The 10 Best High Paying Outdoor Careers – a Dream Job Guide

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If you like the sun on your face and the wind at your back, then it is worthwhile to look at some high paying outdoor careers. When you choose this path, you spend your days under the clouds while birds fly overhead, making life quite pleasant. It is really fulfilling. While the perception is that these may not pay as much, that is untrue. There is plenty of opportunity make good money and live a high quality life.

1. Become a Guardian of a National Park as a Park Ranger

As a park ranger, you are a guardian of national parks, keeping them safe from environmental degradation and managing them for future generations to come. In short, you become a conservationist. You supervise the land and make sure visitors follow the rules. There is quite a variety to them, so be sure to check into that to find out what you like.

If you want to become one, consider volunteering at a park near you. It is the best way to introduce yourself to the field. You learn the ropes and more experienced rangers take you under their wing. They explain to you what it is like to be one.

For park rangers, the median salary is $60,000. Important factors determining salary include whether it is federal or state, size of the park, job scope, the position, and education & experience. In addition, benefits include the widest selection of health care providers, insurance, and excellent retirement benefits.

2. Smokey Bear Ain’t Got Nothing on a Wildland Firefighter

As a wildland firefighter, you get paid to fight forest fires in national parks, mountainous areas, virtually anywhere in the outdoors. For most of these jobs, you need at least a high school diploma. They also tend to predominate in the West. This means Washington, Oregon, California, and nearby states.

For this career, you need to be fit and in shape. There is no way around it. In the test to become one, you must be able to complete a 3-mile hike with a 45 lbs pack under 45 minutes. It is encouraged, though, that you exceed these requirements.

Wildland firefighters average $48,000 a year. However, it is not impossible to make $40,000 for six months of work. People who make this money are usually part of “hotshot” crews. They do dangerous work, especially during particularly bad seasons.

3. Tend the Fields as a Farmer

People can make fun of farmers, but they are the bedrock of society. We will always need them. As a farmer, you raise plants or animals. This can range from taking care of cows to planting roses. You can expect to do harvesting, ploughing, planting, tractor driving, and cleaning. It is a very large field. Whatever you choose though, it is very rewarding. You rise with the sun and feel dirt in your hands.

If you want to learn more, consider talking to your local farmer. This is the best way to introduce yourself to the field. They can give you a run down. To prepare, it helps to major in agroecology, environmental science, agriculture, or related programs. You can get around this, though, if you get experience in the field. Positions can range from seasonal to full time.

The median salary of a farmer is $64,000, but the top 10% in the field have been known to make $100,000. One of the important factors that determines your salary is what you are growing. If you are growing tobacco, you are probably going to make more than someone growing lettuce.

4. Save the Planet, Become an Environmentalist

The world needs more environmentalists. There is a strong demand for people to advocate for our planet because it is in dire need of help. Without it, you and I no longer exist. As an environmentalist, you can be a scientist, practice environmental law, become a teacher, or even write a blog (it helps to learn how to do it though).

Scientists study how best to preserve and protect the environment. Environmental lawyers can do anything from lobby for an issue to teach the subject. Teachers, of course, teach about environmentalism; this can range from becoming a professor or teaching at an elementary school. As a blogger, you can write about an issue based on search engine traffic and get paid to do it!

To be an environmentalist, you need at least a Bachelor’s degree. It helps to major in Environmental Science, Environmental Science, or any related field. Start out by volunteering or interning at places near you. This could be assisting a teacher or working as an intern for research facility.

If you want to brush up on your environmental knowledge, check out this article I wrote about environmental stewardship. It will give you more ideas as you ponder this career path.

The median salary for this profession is $70,000, but there is no reason why you cannot expect to make over $100,000. The more work you put in, the more you can expect to get out of it. As a steward of the environment, you would do fulfilling a worthwhile work.

5. Watch the Ground Shake as a Geologist or Geoscientist

The Earth moves and we need people to track it. As a geologist or geoscientist, you can monitor the Earth, become a geoscientist for a mining company, or work with anthropologists to map terrain. You contribute to climate change discussions, warn the public, and engage in disaster prevention. As a geologist, you can expect to hike a lot.

