2021’s Best Cities for Outdoor Jobs

man working outdoors using string trimmer on a landscaping job

Just like the vast outdoors, jobs working in the heat, cold, sun, and rain are varied — roofers, mail carriers, forest rangers, landscapers, to name just a few.

Some jobs require people to be outside — ski instructors, garbage collectors, linemen, scuba divers, and vineyard managers. Some people just prefer working in the sun — gardeners, landscapers, lawn care crews, for example. 

But not every city — or its weather — is equally suitable for a career in fresh air and sunshine. 

That’s why LawnStarter took stock of the outdoor employment landscape, to bring you its 2021 Best Cities for Outdoor Jobs report.

We compared the 200 largest employment markets in the U.S. across 26 key factors — from outdoor job opportunities to cost of living to average daily temperature. 

You can find our ranking, highlights/lowlights, and methodology below.

Once you’ve finished, grab a shovel and head out into the sunshine.

Table of Contents

  1. City Rankings
  2. Highlights and Lowlights
  3. Ask the Experts
  4. Methodology
  5. Why This Study Matters

City Rankings

See how each city fared in our ranking:

OVERALL RANKCityOverall ScoreOpportunity RankAffordability RankWork-Life Balance RankSafety RankClimate Rank
1Frisco, TX636011991093
2Henderson, NV62.2713218108146
3Seattle, WA62.22623911158
4Scottsdale, AZ62.042817147471
5Gilbert, AZ61.59958164271
6Tempe, AZ61.16158783171
7Vancouver, WA61.05702776939
8Chandler, AZ60.967312145371
9Plano, TX59.945461741993
10Bellevue, WA59.7316912211553
11San Francisco, CA58.96101481682811
12McKinney, TX58.721345194893
13Boston, MA58.6311117716146
14Portland, OR58.0564106441739
15Las Vegas, NV57.713845891646
16Cary, NC57.1480314380114
17Mesa, AZ56.8910941832571
18Glendale, AZ56.8559501243371
19Orange, CA56.6951506511730
20Virginia Beach, VA56.6715872156554
21Arlington, VA56.61710185146108
22St. Petersburg, FL56.587237825860
23Grand Prairie, TX56.5744211894593
24North Las Vegas, NV56.55164381092746
25Boise City, ID56.54114902713113
26Eugene, OR56.491061742792
27Irving, TX56.3838301536193
28Irvine, CA56.2947173853016
29Lincoln, NE56.16165591712150
30Jersey City, NJ56.06115317943162
31Sunnyvale, CA55.92131081051489
32Austin, TX55.8894311314184
33Alexandria, VA55.88128019150108
34Grand Rapids, MI55.8692821024160
35Pembroke Pines, FL55.8241491815562
36Naperville, IL55.66302186127199
37Glendale, CA55.666198677316
38Sioux Falls, SD55.6317575254187
39Santa Rosa, CA55.4814117841522
40Fort Collins, CO55.4311893920172
41Honolulu, HI55.385819639761
42Miramar, FL55.2834361709169
43Overland Park, KS55.2769149379166
44Minneapolis, MN55.15271101334191
45San Jose, CA55.1366145123658
46Thornton, CO55.1222619238196
47Washington, DC55.1147915095108
48Tampa, FL55.0578651136260
49New York, NY55218617836144
50St. Paul, MN55521091822191
51Cape Coral, FL54.951174317723103
52Garland, TX54.8463351716493
53Peoria, AZ54.84319173108107
54Port St. Lucie, FL54.8167631821466
55Fremont, CA54.52379518312211
56Yonkers, NY54.52013813521162
57San Diego, CA54.4910817672465
58Lubbock, TX54.4817771218642
59El Paso, TX54.4819052784083
60Madison, WI54.4776126718193
61Louisville, KY54.46121676429140
62Aurora, IL54.331222815815194
63Chesapeake, VA54.32140441695354
64Arlington, TX54.2189291845193
65Tacoma, WA54.2842217610358
66Spokane, WA54.121362015135117
67Tucson, AZ54.0214599166888
68Phoenix, AZ53.97137531077171
69Columbus, OH53.95131774332147
70Fort Wayne, IN53.91183405126190
71San Antonio, TX53.916254956678
72Durham, NC53.8510392814790
73Corpus Christi, TX53.77185391008350
74Chula Vista, CA53.75135136117775
75Reno, NV53.7142423769142
76Anaheim, CA53.732188849216
77Hollywood, FL53.69257614612469
78Rancho Cucamonga, CA53.655611614910716
79Salt Lake City, UT53.6448862289157
80Tallahassee, FL53.6105125356149
81Omaha, NE53.58157474044180
82Albuquerque, NM53.31148613685116
83Buffalo, NY53.19107135635161
84Santa Ana, CA53.17311893413116
85Brownsville, TX53.1419783736045
86Santa Clarita, CA53.131521051984216
87Colorado Springs, CO52.99169329249158
