Students must be at least 16 years of age by the start date of the course. Some work placement sites and Industry Awards have a minimum age limit of 18 to undertake the award and if this applies, alternatives will be offered to our younger students. 

  • Students must have an interest in, and enthusiasm for, taking on the whole package, from practical and often physically demanding outdoor work in all weathers, to classroom-based study.
  • Students should be able to demonstrate eagerness and ability to study and will ideally have some relevant qualifications and/or practical experience, such as NC Rural Skills SCQF level 4, Standard Grade /National 5 Geography and Biology.
  • Students should have qualifications in, or be able to demonstrate equivalent competence in, the essential skills of Communications, Information Technology & Numeracy at SCQF 4/National 4/Standard Grade.

Early applicants will be offered an interview but once places have been filled there may be the opportunity of joining a waiting list or an offer of interview for NC Rural Skills. Mature students are very welcome. Entry to this course is at the discretion of the College.

  • Practical countryside skills (eg. fencing, foot paths, outdoor structures, working with timber, using tools and machinery)
  • Habitat studies: surveys and monitoring
  • Habitat management in Scotland
  • Countryside recreation and access
  • Countryside interpretation
  • Volunteering in environmental conservation
  • John Muir Explorer Award
  • Industry training awards as above
  • Embedded development of core and essential skills

A work placement with a landowner/conservation organisation is required as part of this course.

In addition to a broad range of highly practical skills, this course will give you a more detailed understanding of the role of Countryside Rangers and approaches to land use and habitat management.

You'll learn how to plan and implement management tasks, evaluate results and gain insight into visitor services provision and interpretive planning.

You'll also gain insight into current countryside recreation provision in Scotland, the rights and responsibilities of access to the countryside and an understanding of how to investigate positive and negative impacts of countryside use, and conflicts of interest.


How will I study my course?

  • Full Time

You normally need to commit to 18 hours per week (2-3 days) of blended learning time consisting of timetabled learning and personal study.

For the practical elements of your course, some of your timetabled learning will take place in and around the Fort William College Centre.

Internet connection and a suitable device with headphones, microphone & camera (minimum spec) is required. Please email us if you have any concerns about connectivity or equipment.

How long will my course last?

18 Weeks

Where can I study my course?

    • Fort William

Start date

This course starts in January.


Most students have their course fees paid as this is a full time course. Please read our Fees & Funding information pages for more information regarding residency, previous study and bursary rates. Please contact if you have any further questions.

Rest of UK students : For students normally domiciled in the rest of the UK (England, Wales and N. Ireland, including Channel Islands and the Isle of Man), with a term-time address in Scotland, studying full time, the course fee is £5,800.

Some of our courses require students to have essential equipment/clothing.

If you are under 18, you are entitled to have essential equipment paid for whether you are entitled to Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) or not. However you must complete an application even if you know that you're not entitled to EMA.

If you are 18 and over and are eligible for a bursary, these costs will be met through your bursary. If you are not eligible for a bursary, you will need to fund these items yourself.


Students may qualify for bursary funding if conditions are met. Please contact us for more information.

What can I do on completion of my course?

The course aims to equip students with the knowledge, skills and confidence to progress to employment in a range of Countryside roles, from estate workers and land managers to biological recording, visitor information services and environmental education.

Similar courses that we offer include our NC Rural Skills or NQ Countryside Skills and Deer Management for Conservation.

Further study options include HNC Conservation and Wildlife Management, Forestry, HND or Degree in Countryside Management or Environmental Science, and degrees related to Adventure Tourism and sustainable development. 

Is there more information available online?

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What our students, graduates and staff say

After completing a BSc in Earth Science and an MSc in Environmental Management, I spent time as a RSPB volunteer and as a seasonal ranger at two National Parks.

I took on this course as I wanted more practical skills that would allow me to keep getting seasonal jobs in the competitive conservation sector and perhaps move into a permanent role. It was centred around industry preparing for real life jobs with the training and industry links which are missing in typical academic focused degrees.

We covered so much ground and learned with experienced practitioners.  I would recommend the course to anyone who is interested in wildlife and the conservation sector, especially for those looking for the practical skills to match visitor management skills.

I have recently accepted a permanent job as an Assistant Warden on the Rhinns of Islay RSPB reserves. To say this is a dream job is an understatement!

Lauren Stewart

Originally from the Isle of Canna, I’ve spent the majority of my life on the West Coast, surrounded by incredible landscapes, flora and fauna.

After a variety of jobs and volunteering in the outdoor conservation sector, I was looking for a career in environmental conservation, with a strong focus on visitor engagement.

The highly practical nature of the course, industry tickets and the opportunity to gain work experience with organisations such as the Woodland Trust, John Muir Trust, Jahama Highland Estates and Nevis Landscape Partnership made the course hugely attractive.

My next step is going to be applying for seasonal ranger jobs.

Kathryn MacKinnon

Countryside Skills with Ranger Training

Apply now for January 2022

We are delighted that you are thinking about studying at West Highland College UHI. West Highland College operates a fair and open admissions system committed to equality of opportunity and non-discrimination. We consider all applications on merit and on the basis of ability to achieve, without discrimination on grounds of age, disability, gender identity, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity status, race, religion and/or belief, sex, sexual orientation or socio-economic background. We welcome applications from all prospective students and aim to provide appropriate and efficient services to students with disabilities.