How to Get a Job at a National Park (Hiring Guide)

How to Get a Job at a National Park
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National parks offer some of the most incredible experiences in America. These places are special, from hiking through pristine forests to exploring ancient ruins.

A job at a national park isn’t always easy to come by. There are thousands of jobs across the country, from rangers to cooks to guides. These positions require extensive training and experience, so they’re often only open to those who already have a background in the field.

There are plenty of ways to get a job at a National Park. The key is finding out where the openings are. Some parks hire seasonal workers, while others prefer full-time employees. And even though there are hundreds of parks across the U.S., each has a unique culture.

In this guide, we’ll outline tips on how to apply at a national park. So if you’re ready to start your career in the great outdoors, keep reading!

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How to locate national park employment in the United States

When looking for seasonal positions in national parks, it helps to use tools like, SimplyHired, and Glassdoor. These sites list open jobs within each national park and allow you to filter by location, pay, and experience level. You’ll want to check out those options before making your final decision.

Once you’ve found a few potential employers, take some time to research each opportunity thoroughly. Look into the required duties, ask about the organization’s culture, and learn everything you can about the role. If you’re lucky, you might already have a friend who works there or know someone who does. If not, use social media to connect with people inside the organization.

Here are some tips on how to find National Park jobs in the U.S.A.:

1. Do your research

Seasonal jobs are often seen as a great way to earn money during the holidays and summer months, but there are some things to consider before you apply.

While many employers offer paid vacation, sick time, health benefits, and 401(k) plans, others do not. Some seasonal parks require employees to work long hours without overtime pay. And while most seasonal positions include housing, some don’t.

Before applying, it is recommended to do your homework first. Researching a potential employer is important. You’ll learn about how much work they ask of their employees and what perks they provide.

Find out when applications open and close if you’re interested in a particular position. Most companies post information online.

2. Vacancies exist late in the season

Many people think that all of the good jobs have already been taken by the time summer rolls around. However, there are plenty of opportunities for those willing to look for them. One great option is to apply for a job at a national park.

Many of these positions are available later in the season and can be a great way to enjoy the outdoors while getting paid. There are also several seasonal jobs available at resorts and campgrounds. These positions often come with perks like free lodging or access to recreation facilities.

3. Parks rely on multiple employers

The National Park Service hires about 70,000 full-time employees during peak season, including many seasonal workers like lifeguards, cooks, groundskeepers, etc. But it also relies on thousands of seasonal workers to provide food, clean restrooms, operate concessions, and handle other duties throughout the year.

Common seasonal positions include park ranger, trail worker, visitor service assistant, and maintenance worker. They work under contract with private businesses called concessionaires, which manage park lodges, dining facilities, shops, and recreation such as mule rides and boat tours.

Private companies, or concessionaires, are awarded contracts with the N.P.S. to run those operations. And while some companies hire seasonal employees directly, others prefer to use staffing agencies.

4. All experience levels are acceptable

One of the most popular jobs in the park is food service, especially during the summer months. There are roughly 2,500 jobs in the park related to food and beverage operations, according to the N.P.S. These include concessionaires, restaurant managers, waitstaff, bartenders, baristas, dishwashers, kitchen assistants, cashiers, and hostesses.

There are also hundreds of seasonal ranger jobs, with reasonable hourly pay depending on the position. Rangers typically work six days a week, although some work seven days a week. Most of their time is spent watching over trails, leading tours, doing research, and running visitor centers.

While many jobs require previous experience, there are still opportunities for newcomers. For example, several seasonal ranger positions don’t need prior law enforcement training.

5. This is work, not a holiday

The parks bustle with activity throughout the summer months, and hard work is often part of the deal. But while many people dream of spending their days lounging poolside or enjoying a leisurely hike, others find themselves working long hours during the busy season.

Some seasonal employees say that being forced into such a schedule can make the entire experience feel like a vacation.

6. There are short-term gigs

In addition to summer-long jobs, there are fewer publicized opportunities to work as few as four weeks during the fall.

The parks “absolutely need” an influx of workers at the end of the summer, according to John Fowler, director of Cool Works, who recruits seasonal workers for resorts across America.

Fowler called the brief stints “toe dipping.”

Because recruiters are mostly looking to fill summer jobs, the shorter jobs stay in the spotlight.

“It’s sort of the secret menu,” he said.

You have to know it exists to order from it.

Some ways to find these openings are to look for jobs with fewer hours per week or to contact employers at the beginning of August to ask about openings in September and October.

7. Housing is cheap but communal

The National Park Service’s housing situation is unique among government agencies because each facility operates under a separate contract with the federal government. This allows the N.P.S. to offer employees affordable housing without competing with other federal agencies.

When matching roommates, housing officials ask about personal preferences and try to pair people who don’t work opposite shifts.

What kinds of employment are there in national parks?

There are so many different types of seasonal national park jobs available. The main challenge is narrowing down your options. Some parks have jobs like cleaning, bartending, and teaching people how to use boats. Others focus on specific skills, like maintaining trails or taking care of wildlife.

These jobs mostly vary by park and company; for instance, positions in the Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska will differ from those in the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, so keep in mind what type of job you’re looking for in the application process.

Even if you’ve never done anything similar, you might get hired for it since there are always exceptions. Don’t let that stop you from applying; chances are good you’ll find a position that suits you perfectly.

How long are the seasonal contracts at national parks?

Seasonal work is often referred to as “summer,” “winter,” or “fall/spring.” There are different types of seasonal work, including temporary, contract, part-time, and full-time.

Temporary positions are generally short-term, while contract positions can last anywhere from one month to several months.

Part-time workers are hired per project and usually don’t receive benefits. Full-time employees are typically salaried and eligible for health insurance coverage. Some companies offer paid vacation time.

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Summer work is most common among college students looking for extra cash during the school year.

Summer jobs are also popular for people seeking experience in certain industries such as hospitality, construction, engineering, retail, food service, landscaping, and healthcare. Seasonal work is also ideal for those who want to make extra money without committing to a longer-term career.

Key takeaway

Applying for a job at a national park can be an amazing experience, but knowing where to start is not always easy. With the help of this guide, you should now have a better understanding of what the National Park Service is looking for in its employees and how to make your resume stand out from the rest.

If you still have questions or need some expert advice on how to take your career to the next level, our team of resume experts is here to help. Contact us today for a remarkable resume that will get you one step closer to landing your dream job at a National Park!

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