At Leader Dog, this is one of most commonly asked questions we hear. Qualified candidates are hired in as apprentice instructors when we have openings, unless you have already been certified as a guide dog mobility instructor (GDMI). Generally, the apprentice program is a three-year, on-the-job program that also includes successfully completing a variety of online modules and hands-on experience. During your first year as an apprentice, you will work with an apprentice team lead and an apprentice-only team as you learn to navigate your way through the training progression and learn vital skills for working with clients who are blind and visually impaired. After that first year, you will be put on a team with GDMIs to continue your learning from their years of experience. Apprentices are evaluated at the end of each year through two tests of your learning—one written and one oral—before you are able to move to the next level of the apprentice program. Once you have successfully completed three years of the program and passed the final exam, you are certified as a GDMI. Our apprentices are paid during this apprentice program, but it is very intense and similar to working toward a bachelor’s degree. It is important to realize that this role is not all about training dogs; an equally important aspect is working with and training our clients who are blind or visually impaired to work with a guide dog.
Is there a degree program to become an instructor?
There is no degree that completely pertains to training Leader Dogs. Our instructors come from various walks of life. There are degree programs or classes that may be beneficial to you if you are interested in this line of work. Animal behavior classes, dog obedience and training classes would help a lot. The more time and experience you can get working around and with dogs the better. Classes are often held at humane societies, which are also good places to volunteer. Any training or experience working with people who have disabilities is also helpful. Previous experience or classes in orientation and mobility are particularly helpful when working with people who are blind or visually impaired.
Here are some other good websites for more information on guide dogs organizations:
Can I apply for a job as an apprentice instructor?
If we have any opening(s) for an apprentice GDMI or certified GDMI, they will be posted on our job board. If you feel you meet the qualifications as outlined in the job description, we encourage you to apply! Visit our careers page to check for current openings.