Jay Chambers is a whitewater rafting guide for KODI Rafting in Summit County, Colorado, and has been commercially boating since the late 1990s. During this period, he has run a multitude of rivers and trips in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, West Virginia and New York, as well as Australia and New Zealand. He has commercially guided for an array of companies, both domestic and abroad. Jay lives in Frisco, Colorado, with his wife, Jennifer, and his two boys, Aiden and Samuel.
Chez Brungraber graduated from Bucknell University in 2004 with a double degree in biology and economics. She attended graduate school at UC Davis and obtained her MS in environmental horticulture in 2007. Since 1999, Chez has worked with plants, first as a landscape designer and then as a botanist. She began growing her skill set in 2008 to include endangered wildlife, such as vernal pool species, butterflies, birds and desert tortoises. She runs a small consulting company that helps businesses navigate the developmental and permitting regulations in the state of California. Chez spends her days hiking long distances in rugged terrain and possesses an expert knowledge of the flora and fauna of Southern California, from coastal habitats to mountains and deserts.
Marina Cvetic is a winemaker based in the Abruzzo region of Italy and one of the leading forces behind the popularity of Trebbiano and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo in America. Marina took over the company from her late husband in 2008, handling the winery’s marketing and business management, production and export process. She cultivates her personal relationship with nature and love for the land surrounding her to craft incredible wines. Her motto is “Land, sky and vineyards are a life therapy.” She also passionately produces and promotes several lines of organic olive oil.
Does the thought of a 9-5 job fill you with dread? Are you more comfortable in hiking boots or scuba gear than a suit? Increasingly, people are opting for professions that allow them to take advantage of nature and build careers in outdoor pursuits. Whether you dream of being a ski instructor or an archaeologist, surveyor or marine biologist, chances are there is an outdoor career matching your aspirations. With so much variety, those with educational backgrounds ranging from trade schools to doctorate programs can find suitable roles. Keep reading to learn more about the myriad of outdoor career options available.
There is no better way to spend a day than by being outside and on the water. This job allows you to meet new people from all walks of life, from all areas of the country, and the world. Being able to introduce people to the excitement and the joy of rivers and running whitewater is a highlight of any day.Jay Chambers, whitewater rafting guide
Outdoor recreation brings in more money than the pharmaceutical and motor vehicle/parts industries combined.
One alluring aspect of the outdoor industry lies in the sheer volume of jobs available. Despite the economic downturn of the late 2000s, the outdoor recreation economy saw 5 percent growth between 2005 and 2011. A significant component of success for the industry is the ease of entrance. Summer and seasonal jobs abound for those seeking short-term roles, while individuals looking for permanent, full-time positions also have countless options. Whether you’re aspiring to get your hands dirty, walk among the redwoods or live the life aquatic, the following job fields are sure to be of interest.
Prolonged sitting contributes to a variety of issues, including swollen ankles, deep vein thrombosis and varicose veins.
Concerned with understanding how humans of the past lived and worked, those in the field of archaeology may find themselves in archaeological digs or exhumed civilizations across the globe. They may also work with artifacts in museums or study remains in labs. Professionals have many options for specializing their work. While some may be fascinated by cultural or linguistic aspects, others may be interested in the architectural or physical components. Most archaeologists also concentrate their knowledge in a specific time period, such as the Paleolithic or Mesolithic eras, or the Iron Age. The field is currently growing faster than the national average, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting a 19 percent growth between 2012 and 2022. Common tasks include:
Physical archaeologist – $59,280
College professor – $62,330
Biological archaeologist – $59,280
Museum conservator – $49,120
The majority of those within the field hold at least a master’s degree in archaeology, though PhDs are becoming more prevalent. Having a doctorate degree is especially important for those who wish to work abroad, as most foreign governments will require the highest level of education to receive clearance.
Those in the field of forestry are concerned with conservation and responsible use of the land. They may work with national parks, nonprofit organizations or privately held companies to ensure responsible stewardship of natural resources. Many may focus their efforts on logging, while others may be more interested in planting and cultivating trees. Some may even work with conservation agencies to replenish tree species in danger of being eradicated. With forests covering 747 million acres (or 33 percent of American land), innumerable roles are available to suit the education and experience levels of anyone interested in the field. Responsibilities may include:
Forester – $57,980
Logging worker – $35,460
Conservation scientist – $61,860
Postsecondary forestry professor – $84,090
Forestry is a wide ranging field, with positions available for those with high school diplomas up to doctoral degrees. Positions such as logging or planting can often be taught on the job, while the more scientific roles will require prior education, typically a master’s degree.
Working in the field of firefighting requires bravery and selflessness, and individuals must be ready to throw themselves into an emergency situation at a moment’s notice. While not every day consists of fighting a raging fire, many do. Firefighters may find themselves battling a large forest fire or working to rescue inhabitants from a smoking apartment complex. The field has its dangers, and those considering it should be aware of this from the outset. Twenty-eight firefighters died in the line of duty in 2011, although this marks a 29 percent decrease from 2003 to 2010. Some common tasks include:
Firefighting supervisor – $70,670
Fire investigator – $56,130
Firefighter – $45,970
Forest fire prevention specialist – $36,430
The majority of roles within this field require a high school diploma, with more importance placed on experience gained while working on the job. Positions in specific areas, such as forest fires, may require a bachelor’s degree in forestry or a related subject.
