Female park ranger in front of ocean. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
What could be more appealing than working among trees, fresh air and water? A career that connects you with the earth rather than one that chains you to a corporate desk is dream for many. There are numerous and growing opportunities for those seeking careers outdoors, but having the right skills is critical.
Exciting career choices include: park ranger in a state or national park, naturalist in a nature center, educator for a zoo or aquarium, youth outdoor program director, or guide for a wilderness program. With the right skills and certifications in your back pocket, these opportunities are sure to unfold. Whether you have a degree in outdoor education or forestry, or just interest and experience, here are a few tips to land a career that’ll keep you in fresh air:
It might surprise you, but having your diver certification might land you the perfect job. Many resorts hire recreation specialists to lead SCUBA and snorkeling expeditions. You can also pursue careers in underwater rescue when you pair your diving certification with swift water rescue technician training. Earn your diver certification through PADI or NAUI.
Park rangers have to ensure visitors are safe and happy, as well as provide necessary information about the park. Depending on the location, these tall tasks might require more from you than having two feet on the ground allows. If the park has lakes, rivers or other bodies of water, make sure you have your boating license. This certification will give you a competitive edge over other applicants, as well as a background in water safety.
Wilderness Medical Training
Working outdoors with limited supplies requires specialized medical training beyond basic first aid. Sometimes these skills can be learned on the job but better to complete a EMT program especially designed for wilderness workers. You’ll be able to handle any medical emergency from poisoning to cardiac arrest.
As a park ranger, trail guide or resort recreation leader you might have the opportunity to lead trail rides or have to access areas of wilderness otherwise difficult to reach by a motor vehicle. Develop skills in handling, caring for and riding horses. These are skills often overlooked by those pursuing recreation or outdoor careers. A horsemanship certification will enhance your ability to implement and evaluate a risk management plan for riding programs or any outdoor programming.
Don’t pursue a career in the great outdoors thinking that it’s an opportunity to work alone. While there are roles that are more isolating, one of the greatest skills a person working in the outdoors needs to have is the ability work in coordination with others and communicate effectively. Forest firefighters and park rangers are often the first responders in an emergency, so quick and effective communication is crucial. Consider getting a certificate in communication skill building. Such certificates don’t usually require a degree and will give you the coursework and experience to tackle complex communication scenarios.