When you think of a professional career, what comes to mind? Perhaps it’s working as a doctor in a hospital, a business professional in an office. These are good choices, but fortunately, not all successful careers require staying inside. A great many professions require working outdoors—many of which provide good salaries, growth opportunities, and excellent job security. Here are a few you might consider if outdoor work sounds more interesting to you.
As the name suggests, forests keep our forests healthy. They make sure our forests are providing healthy habitats for wildlife, oversee conservation work, and make sure trees can regrow properly. Many work for local, state, or federal governments, and spend a lot of time out in the field measuring tree densities and taking samples. They conduct their field work across all seasons and in many kinds of weather conditions, so if you like being out in the elements, this might be a good career to look into. Most foresters have a bachelor’s in forestry, agriculture, or some area of the natural sciences. They study ecology, biology, remote sensing, and geographic information system (GIS) technology. (Want to find out if environmental work is a good fit for you? Try our Introduction to Environmental Science course.) Their median salary is $63,000.
If you like working with animals in their natural environment, being a wildlife biologist might be for you. These scientists study wildlife: their overall health, their population sizes, and their impact on the environment. Many of them research how one species interacts with another, how their numbers change over time, and make projections about future trends. There’s often no better way of gathering data than directly from the animals they’re studying, so many wildlife biologists spend a lot of time outdoors to conduct their research. Depending on the scope of their studies, this might take them into forests, snowy mountain regions, or across deserts. Most of these professionals have a bachelor’s in zoology, wildlife biology or natural resources. As they progress in their career, many obtain a master’s or PhD. Most make over $63,000 and work for state or federal government agencies, making wildlife biology a stable career choice. (You can start with a solid foundation in the basics of biology with our Introduction to Biology course.)
This career is ideal if you’re fascinated by the physical sciences but want to work outdoors. Geoscientists study the physical properties of the earth, but it’s a broad career path with a wide range of opportunities. For example, geochemists study the minerals that interact with our groundwater while seismologists focus on earthquakes and tsunamis. Getting samples, setting up sensors and placing recording equipment in the field can take them into all kinds of environments. The median salary for a geoscientist is $83,000, and most start by obtaining a degree in the physical sciences. (Our General Physics I course is a great way to get started in this degree.) Many move on to obtain a master’s in mineralogy, petrology, or focus on lab work.
Atmospheric scientists love studying the environment, but focus on what’s above us—they’re the experts on weather patterns and changes in the climate. They keep a close eye on weather conditions, use computer modeling to make forecasts, and issue warnings when extreme weather threatens wildlife habitats or local communities. Some focus on computer modeling, while many atmospheric scientists get their data directly from by gathering samples or working with sensing equipment. Most have a bachelor’s degree in meteorology or environmental science, and often pursue a master’s or a PhD to advance in their career. The median pay for an atmospheric scientist is $94,000, and their job growth is expected to grow by 8 percent by 2030.
Hydrologists are water experts: how it moves and behaves in the environment, and how it changes over time. They might study groundwater, or focus instead on rivers, lakes, and oceans. Their research is often used to inform public policy decisions that protect our sources of drinking water. Hydrologists start their career by obtaining a bachelor’s degree, but as they specialize, many obtain a master’s degree. Most hydrologists earn more than $80,000 a year. If you love science and like the idea of spending time by the water, this might be an ideal career.
Not all outdoors jobs require work in remote locations. Civil engineers are in high demand, and you’ll find them behind some of the largest building projects in the country. Civil engineers design and supervise infrastructure projects—everything from tunnels and roads to bridges and water treatment sites. To ensure that building projects are getting completed on-schedule and according to safety standards, many spend a great deal of time on their job sites. The median pay for a civil engineer is $88,000, and require a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, construction, or mathematics. Because there’s a constant demand for infrastructure and improvement projects, this career might be ideal for those who love engineering and hands-on work.
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Interested in a profession that takes you outside on a regular basis? Many "outdoor" careers, including those in engineering, biology, environmental studies, and forestry, require a focus on science. See if this path is for you by taking some of your math and science prerequisites online.