Individuals in this field have a passion for creating beautiful outdoor spaces a variety of people can enjoy. If you consider your favorite parks, playgrounds, gardens or campuses, there’s a good chance a landscape architect had a hand in the design. LAs work in a variety of settings, ranging from private practices to conservation organizations. They may contract with a large number of individuals to complete designs for private homes, or they may work with businesses with multiple locations to design office sites. Though many related fields have been slow to bounce back from the recession, jobs within landscape architecture are projected to grow by 14 percent between 2012 and 2022. Responsibilities often include:
Landscape architect – $64,570
Groundskeeper – $24,290
Urban or regional planner – $66,940
Environmental scientist – $66,250
Jobs in this arena run the gamut in terms of education and experience. Entry-level jobs can frequently be done with a high school diploma, while those looking to be landscape architects must complete a bachelor’s degree and be licensed in their state.
The field of marine biology promises an exciting career focused on studying various organisms, plants and animals that live in seas and oceans throughout the world. With so many avenues of study converging into one career, professionals must be well-versed in areas of biology, ecology, geology, chemistry and physics. Their work is as varied as the underwater life they study, ranging from opportunities with environmental organizations and governmental agencies to research firms and aquariums. Time is typically divided among onsite fieldwork, laboratory research and report preparation. Other tasks include:
Marine biologist – $51,615
Oceanographer – $70,270
Geoscientist – $89,910
Fisher – $35,250
While careers are available at all educational levels, the most distinguished marine biologists hold a PhD. Bachelor’s level degrees allow for some entry-level roles, while a master’s degree will get you in the door for a few teaching and research jobs. To be a postsecondary educator or to compete for major research positions, a doctoral degree is preferred.
Working as an outdoor guide presents individuals with innumerable options for sharing nature with a variety of audiences. Whether working at a summer camp, national park, nonprofit organization or camping facility, outdoor guides focus their efforts on teaching skills like kayaking or rafting, educating the public about preservation efforts or overseeing corporate retreats. For those who love being in nature and communicating with people from all walks of life, this is an excellent field providing many outlets for work. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts jobs in this arena will grow by 14 percent between 2012 and 2022. Outdoor guides may find themselves:
Recreation leader – $22,620
Park ranger – $35,075
Travel guide – $35,100
Resort manager – $47,240
The vast majority of jobs in this field require a high school diploma, though some guides may seek certification in specific topics such as whitewater rafting or areas of education. Experience and skills go a long way in this field of work.
Individuals who enjoy the outdoors and cold weather are often drawn to careers in the winter sports industry. Given the seasonal nature, many jobs are specific to winter, although some ski resorts maintain full-time staff. Those interested in pursuing a career in this area should be prepared for a competitive environment. Whether teaching the art of skiing, serving as part of a team of ski patrollers or designing and developing skis or snowboards, there are many options for building a career in this arena. Ski professionals may maintain their own teaching services, work for a resort or hotel or even travel to different locations to lend their expertise. Some of their tasks include:
Ski patroller – $19,090
Snowboard product manager – $56,842
Ski instructor – $12-$15/hr
Ski resort operations manager – $50,739
Employers related to skiing are typically less concerned with formal education levels and more interested in actual skills and experience. While some of these can be taught on the job, those seeking roles as instructors or patrollers will need prior experience of skiing.
Those with mathematical minds frequently find themselves working in the field of surveying, as the arena demands workers who value precision. With this field projected to grow by 10 percent in the coming years, the availability of jobs is also an attractive feature. Professionals use a variety of tools to measure and plot pieces of land for public and private uses. Surveying offers a lot of flexibility, and no two days are the same, given the ever-changing locations for work. One day may involve surveying a residential area for a new subdivision, while the next could involve plotting land for a corporate headquarters. Those further in their careers may even find themselves in consulting roles, providing valuable insights on boundary disputes. Typical responsibilities include:
Surveyor – $57,050
Cartographer – $60,930
Geodetic surveyor – $60,019
Surveying and mapping technician – $40,770
Due to the increased use of technology in the field, surveyors must hold at least a bachelor’s degree. Those who wish to practice and be responsible for signing off on legal documents must also be licensed, a process typically requiring two years of experience working under a licensed surveyor.
The wine industry in America is growing and so is the demand for qualified, passionate people to steward the grapes from infancy to harvest and, ultimately, to the palate. The California wine industry in particular has grown in size and scope over the past 30 years. According to the Wine Institute, a public policy advocacy association, brick-and-mortar wineries in California have grown from 850 in 1998 to 2,000 more recently. Responsibilities could include:
Vineyard manager – $93,104
Vineyard foreman – $34,000
Enologist – $56,325
Tasting room manager – $63,343
There are no overarching educational mandates for entering the field, though degrees in viticulture and enology are available. Those who excel in the field possess a thorough knowledge of varietals and growing conditions and have an impeccable palate and sense of smell.
