Featured Experts
Karl
Karl Johnson Owner, Restoration Carpentry Company View bio
Russ
Russ Carbone Founder, Unisource Stone View bio
Sameer
Sameer Kalyani Founder, Kalyani Environmental Solutions View bio

This guide was written by

Diana-Ashley Krach

When it comes to choosing a workplace, the obvious option for many people is the routine and predictability of an office job. But if you’re a person who enjoys variety in your professional life and can’t stand the thought of a cubicle-bound life, an outdoor career may be a better fit for you.

Working in an outdoor industry is a great way to connect with nature while also making money, but you should also consider the physical toll and the unique tasks this type of job may require. From picking grapes in vineyards to putting out forest fires, an outdoor career can mean a lot of activity, but it can also be an exciting way to enjoy new challenges.

  • Is an Outdoor Career Right for You?

    Before you get started, ask yourself the following questions to determine if an outdoor career suits you:

  • 1.

    Do you love nature?

  • 2.

    Are you adventurous?

  • 3.

    Are you independent and able to work without constant supervision?

  • 4.

    Do you enjoy being physically active more than sedentary?

  • 5.

    Are you willing to potentially put your safety at risk if you are protecting something or someone else?

  • 6.

    Have you always been attracted to non-traditional approaches to things?

  • 7.

    Are you comfortable with physical labor?

  • 8.

    Do you enjoy travelling frequently?

  • 9.

    Are you comfortable with the idea of working in extreme heat or cold?

  • 10.

    Are you okay with working in solitude from time to time?

  • 11.

    Are you willing to go a while without showering if necessary?

  • 12.

    Are you okay with being on your feet for most of the day on a regular basis?

QUIZ RESULTS

Sounds like you’re ready to embrace homeownership. Read on to learn the next steps you should take to buy your first home..

How to Get Started

There are many options in outdoor career choices, so exploring job options may seem overwhelming at first, but it helps to take inventory of your skills before choosing an industry. Start with your favorite hobby, and ask yourself if it can be made into a career. The results may surprise you, as there are many ways to turn your creative endeavors into a paying career.

1

Volunteer Work/Internships

If you aren’t sure whether an outdoor career is something you’d like to pursue, consider starting off with something short-term, like volunteering or interning. There are many ways to kick off your search:

  • Investigate local opportunities. Look for zoos, national parks, vineyards, botanical gardens, campgrounds, lakes, farms, conservation non-profits, sports and recreation facilities and any other places where being outside is a major component of the work. Then, reach out to supervisors at those sites to see what kinds of internships and volunteer work might be available.
  • Search online for volunteer work and internships with specific outdoor-related keywords such as: environment, adventure, outside, outdoor, nature, wilderness, conservation, etc. These words will help narrow down your search.
  • Check your university’s career center. There may be resources and connections available to students and alumni who are looking for outdoor volunteer work and internships.
2

Professional Organizations

Many outdoor careers have professional organizations that can be used to network and find career opportunities.

For instance, if you are really passionate about river rafting, you can check out the American Canoe Association, a national organization that posts both internships and paid positions related to outdoor careers. Any competition, scholarship or community event related to water sports is listed on the association’s website, and there are education resources to become a certified canoe instructor.

3

Degree Programs

Degrees can also lead to a wide variety of opportunities in an outdoor career field. Here are some examples of how different degrees can lead to jobs in the outdoors:

  • An English degree can translate into a job as an environmental journalist.
  • A degree in forestry can lead to opportunities like becoming a park ranger, conservationist, fisher or horticulturist.
  • If you feel passionate about helping the environment in a big way, a degree in environmental studies can help you get into a prestigious volunteer program, like the Peace Corps.
  • A degree in biology can be used to become a fish and game warden, who is responsible for maintaining safety in hunting and fishing by upholding laws and monitoring designated areas.
  • An internship or degree program in photojournalism can set you up to take pictures of wildlife while also giving you the freedom to tell a story you feel passionate about.

