Get Paid to Lead Hiking Trips or Watch Movies: 10 Summer Jobs With Awesome Perks

Summer jobs for college students with awesome perks
Echo Valley Ranch under Creative Commons

Ever dream of spending your summer wrangling horses in the Rockies or rafting some of Colorado’s best whitewater? How about being an adventure guide in Alaska?

It’s not too late to make your dream come true this summer. Now’s the time to start applying for outdoor summer jobs before the best opportunities get snapped up. If you wait til school’s out in April or May, it may be too late!

If you’re interested in moving somewhere new for a few months, be sure to check out which specializes in unique seasonal jobs. Some of the gigs listed as I write this post include working for rafting companies in Colorado and the Smoky Mountains, adventure guide jobs in Alaska, cooking and wrangling on Wyoming ranches and many, many more adventurous summer job options.

On-site summer jobs typically offer housing (and sometimes meals) in addition to wages and perks. Depending on the location, type of work and most of all, employer, you could find some great deals if you land yourself in the right situation — plus some amazing stories for when you head back to school in the fall.

But snagging any summer job, even a part-time local one with a little less adventure involved, can provide some great incentives. Here are some of our favorite places to find seasonal jobs — plus the perks they provide.

1. National and State Park Jobs

When I worked in a national park, I was able to take advantage of free bus rides into the park, low-cost employee housing and an employee meal plan, as well as free concessionaire perks such as tours, flight-seeing trips, rafting and more.

The National Park Service offers opportunities at 407 different locations. They offer special jobs for students, including geosciences, natural resources, history and cultural resources students. USA Jobs offers a complete list of available positions in the national parks.

Be sure to investigate local and state parks as well, as many of those can offer similar incentives.

2. Rafting Companies

Spending all summer guiding on the river sounds like a dream, but guiding isn’t the only job at a rafting company.

In addition to the guides and drivers that you see, there are plenty of staff behind the scenes working to make things run smoothly. Each season, rafting companies need to fill customer service, food service, dispatch and transportation positions.

Working for a rafting company in any role typically equals free river trips, not only for yourself, but perhaps for friends and family as well. Early in the season, when guides are training, many companies need people to go on practice runs to help weight the raft as guides get familiar with the river once again.

3. Hiking and Guiding Companies

Working for a hiking or guiding company offers amazing experiences to see spectacular places up close and to meet interesting people from all around the world. In addition to the daily perks of having these experiences — and the fact that you’re getting paid to explore the outdoorsyou can also often snag a spot on one of your trips for a friend or family member.

4. Outdoor Gear Shops

Working at an outdoor gear shop is the perfect job for an outdoor-loving penny hoarder. In addition to the typically great discounts on outdoor equipment and clothing (and the often-free rentals), you can also utilize “pro deal” discounts with manufacturers.

While every shop has different policies, most stores have deals in place where employees can purchase a limited number of items for a reduced price. Plus, you get to hang out and talk gear all day, which is almost as good as being outside.

Not Outdoorsy? No Problem

If you’re not into outdoor adventure jobs, you still have plenty of seasonal job opportunities.

5. Water Parks

With more than 2,000 water parks around the world, you’re bound to find one near you. One to check out: Florida’s Walt Disney World Blizzard Beach, which features the 120-foot-tall Summit Plummet waterslide that hurls riders along at 60 miles per hour.

When the temperature brushes the triple digits, people head to the water parks in droves. Every summer, these seasonal attractions look for staffers including lifeguards, attendants, customer service, admission and food service workers. Perks typically include free admission to the park and sister attractions, as well as discounts on merchandise and food.

6. Theme Parks

Working at theme parks, including Disney Parks, provides a number of incentives. Free admission to your park is a given, but many companies also offer free admission to other parks, especially if they are owned by the same parent company.

And there’s more: Employees can receive discounts on merchandise, food and even sneak previews of new attractions.

7. Golf Courses

Golf is a costly sport and working at a course has unique advantages including free golfing, pro shop discounts and more. Each summer, courses look for caddies, pro shop employees, food service staff and maintenance crews to help keep golfers happy out on the course.

8. Summer Activities

Anything you like to do outside in the summer, from mini golf to swimming, requires employees to keep it up and running. And those activities usually offer perks to their employees, including free admission for themselves (and often free or reduced admission for friends and family members), in addition to discounts on food and merchandise and other perks.

9. Movie Theaters

Movie theater jobs aren’t just for teenagers. One former movie store employee recounts some of the perks of the gig in his Houston Press blog, including getting to watch unlimited movies (including obscure and artsy flicks) and even taking home leftover swag from movie marketing campaigns. (Yes, this is yet another way to get paid to watch movies.)

10. Museums

Working at a museum allows you to not only expand your mind, but also get free stuff. Typically, if you work at a museum, you can visit other museums in the same museum network for free.

Other museums may also offer a discount, as the organizations typically have reciprocal agreements that allow other museums’ employees free access. Sometimes these deals can be extended to family members and friends as well.

Your Turn: Do you plan to find a seasonal job this summer? Are you more interested in outdoor jobs or indoor ones?

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.