The Best Places in America to Find Outdoor Recreation Jobs

The outdoor recreation industry brings in some serious revenue in America—in fact, according to a 2018 report from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, that sector of the economy brings in 2% of the United States’ gross domestic product (GDP). That means it is a $374 billion industry and one with plenty of outdoor jobs available for the taking.

Taking a closer look at outdoor recreation jobs (as opposed to other work that is conducted outside, like farming, landscaping, or firefighting), states throughout the U.S. offer various types of employment opportunities. The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) conducted a study in 2017 to track where the jobs are located, noting the fact that 145M Americans participate in outdoor recreation activities annually.

Over 331M visits are made by nature lovers to U.S. national parks every year, which the OIA estimates as one visit for every American. And all those people depend on guides, experts, instructors, docents, and other people working behind the scenes to make their experiences something special.

The OIA says that nationwide there are 7.6M jobs in the outdoor industry; their consumer spending estimates are higher than the government’s, set at $887 billion.

Head West for Some Top Opportunities

Western states are famous for their outdoor landscapes, from California’s Yosemite and Sequoia national parks to Montana’s Yellowstone, Alaska’s Denali, Washington’s Olympic, Oregon’s Mt. Hood, and Wyoming’s Grand Tetons. And those gorgeous parks are just the beginning of the numerous places where employees are needed to cover all aspects of the outdoor experience that Westerners embrace all year round.

According to the OIA, California has 691K annual outdoor jobs available (by far the most of any state), but the high cost of living in California might have job seekers thinking twice about taking a job in this state. Alaska, on the other hand, has 72K jobs in the sector, with a much lower cost of living. Washington’s job market includes over 200K positions. Oregon has 172K, Arizona 201K, and Utah 110K.

Colorado’s ski and snowboard in winter, hike and bike in summer outdoor culture employs 229K people. Montana has jobs for 71K, while Utah and New Mexico each average around 100K places to work in the sunshine. Texas is another hotspot (both literally and figuratively) for outdoor jobs, as the Lone Star State boasts 411K annual opportunities.

Alaska and Wyoming are the Western states where outdoor recreation jobs make up the largest shares of total jobs. In Alaska, those jobs make up 9.7% of the state’s total employment, while in Wyoming, 8.5 percent of workers have outdoor recreation jobs.

Eastern States Offer Outdoor Employment, Too

There’s no lack of job possibilities in the eastern part of the United States, proven by the fact that New York state alone has 313K outdoor employment careers available. Those jobs range from leading walking tours of Manhattan all the way to being ski instructors at Lake Placid’s famed Whiteface resort. New York is known for its summers filled with fishing, hunting, hiking, and canoeing, as well as winters that include cross-country skiing, snowboarding and ice fishing.

Pennsylvania counts over 250K outdoor jobs, while Vermont and New Hampshire rank near the top of states with a high percentage of people employed outside—8.2 percent for Vermont and 5.9 for New Hampshire, according to the OIA. Jobs in the Eastern states are part of what is driving growth in the overall outdoor recreation industry, which the Department of Commerce put at 3.8% in 2016 (as compared to the overall economy, which is growing at a 2.8% rate).

Don’t Forget Florida

No look at outdoor work possibilities would be complete with a mention of Florida, which ranks second in the nation with 485K jobs. Theme parks like Disneyworld and Universal Studios Orlando are certainly a part of that overall number, with beach lifeguards, scuba instructors, swamp guides, golf pros (and caddies) and Key West Conch Train Tour conductors adding to the Sunshine State’s myriad outdoor jobs.

Other Southern states that contribute to the region’s close to $3 billion earned each year in outdoor recreation revenues include Louisiana, with 103K jobs done outside, Georgia, with 238K, and North Carolina, with 260K.

Try the Top Five

If location isn’t a factor in your outdoor job search, then consider heading to one of the top five states who offer the most employment opportunities to be had under the sun (and stars). Those are:

1. California
2. Florida
3. Texas
4. New York
5. North Carolina

Written by

Jenny is a freelance journalist and previous contributor to the ZipRecruiter blog.

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