If you spend most of your non-working hours snowboarding, climbing, skiing, practicing yoga, or just enjoying nature, you’ve likely thought about how you might one day incorporate those activities into your working hours. The outdoor recreation industry in the United States accounts for nearly $900 billion of consumer spending, 7.5 million jobs, and over 2% of the nation’s GDP. Add in outdoor-related jobs from other industries, and there are plenty of opportunities for those who’d prefer not to spend all of their time in an office. Here are nine jobs that can net you over $100k a year, while possibly providing work-sanctioned surf breaks.
As brands have become more and more reliant on engaging visuals to sell the active, adventurous lifestyle, those who are able to capture a certain outdoorsy aesthetic in a unique way are in increasingly high demand. Outdoor photographers and videographers, whether working freelance, in-house, or with a production company, can earn a significant amount of money creating appealing outdoor content, while traveling the world. The most successful photogs are those who find a niche and run with it — think Chris Burkard shooting surfing in the cold, or Jimmy Chin capturing elite climbers and skiers.
Someone has to fly the skiers into the Alaskan backcountry, or guide the rafters through the Grand Canyon. Most tour operators are just outdoor enthusiasts who have managed to create a career out of sharing their passions. And clients are oftentimes willing to spend a small fortune to avoid the hassle of planning an adventure, especially a unique or otherwise-inaccessible one (yacht-based heliskiing, anyone?). Whether you’re guiding $500 trout fishing trips in Colorado, or curating $6,000/night glamping experiences in Africa, there are plenty of opportunities to take home $100k+ per year in the tourism sector.
Studying and assessing all types of natural formations, geoscientists play a critical role in the management and preservation of resources, spend a good amount of working time outdoors, and also make a great living. According to Glassdoor, salaries average around $93k per year, with many positions approaching the $200k mark. While you’ll obviously spend a bit of time in the lab, you’re necessarily going to get plenty of time amongst nature as well.
I’m not including this career solely to speak “$100k per year freelance travel/adventure writer” into existence for my own selfish reasons. There are actually people who get paid to travel, and write about, the outdoor world. Unlike other jobs on this list, a degree is not required; so, if you’re looking to go the Bourdain route, all you really need is the ability to turn a phrase.
If your job consists of helping to create and shape outdoor spaces, it only makes sense that you’re going to get to spend a lot of time in those outdoor spaces. Landscape architects design the terrain, structures, and systems that go into our parks, gardens, homes — essentially any place with an outdoor component. According to Forbes, average salaries are close to $90k in some places, so making over $100k+ is obviously well within reach.
OUTDOOR INDUSTRY EXECUTIVE
You could do worse than working in the front offices of Yeti, The North Face, or Teva. For the most part you’ll need both a degree, and significant experience to work your way up the ladder, but once you do, the pay is better than almost any other job in the outdoor industry. It may not seem like the most adventurous choice, but given many outdoor companies’ environmentally conscious ethos and emphasis on a healthy lifestyle, you can feel good about the way you’re lining your pockets.
If brands have become incredibly adept at creating and selling the ideal outdoor lifestyle, they have advertising agencies, social media gurus, and other marketing folks to thank for their success. Glassdoor lists dozens of high-paying outdoor marketing jobs, with managers and directors making the highest amount yearly.
Yes, this one is a stretch. But even if you’re not at the top of your sport, with Oakley and Hurley knocking at your door, you can turn your passion into a successful career. Brands are constantly looking for ambassadors to hawk their fly rods, sandals, or suntan lotions. And these days influencers (gross, we know) are paid a lot of money to do that. So, if you’re a solid athlete with dedication, and a bit of clout, this can be a fulfilling way to make a steady income.
Environmental lawyers work in a number of different roles, and are present in just about every industry. They assist everyone from companies that need help with compliance, to plaintiffs that are harmed by pollutants, and environmental non-profits with legal departments. This means environmental attorneys are often directly responsible for the preservation of our outdoor spaces — and paid well for their efforts.