88Des Moines, IA52.92139973237177
89Olathe, KS52.9814118151174
90McAllen, TX52.82189481387467
91Fullerton, CA52.7431778618230
92Hayward, CA52.721714715116014
93Fort Worth, TX52.64184241757593
94Charlotte, NC52.431308515248111
95Worcester, MA52.34791133139198
96Chicago, IL52.3358815559194
97Huntington Beach, CA52.282415713914516
98Elk Grove, CA52.2488941808843
99Greensboro, NC52.231471037563102
100Denver, CO52.19505712996183
101Jacksonville, FL52.11633414490112
102Laredo, TX51.95200561038267
103Salem, OR51.921601143510152
104Raleigh, NC51.84936999105114
105Providence, RI51.81741331172188
106Long Beach, CA51.784918310112529
107Mesquite, TX51.78515119697118
108Garden Grove, CA51.74818712516816
109Anchorage, AK51.7115911116128186
110Richmond, VA51.59621556857126
111Torrance, CA51.5914111518430
112Newport News, VA51.471161181049454
113Oakland, CA51.43918113413811
114Syracuse, NY51.33101146198179
115Oxnard, CA51.32178169801233
116Lexington, KY51.311508942100125
117Aurora, CO51.3826015978183
118Norfolk, VA51.06861391289354
119Killeen, TX50.96198551877084
120Springfield, MA50.941261224110143
121Joliet, IL50.939816172112199
122Rochester, NY50.66102165584152
123Pasadena, CA50.65418211118730
124Hialeah, FL50.6421599413062
125Amarillo, TX50.5319225132120132
126Fort Lauderdale, FL50.51297814817262
127Corona, CA50.424012719013938
128Oklahoma City, OK50.361725812199138
129Kansas City, MO50.141246488116166
130Baltimore, MD50.1261100130119141
131Pittsburgh, PA50.124510224149176
132Enterprise, NV50.091281516117779
133Los Angeles, CA50.014619510214015
134Akron, OH49.918511226118181
135Dallas, TX49.91007416313793
136Cincinnati, OH49.877511123136165
137Nashville, TN49.8713310413787129
138Wichita, KS49.771826849113164
139Toledo, OH49.731611205581159
140Spring Valley, NV49.6871465318679
141Lakewood, CO49.461862106179196
142Modesto, CA49.41711349811451
143Fontana, CA49.379112315416616
144Atlanta, GA49.3423121142161105
145Paradise, NV49.2167663819079
146Ontario, CA49.195517513616216
147Chattanooga, TN49.1512313048111139
148Rockford, IL49.011737561121189
149Fayetteville, NC48.9818114016067104
150Riverside, CA48.981101439017016
151Bridgeport, CT48.929916830106137
152Springfield, MO48.8511512828132154
153Oceanside, CA48.741121791271585
154Sacramento, CA48.591041585915243
155Little Rock, AR48.351447066156133
156Miami, FL48.283615412016962
157Newark, NJ48.192120063102153
158Murfreesboro, TN48.18154101165109136
159Milwaukee, WI48.1811916214126169
160Indianapolis, IN48.111539196133185
161Escondido, CA48.04971847717110
162Paterson, NJ48.041919719150156
163Huntsville, AL47.8615112445142134
164Tulsa, OK47.81669662143168
165Columbus, GA47.7118613212612989
166Houston, TX47.5911173162155128
167Philadelphia, PA47.5753137114153127
168Orlando, FL47.53658111918886
169Knoxville, TN47.339016420157123
170St. Louis, MO47.28689857173182
171Moreno Valley, CA47.1314916316716516
172Stockton, CA47.118715614114441
173Dayton, OH47.049615212154171
174Palmdale, CA47.0219914920010430
175Pomona, CA46.86331807019430
176Winston-Salem, NC46.7156107110159119
177Cleveland, OH45.778316725163178
178Bakersfield, CA45.621961297417849
179Augusta, GA45.34176144133147131
180New Orleans, LA45.3212019956134120
181Sunrise Manor, NV44.861438415719379
182Detroit, MI44.7812717233164170
183Midland, TX44.491881319320037
184Kansas City, KS44.317711969189174
185Shreveport, LA44.2616819479141124
186Metairie, LA44.2587131140185120
187San Bernardino, CA44.241251915019616
188Lancaster, CA43.8319516018818030
189Macon, GA43.5817914287183106
190Salinas, CA43.191931701661954
191Pasadena, TX43.175733195198151
192Memphis, TN43.1317015197176155
193Montgomery, AL43.117416154174173
194Baton Rouge, LA42.6214619346175135
195Clarksville, TN42.57194115197167130
196Savannah, GA41.871291716019787
197Jackson, MS41.5618019047181148
198Birmingham, AL41.1611319258192145
199Mobile, AL41.05155185112191122
200Fresno, CA40.271911662919991
Infographic showing Best Cities for Outdoor Jobs based on climate, cost of living, work-related injuries, most outdoor job opportunities per 100K residents, and more
 

