What Are the Top-Paying Careers for Nature-Lovers in 2022-2023?
\What Are the Top-Paying Careers for Nature-Lovers in 2022-2023?
Nature enthusiasts say that even a bad day outdoors is better than a good day indoors. Perhaps it’s an angler sitting and freezing in a boat all day when the rain doesn’t stop and the fish don’t bite. It could be a timber worker who spends a long, tiring day felling trees, or even National Park employees who have to clean up after messy visitors. Even when conditions aren’t ideal, some people simply prefer an occupation or lifestyle allowing them to avoid four walls and a ceiling.
What’s especially treasured is the freedom that being in nature represents. Some outdoor recreation fans will gladly spend summers as river guides and winters as ski instructors, even if they have to earn serious dough in between to make these dream jobs happen. Writers and philosophers wax poetic about the magic and majesty of nature, and being able to work outside is a worthy goal for several reasons.
Being outdoors isn’t just good for the spirit and soul: it can boost your physical health. Recent research shows that people who don’t get up and move regularly are more likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes, weight problems, and certain cancers and diseases, as well as being more prone to depression and anxiety. Less active seniors are also more at risk for falling or other injuries.
In comparison, getting outside regularly can have all sorts of benefits. While moving, exploring, and sensing one’s environment outdoors, people can enjoy the rush of endorphins, take in some vitamin D, and reap the benefits of other neurophysiological changes that can improve one’s overall disposition and outlook, as well as stimulate the healing of injuries.
A recent National Geographic article goes even further to suggest that not only is getting outdoors a good thing but being in nature is required to be happy. It featured author Florence Williams, who theorized that our brains physically need the connections outdoor spaces provide. This process not only feels good but helps remove internal contaminations from too much time indoors.
While most lucrative careers require workers to be office- or cubicle-bound, there’s a growing number of well-paying careers for outdoors enthusiasts. Read on to learn about the highest-paying careers for nature-lovers in 2022.
2022-2023 Most Lucrative Careers Outdoors
Please note that the following information is based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2021) and the Occupational Outlook Handbook (2022). The occupations are arranged by the highest average annual salary.
Architectural & Engineering Managers
A leadership role is often required to coordinate the activities of a research team in the fields of architecture and engineering management. These positions combine strong architectural/design skills with the ability to keep people on task, making sure they’re focusing on the correct objectives and locations.
In addition to being the point person on location, he or she also is responsible for planning and executing the trip, including allocating appropriate personnel and equipment. The duties also require analyzing gathered data and compiling conclusions once the expedition is complete.
- Architectural & Engineering Managers (187,100 employed in the U.S.): $76.43/hour, $158,970/annually on average (BLS May 2021)
- 10th percentile: $99,350
- 25th percentile: $125,470
- 50th percentile (median): $152,350
- 75th percentile: $190,420
- 90th percentile: $208,000
- Top-paying industries: Pipeline transportation of crude oil; computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing; oil and gas extraction; spectator sports; and data processing, hosting, and related services
- Top-paying states: California, New Mexico, Colorado, New Jersey, and Texas
- Career outlook: 3 percent increase in positions between 2021 and 2031 (3,300 jobs added)
- Requirements: Bachelor’s degree in engineering, but most firms also prize a master’s degree in architecture and professional experience in the field
As long as our economy relies on extracting materials from the earth, we’ll need people to figure out where to dig. Geoscientists study the planet’s surface and interior to learn about its features and recommend where to find valuable products like oil, gas, and minerals.
Though extraction companies always need assistance with research and recommendations of where to look, career options also include working with public agencies and private companies that study the earth for other features, everything from measuring geologic events to seismic activity within the earth and below the oceans. The amount of time outside varies, but fieldwork is often necessary, even if it’s in remote places.
- Geoscientists (23,620 employed in the U.S.): $49.78/hour, $103,550/annually on average (BLS May 2021)
- 10th percentile: $48,880
- 25th percentile: $62,540
- 50th percentile (median): $83,680
- 75th percentile: $128,920
- 90th percentile: $172,490
- Top-paying industries: Management of companies and enterprises; oil and gas extraction; pipeline transportation of natural gas; computer systems design and related services; and federal executive branch (OEWS designation)
- Top-paying states: Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Massachusetts, and California
- Career outlook: 5 percent increase in positions between 2021 and 2031 (1,200 jobs added)
- Requirements: Bachelor’s degree in earth/environmental sciences, master’s degree encouraged
While environmental scientists (profiled below) are charged with investigating possible hazards in a community, environmental engineers do something about them. These professionals work with private companies or municipalities to design systems or processes to prevent environmental hazards, or develop plans to reduce or remove ones that have already occurred. This can include site remediation, pollution control or waste treatment, or working with local, state, and national regulators on a clean-up.
Environmental engineers should be prepared for any working conditions, from offices and labs to natural job sites. For an outdoors fan, it can be enjoyable to figure out ways to mitigate environmental damage or keep it from happening.
