Wilderness Medicine Schools

Advanced Wilderness Life Support (AWLS) Review 2021

AWLS is one of the most popular wilderness medicine course providers. Read on for a detailed review of the AWLS course and the school’s other offerings.

Advanced Wilderness Life Support (AWLS) is a wilderness medical course provider. The AWLS program provides training in rescue and medical skills that are primarily designed for licensed medical professionals and students with an interest in the outdoors.

Participants on many of the school’s courses can get AMA PRA Category 1 approved CME credit for time spent on AWLS courses. Additionally, the school offers a number of programs that cater primarily to outdoor enthusiasts who want to gain basic skills in wilderness and environmental medicine.

But, is AWLS the right wilderness medicine school for you? To help you decide, we’ve put together this in-depth Advanced Wilderness Life Support (AWLS) review, complete with everything you need to know before you sign up for a training course.

Related: NOLS Wilderness Medicine Review

What is Advanced Wilderness Life Support (AWLS)?

Advanced Wilderness Life Support (AWLS) is technically the name of a certification course that was developed by the University of Utah School of Medicine. The course was originally created in 1997 and it has become particularly popular among professional medical providers and outdoor enthusiasts, alike.

Nowadays, the course is run by an organization called AdventureMed. The company now offers a range of different courses, online lectures, and trainings, most of which offer continuing education credit for professional providers.

AWLS Wilderness Medicine Course Offerings

In addition to AWLS, AdventureMed offers a handful of different wilderness medicine course options. Some of these courses are appropriate for recreational hikers and climbers while others are designed for physicians and other critical care professionals. Here’s a look at what course types you can expect from AWLS:

Advanced Wilderness Life Support (AWLS)

AdventureMed’s flagship course, Advanced Wilderness Life Support (AWLS) is a 5-day program designed for the professional medical provider that wants training in caring for patient needs in austere environments.

AWLS certification is appropriate for all levels of medical providers, from the EMT and the medical student to the experienced critical care physician. However, do note that prior practical medical experience is expected of all students that sign up for the class.

The curriculum of the AWLS program is primarily devoted to understanding the differences in medical practice in an urban and outdoor environment. Topics include search and rescue fundamentals, specific wilderness medicine equipment, and insight into patient assessment in remote environments.

Instructors in these classes will assess student learning outcomes using scenarios and other practical skills-building opportunities. Participants can also get the following CME credit for attending the course:

  • AMA PRA Category 1 Credits
  • Wilderness Medical Society FAWM credit
  • ACEP, AAFP and AAPA credit  

Wilderness Life Support (WLS)

While AWLs is designed for physicians and other licensed medical professionals, Wilderness Life Support (WLS) is AdventureMed’s version of Wilderness First Aid (WFA).

Students on the 2 day WLS course are not expected to have any prior education in wilderness medicine, so there are no pre-reqs for the program. The course offers 16 hours of training that’s approved and accredited by the University of Utah School of Medicine.

During this certification course, participants will be introduced to the basics of patient assessment. They will also learn CPR skills, basic trauma management skills, and techniques for handling medical emergencies with specialized equipment in an outdoor environment. 

Instructors on these programs provide a number of opportunities for hands-on practice through scenarios and mock rescue situations.

Basic Wilderness Life Support (BWLS)

Basic Wilderness Life Support (BWLS) is a course designed for people without prior medical experience that want to be able to handle a range of emergency scenarios in remote environments. 

BWLS is sort of like AdventureMed’s version of a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course and it offers 74 hours of both hands-on experience and lectures. This course is also accredited by the University of Utah School of Medicine.

In a BWLS certification course, students will learn all of the patient assessment skills taught in WLS. Additionally, the curriculum of this class includes additional topics in wilderness medicine and the opportunity for more practice with each skill.

When compared to the WLS and AWLS course offerings, BWLS is best for outdoor guides and educators who want a more nuanced understanding of wilderness medical practices.

Online CME Modules

If you’re looking for more opportunities to earn AMA PRA Category 1 Credits after gaining AWLS certification, AdventureMed’s online continuing education modules might be what you need.

AdventureMed currently offers a slew of different online classes that cover topics as wide ranging as altitude medicine and emerging diseases. The curriculum for each module is designed by experts in the industry.

Completion of each class gives you opportunities to earn continuing education credits. It also lets you earn credits through the Wilderness Medical Society as you work toward your FAWM (Fellowship of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine). Costs for each module vary, but they’re fairly reasonable.

Geographic Regions Serviced

Although AWLS courses are primarily offered in the United States, the organization does offer their programming at locations around the world. 

Their online continuing education modules are available globally, too, as is the school’s free digital Victim Assessment Field Guide, which is available for download from the AdventureMed site.

Scholarships Offered

As of the time of writing, AdventureMed does not offer scholarships for AWLS or other courses. However, you may be able to get financial assistance for the costs of these programs through the course site host or through your employer, such as a university or hospital.


Here are our answers to some of your most common questions about Advanced Wilderness Life Support (AWLS):

How Long is AWLS Certification Good For?

Advanced Wilderness Life Support (AWLS) certification is good for 4 years from the date of the course. The only way to recertify is to take the AWLS course again every 4 years.

Is the Advanced Wilderness Life Support Course Worthwhile?

The Advanced Wilderness Life Support Course is worthwhile if you are a medical professional that’s interested in learning more about wilderness medicine. The course is beneficial for physicians, medical students, pre-hospital providers (EMT and paramedic level), nurses, and anyone else that wants a better understanding of patient care in remote locales.

Advanced Wilderness Life Support (AWLS) Review: The Verdict

AdventureMed’s Advanced Wilderness Life Support (AWLS) course is one of the most popular certification options for medical providers that are interested in remote medicine. The school also offers a number of other training programs that are ideal for any student that’s interested in expanding their current wilderness medicine skillset. 

They are also one of the few organizations that offers online modules for anyone that wants more training in a specific wilderness medicine topic, making the school a great choice for students of all backgrounds and interests.

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