Career Ideas to Steer Outdoorsy At-risk Teens in a Positive Direction

At-Risk Teens Have Plenty of Career Options

By: Todd Smekens

Muncie, Indiana BLOG – Today’s youth face risk on many fronts. One in five kids have been bullied on school property within the past year, while one in six have been bullied online, data summarized by Pew Research shows. One in four teens get in physical fights. One in four suffer some type of anxiety disorder. 24 teen girls out of every 1,000 will become a teen mother before graduating. By the time teenagers reach high school, one in four is using illicit drugs. Four in every 100 youths are arrested.

When you notice signs your teen may be at risk, there are steps you can take to help them back onto the right path. One way to help at-risk teens is to channel their negative behavior back into a positive direction. Here are three active careers you can explore with your teen by getting them involved in fun outdoor activities.

Wilderness Guide

If your teen likes outdoor activities such as hiking, camping and hunting, one career path they might consider is becoming a wilderness guide. Wilderness guides help hikers, campers, hunters and other outdoor hobbyists have a fun, safe time. They must possess outdoor survival skills such as how to navigate in the wilderness, set up a shelter, catch food, build a fire or administer first aid. They must also be skilled at entertaining outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking and spelunking. They must be able to lead a group and remain calm under pressure. Wilderness guides do not necessarily need an education beyond high school, but most have certification. A wilderness guide typically earns $17,000 to $56,000 a year.

A fun way to introduce your teen to the idea of becoming a wilderness guide is signing up for Outward Bound’s Intercept program for at-risk youth and young adults. Intercept expeditions take teens away from destructive behavior by taking them out of their everyday environment for several days of outdoor adventuring. Daily activities include getting up early to make breakfast, setting up and breaking camp, navigating, hiking, cooking and washing dishes. Participants learn to work as part of a team, gaining skills such as responsibility, cooperation and leadership. Intercept participants are supervised by Outward Bound staff who are trained as wilderness first responders, first aiders or the equivalent.

Wildlife Technician

Another career option for teens who enjoy the outdoors is becoming a wildlife technician. Wildlife technicians help gather data and perform other activities to assist wildlife biologists and conservation scientists. This can involve tracking and tagging animals, helping care for captured animals, collecting eggs from a fishing hatchery or planting native grasses for ecological restoration. It can also involve indoor work such as managing lab equipment and cleaning up lab areas. Wildlife technicians may travel by all-terrain vehicle, boat or even snowshoes. A career as a wildlife technician typically requires an associate or bachelor’s degree related to biology. Wildlife technicians earn an average of $40,710.

One way to get teens started on a path to considering becoming a wildlife technician is to expose them to hunting. Hunting can help familiarize teens with outdoor skills as well as raise their awareness of the need for wildlife conservation. The NRA offers a Youth Hunter Education Challenge program to help teens improve their hunting, marksmanship and safety skills. Outdoor suppliers provide rifles and other hunting equipment you can use to introduce your teen to hunting.


If your teen’s enthusiasm for outdoor activity is combined with an interest in dinosaurs, history, ancient civilizations, detective work or Indiana Jones movies, one career option they might consider is becoming an archaeologist. Archaeologists oversee digs to collect data samples and artifacts. They may study samples in labs, research artifacts in museums, work on research projects for universities or government agencies, assist with cultural resources management or teach as professors. Archaeologists typically have a Master’s degree or Ph.D. in archaeology or a related field such as anthropology. The average salary for an archaeologist is $63,190.

A good way to get youth started considering a career in archaeology is participating in a volunteer archaeology program. The National Park Service provides an online directory of archaeology program volunteer opportunities around the country.

Becoming a wilderness guide, wildlife technician or archaeologist are just three of the many career paths that are possible for teens who enjoy the outdoors. The more involved your teen is in outdoor activity, the more career options are available to them, so the key is to get them started exploring the great outdoors. Engaging in outdoor activities will help keep your teen away from trouble and help you and your family grow closer to your child.

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Todd Smekens

Journalist, consultant, publisher, and servant-leader with a passion for truth-seeking. Enjoy motorcycling, meditation, and spending quality time with my daughter and rescue hound. Spiritually-centered first and foremost. Lived in multiple states within the USA and frequent traveler to the mountains.

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