Highlights and Lowlights

Out and About in the Southwest

Arizona dominated our ranking, with four cities in the top 10. While not topping the charts in any single category, Scottsdale, Tempe and other Copper State cities earned high marks in opportunity metrics, such as labor force participation, and in safety metrics, such as health insurance coverage. 

Arizona does, however, have more than its fair share of hot days, but it also has one of the lowest rates of precipitation in the country. Move here and you can toss that raincoat into the Grand Canyon.

Wet in the Washington Wilds

Washington is another surprising winner with three cities in our top 10. The Evergreen State is known for being wet, but with a high transit score, a high minimum wage, and no state income tax, its cities are a pretty good place to settle in for your new outdoor career.

For example, Seattle — at No. 3 — didn’t do well on that rainy metric, but the Emerald City made up for the rain by outperforming in opportunity and affordability metrics. 

California — Almost

Many California cities did well in the outdoor job opportunities metric, with six entries in the top 10. Despite this, these locales finished mid-range overall. Here’s why: Cities with a multitude of outdoor opportunities like Fullerton performed poorly on other measures such as natural hazards, air quality, and of course, cost of living. 

Bottom line: They don’t call it The Golden State for nothing. Life isn’t cheap in California, even with a nice outdoor job.

Sweating in the South

Southern cities fared the worst in our outdoor employment ranking with eight of the bottom 10 in Alabama and Mississippi. It’s not difficult to see why: Cities such as Jackson have a low minimum wage, too many extremely hot days, and well above-average amounts of precipitation. 

Key takeaway: While we all would love a little more time outdoors, most of us would rather not spend it in a muggy swamp.

Ask The Experts

Starting, or transitioning into, an outdoor career can be a daunting prospect, especially during a pandemic. To help guide Americans stepping out onto an outdoor career path, we asked a panel of experts to weigh in on important matters and share their best advice. See what they had to say below.

 

  • What types of people are best suited to outdoor careers?
  • What are the three biggest advantages of an outdoor career vs. an indoor job?
  • Outdoor work doesn’t automatically mean a safe environment during the pandemic. What special or extra precautions, if any, do outdoor workers need to take?
  • How does one find the best outdoor careers?
  • What are your three best tips for someone considering a transition from an indoor to an outdoor career?
Mitchell Langbert
Associate Professor
James (Jea) Agee, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Renèe Downey Hart, PhD
Professor of Practice, Chair, Management/Leadership, Human Resources and Management Information Systems
Mitchell Langbert
Associate Professor
Brooklyn College CUNY

What types of people are best suited to outdoor careers?

