Get a Summer Job in Glacier National Park
Each year, hundreds find summer jobs at Glacier National Park. Some apply early, others just arrive. Here's how to get one of these jobs. [Note: This article applies to U.S. citizens. Internationals seeking summer employment at Glacier have many opportunities and should inquire at the links below for details.]
- Plan ahead. Decide that you want to work for a summer at Glacier National Park (GNP), in northwest Montana. Then you have two options: apply in advance or travel there without a job waiting for you. Either should work fine, but even if an early job application is not accepted (often in the form of no reply), then still travel to MT and follow out the latter option. There is a constant need for staff as a certain percentage of expected labor does not show/leaves/is fired as the season progresses [note: there are very few paid jobs in GNP during the winter/off season (i.e. Oct.-April), so this how-to deals with summer employment].
- Apply. If you decide to apply early, there are several avenues to pursue. The biggest companies offer the best chance for getting a job in advance. Glacier Park, Inc. runs most of the hotels and concessions within the park and employs large numbers. Other large employers are the St. Mary Lodge and the National Park Service (N.P.S). The N.P.S pays relatively well and offers a wide range of jobs beyond rangers, including trail maintenance to photographer. Employment with the park service, however, can be more difficult to achieve than most other jobs in the area. Though these three large companies offer the most jobs, there are dozens of small, individually owned restaurants, general stores, motels, etc in the small towns around the park. By looking online for businesses in the towns of St. Mary, Babb, East Glacier, and West Glacier, most of these companies can be found and then contacted individually. Though smaller than the three large employers, these businesses usually do accept and encourage early application. Most GNP employers begin accepting applications January 1 and specific positions can fill early.
- Get there. By car, bus, train (stations at East Glacier or West Glacier), or airplane (Kalispell Airport is the closest airport - transportation from the airport can sometimes be arranged with an employer). If you already have a job set up, the employer will tell you when to arrive by (often the beginning of June). If you are traveling to GNP without a job already set up, plan to arrive sometime in mid- to late May if possible. Being unable to arrive this early is not prohibitive to finding work, though.
- Find a job in person. [note: The steps from here on deal with those who have not been accepted for a job when they travel to GNP] - yes, this path takes a little bit of faith, but it's genuinely not difficult and there are several fall backs. Have 10-15 copies of an updated resume printed in advance (you almost certainly won't need so many, but be prepared. If the fishing isn't good, there are several local stores, hotel offices where you can make more copies). Though not imperative (especially if you wish to work for a mom & pop place rather than a corporation), good first stops include Glacier Park, Inc, headquartered at the Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier, and St. Mary Lodge in St. Mary. Go to the front desk, express an interest in working there and ask for the Human Resource Department or Director. The NPS headquarters in Apghat Village may be a productive first stop as well, but the high demand for and difficulty in acquiring a park service job, walk-ins may be unsuccessful. Next, choose a town that strikes your fancy (or the first you come into), and go around to each restaurant, store, gas station, bar, etc. If you have a preference of job, this would be a good point to be selective about where you seek employment. If preferred jobs have been unsuccessfully pursued, then there will remain many other businesses in town or the area to engage. When you enter a place of employment, go to the front desk/counter and ask to speak to the manager. Introduce yourself, state your desire to work there, and offer a resume. Even if you are told that there are not employment opportunities at that business, leave a resume with your email and/or cell number and ask them to call if any job openings open. Repeat until a suitable job is found and begun. Good luck!
- Previous job experience, esp. in service, can help, but getting a job in GNP without any prior experience is not difficult (see above tip).
- If nothing works out at Glacier, the towns of Kalispell, Whitefish, and Columbia Falls are nearby to the west and have many more businesses. The labor market there, though, is much less seasonal. Also, Yellowstone N.P. is 6-7 hours south and is always in need of workers.
- All kinds of jobs need filling each summer. Being open to any work and presenting yourself as a hard worker who is willing to learn will go a long way for walk-in job searching.
- One serious advantage of working for the larger businesses and maybe half or so of the smaller ones is having lodging (and sometimes meals) provided by the employer. This is a serious advantage as finding a place to rent is not easy in any of these small towns and is well worth whatever weekly/monthly part of your paycheck pays for it.
- If you cannot find work in the towns surrounding glacier, try along Highway 2 south of the park and Highway 89 north from St. Mary. There are individual stores and motels here and there that you might have missed.
- The town of Waterloo is just over the border into Canada and is a very nice aspect to GNP. Finding summer employment in Canada is difficult, but the company that runs the tour boat on Waterton Lake is technically a U.S. company and can hire you as easily as other companies in the States proper. Living and working in Canada is an interesting twist.
- The employment at G.N.P. is very seasonal. However some few jobs exist for the winter. If that's what you're looking for, just contact any and every company in the area and ask. The Whitefish/Kalispell/Columbia Falls area has much employment opportunity in the winter, due to the skiing there.
- Once you've got a job and are settled in, don't forget to get out and go hiking in the park. It's all too easy to pass the summer and never quite get around to hitting the trail head, but Glacier is one of the best, most beautiful parks in the U.S. Grab a coworker or two and go for a day hike or overnighter!
- As the tourist season lasts into mid-September, many employers, especially the large ones, want workers who can promise to still till Labor Day (or almost). If you can't stay that late, apply in advance anyway. Either you'll get lucky or you'll be one step ahead when you drive out and ask for a job anyway.
- It may be tempting, but don't lie about your departure date to potential employers. Sure, telling them a later departure date (like Sept. 10 when you really have to leave to return to school Aug. 25) may enhance your ability to get a job, but there's two big downsides: 1) it'll severely anger your boss when the issue comes to head and 2) you'll lose some serious cash. What every G.N.P. employer wants most (after trustworthy work) is reliable work. This means that they want to know that they have a steady, consistent workforce for the times they think they have a steady, consistent workforce. To ensure this, many/most G.N.P. employers, big and small, have various bonuses for staying good and staying as late as you promised you would. These bonuses range from the hundreds to the thousands of dollars. Planning to split earlier than you said you would on your application is a good way to lose said bonus.