Seasonal Guide to Working Outdoors in the U.S.

There are far fewer adventure stories set in the dull indoors compared to the great outdoors. Going out and experiencing the raw power of nature can lead to downright epic activities, as opposed to simply sitting around feeling so-so in an office or home.

Science continues to reveal new physical, mental, and emotional benefits to getting out and spending time in nature. Outdoor enthusiasts may also explain how nature does not always have to be sublimely awe-inspiring all the time, either; many memorable moments can happen on a peaceful fall hike, a lazy afternoon by the water, or on a snow-capped mountain, where the only sound is skis cutting through fresh powder.

Every season has an abundance of tranquil treasures awaiting seekers of activities in nature. In many cases, people pay good money for the privilege of enjoying the outdoors; for example, fishing enthusiasts who pay for a fishing license, bait, tackle, and a boat. But in some cases, there are opportunities to get outside, explore nature, and get paid for it.

Some of these positions are seasonal or even part-time by nature, so one should not expect to make a career out of them. Rather, one should expect to make enough money to pay bills all the while enjoying all the beauty nature has to offer. Continue reading for examples of some of the most interesting part-time, full-time, and seasonal outdoor occupations.

Winter Seasonal Work

While winter gets a bad reputation for below freezing temperatures, storms, and shorter days, this cold season offers several reliable job opportunities.

Become a Ski Resort Worker

Ski resorts typically need hundreds of workers during peak season. Since some winters can last from the first snowflakes in October to the final melt in April, ski resort workers can find seasonal positions for more than half a year. Often these jobs are low-paying but come with a season pass or many discounts, which can be appealing to those who love to shred for free on their days off or after work. Outdoor jobs vary, from directing cars into parking lots to running chairlifts. However, on-the-slope jobs can be particularly exciting, such as ski patrol.

Each mountain has its own standards, responsibilities, and compensation for ski patrollers. Some may require patrollers to provide lessons; others may be asked to patrol the mountain to help skiers and boarders with directions, pointers, or first-aid. Lower-level ski patrollers can be volunteers; however, many resorts offer stipends to help with training and medical equipment.

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes ski patrollers with other recreational protective service workers, such as lifeguards. Opportunities in the industry are expected to grow 8 percent nationwide in the decade preceding 2016, which is similar to the overall expected job growth average during that period (7 percent). The mean hourly wage is $11.33 an hour. Snow school instructors, who may not be part of the ski patrol, can make between $15 and $20 an hour.

Become a Plow Driver

Snowplow drivers are the ultimate heroes; without them, people are unable to get to work, school, or even a hospital in case of emergencies. During heavy snows, drivers often plow around the clock, focusing on priority locations first. Some municipalities find uses for their plows and drivers all year, such as hauling gravel and landscaping. Others bring in seasonal help rather than hire people on the payroll all year.

For instance, the University of Utah hires seasonal part- and full-time facilities and labor people to help with snowplowing. Shifts can be harsh: drivers are asked to be available on call between 4 a.m. and 11 p.m., and work in four- to eight-hour shifts. In return, they typically get paid between $9 and $11 an hour. Urban and suburban communities are not the only ones who appreciate plow drivers; there could be a need for them in rural areas as well.

This position can be ideal for someone looking forward to enjoying the outdoors in summer but needs a dependable and predictable job during the winter months. This type of job could grow in demand as storms become more frequent. Maine, in particular, is having difficulty finding snowplow drivers.

Become a Tour Guide

Winter travel has some advantages, mainly fewer crowds. Not everyone likes to travel to warm locations for vacation; some prefer cooler climates like the northern U.S., Canada, and Alaska, or even international destinations like northern Europe, Russia, and Iceland.

There is an entire sector of tourism especially for cold-weather activities, including jobs in Alaska. Some positions are in lodges or cruise ships, but some take place aboard motor coaches, where people can experience the scenery but stay warm. Tour guides help groups of tourists get to and from their destinations, and provide details about the state and climate.

Many large national parks like Yellowstone National Park remain open all year, although some roads and facilities are closed. Many go to enjoy the serenity, smaller crowds, and the wildlife. For this reason, there are a variety of concessionaires for food, lodging, and retail operations that need employees and volunteers. Many of these remote seasonal jobs receive free or reduced housing for those who want to live in the park.

