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The outdoor recreation industry brings in some serious revenue in America — according to a 2018 report from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, 2 percent of the United States’ gross domestic product. It is a $374 billion industry, and one with plenty of jobs available.
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 opportunities. The Outdoor Industry Association conducted a study in 2017 to track where the jobs are, noting that 145 million Americans participate in outdoor recreation activities annually.
Western states are famous for their 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 where employees are needed year-round.
According to the OIA, California has 691,000 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 here. Alaska, on the other hand, has 72,000 jobs in the sector, with a much lower cost of living. Washington’s job market includes more than 200,000 positions, Oregon has 172,000 and Arizona 201,000.
Colorado’s ski-and-snowboard-in-winter, hike-and-bike-in-summer culture employs 229,000 people. Montana has jobs for 71,000, while Utah and New Mexico each average around 100,000 places to work in the sunshine. Texas is another hot spot for outdoor jobs, with 411,000 annual opportunities.
Alaska and Wyoming are the Western states where outdoor recreation jobs make up the largest shares of total jobs. In Alaska, they make up 9.7 percent of the state’s total employment, while in Wyoming, 8.5 percent of workers have outdoor recreation jobs.
There’s no lack of job possibilities in the eastern part of the United States: New York state alone has 313,000 outdoor 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.
Pennsylvania counts over 250,000 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 percent in 2016 (as compared to the overall economy, which is growing at a 2.8 percent 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 485,000 jobs. Theme parks like Disneyworld and Universal Studios Orlando are certainly a part of that 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 opportunities.
Other Southern states that contribute to the region’s close to $3 billion each year in outdoor recreation revenues include Louisiana, with 103,000 jobs done outside, Georgia with 238,000 and North Carolina with 260,000.
The top five
If location isn’t a factor in your outdoor job search, consider heading to one of the states that offers the most employment opportunities to be had under the sun (and stars):
4. New York
5. North Carolina