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Imagine going to a job every day where the view from your “office” is miles of water in every direction, or being able to cap off a hard day’s work with a lounge chair perched on the sand. For thousands of part-time and year-round Outer Banks residents, this scenario is an everyday reality, as the Outer Banks offers a wide array of employment opportunities, with miles of shoreline as a constant background.
Many newcomers dream about living and working at the beach, but the fact is that Outer Banks employment can be a very real and sustainable reality. From professional and fulfilling careers at local real estate offices, businesses, and county offices, to profitable short-term employment at area restaurants and attractions, the job market on the Outer Banks is diverse, engaging, and filled with enticing opportunities.
Local job opportunities
Summer seasonal jobs
Many long-time locals began their Outer Banks residency with a summertime or seasonal job, and these days, there are hundreds if not thousands of seasonal positions available for folks who are at all points of their careers.
Arguably, the two biggest benefits of a seasonal job are income and location. Because the workforce can be scarce on the Outer Banks in the summer, when the visitor population swells to the hundreds of thousands, employees are generally paid well above average for similar occupations across the U.S., and have their pick of positions in a multitude of industries.
But more importantly, seasonal workers get to enjoy the Outer Banks at its very best in their downtime. The weather is warm and inviting, the ocean and sound water temperatures are ideal for swimming and watersports, and the islands are hopping with activity and a myriad of fun things to do – from climbing the Bodie Island or Currituck Lighthouse, to enjoying a day of fishing off of one of the Outer Banks’ many local piers.
As noted, there are lots of options for new workers, so keep the following general guidelines in mind of what to expect when it comes to seasonal, summertime employment.
Who should Apply:
• College students – College students can earn a lot of extra income for their school-year expenses while finding ample opportunities for socializing and exploring the busy summertime beach scene. Best of all, because the Outer Banks’ main visitor season tends to align with the school year, students can easily find a job that extends for their summer break only, without a long-term commitment.
• Non-US workers – The Outer Banks has a number of local businesses who enlist foreign students and non U.S. workers to help handle the seasonal workload. More information on these programs is readily available online, through organizations such as the Outer Banks International Student Outreach Program (ISOP). Interested foreign applicants can also get a sense of the basics guidelines and conditions involved in working on the Outer Banks through the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs department at https://j1visa.state.gov/j-1-exchange-visitor-program-in-the-outer-banks/.
• Retirees – Retirees are steadily becoming a growing component of the local workforce, and there are plenty of positions that don’t require a lot of excess physical activity, but which do require a friendly personality and a willingness to enjoy something new. Retirees can readily find jobs at local reality offices, area attractions such as the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, retail shops, and other businesses where great communication skills and a love of the Outer Banks are key. In fact, in recent years, Dare County has been hosting seasonal job fairs designed especially for retirees who want to expand their horizons and enjoy the OBX lifestyle, while picking up a bit of extra income along the way.
• Anyone with a sense of adventure, or who has always dreamed of living on the Outer Banks – Maybe you want to take a few months off to explore your passions and enjoy the beauty of miles of unspoiled shorelines, or maybe you’ve dreamed of living on the Outer Banks and want to take a “test run” to see if the beach lifestyle is right for you. Simply put, if you love adventure, beautiful landscapes, the great outdoors, and a fun and friendly environment, (or all of the above), then the Outer Banks may be the perfect place to call a temporary, (and perhaps permanent), home.
Types of Jobs in the seasonal marketplace:
As noted, the Outer Banks job market is brimming with options and possibilities, but when it comes to seasonal employment, there are a few industries that are more common and popular than others.
Here are some of the top types of jobs available when it comes to seasonal positions in the Outer Banks.
• Hospitality workers – Hospitality personnel work in the vacation rental companies, hotels, motels, resorts, campgrounds, and other accommodation providers on the Outer Banks, and their positions vary widely. From greeting guests when they arrive, to addressing little maintenance issues during a stay, hospitality workers can have a wide array of skills and experience to apply.
One of the most popular seasonal jobs is cleaning or inspecting weekly vacation rental homes, as it’s a position that generally only occurs on Saturdays and Sundays, and which pays exceptionally well. (In fact, many housecleaners report making up to $300-$400 per day, or even more!) Virtually all vacation rental companies need housecleaners and inspectors during the summer season, so securing a high-paying position in this field is all but a certainty.
• Restaurants – Like the housecleaning or hospitality industries, the restaurant industry is another job sector that can pay very well. Chefs, dishwashers, hosts, and other background personnel are always needed in abundance, so finding a job is an easy venture, and because of this competitive market, the pay rate is much higher than in other regions of North Carolina, and even the U.S. Meanwhile, servers and folks on the frontlines can expect hefty tips, with many servers earning $100, $200, or even $300 a day at popular local establishments.