There are also those who want to seek out warm winter destinations to visit or work, like Panamint Springs in Death Valley, which needs people to run the resort, or the Grand Canyon, where it is always warm. There is always a need for interpreters and drivers to shuttle guests around and tell them about the geology. Pay varies by company and area, but PinkJeepTours pays about $13.50 per hour.

Spring Seasonal Work

With the coldest months behind, spring is a great time for finding new outdoor positions that were closed during winter.

Become a River Guide

Depending on someone’s experience, interest, and location, this position can be appealing to someone in the spring, summer, or fall. Spring river flows are typically higher, riskier and colder, and are ideal for advanced guides and passengers. Summer and fall typically have lower water flow and may be more relaxing for novice floaters who may not appreciate the high thrills.

Obtaining a job depends on experience with a raft and a particular body of water. A newcomer may begin working on a calmer stretch, but veteran guides familiar with different conditions and river features throughout the season will be more valued. All river guides must be confident and be able to direct passengers. In some cases, guides will have to do more than point the craft: they can cook dinner, arrange packing and transportation, deal with emergencies, and handle permits if needed.

ROW Adventures in Idaho, for example, asks its guides to provide nature interpretation to guests, such as discussing water quality, area history, and geology. Candidates also may need a guide license from their particular state, as well as first-aid certification and training from the hiring organization.

Become a Fitness and Recreational Professional

Private or public sports resorts and golf clubs are always in need of employees to help guests enjoy themselves and keep the location clean and functioning. Seasonal help is appreciated throughout the year, and particularly in the spring when courses and clubs reopen.

Fitness professionals can teach classes, assist the professionals, and help the guests. They may get discounts for their own playing time, and if it is a remote resort, may receive room and board. For instance, Incline Village, which offers golf, tennis, and water recreation on Lake Tahoe, provides free or discounted rates for golf and tennis, plus food, and beverage discounts. The BLS (2018) notes that recreation workers make a median salary of $24,540 a year or $11.80 an hour.

Become a Plant Nursery Worker

While not quite at the level of the winter holiday season, many big-box home and garden retailers boost their hiring in spring, especially in the flower and garden department, where there is a need for people with experience with plants, fertilizers, gardening, and related tools and techniques. While the job does require working retail for a few months, it does allow employees to be closer to sunlight than the most people working indoors.

Many nurseries see an increase in demand for workers as they get their plants ready to be sold. Some of them sell directly to the public, some to retailers. However, there are often large quantities of plants that need to be maintained. There are plenty of tasks involved; however, those with experience in the commercial field or with a degree in botany are especially valued. Familiarity with irrigation systems is also useful.

The BLS reports that nurseries, gardens, and farm supply stores typically see high job growth between February and June, a trend that is expected to increase due to a higher interest in planting and gardening. Nursery (or agricultural) workers can be expected to make a median salary of $23,730 per year. A nursery manager or agricultural manager, which includes more responsibility, knowledge, and supervision over workers, can expect to make a median salary of $69,620 per year. A related industry is landscaping, which also sees more demand in the spring for residential and commercial clients.

Summer Seasonal Work

The pinnacle of outdoor activities, summer promises lots of time outside soaking up the sun and enjoying the long summer days while working.

Become a Lifeguard

Lifeguards might tell you that the job sometimes is more like Bore-watch than Baywatch because the job can consist of a lot of sitting and surveying the area. However, the position can quickly get intense in cases of emergencies. Municipalities and private water parks may require seasonal lifeguards for pools, rivers, lakes, and beaches. Sometimes it is a solitary role; sometimes guards are teamed up into pairs to keep each other alert and scan various areas. Lifeguards are asked to respond to emergencies both on land and in the water, so they must have strong swimming and first-aid skills.

Though some private water parks, country clubs, and aquatic centers may pay well and need help all year, the median national average wage, according to the BLS, is $10.24 an hour.

Taylor Geraghty, a former lifeguard, called it “the ultimate summer job” at The Tab because most of the time employees get paid to sit on the beach in a swimsuit and work on their tan. She also noted that she made great memories and strong friendships.

Become a Music Festival Worker

Getting paid to work at a music festival or outdoor music venue may not be as glamorous as being with the band; however, there are still many advantages. Music festival employees can help guests, assist with stage equipment, cook food, or check IDs, all the while listening to good live music and enjoying the great outdoors.

Some festivals and their sponsors may need people to be part of the organization and travel as it moves around the country or region. They may use the services of local venues for tickets, security, and food and beverage, or they may hire local employees and volunteers.

