Spending the fall to spring months grinding away in the library is enough to make one forget that the outdoors even exists. What you likely haven’t forgotten about, though, is that massively depleted bank account. For those looking to get way out wide and explore a naturally beautiful state, while refilling the coffers, might we suggest taking advantage of Montana’s national parks, massive peaks, and cozy mountain towns? To that end, we’ve put together a list of 10 of the best summer jobs in Montana — because we know that now, more than ever, you’re probably looking to spend time in a place that is both sparsely populated and really, really fun.
There is perhaps no work that better embodies the spirit of Montana than ranch work. Ranches are often enormous enterprises, requiring help from numerous different types of employees. Working on a tourist-oriented operation, such as the 320 Guest Ranch, you’ll have the opportunity to do a variety of jobs, including housekeeper, server, bartender, or guide. You could also find work on a more traditional ranch, which may include some more intense, less guest-focused work. Pay varies, but ranch hands will generally be given room and board and all of the outdoors you can handle.
If you’re coming to Montana because of a love for the outdoors, why not parlay that into a job sharing your passion for nature and adventure with young people? A camp counselor job is an excellent way to generate some cash while spending as much time outside as possible. Summer camps in Montana can be a lot more epic than the classic canoe-and-ping-pong sleepaway camps in more tame parts of the country, meaning you could end up helping kids whitewater raft, hike, bike, and kayak. Like ranch workers, camp staff is normally provided with lodging, so you can save even more money for next semester.
This one is for those who spend all their free time (and money) at REI, fawning over camp stoves and trying out new hiking boots. As a backpacking guide, you’re going to be responsible for helping groups take day or overnight trips through Montana’s wildest natural areas. Be sure you’re in excellent shape, and that you have a variety of outdoor skills — you’ll not only have to be a good hiker, but potentially a good kayaker, swimmer, driver, etc. to properly perform this job. Depending on where you’re working, you may also need specific licenses and certifications (e.g., first aid training, camping permits).
As a hotel management or other hospitality major, you could do a lot worse than working behind the front desk of the four-star Kimpton Armory Hotel in Bozeman or the ~$350/night Sage Lodge on the Yellowstone River. Indeed lists hundreds of open roles in resorts, inns, and hotels across Montana. Hotel jobs come with great benefits, solid pay, and the opportunity to work with employees from all over the world. If you don’t have any hotel experience (or education), don’t fret. Hotels primarily want to see that you have excellent organization skills, are a hard worker, and can be friendly with guests.
You could do a lot worse than spending your summer days driving through the quaint streets and foothills in Montana’s best mountain towns. As a driver with Uber or Lyft, you’ll be able to make your own schedule, meet new people, and earn some really good money. If the town you’re living in doesn’t have enough business, consider driving to a larger city before logging on, or try to focus on driving during the busier hours. You’ll also want to make sure you’re well acquainted with the roads where you’re planning on operating — accidentally ending up in Canada will put a dent in your tips.
Note: Consider also driving for a food delivery service like Uber Eats or GrubHub for even more extra cash.
Outdoor retailers, boutiques, and other small shops line the streets of Montana’s mountain towns; and they all need people to help convince tourists to part with their money. Retail jobs can be highly beneficial for students looking to make some money during a summer break. Having previous retail experience is a huge plus, but mostly you’ll need to be personable and knowledgeable about the products. Try to play to your strengths. Do you know what the trout are hitting on the Gallatin or Madison? Look for work at a fly shop. Obsessed with gear? Find an outdoor sports store. The money can be good, especially if you’re able to make some decent commissions.
This is an absolutely classic summer gig, and for good reason. Tourism can be a huge boon during the summer in Montana, meaning restaurants fill up and bartenders and waiters can make great money. As a server/bartender, you’ll usually be working nights, which means your days will be free for exploring — and remember, there’s no better way to ingratiate yourself to the locals than by serving up brews on a hot Montana summer day.
Bonus: Montana has a number of breweries, most of which need people to lead tours, curate tastings, and help with the brewing process. Beer nerds rejoice.
National Park Jobs
As a national park employee, your office will be one of Montana’s incredible national parks, which include Glacier National Park, Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, and, of course, Yellowstone. There are a select number of internships and other seasonal roles available in Montana each summer. Apply early and often to these jobs, though, because they are in extremely high demand.
Yes, this one is pretty aspirational. But, if you know your way around a Nikon or Canon, working as a freelance photographer is an awesome way to embrace the natural wonder that exists in Montana. Freelance photography work can come in the form of supplying content to brands, shooting for magazines, or even selling your own photos on sites like Etsy. Like we said, this job can be pretty difficult to break into, so if you’re not already established, you might have to supplement your income with other work.
Ski Resort Jobs
The snow may have melted at the many amazing ski resorts that dot the Rocky Mountains of Montana, but the lifts stay spinning throughout the year. One of the best parts of a ski resort job is the fantastic perks. Employees at Big Sky, for example, can get health benefits, 50% off lodging for friends and family, and even golf passes. Ski resort jobs can include a wide range of different roles, including everything from work as a lifty (helping guests and/or their bikes get safely up the mountain) to cook/chef jobs. Pay isn’t going to be spectacular, but the benefits and ability to explore gorgeous areas like Whitefish or the Yellowstone Club more than make up for it.
A job in Big Sky Country provides way more than a paycheck. It gives you access to a place that’s storied, wild, and totally unique. Remember to apply as early as possible and make your transportation/accommodation plans well ahead of time. Most importantly, be sure you take advantage of all of the adventure that Montana has to offer — because the library will be always be there when you get back to school.