The Best Majors for Outdoor Lovers


So you want to be outside? Not every major requires equal parts library and computer time. Plenty of majors in both the humanities and STEM will help get you out of the dorm and into the field. They might even lead you to a life far away from a desk job, where you can breathe fresh air every day in your work environment (and preserve that air quality for future generations). Outdoor Recreation:

According to Eastern Washington University, students pursuing an Outdoor Recreation major “will learn basic technical skills and leadership skills in activities such as backpacking, whitewater boating, winter camping, rock climbing, and mountaineering. In addition to a degree, students will obtain other certificates relevant to the outdoor industry.” Other colleges who offer the major include Colorado Mountain College, Northern Michigan University, George Mason University and Western Washington University.


Ecology majors will be prepared to do field work at ecological sites and attend lectures and labs about living systems. Some careers in ecology include: research scientist, field ecologist, environmental planner/consultant, park naturalist.

Colleges that offer Ecology as a major: Beloit College, Boston University, Columbia University, Emory University, and Northwestern University (and many more).


If the cross-section of hard science and policy appeals to you and your academic interests, consider majoring in Forestry. According to UC Berkeley, a Forestry and Natural Resources major “focuses on the conservation and restoration of the earth’s natural resources through hands-on study of the ecology, stewardship, and management of forest, woodland, and grassland ecosystems. The program offers concentrations in forestry and natural sciences and in human dimensions of natural resources, and qualifies students for the Registered Professional Forester’s licensing exam in California. Topics studied include wildlife and conservation biology, ecosystem restoration, rangeland management, water policy, fire science, GIS and remote sensing, environmental justice, and rural sociology. Students participate in an 8-week summer field program in the Sierra Nevada.”

Programs in Forestry are offered at University of Montana, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Humboldt State University, and Michigan State University among others.


Outdoor Education/ Adventure Education:

Do you want to work outdoors in leadership positions? Plymouth State College describes their Adventure Education major as a path for those who “ typically don’t have 8-to-5 jobs. We are often out 24/7. Similarly, many of the Adventure Education field-based courses meet all afternoon, over weekends, over spring break, after the spring semester ends in May, and at other times that do not match the traditional college schedule. For example, you may have a paddling class or rock climbing class that leaves at 6:00 AM Saturday morning. You need to show up alert, ready to learn, and practice safety. You will often be out days or weeks at a time. Some of this time in the wilderness you will be cold, tired, wet or hungry. This schedule and commitment may not allow you to participate in an athletic team or hold a part-time job some semesters. You will also need to commit to working summer jobs at a camp or outdoor program, in order to accumulate 60 days of experience as a prerequisite for the Adventure Education Internship.”

Colleges where you can major in Adventure Education: Fort Lewis College, Prescott College, Northland College, and Southern Oregon University.


Would you rather document the landscape or turn it into art, rather than study its moving pieces? Photojournalism might be the ideal track for your adventurous and artistic sides, while also giving you a practical skillset for a journalism career. Syracuse University’s Newhouse School describes the photojournalism track as “the excitement of being in the field capturing a story as it unfolds or telling a story of the human condition using images, sound and text.”

Check out photojournalism tracks at University of Missouri, Ohio University, University of Miami and Bradley University.

Sustainability Studies/Environmental Science and Policy:

More and more universities are offering Sustainability tracks and majors for their students preparing for environmental studies with a focus on climate change and sustainability practices. Not only will you get to focus your studies on the outdoors, but you’ll be preserving natural landscapes for generations to come.

University of Pennsylvania, University of Southern California, University of Montana-Western, Smith College and NYU all offer Sustainability or Environmental Policy tracks for their students.

Hughes College Prep has an expert to help you bridge the gap between choosing a major with great benefits and getting a job with benefits. Next week, we’ll explore options outside of a major if you’re dedicated to being outdoors during your college experience, and careers to explore once you’ve graduated.