The symptoms are undeniable—you’re a “Shark Week” devotee, you own at least two field guides to birds, and your long weekends at the cottage are spent identifying animal tracks. There’s only one cure: to leave your office job in the city for greener pastures—literally.
The fact is that while not everyone can become David Attenborough or Jane Goodall, there are plenty of ways to turn your dream of working with wild animals into a reality. Here are six careers that are guaranteed to get you closer to nature.
Tour guide/park interpreter
Imagine spending every day snorkeling with sea lions or carefully listening for birdcalls. If you have a knack for people and communication, becoming a park interpreter might your ticket to a daily dose of wildlife. Although outdoor tour guides don’t necessarily work directly with animals, regular sightings are nearly guaranteed. Interpreters in national parks, protected areas, and nature reserves around the world see and interact with animals on a regular basis. (Can anyone say Galapagos?)
Wildlife rehabilitation worker
Through working closely with veterinarians, wildlife rehabilitation workers assess injuries and illness, and care for animals until they’re ready to return to the wild. While human interaction with animals is kept to a minimum—which helps keep the “wild” in wildlife—hands-on work with cute critters is part of the job description. However, so is letting nature take its course; animals that can’t survive on their own may need to be euthanized.
With a focus on protecting natural resources, park wardens usually specialize in law within a national park context. Daily animal sightings are just a bonus of the job. But while this role will get you closer to nature, it may also mean patrolling campgrounds and reminding rowdy campers to quiet down. And that may not be the only misconduct that you have to manage—be prepared to deal with garbage-greedy bears and food-stealing raccoons.
Game warden/Nature conservation officer
Much like park wardens, game wardens specialize in law and enforcement. However, another key part of their role is to monitor the conditions of wildlife and their habitats and to make recommendations accordingly. This may mean reporting poachers, keeping an eye out for pollution in waterways, and raising public awareness about issues that affect wildlife.
Live the dream of every 12-year-old girl and become a marine biologist. Dolphins aren’t your thing? That’s okay, too, because “biologist” is a blanket job description that can describe someone who studies any kind of animal. While work in a laboratory, writing reports, and constantly applying for grants to fund research is certainly part of the job (yawn), so is spending time in the field studying your favourite wild things.
It takes more than just a camera or an Instagram account to become a wildlife photographer. Get prepared to spend hours in a blind waiting for animals to cross your line of vision and start working on your stalking skills now. But for the talented—and the patient—wildlife photography can turn into a highly rewarding career with countless opportunities to learn more about nature.
And if one of these options isn’t up your alley, jobtrekker.ca is a great resource for finding jobs that will get you out from behind your desk and into nature.