Ditch the Desk — Here are 8 Careers that Let You Work Outside

botanist working with flowers outside

Adobe Stock / Flamingo Images

Lorelei Yang
Lorelei Yang718
Wonky consultant with a passion for words
If you're a nature lover or simply don't relish the thought of sitting in a cubicle every day, a career that allows you to work outdoors could be a great choice for you. 
However, people who work outdoors hold all sorts of jobs and don't fit any particular mold, so simply knowing that you'd like to work outdoors isn't quite enough to help determine exactly what jobs to look into. Read on to find out about careers that'll allow you to work outside, the benefits of working outside and how to get outside if you have an indoor job.

8 careers for people who want to work outside

1. Environmentalist

Working for a nonprofit, state or federal government or scientific research organization to conduct scientific research that helps protect the natural environment is a great fit for nature lovers who want to make the world their office. Depending on what you specifically want to do in this area, a bachelor's degree or advanced science degree (such as a master's or Ph.D. in a specific scientific discipline) may be needed. The Bureau of Labor Statistics  reported a median annual wage of $71,130 for environmental scientists and specialists as of May 2018.

2. Landscape architect or urban planner

If you're both design-minded and interested in working outdoors, being a landscape architect or urban planner could be a good fit for you. According to CollegeGrad, to be a landscape architect, you'll generally need a bachelor's (Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA) or Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture (BLSA), which usually take 4-5 years to earn) or master's degree (Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA), which usually takes three years of full-time study to complete) in landscape architecture. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a median annual wage of $87,150 for landscape architects and a median annual wage of $73,050 for urban and regional planners as of May 2018.

3. Forest and conservation worker

If wilderness is your favorite type of outdoor environment, becoming a forest and conservation worker is a great bet for you. These workers help maintain, improve and protect forests by inventorying trees, ensuring trees’ health and removing trees that need to be removed due to disease or age. To be a forest and conservation worker, you’ll need to hold a high school diploma and complete on-the-job training. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a median annual wage of $27,460 for forest and conservation workers as of May 2018. 

4. Logging worker

Related to the above, if you enjoy being among the trees, don't mind being outdoors in all conditions and also relish manual labor, you may find that being a logging worker is your calling. To be a logging worker, you'll need a high-school diploma or equivalent degree (such as a GED) as well as on-the-job training. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a median annual wage of $40,650 for logging workers as of May 2018.

5. Forest and wildland firefighter

If you're both something of an adrenaline junkie and lover of the forest, being a forest and wildland firefighter might be just the right career for you. In job, you'd help extinguish forest fires and help predict hazardous weather conditions that could cause future fires. For this job, you'll need previous work as a volunteer firefighter. Additionally, a degree in fire science or an EMT certification could increase your odds of being hired. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a median annual wage of $49,620 for firefighters across all types of terrains as of May 2018.

6. Forest fire inspector and prevention specialist

If you're interested in studying forest fires but don't necessarily want to be on the front lines fighting them as a firefighter, being a forest fire inspector and prevention specialist might be a better career choice for you. In this job, you'd enforce fire regulations, inspect forests for fire hazards and recommend forest fire prevention or control measures. To become a forest fire inspector or prevention specialist, you'll usually need a bachelor's degree. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a median annual wage of $49,610 for forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists as of May 2018.

7. Zoologist and wildlife biologist

If you think the residents of the great outdoors are the best thing about being outdoors, being a zoologist or wildlife biologist studying wildlife could be a great career choice for you. For these types of jobs, you'll need a bachelor's degree in zoology or wildlife biology. The Bureau  of Labor Statistics reported a median annual wage of $63,420 for zoologists and wildlife biologists as of May 2018.

8. Geologist or geoscientist

If rocks are your thing, being a geologist or geoscientist is a great fit for you. There are a number of specialities in geology, depending on your interests. They include: mineralogy, petrology, structure geology, geochemistry, geophysics and seismology. Most geologist positions will require a master's degree. However, some entry-level positions are available for bachelor's degree holders. To advance to a supervisory position or teach geology at a university, you'll generally need a Ph.D. The Bureau  of Labor Statistics reported a median annual wage of $91,130 for geoscientists as of May 2018.

What are the benefits of working outside?

  • Lowered stress. Studies have shown that typical office environments, which are full of fluorescent lights and computer screens and devoid of natural light and fresh air, stress both humans and animals out. Working outside and breathing fresh air every day could help reduce your overall stress levels.
  • Reduce sitting time and its attendant health risks. According to the Mayo Clinic and others, sitting for extended periods of time can lead to obesity, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waste and elevated cholesterol levels. When you're working in the great outdoors without a desk chair, you'll move more and sit less.
  • Higher energy levels. According to a series of studies in the June 2010 issue of the "Journal of Environmental Psychology," being in nature makes people feel more alive and energetic. The studies' lead author, University of Rochester professor Richard Ryan, says, "Nature is fuel for the soul. Often when we feel depleted, we reach for a cup of coffee, but research suggests a better way to get energized is to connect with nature.”

How to get outdoors if you have an "indoor" job

If you have a typical office job, odds are that you're both fairly sedentary and generally indoors during the workday. To help get yourself outdoors more often, you could consider using part of your lunch break to take a post-lunch walk or run, walking a little farther to pick up your lunch, eating your lunch outdoors and biking or walking to work in lieu of driving.
If you're able to, you could also consider taking calls while walking outdoors. If your office has outdoor seating areas, you could even work outdoors when the tasks you have to work on permit it. When you host meetings, consider hosting them outdoors. Kathryn Pratt, director of brand engagement at outdoor retailer L.L. Bean, says, "Many different types of meetings can benefit from being in the outdoors, whether that’s creative brainstorming sessions or interviews (which [we at L.L. Bean are] dubbing the outerview).”  If those adjustments aren't possible, crack a window if you have one to get fresh air into your work area.
Finally, and most effectively, take full advantage of your weekends to get outdoors. After working hard indoors all week, make plans with friends and family to go backpacking, hiking, kayaking, canoeing or whatever else strikes your fancy. Protecting your weekends and committing to making downtime truly disconnected from your work will help you recharge, relax and go back to the office on Monday feeling ready to be your best, most productive self.

Don’t miss out on articles like these. Sign up!

Lorelei Yang is a New York-based consultant and freelance writer/researcher. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.