National Park Service – Summer Employment
Careers with the Park Service are among the most coveted jobs in the federal government, and turnover is very low. But there are several hundred sites across the United States and its territories to choose from, and those sites hire several thousand temporary and seasonal NPS employees for employment between roughly mid-May and the end of September. That means that even if a permanent career with the Park Service is out of reach, you can at least get a taste for the work.
Did you Know? The Top 5 most endangered sites are Bear Butte in South Dakota, Belmead-on-the-James in Virginia, China Alley in California, Fort Gains in Alabama, and Greater Chaco Landscape in New Mexico.
Competition for summer seasonal Park Service positions can be pretty fierce, but if you are qualified and knowledgeable about the national parks’ hiring procedures, your chances increase dramatically. Seasonal positions offer unique opportunities to work, live and play in some of our country’s most prized scenic lands and to learn and teach about this nation’s most important historic sites. These positions are filled by the Seasonal Recruitment Operations Center (SROC) within the National Park Service’s human resource offices. Some of the most common jobs available are:
- Seasonal Park Rangers. This employee with the NPS works closely with visitors to ensure that they understand how the park works, and how they can best enjoy it while adhering to the rules. They explain to them all of the resources of the park and tell them how to best make use of them, and help them understand how they can be good stewards of those resources. They organize and present talks that teach visitors about the environment. They may also lead instructive walks, demonstrations and other programs. They may participate in search and rescue events or help to put out wildfires.
- National Park Guides. You must be comfortable with public speaking to work in this position because part of the job is giving talks and presentations about park orientation, visitor safety, recreational facilities within the park, cultural and historical aspects of the park, details on campgrounds and hiking trails, and information about concession stands. You’ll also provide information to visitors about park events, policies and ongoing park projects. Park guides work in many areas of the park, such as auditoriums, campgrounds, visitor centers and contact stations, as well as in the field. In addition to informing the public about these issues, park guides may also help to collect fees, help control traffic, and perform other administrative duties.
- Visitor Use Assistants. If you work in this position, you will have constant interaction with the park’s visitors. In fact, many times a visitor use assistant is the only contact a visitor will have with a park employee. The job functions are varied, and include collecting various park fees, answering questions that visitors may have, distributing maps and warning park visitors about any hazards that they need to be aware of. In addition, these workers operate cash registers and are responsible for reconciling monies and products when the park opens and closes. You must pass a background check in order to be hired for this position.
- Summer Maintenance Workers. All of the parks within the system must be maintained, and the seasonal maintenance crew performs those duties. The work includes maintaining trails and campgrounds, and constructing roads, housing units, visitor centers, utility systems, signs and even furniture. The person who works this job must be physically fit and be willing to perform much of their work outdoors.
- Biological Science Technician. If you love collecting samples and compiling data from it, this position may be right for you. Biological science technicians work in the field, in laboratories and in the office. They start by collecting field data and samples, and then work with laboratory equipment and specific computer programs to compile and report their findings. They have to maintain computer databases, and then use them to create reports and other correspondence.
Get some experience working seasonally, and then, if interested, try turning that experience into a full-time job with the National Park Service or a similar state or federal agency.
FACT! NPS first began in 1916, and hosts 279 million visitors every year.
- There are over 401 parks, and between them, thousands of seasonal positions that need to filled every year.
- Turnover is very low for permanent positions, but by working in seasonal jobs, you’ll gain the skills and experience that could help you transition into one of the coveted jobs.
- Working in a seasonal position will allow you to work in one of our nation’s beautiful parks.
- The most common seasonal positions are visitor use assistant, park guide, biological science technician, park ranger and maintenance workers.