15 high-paying jobs for people who love to be outside

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If your childhood dream was learning more about the planet or the animals and plants that inhabit it, there are dozens of jobs that will reward your curiosity in adulthood — and some come with a paycheck of more than $60,000 a year.

That's a nice salary for a role that offers the freedom to work outdoors, connections to the natural world, and a chance to answer age-old questions about our planet and solar system.

CNBC Make It analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to identify 15 such occupations that also come with large paychecks amounting to as much as $105,000 a year, well above the median salary of $46,800 U.S workers earned in 2018, according to the BLS.

So if you want to be nicely compensated for your environmental interest, consider one of these 15 occupations:


two male surveyors working at mining site
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Median annual pay: $80,300
Projected job growth through 2026: 7%

These workers study the planet and how land, inhabitants and other features are distributed across it. They also examine how political or cultural structures may be impacting the geographic characteristics of a region. Geographers do this by gathering data through field observations, maps, photographs, satellite imagery, and censuses. They may then need to modify maps or other representations of geographic data, advise others in understanding the data and in using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), or link the geographic data to issues in other fields like economics, health or politics. For entry-level position and federal government roles, a bachelor's degree is required. More advanced positions typically need a master's degree.

Landscape architects

Landscape Gardener Laying Turf For New Lawn
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Median annual pay: $68,230
Projected job growth through 2026: 6%

These architects design attractive and functional parks, gardens, playgrounds, green roofs, and other outdoor spaces for campuses, recreational facilities, businesses, governments and private homes. To do this, they meet with clients, prepare site plans and cost estimates, chose the landscaping materials and analyze environmental reports on land conditions, concerning things like drainage and energy usage. Their aim is to create areas that are easy to use and harmonious with the natural environment. They may also assist in the restoration of natural places that were altered by humans such as mined areas. To become one, you'll need a bachelor's degree in landscape architecture and a state-issued license.

Atmospheric scientists

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Median annual pay: $94,110
Projected job growth through 2026: 12%

These scientists study the weather and climate as well as observe how those atmospheric conditions affect humans and the Earth. They may develop weather or climate forecasts using computer modeling, measure temperature, atmospheric pressure, humidity, wind speed, dew point, and other properties of the atmosphere, create new instruments to help with their research, issue warnings about severe weather, or advice clients on risks or opportunities caused by weather events and climate change. To become an atmospheric scientist, you'll need a bachelor's degree in meteorology or a closely related earth sciences field for most positions. But research roles demand a master's degree at minimum and prefer a Ph.D.


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Median annual pay: $91,130
Projected job growth through 2026: 14%

Geoscientists are interested in understanding the physical aspects of the Earth, such as its composition, structure, and processes. Many are involved in the search for and development of natural resources, such as petroleum. Others work in environmental protection and preservation, and are involved in projects to clean up and reclaim land, according to the BLS. They typically carry out field studies, analyze aerial photographs and well logs, conduct lab tests on samples collected in the field, and then prepare reports presenting their findings to clients. Most geoscientist roles require at least a bachelor's degree, but many workers in the field now have a master's degree as well.

Environmental engineers

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Median annual pay: $87,620
Projected job growth through 2026: 8%

These workers combine engineering principals, biology, chemistry and soil science to create solutions to environmental problems. They work on problems ranging from improving recycling and waste disposal to water and air pollution control. Some focus on global issues like climate change and environmental sustainability. They may also be called upon to inspect industrial and municipal facilities and programs to make sure they are compliance with environmental regulations, advise corporations and government agencies about procedures for cleaning up contaminated sites. To become one, you'll need a bachelor's degree in environmental engineering or a related field, such as civil, chemical, or general engineering.


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Median annual pay: $105,680
Projected job growth through 2026: 10%

These scientists are focused on the sky, studying planets, stars, galaxies and other celestial bodies. Using equipment like optical telescopes on Earth or the Hubble Space telescope, astronomers hope to increase scientific understanding of distant stars, galaxies, and phenomena such as neutron stars and black holes. They may also monitor space debris that could interfere with satellite operations. Some astronomers may be working to create new theories as to what gravity is or how the universe was formed, while others work in applied research using the insights they gain to improve electronics, communications, navigation, or medical technology. Research or academia roles for astronomers usually require that candidates have a Ph.D.

Agricultural engineers

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Median annual pay: $77,110
Projected job growth through 2026: 8%

These workers focus on solving agricultural problems ranging from power supplies to the efficiency of machinery to pollution and environmental issues. They typically work in farming, forestry or the food processing industry on a variety of different projects. Some, for example, develop climate control systems that increase the comfort and productivity of livestock whereas others attempt to increase the storage capacity and efficiency of refrigeration or find better solutions for animal waste disposal, says the BLS. Agricultural engineers must have a bachelor's degree, preferably in agricultural engineering or biological engineering.