- Environmental Engineers (42,660 employed in the U.S.): $48.18/hourly, $100,220/annually on average (BLS May 2021)
- 10th percentile: $59,820
- 25th percentile: $74,850
- 50th percentile (median): $96,820
- 75th percentile: $126,190
- 90th percentile: $153,200
- Top-paying industries: Oil and gas extraction; petroleum and coal products manufacturing; computer systems design and related services; scientific research and development services; and management of companies and enterprises
- Top-paying states: Texas, California, Idaho, Tennessee, and Connecticut
- Career outlook: 4 percent increase in positions between 2021 and 2031 (1,800 jobs added)
- Requirements: Bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering, or a related engineering field such as chemical, civil, or general engineering
Marine Engineers & Naval Architects
Boat-building is as much of a skill as an art, and this position requires precise craftsmanship to create something seaworthy, plus a touch of style to make it memorable. Positions can be found with private companies or military/military contractors.
This career path requires a focus on quality that looks at the overall aesthetics and design of a vessel along with its internal structure, including propulsion, power, stability, and related components. The profession can also go beyond basic drafting of plans in an office to actually testing it out at sea, lake, or other waterways.
- Marine Engineers & Naval Architects (7,380 employed in the U.S.): $47.03/hourly, $97,820/annually on average (BLS May 2021)
- 10th percentile: $56,550
- 25th percentile: $76,600
- 50th percentile (median): $93,370
- 75th percentile: $118,610
- 90th percentile: $151,880
- Top-paying industries: Management of companies and enterprises; computer systems design and related services; scientific research and development services; federal executive branch (OEWS designation); and state government, excluding schools and hospitals (OEWS designation)
- Top-paying states: District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, California, and Massachusetts
- Career outlook: 4 percent increase in positions between 2021 and 2031 (300 jobs added)
- Requirements: At least a bachelor’s degree in an area such as naval architecture or marine engineering; a degree in other fields of engineering such as electrical or mechanical can also be useful
Environmental Scientists & Specialists
This position requires a sense of curiosity plus a strong interest in science to investigate possible sources of pollution or environmental hazards that could affect human or animal populations or the environment. Public health departments, local governments, or private companies (e.g., railroads, petroleum companies) concerned about their environmental footprint may use findings from scientists to create policies or change practices.
Environmental scientists collect evidence in the air, water, food supplies, or soil; study historical data; and make recommendations. The position includes work in a lab and office but can include visits to various sites of possible contaminants.
- Environmental Scientists & Specialists (76,890 employed in the U.S.): $39.06/hourly, $81,240/annually on average (BLS May 2021)
- 10th percentile: $46,200
- 25th percentile: $58,200
- 50th percentile (median): $76,530
- 75th percentile: $99,090
- 90th percentile: $129,070
- Top-paying industries: Aerospace product and parts manufacturing; natural gas distribution; management of companies and enterprises; petroleum and coal products manufacturing; and oil and gas extraction
- Top-paying states: District of Columbia, New Jersey, Massachusetts, California, and Illinois
- Career outlook: 5 percent increase in positions between 2021 and 2031 (3,800 jobs added)
- Requirements: Bachelor’s degree in environmental science or a science-related field such as biology, chemistry, physics, geoscience, or engineering plus professional experience
The field represents a perfect opportunity to get creative but still follow the technical specifications and wishes of a client for how to develop an outdoor space, whether it’s an individual, business, or municipality. Trained architects may be asked to come up with ideas to improve someone’s personal property or plan and design something impressive for buildings or public spaces.
Architects alternate between working on designs at an office and visiting suppliers or job sites to make sure plans become reality. They also may work with a team of employees and subcontractors.
- Landscape Architects (17,430 employed in the U.S.): $36.05/hourly, $74,980/annually on average (BLS May 2021)
- 10th percentile: $43,260
- 25th percentile: $51,420
- 50th percentile (median): $67,950
- 75th percentile: $94,310
- 90th percentile: $115,380
- Top-paying industries: Local government, excluding schools and hospitals (OEWS designation); state government, excluding schools and hospitals (OEWS designation); federal executive branch (OEWS designation); residential building construction; and management of companies and enterprises
- Top-paying states: District of Columbia, Massachusetts, New York, Arkansas, and California
- Career outlook: No change in positions between 2021 and 2031
- Requirements: A bachelor’s or master’s degree in landscape architecture is a good foundation, but hands-on experience is vital, including internships; most commercial projects also require licenses from a particular state or industry association
Buyers & Purchasing Agents
Farming successfully in today’s world requires more than just following cycles of planting, harvesting, and selling. Larger purchases of equipment can help farms continue or improve. Buyers can also purchase other farmers’ goods to be resold (or processed and later resold).
This occupation is responsible for arranging items for processing or resale, such as timber/tree farms, contractors, grain brokers/buyers, and tobacco products. Agents may conduct business from an office and visit sites to meet producers and look at crops.