For this career, you need at least a Bachelor’s degree in geology, mineralogy, or an equivalent field. The four main branches of geology are mineralogy, hydrology, volcanology, and oceanography. If you want a higher pay, then it helps to go deeper into the field for a Master’s or even a doctorate.

The median salary for a geologist is $89,000. It varies with the profession though. You make more money as a mineralogist for a mining company than just as a teacher.

6. Dive into the Ocean as a Marine Biologist

Can you hear that Spongebob? It is a marine biologist! As a marine biologist, you study the oceans. This can range from monitoring the routes of fish to studying the impact people have on the world’s oceans. You can also go scuba diving quite a bit. It is a large field with a lot of diversity.

For this career, you need at least a Bachelor’s degree in marine biology, marine sciences, or an equivalent. The more volunteer work you have in the field and apprenticing under the best, the better off you will be. Most of these careers will be on the coast, so start looking there.

The median salary for a marine biologist is $70,000, but it can reach up $125,000. The more degrees and experience you have, the more you can expect your salary to increase. Depending on who you work for, the benefits can vary quite a bit.

7. Map Your Environment as a Geographer

There are a lot of places that have not been mapped. As a geographer, you study the Earth’s natural environment and human society, how the environment creates the outcomes we see. You can become either a physical or human geographer. Because you are spending most of your time mapping, you can expect to travel a lot.

For this, you need at least a Bachelor’s degree. For most of these positions, competition will be steep, so it is recommended that you get at least a Master’s in either geography or geographic information systems (GIS). If you want something else, then you can consider a path as a surveyor, cartographer, geoscientist, and a regional/urban planner.

The median salary is $74,000. The vast majority of geographers in the US work for the federal government, so you can expect excellent benefits like insurance, health, and retirement.

8. Lead Others as a Wilderness Guide

As a wilderness guide, you lead people on expeditions. This can range from something as simple as a day hike or a bigger endeavor such as a mountaineering expedition. There is a lot to choose from. For these kinds of jobs, you can expect to spend a lot of time with people outside. You must be patient and be able to respond to outdoor emergencies.

For this, you need at least a high school diploma. Depending on where you plan to work, there are varying requirements for physical fitness. Each career has different requirements. If you plan to become a safari guide, you need to spend 6 months learning for a certificate. For mountaineers, you need an international license. It varies with your choice.

For this profession, the median salary $60,000, not too shabby. Important factors include where you are working, the kind of work you are doing, and your clientele.

9. Design the World around You as a Landscape Architect

People like their homes. They like them even better when they are arranged to accentuat the beauty and vibrancy of the natural world. As a landscape architect, you use your creativity and ingenuity to design homes and terrain. You turn a blank canvass into a masterpiece.

For this career, you need at least a Bachelor’s degree in architecture or an equivalent. Often times you need to be licensed by the state. When designing a building, terrain, or something similar, you need to be sensitive to the landscape, be creative, and know the end goal you want.

Landscape architects have a median salary of $63,000, but you can make upwards of $100,000, making it a lucrative profession. The more you work in this field, the more you get paid. Use your inner creative genius to make the world more pleasing to the eye.

10. Wander the Woods as a Forester

As a forester, you can log trees to cut down, conserve what is already there, or teach forestry. There is quite a lot you can do in this field. You can expect to spend most of your time planting and harvesting trees. Your days will be spent under their shade, keeping you cool during warm weather and moist on those rainy days.

For this career, you need at least a high school diploma. This will get you into most entry level jobs. For someone like a professor, you need at least a Master’s, but a doctorate is ideal. You would study questions of how best to manage a forest and how to revitalize them. You can work for a logging company or research forestry at a university.

The median salary for foresters is $50,000. The more degrees you have, the more you can expect to get paid. Professors make $84,000. If you stick to this field, you can make a lot with experience, up to $100,000.

Questions to Ask Yourself

There are a lot of careers here to choose from. It can be quite overwhelming, so it is important to consider some questions when weighing your options.

