Start your New Year off right—with volunteering and working in the outdoors.
Playing in the outdoors is one thing, but have you ever considered a job where you live and work in the backcountry? Many of us are fortunate enough to spend our hard-won vacations outside—whether it is hiking, biking, climbing, skiing or snorkeling. But all too soon, we find ourselves back in the office, handcuffed to a computer, sweating over our next PowerPoint.
That forced split personality between our free-time passions and professional lives can be rough on physical and mental health. So why not take a sabbatical and work outside?
Here are some of our favorite ways to get outdoors (and make some money):
The 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (aka 21CSC) is the modern day Civilian Conservation Corps. Most people don’t remember the 1930s when the actual CCC was at full speed put millions of men and women to work protecting and improving our country’s natural resources and parks.
After the start of WWII, when manpower was needed elsewhere, the CCC was disbanded, but our government’s commitment to conservation didn’t abate. Since then, every Secretary of Interior has developed their own version of the original plan.
Upon taking office during the Obama administration, Secretary of Interior, Sally Jewell, made it her mission to engage young Americans and returning veterans in protecting and improving America’s parks, federal lands and national resources.
The 21CSC engages young Americans in public lands, community green spaces, and water restoration. Anyone between the ages of 15-25 and veterans up to age 35 can participate in the 21CSC depending on the program.
The 21CSC’s goal is to engage participants in hands-on service and job training experiences to develop a generation of skilled workers, educated and active citizens, future leaders and stewards of natural and cultural resources.
There are 21CSC programs in all 50 states. Some programs are national, others regional and some are state based. To find a program and project location, go to the List of 21CSC Programs page or click the list of 21CSC programs button.
Nitpick—why aren’t there programs for people over age 35!
Here’s the opportunity to work a “job-of-a-lifetime” that will look good on your resume, make for great stories, and yes, help people.
The Yosemite Search and Rescue (aka YOSAR) was established in the 1960s to respond to emergencies that occurred in Yosemite. YOSAR is famous thanks to the work the volunteers accomplish, but also, historically, due to the famous climbers who have served in the organization.
The YOSAR volunteer positions assist the Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadow Districts’ permanent operational staff as on-call resources in emergency situations. Someone stuck on El Cap—YOSAR to the rescue.
A hiker gone missing in the High Country? YOSAR heads out—no matter what the conditions and assist during emergencies.
In exchange for being on emergency call, volunteers get to stay in the YOSAR Site in the historic Camp Four Climbers Camp in Yosemite Valley (tent cabin provided) or the corresponding site in Tuolumne Meadows.
Of course there are qualifications for the job: YOSAR is looking for people with strong outdoor skills, including rock climbing, mountaineering, ice climbing, skiing and backcountry navigation.
Aid climbing skills are a plus, as many times climbers get stuck in unusual, hard-to-reach spots. A background in medicine is a bonus, and plan to get your Emergency Responder, First Responder, or Wilderness First Responder certificate; those with EMT training generally get priority.
If you are lucky enough to land a position with YOSAR, you’ll be on call 50 percent of the time; the rest of the time you’re free to explore Yosemite. Many of the positions are volunteer.
Responding to an emergency is a SAR team member’s highest priority while living on the SAR Site. At any time during the summer season, half of the SAR Team is expected to be available for emergency response. SAR team members should expect to spend at least fifty percent of their time as an on-call resource, ready to respond to the rescue cache.
During this on-call time SAR team members are considered volunteers and are not paid. SAR team members could also be expected to volunteer time during trainings, team meetings, and with other tasks as assigned. There’s no monthly stipend, but during emergencies, YOSAR team members are hired and paid for their time—this means that if you are included on a tricky rescue, you’ll qualify for pay and worker’s comp bennies.
There are many ways to get involved with National Parks (all of which allow you to live and work in them). Consider a Student Conservation Internship. These are available across the country, in major parks and places you many never have heard of. Postings for summer internships start to be posted around December and January. Positions are for people 18 and older.
For those younger than 18, there’s a Crew page on the site. Internship possibilities are endless. You could intern at Big Hole National Battlefield (Montana) where you’d help visitors learn about the events surrounding the Nez Perce Flight of 1877, and the lasting effects on both the Nez Perce and American societies. Or learn more about taking care of wildlife.
The Wildlife Management and Education Summer Internship at Assateague Island National Seashore (MD) provides a unique opportunity to work with one of the few remaining, free ranging herds of wild horses along the east coast. Or how about a summer in Yellowstone assisting in preserving and restoring Native cutthroat trout habitat. Or Shenandoah National park, VA where you’d work helping wildlife make a comeback.