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The National Human Activity Pattern Survey found that we spend less than 8% of our time outdoors. Mostly we stay in our homes, cars, and the buildings in which we work.
But maybe, like myself, you want more than an hour or two of fresh air and sunshine per day. Maybe you often find yourself looking out of the the windows at work. If so, why not consider getting a job that lets you spend more time outside?
Some outdoor work is easily available, but temporary. For example, I picked apples in Michigan years ago. The work got me in shape fast, and I enjoyed climbing into the trees. But the season was over six weeks after it started.
Other outdoor work is harder to get, but pays accordingly. For example, you need at least a bachelor’s degree to work as a geoscientist, but if you work for an oil company, you’ll make a six-figure salary.
You might be surprised by some of the jobs that are done mostly outside. I once drove an open-sided tram for a retirement community in Florida, and all day long I made stops so my passengers and I could watch alligators, pelicans, and other wildlife.
You can also create your own outdoor job, by starting a business. There are many that will get you outside.
So whether you’re ready to quit the office cubicle forever, or just want to work part-time outside, or you want to test your tolerance for the weather with a temporary position, here are some of the best outdoor jobs and businesses.
1. Camp Counselor
As a camp counselor you spend your time with kids outdoors, and you typically work just six or eight weeks during the summer. That makes this a great position for teachers and others who have summers off from their regular jobs.
Working as a camp counselor might also be a good way to do something enjoyable for a couple months before getting more serious with your job search. After all, these temporary and typically low-paid positions probably won’t cover your bills for long.
On the other hand, there are other benefits. GreatCampJobs.com says camp counselor jobs look good on your resume, and notes that “Many universities offer internship credit in various fields like parks and recreation, education, child development, tourism, etc.”
Geoscientists, which include geologists, geophysicists, seismologists, and geochemists, study earth processes. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says “Most geoscientists split their time between working indoors in offices and laboratories, and working outdoors.“
They also say the work “can require irregular working hours and extensive travel to remote locations.”
The average annual wage is $89,780, but rises to $149,410 if you work in the oil industry.
So if you like to travel, be outdoors, and earn a good salary, this might be the job for you. How do you get hired? A bachelor’s degree is the minimum needed, but a master’s degree is often required, and there are additional licensing requirements in some states.
3. Lawn Care Business
Why mow lawns for a living? You get to be outdoors, and it’s not all that physically taxing, at least if you use a riding mower.
The pay? Lawn and Landscape did a survey and found the average salary reported by owners of lawn care businesses was $69,629.
One big advantage with a business (as opposed to a job) is the potential to make much more money. In researching this post it was easy to find an example of a lawn care business that did $15 million annually. Of course, at that point you might be working more in your office while your employees work outdoors.
4. Landscape Architect
The average annual wage for a landscape architect is $63,480. To earn that the BLS says you’ll “design parks and the outdoor spaces of campuses, recreational facilities, businesses, private homes, and other open areas.” You’ll need a degree in landscape architecture, and may have to complete an internship.
The bad news? Despite getting outside to visit job sites, much of your time will be spent in the office, working on designs and meeting with clients.
5. Security Guard
As a security guard for a gated community in Florida I worked at outdoor stations, rode around for hours in a golf cart, and monitored the private beach restaurant decks, especially around sunset. At least 90% of my time was spent outside.
Of course, not all security jobs involve so much time outdoors, so ask about your duties and the typical routine when you apply. And try to get some extra benefits, because the average annual salary of security guards is just $25,770.
6. River Rafting Guide
This is a good second job if you need to add some outdoor adventure to your life. Oregon-based River Riders, Inc., says, “Most river guides are ordinary people who work a weekday job and go out on the weekends to play and get paid for it.”
How much can you make? River Riders says their guides get $50 to $80 per trip. It’s common to do two trips daily, and also common to get tips.
No experience? River Riders (and possibly other companies) will train you. It costs $400, but they refund your tuition if you guide at least a dozen trips.
