Private Sector Outdoor Employers

There are many exciting ways to work in the outdoors in positions that get you close to nature. In addition to the federal parks, land management systems and the state parks, there are many private companies that work with and around the public wilderness areas.

Some operate tours and concessions, manage campgrounds close to the parks or work with tourists in other ways. Others work with the parks system on projects such as reforestation.

While some parks manage and run their own concessions, souvenir shops and other adjunct services, most contract with private companies to provide those services. The services provided by private companies include refreshment and concessions, as well as tour companies that provide tour guides for hikes, bike tours, rafting, fishing and hunting. These companies may operate within the state and federal parks, or on privately owned lands.

National Park Concession Jobs

With daily and overnight visitors to our parks on the rise, the need for employees to work park concessions is growing as well. Normally, the parks work closely with private companies called concessioners and hire them to work on contract with the park. The contractors fill the positions and hire the people needed to make the park function smoothly.

Concessioners offer services to guests such as food, lodging, recreational tours, gift-shops, gas and anything else that is relevant to the parks hospitality services. There are literally thousands of companies that work with parks performing all these different guest services. Some are privately owned, personally operated businesses, while others are commercially owned and licensed.

Did You Know? Virginia is the only state to ever open their entire park system at one time. On June 15th, 1936 all six parks in Virginia, covering 19,000 miles were opened at once.

Private Contract Jobs

The majority of these jobs consist of doing reforestation projects for private companies in the park. Parks are always concerned about the health of their forests, and re-establishing healthy forests is an integral part of this process. A healthy forest doesn’t just provide timber and supplies to humans. It is also the habitat of birds and animals that rely on it to give them all the food and water they need to survive. A healthy forest is always in balance with enough young, old, and mature trees to provide the right mix of shade and nutrients to the creatures and other plants.

Reforestation work sounds easier than it actually is. There’s more to it than just digging holes and planting trees. Foresters gather seeds and young seedlings, trim old branches, clean out steams and dams, and build shady areas for saplings. Reforestation jobs are labor-intensive and require workers in good physical health and shape. If you love nature and want to know that you did your part for the planet, spend a summer planting trees and rehabilitating forests. You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you were part of creating a healthy and balanced forest for the future.

Did You Know? With 280 state parks, California has more park units than any other state in the country.

Commercial Jobs in Parks

There are thousands of commercial employers all over the U.S. that hire people to guide and help visitors enjoy tours in the parks. Depending on the type of park, tours might include white-water rafting, snowmobiling, mountain biking, bird watching, fishing and many other outdoor activities. Visitors of the parks set up tours with these private outdoor commercial tour companies, and pay for professionally led tours and adventures within the parks.

One of the fastest growing areas of this market segment is dude ranches. These ranches allow visitors to experience the realities of life on a ranch. The best dude ranches create an authentic experience for their guests – but they must take into account the level of experience and knowledge of their typical guests. That’s why they hire guides, grooms and workers to ensure that all of the work that needs doing on the ranch is done properly, as well as to lead guests on tours, horseback rides and hunts. In addition, dude ranches also hire cooks, maids, receptionists and office administration assistants, as well as nursing and first aid staff.

Ranches and other facilities close to the most popular state and national parks, such as Grand Canyon or Yellowstone, always have many jobs to offer – but they also usually have returning staff that gets the first choice of assignments and positions. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get your first choice of assignments your first year. The more experience you gain, the more likely it will be that you’ll get the choice assignments the next year.

Quick Summary:

  • Working in the private sector offers an easy in to working in the parks without going through the bureaucracy of a state or federal job.
  • The most popular jobs in the private sector are park concessions, contract jobs and commercial tours.
  • Park concessions usually hire the most workers.
  • You may not get your first park pick the first year, but take the experience so you can be a returning employee the following year and hopefully get the position you want the most.
  • Reforestation is a great way to work outside and make a difference in the overall health of our planet.
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