Outdoor professions

Consider the requirements and your interests when pursuing outdoor work

By Tony Kinton

Outdoor professions
A wildlife biologist collects data on a swan nest.

Working outdoors can be highly fulfilling, but landing an outdoor position can be complicated and competitive. It's important to focus on your priorities when seeking such positions.

You'll want to consider exactly what job you are seeking and what its outlook is for future employment. Also, find out what level of education (high school, community college, university, graduate work) is required. What is the job description and does it fit your interests and skills?

Some outdoor positions have been standards for many years, such as wildlife or fisheries biology. So are jobs such as park rangers and wildlife enforcement officers. Most who opt for these jobs will be employed by state or federal agencies and find that some of the jobs demand work in an office or lab as well as in the field.

Wildlife biologists may find employment with private entities. For example, a ranch or collection of ranches may have one or more biologists who keep records and make recommendations regarding what wildlife and how much of that wildlife can be carried on a given tract of land.

Biologists may also find work with non-profits that specialize in a specific category of wildlife or fish, including waterfowl, wild turkeys, mule and whitetail deer, wild sheep, pheasants, quail and trout.

Park rangers, generally under federal employment, will probably be affiliated with some National Park. Duties are varied. Wildlife enforcement officers will often work for a state agency and, like rangers, will find their work broad in scope.

What can individuals seeking employment in these fields expect? Stiff competition and (usually) moderate pay. Education requirements can range from basic college work — or less — to advanced degrees. There is also likely to be some law enforcement training involved. The work will probably be anything but 8 to 5, and some positions require that you be ready for duty at any time.

Working in these positions is not the only option. Environmental issues and advocacy offer job potential. Entrepreneurial types can consider establishing a guiding or outfitting service. These can range from hunting and fishing to rafting, trail rides and hiking tours. Opening a camp geared for recreational pursuits is another possibility. Note that these are all "people" jobs. If you are not predisposed to dealing with personality issues you should be careful about choosing such work.

As a tour guide or camp owner, a solid interest in finances and running a business is highly beneficial. These owners can also face ups and downs in income since recreational services are discretionary pursuits, often seasonal, and subject to the general economy.

Outdoor photography and/or outdoor journalism are also possibilities. Expect moderate pay and extremes in supply and demand in these fields. Hands on is the best training, but some formal education in camera and photography technology is good for the photographer, as is a degree in English or journalism for the writer. Some time will be spent in an office producing and marketing the finished product.

Then there are those outside jobs that in no way relate to wildlife and similar subjects. Construction, in its varied forms is worth consideration, as is working for utilities. These jobs are more likely to offer higher financial awards. Plant nursery jobs and professional landscaping are more options.

Expect to train for jobs and to update your training. Match your job hunt to your interests and aptitudes for the best chance at a satisfying job and career.

About the Author

Tony Kinton has been an outdoor writer for more than 30 years and has authored five books. He is based in rural Mississippi.
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