Official Unofficial Guide to Finding an Outdoor Job as a Person of Color, PDX Edition

Updated: Mar 4, 2019

Let's talk diversity in the outdoors, for a hot minute. You can find organizations like Outdoor Afro doing amazing work to break down the barriers to living a life outside, but here’s the thing:

if we don’t have the right framework (a.k.a. entry-level jobs that pay fair living wages), we’re never going to move beyond the wealthier, whiter spaces of the outdoor and environmental sectors in the USA because the people influencing those spaces will be from only a select few demographics.

For the folks who want to work outside but don’t have the money, the friends, the connections, the means, or the precedent to do so… this guide is for you. This isn’t about unpaid opportunities, or even those “paid” internships that end up paying $4/hr.

This is the official unofficial guide to finding an outdoor job for the city folks, the immigrants and their children, the paycheck-to-paycheck hustlers, and the kids who haven’t yet seen the outdoors beyond the city parks.

What I can’t promise is that finding a job in the outdoors will be easy, but what I can promise is that it will be worth it.

DISCLAIMER NOTICE: Before I start, this guide is focused in the Portland metro area, and to a lesser degree, the Pacific Northwest. It’s also not by any means an exhaustive list. This is also time sensitive information, so if you’re reading this in 2020, some things might be out-of-date. The sole purpose of this guide is explained above - it is NOT intended to endorse any private company. All opinions expressed are mine and do not represent Outdoor Asian as a whole.

I’m also only one guy, so I’m relying on y'all to write up your own guides to your own cities and homes, whether that’s Philly, NYC, Atlanta, Chicago, or LA. There are under-represented folks everywhere who are looking for this in your community, and they need your help. Do it, and hashtag it #OutdoorsForAll so your people can find you.

Questions? Complaints? Coffee? Contact

With that, let's start:

Job options for High Schoolers

As a high schooler, you can spend your summer vacations doing some really awesome work outdoors and make as much money as you might bussing tables at a restaurant (like I did when I was your age!).

If you want to stay close to family and friends in the city but want to take that first step towards an outdoor career, one option is applying for the Portland Youth Conservation Crew Member position, which pays $12/hour for 24-32 hours/week over a portion of the summer. Be sure to check out a similar job too here working with children. If you’re in your Junior or Senior year, check out this awesome internship!

Another good option is to apply to other jobs too, like at any locally-owned outdoor shops like Next Adventure, The Mountain Shop, AntiGravity Equipment (run and owned by the inspirational Juan Rodriguez) and many others. Start locally, then check out the bigger stores like REI, Columbia, Patagonia and others. While retail might not be your dream job, you have to think of it as a multi-year goal: outdoor companies often give you time off to go explore outdoors, you’ll meet co-workers and customers who may offer to take you hiking or skiing, and most of all, you can use this super valuable experience later when you’re applying for outdoor jobs later in life!

Pay: $12-15/hr depending on the job

Job Options for Post 18’ers

Why not “college-aged?” Well, not everybody can go to college! Let’s look at some good options for all yall 18 years or older.

1. City of Portland Portland Parks & Recreation: The city has a massive Parks & Recreation bureau, and they hire many seasonal workers from Park Rangers to Soccer Coaches, Maintenance Technicians and Tree Scientists. The full list of available jobs in the city is at this link, but my best advice is to find a job, department, or program that you’re most interested in and call the supervisor and chat with them. Every summer, they hire leaders to lead crews of 6-12 city youth in various projects from trailwork to education, habitat restoration and tree studies. The kids you will be leading are goofy, fun, inspiring, hardworking, and come from wildly different backgrounds, many of them being immigrants or refugees from other parts of the world. They are hiring NOW and also for a very similar position here!

Pay: $15-20 per hour. Exact wage within this range is depending on your experience, qualifications, training, and multilingual abilities.

Housing: Not covered

Health Insurance: Sometimes covered

2. Climbing gyms: Climbing is one of the most popular outdoor activities right now, and groups like Portland Climbers of Color are helping underrepresented folks hit the rocks. Working at a climbing gym, you’ll meet many other climbers, some who will eventually invite you to climb and join adventure outdoors. Try applying to The Circuit, Portland Rock Gym and Planet Granite.

