Hey! Thinking about a summer job? Facing the unsavory prospect of a real job now that graduation is nearing? Depressed about the prospect of spending the rest of your life working 9-5 in a suit and tie? Fear not, there is a better way, and OTL can help you out.
There is an incredibly broad variety of jobs that all can be described as “outdoors jobs”. They range from working at a summer camp to fighting wilderness fires to hiking around the desert doing tortoise counts. The one thing they all have in common is their setting. There is no office; there is only the great outdoors as your work space. Check out the options out there, and find yourself a job that pays you to be outdoors!
If you have questions, feel free to email OTL at email@example.com or any of its staff members. Many of the jobs listed below have been suggested by a 5C student, whose contact information is included. Please don’t hesitate to ask them for advice!
There are a whole bunch of summer camps that have a strong “tripping” component to them. These camps often hire staffers specifically to lead groups of campers on wilderness trips. A typical wilderness trip staff job might consist of taking a group out on a weeklong backpacking trip, then a few days off, and then taking a different group out on a canoe trip. The two constants are lots of time working with kids, and lots of time trip leading in the wilderness.
Following are a number of camps that employ wilderness trip staff.
Camp Nebagamon, WI
Harold.firstname.lastname@example.org; Samuel.email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; Robert.email@example.com;
Camp Timberlane, MN
Camp Widjiwagan, MN
Camp Minogen, MN
The wilderness is a prime area for scientists such as biologists, archaeologists, geologists and many more to conduct field research. There are numerous jobs employing students with a bachelor’s degree or less to do scientific field work. Most of them require some sort of science background, but this is not always true. These jobs will typically involve lots of time spent in the field doing a specific research technique, such as counting animals or surveying plant species. Additionally, many of these jobs can be found all over the world, especially places such as Costa Rica.
Great Basin Institute
Jennie Miller of CMC has extensive experience in this field. Here’s what she has to say…
“I myself am applying for wildlife technician jobs and can tell you a little about the positions. The positions are typically called "field research technician" or "field
assistant" and are typically funded through graduate students' grants (they hire you to help them for a season) or through larger organization's grants (Wildlife Conservation Society, WWF, National Science Federation). Activities can range from studying
plants/animals/natural resources in a remote location where you camp permanently (lots of jobs in the Sierra Nevada) to living in a city and making commutes to natural spaces. Shared housing is usually provided (or a per diem supplied per day of camping/backpacking) and food allowances are commonly supplied. The positions usually require a BA/BS in a science field (biology, environmental policy, chem, botany, etc) and can sometimes require special skills, such as mist netting for capturing birds, telemetry for location animals or other trapping skills. However, there are plenty of training positions in which the researcher merely needs committed, responsible (wo)manpower and will train you on the job. Positions usually last a season (April/May-Aug, Sept-Dec, Jan-April are common) although 6 month positions are available
sometimes. Pay can range from volunteer to around $2000/mo (remember: free housing and sometimes free food) - no benefits. To find positions, head to www.conbio.org or the Texas A&M job website. Send the researcher your cover letter and resume or CV and anything else they ask for.
Last summer I worked as technician on a project in Colorado for a grad student from Utah State University studying the effect of coyote sterilization on pronghorn fawn mortality. I captured and collared fawns and then monitored their survival with radio telemetry. When one would die, I would head out with a radio and antenna, locate the body and do a necropsy on the remains to identify what had killed it. I also trapped
rodents and surveyed rabbit populations to determine alternative prey opportunities for the coyotes in the area. Later on in the year, the researcher hired technicians to net capture, sterilize and collar coyotes for the other part of her work. I lived for free in a house in remote Colorado with 3 other female technicians from May-Aug and was paid $900/mo - which was not much, but enough to get by. Very cool experiences, fun people, nice tan and calluses and amazing experiences with the animals.”
The Department of the Interior and its many offshoots, such as the Forest Service (actually Agriculture), Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service, are among the nation’s biggest outdoors employers. Don’t let the Man fool you: there are some amazingly fun jobs working for Uncle Sam. Park ranger, wildlands fire fighter, lumberjack, the list goes on and on.
Environmental Protection Agency
Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
National Park Service
Bureau of Land Management
This is actually a very diverse job. Some rangers hand out maps in visitor centers and recommend hikes. Others hike around the backcountry for weeks on end rescuing hikers and wrestling bears. Check out all the options!
