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FGASA courses and going from NQF2 to NQF4

Updated: Dec 15, 2023

We get a lot of questions about field guide qualifications. From FGASA, NQF2, NQF4, CATHSSETA… the acronyms go on and on! How do I go from NQF2 to NQF4? What is a FGASA course? We know it can seem confusing, so we put together this simplified guide to help you navigate the process.

4 min read

What is a FGASA course? 

Students on a FGASA course, heading out on a game drive on a cool winter's morning.

When a field guide course advertises itself as a FGASA course, this means the course will prepare you to pass relevant FGASA exams. These courses are run by FGASA-endorsed training providers, like Bushwise. As the gold standard for field guide qualifications in southern Africa, you’ll want the FGASA (and Bushwise!) name on your resume. 

At Bushwise, we offer multiple FGASA courses. Through these courses you can write FGASA exams and become certified in your discipline. These include:

Completing a FGASA course is one of the best ways to become a field guide, and Bushwise is committed to helping its students navigate the qualifications process easily. 

How long is a FGASA course? 

Bushwise students exploring a rocky outcrop next to a dam.

Our in-person Bushwise FGASA courses vary from two months to one year in length. In both of these courses you can qualify as a FGASA Apprentice Field Guide, but our longer course includes additional qualifications and certifications. 

How many FGASA levels are there? 

To understand the FGASA levels, it helps to understand the most common acronyms you’re likely to encounter. 

  1. FGASA = Field Guides Association of Southern Africa 

  2. CATHSSETA = Culture, Arts, Tourism, Hospitality and Sport Sector Training Authority 

  3. NQF = National Qualifications Framework

  4. NDT = National Department of Tourism

Different levels in FGASA are equivalent to different NQF levels in CATHSSETA. Under other government authorities, your education level will earn a specific NQF level. For our sake, we need to know what NQF2 and NQF4 are, as these are the levels assigned to FGASA qualifications:

  1. FGASA Apprentice Field Guide = formerly FGASA Level 1 = CATHSSETA Nature Site Guide NQF2

  2. FGASA Field Guide = formerly FGASA Level 2 = CATHSSETA Nature Site Guide NQF4

  3. FGASA Professional/Specialist Field Guide = formerly FGASA Level 3 = no current additional CATHSSETA designation

How do I go from Apprentice Field Guide (NQF2) to Field Guide (NQF4)?

A Bushwise trainer shows a number of books to students in a classroom. These are valuable resources for their FGASA course education.

We get this question a lot! As stated earlier, you can qualify as an Apprentice Field Guide on a FGASA course with a FGASA-endorsed training provider like Bushwise. But, you can only become NQF4 certified by gaining work experience and passing further exams. 

To become a qualified NQF4 Field Guide, you must accumulate a minimum of one year (260 days) of practical active guiding experience as an Apprentice Field Guide (NQF2). This can include up to 130 days of non-guiding experience, like mentored guiding, anti-poaching, and wildlife monitoring.

Once you feel you have the necessary skills and knowledge, you can apply to write your NQF4 exams directly with FGASA and complete the practical assessment. If you pass both and have a valid first aid certificate, you can then register as a Field Guide (NQF4). Find out more here.

Where can I do my NQF4 exam?

Bushwise students writing a FGASA exam, looking closely at their worksheets.

FGASA exams are written at a venue on a specified date. These dates are regularly updated, and can be viewed on the FGASA website here. While NQF2 exams can be done online, NQF4 and Professional Field Guide must be written in person.

The practical assessment for NQF4 will take place in a guiding area of your choice. You’ll need to prepare to take the assessor and paying guests on a 2-day guided experience. By the time you get to this point in your guiding career, you’ll likely have made the connections needed to organise this assessment. Contact FGASA for additional information, or visit the link above.

How do I become a FGASA Professional Field Guide?

Bush walks are an awesome way to learn about wildlife on the ground, and an essential part of FGASA course training in the bush.

As with NQF4, this level in the FGASA hierarchy requires significant field experience, specialised knowledge and passing all the relevant assessments. In the simplest of terms, you’ll need 520 days of active guiding experience along with the relevant logbooks and sign-offs from assessors, mentors or supervisors.

No matter what FGASA qualification you’re applying for, there are two essential steps to gaining a new certificate:

  1. You need to pass the theory exam (75% or above)

  2. You need to do your practical assessment with a FGASA-endorsed assessor

We hope this has been helpful as you navigate the field guide qualifications process. If you have additional questions, please reach out to our friendly enrolment team! We can get you on the right track for your wildlife career.

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