A satisfying and well-paying job that takes you outside the typical office environment can be hard to find. If you want to spend time in nature and stay active throughout the day, it can be even harder. But if your passion lies with working in the great outdoors, it may be worth the challenge. Some professionals who burn out on the sedentary nine-to-five workday choose to trade in the constant fluorescent lighting for a new career that takes them out into the fresh air and sunlight, even if it means a pay cut. While the jobs that allow for the most outdoor time tend to be non-professional positions like landscapers, ski instructors, and construction workers, there are also people who find higher-paying careers that require a significant portion of time outside. Here are some jobs for lovers of the outdoors to consider.
1. Environmental scientist
The median pay for environmental scientists and specialists was $63,570 per year in 2012. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), environmental scientists work in offices and laboratories, but some also spend time in the field gathering data and monitoring environmental conditions firsthand. Using their knowledge of the natural sciences, environmental scientists are tasked with protecting both the environment and human health. To accomplish this, they often advise policy makers and industry to help reduce waste and control pollution.
For anthropologists and archaeologists, the median annual wage was $57,420 in May 2012. Job growth is faster than average, at an expected 19% growth rate from 2012 to 2022. Although some archaeologists work in an office or laboratory, others also do work in the field at historic and prehistoric sites. Archaeologists investigate and preserve fragile clues and relics of former cultures to help us to understand our links to the past. Extended travel for fieldwork in remote areas is also typical.
In 2012, the median salary for surveyors was $56,230 per year. Surveying involves some indoor work but also extensive field work. Surveyors must stand for long periods of time and walk far distances, sometimes in inclement weather. A surveyor’s main job is to make precise measurements to determine property boundaries and provide data regarding the shape and contour of the Earth’s surface for engineering, mapmaking, and construction projects.
The median annual wage for geographers was $74,760 in 2012, according to the BLS. Many geographers are engaged in fieldwork, including travel to foreign countries and remote areas. Geographers study both the earth’s physical features and its inhabitants, examining political or cultural structures as they relate to geography. About half of all geographers are employees of the federal government. Though there are a limited number of positions in the field, employment of geographers is projected to grow 29% from 2012 to 2022.
5. Landscape architect
Landscape architects earned a median wage of $64,180 per year in 2012. They spend a good amount of time in office, usually drafting plans, preparing models, doing research, and meeting with clients and workers. But another important part of the job is spent outdoors at job sites. These professionals design land areas for parks, recreational facilities, private homes, campuses, and other spaces, which means they can have opportunities to spend time in a variety of outdoor environments.
6. Wildland firefighter
Wildland firefighters, who earned an average salary of $48,270 in 2013, suppress fires occurring in grasslands, forests, and other natural environments. These courageous firefighters are also responsible for rescuing victims and providing emergency medical treatment. In addition, they perform fire prevention duties include trimming trees, removing brush, and performing controlled burns. While it comes with significant risk and danger, this noble profession does ensure time spent outdoors.
In May 2012, the median annual wage for foresters was $55,950. A forester identifies species of trees and determines how best to care for and maintain a forest, which involves duties such as cutting trees and managing wildlife. Along with conservation scientists, foresters must manage and protect the overall land quality of parks, forests, rangelands, and other natural resources. Similar outdoor occupations include park/forest rangers and naturalists.
8. Marine biologist
A marine biologist earned an average annual salary of $62,500 in 2012. Marine biologists study the genetics, diseases, behavior, and life processes of marine animals, such as whales, seals, dolphins, fish, and sharks. Some marine biologists work as aquarium assistants or college professors, but others do work as field researchers in natural marine environments. For many marine biologists, a large part of the job is studying the effects of human activity and environmental problems on various marine species. Other types of wildlife biologists typically spend a lot of their time outdoors in nature as well.
9. Wildlife rehabilitator
With a median annual wage of $19,690 for non-farm animal caretakers, most people seek jobs in animal care for passion rather than wealth. Wildlife rehabilitators have a specific responsibility to care for sick, abandoned, and injured animals to prepare them to be released back into the wild when appropriate. Many find the work rewarding in their spare time, so some positions are unpaid or volunteer-only. For wildlife rehabilitators employed by an organization, salary usually falls in the $25,000 to $35,000 range, and managers or directors can earn significantly higher salaries.
10. Organic farmer
According to the BLS, the median annual wage for farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers was $69,300 in 2012. But for owners and managers of small organics farms, earnings that high are rarely seen. Organic farmers, who spend their time outdoors caring for crops and gardens without the use of pesticides, typically earn a much lower salary. Many small-scale organic farms are failing or operating at a loss despite plenty of interested customers. As the demand for organic produce grows, hopefully policies and government subsidies will finally shift in support of healthy foods from sustainable farms.