Outdoor careers are a great option for people who want to be their own boss or who work well in solitude. To get a better idea of what path you should choose, make a list of what you do well and a list of what you love most about the outdoors. Look for common themes or ways to combine your skill with your passion. After you have a few ideas of what may work for you for a degree program, check out ways to get started financially. There are many unique scholarships available for fields of study in the great outdoors.

Scholarships

Alma Natura Trust Scholarship

This scholarship is sponsored by the National Wildlife Rehabilitators, and provides funds to individuals seeking to continue their education or obtain training in wildlife rehabilitation.

Bodie McDowell Scholarship

Provides scholarships to individuals working outside in print, photo, or other media.

National Wild Turkey Association

Provides scholarships for high school seniors who are passionate about preserving the Association’s hunting heritage through hunting sports.

Pete Petersen Memorial Scholarship

Annual awards for undergraduate or graduate students who wish to pursue a career outdoors.

Surfrider Foundation Thomas Pratte Memorial Scholarship

Funding for surfers and outdoor enthusiasts who are in the coastal environment, oceanography, marine affairs and other environmental activities.

Tim Tucker Memorial Outdoor Communications College Scholarship

Founded in memory of a legendary fishing writer, this scholarship program is aimed at Communications students who work outdoors.

Apprentice Ecologist Scholarship

A scholarship program with an annual essay contest that engages young people in the conservation of our ecological system.

10 Popular Outdoor Careers

All salary data below comes from a 2014 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics unless otherwise noted.

What It’s Like to Work in the Great Outdoors

Karl Johnson, Vice President of Building Contractors of Maryland; Russ Carbone, President and CEO of Unisource Stone; and Sameer Kalyani, President and CEO of Kalyani Environmental Solutions have offered their expertise on how to succeed in an outdoor career.

What is the biggest benefit of having an outdoor career?

expert Johnson It’s is a matter of personal preference, but if you enjoy the feeling of sun on your face and wind in your hair, the smells and sounds of nature (even in a city), and prefer the intense heat or cold over air-conditioning or fluorescent lighting, it may be for you.

What is something a person should keep in mind when starting an outdoor career?

expert Johnson Like with everything you have to take the good with the bad, and in times of excessive heat or brutally cold weather, you can lose a lot of work hours. Generally, a career outdoors requires more time during peak weather conditions, to make up for lost time when the weather isn’t cooperating.

expert Carbone I started my career in a niche area of the industry, so success was quick at first. The drawbacks were (and still are) staying ahead of what’s happening in the industry, and where the market is heading with the economy. Sometimes outside forces overcome the best of intentions, so you have to be able to assess the reality of your situation.

What skills or traits should a person possess to succeed in an outdoor career?

expert Johnson A person who chooses an outdoor career should be more of a self-starter, but also more of a loner, as the number of people you will interact with is a lot less than a typical indoor job. You also need to be a determined, task-oriented person able to overcome personal discomforts in order to get the job done.

expert Carbone In an industry where you are often responsible for your own success- a person requires focus, intent and personal motivation to stay committed to do whatever is needed to achieve their goals.

Are there any internships or volunteer opportunities in your field?

expert Johnson There aren’t any carpentry internships that I know of, but you can volunteer for Habitat for Humanity. This field usually requires a person to start as a laborer, and they can advance to a senior level position in about five years, providing they possess the aptitude and determination.

expert Kalyani The best ways to get your feet wet would be to join environmental government agencies such as the EPA to understand the broad scope of how environmental policies and regulations are monitored and enforced. After securing a position like that, private companies like KES tend to hire those interns because they can bring a wealth of knowledge from an environmental policy perspective to the environmental construction world.

What does your job entail?

expert Carbone Designing mosaics, medallions, custom borders and backsplashes to meet customer specifications. Manufacturing tumbled stone and overseeing employees. Meeting with clients and potential partners to find out what they want in their homes or buildings. It can change daily, but I am basically making sure that everything is under control in my shop.

expert Johnson Overseeing restoration projects and other home improvement jobs we have at the time. Communicating with insurance adjusters, customers, and building residents about work that needs to be completed, and providing written estimates when necessary. We also provide emergency restoration for situations when the insurance company is involved, so we have to be available at all hours.

Updated: July 27, 2017