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Dude Ranch Employment


Dude ranches or guest ranches, as they are also called, are resorts of a different kind for vacationers. These resorts offer guests a wide range of outdoor activities, from horseback riding and hikes, to rafting, canoeing, fishing, rock climbing, and much more. These ranches employ many people during their busiest season, which is typically during the summer. While ranches also need year-round employees, most jobs are only available on a seasonal basis.

People who work for dude ranches may be naturalists, tour guides, housekeepers, restaurant personnel, chefs, children’s counselors, wranglers, and many others. These employees help to ensure that guests’ experience is enjoyable.

They are usually trained experts or have experience in their field, and are there to provide services to the guests.

Most of these ranches are located in Western locations, such as Idaho, Montana, Arizona, and Colorado. Work hours can be long, and since much of the work is physical, it can be tiring, but given the beautiful setting, most seasonal employees are happy with the work.

In general, staff members are encouraged to help out where needed and interact with guests. Typical working hours are not 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., but can be more like 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. during the summer hours. Most employees work five-day work weeks.

Here is a list of of the most common dude ranch jobs advertised every year:

  • Assistant manager
  • Chef
  • Children’s counselor or activities director
  • Cook
  • Event planner
  • Facilities maintenance
  • Fly fishing guide
  • General manager
  • Guest services supervisor
  • Guest services coordinator
  • Hiking guide
  • Horsemanship instructor
  • Housekeeper
  • Naturalist
  • Ranch hand
  • Ranch manager
  • Reservations manager
  • Swim instructor
  • Tennis coach
  • White water rafting guide
  • Wrangler

As you can tell by this list, there are a wide range of positions, which is good news. But what kind of education, training, and experience do you need to get one? And what do these jobs pay? That information is covered below.

Employment Outlook

While the dude ranch industry includes many types of summer seasonal employment, they are not easy to come by. As mentioned earlier, work is mostly seasonal, and jobs are not always available, even during busy times.

Another factor that plays into the job outlook is the economy. Since dude ranches are leisure-time activities, families often choose less expensive vacations and activities when the economy is in a recession, as it has been for the last few years. This can affect the number of guests that attend the ranch. However, some ranches then choose to host more activities for local residents, such as birthday parties, weddings, etc. in response to slower summertime attendance. This means more year-round employment for cooks or caterers, wait staff, and event planners. These kinds of jobs will be more in demand in the immediate future than others.

Salary Outlook

Salaries vary widely, depending on the job and the ranch.

For example, full-time management employees will draw much higher salaries than seasonal housekeeping employees. However, most seasonal workers are paid a good salary because of the need to work long hours in a typical work day.

For example, housekeepers can earn slightly more than the average hourly wage of $10.00 hour (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) while a manager may earn approximately $46,000 per year, according to the Bureau. See, too, our hospitality careers page for similar information.

Education and Training Requirements

Most workers on a dude ranch will be expected to have a high school diploma or GED. Management or professional positions may require a bachelor’s degree or several years of experience. Certain positions, for example white water rafting guides, naturalists, or fly fishing guides, must be able to demonstrate expertise in these activities or fields, through a degree, many years of experience, or references from previous employers. However, most seasonal employees will just need to have a high school education, and some job-related experience. Once on the job, some ranches will also provide some training.

Dude ranches are popular choices for summertime employment, so it pays to apply as early as possible if this is a summer job you are interested in obtaining. They make great seasonal jobs for people who have a passion for outdoor activities and enjoy sharing that passion with people. Most employees interact with guests in some capacity, so if you don’t enjoy people, this may not be the right choice for you. For many people, the beautiful scenery and outdoor work make dude ranch jobs an ideal choice. If you are looking for full-time employment, it may be harder to obtain, but definitely possible. The rewards and benefits make obtaining a job at a dude ranch worth the effort.

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