Working in a national park provides employees with the best backyards in America.
Experience the most memorable summer (or complete career change) of your life by taking advantage of the country's best hiking trails, climbing routes, and outdoor communities! Live, work, and play in Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier, and beyond for a single season or adopt the seasonal lifestyle to check them all off of your bucket list.
WHAT JOBS ARE OUT THERE?
Almost any type of job can be found in or around a national park. If you are hoping to find a way to work and be closer to these amazing places, there is a way! Many positions are seasonal as many of the parks close for a portion of the year, so a position may be just three to six months of work—making it the perfect way to spend college summers, transition between jobs, or take a break from your usual routine.
NATIONAL PARK SERVICE:
Working with the National Park Service sounds like a dream—but it is also hard work! Many of the positions require experience or a degree in a related field before you begin. For more information, check out the National Park Service website as well as the federal government's official job website for open positions.
-Interpretation ranger: Work in the visitor centers, lead nature walks and hikes, and connect people to the park.
-Law enforcement ranger: Help maintain the law of the land, search and rescue, emergency medical services, fire management, and more.
-Visitor Use Assistant (VUA): VUAs are usually the first contact travelers have with an employee from NPS, if not the only contact made throughout their visit. Provide accurate park information at entry gates, visitor centers, or campgrounds while also collecting fees from guests.
-Fire and aviation management: "A large number of people, including dispatchers, firefighters, fire managers, safety specialists, researchers, electronics technicians, and very patient timekeepers and purchasing staff work together for the common goal of fire management, wildland fire use, fire prevention, and fire suppression." Find more information here.
-Trail crew: Build and maintain trails in the park.
-Internships: There are a number of college programs to get students out in the park who are interested in everything from geology to business consulting.
-Volunteering: Maybe you can't leave your job but live near a national park. Volunteer opportunities through NPS let you make a difference!
EDIT: National Park Ranger, Hayley Edmonston reached out with some more helpful information on breaking into the world of NPS. "The vast majority of rangers I know got our start as interns with SCA (Student Conservation Association) or GeoCorps! Folks typically put in a summer as an intern and get hired as a GS-5 ranger the following summer."
CONCESSIONER COMPANIES: EXAMPLES ARE XANTERRA, ARAMARK, DELAWARE NORTH...
Working for a concessioner company is a great way to start your journey with working in the national parks. These companies often provide food and housing at a reasonable price that is automatically withdrawn from your paycheck, and they operate in national parks all across the country. It is a great way to make some money from a skill you may already have, then explore a new place during your time off. (Also, many of the workers are international students, which gives you the chance to have friends literally ALL over the world!)
-Retail: Work at a camp store, gift shop, grocery store, etc. Handle monetary transactions, lead a team of staff, and interact with travelers.
-Food and beverage: Front- and back-of-house jobs here. Love food? Become a chef or a line cook for one of the many restaurants in the park. Want to make tips? Become a server or a hostess, or bus tables.
-Lodging: Work at the front desk of a hotel or lodge to help tourists plan their visit and enjoy their stay.
-Housekeeping: With so many tourists going in and out of the park, there is never enough help in housekeeping. Work solid hours preparing rooms for guests and possibly earn tips here as well!
-Maintenance: The facilities throughout the park have to meet NPS standards as well as the guests' needs, so the maintenance staff has a lot on their hands. This is hard work, but you end up interacting with every department in one way or another.
-Corporate/upper management: Every concessioner company has an office near the park with permanent employees as well as people who circulate the park regularly. Areas of work include human resources, environmental management, interpretation and education, employee training, accounting, and location management.
ADVENTURE/TOURISM: COOLWORKS.COM IS YOUR BEST FRIEND
For everything else under the sun, check out the link above.
-Guiding companies (rafting, boating, horseback riding, fishing, hiking, climbing, photography, etc.)
-Environmental education: Teach children through schools like Nature Bridge.
-Conservation corps: Conservation corps are usually groups of young adults who practice environmental stewardship and service-learning in the outdoors. Work with a crew maintaining trails in Washington or help lead a crew of youth in Montana. The options are endless!
-Internships: It's difficult to be specific on this one since there are so many internship opportunities with different purposes that can get you into a national park.
A NATIONAL PARK CONSERVANCY:
Just about every park out there has a group similar to the Glacier National Park Conservancy. They are non-profit groups that operate within the national park visitor centers or have their own locations to educate guests on park information and sell books, clothing, and souvenirs. The GNPC "assures the Glacier National Park experience by providing support for preservation, education, and research through philanthropy and outreach."
Neighboring cities and small towns have just about every other job imaginable and allow you to live a "normal" day-to-day life while having close access to a national park. Find a town near one of your favorite parks that may experience a seasonal tourism boom and think about what places may need an extra hand. There may be some companies out there that will even assist you in finding housing if you ask!
There are many ways to live the life you want in the outdoors. Perhaps you are a talented writer or photographer who can take your work on the road. Become an artist-in-residence at one of your favorite parks! Believe it or not, there are even accountants out in the national parks who work out of their RVs. Find the services you can offer and figure out if there is a market you can assist remotely. If you want it to happen, you can find a way to make it work!
Does this help you in your job search? Have any further questions?
Let me know in the comments!
–Lauren Hurst (Glacier National Park seasonal worker summers of 2015 & 2016, Rising Sun)
P.S. Here are some "behind-the-scenes" photos from my national park summers!