Do you wish you could wheel for a living? Do you crave a job that puts you in a vehicle on the dirt? Is the smell of dust like a slice of heaven compared to the purified air of an office?
Well, if you’d like to spend your days in the great outdoors instead of the stifling indoors, take heart, because there are a few jobs out there that’ll put you behind the wheel of something with an engine as you bounce contentedly over unpaved goodness.
We put our heads together and compiled a few jobs that you may want to consider if you’ve had it with being stuffed indoors every day. This is by no means a complete list, but it’ll give you a few ideas. It could change your life. Instead of shaking your head in disgust at the end of a long day indoors, you may be shaking your head to get the dirt out of your hair. These jobs give new meaning to the term “career path.”
Bureau of Land Management or U.S. Forest Service
Why it’s cool: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages 264 million acres of public land and the Forest Service manages 193 million acres. That’s a mind-boggling chunk of primarily wide open, undeveloped space. Get the right job at the Forest Service and you’ll probably be driving a four-wheel-drive truck or SUV because that’s what 80 percent of its fleet consists of. The BLM has a number of vehicles in its fleet and many of those are four-wheel drive as well.
Off-road tour guide
Why it’s cool: Those without a four-wheel drive vehicle or those with a four-wheel drive that have little practical off-road experience often turn to guided four-wheel drive tours to get into the backcountry. The guides/drivers of these tours get to wheel a lot in some of the most spectacular scenery imaginable. Typically these tours are based in areas that are visually stunning and/or are inaccessible to standard vehicles. We’ve seen these tours in places like the Carolinas, Tennessee, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Hawaii, Michigan, California, and Nevada. “Honey, we’re moving to Hawaii so I can be an off-road tour guide.” Has a nice ring to it.
Automotive quality/ durability test driver
Why it’s cool: A lot goes into the research and design of a four-wheel drive vehicle and the auto industry relies on a talented group of people to make it all happen. After all the R&D is completed, the vehicle must be tested in the real world. New vehicle testing is legendary. Every aspect of every component is put through the ringer. Extreme hot weather testing and cold weather testing is the norm. Companies send the vehicles, test drivers, and a bevy of test equipment to some of the most inhospitable places on earth. Get a job here and you’ll probably get to wheel a lot in some wicked conditions.
Monster truck driver
Why it’s cool: The modern monster truck is a technological marvel. About the only thing it can’t do is drive itself. Land a job driving one of these machines and you’ll be in control of 66-inch tires and over 1,000 horsepower. Best of all, every time you go to work you’ll get to show off to thousands of people and you’ll be airborne most of the time. Hey, that’s probably a tad different than what you’re doing now, right? There are actually scores of monster trucks doing their thing across the U.S. Some promoters even take the rigs to places like Spain, Finland, Poland, and Costa Rica, so you may get to travel the world.
Off-road park owner
Why it’s cool: The beauty of owning your own off-road park is that you can go wheeling any time you want. That is, if you’re not too busy attending to the business of running the park. But even maintaining the park is fun in the dirt. Many parks have on-site equipment to create and maintain trails and obstacles. This means you can build a new obstacle and then be the first one to try it out. Heck, you can even name the obstacle, because you are The Man. Does it get much better than that?
Heavy equipment operator
Why it’s cool: The tools of this trade include bulldozers, backhoes, and excavators. Some have wheels and some have tracks. Pilot one of these earth-moving monsters and you’ll most likely be in the dirt all day in a variety of conditions. Want to step it up? Four Wheeler Editor Cappa recommends trying to land a job piloting a fire dozer. “I’ve seen these things climbing crazy hills and on the side of cliffs pushing dirt to slow the wildfires around my house. Sometimes they roll over. Pretty high-risk job, but it’s rad. You can find videos if you search “fire dozer” on YouTube. I looked into it once. It required something like 500 hours of dozer experience.” Another option is operating heavy equipment at the city landfill. If you can handle the smell.
Why it’s cool: The logging industry has some of the coolest off-road equipment on the planet. When you go to work in this business you may have the opportunity to drive skidders, forwarders, processors, delimbers, feller bunchers, and log loaders, among other things. The terrain is often unforgiving and the work continues in all but the worst weather. The logs have to be transported out of the forest and this duty falls to the logging truck drivers. These drivers have to pilot straight and combination trucks on dirt roads that are often slippery. Sounds like a fun challenge to us.
Off-road race-truck driver
Why it’s cool: Like to drive fast in the dirt? If so, this job is for you. You’ll wrap yourself in safety equipment and then strap into a high-performance rig. This type of off-road racing is arguably the most habit forming of all disciplines. There are a variety of racing series to choose from, including Score-International, Lucas Off-Road Racing Series. Valley Off-Road Racing Association, and the Traxxas TORC Series. Heck, you can even go run Dakar if you want. Most racing series have several classes of competition. Variations in the off-road racing world include tough truck racing, mud racing, and truck pulling. So build or buy a rig, get some sponsors, and go racing.