- Buyers & Purchasing Agents (439,020 employed in the U.S.): $34.88/hour, $72,540/annually on average (BLS May 2021)
- 10th percentile: $38,430
- 25th percentile: $49,150
- 50th percentile (median): $63,470
- 75th percentile: $87,820
- 90th percentile: $111,200
- Top-paying industries: Oil and gas extraction; software publishers; securities, commodity contracts, and other financial investments and related activities; credit intermediation and related activities; and monetary authorities-central bank
- Top-paying states: District of Columbia, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Arkansas
- Career outlook: A 6 percent decrease in positions between 2021 and 2031 (29,500 jobs to be eliminated)
- Requirements: A bachelor’s degree in agriculture, agricultural production, animal science, or a business/commodity field, along with farming experience is recommended
Zoologist & Wildlife Biologists
A significant component of this occupation includes evaluating animal populations and wildlife systems. This task can require fieldwork such as the collection, observation, and analysis of the habitats of specific animals or larger groups.
Private companies or public land use agencies may ask a biologist or zoologist to determine the possible impact on wildlife populations and waterways from different policies or practices. Opportunities are high for fieldwork, but may include long hours of observation, and sometimes tracking certain animals.
- Zoologists & Wildlife Biologists (15,930 employed in the U.S.): $33.80/hour, $70,300/annually on average (BLS May 2021)
- 10th percentile: $42,420
- 25th percentile: $50,520
- 50th percentile (median): $64,650
- 75th percentile: $81,690
- 90th percentile: $103,900
- Top-paying industries: Federal executive branch (OEWS designation); architectural, engineering, and related services; local government, excluding schools and hospitals (OEWS designation); grantmaking and giving services; and scientific research and development services
- Top-paying states: Massachusetts, New Jersey, Alaska, Washington, and Maryland
- Career outlook: 1 percent increase in positions between 2021 and 2031 (100 jobs added)
- Requirements: Bachelor’s degree, especially in biology or zoology (master’s degree preferred), and a PhD is often required to lead research teams
Construction & Building Inspectors
Ironically, one effective way to avoid working in a building all day is by actually building one. The construction industry has plenty of areas that allow people to spend time outdoors. Perhaps nature purists may complain about the encroachment of structures and people into undeveloped spaces, but people who work in this field enjoy being able to work at a site, rather than being stuck in a cubicle.
Inspectors for certain municipalities or private companies can visit a variety of locations throughout their day to make sure that they are following correct standards and specifications, from local building codes to larger structural regulations. They can sign off or flag the project or focus on certain specific areas such as electrical or plumbing systems. The position requires familiarity with the construction process as well as engineering knowledge.
- Construction & Building Inspectors (117,830 employed in the U.S.): $32.93/hourly, $68,480/annually on average (BLS May 2021)
- 10th percentile: $38,110
- 25th percentile: $48,360
- 50th percentile (median): $61,640
- 75th percentile: $78,940
- 90th percentile: $100,520
- Top-paying industries: Insurance carriers; agencies, brokerages, and other insurance-related activities; other professional, scientific, and technical services; natural gas distribution; and commercial and industrial machinery and equipment (except automotive and electronic) repair and maintenance
- Top-paying states: Connecticut, California, Alaska, District of Columbia, and Washington
- Career outlook: 4 percent decrease in positions between 2021 and 2031 (5,700 jobs eliminated)
- Requirements: Academic requirements are low (high school diploma), but professional experience is valuable; inspectors often must receive a license from a state or municipality
Conservation Scientists & Foresters
This position is in demand for public land agencies and private timber companies. It requires inventorying standing timber and making recommendations, including thinning selected trees, selling larger acreage, improving conditions, opening or closing access, or designating conservation areas. Along with focusing on timber health, foresters can look at a forest’s connections with soil, water, wetlands, and wildlife, plus compliance with environmental regulations.
Foresters can recommend which trees can be removed and new ones can be planted, which requires visiting forests and timber stands regularly. Conservation scientists and foresters can focus on other uses, including fire prevention or improving access to recreational activities.
- Conservation Scientists (22,550 employed in the U.S.): $32.81/hour, $68,230/annually on average (BLS May 2021)
- 10th percentile: $38,670
- 25th percentile: $49,340
- 50th percentile (median): $63,750
- 75th percentile: $81,500
- 90th percentile: $100,440
- Top-paying industries: Natural gas distribution; architectural, engineering, and related services; federal executive branch (OEWS designation); grantmaking and giving services; and scientific research and development services
- Top-paying states: Minnesota, Alaska, District of Columbia, Hawaii, and Massachusetts
- Career outlook: 5 percent increase in positions for conservation scientists and foresters between 2021 and 2031 (1,800 jobs added)
- Requirements: Bachelor’s degree in forestry or related environmental science subject
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