As a child, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what ‘work’ looked like: a shiny office, (complete with swivel chairs), high heels and a Starbucks. Of course I knew vaguely that farmers and zookeepers existed, but I had basically no idea that one could be paid to do anything other than type and shout bossily down telephones.
Evidently I was ok with that – I became a journalist and now type for a living* – but for some of my peers the thought of sitting in an office for nine hours a day was horrendous. They needed fresh air and exercise. They needed the sun on their backs and the wind in their hair, and they didn’t even mind if it rained. They were the outdoorsy types — the ones who spent all weekend walking, gardening or horse riding, and all summer camping or on a boat somewhere — and these are some of the jobs they ended up doing. If you love the idea of swapping your future Kurt Geigers for a pair of wellies, you might want to consider them too.
*a living that doesn’t afford fancy heels and daily Starbucks, though…
1. Park ranger
Think Parks and Recreation, but British. In fact, we don’t really call them park rangers here, we call them countryside rangers. Essentially your job is to conserve pretty areas of countryside so that others can enjoy them, today and in the future. You’ll plant trees, manage ponds, lakes and public access – that means how often you or I can tramp/ride/drive through them – prevent fires and poaching (no, it’s not just elephants in Africa) and educate people on why these areas matter, and what they can do to help them continue. You can’t get more outdoorsy, tbh. You’ll be working for some pretty impressive public bodies, like the National Trust, the Wildlife Trust and the Forestry Commission – so if you want a head start, get volunteering with these guys asap. It’s the best way to get into it, though some further education in things like physical geography, conservation or ecology will help too.
2. Agricultural surveyor
A bit like being a farmer, but without confining yourself to one place until the end of time. This job is helping farmers make the most of their land, manage pests like rabbits and beetles, plant the right crops at the right time, and invest in more land or better machinery, products and techniques.
When it comes to making sure our ‘green and pleasant land’ remains sustainable, protected and profitable, you are the go-to gal – but you’ll need to have an understanding of rural life and the issues affecting it beyond a pair of wellies and the odd snippet you’ve caught when your mum’s listening to The Archers. Agriculture, horticulture and conservation are the buzzwords here, and because you’ll be handling and measuring data (how much land? How many cows? How much milk? etc) you’ll need a thorough grounding in STEM subjects, too.
3. Fresh produce developer
I only heard of this one recently, and frankly if I could turn back time I’d take it on: the job of travelling the world to find new, delicious food, research it and then recreate it back in the UK with the help of food technologists and suppliers. You’ll need a fair bit of science under your belt, as you’ll need to know how food is grown and harvested — but as this is fresh produce development you’ll spend a lot of your time outdoors.
There’s loads of travel involved, so you can discover exciting new varieties of fruit, vegetables and grains; and loads of food too, so you’ll need to know your swedes from your sweet potato. Ideally, you’d have a degree in science and food, a pretty good grasp of food trends, and the ability to communicate with people from all sorts of cultures so you can tactfully say, “Mm, I love that. Mind telling me how you did it so I can copy you when I get home?”
4. Football coach
Our men’s team may be flailing a bit on the world stage, but when it comes to women there’s no shortage of brilliance in the beautiful game. Being part of that, either at a community level or in the professional league, is one way to ensure that reputation continues to grow. You’ll need a Football Association coaching qualification, which range from Level 1 to UEFA ‘Pro’ Licence. These include the Youth Awards, enabling you to coach at football academies — so even if it’s more of a part time ambition than a long term prospect, it’s well worth getting under your belt.
5. Underwater Salvage Operator
Glorified diving, essentially. If you swim like a fish and get a kick out of being able to breathe underwater (or reckon you would, given the chance) this has your name on it: diving with the armed forces to salvage stuff from sunken ships, helicopters and machinery.
Though you’ll be based in Plymouth, Devon, as part of a large team of skilled divers, you’ll travel all over the world to respond to emergencies. You don’t need academic qualifications, but you do need to be able to dive (obvs), and be fit and healthy because this is tough stuff – it demands a lot more than swimming badges and an intimate knowledge of Finding Dory.
