Highest-paying jobs that let you work outside

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March 20, 2020
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Highest-paying jobs that let you work outside

When it comes time to settle down and get a job, many people think a professional life entails spending long periods indoors, at a computer, in a boardroom, or holding a meeting.

And the idea of spending eight or more hours a day away from nature and sunlight may be challenging for people who love nothing more than spending time outdoors. Luckily for them, many jobs allow people who prioritize spending time outdoors to make a good living.

These professions range widely in the level of training and education required. Some jobs, like farming, require almost no formal training, but deep experiential knowledge that can only come from hours out in the field. Engineers, on the other hand, often need advanced degrees to conduct their work. Some of these jobs are best suited for those with strong people skills. Construction managers, for example, need to oversee multiple personalities along with multiple projects, keeping all stakeholders happy as they move towards completion of a building. Other professions, like light truck drivers or delivery service drivers, may need to be happy spending large swathes of time alone.

Regardless, well-paying jobs that allow people to spend time outdoors often allow people to make a living doing what they love. Whether that is a love of skiing that turns into a job running ski patrol or love of trees that leads to a career in forestry, many opportunities professionalize abiding passions.

Stacker compiled a list of the highest paying jobs that let you work outside. The list considered 45 jobs in which "at least some workers spend a large part of their workday doing tasks outside," according to BLS. The median annual wage ranks jobs as of May 2018 from the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook. The median incomes of tree trimmers, pruners, and landscaping and groundskeeping workers are based on median hourly wages assuming that they work 2,080 hours a year.

Read on to discover the highest paying jobs that take you outside. 

#45. Amusement and recreation attendants

- Median annual income: $22,260
- Employment: 338,600
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: +8%

Children who loved attending theme parks might never have to age out of that if they decide to become amusement and recreation attendants. Such professions include operating the line for roller coasters, selling funnel cakes and other concessions, or even operating the rides. Attendants require little in the way of formal education and are often trained by others on the job.

#44. Lifeguards, ski patrol, and other recreational protective service workers

- Median annual income: $22,410
- Employment: 151,800
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: +7%

Excellent skiers and swimmers have the opportunity to professionalize their passions and help others enjoy and excel at their sports safely by becoming lifeguards, ski patrols, or other kinds of protective, recreational service workers. But the job isn't all fun and games—these workers are often required to call emergency services when required and must have the constitution to do so quickly and with a cool head in the case of an emergency.

#43. Farmworkers and laborers, crop, nursery, and greenhouse

- Median annual income: $24,320
- Employment: 532,300
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: +2%

Anyone who loves plants, nature, and the outdoors, particularly as it applies to crops, may want to consider becoming a farmworker or laborer tending to crops, nurseries, and greenhouses. Although little formal education is required, anyone engaged in this profession should be in excellent physical shape, as it requires a significant amount of physical activity over an extended period.

#42. Farmworkers, farm, ranch, and aquacultural animals

- Median annual income: $26,560
- Employment: 256,100
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: -3%

Animal-lovers would be well suited to work on a ranch, farm, or near a body of water with all the creatures who populate it. Everything from feeding to branding is on the slate of duties that may be required for this position, so employees should make sure they have the stomach to manage all parts of an animal's life cycle.

#41. Travel guides

- Median annual income: $26,570
- Employment: 61,900
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: +7%

Those who don't mind living out of a suitcase and enjoy experiencing other cultures can look into being a travel guide writer, which can involve significant time outdoors, depending on which destinations you are covering. Those interested in this profession should make sure their writing skills are honed along with their acumen in packing.

#40. Umpires, referees, and other sports officials

- Median annual income: $27,020
- Employment: 22,000
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: +6%

Sports fans have a prime opportunity to stay in the game for life with jobs as umpires, referees, and other sports officials. Only a high school diploma is typically required, but these professions require a high level of personal integrity, so as not to let favoritism or fandom influence close calls.

#39. Forest and conservation workers

- Median annual income: $27,460
- Employment: 13,900
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: -3%

Forest and conservation workers spend their time in outdoor spaces making sure the natural world is respected, cleaned, and cared for. With wildfires making headlines across the globe from Australia to California, the firefighting element of this profession is now in the spotlight more than ever.

