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Great outdoor careers

Love being outside? These jobs and majors use the great outdoors

Wildlife law enforcer
Do you like hunting, fishing, trapping, conservation? Consider going into wildlife law enforcement.

Jeff Herrick is District 3 Manager for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife. He has an associate's degree in fisheries and wildlife management from Hocking College ( and is in charge of wildlife law enforcement, fisheries management, wildlife management, public education and administration for a district that covers 19 northeast Ohio counties.

What they do: Wildlife officers enforce laws protecting wildlife and enforce hunting, fishing and trapping regulations. They also inform sportsmen and the public about regulation changes and wildlife restoration programs.

What's good about it: It rotates seasonally.

What's challenging: You must brave the elements (and the bugs) no matter the season. "If you don't like the outdoors, you probably won't like this job," Herrick says.

How to do it: Take biology in high school. Join the Scouts, a conservation club, or get hunting, trapping, fishing or shooting experience. Get at least an associate's degree in natural resource/wildlife management.

Cully Shelton is a naturalist at the Cable Natural History Museum ( in Cable, Wis. He majored in outdoor education with an emphasis in natural history and a minor in environmental education at Northland College (

What they do: Shelton prepares the museum for opening, monitors displays, writes curriculum and leads field trips for schools. He also applies for state or federal scientific permits and more.

What's good about it: "I think the best part of my job is teaching," Shelton says. "I wanted to learn how to better teach others about the plants and animals that live in their surrounding environment."

What's challenging: Teaching. "One day, I might be teaching 30 first-graders about bats in a traditional classroom setting and then the next day need to be ready to lead a small group of adults on an outdoor field trip about birds," he says.

How to do it: Spend as much time outdoors as possible. "Learn about all aspects of the environment, and be interested in everything," he says.

Environmental lobbyist
Brian Pasko is legislative coordinator (lobbyist) for the Sierra Club's North Star chapter in Minnesota ( He spends his days talking with legislators, monitoring legislative committee hearings and meeting with other lobbyists.

What they do: As a lobbyist, Pasko helps the Sierra Club's volunteer leaders and committees to advance legislation at the state level. He's working to pass legislation regarding global warming and energy efficiency.

What's good about it: "I also get to work with legislators, lobbyists, and government officials who represent a range of interests," Pasko says.

What's challenging: Keeping everyone working toward a common goal.

How to do it: Pasko graduated from Northland College and volunteered for the Sierra Club for years before he thought about working for the organization. "Take the time to seek out a good volunteer internship experience that will give you hands-on experience," he says.

Why I chose an outdoor career
I have always loved people and the outdoors, and I am a natural teacher. I tried education programs, but it didn't take long for me to realize that I didn't want to teach in a classroom; instead, I desire to use the outdoors as my classroom.
As an outdoor leader, you will constantly be placed in situations that require resourcefulness, clear and solid judgment, and the ability to adapt your leadership style to unique circumstances within a group. It is important to develop basic skills in things like camping, backpacking, canoeing, rock climbing or whitewater kayaking/rafting. There are also many certifications that are considered either necessary or highly recommended, including Wilderness First Aid/First Responder, Leave No Trace and various involvements with organizations such as Wilderness Education Association, National Outdoor Leadership School, or Outward Bound.

The most frustrating part of this field is that too many people get involved thinking it's all a game. If you want to play for the rest of your life, please don't go into the recreation field. There is so much more to it than that, and we need passionate individuals who desire to communicate the importance and value of recreation in society. You've got to be willing to lead by example.

Lydia Johnson is a Recreation, Adventure Travel, Ecotourism major at Paul Smith's College (

This article is provided by The Next Step Magazine (, a publication that helps students prepare for life after high school.