Careers Overview

Career opportunities in the outdoor industry exist far beyond guiding, outfitting, lodging and park services. The outdoor recreation industry employs product developers in small and large retailers and creates jobs for highly skilled workers in diverse fields such as policy advocacy, community economic development, manufacturing sustainability and global commerce.

CU Boulder’s Outdoor Recreation Economy program is designed to meet the needs of individuals looking to break into or advance their career in the outdoor industry, as well as the organizations that comprise the industry itself. The coursework is career-relevant and responds to the needs expressed by leaders from outdoor retail companies, non-profit organizations, municipal, state and federal agencies and industry trade groups.

No matter your background, our program offers opportunities for you to update your knowledge and skills to have an immediate impact on your career and community.

Public lands and natural resources policy careers encompass a broad, interconnected range of skills and knowledge related to protecting land, wildlife and resources.

Private Sector

Sample Positions: 

  • Natural Resource Policy Consultant - leads the development of policies and legislation for the management of land, natural resources, fish and wildlife and outdoor recreation. 

Sample Hiring Organizations:  

Public Sector

Sample Positions: 

  • Fish & Wildlife Administrator - manages operations and budget for regional areas under the U.S. 
  • Park Ranger - provides public safety, natural resource protection and administrative management of specific areas.
  • Recreation Director - leads and oversees the personnel and facilities of an organization's recreation department, produces, coordinates and executes recreational programs and activities for a town.
  • Public Policy and Resource Management for:
    • National Park Services
    • Bureau of Land Management
    • US Forest Service
    • State and Local Parks
  • Government Relations and Policy Roles

Sample Hiring Organizations:

Non-Profit

Sample Positions:

  • Project Manager - employs conservation strategies through land acquisition, business practices, partnerships and projects all centered around specific non-profit priorities.
  • Conservation Analyst - collects, synthesizes and analyzes conservation data for on-going research and the development of conservation practices. 
  • Communications Manager - develops and executes media strategies to advance legislative, environmental and advocacy priorities.

Sample Hiring Organizations: 

Careers in Community Economic Development require skills and knowledge in community-building, economic development, improving equitable access to the outdoors, community planning, stakeholder engagement, community leadership, funding mechanisms and the assessment and development of outdoor recreation amenities, among others.

Private Sector 

Sample Positions:

  • Marketing and Communications Manager - assists in the development and implementation of strategic marketing, communications, public relations initiatives and tactics to increase program participation and philanthropic donations.
  • Community Building Consultant - develops a cohesive vision and implementation strategy for future development, capital improvement projects and strategic investments in partnership with communities. 
  • Community Impact Manager - develops, implements, manages and evaluates a company's programs for meeting community impact goals in areas of interest such as sustainability, diversity, equity, inclusion and justice.

Sample Hiring Organizations:

Public Sector 

Sample Positions:

  • Director of Business Support and Rural Prosperity - helps small businesses achieve their goals by providing consulting expertise and training programs across the state.
  • Deputy Director of Outdoor Recreation Industry Office - supports the director of the office while managing most day-to-day communications.
  • Director of Economic Vitality - sustains economic vitality by supporting primary companies and collaborating with business, industry and community partners. 
  • Community Relations Roles

Sample Hiring Organizations:

Non-Profit 

Sample Positions:

Landowner Relations Manager - maintains relationships with landowners and community members. 

Director of Development - manages the long-term fundraising capacities of an organization, which includes engaging with donors, individuals, foundations and corporations. 

Community Engagement Coordinator - creates and maintains relationships with communities in which outdoor recreation is an economic driver.

Sample Hiring Organizations:

Leading a sustainable business requires a range of skills and knowledge related to embedding sustainability within a company with positions in product design and development, marketing and sales, sustainability consulting, entrepreneurship, management, strategic planning, consumer experience, strategic partnerships, financial strategy and more. Major brands represented in this space include REI, Patagonia, Vail Resorts, Outside, Inc. and many more. There are also roles in small and entrepreneurial companies as well as opportunities for those who plan to start their own businesses after graduation.

Private Sector 

Sample Positions:

  • Corporate Sustainability Leader - leads corporate sustainability strategy to reduce a company's environmental and social impacts. This position often includes defining and managing programs, processes, reporting frameworks and policies to reduce the company's sustainability footprint.  
  • Sustainability Analyst - this role could be specialized to a specific area of sustainability, i.e. supply chain, raw materials, etc. An analyst in this position would track and report progress towards public-facing sustainability goals. 
  • Strategic Sustainability Consultant - provides organizations with the tools and expertise they need to manage their social and environmental impacts.
  • Program Manager - works with organizations that curate resources and networks for small business owners. This position focuses on creating and supporting events and resources for entrepreneurs. 
  • Entrepreneur - starts your own outdoor businesses by teaching the skills and leadership capabilities needed to see business concepts to fruition. 
  • Other: 
    • Leading roles in sustainability, product development, operations and marketing
    • Entrepreneurship (starting a business or joining a start-up)

Sample Hiring Organizations:

Public Sector

Sample Positions: 

Director of Sustainable Business Innovation - creates and implements sustainability projects and partnerships to progress innovation in sustainability as it relates to businesses in the outdoor industry. 

Sample Hiring Organizations:

Outdoor Industry Association

Non-Profit

Sample Positions:

  • Development and Programs Coordinator - develops and manages existing programs, focusing on one particular program within the organization's offerings. 
  • Partnership Manager - grows memberships, generates campaigns and fundraises while working with non-profit partners to coordinate programs.

Sample Hiring Organizations:

Career Services 

Admitted Outdoor Recreation Economy students can take advantage of dedicated career counseling services, including high-level strategic planning, skills gap analysis, general career coaching, resume and cover letter building, LinkedIn support, networking, interview preparation and mocking and more.

Meet Your Career Advisor