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Median annual pay: $79,370
Projected job growth through 2026: 10%

These workers study how water moves across and through the Earth's surface, how forms of precipitation impact river flows and groundwater levels, and how surface water and groundwater evaporates into the atmosphere or eventually joins oceans. They are hoping to learn more about water influences its environment and how changes to our environment, such as pollution or drought, impact water quality and quantity so that they can solve problems communities may be experiencing with water safety or availability. They often measure the properties of bodies of water and collect water and soil samples for testing. You'll need at least a bachelor's degree for many entry-level positions in this field, though many workers obtain a master's degree.

Zoologist and wildlife biologists

Wildlife biologists conducting research on the Adelia and Emperor penguins at Terra Nova Bay, in the Ross Sea, Antarctica.
Vittoriano Rastelli | Corbis Historical | Getty Images

Median annual pay: $62,290
Projected job growth through 2026: 8%

These researchers and scientists study animals and other wildlife to learn how they interact with their ecosystems. They observe the physical characteristics of animals and animal behaviors as well as investigate the impact humans have on wildlife and natural habitats. To do this, they may need to conduct experimental studies or collect biological data and specimens for analysis. They also research animal breeding programs, monitor wildlife populations and invasive species, and help with developing conservation plans. Entry-level positions in this field require at least a bachelor's degree, but a doctorate degree is necessary if you want to lead independent research, according to the BLS.

Farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers

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Median annual pay: $69,620
Projected job growth through 2026: -1%

These workers run the establishments that produce crops, livestock, and dairy products. This means they supervise the care and raising of all livestock and animals on their farm, deciding everything from what to feed them to how to house them. They must also maintain the farm facilities such as all animal shelters, fences, and water pipes. And finally determine the price of their goods and sell them. Farmers and ranchers own and operate mainly family-owned farms, whereas agricultural managers handle the day-to-day operations of one or more farms for an owner who does not want to such tasks. No college degree is required for this job, just lots of work experience.

Environmental scientists

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Median annual pay: $71,130
Projected job growth through 2026: 11%

These scientists are focused on protecting the environment and human health by cleaning up polluted areas, advising policymakers, and working with industries to reduce waste. They typically compile environmental data from analyzing samples of air, soil, water, food; analyze samples, surveys, and other information to identify and assess threats to the environment; and create plans to prevent, control, or fix environmental problems, such as land or water pollution. For this job, you need a bachelor's degree in a natural science.

Agriculture and food scientists

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Median annual pay: $64,020
Projected job growth through 2026: 7%

These scientists research ways to improve the safety and efficiency of agricultural practices relating to field crops and domestic farm animals. They look for ways to improve the productivity and sustainability of our food sources, create new products and develop better ways to process, package and deliver food. To become an agricultural or food scientists, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree, although many workers in the field earn advanced degrees.

Cartographers and photogrammetrists

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Median annual pay: $64,430
Projected job growth through 2026: 19%

These workers collect and measure geographic data so that they can accurately update maps and charts for education and regional planning. They may need to pull information from ground surveys, reports, aerial photographs, and satellite images in order to create either digital or graphic. Many cartographers work for the government helping with urban and regional planning, but several also work in the tech space, creating and designing maps for mobile phones and navigation systems, according to the BLS. Photogrammetrists plan aerial and satellite images, collect and analyze spatial data, such as elevation and distance, and develop the base maps the allow Geographic Information System (GIS) data to be layered on top. You'll need a bachelor's degree in cartography, geography, geomatics, or surveying to become a cartographer or photogrammetrist.

Conservation scientists

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Median annual pay: $61,310
Projected job growth through 2026: 8%

These scientists manage the overall land quality of forests, parks, rangelands, and other natural resources. They oversee forestry and conservation activities to ensure compliance with government regulations and habitat protection, negotiate terms and conditions for forest harvesting and for land-use contracts and work with organizations to improve land for forestry purposes while also ensuring the environment is protected, according to the BLS. To become one, you'll need a bachelor's degree in forestry or a related field.


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Median annual pay: $62,580
Projected job growth through 2026: 11%

These workers determine property boundaries using precise measurements and provide data on the shape and contour of the planet's surface for engineering, mapmaking, and construction projects, according to the BLS. They often testify in court regarding survey work that establishes the official land and water boundaries for deed, leases and other legal documents. To become one, you typically need a bachelor's degree as well as a license in order to certify legal documents and provide surveying services to the public.

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