The number of amazing jobs and careers available working both in the outdoors and on behalf of the outdoors is staggering. But with such a bounty of options, which one is right for you?

We pulled together a list of twelve dream outdoor recreation and conservation careers to serve as inspiration while you carve out your own pathway. This list isn’t exhaustive by any means – hopefully it, and the resources mentioned at the end, act as a launch pad for further exploration.

Before digging into the options below, it’s wise to consider a few questions. Keep your answers on hand while reviewing potential jobs:

  1. What is your experience and educational background? Some jobs and careers may require specific education or training, while others might have more flexible requirements that look at your overall experience.
  2. What is your passion? See if you can pinpoint the things that really excite you about working outdoors. Is it the opportunity to engage in science? The idea of working with children and youth? The drive to protect the environment?
  3. What occupational fields do you find interesting? Similar to the question above, this can help you narrow in on whether you want to work in natural resource protection, education, youth development, or some other facet of the outdoor sector.
  4. What kind of working environment do you desire? Some people prefer being outside all day, while others are content to work in a lab or at a desk. Know what’s truly important to you (benefits, a certain income level, location) and keep this in mind while searching.
  5. Are you interested in a government career or would you rather work for the private sector? This is a bit self-explanatory, but we’ll break it down further below.

Now, let’s look at some dream outdoor careers!

photo by Lucas Vasques


For anyone who grew up idolizing Smokey Bear, it’s easy to dream about donning a ranger uniform to work for the National Park Service. While this coveted career might seem difficult to land, the great news is that there are a lot of other outdoor-related gigs available at all levels of government.

  • Local or State Park Ranger: Rangers don’t just operate across the National Park Service – they’re a necessary part of every park system across the country, from municipal to state-run. Rangers also have different specialties, from law enforcement to education – explore all options to see which is the best fit for you.
  • Forestry Technician: Much like rangers, forestry technicians handle a range of duties. Some are public-facing, interacting with forest visitors and patrolling campgrounds, while others deal with forest science, logging, and trail maintenance.
  • Wildlife or Fisheries Biologist: If you enjoy animals and science, this can be a great path to pursue. As with the two careers listed above, the duties and roles vary from biologist to biologist – some spend the majority of their time in the field, some sit at a desk, and some are active in the lab, but they’re all rooted in biology and environmental science.

To explore further options, visit TYO’s Guide to Federal and Regional Government Outdoor Fields of Occupation.


Outdoor and environmental education is a surprisingly varied field, from seasonal summer camp gigs to year-round program director jobs.

  • Naturalist: A naturalist is a specific type of environmental educator who is well-versed in natural science, usually specific to the area where they practice. Most naturalists interact frequently with the public to serve as educator and interpreter, leading talks, guiding hikes, or presenting various other programs.
  • Camp Director: While many people associate “camp” with “summer,” many facilities are year-round operations that host various user groups outside of the usual summer camp season. A Camp Director is the person who oversees all programming, staff, and camp facilities.
  • Challenge Course Facilitator: High ropes and challenge courses are popular installations at camps, parks, and retreat centers. Facilitators are trained in course management and safety, while also leading team-building exercises and other activities for course participants.

To explore further options, visit TYO’s Guide to Nonprofit and Educational Outdoor Career Opportunities.

photo by Tegan Mierle


Non-profit organizations cover a gamut of services, from education to advocacy, recreation to environmental justice.

  • Program Manager: There are many important roles in any non-profit organization, but the program manager is certainly one of the key players. This person oversees multiple aspects of a program, which can include anything from curriculum implementation to marketing, enrollment, and staffing.
  • Development Specialist: A development or fundraising specialist is another important player in keeping a non-profit running smoothly. This person is in charge of funding, from seeking and maintaining relationships with donors to applying for grants.
  • Marketing / Communications Manager: A communications or marketing manager is responsible for getting word out about the non-profit organization and its programs. This includes communicating with both internal and external stakeholders, program participants, and community partners.

To explore further options, visit TYO’s Guide to Nonprofit and Educational Outdoor Career Opportunities.


The for-profit world is just as varied as the rest of the outdoor industry. From retail and guiding gigs to tech and science jobs, there is a lot here to explore.

  • Commercial Guide: While some guiding gigs are seasonal, some companies offer year-round employment. Fields range from climbing and alpine expeditions to rafting and cycling day trips.
  • Environmental Lawyer: Environmental law is an incredibly important field that covers everything from regulatory compliance to environmental justice. To be clear, lawyers are employed not just in the for-profit sector, but across all sectors, from city government to non-profits of all sizes.
  • Environmental Planner: Environmental planning is a form of urban and other land planning that factors in conservation and sustainability. These folks look at environmental (and legal) impacts of various forms of development, from housing subdivisions to shopping malls.

To explore further options, visit TYO’s Guide to For Profit Sector Outdoor Career Opportunities.


We’ve put together an entire suite of resources to help you drill down and search for the conservation career of your dreams. Visit TYO’s Outdoor Recreation and Conservation Careers Toolkit Path to get started. From there, start with the Introduction and Overview to Outdoor Recreation and Conservation Careers, which will lay the groundwork for the rest of your explorations.


top photo by Ian Schneider