A major where white-water rafting, kayaking and rock climbing, spending time outside and enjoying nature are actually for-credit courses? Outdoor careers include forestry technician, game warden, nature photographer, park ranger, fishing guide, horticulturist, SCUBA instructor, rafting guide and more. Or you could consider manufacturing or selling recreation equipment, starting an equipment rental service or maintaining national parks or private camps.
Here are some outdoor careers.
Best Outdoor Careers
Leslie Prieto went to Utah to work in wilderness therapy. About two weeks after she got there, she sprained her ankle. Rule one of outdoor careers: Prepare for the unexpected.
Prieto has worked as a SCUBA and backpacking guide in Belize and a kayak and canoe trip guide. Now she works in wilderness therapy with at-risk youth. “These are kids who have done lying, stealing—socially deviant behaviours. Your job is to process with the kids and to break the chain of bad decision making that got them there in the first place,” she says. “You do a lot of processing and having them learn the appreciation of socializing with others.”
Though Prieto works with youth, there are wilderness therapy programs for all sorts of groups, from religious camps to the elderly.
And though it might seem like a career field where only experience is needed, Prieto says having a bachelor’s degree in outdoor education definitely helped. “It means you jumped through all the hoops,” she says.
Graham Gordon is a fishery officer in Canada’s central and Arctic region. Fishery officers there focus on enacting the part of the Fisheries Act that forbids work that disrupts or destroys fish habitats and that forbids putting anything harmful to fish in the water. “We work with the public to restore habitats that have been altered, disrupted or destroyed,” Gordon says. “On occasion when the situation warrants it, we investigate and prosecute individuals or companies.”
Gordon studied forestry at college, then applied in an open competition to become a fishery officer because the job seemed interesting. “As a fishery officer, you spend as much time out in the field as possible,” Gordon says. In the winter, you’ll find officers patrolling areas of high concern on snowmobiles and at court hearings.
“The ability to get out into the field and do patrols keeps outdoor jobs interesting because every individual you meet is unique,” Gordon says. “The most challenging part of outdoor jobs like mine is trying to adapt to each individual violator to ensure an effective and timely resolution to problems.”
“As a general forestry consultant, my work varies considerably from day to day,” says Astrid Nielsen, a forestry consultant for Dendron Resource Surveys Inc. “For example, currently I have a contract to prepare a forest management plan for a woodlot that will soon become a public park. For a typical day, I will go out in the field for a few hours and take an inventory of the forest.”
Nielsen could also spend the day preparing proposals for potential projects, researching proposals and working with potential employees or partners.
Being a forestry consultant is among the best outdoor careers. It means Nielsen needs to be well-informed about changes in the field. “The best part about my job is the flexibility,” Nielsen says. “As a consultant, you never really know what’s around the corner, and as a result, you rarely get bored.”
The job of a forestry technician could include arboriculture, forest fire fighting, working in parks or nurseries for the forest industry, woodlot associations, as a conservation officer and more.
To succeed as a forestry technician, plan on getting a diploma in the field and certifications in areas such as tree marking, fire fighting or using a chainsaw or ATV.
On average, 80 percent or more of a new forestry technician’s job is spent outside. Managers and supervisors in the field spend less time outside. Frank Knaapen, coordinator of the forestry technician program at Algonquin College, enjoys communing with nature in outdoor jobs, and knowing that you have an important, active role in conserving nature to the best of your abilities.
Bill Dalton’s family spent every summer weekend and vacations in the provincial parks. So when it was time to pick something to study in university, something in forestry sounded like a good match.
Now, as a senior biologist/forest ecologist in the head office of the Ministry of Natural Resources, Dalton reports to legislature and the public on how well the Ministry is delivering on its mission. He also works to encourage understanding of forest sustainability and policy.
“There is a real need to have students with vision enrol in forestry programs to carry their idealism into the workplace,” Dalton says. “Taking appropriate summer positions is critical to developing a career.”
Check out these other best outdoor careers!
• Forest management planner
• Policy and forestry law professional
• Forest inventory manager
• Wildlife technician
• Insect surveyor
• Forest fire specialist
• GIS programmer
• Timber supply analyst
• Forestry engineer
• Nature interpreter
• Silviculture technician (tree planting supervisor)
To discover other outdoor jobs, visit NextStepU.com/Career