The days are getting shorter and colder. But for high school and college students, now is the time to be thinking of summer—not the warm memories of last summer, but the possibilities of next. This is when employers around the Northeast begin shaping their summer work force for the coming year. Even if the current weather is gray, the summer job market for young, active, seasonal workers is surprisingly bright and varied. And not just any jobs: fun jobs, jobs that make a difference, jobs as big as all outdoors.
The following list of outdoor summer positions in and around the AMC region is a jumping-off point. Naturally, hut croo is on the list, and trail crew—two of AMC’s most coveted (and competitive) summer positions—but so are other jobs that offer intense exercise, stunning settings, and lifetime friendships.
Most of these jobs assume that applicants are young, strong, and willing to rough it. Pay varies, as do application deadlines. Some jobs extend past summer months or are also available in other seasons. (Follow the links for more details.) The bulk are geared toward college students or recent graduates, but high school students will find some openings, and young workers who can make do with small stipends or payment in room and board will find a wide selection of resume-building opportunities.
It isn’t too early to apply: The best of these jobs fill up fast.
Camp counselor. Camp counselors don’t always come from the ranks of campers. The American Camp Association maintains an extensive list of job listings for summer and year-round camps.
Instructor or guide. Experienced climbers, kayakers, and other skilled practitioners of outdoor sports may find opportunities to pass along their knowledge as instructors with outfitters, guide services, camps, even hotels. Maine Sporting Camps hire seasonal fly-fishing guides. AMC’s Teen Wilderness program looks for trip leaders on canoeing, backpacking, and rock climbing trips throughout the White Mountains and Maine. At AMC’s Highland Center, Adventure Guides teach a wide range of outdoor skills in family and adult programs throughout the year.
Park ranger. Seasonal ranger jobs have been available at Baxter State Park and Acadia National Park in Maine, in Massachusetts and Connecticut state parks and in parks of all types and sizes throughout the AMC region. Also look on park websites for more unusual jobs, such as forestry assistant, golf starter, lifeguard, bridge operator.
Resort, hotel, or camp worker. Grand mountain hotels like The Balsams in New Hampshire, rustic family camps, and ski resorts open for the summer have had to turn to international workers in recent decades to fill their seasonal positions. Some of these jobs, it is true, involve cleaning rooms, making beds, or working in the kitchen, though with the benefit of being in a beautiful part of the country. Other jobs are more unusual, even one of a kind: Every year, Rockywold-Deephaven Camps in New Hampshire hires a crew of young men and women to deliver blocks of lake ice to its cottages in wooden wheelbarrows. Maine Innkeepers Association maintains a job listing.
Outdoor store clerk. If the folks behind the counter at your local outdoor equipment store know you by name, you might want to join them. Some outdoor stores also offer instruction and outdoor programs—not to mention store discounts.
Environmental educator, environmental advocate. Nature’s Classroom, which runs outdoor education classes in 14 sites around the Northeast, including New York and Rhode Island, hires teachers and counselors throughout the year. Instructors in AMC’s A Mountain Classroom share their knowledge and love of the outdoors with students from fifth grade through high school. Instructors teach ecology, geology, map and compass, team-building, and outdoor skills in programs at Pinkham Notch, The Highland Center, Cardigan Lodge, and AMC’s backcountry huts.
Trail crew. Want to pry rocks out of the ground and be able to tell a mattock and a pick ax apart at 30 feet? Just about any organization that maintains trails also needs a trail crew, including the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, which oversees crews along the length of the Appalachian Trail, the Appalachian Mountain Club, and the Green Mountain Club in Vermont. AMC’s teen trail crew leaders combine the pleasure of manual labor with the rewards of empowering other young people. Sally Manikian, AMC’s backcountry resource conservation manager, says of the trail crew jobs, “We have had people move on to careers in the forest service, park service, and other resource management positions.”
The Student Conservation Association, which started as a Vassar College student’s senior thesis in the 1950s and is now based in Charlestown, N.H., runs trail crews for numerous parks and organizations around the country. SCA also maintains a Conservation Corps, whose members may work on wildfire management or eradicating invasive species. Its internship program is equally broad-based: interns might learn to give talks in interpretive history or work on mapping habitat.
Hut crew or caretaker. For AMC’s fabled hut “croo” positions, Hut Manager Eric Pedersen anticipates close to 150 applications for approximately 15 open spots for next summer. “We close the application window at the end of January,” he says, “and interview about 50 applicants” over the next several months before offering the coveted jobs. What do Pedersen and his staff look for in an application? “Customer service experience, outdoor knowledge and experience in the Whites, education, job experience, ability to work closely with guests and staff.”
Caretaker jobs aren’t limited to the White Mountains: Also try Maine Huts, Green Mountain Club in Vermont, Randolph Mountain Club , or smaller organizations like Squam Lakes Association, which hires caretakers for its island and shoreline camping sites.
Naturalist, Wildlife Biologist. You know your oak from your maple, and the plants of the alpine zone. Or you’ve been studying the birds or mammals of the northern forest. You may want to apply for an interpretive naturalist internship at AMC’s Pinkham Notch Visitor Center.
Or you may want to focus on research or conservation work. Summer is a busy field biology season. For example, Mass Audubon hires wildlife interns to search for Diamondback Terrapin; Biodiversity Research Institute in Maine looks for interns to monitor wildlife webcams and write blog posts; Wildlife Conservation Society brings on summer help for its New York City zoos.
Ridgerunner. If you truly want to see the countryside, and you can work independently, you might be a good ridgerunner. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy hires ridgerunners for many sections of the Appalachian Trail. The Green Mountain Club for the Long Trail, Friends of Acadia National Park, and AMC also hire ridgerunners. AMC’s ridgerunners live on the trail all summer, hiking roughly 10 miles a day in 10-day shifts, camping out, and talking to trail users along the way.
To fill four seasonal ridgerunner jobs, AMC regional trail coordinator Matt Moore looks for applicants for whom “being outdoors and in the woods is a necessity”—a description that might apply to all the jobs listed here.