Wildlands Fire Fighter
There are actually a host of agencies that employ firefighters to deal with the West’s summer fire season. BLM, NPS, Forest Service, and numerous private companies do firefighting work. It is incredibly high pay (overtime and hazardous duty pay are both 1.5x, and are cumulative), extremely physical, and a wee bit dangerous. It can also be mind-numbingly boring when there are no fires. When there are fires, you won’t sleep for days. But it’s not unheard of to earn 15k-20k in one summer. The best way to get these jobs is to call up crew chiefs in person. Just applying online will mostly just get you ignored.
Most states have a conservation corps, a legacy from FDR’s New Deal Civilian Conservation Corps. Each state’s CC does things a bit differently, but most of them have various forms of outdoors work. This can range from invasive species removal to community outdoors education. Trail maintenance work is a mainstay of any CC program. Many are affiliated with Americorps, and therefore an education award is included along with the base salary.
Nevada Conservation Corps
Washington Conservation Corps
California Conservation Corps
Montana Conservation Corps
Vermont Youth Conservation Corps
“The Vermont Youth Conservation Corps is looking for Outdoor Leaders to help train up high school and college students for state conservation work. You do not have to be a Vermont resident to apply. Also subsidized housing, etc., and 300-430$/wk. Looks like this is best for seniors who are presently graduating. “
Chelsea Hodge firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, your chance to save the natural world you love and play in. Some of these jobs are basically like an internship for any advocacy group, with lots of time spent in offices and libraries doing research and having meetings. Some of them are more involved with the field research end of things. Either way, you’re helping make our world a better place.
- Paid internships in environmental and wildlife fields
- Paid internships in ecology, animal, plant and marine sciences
Swarthmore Site for Enviro Internships
- Fellowships, research opportunities and internships around the nation
Defenders of Wildlife
- Internships in wildlife conservation and political advocacy
Alaska State Parks
- Volunteer and internship opportunities in Alaska
American Camping Association and CampStaff.com
- Posting site for seasonal and year-round camp jobs in North America
- Job postings for internship and permanent work at national parks, resorts, camps, amusement parks and other recreational settings
California Air Resources Board
- Paid and volunteer internships and job positions
Environmental Protection Agency
- Internship and job board; fellowships available for graduates
Orion Grassroots Network
- Internships, jobs, apprenticeships and Americorps positions
Student Conservation Association
- Conservation-related internships and volunteer positions in national parks, forests and other public lands
CMC’s Career Center Outdoors Jobs Links Page
These guys have done their homework. Check out all the websites they have found with useful outdoors jobs info. Seriously, there are some really good jobs links here. Special thanks to Jennie Miller for all her hard work.
- Resources include internship and job listings for all environmental-related industries and information on higher degree programs
The Wildlife Society
Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
- Resources including job board and links to other job sites
Warnell School of Forest Resources
- Extensive board with job listings for forestry, wildlife, fisheries, water and soil
- Resources including job postings with government and agency sections, employer web site links, resume tips and career research information
- Listings for bird, costa rica and environmental jobs and internships
- Job listings; bird jobs listservice available (email updates on job postings)
National Wildlife Federation
- Listings for volunteer, fellow, intern and job positions.
Society for Conservation Biology
- Job postings, academic program information, most frequently asked questions about conservation biology and biodiversity
- Job board on technical positions
- Enviro and natural resources job listings, career news, tips and advice, employer interviews, and career research reports
Environmental Data Interactive Exchange
- Positions in water, waste and environmental resources sectors
Hopefully this is a useful starting spot in your job search. Once you find some interesting looking jobs, you’ve got to get in contact with your potential employers. Very few of these jobs actively recruit. You have to find them! Email them, call them, track them across the Utah slickrock, it doesn’t matter. Try to get some real communication going to determine if the job is right for you, and you are right for the job. Just applying online will almost certainly not result in a job. This is rarely an easy process. Be prepared to put some serious time into it.
Had a great outdoors job? Please tell us about it, and we’ll include it on the website. As with all OTL functions, we rely on the collective experiences of our community. Share your experience and help a fellow outdoors enthusiast find a sweet job!