Careers in the Great Outdoors
If you have wondered what you need to do to get a future career that will allow
you to work outside with nature, this web page explores your possibilities!
What classes do you need to take (and excel) to become qualified?
What are some of the career fields in the great outdoors?
Naturalist (also called an Interpretive Naturalist)
Paleontologist (A Career in Paleontology: Brochure originally published by the Paleontological Society,
reprinted and updated by permission.)
Site Manager (park, reservoir, forest, etc.)
Greg Beilfuss, IDNR State and Community Outdoor Recreation Planner offer the following suggestions:
Most of the folks I know who are working in this field didn’t take a “traditional” education path to get here; I can’t speak for anybody else, but here’s a glimpse into the long, strange trip I took to DNR’s Division of Outdoor Recreation:
- 90% common coursework, but did a bit of extracurricular journalism, photography, and arts which seems to be paying off now.
- All the sciences I could take.
- US and Indiana/Midwest history.
- US and Indiana social studies and cultural information.
- Lots of biology, organic chemistry, and basic hard science
- Specific wildlife biology, native species plant/mammal/ornithology/herpetology courses
- Meteorology; with an emphasis on US Midwestern weather/climatology
- Speech, debate, and study/research skills courses
- Computer science and technology
- Interpretation (multiple courses; some of the best I took)
- Wildlife biology
- Watershed ecology; Limnology (pond studies)
- Gerontology; aging in the US (has paid many dividends)
- Natural resource management
- Park and recreation administration
- Advanced interpretation
- Natural resource-based statistics
- Advanced research methods/research statistics
- Park management
- Parks and recreation planning (strategic, regional and site-based)
Years ago, I got some fantastic advice from a park professional: almost anything can be related to a career in parks and recreation, it’s how you apply it that makes the difference, and the jobs and internships you do along the way are going to be just as important to your learning as your classroom work; that’s how you discover how, where, and why to apply those theories and facts you learn in school. I’ve found that to be amazingly true, and I use bits and pieces of every job I’ve ever had in my daily work.
Ryann Waite, Bodine State Fish Hatchery says,
“I would recommend the students take as much chemistry and math (algebra and calculus) in high school as possible. The great thing about Purdue’s curriculum was I was able to take a wide range of classes such as English and sociology but still focus directly on my degree.”
Clinton R. Kowalik, Go FishIN Coordinator adds,
"In high school, I took advanced math and science. For college, I earned a Bachelor of Science in General Biology (lots of biology, chemistry, and general eds) and a Masters of Science in Fish and Wildlife Ecology (fish and wildlife management, aquatic ecology, ichthyology, and I studied abroad). I got hired as a Fisheries aide, then an Assistant Fisheries Biologist, and now I am a sport fishing educator."
Here are some websites that will allow you to explore careers:
Archaeologists at a dig talks to a group
Biology: Fish and Wildlife
Naturalists investigate a fen at Mounds State Park
Geology / Geosciences
Geology Students study Devonian rocks
Natural Resources (general)
Park manager rescues a baby mallard
Naturalist / interpretation
Interpretive program at the Indiana State Fair
A crinoid bed is investigated in the floor of a limestone quarry
If you find dead links or discovery informative websites with career information, let us know!
Created February 21, 2011, Updated October 25, 2016