When most people consider working for the federal government, they likely think of stuffy offices within stark gray concrete buildings. Of course, there is some truth to that as there are many government jobs that are mostly done in offices.
However, many good jobs within the federal government allow you to go out into the great outdoors and get some fresh air. After all, the government is a huge organization and they need to hire the same types of workers as does the private sector. There are federal employees that patrol on horseback, do landscaping work, spend most of the day in a boat, and do almost any sort of outdoor activity you can think of.
Some of these jobs are even based at some of the most beautiful and majestic national parks in the country. So if you like the outdoors and are looking for a dependable job with good pay and great benefits, the federal government may be the right place to start looking.
Below, we’ll look at the top outdoor federal jobs to help you with your search and give you some ideas for what direction to take in your career.
Bureau of Land Management
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is a federal agency within the Department of the Interior. They are tasked with administering federal lands and protecting the land’s integrity and overall health.
Some of the best outdoor jobs that can be found with BLM include the following:
- Fire management officer
- Natural Resource Specialist
- Outdoor recreation planner
- Law enforcement ranger
This is just a small sample of the over 10,000 jobs available with the BLM. Some require a specialized degree or certification. But others can be had with just a general education background.
According to employment data, these fields within BLM are usually the ones with the most openings.
- Biological Sciences
- Cadastral Survey and Geological Sciences
- Fire and Aviation
- Land Law and Realty
- Petroleum Engineering
- Rangeland Management
U.S. Forest Service
The U.S. Forest Service is an agency within the Department of Agriculture. The agency oversees 154 national forests and 20 national grasslands. The total land administered by The U.S. Forest Service is over 193 million acres.
The U.S. Forest Service is also quite large. They employ nearly 30,000 people, making it three times larger than the BLM.
Some common outdoor jobs with the U.S Forest Service include:
- Forestry and Foresting technicians
- Law enforcement and investigators
- Fire prevention
- Recreation specialists
The minimum salary in the U.S. Forest Service is $36,554. This is for entry-level positions. The higher end of salaries can be over $100k per year at the director level.
When looking for employment at the U.S. Forest Service, you may want to consider volunteering first. The U.S. Forest Service has many outdoor volunteer positions. This is a great way to network and open the door to a paid position.
Fish & Wildlife Service
The Fish & Wildlife Service is an agency within the Department of the Interior. Their goal is to protect fish, wildlife, and plants in their natural habitats. This includes birds, marine mammals, and virtually all wildlife native to the U.S.
Compared to other agencies, it’s somewhat smaller with around 8,000 employees. But many of those positions are great outdoor jobs.
Some of the top jobs in the Fish & Wildlife Service are:
- Fish biologist
- Park ranger
- Wildlife refuge manager
- Forestry technician
- Veterinary medicine and assistants
Volunteering is a great way to get started with the USFW. They have over 500 refuges and hatcheries around the country with open volunteer positions. This is a common pathway for those who work at the USFW.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
The NOAA provides weather forecasts. But they also monitor overall climate trends and changes and work with marine agencies to maintain coastal areas and fishing locations.
Jobs with the NOAA are generally more technical and do require specialized degrees. However, there are plenty of outdoor jobs with the NOAA that require a general education background or related work experience.
If you’re currently a student, the NOAA offers many programs to help guide you into an outdoor career with the NOAA. These include programs for both beginning college students as well as those in advanced degree programs.
U.S. Border Patrol
The U.S. Border Patrol is in charge of securing and monitoring the nation’s borders. Border patrol agents do a majority of their work patrolling and policing border crossings and long stretches of the northern and southern borders.
This job can be tough, and at times dangerous, but it is one of the better-paying outdoor jobs and there is a lot of room for advancement.
Of course, this job will mean you will likely have to relocate if you’re not already near the border. Some of the other jobs we’ve listed are available in many areas of the country.
Also, unlike many of the other jobs posted, you will have to pass an entrance exam to become a border patrol agent. After passing the initial test, you will undergo a screening that looks into background information and other related personal information.
But if you want an outdoor job that is also directly related to national security, then becoming a U.S. Border Patrol Agent is the perfect job for you.
Tips For Getting an Outdoor Federal Job
Many of the federal agencies we’ve listed above have mentorship/scholarship programs to help bring in employees.
This program is known as the Pathways program and it provides federal internship opportunities for current students, recent graduates, and those with advanced degrees.
Pathways Internship Program
This program is open to any student in high school, college, or trade school. The program allows you to work at federal outdoor jobs while still attending school. For those who do well in the program, job openings are available when you graduate.
Pathways Recent Graduate Program
This program is open to any graduate who has completed school within the last two years. Some certificate programs even qualify for this internship program.
Overall, the program helps recent grads find work with many of the federal agencies that have some of the best outdoor jobs in the country.
Pathways Presidential Management Fellows Program
The Presidential Management Fellows Program is dedicated to those who have graduated with an advanced degree, such as a master’s or Ph.D. in a required field.
Benefits of a Federal Outdoor Job
Besides getting to enjoy the great outdoors, federal jobs have some great benefits that aren’t always available in the private sector.
- Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS)
- Medical, vacation, and annual vacation time
- Federal health benefits
- Federal dental insurance
- Federal group life insurance
- Federal flexible spending accounts
Landing the Perfect Federal Outdoor Job
Hopefully, this article gave you some ideas for how to get a job that lets you work outdoors for the government.
If you’re a student or recent graduate, make sure to take advantage of the free Pathways program. This is your fastest ticket to getting a job within one of the agencies listed above.
If you aren’t in school or graduated some time ago, then volunteering is your next best option. All of these agencies have hundreds of locations around the country that need volunteers. This is a great way to get outside and also build powerful networking connections that help you secure the job of your dreams.