Where I went to high school, many students started picking up jobs as soon as they turned 16. Come the summer, I’d see them at the local CVS, serving ice cream up the street, or stocking cans on the grocery store shelves.
Good for them. They’re making money – and maybe you feel the pressure to start bringing in some cash, too. But you already spend the entire school year cooped up underneath fluorescent lights. Now you have to spend your summer inside, too?
Not so fast, my friend. If you’re in need of fresh air, then you’re in luck. The outdoor industry is chock full of seasonal summer jobs. Many of them are made for high school and college students like you.
Some of them will help you learn new skills, too – all while stocking your piggy bank. Sounds a lot better than working at the pharmacy.
Not sure where to start? Look no further than the list below. Think of it as a jumping-off point to find other cool jobs. The only limit is your imagination.
1. Work at a lodge
Google any popular outdoor recreation area, and chances are, you’ll find a lodge nearby. You’ll often find them alongside national parks and national forests. Smaller campgrounds aren’t a bad bet, either.
Much of the work that you would be doing in a lodge is indoors, but the tradeoff is often low-cost employee housing in a stunning location where you can hike, paddle, and do what you love on your days off – often so close to your front door that you won’t need a car.
As always, do your research. If you don’t mind some manual labor and customer service, you might enjoy a summer at a lodge.
2. Join A Trail Crew
Trail crews, like the trails they maintain, can be found scattered around the country. Many of them are on a volunteer basis, but some of them are paid.
On a trail crew, you’ll do hard physical work, but trail crew members across the board praise its highly rewarding nature.
You’ll learn how to move large boulders, cut blowdowns, and maybe even use a chainsaw. You’ll also create new treadway, build rock stairs, and get seriously buff.
Research any trail near you and it’s likely to have opportunities to get involved with trail maintenance. Many trail maintainers are aging and are always excited to see younger folks join the crew.
3. Work At A Summer Camp
Summer camp jobs are unique. If seeing the country (or the world!) is your gig, then you don’t have to stay close to home. These jobs almost always provide employee housing, usually alongside your group of campers.
Many summer camps require their camp counselors to be 18 years of age, but some of them also have junior counselor positions for younger folks, so keep an eye out.
Even if you’re more introverted or aren’t terribly inclined to work with children, being a summer camp counselor can stretch your people skills and your confidence being a leader. You’ll also make friends from around the country.
There are over 12,000 summer camps in the United States alone, so your options aren’t limited. Find one near you – or on the other side of the country. The sky’s the limit.
4. Work for the National Park Service
Is independent work more your style? Try and score an internship with the National Park Service. They take students as young as 15.
NPS has multiple opportunities for teens. You can join their Youth Conservation Corps program and get paid to build trails, maintain campgrounds, restore streams, and a number of other awesome projects.
If being a park ranger is a long term dream of yours, an internship with NPS might be a step towards getting your foot in the door.
It also doesn’t hurt to do some research on your state’s department of conservation and natural resources. The name varies slightly by state, but these jobs will get you into conservation work in more local places like state forests.
5. Work at an environmental center
Environmental centers are fantastic if you want to interact with the public and your local landscape. They can be found in every state, and they exist to protect and inform about every different type of ecosystem.
Whether you want to learn about a wetland or a prairie, an environmental center might be just the gig. If exploring the natural world outside of a traditional school setting is your thing, then take to the hills. The local environmental center awaits.
6. Work on a farm
If hard manual labor doesn’t bother you and free produce gets you excited, consider spending your summer working on a farm.
Farms need crewmembers and interns every summer. Some of them include livestock, while others are purely crop based.
If you’re interested in finding a job on a farm crew near you, then check out Beginning Farmers. It includes job listings from farms around the country. Some of them require applicants to have some farm experience, so read some job descriptions to find one that fits you best.
As you’ve gotten older, maybe you’ve noticed that more and more of your time tends to be spent inside. Between school, homework, after-school clubs, and college applications, you might be longing for the days when you played outside with your friends until sundown.
But the summer is yours. Remember that you can choose to spend it outside, watching sunsets, laughing with kids, or exploring mountains, fields, and swamps – and make plenty of money.
And who knows? Maybe you’ll make some friends along the way, too. Happy summer!