• Retail – The Outer Banks has tons of retail businesses, from bait and tackle shops to chic boutiques, which are always looking for friendly personnel. This job is enticing for a number of folks due to its low intensity, ability to meet and greet with other Outer Banks fans, great hours, and equally great pay. Like other industries on the Outer Banks, because workers are hard to find, the pay is competitive and much higher than in other parts of the country.
• Tour guides and activity directors - If you love the outdoors, and love to explore new places, then the tour and activity industry is likely a perfect fit for you. From leading tour groups through famed attractions, to guiding kayak, walking, fishing, or even biking tours along some of the most scenic spots on the Outer Banks, this job type allows you to explore and enjoy everything coastal N.C. has to offer, while putting money in your pocket.
• Attractions – Both paid and volunteer positions are always available at some of the Outer Banks’ most famous landmarks and attractions. From the local lighthouses to famed sites like the Wright Brothers Memorial, seasonal workers are always needed for everything from manning the gift shop, to leading presentations on local history. A good place to start for this type of position is the National Park Service, which manages a number of the Outer Banks’ top attractions, including the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the Wright Brothers Memorial, and the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site.
Where and how to find seasonal living arrangements:
One of the biggest challenges for new and seasoned Outer Banks residents is housing, and it’s a problem that both county officials and local businesses are constantly striving to address.
The good news is that seasonal employees have some options when it comes to finding a place to live on the Outer Banks. Many local businesses offer their employees housing as an incentive to work for their company, or can put folks in touch with friends or colleagues who may have a temporary space to call home. It is also not unusual to find rooms or apartments for a short-term rental time period, (which may or may not be shared with other seasonal workers), which are generally listed in local newspapers, or social media websites such as Facebook.
In addition, the Outer Banks is home to a wealth of RV parks and resorts, which can provide ample accommodations with lots of amenities for individuals who need a temporary place to stay.
Seasonal employees are advised to talk with their employers for recommendations first, as word-of-mouth tends to be an effective way to find a place to live while working on the Outer Banks, and many businesses are more than happy to lend a hand in helping their new team members find a place to stay during their employment.
The Outer Banks has plenty of born-and-bred natives, but the majority of the population is made up of folks just like you, who fell in love with the area, and who wanted to live, work, and raise a family in their personal piece of ocean-bordering paradise.
Granted, life on the Outer Banks isn’t always idyllic. Storms are a concern every hurricane season, and finding long-term housing can be problematic for new residents. But the majority of the folks who move to the Outer Banks stay there indefinitely, because the area has such scenic beauty, but it also has a wonderful sense of community where neighbors help neighbors. The OBX also has a high quality of living, a wealth of opportunities to volunteer and socialize, and a world of other benefits that aren’t generally visible until you live there full-time.
What year-round life is like on the Outer Banks
One of the biggest questions that new residents pose is “What is the Outer Banks like in the winter?” Summer is obviously the busiest season, and many newcomers haven’t experienced an Outer Banks winter before they arrive for the long-haul.
But many folks who move find that the changing of the seasons is energizing. Years ago, the majority of OBX businesses would shut down from Labor Day until Memorial Day, but this is no longer the case. Today, the wintertime Outer Banks landscape still has plenty of amenities and attractions that are wide open to the public, including shops, restaurants, grocery stores, attractions, and much more.
In addition, while the beach may be too cool for swimming and sunbathing, the Outer Banks shoreline has its own secretive rewards in the winter months. The cooler months from fall through spring are primetime for fishing, shelling, and watersports such as kiteboarding or surfing, (although a wetsuit will come in handy), and it’s easy to find an unspoiled stretch of shoreline all to yourself for a long walk along the ocean.
In fact, some local attractions actually heat up during the winter months, such as the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, which attracts hundreds of thousands of migrating waterfowl from November through January, or the Elizabethan Gardens, which celebrates the winter season with the enchanting and month-long Winter Lights event. Hiking is also a popular activity for winter residents at expansive sites such as the Buxton Woods or Kitty Hawk Woods Reserves, as the mosquitos are long gone, but the views and scenery remain amazing.
Simply put, life on the Outer Banks in the winter is a little slower, and a little more natural, and residents wouldn’t have it any other way. Year-round locals enjoy a little break from the big summer crowds, and with temperatures that rarely dip below freezing, it’s easy to enjoy the wild natural landscape from an entirely new perspective.
Local amenities, services, and other benefits for year-round residents
The Outer Banks is a true community in every sense of the word, and as such, it has a number of facilities, programs, and initiatives that are designed to serve the residents of the OBX to the fullest.
The Dare County School System is consistently one of the top-rated school systems in the state, and the individual towns and Dare County provide all the basic services and then some, including trash removal, recycling, public works, health and human services, and much more. From local parks and libraries, to resources for mental health and disabled residents, Dare County has earned accolades for how well it takes care of its residents across the board.