Positions can include brand ambassadors who tell people about sponsored products or services, employees who sell tickets, and even bartenders who pour drinks. Red Rocks, an outdoor venue in Denver, regularly needs spring and summer help with food service, janitorial, or facility help.

Become a Summer Camp Counselor

Summer camp can provide wonderful memories that last a lifetime. There are a variety of camp formats around the country, from day camps where kids play games, take field trips, and then go home, to overnight camps where campers sleep, play, and eat over the course of a few days to a few weeks. Some camps are affiliated with a church, charity, or youth organization, while others are private or independent.

Counselors are needed to supervise campers, as well as other non-childcare roles, from organizing and cooking meals, planning activities, and ensuring camp safety and camper health. First-aid certification is often encouraged or required. Other skills may be handy, such as expertise in different sports or activities, and actual counseling training to help kids with mental health or emotional health challenges.

Compensation can vary based on experience. There may be junior and senior levels of counselors, plus director and management positions, along with specialty positions like nurses or maintenance staff. A 2010 survey conducted by the American Camp Association indicated that full-time, year-round directors at private for-profit camps can make as much as $100,000 annually, but seasonal positions make, on average, $235 per week at residential camps, although room, board and uniform are provided. Seasonal day camp employees can make an average of $306 per week.

Fall Seasonal Work

Despite the shorter days and sweater weather, the fall can be one of the most beautiful seasons of the year, and a fun one for outdoor jobs.

Become a Hunting Guide

Some hunters have their favorite hunting spots, while other sportsmen and women may be interested in exploring new territories around the country. In these cases, they may request the services of a knowledgeable guide to assist them in finding their quarry. Guides and outfitters can show them where to go and offer other services, including arranging transportation, food, security, permitting, setting up camp, or helping to clean and store any fish or game that has been fished or hunted.

Seasonal workers can work at hunting lodges or as independent contractors. The BLS has outlined a fishing and hunting worker category, which includes professional hunters and those in the fishing industry who harvest animals for food or bait. Many of these positions may require a state license as well as thorough knowledge of a state’s fishing and hunting regulations, since some clients may be coming from other states. Compensation can vary depending on the state and services offered; however, reports that newer guides can make up to $1,500 a month, and veteran guides can make up to $2,500 a month.

Depending on the region and client interest, a guide can be active in the fall, which is the biggest hunting season for animals like elk or deer. Some seasons also take place in spring, winter, and summer.

Become a Fly Fishing Instructor

States known to have active fly fishing communities and opportunities like Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and Washington will tell you that the fishing is fine anywhere you can do so legally, but fall is when it gets exciting. In Montana, the most aggressive fish species show up between September and November. Unlike traditional fishing from a boat, fly fishing is usually recommended from the bank or in the middle of the stream—with the right gear, of course.

Fly fishing requires different tackle, bait, and even a casting style than traditional fishing, so someone with knowledge and familiarity with the local landscape can position themselves as an authority to teach inexperienced fly fishers.

They can be instructors who can work with an area school, private tutors, licensed guides, or outfitters. They could work out of lodges or local fishing shops. On average, guides can make between $75 and $100 a day, although someone in high demand in a popular area working for a well-known company can charge up to $400 a day.

Become a Farmhand

Because many farmers begin their harvest in the late summer and early fall, there is a constant need this time of year for people willing to put in extra effort to get all of the crops out of the ground. Some jobs are automated so a farmhand may be asked to drive a harvester or support those who are driving the harvester with other equipment or maintenance. They can also help with other needs. At a farm or ranch, farmhands may be involved in corralling or transporting livestock.

Working conditions can be long, difficult, and tiring for those not used to manual labor. There is always pressure to get everything out of the ground and winterized before winter moves in. Unless there is a personal relationship, farmers may not necessarily hire entry-level farmhands, preferring people with experience or familiarity. The median range is about $11 an hour, according to the BLS, although some profit-sharing could be available if a farmer hires the same seasonal team members in future seasons.

Joe Butler
Joe Butler

Joe Butler is an accomplished writer and editor in the Northwest with more than 20 years of experience publishing in newspapers, magazines, and specialty websites. He graduated from Central Washington University with a degree in mass communications and has worked with a variety of clients nationwide. Joe lives near Spokane, WA, where he writes, reads, and collects spoons as well as the cheapest, plastic snow-globes he can find.

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