5 Best (and Realistic) Outdoor Careers

Career ahead sign on the road with mountains in the background

For those of us who truly love the great outdoors – the fresh air, the dirt between our toes, budding plants, the ever-evolving landscape, and beyond – finding a way to make a living while spending time outside is a dream come true!

It seems like most jobs these days would have us stuck in cubicles or on factory floors, exploring paperwork and software instead of the wilderness, but not ALL jobs are like that. There are some opportunities to combine a passion for the outdoors with a realistic career.

With that in mind, we’ve put together this list of five potential occupations that will keep you outside and in touch with nature:

1. Outdoor Recreation Professional

White water rafting guide with clients

If you’ve got a passion for a particular outdoor activity – or just an active sense of adventure, this might be the job for you!

There are plenty of “subcategories” here, from rafting to rock climbing, mountain biking to windsurfing, and anything else you can think of. The point is, people want to try this stuff out, and they need knowledgeable guides to help them.

Sometimes these are public sector jobs through cities, states, or other organizations, though many of these types of opportunities come through private businesses that specialize in “adventure sports” equipment.

There’s even an association dedicated to this type of work, the Society of Outdoor Recreation Professionals. Learn more about the society at http://www.recpro.org.

2. Environmental Researcher

Environmental researcher sampling water on a creek

For the more scientifically focused, many industries, non-profits, government agencies, and universities require environmental research for a wide range of applications.

Depending on your area of expertise (or interest, if you’re just getting into your education), whether biology, geology, biochemistry, etc., there are plenty of varying careers to get into. Start with a field of study, and explore the companies and agencies that use that type of work.

It’s a good idea to look in the spring and summer, as even temporary and seasonal jobs can be a great foot in the door for an agency or industry position.

3. Agriculture

Windturbine in farm field

With the massive shift toward sustainable farming, smaller scale production, and local, organic food, career opportunities in the agricultural sector are actually quite bountiful!

Depending on your interests, you can look for farms in your area that grow foods (or other products) that you’re fond of, reach out to companies you support, or seek out larger, industrial-scale agricultural operations.

It will likely be hard work, but extremely rewarding in the long run as well.

4. Wildland Firefighting

Firefighter rig in the field

On the slightly more hazardous end of the spectrum (but also extremely important), we have wildland firefighting, the brave men and women who combat wildfires (and work to prevent future fires) at the federal, state, and local level.

This is an exciting and fulfilling line of work with some financial incentive – many wildland firefighters earn substantial overtime and hazard pay on top of their base wages.

This career, however, does take a significant amount of education and training, and requires quite a bit of strenuous activity. For the right candidate, though, these are exciting challenges, not deal breakers.

Find more information at http://www.firescience.org.

5. Park Ranger

National park ranger helping visitor

This is likely the most competitive of the careers on this list, but is also likely the one that brings you closest to nature. Since these careers are through state and federal government, there will probably be some hoops to jump through to apply, but just getting your foot in the door with these agencies can lead to a long, fulfilling career in the parks service.

Not only do the nation’s state and national parks need protecting, there’s also exploration, maintenance, and guidance that goes into keeping the parks excellent places for visitors from around the world. The range of job duties is tremendous.

Ranger positions generally require a background in the natural sciences (or sometimes in administration) so education is a must!

If a career as a Ranger sounds appealing to you, you can find some great information on getting started right here: http://www.reserveamerica.com/outdoors/how-to-become-a-park-ranger.htm

These are among some of the more realistic career opportunities for an outdoor enthusiast, though it’s certainly not an exhaustive list. If working outside is at the very top of your priority list, explore these options, but don’t rule out other options as well.

Take the time to see if these careers might be right for you – it could be your chance to earn a living while spending your time in the best place to be: under the open sky!

(c) 2015

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