To get a little insight into the services that are available on a county-wide level, check out the Dare County website at https://www.darenc.com/. Bear in mind, too, that a number of incorporated towns in the Outer Banks have their own local governments and services, including Manteo, Kill Devil Hills, Southern Shores, Duck, and Nags Head, which supplement the amenities that the county already offers.
In addition, the Outer Banks is home to a small but prestigious hospital in Nags Head, a wide range of non-profit organizations that cater to multiple needs, a YMCA and additional fitness centers, and many more services designed to improve life in the community. Though the Outer Banks is not a large metropolis, residents attest that the region has all the top-notch services and amenities of any big city, but on a smaller and more personal scale.
Types of Jobs in the year-round marketplace
• County, state, non-profit organizations, and other service providers - Dare County is one of the largest employers in the Outer Banks, simply because of the wealth of departments and services available. From the Dare County School system to government jobs in the county’s dozens of distinct departments, there are options for professionals of all backgrounds. In addition, Dare County is home to a number of non-profit organizations, doctor’s offices, the Outer Banks Hospital, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, banks, accounting firms, and other professional businesses that are continually hiring new and talented personnel. Newcomers might also want to look for jobs provided by state or federal agencies, such as the North Carolina Department of Transportation or the National Park Service, which are also top job providers in the Outer Banks area.
• Hospitality industry -The hospitality industry is one of the biggest job creators In the Outer Banks, and a large percentage of these positions are year-round. Tourism remains somewhat steady throughout the year, and the industry is always looking for professionals who can assist with generating reservations, marketing, housekeeping, maintenance, management, and other roles that are required to make the hospitality industry run. Best of all, (like the majority of full-time Outer Banks positions) these year-round jobs tend to offer both competitive pay and an array of benefits, including health insurance, paid vacation days, and even retirement plans.
• Restaurants, retail, and other tourism industry businesses - As wintertime tourism has increased over the past decade, so has the number of year-round jobs available in the retail, restaurant, and other visitor-oriented industries. A number of restaurants and shops now stay open year round, (or at least for the majority of the year), while attractions such as the Cape Hatteras National Seashore or state parks need personnel to keep the facilities up and running all year long.
• Just about everything else… - Dare County is home to more than 37,000 residents - from the town of Duck, to mainland Manns Harbor, to the village of Hatteras - so virtually every type of industry is represented when it comes to the year-round job market, (except for maybe snow removal.)
As such, regardless of your career or professional experience and background, the local Outer Banks job market likely has a position for you. Check the county website, the classifieds section of local online newspapers like the Island Free Press, social media sites, broader job websites and recruiters, or just stop by a local business and ask. Because employees are generally in short supply, especially since the Outer Banks has grown exponentially in popularity over the past gew years, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to find the position that is right for you.
Where and how to find year-round accommodations
Housing is one of the biggest obstacles for new residents, but there are a few tips that may help pave the way.
• Talk to your employer. Your employer may be able to provide housing, or can connect you with folks who can help.
• Talk to realty companies, as soon as possible. Several reality companies offer year-round housing, but there is often a fairly long waiting list. As such, reach out to local realty companies as soon as possible to better your chances of find a year-round rental.
• Start looking for housing in the fall. Due to the seasonal nature of the Outer Banks, year-round homes can start to become available in the fall months of October and November, when tourism starts to die down. Start your search in the fall and winter months, when the housing inventory is more plentiful.
• Check out the mainland. The mainland communities of Currituck County, Manns Harbor, Stumpy Point, and other inland towns generally have more housing options available, and at less expensive rates. Depending on where your job is located, these areas are also just 15-30 minutes away from the heart of the Outer Banks.
• Get social. On the Outer Banks, a little familiarity goes a long way! Talk to friends or acquaintances in the community to inquire about any year-round housing opportunities that may be available. You can also enlist social media websites and local online groups to help you find a place to call home.
• Make it permanent. The Outer Banks real estate market has been going strong for the past several years and shows no signs of slowing down, according to local Realtors with decades of experience in the market. As such, purchasing your own home may be the best way to secure your long-term place on the Outer Banks, while serving as a solid investment for years to come.
Simply put, working on the Outer Banks is a venture that is rewarding and profitable in more ways than one. Yes, the pay rate is much higher than average for positions available in most all job sectors, but you also get to enjoy one of the most coveted vacation destinations in the country on a daily basis, and discover a caring and welcoming community of like-minded folks along the way.
The job market on the Outer Banks is currently blazing hot, and as any local will attest, new residents who want to contribute and become a part of the community are always welcome. As such, this is the ideal time to stop dreaming and to take action. The Outer Banks is waiting, and with so many job opportunities, you are sure to find a career, (and a local beach), that provides plenty of fulfillment.