There’s a career for you in the outdoor industry.
4.5 million Americans work in the outdoor industry to connect people to meaningful outdoor experiences across the country.
LEARN ABOUT OUTDOOR CAREERS
- build high tech equipment from boats and RVs to bikes and backpacks.
- invent new clothing and gear to keep people comfortable in a variety of climates.
- lead companies in responsible outdoor business practices with society’s best interests in mind.
- work with and for local, state, and federal agencies to ensure that all Americans have access to public lands and waters.
- study terrain and nature to design interesting trail networks that weave through landscapes and protect critical habitat.
- analyze business metrics to help meet the needs of new entrants to the outdoors and changing market demands.
- guide participants to have unforgettable experiences in treasured destinations.
- and so much more.
WHERE DO YOU FIT IN THE OUTDOOR INDUSTRY?
The $862 billion outdoor recreation industry creates 4.5 million jobs across the United States. The definition of an outdoor industry job is simple: A job that helps people experience the outdoors. In practice, this can look a lot of different ways, including jobs in the trades, manufacturing, infrastructure design, entrepreneurship, retail, public policy, technology and so many more. As a result, outdoor industry jobs take place both outdoors and indoors, with millions of talented professionals working in unison to connect people to the natural world.
So where might you fit in? ORR has organized outdoor recreation jobs into the skills and working styles of the prospective applicant:
These are people who love solving design challenges, working to build things, seeing the tangible results of their labor, and don’t mind being behind the scenes.
- Powersports, Boat, and RV Technicians
- Ski Lift Technicians
- Software Engineers and Web Developers
- Biologists, Ecologists, and Natural Resource Specialists
- Trail, Infrastructure, and Facility Design and Construction
- Permitting and Planning
- Landscape Architects and Engineers
- Shipping Logistics
- Business Analytics
These are people who get their energy being around other people, and like aspects of storytelling and interpretation to be involved in their work. They are most satisfied when people around them have great days in the outdoors.
- Sales and Customer Service
- Community Managers
- Cultural Storytellers
- Public Affairs
- Communications and Development
- Travel Advisors
- Event Planning
- Client Relations
- Concessions Operators
- Guiding and Outfitting
These sorts of workers aren’t easily captured in one box—they have aspects of public facing and internal work woven into their job. They like crafting plans for the future, solving challenges, and communicating with a diverse set of stakeholders about the importance of the outdoors.
- Land and Water Management
- Community Economic Development
- Environmental Justice
- Recreation Management
- Social Scientists
- Risk Management
- Product Design and Development
- Corporate Sustainability
- Outdoor Recreation/Conservation Policy
- User Experience/User Interface
You can dive deeper into these jobs by going to our career path module and learning from real people about how they got into their roles as well as some advice for each of you to thrive in the outdoors.
A FAST-GROWING SECTOR
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the outdoor recreation industry grew nearly 19% since 2020 compared to 5.7% for the U.S. economy as a whole, and outdoor jobs grew 13% compared to 2.9%. More Americans than ever before are getting outdoors and moving to places with great access to the outdoors as a result of remote work opportunities. As a result, the outdoor industry needs talented professionals across every segment to help match this momentum.
LEARN FROM THE BEST
In early 2023, Outdoor Recreation Roundtable produced a series to outline the wide array of career opportunities in the outdoor industry workforce, strategies to effectively enter the outdoor workforce, academic and trade programs to support talent in acquiring new skills, and future trends in the outdoor workforce.
The Outdoor Industry is On The Rise
A short overview of the $862 billion outdoor recreation economy and the wide diversity of high-quality career paths that exist within.
How to Work in the Outdoor Industry
Experts share strategies and tools for new entrants to the outdoor workforce to assess their skill sets, find outdoor work that fits their talents, and find outdoor careers where they belong.
Career Development for Outdoor Professionals
Representatives from six academic and trade programs share overviews of their programs for outdoor professionals with and without college degrees to advance their skills.
Future Trends in the Outdoor Workforce
Forward-thinking leaders from across the industry share ideas about the types of work that will be in high demand in the years to come, from design, engineering, manufacturing, and communications, to land management, field research, and community development.
Outdoor careers don’t require outdoor experience.
In fact, many outdoor careers take place indoors. So many talented people in our industry didn’t grow up camping, skiing, or hiking—most jobs don’t require this experience! Outdoor workers have all sorts of passions and skill sets, from technical expertise and hands-on manufacturing, graphic and apparel design, advanced business analytics, or critical thinking skills required to lead organizations. For these reasons, many pivot into the outdoor industry from other industries, and their skill sets are immediately valuable.
GO TO SCHOOL FOR THE OUTDOORS
There have never been so many programs around the country to support entry into the outdoor industry workforce. From bachelor’s degrees and master’s programs to trade programs and certificates, there is an outdoor program for you–this map of nearly 250 programs should help.
*Click the icon in the top left of the map below to expand the key.
Preferred Academic Partners
Oregon State University Center for the Outdoor Recreation Economy
The Center for the Outdoor Recreation Economy is delivering a new kind of workforce development to meet the unique needs of the vast, extremely entrepreneurial, and rapidly growing outdoor recreation industry.
University of Denver Leadership in the Outdoor Recreation Industry
The University of Denver has partnered with the VF Foundation to launch the Outdoor Recreation Industry Program, two interdisciplinary graduate certificates designed for individuals seeking to enter or advance in the outdoor industry.
OUTDOOR CAREER CENTER
To submit your resource to this workforce hub center, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Basecamp is an inclusive community representing the outdoor industry workforce. Members range from industry executives, marketing wizards, 30-year journalists, pro athletes, not-pro athletes, MBA students, sustainability experts, photographers, product designers, and park rangers.