One of the most important traits for all careers, and especially outdoor careers, is conscientiousness. Psychologists have studied conscientiousness or dependability because it is one of the Big Five personality traits. (The Big Five also include neuroticism, extroversion, agreeability, and a willingness to try new things). 

Since outdoor workers are often on their own and deal with dangerous equipment, they must be conscientious. A classic instance is shown in the film “Open Water,” where a boat crew strands two scuba divers in the ocean. The lack of conscientiousness was fatal.

Neuroticism and extroversion, are also important. Neuroticism refers to how emotional someone is. Outdoor jobs sometimes require remaining calm under stress, so outdoor workers need to have moderate to low neuroticism. 

You don’t want people cutting down tree branches or plowing snow to become upset under pressure. If a plow skids off the road, the driver needs to handle the situation professionally. If a plow skids off the road, the driver needs to handle the situation professionally. Remaining calm is also important when you operate outdoor power equipment, from motorized lawn mowers to power saws, to automobiles, because these can be dangerous. 

Aggressiveness, lack of impulse control, and recklessness are not characteristic of a good outdoor worker. Although it’s important for outdoor workers to be polite and to have good interpersonal skills, they should not be overly extroverted. Extroverts prefer to deal with people rather than focusing on a task alone. Because extroverts may not focus on the task at hand and get distracted, they are more likely to get into accidents. 

Naturally, good social adjustment is also desirable for outdoor workers. That’s because working on your own requires respect toward others. Maladjusted people are more likely to get into accidents or to make errors.

What are the three biggest advantages of an outdoor career vs. an indoor job?

Outdoor jobs are can be healthier and more fun than indoor work. The physical and mental demands of outdoor work can contribute to physical fitness and psychological resilience, reducing stress. Those who enjoy outdoor work will avoid the constraints of office jobs. Many of us do elements of outdoor work for fun, and when a job can combine a good income with a pleasant environment and healthful activity, it is hard to beat.

Outdoor work doesn’t automatically mean a safe environment during the pandemic. What special or extra precautions, if any, do outdoor workers need to take?

Large gatherings, even if outdoors, pose the greatest outdoor COVID-19 threat. If these can be avoided, they should be. If someone works in a park that gets crowded during the day, try to reschedule work in the evening, when it’s less crowded. Many trails and campsites have been crowded because of people getting out of the city. A swimming hole near where I live in the Catskills, the Blue Hole, has become swamped with users trying to get away from the city. A nearby trail, the Ashokan Rail Trail, has been mobbed. Work should be scheduled around the crowds. 

How does one find the best outdoor careers?

To find the best outdoor career, someone should first identify what they are good at and what they enjoy. If they are still in school, they should try out the work through an internship and, if possible, pursue a related major in college. 

Once they’ve identified their dream job, they should identify people already in that job and people who supervise them, and they should set up interviews to learn about the field. If they go on a number of informational interviews, they start to develop a base of contacts. 

Such contacts can later be used to find a job, but the informational interviewing should be kept separate from job searches. Some jobs have special requirements, such as civil service exams. Sometimes, voluntary public or military service can lead to experiences that make outside jobs available. 

What are your three best tips for someone considering a transition from an indoor to an outdoor career?

Career transitions can be difficult. I recommend joining a trade association, networking in the community, and informational interviewing. A good book on job search is “What Color Is Your Parachute,” or you can take my Business 3200 class.

James (Jea) Agee, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Trevecca Nazarene University

What types of people are best suited to outdoor careers?  

To work outdoors, you need to be tolerant of the weather, enjoy nature, and not mind getting dirty.

What are the three biggest advantages of an outdoor career vs. an indoor job? 

Working outdoors tends to be more hands-on. You get to spend time in nature, and enjoy more variety in tasks.

Outdoor work doesn’t automatically mean a safe environment during the pandemic. What special or extra precautions, if any, do outdoor workers need to take?  

You need to maintain a safe social distance, similar to those who work indoors. 

How does one find the best outdoor careers?  

Job shadow in several different industries and jobs to learn what is out there.

What are your three best tips for someone considering a transition from an indoor to an outdoor career? 

Do some job shadowing and investigate any new career thoroughly, to make sure you like it.

