If you love the great outdoors, there are many lucrative careers that will allow you to spend your days surrounded by nature. Some of these rewarding professions include park ranger, wildlife biologist and environmental engineer. With a nature-focused career, you’ll have the opportunity not only to work in breathtaking environments but also to make a positive impact on the world.
There are various degree paths available to help you land your dream career as an outdoorsman. These academic disciplines will prepare you for a wide range of outdoor work and help you channel your passion for nature into a career you love. This article explores the top 10 degrees that can lead you to a rewarding career in the great outdoors:
- Wildlife Science
- Park Administration
- Construction Management
- Natural Resource Management
- Environmental Engineering
- Landscape Architecture
- Marine Biology
Read on to learn how you can parlay each of these degrees into a career that keeps you outside, doing what you love.
1. Wildlife Science
If you want a career working outside and also love animals, a degree in wildlife science can be a great choice for you. In this program, you’ll learn about wildlife, their habitats and how to manage them. You will take classes in biology, ecology, genetics, zoology, conservation and management. This foundation of knowledge will prepare you to work in a variety of careers related to wildlife.
Some of the careers you can pursue with a degree in wildlife science include wildlife biologist, conservation officer, natural resource manager, information and education specialist and research scientist. You might also choose to go into teaching or education administration in fields such as biology, zoology or ecology. You can work for state and federal agencies, private firms or non-profit organizations. You can also work in fields such as environmental consulting, wildlife rehabilitation and outdoor recreation.
As a student in a wildlife science degree program, you’ll receive training that can prepare you for a variety of situations you may encounter on the job. For example, you will learn about wildlife management and habitat protection, which can help you understand the behavior and needs of different species. You might also take courses in fields as varied as mammalogy, ornithology or herpetology, which can help you specialize in a particular area of wildlife biology. You’ll learn about conservation, which can help you develop strategies to protect and preserve wildlife habitats. These knowledge bases will make you marketable in a variety of wildlife-related careers.
2. Park Administration
A degree in park administration can prepare you for a variety of careers in the field of parks, tourism and recreation management. The training provided in this degree program can help you develop the skills and knowledge necessary to work as a park ranger, tourism director, public lands manager, project engineer or facility supervisor. Many park administration degree programs offer internships and real-world experiential learning so that you’re prepared to be effective on the job from day one.
Graduates of park administration degree programs pursue careers helping to sustain public lands and maintain and improve our park system. They get jobs with agencies such as the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management. There are also plenty of jobs available with private businesses and in the nonprofit sector. You can work at a nature resort, a camp or a convention bureau, just to name a few.
Some specific careers that you can pursue with a degree in park administration include park ranger, facility supervisor and recreation coordinator. You can also work in conservation law, park management, adventure tour guiding and community recreation.
A degree in geology can prepare you for a career in the energy, environmental and engineering sectors. A few paths you can pursue with a geology degree that might be appealing as an outdoorsman include environmental consultant, geoscientist, hydrographic surveyor, paleontologist and wellsite geologist. You can also work in outdoor fields such as exploration and production, water supply, environmental engineering and geological surveying.
Geology is also an excellent degree to pursue if you’re concerned about job security in the face of outsourcing, downsizing and AI encroachment. Jobs in the field are projected to grow by more than a third in the next decade, nearly triple the expected increase in jobs across all fields over the same period of time. You can make solid money with this degree, as well. Geoscientists average more than $90,000 in annual income, and that number is climbing every year.
A geology degree program will give you not only an abundance of useful classroom instruction but also real-world preprofessional training that prepares you to go to work in the field right out of college. It isn’t uncommon in the springtime to see recruiters swarming the campuses of schools with strong geology programs, eager to snap up talented new graduates and place them in high-paying careers with lots of advancement potential.
4. Construction Management
A construction management degree can open up various career paths that allow you to work in outdoor settings using the skills and knowledge you gain from your degree program. Some specific careers in this field include field engineer, construction superintendent and sustainability consultant.