#38. Fishing and hunting workers

- Median annual income: $28,530
- Employment: 39,400
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: -2%

While fishing and hunting may sound like an ideal job for those who enjoy both pastimes, the job does not come without risks. Workers need little in terms of formal education, but they do need to be prepared to confront the likes of rogue grizzlies, making it a rather specialized occupation.

#37. Crossing guards

- Median annual income: $28,960
- Employment: 81,700
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: +6%

Those who want nothing more than to stand in the sun for hours on end may want to work as crossing guards. Guards help people—particularly children in school zones—get where they are going safely.

#36. Landscaping and groundskeeping workers

- Median annual income: $28,995
- Employment: 1,205,200
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: +9%

Landscaping and groundskeeping workers help make parks, gardens, and other outdoor areas in good shape. Although formal education or training is typically minimal, workers engaged in this work will need to know how to use a range of specialized tools, from mowers to tractors to snow blowers.

#35. Light truck or delivery services drivers

- Median annual income: $30,500
- Employment: 1,449,100
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: +2%

In the age of internet shopping and home delivery, light truck drivers or delivery service drivers have plenty of work to do hauling packages from one place to another. Although being a good driver is key to success in this profession, so too is being a meticulous record-keeper.

#34. Agriculture equipment operators

- Median annual income: $31,190
- Employment: 66,600
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: +10%

Agriculture equipment operators are primarily engaged with farming, working to till, plant seeds, and harvest crops. Although a high school diploma may be helpful, the primary skills for this job are mechanical and tend to involve operating highly specialized machines.

#33. Coaches and scouts

- Median annual income: $33,780
- Employment: 290,100
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: +11%

Sports fans who want a slightly more active role in the industry than an agent would take may wish to consider becoming a sports coach or agent. Along with the desire to spend a significant amount of time on playing fields, coaches and scouts need to have substantial knowledge of the ins and outs of the sport of their choice.

#32. Emergency medical technicians and paramedics

- Median annual income: $34,320
- Employment: 262,100
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: +7%

Emergency medical technicians and paramedics can be dispatched to remote locations to help hikers, bikers, climbers, and those engaged in other outdoor pursuits who need help. EMTs and paramedics typically need training in a range of medical skills to perform their jobs.

#31. Construction laborers and helpers

- Median annual income: $34,810
- Employment: 1,645,700
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: +11%

Construction laborers and helpers build or repair houses, buildings, and other structures. Besides technical skills, construction laborers and helpers also tend to need a high baseline of physical fitness to do their jobs, and some may even need training in explosives, which they may use to clear sites for further work.

#30. Animal breeders

- Median annual income: $37,060
- Employment: 8,900
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: +3%

Whether working with pets, farm animals, or exotic animals, animal breeders mate animals to produce babies. Along with the knowledge of the particular type of animal they are breeding, many breeders also need land to properly house and care for the animals.

#29. Forest and conservation technicians

- Median annual income: $37,180
- Employment: 32,700
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: +2%

The job of the forest and conservation technician involves communicating to the public about the condition of certain outdoor spaces, conveying what needs to be done to protect these spaces, and educating the public about how to enjoy these spaces safely. This means that in addition to having a deep understanding of the area they are responsible for, forest and conservation technicians also require clear and powerful communication skills.

#28. Refuse and recyclable material collectors

- Median annual income: $37,260
- Employment: 133,000
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: +8%

Refuse and recyclable material collectors are responsible for making sure that garbage and recyclables are picked up on time and disposed of properly. Anyone engaged in this profession will need to know how to use specialized machinery to do this work at scale, and they also need to have excellent driving skills.

#27. Roustabouts, oil and gas

- Median annual income: $37,580
- Employment: 58,300
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: +15%

Oil and gas roustabouts assemble and repair oil field equipment. They need specialized knowledge of how to fix and put together unique pieces of machinery with high levels of exactitude and attention to detail. They also need to have a relatively high level of physical fitness.

#26. Tree trimmers and pruners

- Median annual income: $38,189
- Employment: 55,600
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: +10%

Tree trimmers and pruners keep trees in good shape and health, and they make sure that trees that need to be felled or cut back are tended to safely, following proper procedures. In addition to having the physical strength to do this job, tree trimmers and pruners need to have a high level of awareness of their surroundings to keep others safe and to make sure they are following all standard protocols.

