Work for the National Parks

The National Park Service is a federal organization that oversees the maintenance and upkeep of federal wilderness areas and monuments around the United States. In addition to several thousand full-time employees, the National Park Service hires thousands of workers for seasonal employment during the summer and winter months. Positions vary from Park Ranger to Cook, and have varying contract lengths and rates of pay.


Finding Job Opportunities

  1. Discover the different job possibilities. The National Parks Service employs more than 20,000 people across a wide-range of jobs, from archaeologists to Park Rangers spread across 408 national parks. If you are interested in working for the National Parks Service either in a permanent or a temporary or seasonal role, the first thing to do is to browse the types of job opportunities that are advertised online.[1]
    • All National Park Service jobs are listed on the government's online job database at
    • Just type "national park service" into the search bar to see the positions that are currently open.
  2. Consider an internship. As well as many permanent positions there are lots of opportunities for an internships and student jobs with the National Parks Service. Student jobs tend to be filled locally rather than advertised nationally, so if you are interested in working part-time while you are a high school, college or graduate school student, you should contact your local park to see what possibilities there are.[2] There are a number of specialist internship schemes for those with particular knowledge and interests, which include:
    • Historic Preservation Training Internships.
    • Geoscientists-in-the-Parks Internships.
    • National Park Business Plan and Consulting Internships.
    • Maritime Documentation Internships.[3]
  3. Investigate volunteer roles. There are lots of volunteer opportunities with the National Parks Service, which can be a great way to learn some new skills and find out more about how the Parks are maintained. Experience as a volunteer can be a good way to move towards a career in the Parks Service at a later date. Because there are so many possibilities for volunteers you should look first at your local park.
    • Use to find volunteer opportunities near you.
    • Volunteer positions include helping with one-off events, as well as more regular and recurring work.
    • There are specific possibilities for youth groups, families and individuals.[4]
    • More than 220,000 people currently volunteer in the Parks.[5]

Applying for a National Parks Job

  1. Determine the requirements for different positions. Once you have a clearer picture of type of job opportunities that exist in the National Parks Service, you need to think about what kind of work you are most interested in and best suited to. Because of the wide variety of jobs that exist, it is important that you really understand the requirements of the different roles. One way to do this is to find an open position, and examine the job description and required qualifications and experience.[6]
    • For example, a Park Ranger might be required to have a year of specialised experience as a Park Guide or tour leader, or in a relevant area of preservation, or forestry.
    • For a specialist role you may require a relevant degree or graduate degree in a field such as earth sciences, history or archaeology.
    • A Visitors Service Assistant may require a year of experience in a comparable role, with experience of greeting the public and disseminating information to diverse audiences.
    • If you see that you do not have the required experience or qualifications, you can use this as a guide for how to prepare yourself for a future career in the Parks Service.
  2. Be able to pass basic government checks. As well as specific requirements for certain roles there are a number of basic checks which you may have to pass to be eligible for some jobs in the National Parks Service, such as Park Ranger jobs. These checks can include physical tests to assess your fitness and physical capabilities if the role is demanding. You may also be subject to drug testing.
    • For some positions US Citizenship is required, so be sure to check this if it is relevant to you.
    • In some instances, you will be required to have a valid Driver's Licence and perhaps a qualification in first aid, or a willingness to acquire one when in post.
    • These requirements will vary by post, but for physically demanding positions like Park Rangers, the standards are generally high.
  3. Find out the best times to apply for seasonal work. In addition to full-time positions, which may begin at any time, thousands of seasonal employment positions become available during certain periods of the year. Summer jobs typically run from around May until September; winter jobs, much more limited, may run from October to March. Each position, however, will have a different length.
    • The best time to look for seasonal jobs is in the off-season, so don't wait until the summer to start looking for a summer job in the Parks.
    • Seasonal jobs can be filled six months before they are set to actually begin.
  4. Applying for a position. Once you have found a position that you want to apply for you should approach just like any other job, internship or volunteer role. Ensure you meet the requirements and go through the application process as guided by the online application portal. If you are applying through the government's online job site,, you will most likely need to create an account with the website.[7]
    • Before you apply ensure you do plenty of research on the Park you are applying to so you know about how it works and what the main features are.
    • The online account will save some of your personal details and make it quicker and easier to apply for other National Parks Service jobs in the future.
    • You will be contacted through your account on the website as to the progress of your application.

Becoming a Park Ranger

  1. Consider the variety of roles. Being a Park Ranger is perhaps the most popular way to work with for National Parks Service, and there is a variety of specialisms for different Rangers. In short, Rangers look after the parks and everything within them, from flora and fauna to the visitors. The responsibilities of Rangers can vary from law enforcement, to more cultural and educational roles.
    • Consider which of these areas you are most interested and best qualified for.
    • The requirements for each job vary by the specialism, so an enforcement and protection job will be more focussed on different skills and experience than a Ranger who collects scientific data.[8]
  2. Determine the requirements for law enforcement Rangers. Law enforcement Rangers patrol the park, enforcing regulations, issuing citations, and conducting investigations. They may also conduct search and rescue operations, so physical fitness is an important part of the assessment process. You will need to pass a Physical Fitness Battery, which consists of a bench press test, and 1.5 mile run, an agility run, a body composition test, and a sit-and-reach flexibility test.[9]
    • You must have completed a Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Program within the last three years.
    • You will need three years of relevant experience in National Parks or law enforcement.
    • You should have certification as an Emergency Medical Responder.[10]
    • Educational qualifications will vary, but in most cases a good bachelors degree is required.
  3. Evaluate the requirements for cultural roles. Cultural Park Rangers will act as the connection between visitors and the Parks. The job will involve helping visitors have an educational, fun and safe experience in the park. Candidates for cultural jobs will be assessed according to their oral and written communication skills, their abilities as educators, and their customer service skills. These Rangers will need to meet the requirements of the GL-5 level, which includes:
    • A year of relevant experience in an area such as fish, wildlife, or recreation management, scientific work, or law enforcement.[11]
    • A relevant bachelor's degree with related coursework in a discipline such as conservation, botany or forestry.[12]
  4. Investigate specialist training. You can get training at one of the National Park Service's own Learning and Development Centers. There are three of these, one at the Grand Canyon, one in Maryland and one in West Virginia. If none of these centers are reachable for you, contact the National Parks Service to investigate more local training options. The National Park Service Learning and Development Centers are located at:
    • Horace Albright Training Center at the Grand Canyon.
    • Historic Preservation Training Center in Frederick, Maryland.
    • Stephen Mather Training Center in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.[13]


  • The best time to look for National Park Service positions is in the month or two preceding the summer or winter cycles; in other words, consult summer openings in March and April, and consult winter openings in September and October.
  • Technical jobs and park ranger positions may require a background in environmental stewardship or education, while seasonal maintenance or service positions have few prerequisites.
  • A lack of experience in outdoor activities does not necessarily preclude you from being accepted for a position.