Government Outdoor Jobs – Deciding Where to Work

Many prospective outdoor employees consider location the most critical factor in deciding where to work. You may want to work in one of the best-known areas, but keep in mind that thousands of applicants will be vying for these positions. Many of the larger federal agencies prepare lists of units with the fewest applicants per opening to encourage people to apply to less popular areas.

One career outdoor worker who spent a few summers volunteering emphasizes a willingness to relocate: “Be ready to pack up and travel out of state. The majority of outdoor jobs are in the western part of the country.” Another veteran of seasonal outdoor work gives this advice:

“For the first season I would recommend exploring as many options as possible. Look at a variety of agencies – Park Service, Forest Service, state agencies, and so on – and fill out as many applications as possible. Call around to the units and ask how many new hires they’ll have this year as well as how many are returning. A lesser-known unit usually is smaller with fewer positions, whereas a big park or forest has more openings but more applicants. Only by calling will you find out about opportunities where the ratio is skewed in your favor.”

Of course, other factors will play a part in your decision. Think about the climate you prefer: Hot and dry? Cool and wet? Hot and humid? Since you’re taking a job to enjoy the outdoors, give consideration to the environment: Do you prefer the rugged terrain of Alaska, wildflower meadows of the Rockies, deep piney woods in the Southeast, or crashing surf on the Pacific coast? Though you will want to go where the jobs are, it doesn’t hurt to consider the type of outdoor experience you’re after.

Government outdoor jobs are sometimes located many miles from the nearest urban center. For example, those stationed at fire lookout posts might not see anyone other than their co-workers for several weeks at a stretch. Although social activities in such situations are fairly limited, these remote settings provide ideal opportunities to wander in the woods, learn to play the harmonica, keep a journal, or re-read a favorite novel. For many, the solitude of the off hours adds to the attractiveness of these positions.

One seasonal worker points out the realities of working far from the city:

“You can’t see your friends as often, you can’t call your family as often, you can’t get to the store as often. You find out just how used to phones and running water you really are.”

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