Summer jobs in the outdoor industry are plentiful if you know how to look.
The words "summer job" are dreaded by young people everywhere, but it doesn't always have to be that way.
There are plenty of outdoor jobs for high school and college students that will give you a little extra spending money, but also don't totally suck.
But how do you find these awesome seasonal jobs? That's why we're here, to help you out.
National Park Jobs
The National Park service has all sorts of job posting located all over the United States for someone looking for an entry level position that also puts them in an outdoorsman or woman's paradise.
While some of these jobs get filled up fast, some places are constantly bringing new people in. Yellowstone, for example, is always hiring people for sales associate, laundry and custodial jobs within the park. Sometimes they hire younger people for outdoor education or as tour guides, but those positions tend to fill up for early applicants.
While that's not as exciting as working in the backcountry with bears, it does put you at ground zero for many outdoor adventures like whitewater rafting, kayaking and hiking within a national park. In the case of Yellowstone and Yosemite, they provide dorms for employees to stay. They also deduct some money from your paycheck to stay there, but it's cheaper than paying for camping in the park all summer.
For high schoolers, the NPS has programs like the Youth Conservation Corps, which would be a good thing to put on a resume in the future. There are also many internship programs, some with a stipend, some without, offered by the NPS that can make for a summer to remember. Check them out on the NPS's Youth Programs Page.
State Park Jobs
If you have a favorite state park, it's worth checking to see if they're hiring for the season. My home state of Michigan often has many opportunities available. Every once in a while you might come across an awesome job like working as a tour guide to kids at a fish hatchery.
More likely, you'll probably be do things like help take care of campgrounds, cut or maintain grass or lawns, check park passes at the gates or pull off some janitorial work. It isn't glamorous, but it's a lot better than working at a fast food joint or car wash all summer.
Every state's hiring process is going to vary, so do your research ahead of time. Michigan doesn't put listings online. Instead, they encourage potential employees in inquire with the park of their choice about openings. Michigan and many other states also require a drug test before you're hired.
One downside is, the pay often isn't great. Michigan pays just $9.45 an hour for seasonal workers.
Fire lookout jobs
Looking for some real solitude? A job at a fire lookout in the wilderness of a state park or national forest may be just the ticket for the college student looking to unwind from a stressful school year.
The amount of time you work will vary, but for many fire lookouts, it is a full-time position. Most of these jobs are hired out in early January, but occasionally there are openings later in the year. The good news is these jobs tend to pay more than your standard federal summer jobs, between $14 and $18 an hour.
The other nice thing is that they usually don't require any experience either. Just a willingness to spend long hours by yourself in a watch tower looking for and reporting smoke.
Some jobs will have you staying in the tower full-time, while others may have you rotating time in the tower with other people. It varies from place to place, but most jobs will spell out the terms in the description.
If you love camping, backpacking and peace and quiet, it may be the job you're looking for. Check out firelookout.org, which lists these kinds of jobs in one convenient place.
Rafting guide jobs
These jobs are a little harder to get, if only because the requirements are more stringent. But they're a great opportunity for college students who love going down the river every day. In states like Colorado, river guides are required to be at least 18 years old. Many outfitters in western states like to hire young people for guide positions.
Most of the time you don't need river experience because they will train you in the process, the best practices and first aid. They also generally give you some serious river time before you ever take your first group out. Some outfitters charge a non-refundable training fee and require you to buy your own equipment, so be aware of that.
It also isn't exactly a high paying job, but some outfits provide employees with a dorm or camping area to stay for the length of the job, and most of the time you also pick up tips from the people on your trips.
This job is probably more about the experience than making a ton of money. Most of these jobs can be found on the websites of river outfitters.
Camp Counselor jobs
This one seems almost cliché at this point, but summer camp counselor jobs are a great thing to put on a resume if you're planning to pursue a career in the outdoors, but also childcare or education. These jobs don't tend to pay much, but you can be assured it will never be a boring job. Every day will be different.
One day you might be teaching children how to swim, build a campfire or go fishing or canoeing. The next you might be supervising them on a ropes course or zip line.
These job opportunities don't often give a lot of wiggle room for free time to yourself. The good news is that almost all your time will be outside enjoying the beautiful summer weather. That sounds a lot better than being stuck in a grocery store asking: "Paper or plastic?" doesn't it?
The qualifications for this type of job vary from state to state. Most are going to require applicants be 18 years of age now. Some also require you be working on a degree in a field of childcare or teaching.
An outdoor job is the best summer job
Here's some final advice for pursuing a summer job in the outdoors: don't get discouraged, and don't give up either. Most applications for these positions are online , so make sure you don't just send an application and wait. Follow up, and maybe give the place you're applying to a phone call to ask if they've filled the position yet.
In the interview process demonstrate maturity, determination, work ethic and a love for the outdoors, and you'll better your chances of enjoying a summer outside while getting paid for it!