A college summer is a good time to hit the reset button after long semesters of late nights, exams, and (limited, we hope) partying. Sure, you could choose to head home until the fall or stick around campus to take summer classes. For those looking for a more adventurous and outdoorsy break, however, might we suggest a summer spent exploring gorgeous national parks, picturesque mountain towns, and world-class arts and culture scenes while working a great summer job? Colorado offers tons of worthwhile opportunities for college students looking for some extra cash in between hiking, kayaking, fly fishing, camping, and otherwise indulging in everything that the Rocky Mountains have to offer. Below, we’ve outlined 9 jobs that are perfect for college students looking to spend a fantastic season in Colorado — because a summer in Telluride beats a summer in the childhood room your parents already converted to an office.
Aside from the fact that everybody loves the bartender working at the local pub or the barista pulling perfect espresso shots, there are several benefits to working in the service industry as a summer job in Colorado. For one, there are going to be opportunities no matter where you want to live. Even in summer, tourism is a big draw in mountain towns, which means there are usually plenty of restaurants, bars, or coffee shops lining the streets. Plus, turnover is often high in these roles — especially after winter seasonal workers leave — meaning jobs frequently (and sporadically) come available. For most of these positions, you’ll need to complete food safety training. You’ll also generally work nights, which means your days will often be wide open for adventure.
If you’re coming to Colorado to explore its wild spaces, what better way than by sharing your passion for the outdoors with others? Outfitters and tour companies always need guides with fly fishing, kayaking, hiking, or other outdoor experience. Depending on what type of guiding you’ll be doing, you may need to complete certain training courses and/or hold specific certifications. There are also guide schools that can help you land a position. Do some research on what the local requirements are as they can vary based on the city or county. Guiding jobs can be tough to get but the compensation is often generous (usually a base wage plus tips).
If you’ve scrolled Instagram for even a minute, you know that outdoor photography is a thriving trade at the moment. Brands, resorts, publications, and other outlets need engaging, beautiful images. If you know your way around a DSLR, freelance photography can be a flexible and profitable summer job. It’s generally helpful to find a niche, such as weddings (Colorado is a very popular place for summer nuptials), landscapes, adventure, or lifestyle. Build up a portfolio and a few clients and you could be on your way to making the Rocky Mountains your home office.
If your major requires an internship or you’re looking to pad the resume a bit, you might consider looking for a summer internship in Colorado. Major industries include bioscience, aerospace, defense, infrastructure, and energy. And, of course, your best bet for a mountain town is tourism. While some resort areas are going to be limited, there will usually be opportunities available no matter where you want to live. If you can’t find a relevant internship program in your preferred area, try contacting employers directly. Occasionally, they’ll be willing to take on summer help despite not having an advertised position.
Ah yes, the classic summer job. There are hundreds of camp counselor jobs in Colorado — in gorgeous locales like Aspen, Vail, and Boulder. As a camp counselor, you’ll have the opportunity to spend your summer in nature and help provide young people with a fun and educational experience. Additionally, most camps will provide lodging for counselors, so you can enjoy Vail’s scenery without paying its rent prices. Depending on the camp/location, you may need specific certifications, so it’ll help to do some research before applying.
You could do a lot worse than helping sell kayaks, hawking Patagonia fleeces, or (if you really want the big commissions) working in a high-end boutique in Aspen all summer. There is an abundance of retail opportunities in mountain and resort towns all over Colorado. It helps if you already have experience, but stores mostly want employees who are personable and understand the products. If you know a lot about climbing/bouldering, look for work with a local outdoor store. Love art? Consider working for a gallery. And don’t forget about the thriving cannabis industry: most towns have at least one dispensary.
While summer is definitely not the high season when it comes to mountain town activity, big ski resorts still need people to operate lifts (for hikers/mountain bikers), transport guests, and book hotel rooms. There are several advantages to working for a large mountain resort like Winter Park, Breckenridge, or Telluride. While not the highest paying gigs, these jobs can provide solid benefits, including access to other resorts, healthcare benefits, and possibly the ever-elusive employee housing.
Rideshare companies provide flexibility and quick, easy money for those with a proficiency for finding their way around town. Drivers for Lyft or Uber are able to work whenever and however much they want. Plus, you don’t need to own a car as you’ll have the opportunity to rent one through partner companies. You will, however, need a valid driver’s license, in addition to car insurance if you’re using your own vehicle. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the area you plan to operate in — no one wants an Uber driver who constantly gets lost in the mountains.
Bonus: There are plenty of other opportunities within the gig economy — delivering for DoorDash or Uber Eats, providing freelance services on Fiverr, or doing odd jobs on TaskRabbit — that can also provide flexibility and fast cash.
Working for the National Park Service or the US Forest Service gives you the chance to spend time between semesters protecting some of our most majestic wild spaces. There are 4 National Parks, 11 National Forests and a number of other protected areas in Colorado, meaning there are opportunities for employment all over the state for conservation-minded students. Roles can include everything from education, maintenance, and engineering positions to office or field-based internships. You’ll want to apply early (October – February) as these jobs are generally in high demand.
Spending a summer working in Colorado can be an incredibly rewarding undertaking, giving you access to a blend of nature, culture, and valuable work experience. Make sure you apply for work as early as possible, in addition to looking into housing options, transportation, and anticipated cost of living so that you can make a plan and budget. Note: You’ll also want to take a day or two to acclimate. The elevation in some areas can take a while to get used to, and you can get altitude sickness if you try to do too much too soon. Of course, you can always just make the move and figure out the rest once you’re there. You’ll have plenty of time to play it safe once you’re out of college.