National Park Service Employees
Education and Training Requirements
If you hope to join the National Park Service, you should study science and history during high school. You should also focus on developing your communication skills. Because interaction with the public is such a significant part of park careers, you may want to take psychology, education, and sociology courses. Those who plan to become rangers might also concentrate on physical education courses; physical fitness is a definite asset for people who must hike miles of backcountry trails, fight fires, and climb rocks to perform rescues.
Although not currently required for all positions, prospective park employees should obtain a bachelor's degree. Most rangers currently in the park system are college graduates and many believe that this will soon become a requirement. Any individual who hopes to serve as a scientist, historian, or archaeologist within the parks must have a college degree, with a major in the relevant discipline. Those who plan to become rangers should place particular emphasis on science courses.
Although there is no specific curriculum for people hoping to enter the National Park Service, you should study science, with an emphasis on environmental science. History, public speaking, and business administration courses all are useful for anyone entering this field.
Because there is so much competition for NPS jobs—particularly ranger jobs—many people put themselves through additional training programs to distinguish themselves from other candidates. Some, for example, undergo medical technician training programs or attend police academies. Others attend independent ranger academies to learn the fundamentals of law enforcement, emergency procedures, and firefighting. These training programs can offer an excellent foundation for a prospective ranger.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
There are no certification or licensing requirements for National Park Service employees.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Aspiring National Park Service (NPS) workers should try to gain experience as interns, seasonal employees, or volunteers with the NPS or state conservation agencies. This experience will provide them with an advantage when it comes to landing a job.
National Park Service employees need to successfully combine two very different characteristics. They must have a keen appreciation for nature and also enjoy working with the public. National park employees both preserve park resources and provide for visitor use. It can be difficult to discern what level of visitor use can be accommodated without irreparably harming the environment. Decisions regarding this have to be made by NPS management, then carried out by all employees.
Because most national park employees deal extensively with the public, they need to be friendly, confident, and able to communicate clearly. Since they usually are responsible for a wide variety of tasks, they also must be exceptionally versatile. The fact that they work closely with nature, which can be unpredictable, means that these people must be creative problem solvers.
In addition to these general requirements, each of the positions within the National Park Service also involves a set of characteristics and abilities unique to that position. Superintendents, for instance, must be good administrators and have the vision to make long-term plans for a park. Rangers must be able to react quickly and effectively in crisis situations and convey authority to individuals who are violating park rules. Interpreters must have extensive knowledge about the resources in their parks and should be effective educators.