Why it’s cool: There isn’t a lot of pavement in a farmer/ranchers world. The tools of this trade include tractors, harvesters, skid-steers, and of course the four-wheel-drive pickup truck. An average day on the farm/ranch requires significant off-road travel and much of it is done pulling trailers or wagons. The corn won’t plant itself, the hay won’t bale itself, and the beans won’t walk out of the field and into the bin, and there’s a machine for each. Got grazing animals? They need to be checked from time to time and that means traveling to wherever they are over whatever terrain stands in the way.
Why it’s cool: Quite simply, geologists study the earth. It could be earth processes (like earthquakes or volcanic eruptions), earth materials (like rocks), or earth history, for example. Similar to a doctor, there are a slew of areas geologists can specialize in. The thing many of these jobs have in common is that they require off-road travel to some extent. The prelude to all this fun is a few years in college to procure a degree. After that, you could be employed by the United States Geological Survey, a mining company, or a university, among others. Have you ever wanted to wheel your way to a spewing volcano or to giant earthquake fissures?
Ice road truck driver
Why it’s cool: If you think summer stinks and snow is the way to go, this is for you. If you relish the thought of driving a truck in the middle of nowhere on several feet of ice in frigid weather punctuated by vision-blocking whiteouts, you’ll be in heaven. Similar jobs include ice road construction and ice road plowing, both of which carry significant challenges and require wheeling skills. If you survive, you’ll have great stories to tell your grandkids. A variation on this job is a truck driving job in a country like Russia or India, where the road system is more like a trail. Basically, you’ll be off-roading heavy trucks, which is pretty cool, actually.
Why it’s cool: If you’re assigned to patrol one of our nation’s borders you’ll probably be planted in a four-wheel-drive vehicle. The Border Patrol has a large vehicle fleet and it utilizes several different types of vehicles including the Ford Super Duty and Raptor; Chevy Suburban and Tahoe; Ram Power Wagon; and Jeep Wrangler. Most of the time you’ll be in the middle of nowhere, wheeling like a boss.
Why it’s cool: Patrolling miles of beach for a living is not a bad thing. A few years ago we visited the Outer Banks of North Carolina and had a chance to chat with a local sheriff’s deputy whose job it was to patrol the beach including the remote section from Corolla to the Virginia state line, including the unpaved community of Carova Beach. He seemed truly happy with his job. Go figure. We also visited with the local fire department and got a look at some of their four-wheel-drive equipment including an ambulance and pumper truck that were all set up for beach travel.
Electric transmission tower inspection/maintenance
Why it’s cool: Those huge metal electric transmission towers and poles must be inspected regularly. Most of the line maintenance is done by helicopter and other means, but the tower itself must be inspected for things like corrosion and fatigue. Further, some of these towers must be regularly inspected, primed, and painted. As you can imagine, four-wheel-drive vehicles and specialized equipment are often used to access these towers and poles. A variation of this job is the actual construction of the towers and poles, which require that equipment and vehicles be driven in to help complete the work.
Oil and gas exploration
Why it’s cool: It is said that the U.S. oil and gas exploration and production industry consists of about 5,000 companies. These companies have annual combined revenue of about $290 billion. The oil and gas exploration industry uses some very cool vehicles like the vibroseis trucks and buggies. These rigs have a large pad that is lowered from the vehicle to the surface and then vibrated to generate seismic waves, which allow geologists to “see” the earth’s subsurface and find oil and gas.
Why it’s cool: Most mines are located in remote areas so just getting to the mine can be a challenge. We were trail-riding in Governor Basin near Ouray, Colorado, recently and we passed a small, privately-owned mine. This mine was far from the paved road and at high altitude. Just getting to the mine required a fair amount of wheeling and a lot of time. Parked on the shelf trail near the mine portal was a gear-laden Super Duty dragging a trailer. We’re not sure how they planned to get the ore out, but we’re guessing it had something to do with the Super Duty, which means even more wheeling.
Why it’s cool: The U.S. military has some of the coolest vehicles. Period. Most are designed to go just about anywhere. Sign up with Uncle Sam and you could find yourself piloting a Humvee or M1117 light armored vehicle; Stryker or M113 armored personnel carrier; M-ATV or Buffalo mine-protected vehicle; or even a turbine-powered M1 Abrams main battle tank. No road, no problem,
4x4 magazine editor
Why it’s cool: Finally, there’s this. If you want to eat, sleep, and drink four-wheel drive, you may want to pursue a job at a 4x4 magazine like Four Wheeler. Trail rides, annual tests, ongoing evaluations, project rigs, and installs are the typical order of the day. We’re in four-wheel-drive mode from sunup till sundown (and even occasionally in the middle of the night when deadlines are looming). It’s all four-wheel drive all the time in the 4x4 magazine business.