Apply to Lead

Apply to Lead


National Geographic Student Travel, together with Putney Student Travel, seeks extraordinary people to work as trip leaders, instructors, and program assistants on our student travel programs. If you are interested in working with us, please familiarize yourself with the different program types on this website, review the Eligibility and Requirements and Application Details sections on this page, then submit a full application to Putney Student Travel using the link below.

Putney Student Travel manages the interview process and hires all Trip Leaders for National Geographic Student Travel programs. Putney Student Travel begins reviewing applications in November and holds interviews through April, or until all positions are filled.

Ideal Candidates

Successful candidates must be able to motivate and engage students in a wide range of situations and settings and have a demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Leadership on all programs requires extensive interaction with and mentoring of students ranging from 7th through 12th grade. As a result of hiring people who already have what it takes to facilitate safe, engaging, and meaningful programs we are able to grant our leaders a high degree of independence and responsibility. Excellent personal leadership skills and the ability to problem-solve and handle multiple ongoing tasks are crucial. Successful candidates have the ability to inspire, lead, mentor, empathize, educate, set boundaries, enforce rules, and collaborate as a team with their co-leader(s).  Working as a co-leadership team is paramount to the success of any program, and the size of each team varies. Groups of 18 students or less are led by a two-person leadership team, and groups with 19 or more students may have a leadership trio. 

We have a code of conduct that our students read and sign in order to participate. We expect our leaders to enforce these rules throughout the program, and live by them as well.

Our returning leaders agree that some of the most important skills necessary to lead a successful program include abundant energy, good judgment, flexibility, passion for and knowledge about the destination and program themes, patience, resiliency, and a deep desire to work with youth.

It is impossible for all candidates to embody everything on this list, which is why we hire holistic leadership teams. Candidates are encouraged to apply even if they do not meet all of the criteria.  Our most successful candidates meet some combination of the following criteria:

  • A deep desire to work with, educate, and lead youth from a wide range of backgrounds.
  • A demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Specific in-country experience in the destinations we visit.
  • Advanced proficiency or fluency in the language specific to the destination.
  • Significant experience working with students both in and out of the classroom and the ability to problem solve and make decisions that facilitate an engaging learning environment.
  • Patience, flexibility, and adaptability in a highly dynamic work environment.
  • An ability to assess risk and make smart decisions regarding the health, safety, and overall well-being of the group.
  • A passion for travel, exploration, and the program theme.
  • The ability to be ‘on’ 24 hours a day for the duration of the program.

Every year we receive hundreds of applications from candidates interested in spending their summer working alongside our students. Since these positions are in such high demand, we are able to hire  knowledgeable and passionate team members.

Eligibility Requirements: 

Trip Leader Applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • A bachelor’s degree or higher and/or commensurate work experience in a field related to the program theme.
  • Proficiency in the language(s) spoken in country.
  • Significant experience working with high school students.
  • Certified in Basic First Aid and CPR (at your own expense) before leader training. Many of our leaders hold more advanced certifications such as WFA, WFR, or EMT.
  • Availability to attend leader training in Putney, Vermont from May 29-June 2, 2024. Travel to and from training is covered as part of employment.

Extensive experience traveling/studying/living in the program destination(s) preferred.

Program Assistant Applicants (hired for University Workshops and Photo Workshops) must meet the following requirements:

  • Must have completed their second year of college or university.
  • Experience working with high school students.
  • Program assistants must be flexible and resourceful, willing to take ownership of tasks as well as be able to follow instructions and work independently without a lot of direct supervision.
  • Experience in the destination country and proficiency in the local language, if applicable.
  • Certified in Basic First Aid and CPR (at your own expense) before leader training.
  • Availability to attend leader training in Putney, Vermont in early June.  Travel to and from training and related expenses are covered as part of employment.
  • In addition to the above requirements, applicants should demonstrate applicable skills in the following areas, consistent with the category of program(s) for which you wish to be considered:

For Expedition and University Workshop Leader Positions:

  • Extensive academic and/or work experience with one of the On Assignment specialties or seminars on which the program focuses and enthusiasm for creating your own interactive curriculum.
  • Some programs require a valid driver’s license.

For Photography Workshop Leader Positions:

  • Extensive academic and/or work experience in photography or photojournalism.
  • For domestic programs, a valid driver’s license is required.

All applicants offered a position are required to complete a background check. For programs where you will be responsible for driving students, this includes a driving report.  All leaders must submit a background check every year.

  • Application Timeline

Applications are accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis, but we encourage you to apply early in the cycle (November-March). Candidates with the skills and qualifications we seek for available positions will be invited to interview via a video call and/or may be offered an interview in person at our offices in Vermont. We appreciate your patience during the hiring process as we take a holistic approach to put together leadership teams for each program. We are proud to have a high percentage of returning leaders each year and we give preference to those leaders. First-time leaders can expect decisions about leadership opportunities beginning in March until all positions are filled. A more exact decision-making timeline will be clarified during your interview as circumstances may differ.

  • COVID-19 Considerations

The health and safety of our leaders and students is our top priority. All leaders are required to have received the most updated COVID-19 vaccine (designed to target the most recently prevalent variants) by staff training in May 2024. For applicants who reside in the US, this is the 2023–2024 formula, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Additional information about the updated vaccine can be found on the CDC’s website. For those who reside outside of the US, applicants are expected to have received the most updated vaccine available, in accordance with their respective countries' public health protection agency's recommendations.

  • Leader Training

All leaders are required to attend an intensive training in Putney, VT from May 29-June 2, 2024. During training, leaders participate in active and engaging discussions, seminars, activities, and workshops.

  • Early Leaders

Many programs require that one or more leaders travel to the destination up to one week in advance of the program start for preparation. These pre-trip days are compensated as part of the contract.

  • Compensation

We believe in fairly and equally compensating our leaders for their time and experience. In addition to offering competitive stipends, we cover all reasonable domestic and international travel to and from training in Vermont as well as to and from your program destination(s). While under contract, we also cover all other program-related expenses, such as accommodations, activities, and food. Stipends are calculated based on level of education, years of related experience in teaching or leading similar programs, language fluency, skills relevant to the program theme(s) (professional photographers, wildlife biologists, etc), and advanced medical training above basic First Aid and CPR. Returning leaders also receive a pay bump for up to four years of leading. 

Application Details

Before submitting your application below, please carefully browse our website and familiarize yourself with the program categories, destinations, and itineraries for which you are most qualified. 

In your resume and applicant statement, be sure to highlight your language abilities as well as time spent in countries outside of the U.S., specifically the countries where you are interested in leading programs. Please also elaborate on your experience working with students in a teaching or leadership capacity. Please highlight any experience that would make you an effective and inclusive instructor of your chosen On Assignment focus. 

Please apply for the programs for which you are the most qualified. 

At Putney Student Travel, we strive to hire and retain employees who represent the vast diversity of the countries, communities, cultures, and students we work with across the globe. As a result, we are not only committed to, but passionate about employing leaders from all backgrounds. We encourage applicants from historically marginalized groups and are actively engaged in creating an inclusive work environment for leaders of all identities.