The Anti-Cubicle: Workplaces Beyond Traditional Offices

People spend the majority of their lives sitting—in front of a TV, commuting, and working at a desk in front of a computer screen. In fact, researchers at the Journal of National Cancer Institute are calling our attention to sedentary behavior, reminding us more and more that “sitting can cause cancer” and other diseases. This alarming research, including a study featured in Annals of Internal Medicine, has encouraged many organizations to adopt standing desks, mindfulness practices, and various exercise programs into the daily office routine to increase workers’ activity levels.

Still, a standing desk in a cubicle or an intermittently rigorous exercise routine cannot stand up against an outdoor office, surrounded by nature and replete with opportunities for green exercise, while soaking up some natural vitamin D. Not to mention, there are vast mental health benefits from being in the great outdoors or venturing to a local park. According to a Stanford study, about 50 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas, making it more important to make workspaces—where people spend the majority of their time—outdoors. This is especially necessary since the study also found that being in nature can lower the incidence of mental illnesses such as depression.

Plus, the benefits of working outdoors go hand in hand with job satisfaction. For instance, working as an archeologist or a forester can result in “highly or extremely satisfied” employees who are likely to be more productive at work. Other careers that have extremely satisfied employees include landscape architects and land surveyors. And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), almost half of all jobs in the U.S. include some type of outdoor work, which could enhance the quality of life.

With the rise of non-cubicle jobs and opportunities to telecommute comes the challenge of locating the best outdoor office, rain or shine. According to the BLS’s publication, The Economics Daily (TED), 24 percent of employed people were reported to have worked from home in 2015. As the great outdoors becomes the “next workspace frontier,” the average employee’s happiness may increase. And aside from telecommuters who have the freedom to work outdoors, there are many careers in which the fieldwork requirements can prove to be one of the best perks of the job. Read on to discover some of these career gems.

Careers Based in the Outdoors

Here is a sampling of various workplaces beyond offices and cubicles, including information about their responsibilities and salary prospects.

Mountain and Forest Careers

Those who love being surrounded by the breathtaking views of a forest may consider the following careers:

  • Forest fire inspector and prevention specialist – Those with a passion for protecting natural resources and enforcing forest regulations may work for local or state governments as a forest fire inspector and prevention specialist. These professionals also can work in residential areas and may recommend how to avoid fire hazards. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2016) the mean annual wage for this occupation is $44,300 nationally.
  • Conservation Scientist – These professionals may work for the government (local, state, and federal) to help manage the overall quality of the land. They also make recommendations to help control erosion and help improve agricultural land. The mean annual wage, according to the BLS (May 2016) is $65,130.
  • Forester – In general, a forester may help regenerate forested lands and work to prevent forests from devastation from insects, wildfires, over-development, or other threats. A few subfields of forestry include conservation education, urban, and procurement. Most work full-time and the BLS (May 2016) reports their mean annual wage to be $60,300.
  • Logging worker– From operating machinery to cut down trees to separating and grading logs, there are vast opportunities for those interested in joining a logging crew. Often dangerous and strenuous work, logging workers make around $40,560 on average annually (BLS May 2016).

Garden Careers

Spending time in a flower or greenhouse garden can be a dream job for those who enjoy working with plants. Read on to discover some common garden occupations.

  • Tree Trimmer and Pruner – A perfect job for those trained to use hand and power tools, this career path allows one to literally work in the trees while earning a mean annual salary of $37,310 (BLS May 2016).
  • Greenhouse and Grounds Maintenance Worker – For those looking for a seasonal job caring for the outdoor grounds of buildings, greenhouses, and parks, grounds maintenance may be ideal. Groundskeeping is physically involved work across a variety of tasks, with a mean annual salary of $28,560 (BLS May 2016).
  • Landscape Architect – For those more interested in the design (rather than care) of outdoor spaces, landscape architecture may provide a rewarding career path. Landscape architects typically split their time between an office and outdoor job sites, and can expect to earn an annual mean salary of $68,820 (BLS May 2016).
  • Travel Guide – This career path not only allows one to work outdoors (e.g. leading a tour at a nature preserve or garden), but may also afford one opportunities to explore faraway lands and exotic locations. Travel guides might also plan and organize long-distance travel for clients, and even travel alongside their clients on outdoor expeditions and tours, while earning a mean annual salary of $35,930 (BLS May 2016).

Ocean Careers

Whether life at sea includes working on a ship or on the shore, watching the ocean waves or studying marine life, there are many opportunities for a career at sea.

