Take Your Career Outdoors

Not everybody wants to work indoors in a stuffy office or sat staring at a screen. Fortunately, there are options for people that have the desire to work outdoors – although the pay-off is that we’ve found no evidence to suggest that you can change your mind if it starts to rain!

Most outdoor jobs will involve some kind of physical activity. For the purposes of this feature we’ve narrowed the list dowen to those in some way connected with the environment – so we’ve skipped bricklayers, roadworkers and the like.

Even so, it is likely that you’ll need to be physically fit and quite handy regarding working on your own initiative where it comes to fixing things or shifting heavy items and so on.


Gardening is a relatively slow moving job. You really can’t convince a plant to grow or flower any faster than it wants to and indeed, the flipside is that you can’t convince weeds not to return so quickly either. The general role is therefore fairly relaxed and quiet and has little brush with stress.

Gardening though, can be scaled from an ordinary ‘gardening round’ where you might agree to regularly tend peoples’ gardens and so on up to important managerial (yet still ‘hands on’ roles) at say, a stately home or other public amenity or attraction where you’ll be responsible for keeping gardens looking good and also for planning the actual planting and development of displays and so on.

Clearly, you’ll need to have an interest and at least a bit of skill in cultivating plants, trees and lawns and that includes having an eye for detail in making sure that the garden looks interesting and healthy all year round.

There are no set qualifications but as with anything, employers are likely to look at your skills, knowledge, experience and from a creative perspective, your enthusiasm. There are more formal routes into gardening via gaining qualifications accredited by The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). These courses are suitable if you are just starting to learn more about gardening and horticulture, or if you wish to gain qualifications that will help you begin and develop a career in horticulture. Courses include:

Level 1 Award in Practical Horticulture

Level 2 Certificate in Practical Horticulture

Level 2 Diploma in the Principles and Practices of Horticulture.

A gardener working for a local authority can earn between £12,000 and £18,000 a year with a head gardener working in the heritage sector for example, collecting £25,000 a year, up to £30,000 for garden managers or senior gardeners. Of course, self-employed gardeners usually agree an hourly rate with their customers based on experience and reputation.

Hours: 37 per week

Starting salary: £12,000 per annum

Royal Horticultural Society


National Parks Ranger

Rangers provide a link between the general public and the National Park Authority. Whilst the ranger will probably spot issues as they occur, sometimes the public can provide handy updates on things like broken gates or stiles that require maintenance or if there are other things happening in the park relating to the wildlife that the ranger might like to record or pass on to other visitors. (It’s the rangers role to act on such information, so for example, they will organise maintenance to take place and so on.)

Although National Parks are areas that might be considered ‘wild’ they are in fact ‘managed’ and that term can include where farmland forms part of the designated area. The ranger is therefore part of a management team that makes sure that different parts all work together and that one does not cause detriment to another, for instance if walkers stray off a path, disturbing agricultural practices. (In this case, a ranger might decide to put up signage or a fence to alleviate the issue.)

Part of the role of the ranger is to promote the National Park they work in and so they’ll need to have a good idea of its history and about the wildlife that makes it special. The role includes talking with school groups and leading them into the park itself for educational or leisure activities – as well as working with others, such as communication, planning and property teams.

The route to becoming a park ranger is stricter than you might imagine and indeed the role is seen in a quite romantic way by the hundreds of candidates that contact the National Park Authority each year. With this in mind, you’ll need a degree in conservation, environmental management (or similar) as well as work or voluntary experience with organisations such as the National Trust or the Forestry Commission.

Hours: 37 per week

Starting salary: £18,000 per annum

National Parks



A groundsperson maintains and looks after sports grounds; usually for sports that are played on grass, so it’s really a horticultural role. You’ll need to refine your skills in keeping the ground (pitches, fairways, wickets etc) in good condition throughout the year, focussing on different needs as the various seasons unfold. For example, whilst a golf course needs to be well groomed all year round, a football pitch doesn’t need to be quiet so pristine and has periods in the year when it will hardly be used – ideal for repair, maintenance and reseeding etc.

Apart from practical skills and ongoing knowledge of turf you’ll also need to be able to understand plans and drawings and operate machinery ranging from strimmers to heavy rollers. If you already have horticultural experience you may be able to start as an unskilled groundsperson.

The Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG) is a membership organisation that represents those involved in the groundscare industry. It is also the industry leader in delivering high quality and accredited qualifications and short training courses for the grounds care industry, many of which are fully endorsed and accredited by national governing bodies of different sports. They provide a route through from induction up to management.

IOG Qualifications Include:

Level 2 and 3 sport turf qualifications, both online and work based coupled with an ongoing continuing professional development programme.

City & Guilds Horticultural Skills Levels 1 and 2 qualifications (ideal for people without experience in gardening, horticulture or grounds care).

As an IOG member you’ll receive discounts of between 10 and 50% on training and education options as well as gaining access to online technical reference resources and telephone helplines on a range of advice, including health and safety.

IOG Training & Education department: 01908 312 511 (option 2) or email: training@iog.org

Hours: 37 per week

Starting salary: £16,502 + per year


Salary notes from: www.nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk

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