A field engineer is responsible for managing construction projects. They make sure everything runs smoothly and safely. It’s a hands-on career in which you spend a lot of time at the construction site rather than behind a desk. You supervise the workers, oversee the technical aspects and make sure the parameters of the build are being followed.
A construction superintendent oversees everything that happens on a construction site, from the conception of a project all the way through its completion. They supervise everything that happens on the site, placing special focus on ensuring all safety regulations are followed. This role typically requires a combination of education and experience, but strong performance in a construction management degree program can potentially fast-track you into the job.
A sustainability consultant looks for ways to reduce the environmental impact of construction projects. They also do most of their work on-site, often collaborating the build team to implement sustainable practices. A construction management degree program can give you the skills to pursue this career and can help set you up with internships and shadowing opportunities in the field.
In a construction management degree program, you get the knowledge and skills to pursue an array of careers in the construction industry that unchain you from a desk and let you work outside.
A degree in meteorology can open the door to a range of career opportunities that are perfectly suited to an avid outdoorsman. Meteorology, the study of the atmosphere and weather, offers a diverse array of career paths that can take you from the field to the lab and even put you in front of the camera (think about your favorite TV weatherperson!).
A meteorology degree program equips you with a strong foundation in mathematics, physics, computer science and chemistry, all of which are essential for understanding the complex processes that govern the Earth’s atmosphere. You’ll learn how to use advanced technologies, software and databases to analyze weather data, create forecasts and study long-term climate trends. But that doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck in front of a computer. Much of your research and analysis will involve fieldwork that takes you out of the office and gets you up close and personal with nature.
If you choose a hands-on degree program that stresses experiential learning, you might find yourself as part of your required coursework conducting field research, collecting air samples or even chasing storms to better understand the atmosphere and its effects on the environment. This hands-on experience can help move you to the front of the line when looking for a place to start your career.
Meteorology graduates can find employment in various sectors, including government agencies, the military, private companies, and universities. A few specific jobs that could be available to you include atmospheric scientist, climatologist and environmental consultant. Your day-to-day work life might consist of monitoring weather conditions, developing forecasts and advising on the potential impacts of weather events on industries such as agriculture, construction and transportation.
Another excellent degree field to consider if you love both animals and the outdoors is zoology. It is a branch of biology that focuses on the study of animals and their behavior, anatomy and conservation. With a degree in zoology, you’ll be qualified for a range of careers in wildlife biology, such as a zoologist, wildlife biologist, park ranger or conservation scientist. Your degree will give you practical skills in field research and lab work, as well as a deep understanding of biology, ecosystems and animal science.
Zoology graduates work in research laboratories, academic institutions and, very frequently, out in the field. You can study animals in captivity or in their natural environment, monitoring their behavior and adaptation. You can also work as a park ranger, educating visitors about wildlife and enforcing park regulations. Your degree can also prepare you for a career as a conservation scientist, working to protect and preserve wildlife and their habitats.
Zoologists also get frequent chances to travel the world and explore diverse landscapes and climates as they study the habitats, behaviors, and mating and migration patterns of various animal species.
7. Natural Resource Management
Natural resource management is another popular major for students who love the outdoors, love nature and want to make a career out of protecting it. You’ll how to manage natural resources such as forests, water and wildlife. Your degree will prepare you and make you marketable for an array of outdoorsy careers.
One career option you can pursue with a natural resource management degree is to become a forester. Foresters manage forests and make sure they are healthy and sustainable. They also work to prevent and fight forest fires. Another career option is a wildlife biologist. They study animals and their habitats, and they work to protect endangered species and manage wildlife populations.
If you’re interested in forest fires, how they start and how to protect and mitigate against them, you could pursue becoming a fire ecologist. If you’re interested in water, you could become a fisheries manager, working to protect and manage fish populations in lakes, rivers and oceans.
