Top 5 Jobs for Nature Lovers and Outdoor Enthusiasts

portrait of Stephen Gaffney
by Stephen Gaffney
Published on October 21, 2020 is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Top 5 Jobs for Nature Lovers and Outdoor Enthusiasts

Not everyone is cut out for a cubicle job. In fact, many people are drawn to careers that require them to spend a lot of time working outdoors.

Enjoying the outside and coexisting with nature is part of being human — it's even built into our DNA. Several studies have found that when we're exposed to nature, our mental and physical health improve. We become more focused, which leads to not only better job performance but also increased job satisfaction.

Jobs that allow us to spend time outdoors offer other benefits as well. Many of the in-demand positions that attract nature lovers revolve around conservation and environmental protection. Knowing that you're helping improve the world for current and future generations can lead to a greater sense of fulfillment.

While working with the environment has its advantages, nature jobs can come with a few challenges, too, such as harsh weather conditions, varying schedules, and potential run-ins with dangerous wildlife.

Whether you're passionate about the environment, an outdoor recreation enthusiast, or just an all-around nature lover, you'll love learning more about these five exciting nature careers.

The 5 Best Nature Jobs for Outdoor Enthusiasts

Environmental Scientist

Environmental science is a great path for lovers of nature to pursue. For many people employed in this field, there's no better one-two punch than being able to work in the great outdoors while simultaneously helping protect the environment.

While the role of an environmental scientist can vary depending on the industry, the basic responsibilities remain the same: to protect the environment by identifying, controlling, and eliminating pollutants and public health hazards.

true Place of Work

Most environmental scientists work with local, state, and federal agencies, as well as environmental consulting firms. Work is usually performed in the field, in a lab, and in an office.

Job Outlook

The employment outlook for environmental scientists is fairly strong. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for these specialists will grow 8% between 2019 and 2029. There are currently about 91,000 scientists employed in this field. Both government funding toward environmental issues and the general public's growing environmental awareness are expected to contribute to the increase in environmental scientist jobs.

Environmental scientists make a median annual salary of $71,360, with the highest 10% earning more than $124,760 a year.

Educational Requirements

Most environmental scientist positions require a bachelor's degree in environmental science, environmental engineering, biology, geology, chemistry, hydrogeology, or a similar field. Having some experience as a lab technician and/or research assistant can help you land an entry-level position more easily. For advanced positions, a master's degree is usually required.

Basic Duties Perform natural resource surveys Obtain, prepare, and approve environmental permit applications Collect soil and groundwater samples and analyze data Operate and maintain field monitoring equipment Prepare plans and reports Conduct environmental reviews and inspections Obtain regulatory approvals for land development projects Perform audits and inspections of operations areas to ensure compliance with regulatory programs Carry out project site safety checks

Environmental Engineer

Another exciting and lucrative career that combines outdoor work with environmental protection is environmental engineering. These engineers have an important function, as the work they do contributes to the creation of healthy environments necessary to sustain and protect our communities.

The primary role of an environmental engineer is to rely on scientific and engineering principles to develop, implement, and design solutions to local and regional environmental problems related to waste and pollution. Their work involves creating engineering fixes for waste disposal, hazardous materials containment, recycling, land erosion, water and air pollution, unsafe drinking water, and storm and wastewater runoff.

Some environmental engineers also tackle global environmental issues such as climate change, automotive emissions, ozone depletion, and acid rain.

true Place of Work

Environmental engineers are often employed with local, state, and federal agencies and environmental consulting firms. They may also work for nonprofits and corporations.

Job Outlook

Environmental engineers have a steady employment outlook, with the BLS projecting 3% job growth through 2029. About 56,000 environmental engineers work in the U.S.

The median annual salary for environmental engineers is $88,860, and the highest 10% earn more than $142,000.

Educational Requirements

Most environmental engineer positions require a bachelor's degree in environmental engineering, civil engineering, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, or a related field. You'll generally need a master's degree for advanced engineering positions.

Environmental engineers must have a substantial background in subjects like chemistry, biology, geology, and hydrology. They should also have a solid understanding of environmental laws.

Basic Duties Monitor government regulations that pertain to environmental issues and conditions Implement environmental policies and processes Perform environmental inspections, audits, and risk assessments Manage site emergency response functions Develop work plans for site and field investigation activities Monitor pollution prevention activities Analyze field data and recommend appropriate clean-up protocol and actions Conduct studies and prepare environmental impact reports Design municipal water supply and industrial wastewater treatment systems

Landscape Architect

Landscape architects design and create outdoor living and recreational spaces for houses, gardens, parks, playgrounds, commercial centers, resorts, hospitals, transportation facilities, college campuses, and more.

These creative professionals are involved in all phases of the design process, from site analysis and planning to project completion. They work in coordination with city planners, architectural engineers, and civil engineers to design projects that are not only aesthetically appealing but also functional and environmentally friendly.

In addition to knowing basic design principles, landscape architects must have a keen understanding of local building codes and ordinances, horticultural science, soil mechanics, topographical mapping, plant ecology, erosion control, irrigation, and ecology. They should also know how to use popular software design tools, such as AutoCAD, Adobe Creative Cloud, and SketchUp.

true Place of Work

Landscape architects work at architectural and engineering firms, construction firms, and government agencies; many also work as independent contractors. Some may find employment at private corporations that have physical planning departments.