7. Trail Builder
Want to work on job sites in some of the most beautiful places around? Get a job building and maintaining trails.
The bad news? The work is seasonal, really hard, low-paid, and you may be sleeping in a tent for weeks. Recent employment postings on the Professional Trail Builders Association website offered from $250 to $500 weekly (plus meals and a bunk).
As a surveyor you measure and mark property boundaries and/or help with mapmaking and engineering projects. The BLS warns you must, “stand for long periods and often walk long distances, sometimes in bad weather.” But sometimes in good weather too, and you want to work outside anyhow, right?
You’ll need a bachelor’s degree, and the average annual wage is $59,390.
9. Wildland Firefighter
It’s tough to figure an average wage for those who fight forest fires. The work is irregular and seasonal. But a quick perusal of a forum thread for wildland firefighters shows that at least some of them make up to $84,000 per year.
Of course the work is dangerous, and difficult. The “work capacity test” for wildland firefighters involves hiking 3 miles with a 45-pound pack in 45 minutes. But you do spend just about all of your time outdoors.
No college degree is required and basic training at a facility like the Colorado Fire Camp starts at around $500.
According to the BLS job description, “Geographers study the Earth and the distribution of its land, features, and inhabitants.” Maybe that doesn’t explain much, but you’ll like this part: “Many geographers do fieldwork, which may include travel to foreign countries or remote locations.” It seems likely those “remote locations” are in beautiful outdoor settings.
You’ll need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, and if you earn the average wage you’ll make $74,260 per year.
11. Treasure Hunter
Okay, this is not a job or a business, but it could be a profitable pastime, and you do get to be outdoors. For more on this hobby read the following post: 10 Ways You Can Go Treasure Hunting and Earn Money.
If you’re a more-educated treasure hunter you might be an archeologist. As such you don’t get to keep your treasures, but you do get work outside poking around in old ruins and (hopefully) make exciting discoveries.
The BLS says the median annual wage of archeologists and anthropologists (they’re grouped together) is $63,190. But to earn that much you typically need a master’s degree or even a Ph.D. If you have a bachelor’s degree you can work in the field as an assistant.
13. Conservation Scientist
According to the BLS, foresters and other conservation scientists “manage overall land quality of forests, parks, rangelands, and other natural resources.” Doing your job usually requires a good amount of outdoor time.
A bachelor’s degree in forestry or a related field is a typical requirement for these positions. The job growth outlook is not great, but okay (6% more jobs by 2026), and the average annual wage is $60,610.
14. Wildlife Photographer
If you’re lucky enough to get a job as a wildlife photographer, you can make a living at it. InsideJobs.com suggest a salary range of $17,000 to $63,000 annually.
Of course, you can also work as a freelancer and sell your photos online. You may struggle to make much, but if you’re outdoors often anyhow, and you like documenting what you see, you might eventually build this into a nice second income (or more).
15. Other Outdoor Work
There are many other jobs that let you get outside for at least part of each day. To find them do relevant searches on job websites. For example, a search for “work outdoors” on Indeed.com (no location specified) turns up tens of thousands of results, including these positions:
- Satellite Installation Technician ($14 per hour)
- Landscape Crew Member ($8 per hour)
- Ranch Hand ($15 per hour)
- Power Washing Crew ($10 per hour)
- Junk Removal Specialist ($11 to $12 per hour)
- Bike Patrol Officer (for a casino; $11 per hour)
- Mail Carrier ($16.41 per hour)
- Camp Chef (wage not specified, but maybe free food is included?)
You never know what you might find. One job posting was for a gun sales representative, and apparently involved demonstrating the products outdoors. Another was for a position at a zoo.
Finally, if you ever see someone doing an outdoor job that you think you would enjoy, stop and ask how you can apply.
Tell us about your own experiences working outdoors for a living… and keep on frugaling!