  1. Where do I want to work? Each of these jobs work outside, but the environments can vary. Some spend all their time outside, while others do a bit less. Your working environment has a great impact on the quality of your life. If all your days are sunshine, then it will affect you as a person. If all your days are rainy, then it will also affect you.
  2. Who would I like to work with? The people in each profession can vary quite a bit. Some can be quite nice, while others can be very blunt. It is important to like the people you work with because you will be spending most of your time with them. The social aspect of the job is just as important as how much you get paid.
  3. What excites me? One of the critical aspects of happiness is excitement. If you look forward to what you do, then what you get paid matters a lot less. If you find that you enjoy tending animals and appreciate the bond you form with them, then that is worthwhile. Or if you prefer something else, then go for that.
  4. What am I willing to give up? Restaurant workers, for example, usually do not get Fridays or Saturdays off, so, quite often, their friends party while they work. Some jobs are slower than others. Some require a 30 minute commute while others are only 5 minutes away. What you give up can vary quite a bit.
  5. Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? It helps to play the why game. It drills down to the heart of the matter. Play this with someone. You start with a simple statement like, “I want to be an environmentalist,” followed by the question of “why.” The idea is to tap into your unconscious to find the true reason. When you find that, then you have some direction to go off of.

Not every question that could be asked was listed here. Think of some of your own and write them down. Then leave for a bit and come back to them later.

Final Words

There are a lot of outdoor careers out there, so it can be a bit overwhelming. Whatever you choose though, you can always change it to something else. There is nothing to stop you but yourself.  When you decide on this path, you feel the sun’s rays on your face, fresh air in your lungs, and strength in your hands.

If you have any thoughts, questions, or think I missed anything, do not hesitate to comment below and please do share this article. Thank you so much for reading and I hope you make it a great day!



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10 Comments on “The 10 Best High Paying Outdoor Careers – a Dream Job Guide”

  1. Awesome post Alex! Very informative and well written. I’m sure my brother would be very interested in reading it so I’ll bookmark it!
    All the best,
    Diosa Ll

    1. It is good to know that you found this article helpful Diosa. I am sure your brother will enjoy it. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  2. Alex, what a great post. I have thought of some of these jobs but never realized how much each career pays and how exciting each job would be. I think if I could go back a few years I would be a Wilderness Guide or a Geologist. Those two careers look very exciting and would be adventurous. Giving us the complete criteria like any schooling needed is a great idea.

    1. I appreciate the compliment Allan. All these careers are quite exciting. A wilderness guide or a geologist are both excellent choices. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  3. Hi Alex,

    Some food for thought there. I’d love to work outside instead of a factory/office. During my time in Australia I did nothing but farm work for 2 years, sometimes made good money, sometimes not.

    I miss to be out in the sun all day, even the rain!

    64k ain’t too shabby is it!?

    1. Hey Anthony, I think a lot of people prefer to work outside. Working on a farm sounds quite interesting. It must get quite hot in Australia. You are right that the pay is not too bad, very good in fact. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  4. I’ve loved camping and being outdoors my entire life. Since I can remember, I’ve never thought of taking a career path in the outdoors. After reading this though, it may be something I should seriously consider looking into. Plus I already have many many years of hands on experience.

    1. It is good to know that you found this article helpful William. The outdoors is a wonderful place to spend your days. If you have plenty of experience already, then you have a wonderful foundation. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  5. Fascinating article. I used to be an assistant scoutmaster for the local troop when my son was in the scouts. We went to places like the boundary waters between the U.S. and Canada for a 10 day canoe trip. We also went for a 10 day hike in the Rocky Mountains.

    I love the outdoors. I did a lot of camping and hiking when I was much younger. I always considered a career in forestry but never got the chance. Life happened. I didn’t realize there was any demand for it in my area until recently. I look forward to retirement so I can be a volunteer at the Federal Game Reserve near where I live. Thanks for all the great information.

    1. It is good to hear that you enjoyed this article Don. It must have been a blast to be a scoutmaster. Both those trips sound quite fun. You do have to enjoy being outside to do all that. Many people forget that there is demand for outdoor work. Hopefully you can retire soon and volunteer at the Federal Game Reserve nearby to you.

      Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

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