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  • Writer's pictureAnnie DuPre

Field guide courses and going from NQF2 to NQF4

We get a lot of questions about field guide qualifications. From IFGA to NQF2, NQF4, CATHSSETA, NDT… the acronyms go on and on! How do I go from NQF2 to NQF4? What is included in a field guide 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 field guide course? 

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

A field guide course in South Africa is typically an in-person training program of anything from 30 days to three years, depending on the training provider. Throughout this time, students are provided with the knowledge and practical skills they need to successfully guide in their ecosystem or habitat. Subject matter ranges from bird identification to rifle handling, 4x4 driving, animal behaviour, dangerous game encounters, planning a guided experience and more.

More comprehensive programs, like the International Field Guide Association (IFGA), will also prepare you to guide in other locations and even internationally. Bushwise is the exclusive IFGA training provider in southern Africa and is also accredited by CATHSSETA, detailed below.


Field guide qualifications in South Africa are governed by CATHSSETA (Culture, Art, Tourism, Hospitality, and Sport Sector Education and Training Authority). CATHSSETA-accredited training providers, like Bushwise, provide training programs for students to become qualified field guides.

At Bushwise, we offer multiple field guide courses, both online and in-person. On our in-person courses allow you to earn an IFGA standard and CATHSSETA Nature Site Guide NQF2 qualification. On our online courses, you can gain the theoretical knowledge you need for these qualifications. Here are our major courses:

Completing an in-person 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 field guide course? 

Bushwise students exploring a rocky outcrop next to a dam.

Our in-person Bushwise courses vary from two months to one year in length. In both of these courses you can qualify as an IFGA and CATHSSETA Nature Site Guide (NQF2), but our longer course includes additional qualifications and certifications. 

How many field guide levels are there? 

To understand the CATHSSETA Nature Site Guide levels, it helps to understand the most common acronyms you’re likely to encounter. 

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

  2. NQF = National Qualifications Framework

  3. NDT = National Department of Tourism

Different field guide levels 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 field guide qualifications:

  1. CATHSSETA Nature Site Guide NQF2 = the first level of field guide qualification, which you can earn through an accredited training provider like Bushwise.

  2. CATHSSETA Nature Site Guide NQF4 = the second level of field guide qualification, which requires you to work or gain experience in the industry.

How do I go from Nature Site Guide NQF2 to NQF4?

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

We get this question a lot! As stated earlier, you can qualify as a CATHSSETA NQF2 Nature Site Guide with a CATHSSETA-accredited 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 of practical active guiding experience as an NQF2 field guide. Up to half of this can be 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 complete the practical assessment. If you pass both and have a valid first aid certificate, you can then register as a Nature Site Guide (NQF4). Find out more here.

Where can I do my NQF4 exam?

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

Nature Site Guide exams must be proctored and moderated by accredited institutions, like Bushwise. Contact us to learn more about how to proceed.

How do I become IFGA qualified?

As stated earlier, Bushwise uses the International Field Guide Association (IFGA) standards for our CATHSSETA-accredited field guide training programs. These standards set high expectations for the quality of guides we produce, giving them a strong foundation to guide anywhere in the world.

There are two essential steps to becoming qualified:

  1. You need to pass the IFGA theory exam

  2. You need to do your practical assessment with an IFGA-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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