Are you ready for the ultimate western adventure?
Spending a season on a dude ranch is top notch. The most popular time to work on a dude ranch is the summer. This is by far the busiest time, but some dude ranches in Arizona and New Mexico are more popular in the winter. So you can pick your season. Summer dude ranches operate from around Mid-May until late October, but don’t worry if this is a little longer than your college break. Obviously someone who can work all season is ideal, but dude ranches will work with you if you’re a good match.
Jobs are usually divided into two categories – house jobs and barn jobs. Both are fun, but they are different. This may help you decide if a barn job is right for you.
Barn Jobs – These jobs keep you outside all summer long. They include jobs like wranglers, counselors, maintenance, naturalists, fishing guides, or groundskeepers.
Wrangler – These are stereotypical dude ranch jobs. You’ll be outside all hours of the day. You’re a cowboy who tends to his horses, but also makes sure that the guests have an authentic outdoor experience. Plan on making around $1,000 to $1,500 a month. These jobs are very competitive, but if you’re a good match with a lot of horse experience, you’ll be a sure thing.
Ranch Maintenance – The dude ranch experience requires a pristine western style environment. This job entails lots of outdoor work. It’s a fun job, with less interaction with the guests than that of a wrangler. The days will fly by as you mow, weed, water, maintain trails, plant trees, pick up trash, build fences, control mosquitoes, fix hot tubs, paint buildings, drive to and from the airport, clear irrigation ditches, and chop wood. To be considered you’ll need to be able to work long hot hours, have experience around machinery, and an ability to perform manual labor. This is an important job and without a hard, competent worker, dude ranches would crumple. You’ll often feel you’re more valuable than the $10 an hour you’re paid. It’s up to you to keep the place in tip-top shape.
Naturalist – Are you an expert about the outdoors? Naturalists need to make the dude ranch environment come alive by creating activities, stories, and projects. They need to be able to talk about any environmental aspect at any time. You never know when a kid will ask why a horse doesn’t have toes or an adult wants to know about mining in the area. Naturalists will be involved in nature walks, bird watching, flower identification, tracking, or stargazing. Naturalists need to be able to deal with people of all ages. A large part of the naturalist job is to help with the children’s program during the day, but adults want to know about the western eco-systems too. For $10 to $18 an hour, be prepared for lots of questions. The biggest requirements for this job are communication skills and a vast knowledge of the world.
Guides – Dude ranches will often have specialists working at the dude ranch. These jobs will depend on the dude ranch’s focus and location. For instance if they are near a river, they may hiring a fly fishing guide. If they are close to world-class hunting grounds, maybe a hunting guide will work on the dude ranch. Pay will vary widely, but most guides make between $15 and $30 an hour. Check out different dude ranches for what guide jobs are available.
All of these are awesome outdoor-oriented jobs. Remember that on a dude ranch you’ll be doing your job, but will be helping out anyone that needs help. The more experience you have in all dude ranch jobs, the better your chances of employment. And if you don’t have lots of experience, after a season on a dude ranch, you’ll be a master at all the jobs.