Pay: Varies depending on location, but expect $12-15 per hour

Housing: Not covered

Health Insurance: Most likely not covered

3. Portland Metro: This is another big city agency that oversees a lot of great parks in and near the city, like Oxbow Bend Regional Park. Check out their full list of jobs available right now, but for low-income folks living in North, NE, and outer NE Portland, check out this program. They’ve got internships too. Metro is a great option if you want to work outdoors but don’t want to leave the city.

Pay: $13-20 per hour, depending on position

Housing: Not covered

Health Insurance: Most likely covered

4. Forest Service Resource Assistants Program: This program is intended for those who are looking to score a permanent job with the Forest Service, but it's great experience for anyone. This paid position will pay you a liveable wage (at a bare minimum $350/wk but higher in cities), among other benefits like a travel and education stipend and health insurance. If you graduate this program, you become a very competitive applicant for permanent jobs in the Forest Service!

Pay: $15-20 per hour. Exact wage within this range is depending on your experience, qualifications, training, and multilingual abilities.

Housing: Not covered unless you work in a rural location

Health Insurance: Covered!

5. National Park Service Academy: A one-week spring orientation at a National Park or NPS unit followed by a 3-month summer internship. Your job? It could be any one of the entire range of jobs that NPS rangers have: from education to biology and more. The academy focuses on underserved and underrepresented groups, so most of the time, this means POC folks from cities, US territories, and the like. They’re hiring six new interns RIGHT NOW to work across the Pacific Northwest (scroll to the bottom of the page).

Pay: $260 weekly stipend + $1527.45 education award / 160 work hours = $9.97 per hour

Housing: Covered! This saves you a LOT of cash money

Health Insurance: Covered!

6. Pretty Much Any Outdoor Company: Sometimes the best way to get outdoors isn’t through an internship with non-profits or government agencies. Sometimes, you just gotta do something a little closer to home. As explained above, outdoor companies often give you time off to go explore outdoors. You’ll meet co-workers and customers who may offer to take you hiking or skiing, and eventually, you can use this experience when you’re applying for outdoor jobs later in life. In Portland, you can check out local outdoor shops like Next Adventure, The Mountain Shop, AntiGravity Equipment (run and owned by the inspirational Juan Rodriguez), Gorge Performance, and others. Start locally, then go check out the bigger national stores like REI, Columbia, Patagonia and others. Other good options include outdoor-focused service jobs, such as barista-ing at Cosube surf/coffee shop or bartending at Up North Surf Club. The benefits should be similar to working at an outdoor shop.

Pay: Varies depending on location, but expect $12-16 per hour in Portland

Housing: Not covered

Health Insurance: Most likely not covered

7. Northwest Youth Corps Conservation Internships: The “NYC” hires individual interns as either Americorps or Resource Assistants (mentioned above). With the living and education stipend combined, you’ll can expect $13/hr in a position like this based out of Eugene (where the minimum wage is currently $10.75/hr) or even $16/hr with this internship. They are HIRING right now!

Pay: $12-16 per hour, depending on specific

Housing: Likely not covered

Health Insurance: Covered!

8. City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services Internships: Applicants for Environmental Services intern positions must be enrolled in a trade school training program, college or university undergraduate or graduate program, preferably in a field related to the mission and scope of the Bureau's work. The trade school, college or university must be located in Oregon or Washington, or the applicant must be a resident of the Portland metropolitan area.

Pay: $14.01-17.00 depending on experience and year at school

Housing: Not covered

Health Insurance: Unknown

9. Normal Seasonal Jobs with Government Agencies: There are many options to do spring and summer seasonal jobs with the state and federal governments. You almost always have to have connections and fill out a really massive application. This option is best for folks who don’t mind moving outside of the Portland Metro area to find work. Within Portland Metro though, there are a few great options, including working at Tryon Creek State Park and Multnomah Falls at Columbia River Gorge. The specific agencies include: Oregon State Parks, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and many others.

Pay: $13-17 per hour, depending on experience and position

Housing: Sometimes covered, depending on rurality of work location

Health Insurance: Most likely covered

Have other job opportunities you know about? Post them in the comments below!
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