Mar 9, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

Outdoor recreation contributed $373.3 billion to the US GDB in 2016 -- surpassing other industries like utilities and mining. Not only that, but it’s expanding: With a growth rate of 3.8 percent, outdoor recreation outpaced the overall economy’s growth of 2.8 percent, according to The Statesman Journal. Said US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in a news release, “The public will no doubt be surprised at the economic importance of this industry as we release prototype statistics measuring the impact of activities like boating, fishing, RVing, hunting, camping, hiking, and more.

The takeaway for job-minded outdoor enthusiasts? There’s no better time than now to explore your career options in this field, starting with these five jobs.

1. Recreation Guide/Instructor

Are you passionate about an outdoor activity such as rafting, kayaking, diving, hunting, skiing, fishing, climbing, caving or tramping? If so and you’ve got the experience to back it up, a career as an outdoor recreation guide or instructor may be in your future.

While these may not be the highest-paying positions in the world, they offer something priceless: The chance to spend your time doing something you love while sharing that love with like-minded others.

2. Forest School Teacher

Many outdoor recreation fans think of the wilderness as the planet’s best classroom.  Now, more schools all over the world are adopting this outlook. With origins reaching back “to early year pioneers in outdoor learning and across the sea to Scandinavia,” forest school is a specialist learning approach which incorporates hands-on learning with a woodland or natural environment. Explains The Guardian, “Forest school isn't a badge or indeed a place – instead the name refers to a philosophy in which students work outside regularly in an outdoor natural space over a long period of time (often a year) to build confidence and creativity.”

While running a forest school may require certain credentials, conventional classroom teachers can also incorporate forest school practices into their curricula. “More commonly, forest school is part of a bigger educational mix in which pupils enjoy time outdoors perhaps once a week, but the same principles apply: a drive to build young people's independence and self-esteem through experiencing the natural world,” continues The Guardian.

Meanwhile, forest school leader Sue Cowling speaks of the unique fulfillment found in working with kids in a forest school environment, “They're willing to try anything and everything and they will work out for themselves how to risk take, whereas those that have been more sheltered want to hold your hand and be guided a bit more. But it doesn't take long for them to settle in and be more confident."

3. Recreation Manager/Director

Do you love being outside and have an organizational knack? If so, then you may be well-suited for a career in recreation management. Says JobHero of this line of work, “A recreation director oversees the recreational programs put on by public and private parks, sports facilities, community centers or other institutions. They plan, organize and direct the operations of sports and fitness programs, activities and services. This involves working on publicity and finances for the programs, and managing coaches and other individuals involved in running the activities.”

In addition to getting to follow your bliss, you’ll also have the added benefit of job security while working in the recreation field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a steady growth rate of nine percent between 2016 and 2026.

4. Park Ranger

If the prospect of doing the same job responsibilities day in and day out sounds like a chore to you, then you’ve got nothing to worry about as a park ranger. Explains, “Park ranger is a broad term for a career that is incredibly multi-faceted and diverse. Park rangers are responsible for protecting our state and national parks; the natural resources, ecosystems, and wildlife within them; and the people who visit them. Park rangers may serve as law enforcement officers, environmental experts, historians or a combination of the three.”

You don’t even have to work in a park to be a park ranger. Park rangers also work in a number of other settings, including national seashores, historic trails, battlefields, national monuments and historic sites. They can even be found on the White House grounds!

5. Survivor School Instructor

Fans of The Walking Dead already know that survival skills can be a vital lifeline in an emergency. But zombie apocalypses notwithstanding, there are plenty of compelling reason for urban-dwellers to learn how to live off of the land. Enter wilderness/outdoor/survival schools. Aimed at giving participants the practical experience they’d need to handle the many different problems which can arise in the wilderness, there are many different kinds of schools with different areas of focus -- from primitive skills (and “gross eat challenges”) to water survival.

So how do you become a survivor school instructor? President and CEO of Boulder Outdoor Survival School, AKA “BOSS,” Josh Bernstein told Westword,  “When I was a teenager, I fell in love with the wilderness. I spent all my summers and vacations in the American West, learning about mountaineering, wilderness camping, horseback riding -- anything to make me a more competent backcountry traveler. In college, I focused on the skills I needed to be a guide, studying wilderness medicine and leadership dynamics outside of my normal classes (I was an Anthro/Psych double major). From there, things grew into a career.”

While time spent in the great outdoors is a favorite hobby for millions of people, some of them manage the clever feat of turning pastime into paid job. If you’d like to be among them, these five careers can help you do the same.

Find out more about Outdoor Sports education.

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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