#25. Self-enrichment education teachers

- Median annual income: $38,720
- Employment: 369,500
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: +12%

Self-enrichment education teachers teach classes on subjects and skills that do not tend to lead to vocational or professional ends. Such activities may include many outdoor activities, ranging from bird-watching to outdoor painting. Along with knowledge of the specific skill being taught, anyone engaged in this profession must have the ability to help students keep going in the face of difficulties as they learn their new skills.

#24. Highway maintenance workers

- Median annual income: $39,690
- Employment: 155,300
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: +5%

Highway maintenance workers make sure that municipal and rural roads, including at airports, are in excellent condition for drivers. One of the most important qualifications for this job is a high level of physical fitness to clear debris and move heavy machinery.

#23. Parking enforcement workers

- Median annual income: $39,840
- Employment: 8,600
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: -37%

Parking enforcement workers spend a great deal of time outdoors, walking on rounds to make sure that people who have parked in an area are following the rules. Such workers need to have an eye for detail to catch minor infractions, and they also need to have the ability to work with large databases in which vehicle information and registration are stored.

#22. Meter readers, utilities

- Median annual income: $40,360
- Employment: 34,200
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: -12%

Utility meter readers measure and note steam, electric, and gas meters and enter data in their systems. Meter readers need to know the precise metrics by which utilities are recorded, and they need to be comfortable and familiar with data systems, including using data management and systems to record precise measurements.

#21. Logging equipment operators

- Median annual income: $40,510
- Employment: 36,900
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: -14%

Logging equipment operators drive logging trucks and other vehicles to load, unload, stack, and clear logs. Anyone engaged in such work needs to have significant familiarity with how to operate such machinery, and they also need to have the ability to maintain focus while performing work with heavy objects.

#20. Fallers

- Median annual income: $40,650
- Employment: 53,600
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: -14%

Fallers measure felled trees and cut them into specified lengths using chain saws and axes, split logs, and select trees to be cut down. Such work requires knowledge of which trees are good candidates for felling. They also need to possess the raw physical strength required to operate such heavy machinery.

#19. Sailors and marine oilers

- Median annual income: $40,900
- Employment: 33,000
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: -3%

Sailors and marine oilers work at a variety of tasks at sea to make sure that ships and other vessels run at optimal capacity and navigate the waters safely. They must have a deep knowledge of all relevant laws and protocols and the ability to operate all relevant machinery, some of which require highly specialized skills.

#18. Agriculture inspectors

- Median annual income: $44,140
- Employment: 17,700
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: +4%

Agriculture inspectors make sure that farms and other food-producing areas comply with all relevant laws and regulations to ensure public safety. These are specialized positions that require the ability to collect and analyze data, and to store, maintain, and report it in whatever database is mandated.

#17. Commercial divers

- Median annual income: $49,140
- Employment: 4,000
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: +7%

There are many types of commercial divers, but one of the most common ways in which a commercial diver works is for an oil and gas company drilling offshore. These highly specialized professions require a significant amount of training and certifications. Beyond diving skills, additional skills like photography, are required for media divers.

#16. Motorboat operators

- Median annual income: $50,290
- Employment: 2,700
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: +3%

Motorboat operators run small commercial boats that carry a limited number of passengers. They must know how to read compasses, navigate the water safely and efficiently, get passengers where they are going, and use radar and other technology.

#15. Rotary drill operators, oil and gas

- Median annual income: $53,800
- Employment: 19,300
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: +15%

Oil and gas rotary drill operators set up and operate a variety of drills to extract underground oil and gas. Familiarity with oil and gas technology is necessary, as is mastery of database user interface and query software. Dexterous hand-eye coordination and controlled movement are also vital to ensure equipment is being operated safely and correctly.

#14. Fish and game wardens

- Median annual income: $57,710
- Employment: 6,400
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: +2%

Anyone who wants to make sure public land is used as it is meant to be by anyone fishing or hunting on it may wish to consider becoming a fish and game warden. Such positions require an authoritative and rule-abiding personality that's able to enforce state fishing, hunting, and boating laws.

#13. Postal service mail carriers

- Median annual income: $58,760
- Employment: 504,100
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: -21%

Mail carriers get postal mail and packages to people on time. One of the primary requirements for such a job is the ability to spend multiple hours a day physically carrying mail, which means that physical fitness is an essential requirement for mail carriers.