The ultimate in outdoorsy jobs! The zookeeper pretty much does what your kids books told you they do: look after zoo animals. They prepare food, feed them, clean the enclosures and entertain them where necessary.
It involves live insects, dead, raw hunks of meat (for the carnivores) and a lot — a LOT of poo. There’s room for specialisation: it’s rare for the same zookeeper to do insects and elephants, for instance – but you often have to chat to public too, so you can’t just be an animal person. Bear in mind (haha) that zookeeping is very competitive, so it’s a good idea to start volunteering at your local zoo or animal centre as soon as you can. The pay is typically not great, but you’ll be reaping so many other rewards (AKA cuteness).
Geologists work with rocks. There’s no other way to put it — but it’s a shame, because while the role sounds dull, it is actually fascinating and fundamental. Mining materials, buildings bridges, preventing earthquakes, finding dinosaurs: all of these are affected and informed by geology. They collect samples of rocks, draw studies of rock formations, and from there draw a conclusion as to where a bridge should be built, or an area excavated for the discovery of some-kind-of-saurus. You’ll need to enjoy travelling, scrabbling up and down rocks, have a good grasp of maths, and some kind of Geology/Geography higher education.
8. Horticultural manager
Great morning working with fab @ediblebristol community gardeners on the garden in the A38 central reservation….. Nice to meet Anna and Tom too!! #guerillagarden #guerillagardening #gardensforchange #instagarden #gardensofinstagram #flowergarden #abmplantlady #abmlifeisbeautiful #urbangardenersrepublic #growsomethinggreen #modernoutdoors #botanicalpickmeup #igersbristol #discoveringbristol #livebristol #mycity #mylife ##
Not just a fancy name for gardener, these guys manage and develop plants and seeds for everything from garden centres to big, public gardens, to the garden squares, parks and even roundabouts you see around town. There’s more to this than a bit of digging and sowing; you’ll need to balance your budget as well as your begonias, negotiate with suppliers and combine green fingers with a good head for business and organisation. You’ll also need a degree or BTEC/HND in horticulture, horticultural management or professional horticulture. So start swotting, petal.
That’s tree doctor to you and me, and the job descrip is exactly as you’d imagine: planting, caring for and assessing the risks for trees – oh, and felling them (cutting them down), which you don’t get with a human doctor, but is sometimes necessary. You’ll need to like climbing: there’s a whole load of ropes and harnesses going on. You don’t need a degree to be a tree doctor, but you could do worse than get your foot on the (rope) ladder by contacting conservation organisations, horticulture groups, the National Trust or the Woodland Trust to get voluntary experience. In the long run, you could also move into recreational tree climbing, taking punters into the forest for fun at adventure centres like Go Ape and Big Tree.
10. Beekeeper (apiculturist)
Once the kind of thing only old people did at country fairs, beekeeping has made a big comeback lately as people have become more aware of the plight of the honey bee. Not only do our buzzy chums cross-pollinate our gardens, they’re also fundamental to crops and a vital part of the natural world.
Where there are fashionable amateurs (Scarlett Johansson, here’s looking at you) wondering how on earth to look after their new beehives, there is also money (and joy) to be made from being a professional beekeeper: harvesting and processing the honey, managing the colonies and lending out your bees to vegetable and fruit farmers for pollination. You can also sell honey on the side. To get into it you’ll need to take an advanced certificate to become a Master Beekeeper in the UK, and this will qualify you to study for the National Diploma in beekeeping. Get busy.
11. Army officer
ATTENTION! You don’t have to be male to serve in the army. Nor do you have to serve as a soldier for a few years first in order to get to a senior position. Provided you’ve got the qualifications (180 UCAS points) and you pass the medical and fitness tests, you can fast track straight to Sandhurst, where you’ll receive officer training and study for a wide range of civilian qualifications.