National Park Service Employees
While the National Park Service is the only employer for people who would like to pursue this particular career, there are many, radically different national parks. People who pursue this career may work in mountainous parks, such as Grand Teton in Wyoming, or the Guadalupe Mountains in Texas; forested and mountainous parks, such as Yellowstone, which spans three western states; or marine parks, such as California's Channel Islands.
The skills necessary for many positions within the National Park Service are also highly transferable. Interpretive rangers, for instance, may pursue careers as botanists, educators, or naturalists. Law enforcement rangers may consider careers as police officers, firefighters, or emergency medical personnel. The scientists who study our parks' resources may move into private research or, like the historians and archaeologists, they may consider becoming educators.
Almost no one enters the National Park Service in the position they would ultimately like to hold. Individuals who hope to one day serve as a ranger or an interpreter, for instance, must begin by getting a foot in the door. Most people begin as seasonal employees, working for three to four months a year in parks that receive more visitors during either the summer or winter seasons. This seasonal experience enables people to gain an understanding of the National Park Service mission and to help determine whether they would enjoy a career in the park system.
Those who choose to continue usually try to get experience in a variety of entry-level positions or in several different parks. This process helps individuals become familiar with the complex park system. It also allows park managers to gauge their strengths and abilities. When a person has gained experience through seasonal positions, he or she may be considered for a permanent position when one becomes available. Once an individual has gained permanent employment within the park system, he or she will receive extensive on-the-job training.
If you are pursuing your first federal government position, visit https://www.usajobs.gov for job listings and to apply for a position.
As is true of most professions, advancement within the National Park Service usually means assuming managerial and administrative responsibilities. Rangers, for instance, may become subdistrict rangers, district rangers, and then chief rangers. Chief rangers may one day become park superintendents. Superintendents, in turn, may assume regional or national responsibilities.
While this is the traditional path to advancement, it is not one that anyone treads very quickly. The opportunities for upward mobility within the National Park Service are limited because the turnover rates at upper levels tend to be quite low. While this may hinder an ambitious employee's advancement, it is indicative of a high level of job satisfaction.
Tips for Entry
Visit https://www.usajobs.gov to learn about job opportunities with the National Park Service (NPS) and apply for open positions.
Talk to NPS workers about their jobs. Visit https://www.nps.gov/aboutus/contactus.htm for NPS contact information. Contact one or two people to see if they might participate in an information interview. You can also use LinkedIn to contact NPS employees.
Visit https://www.nps.gov/findapark/index.htm to learn more about national parks and other NPS properties throughout the United States.
Read National Parks (https://www.npca.org/articles/magazine) to learn more about the field.