#12. Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists

- Median annual income: $60,200
- Employment: 15,200
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: +8%

Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists inspect public places for fire hazards, enforce fire regulations, and recommend fire prevention or control methods. They must have the specialized knowledge of what constitutes a fire hazard and how to prevent fires, and have the attention to detail and communications skills to use this knowledge to prevent fires effectively.

#11. Conservation scientists

- Median annual income: $61,310
- Employment: 24,700
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: +4%

Conservation scientists manage the land quality in forests, parks, and ranges. They typically need bachelor's degrees in forestry or environmental science, agricultural science, or rangeland management, and some even go on to get master's or doctorate degrees in these subjects. Conservation scientists must be up to date on government regulations and be extremely detail-oriented in terms of compliance.

#10. Foresters

- Median annual income: $61,410
- Employment: 9,000
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: +1%

Anyone who particularly loves the natural beauty of forests may want to consider becoming a forester. Time in this profession is spent maintaining, planning, and preserving forests and wilderness areas, including caring for the creatures that live in them. A bachelor's degree in forestry is typically required, which includes courses in biology, chemistry, and other related subjects.

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#9. Railroad brake, signal, and switch operators

- Median annual income: $61,480
- Employment: 91,100
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: -2%

Railroad brake, signal, and switch operators make sure railroads and trains operate safely and as they are engineered to do, ensuring that passengers get where they are going on time and maintaining the integrity of the lines themselves. Specialized skills and knowledge are required, such as the use of electronic train management systems and route mapping software.

#8. Surveyors

- Median annual income: $62,580
- Employment: 49,200
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: +6%

Surveyors determine property boundaries by taking measurements, and they provide data for engineers, construction projects, and map-makers. A bachelor's degree in a related field is typically required, as are several years working under an established surveyor.

#7. Zoologists and wildlife biologists

- Median annual income: $63,420
- Employment: 19,300
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: +5%

Those who have an abiding love for animals may wish to consider becoming zoologists and wildlife biologists. Zoologists and wildlife biologists spend their working lives studying animals and how they interact with natural and artificial habitats. Requirements for such a career often include a master's degree in a related field.

#6. Line installers and repairers

- Median annual income: $65,880
- Employment: 242,200
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: +4%

In a world run by electricity and the internet, line installers and repairers provide critical services, installing and repairing power systems and telecommunications cables. Such work is almost always done outdoors, which is where such cables are placed, and the job typically requires specific knowledge of trigonometry and algebra.

#5. Farmers, ranchers, and other agriculture managers

- Median annual income: $67,950
- Employment: 975,400
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: -1%

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers are in charge of various types of establishments that produce livestock, crops, and dairy. Experience is key to performing this job. A high school degree is not a requirement, but possessing an in-depth knowledge of the land, weather, animals, and other elements is imperative.

#4. Captains, mates, and pilots of water vessels

- Median annual income: $69,180
- Employment: 38,700
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: -2%

Anyone whose preferred mode of the outdoors is the open seas or waterways may wish to consider becoming the captain, mate, or pilot of a water vessel. Beyond this enthusiasm, the job requires a license from the U.S. Coast Guard, which comes with significant training and education requirements.

#3. Ship engineers

- Median annual income: $71,130
- Employment: 9,000
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: -3%

Engineers of ships have a lot to manage, and they must be good at handling multiple complex tasks under pressure. These responsibilities include monitoring machinery for hours on end and making sure pumps, engines, and ventilation systems work as intended. Constitutionally, ship engineers must also be willing to spend extended periods away from home.

#2. Civil engineers

- Median annual income: $86,640
- Employment: 326,800
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: +6%

Civil engineers are well compensated for the highly specialized work they do, designing, building, and maintaining roads and bridges as well as drinking water and energy systems. Engineering degrees are required, and they often involve postgraduate instruction. Specialized types of engineering will have special requirements, like transportation engineering, coastal engineering, and environmental engineering.

#1. Construction managers

- Median annual income: $93,370
- Employment: 471,800
- Projected employment change 2018-2020: +10%

Those with a knack for managing people and multiple work streams happening at the same time may want to consider construction management. Construction managers oversee construction projects from start to finish, including preparing cost estimates and timetables, reporting to clients, and making sure all subcontractors are performing tasks efficiently. Significant people skills are a requirement for construction managers, who must balance multiple personalities and interests to keep everything running smoothly.

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