These are just a few of the career options available with a degree in natural resource management. Others include becoming a GIS technician, an environmental technician or a soil technician. You could also become an extension agent, a recreation manager or a water resource specialist.
Your degree will provide you with skills such as data analysis, problem-solving and communication that are critical in any industry, outdoors or indoors. You’ll also learn about environmental laws and regulations, and during your course of study, you’ll likely spend as much or more time outside of a classroom as you’ll spend in one.
8. Environmental Engineering
A degree in environmental engineering can lead to career opportunities that involve working outdoors and protecting the environment. One of the most popular environmental engineering careers is that of a conservation scientist. They work to manage and protect natural resources, such as forests, parks and rangelands. They collaborate with private landowners, as well as government bodies at all levels, from local to federal, to find ways to use and improve the land while safeguarding the environment.
Environmental engineering degree programs equip students with the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in careers like conservation science. These programs typically cover subjects such as biology, chemistry, physics, and environmental science. You’ll also learn useful skills such as project management, communication, and problem-solving.
Whether you become a conservation scientist or use your environmental engineering degree to pursue another career, you’ll likely be spending most of your time at work outdoors. Rather than sitting behind a desk and tapping away at a keyboard, you’ll be out in the field, gathering data and monitoring the regeneration of forests.
In addition to conservation science, there are other careers in the environmental engineering field that involve working outdoors. These careers might involve critical tasks such as mitigating hazardous waste or designing sustainable buildings.
9. Landscape Architecture
Pursuing a degree in landscape architecture allows you not only to get paid to enjoy the outdoors but to actually take part in creating beautiful and functional outdoor spaces. Because the field combines art and science, you can use the creativity you learn in your degree program to work with the environment.
In a landscape architecture degree program, you’ll learn about various aspects of the field, including urban planning, garden design, environmental restoration, and park management and maintenance. With this diverse expanse of knowledge, you’ll be prepared for a variety of careers in the field.
As an outdoorsman, a landscape architecture degree gives you the opportunity to work in natural settings. You may find yourself designing parks, trails, and recreational areas, or working on projects that involve preserving historic elements and conserving wildlife. If you have a passion for design and planning along with your love for the outdoors, landscape architecture lets you combine the two and get paid well for it.
As for specific jobs you can pursue with your degree, a few examples include working as a landscape designer, urban planner, environmental consultant or even starting your own landscape architecture firm. You may also find opportunities to work with government agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service, where you can contribute to the management of public lands and the development of recreational areas.
10. Marine Biology
If your passion for the outdoors includes a love for the ocean and its inhabitants, a degree in marine biology might be the perfect fit for you. This field offers a unique opportunity to explore the underwater world, study diverse marine ecosystems and contribute to the preservation of our oceans.
Marine biology degree programs provide comprehensive training in various aspects of marine life, from oceanography and marine vegetation to marine invertebrates and vertebrates, as well as marine ecology. Many programs are located near oceans, offering students the opportunity to conduct fieldwork under the supervision of experienced marine biologists.
This experience is invaluable for launching a career in the field, as a significant aspect of marine biology involves exploring remote corners of the underwater world and gathering data on marine life. You may find yourself diving beneath the surface, surveying oyster populations, or monitoring invasive species. You’ll also likely get the chance to travel to amazing locations and receive college credit for it.
Specific careers available to marine biology grads include marine research technician, marine conservation coordinator, wildlife biologist, environmental consultant and a host of others. These positions often involve working in diverse environments, from laboratories and universities to field sites and government agencies.
If your passion is the outdoors and you love spending time in nature, there are many career opportunities that allow you to get paid for exploring your passion. The key is to figure out what you love most about the outdoors and find the right degree program that lets you make a career out of it. There are many professions that allow you to work outside and pay well, and we covered many of them above in our breakdown of the 10 best degree programs for outdoorsmen. These jobs keep you fit and in a healthy, happy, clear state of mind. They let you do what you love every day while giving back to mother earth and getting paid. No matter what your skills and interests are, there’s an outdoor job out there for you.