Americans spend $524.8 billion on trips and travel-related costs annually.
Wonder what it’s really like to have a career in the great outdoors? We asked three people in the field what they love most about their jobs, what they wish they knew from the outset and what advice they would give to someone embarking on an outdoor career.
There is no better way to spend a day than by being outside and on the water. This job allows you to meet new people from all walks of life, from all areas of the country, and the world. Being able to introduce people to the excitement and the joy of rivers and running whitewater is a highlight of any day.
This can a be a career, but the start-up time takes a while. Be patient and enjoy the ride. It takes a few years to acquire commercial miles and experience. The trick is to find the balance between being on the water enough and being able to pay the bills. Patience is as imperative as supplemental income.
Run as many rivers as possible, see as many stretches as possible, boat with as many boaters as possible. Expertise comes from many different experiences and influences. You can learn something about whitewater from every person you boat with, as well as every trip you take.
There are 768,000 jobs related to trail sports, compared to 728,200 jobs for lawyers.
I get to work outside and get paid to hike around looking for really neat plants and animals. It’s healthy, fun and invigorating to not be at a desk or inside all day. I also enjoy giving a voice to the plants and animals, as they cannot speak for themselves as loudly as we can.
I wish I knew this job even existed. When I got out of undergrad, I had no idea what I wanted to do, I just knew that Wall Street was not the answer. So I went to grad school. I got recruited to work for an environmental consulting agency in San Diego, and my whole world was enlightened. I struck out on my own as a private consultant later on and have been loving it ever since. I do wish, however, I had known about this type of work because I could have taken a few extra classes and field work to prepare myself better.
You won’t make a lot of money, and it can be frustrating (sometimes we survey the most beautiful areas only to see them get developed a year later), but if you like being outside and don’t mind hiking 10 miles a day in some rugged terrain, being an environmental consultant is a great career path. I recommend starting with a good job at a “big” firm to get the experience you need, then moving over to a smaller, more specialized firm where you will get to work on some fun projects and have more diversity in your schedule and work locations. Sometimes the big companies can pigeon-hole biologists into the same thing day in and day out.
The EPA has started warning of “sick building syndrome” in response to research showing circulated office air can be up to 100 times dirtier than outdoor air.
The best part of my job is that it’s a reflection of both my passion and my family, so much that it doesn’t feel like a “job” at all. By turning to a career in wine, I got to work side by side with my personal hero, best friend and husband, Gianni Masciarelli. He was so inspired to change the world’s perception of Abruzzo wines and in turn inspired me to carry on working towards fulfilling that goal. Each day we work to continue his legacy, and it’s the most rewarding feeling I could imagine.
The vineyard taught me two of the most important lessons of my life: to be patient and wait to get what you want and to never take anything for granted. Agriculture gives you the chance to feel in touch with the powerful forces that drive our lives. When you work with the vines, you learn every vintage is different from the next. You need to adjust to nature because nature is not going to adjust to you — and you may not get what you expected, for better or worse.
Winemaking is hard work, both physically and mentally, but it’s extremely rewarding to have a finished product to share and be proud of. Be ready to adapt. Winemaking is a life-long learning process! It’s important to respect your mentors and traditions, but know that every vintage is different from the next, both in the vineyard as much as in the cellar. Don’t be afraid to inject your own personal style into the process – that’s what will make your wines unique and truly special – to reflect the personality of the people who make it.
Research has shown those who work for 10 hours or more per day have a 60 percent increased risk of cardiovascular issues.
Students aspiring to careers in the outdoors can take advantage of multiple avenues of tuition assistance, available as general funds at the federal and state level and as degree-specific funds at the institutional and organization level. With the average cost of a public degree totaling $36,556 and private degrees costing $124,924 for the 2014-15 academic year, students can use all the help they can get. This is especially true for outdoor careers, where it may take a few years to truly find your footing. The resources below are designed to help students learn about scholarships and funding initiatives available to them.
Individuals who spend their days typing have dramatically increased risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
The most successful professionals working in outdoor pursuits will quickly tell you patience is a major component of seeing your dreams come to fruition. With many jobs offered seasonally or on a contract basis, it may take a few years to truly establish yourself in the field. The resources below provide insight on the types of jobs available and offer valuable job board listings.
Scientists coined the phrase “sitting disease” for individuals who spend their days at a desk. Not only does sitting at work contribute to a sedentary lifestyle, research has shown this phenomenon increases the risk of death.
One of the most effective ways of finding careers in outdoor-related professions is networking. By building connections with those actively working in the field, the chances of finding a position are greatly enhanced. One of the best ways to network is by joining a professional, member-based organization. The following section highlights some of the best societies and associations across the nation.