  • Lifeguard – Although lifeguards may monitor pools or lakes, ocean-side beaches make up a significant portion of lifeguard job sites. Earning a mean annual salary of $22,640 (BLS May 2016), a lifeguard must be physically fit and capable of assisting beach-goers in danger.
  • Captain or Pilot of Water Vessels – Becoming a captain or pilot of a water vessel requires substantial dedication and licensing by the U.S. Coast Guard. However, with the promise of a career at sea and a mean annual salary of $81,520 (BLS May 2016), the hard work may be well worth it. Captains and pilots may command a variety of vessels, including tugboats and ferryboats.
  • Ship Engineer – Finding their “office” on board a seafaring vessel, ship engineers are charged with operating and maintaining engines, machinery, and other electrical equipment on a ship. The BLS (May 2016) reports that ship engineers earn a mean annual salary of $74,120.
  • Marine Biologist – For those who seek a deep, scientific knowledge of the ocean as an ecosystem, marine biology may offer a challenging and rewarding career with a mean annual salary of $64,890 (BLS May 2016). As a marine biologist, one may conduct onsite research regarding behavior, diseases, and life processes of ocean wildlife.

Farm and Ranch Careers

Those who work at a farm or ranch operation typically enjoy a relatively rural lifestyle. There is a surprising diversity of job opportunities working with plants and animals on farms and ranches:

  • Farmer/Rancher – A typical farmer or rancher spends the majority of the workday outdoors engaging in planting, cultivating, and harvesting crops. In addition, farmers and ranchers are often responsible for the planning, coordination, and supervision of all farm activities, which may include hiring/training farm workers, managing finances, and marketing activities. The BLS (May 2016) reports that farmers and ranchers may earn a mean annual salary of $75,790.
  • Fish and Game Warden – The primary responsibility of a fish and game warden is to patrol wildlife areas to ensure that fish and game laws are being adhered to, while also investigating possible crop or property damage by wildlife. Thus, a career as a fish and game warden requires an extensive knowledge of relevant laws along with a basic knowledge of wildlife biology, and offers a mean annual salary of $54,760 (BLS May 2016).
  • Agricultural Inspector – Working in a wide variety of outdoor environments, agricultural inspectors are in charge of enforcing laws and regulations pertaining to the health and quality of agricultural products (i.e., meat and produce from farms and ranches). The BLS (May 2016) reports a mean annual salary of $44,260 for agricultural inspectors.
  • Veterinarian – Although many veterinarians work inside of a clinic or hospital, many others work outdoors on farms or other wildlife areas. Just as human doctors may specialize in a number of areas, veterinary work is diverse and depends on the specialization of the vet. Becoming a veterinarian requires substantial education, and accordingly comes with a relatively high annual mean salary of $100,560 (BLS May 2016).

Residential and Commercial Area Careers

One doesn’t need to go to the country to work outdoors. Several outdoor-oriented careers, whether working with others recreationally or professionally, may be available within towns and cities.

  • Sports Coach – Most professional and amateur athletes are trained by coaches who help athletes refine their technique, establish game strategies for the entire team, and teach the importance of teamwork and sportsmanship. Generally, coaches and scouts receive a mean salary of $41,000 annually since some work part-time or seasonally (BLS May 2016).
  • Crossing Guard – A vital role in public safety, crossing guards help guide vehicles in construction zones and pedestrian traffic at emergency sites and schools. Crossing guards are a part of protective service occupations and earn a mean annual wage of $29,190 (BLS May 2016).
  • Surveyor – To determine legal property lines, surveyors are called on to perform precise measurements and are integral to construction projects, mapmaking, and more. There are many different types of surveyors, including subfields in boundaries and lands, forensics, geodetics, and marine or hydrographics. Generally, surveyors can expect to earn an average annual wage of $63,480 (BLS May 2016).
  • Construction manager – For an occupation that is expected to see positions increase 11 percent from 2016 through 2026 (BLS Oct 2017), construction managers are in-demand leaders who help realize construction projects. Additionally, their mean annual wage is $99,510 (BLS May 2016) and they routinely collaborate with landscape architects and building engineers, helping to develop cost estimates for construction projects.

Conclusion: The Benefits of Working Outdoors

For those who dream to call the outdoors their office, the occupations listed above are merely a sample of what is available. Keep in mind that most occupations outdoors tend to be high on the job satisfaction scale—not to mention the numerous evidence-backed psychological and physiological benefits. By illustration, a study in Landscape and Urban Planning found those who spend more time in nature may experience positive effects on memory and mood, alleviating anxiety and enhancing one’s overall cognitive functioning. Ultimately, the career satisfaction surveys and studies on how outdoor workspaces benefit one’s overall health make a strong case for seeking careers beyond the confines of cubicles.

April Joseph
April Joseph

April Joseph is a poet from East L.A., California, who creates mixed media performance art by joining movement and music to mourning songs. April earned her MFA in Writing and Poetics from Naropa University, and her BA in Literatures of the World from UCSD. Explore more of her writing fragments and poetics on Bodyful Space.

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