Student Conservation Association Volunteer Program
As this nation’s oldest and largest provider of community service in environmental protection, the Student Conservation Association (SCA) is an excellent choice as an organization with which to volunteer. This non-profit organization is funded by contributions from individuals, foundations, corporations, and the governmental organizations with which it works. SCA volunteer programs are open to anyone interested in gaining experience in the natural resource fields. In operation since 1957, the SCA annually places about 2,000 to 2,500 students and adults in volunteer positions with government agencies such as:
- The National Park Service
- The U.S. Forest Service
- The Bureau of Land Management
- The Fish and Wildlife Service
There are many types of SCA volunteers: resource assistants, fellows, and AmeriCorps participants. Resource assistants (RAs) work in wildlife conservation projects located in various federal lands.
Some duties may include water quality monitoring or endangered species protection. Or, you may find yourself leading a llama trekking expedition in the Santa Fe National Forest. RAs usually work three months, forty hours per week. They are also provided transportation and food expenses. Housing can be anything from tents to apartments. The SCA Conservation Career Development Program offers experience as well as career services to high school and college students (fellows). In Seattle, SCA has joined with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife agency to restore a riverbank. Fellows are offered summer internship placement.
There are numerous other opportunities with the SCA, which often provide living allowances, stipends, academic credit, or even student financial aid for education. Additionally, most positions do not require previous outdoor experience, only commitment and enthusiasm.
Because the SCA works in conjunction with many other government as well as non-government agencies, volunteering with SCA can land you a paying job at the institution you wish to work for. One RA described how volunteering with the SCA led him to leave corporate America behind and pointed him toward a second career: “After college, while working for a high-tech firm, I decided to take some time off to do an SCA internship. My experiences in SCA programs in Alaska and Maine changed my life.
Now I’m starting a new job at the Nature Conservancy in New Jersey.”
For an interview with an SCA volunteer, click here.
Anyone who is at least 16 years old may apply to become an SCA volunteer. While many volunteers are college students, there are no educational requirements for most positions, and there is no upper age limit for SCA volunteers. Many SCA positions require little or no previous training, as volunteers are usually trained on the job.
SCA provides prospective applicants with a detailed list of anticipated openings in all fifty states. Many SCA programs, however, are extremely popular with volunteers, and there may be some competition for top choices of where to work.
Interested persons should visit the website for current openings – permanent and seasonal.
There are deadlines for certain SCA positions, and the selection process for each season begins on a specific date. The dates change from year to year, so call and ask what the deadline date is for the specific program(s) you wish to apply to. Finishing the application process prior to the beginning of the selection process is strongly recommended.