Much of their time is spent on construction at job sites, in the office working on site plans, and meeting with clients to discuss project plans and progress.

Job Outlook

According to the BLS, jobs for landscape architects are projected to decline 2% through 2029. This drop will likely be the result of an increase in productivity. In other words, technological advancements are allowing landscape architects to work faster and get more work done.

Currently, around 24,500 people are employed as landscape architects, who make a median income of $69,360 per year.

Educational Requirements

Most employers require candidates to have a bachelor of landscape architecture or a BS in landscape architecture from an accredited landscape architecture program. Note that a master's degree in landscape architecture is often preferred.

All states require landscape architects to obtain licensure by passing the Landscape Architect Registration Examination. Each state sets its own registration requirements.

Basic Duties Conduct site inspections Develop design sketches and concepts Analyze environmental reports Prepare and finalize site design plans, maps, specifications, and project cost estimates Select landscaping materials Follow government regulations and code as they relate to design projects Make sure proper permits are obtained Oversee and monitor site construction Investigate and propose solutions to landscaping problems Work closely with other architects and engineers


Another fun and interesting career that takes you outdoors is geology. Geologists are scientists that study the Earth, including its formation history, materials, and processes.

Geologists do important work like investigating; planning and evaluating sites; identifying and locating natural resources such as minerals, metals, oil, and gas; and studying the processes associated with natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, and mudslides.

Through their thorough analyses of the Earth, geologists can better predict future occurrences and outcomes related to our environment, including processes that may contribute to climate change and other prevalent environmental issues.

true Place of Work

The majority of geologists are employed with environmental engineering firms, government agencies, mining companies, environmental consulting companies, universities, nonprofits, and petroleum companies. They typically split their time between working in offices and labs and conducting fieldwork.

Job Outlook

The BLS projects jobs for geologists will grow 5% — a little faster than average — between 2019 and 2029. There are approximately 31,800 geologists and geoscientists employed in the U.S. Demand for geologists in the environmental industry and oil and gas sector are expected to contribute to this field's overall growth and high wages.

The median salary for geologists and geoscientists is $92,040.

Educational Requirements

A bachelor's degree in geology, geophysics, geological engineering, hydrogeology, environmental engineering, environmental science, or a closely related field is normally required for entry-level jobs; however, some employers may prefer a master's degree.

College coursework includes topics like geology, mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry, engineering (environmental, chemical, civil, mining, and/or petroleum), computer science, planetary geology, geophysics, meteorology, hydrology, oceanography, and cartography.

Basic Duties Analyze aerial photographs, rock samples, geologic formations, and other data to locate natural resource deposits Conduct laboratory tests on collected samples Create geologic and hydrogeologic maps and charts Prepare technical reports such as proposals, environmental reports, permit applications, work plans, and health and safety plans Carry out hydrogeologic field studies Complete environmental investigations, cleanups, and permitting projects Evaluate geologic sites for expansion, acquisition, and exploration Organize and manage drilling operations Ensure sites are compliant with state and federal regulatory guidelines Perform health and safety planning and oversight during project operations


Foresters are primarily responsible for forest management in the public and private sectors, and play an important role in the conservation and rehabilitation of forests, which are a critical part of the environment.

Foresters are often involved with wilderness protection, sustainable timber harvesting, forest propagation, fire management, public wilderness recreation, habitat and trail management, timber valuation, and the implementation of forest regulations.

Though extremely rewarding, the work of a forester can be difficult at times when having to deal with severe weather, mountainous terrain, wildfires, tree harvesting, and wildlife.

true Place of Work

Most foresters work with local, state, and federal government agencies; they may also work on behalf of private landowners, land management companies, logging companies, and social advocacy organizations. Work is completed outdoors in national and state forest areas and parks, which are mainly located along the coasts and in the Great Lakes region.

Job Outlook

Foresters will enjoy steady employment growth. The BLS projects jobs for foresters and conservation scientists will grow 5% through 2029. Most of this growth will be at the government level due to concerns about the prevention and management of wildfires in forested areas and the populations that reside in those regions.

Foresters make a median annual wage of $61,790, while conservation scientists make around $62,660 per year.

Educational Requirements

Most employers require a bachelor's degree in forestry, forest management, horticulture, agricultural engineering, environmental science and policy, or a similar field. Certain states require foresters to be licensed. Earning certification from the Society of American Foresters can be helpful for career advancement.

Basic Duties Oversee preparation of timber sale reports, appraisals, and contracts Develop timber plans to protect soil water retention and reestablish forest growth Review and write environmental assessments and reports Appraise forest area timber resources to determine capacity and potential for regeneration Conduct detailed forest-planning investigations and measure inventories to identify characteristics and quantities of trees Map forests and interpret aerial photographs and plots Provide technical assistance to individual property owners in the development, application, and maintenance of soil and tree preservation plans Work with other experts and agencies to integrate timber management plans with other resources and activities Inspect burned areas and identify and prioritize hazardous trees for cleanup Respond to wildfire emergencies

Feature Image: South_agency / E+ / Getty Images

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