You have those great outdoor skills and think you would be a good fit for a National Park system job. That may be so, however, you’ll still need to do a lot of leg work as all of the National Park jobs are government positions, and the government can be slow to make a decision. It can take as long as eight months to complete the hiring process.
With such a long wait time it probably best that you know as much about the way a park hires as you can. This gives you time to prepare. The more you know about the NPS hiring system, the easier it will be for you to find a Park service position
It’s Just a Fact of Life
Veterans get the first choice at any government job, whether they are as qualified as you or not. They get the first option on any park position that turns up. Next in line are women and minorities. In some cases the government has to hire at least a 40% women or minorities ratio, so if you’re a white male who hasn’t served in the Armed Forces, you have an uphill battle in getting a seasonal job in one of the parks. This doesn’t mean it’s an impossible feat, but you have to start early.
Use Your Student Status to Your Advantage
If you are a student and don’t have much work experience, there is a backdoor to getting a job in the NPS. Direct your attention towards volunteer.gov or the SCA. Search around on their sites to see if there’s any position you might be interested in. These are not paid positions, but most rangers and other park employees have often participated in the volunteer position first. These may not pay, but it’s a wonderful outdoor experience and you receive free housing.
Call and Find Out
Sometimes people get too involved in the online world and end up competing against too many other applicants. You may have a better shot by calling the National Park that interests you and asking for the volunteer coordinator. Volunteers are always needed and appreciated.
If you already have some experience, head over to the job boards like Monster or USA jobs and sign up. Write up a resume and send it via email to any park related job opening.
What Your Resume Needs
It may be a good idea to brush up on your resume writing skills. The government requires special information that no other corporate or business environment needs. A good book that offers insight to writing a resume for government positions is Ten Steps to a Federal Job: Navigating the Federal Job System, Writing Federal Resumes, KSAs and Cover Letters with a Mission.
The basics for a government resume include your name, address, email address, SSN number (the government requires this on a resume), country of citizenship and any previous federal service. You also need to include your work experience, and unlike other resumes, you’ll want to make this extensive. Don’t leave anything out and be sure to include a chief accomplishment at each job.
Include your education with the school name and address, as well as your major and any specific classes that may pertain to the job specifications.
NPS jobs are not easy to get, so you need to be as prepared as possible. This includes getting certified with the wilderness first aid or wilderness first responder course. At the very least, you’ll want to read up on the subject matter even if you decide not to get certified.
It may also be in your best interest to get any certificates through OSHA HAZWOPPER, and if applying for a science job you’ll want to list any publications or theses you are working on. Include any hobbies or personal accomplishments, any outdoor activities your good at – anything that’s worth talking about here on your resume. Hiring managers want to know if you’ve gone on backpacking and camping trips, whether you’ve been a guide and anything else that has to do with being outdoors.
What Types of Jobs are Available?
Basically, there are four types of positions for summer seasonal park work. These include:
Visitor assistance – a position where the employees work in a booth in the park and collect fees. You’ll get a lot of social interaction here but you don’t get to work outside much.
Park Ranger (Interpretation) – This employee works in the visitor center and answers questions, offers education and goes on guided hikes.
Park Ranger (Law Enforcement) – This is the employee that saves lives and enforces law. People holding this position require EMT certification and some sort of law enforcement Academy work.
Science Technician – This position is one for students who want to do research and handle the resource management of the park. They usually work with vegetation management, air quality, water quality and other similar tasks.
Apply to the position you think you’re good at or the one that you have experience with. You’ll have to submit your resume and fill out any questionnaires that are sent to you. If you have some sort of disability such as partial blindness, deafness, or limb deformity, declare it as this can work for you.
Apply early on in the year, as the hiring process can take up to eight months. You’ll need a lot of patience and don’t fear rejection. It may take 200 job applications just to get five to ten interviews. If you don’t hear from a particular park that you really want to work at, call them up and ask about your application status.
If you’re not having any luck, but still want to spend the summer at the National Park, consider the park concession stand. They usually hire teenagers or young adults to help sell during the summer.