Greening Youth Foundation
The Greening Youth Foundation’s (GYF) mission is to engage under-represented youth and young adults, while connecting them to the outdoors and careers in conservation.
In Solidarity Job Board
This site is a resource for job seekers from underrepresented communities looking for employment in the outdoor and travel industries. New jobs are being posted all the time by our Industry Partners, so please check back regularly for the latest updates.
Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education Career Center
The AORE Career Center is the premier resource for students pursuing a career in outdoor recreation and education and professionals seeking new opportunities in their area of expertise. Members will find a range of resources and materials about the outdoor recreation market and advice for those engaged in the job search process.
RV Dealers Association Career Center
RVDA, The National RV Dealers Association, is the only national association dedicated to advancing the RV retailer’s interests through education, member services, industry leadership, and market expansion programs. This Career Center provides Career Coaching, Resume Writing Advice, Available Jobs, and more!
Veterans Employment: GI Bill Benefits Can Help Lead to Outdoor Recreation Careers
This June 2023 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Offices outlines pathways for veterans to apply their experience in military service to careers in outdoor recreation.
The Corps Network
The Corps Network is a collection of 150 Corps across the country who provide young adults and veterans the opportunity to serve our country through projects on public lands and in rural and urban communities.
HELP THE OUTDOOR WORKFORCE GROW
There is no better time to ensure the continued success of the outdoor workforce.
ORR is determined to use its strength as an industry convener to help outdoor organizations collaborate and build a thriving outdoor workforce. This section is dedicated to leaders who are eager to be at the table and provides a north star for the entire outdoor industry to move towards together.
In 2022 and 2023, ORR surveyed a diverse array of industry experts on the core opportunities for further research, data, and resources development in building an outdoor workforce that works for everyone. From this input, ORR has developed a Roadmap for a 21st Century Outdoor Workforce. Check out our white paper or read the four core opportunities listed below. We are looking to feature the best research, tools, and resources related to these opportunities and create new policy and partnerships. To share your ideas, send to email@example.com
FOUR CORE OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE OUTDOOR WORKFORCE
Define Outdoor Jobs and Close the Skills Gap
- Opportunity: There is a growing gap between in-demand skill needs in the outdoor industry and the skill sets of the applicant pool. This skill gap is not distributed equally among different organizations and segments of the outdoor industry—periodic research is needed to understand where needs are most acute.
- Related resources: The Outdoor Industry’s Moment of Opportunity, Lee Davis, Oregon State University
Build an Outdoor Workforce for All
Opportunity: The demographics of the outdoor workforce do not match the demographics of the U.S. population, particularly in relation to race and ethnicity but also related to other factors like disability and socioeconomic status. This is a result of legacies of exclusion and discrimination in the outdoors that have inhibited prospective talent from considering a career in the outdoors and reaching their full potential once inside.
- Related resources: The Nature Gap: Why Outdoor Spaces Lack Diversity and Inclusion, North Carolina State University
Establish Winning Narratives on Outdoor Work
- Opportunity: Many prospective applicants are unaware that the outdoor industry provides a sustainable career path, or if they are aware, they only think of a limited subset of outdoor recreation jobs (e.g., seasonal, participant-facing, outdoor jobs).
Influential figures in career development, like parents, career counselors, and professionals are unaware of the wide variety of outdoor industry jobs across segments.
- Related resources: 5 Exciting Careers for Outdoor Recreation Majors (Characteristic limited coverage of outdoor jobs)
Address Affordability and Housing Issues
- Opportunity: Many outdoor communities are becoming too expensive for recreation workers to live and contain insufficient housing supply/overwhelming housing demand to support the outdoor workforce.
- Related resources: The Amenity Trap, Headwaters Economics
Outdoor Rec Drives Jobs: Careers in the Recreation Economy
Leaders are investing in outdoor recreation resources and infrastructure in unprecedented ways and the outdoor industry is gaining recognition. It is time to invest in the maturity of the outdoor recreation industry in the long haul.
ORR’s 2022 report on the outdoor workforce aims to showcase the outdoor recreation workforce and broadcast the wide variety of available career paths in the outdoor industry.
Outdoor Industry Workforce Assessment Survey
To take stock of the outdoor industry’s workforce needs, ORR helped coordinate the Outdoor Industry Workforce Assessment with support from the VF Foundation, along with Oregon State University Center for the Outdoor Recreation Economy, Outdoor Industry Association, Basecamp Outdoor, Path to Peak Education + Consulting, and the Confluence of States.
This report identifies trends in workforce hiring and retention, help further educational and up-skilling initiatives, and provide a snapshot of where the industry stands in its efforts to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion. Check out the report to see where the industry stands.
Outdoor Industry Primer for Career Development Offices
For Career Development Offices and Workforce Professionals, this two-pager on outdoor industry careers provides a background on the full diversity of work opportunities in the fast growing outdoor sector for people with all kinds of skill sets.
Outdoor Jobs Template for Youth-Serving Organizations
If your organization takes youth and families outside, we built a resource for you to communicate with your participants how they can channel their interest in the outdoors into a career. Feel free to download this template and make edits to best suit the voice of your organization and the community you serve.
To help build the Roadmap above, in April 2023 ORR brought together a wide variety of outdoor industry partners in Bend, OR with the generous support of the Oregon State University Center for the Outdoor Recreation Economy. Activities included facilitated discussion on outdoor workforce needs, guided snowshoeing at Mt. Bachelor with Wanderlust Tours, a family-style meal with the brilliant leaders of Camp Yoshi, a discussion of building affordable housing with at Hanai Foundation, and a closing campfire with local musician Jenner Fox.