National Park Service Careers
Peter Vogt / Monster.com
More than 20,000 Americans work to preserve and protect the United States of America’s most prominent natural, historical and recreational resources. They are the employees of the National Park Service (NPS).
One of eight Department of the Interior bureaus, the NPS oversees 380 locations covering 83 million acres across the US and its territories.
This range of responsibilities results in Park Service career opportunities like these:
Park rangers oversee national parks, historical sites and recreational areas across the country. Sites range from the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone to Gettysburg National Military Park and the Oklahoma City National Memorial.
Individuals filling these positions are involved in a variety of tasks – from protecting property, developing interpretive material, and investigating complaints and accidents to running campgrounds, enforcing laws and regulations, and contributing to fire control efforts.
Fire Management Professionals
Employees of the Park Service’s Fire and Aviation Management program work to prevent and fight fires that threaten lives or property. In some cases, they also ignite fires intentionally as a way to recreate or restore natural environments.
In addition to several types and levels of firefighters, this program also employs:
Ecologists who conduct research and gather information for the development of fire management plans. Geographic information system specialists who analyze geographic data as part of fire planning and fire prevention and suppression efforts. Biological technicians who perform routine field and laboratory tasks in support of vegetation and fire-monitoring programs.
U.S. Park Police
Most members of the US Park Police work in metropolitan Washington, DC, protecting lives there as officers from any other urban police department would. However, US Park Police officers can also be assigned to other Park Service areas – though often on a temporary basis – as well as to the Gateway National Recreation Area in New York City or the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco.
This force includes horse-mounted, motorcycle, helicopter and canine units, as well as a special equipment and tactics team and investigative and security officers.
Uniformed guards – many of whom work as a sub-unit of the Park Police in the National Capitol Region – patrol assigned areas to protect them from fire, theft, damage or trespassing. Most of these positions are part-time and require people with security backgrounds who can work irregular hours.
Throughout the country, the Park System employs general laborers, maintenance personnel, carpenters and painters, electricians and plumbers, and others who maintain roads and trails, equipment, buildings and grounds.
Managerial and financial employees support the NPS’s work. Among them:
1) Management and systems analysts who work to improve the Park Service’s organizational, communication and data-processing functions.
2) Administrators who oversee personnel and budgets, and manage supplies and properties.
3) Clerical personnel who work in almost every area of the Park Service.
4) Accountants, many of whom work in NPS’s Washington, DC, offices.
5) Writers and editors who manage the Park Service’s publications and public information programs.
6) Museum employees who design exhibits and manage collections on NPS properties.
Competition for Park Service jobs is often keen, and not all positions are open to external applicants, according to the Park Service’s Web site. So you may need to get your foot in the door as a temporary or seasonal employee, or become one of the more than 100,000 people who volunteer with the NPS each year. If you’re a college student, you can explore internship possibilities by finding out if the park you’re interested in offers learning opportunities.
One important note: You must be an American citizen to be eligible for employment with the Park Service, and in some cases, you may have to meet age and physical qualifications.