 

Renèe Downey Hart, PhD
Professor of Practice, Chair, Management/Leadership, Human Resources and Management Information Systems
Madden School of Business, Le Moyne College

What types of people are best suited to outdoor careers? 

We all have a personality profile – some are driven for independence while others like a proscribed environment.  Some want safety over risk, calm over a fast-paced environment. 

I always suggest my students really explore their preferences and find their superpower in the contexts of their gifts.  A landscaping friend of mine likes physical work, bright sunshine, and color in the world.  Seems like an obvious career choice, right?

Outdoor work doesn’t automatically mean a safe environment during the pandemic. What special or extra precautions, if any, do outdoor workers need to take? 

I’ll leave this to the CDC – but it sure makes sense to factor in masks for the foreseeable future. 

One opportunity it does present is to up our social skills.  We miss much without seeing facial expressions, and being clear and positive, and happy can go a long way in the sea of eyes.  It will differentiate you from competitors.

How does one find the best outdoor careers? 

There are so many sources, from INDEED to your school’s job board.  But I recommend you really look around, note projects and how they are happening.  Contact the company with a good resume and a positive attitude.  And network, network, network.  The Kevin Bacon principle applies here – weave your way to people who do what you want to do and just ask for 15 minutes. of their time.  Ask them about them. We do all like to talk about ourselves.

What are your three best tips for someone considering a transition from an indoor to an outdoor career? 

  1. Try a job on for size. 
  2.  Be realistic – not every day will be 70 degrees with a gentle breeze. 
  3.  Remember success is not always measured in dollars.

Methodology

We ranked the 200 most populated U.S. cities in descending order — from best to worst — based on their individual score totals in the metrics list below. The city that scored the highest ranked No. 1, or “best.”

MetricWeightingMin. ValueMax. Value
Outdoor Job Opportunities per 100,000 Residents *325.012614.41
Employment Access Index2 5,783 326,235
Jobs Accessible in 30-Minute Transit Ride21171375246
Labor-Force Participation Rate170.57%87.90%
"Opportunity" Category Total8
Cost of Living374206
Income Tax Rate20.00%13.30%
Housing Affordability330.1389.13
Share of Workers in Poverty11.49%17.37%
Median Household Income3 30,894 140,631
Minimum Wage20.0015.00
"Affordability" Category Total14
Transit Score10.3084.30
Average Commute Time216.6043.70
Length of Average Workday235.1042.6
"Work-Life Balance" Category Total5
Violent Crime Rate264.241965.33
Property Crime Rate10.007792.71
Traffic Fatalities per Capita10.5023.47
Natural Hazard Index Score29.0020.00
Share of Roads in Poor Condition14%71%
Work-Related Fatalities per 100,000 Employed Residents20.0011.58
Work-Related Severe Injuries per 100,000 Employed Residents20.12148.20
Health Insurance Coverage253.5094.30
"Safety" Category Total13
Average Yearly Total of Very Hot Days22169
Average Yearly Total of Very Cold Days20192
Average Daily Temperature237.0077.70
Average Monthly Precipitation in Inches25.3765.28
Median Air Quality219.0077.00
"Climate" Category Total10
Overall Total50

*Data for outdoor job opportunities was collected from Indeed on Feb. 17, 2021. It therefore reflects only a snapshot in time and does not reflect the day this report was published.

Sources: AreaVibes, Center for Neighborhood Technology, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Indeed, National Center for Disaster Preparedness, National Conference of State Legislatures, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Tax Foundation, TRIP, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Walk Score

Why This Study Matters

Not only are outdoor job opportunities plentiful and well paying, but they’re also among the safest and most secure during the pandemic. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 47% of all civilian jobs involve some level of outdoor work, though time in nature increases depending on the profession. 

And when it comes to earnings, these types of careers don’t disappoint. Many outdoor workers, such as landscape architects or environmental engineers, earn well above the median annual income.

Outdoor jobs are perhaps more appealing now than ever, compared with traditional indoor jobs, because of the health benefits they offer, including decreased risk of infection from COVID-19. Working in an outdoor field — literally and figuratively — is considerably safer due to being in the open air and physically distanced from others.

That’s why outdoor jobs have been the least disturbed sector by the pandemic, boding well for employment security in the future.

Main Photo Credit: Pexels

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