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Smithsonian Student Travel  |  Apply to Lead

Leadership Opportunities

Smithsonian Institution, in collaboration with Putney Student Travel, seeks extraordinary candidates to work as program leaders for all Smithsonian Student Travel programs. If you are interested in these opportunities, please familiarize yourself with the different program types on this website and review the requirements and details below.

Putney Student Travel manages the interview process and hires all leaders for Smithsonian Student Travel positions. Preference is given to applicants who are available to lead multiple programs a summer. Putney Student Travel begins reviewing applications in December, and holds interviews through April, or until all positions are filled. 

Eligibility and Requirements

To join our team of leaders, you must be able to motivate and engage students in a wide range of situations and settings. Ideal candidates will have significant experience working with high school students; a passion for travel, exploration, and the program theme; and the ability to assess risk and make smart decisions regarding the health, safety, and overall well-being of the group.

Specific Leadership Requirements: 

  • A bachelor’s degree or higher or considerable professional work experience in a field related to the program theme.
  • Working proficiency in the language(s) spoken in the program destination.
  • Significant experience living or traveling in the program destination(s).
  • Significant experience working with high school students.
  • Certified in Basic First Aid and CPR (at your own expense) before the start of the program.
  • Availability to attend mandatory leader training.

In addition to the above requirements, applicants should demonstrate applicable skills in the following areas, consistent with the category and theme of program(s) for which you wish to be considered:

  • Considerable academic and/or work experience with the program topic, theme, or seminar, and enthusiasm for creating your own hands-on curriculum.
  • Some programs require a valid driver’s license and/or the ability to drive stick-shift vehicles.

Background checks

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.

Leader Training

All leaders are required to attend an intensive training every year. During training, leaders participate in active and engaging discussions, seminars, activities, and workshops that cover topics such as philsophy of travel, leadership skills, managing group dynamics, and health and safety protocols. Attendance at leader training is mandatory.

Leader training takes place in Vermont from May 29 to June 2, 2024. All reasonable travel to and from Vermont, as well as room and board for the duration of training will be paid for by Putney.


In addition to offering competitive stipends that are fair and equitable, we cover all reasonable domestic and international travel to and from training 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, fluency in relevant languages, skills relevant to the program theme(s) (professional photographers, wildlife biologists, etc), and advanced medical training above basic First Aid and CPR. Leaders that return for multiple summers also receive a pay bump for up to four years.

Each stipend is calculated on an individual basis, taking into consideration the criteria above in addition to the length and type of trip, and the number of trips led in a particular summer. Therefore, it can be difficult to estimate exact pay until all of these factors are accounted for. With that said, first year leaders on a shorter program can expect to receive a base pay starting around $1,000 per trip. For more experienced leaders on longer or more specialized programs the base pay may start closer to $1,500 or $2,000 per trip. More specific ranges can be outlined in the later stages of the hiring process and an exact stipend amount will be detailed in the official job offer. All stipend estimates and specific amounts are given in pre-tax dollars.

Returning leaders receive a pay bump for each year they return to lead up to four years.

Learn More

More information about summer leadership requirements can be found on the Putney Student Travel website. Please visit the site to learn more about leadership opportunities and our collaboration. 

Application Details

You are welcome to reach out to the Hiring Team any time at