Summer jobs in the outdoors

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of January 1-8, 1996

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Summer jobs in the outdoors
Q: Do you know how I could get a job working on trails, or something like that, for the summer? I really love the outdoors, but I also need money for college. Please let me know if you can help.
Bryce Hamilton
Rochester Hills, MI
[email protected]

A: The good news is, with so many thousands of acres of national and state parks and national forestland, there are plenty of summer jobs out there for the grabbing--all you need to do is decide what kind of work you're willing to do, where you want to be, and how much money you need to make. Be forewarned, though, that unless you head up to Alaska to work the fishing boats, you won't exactly be rolling in dough after a summer in the great outdoors. If you sign on with a national or regional wilderness conservation group, you'll probably only get paid a small stipend or minimum wage, which--if you look on the bright side--is still better than having to fork out cash for the experience.

You may want to consider applying for a job with the Appalachian Mountain Club in New Hampshire's White Mountains. They fill nearly 100 positions each summer, most of which pay about $5.40 an hour--not bad, considering you'll have the whole summer to explore some of the less-trammeled trails in the Presidential Range. If you're in the market for back-breaking physical labor, vie for one of 12 positions on their trail maintenance crew. You'll learn the intricacies of step building and erosion management by day, and spend your nights "spiked in the woods" (read: sleeping in primitive backcountry camps). Or, if you're looking for a little more contact with civilization, opt for a summer as a shelter caretaker--where your duties will include composting human waste and overseeing shelter use. For something not quite so rustic, you could always sign on as a cook or dishwasher in one of their eight backcountry huts. Applications are due February 1, and you need to be at least 18; call the AMC at 603-466-2721 for more information.

The Student Conservation Association may also be worth a look. They coordinate seasonal volunteer programs with federal, state, and private natural resource agencies in all 50 states. While you won't get paid for your work, you will receive money to cover your round-trip travel to the project site, as well as free housing and an allowance for food and a uniform. Most SCA programs run for three months, with volunteers putting in about 40 hours a week. Best of all, you'll have your pick of a wide variety of posts--from wildlife tracking in northern Florida to fish hatchery work in Colorado. You must be at least 18 to apply; call 603-826-5206 for more information.

Finally, you can always opt for a summer stint in one of our national parks, either with a park concessionaire or the Park Service directly. Your best bet for getting employment information is to call the National Park Service at 202-208-4649. You might also stop by the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service site to learn about other volunteer programs with the Earth Team and Americorps.

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