How to Become a Park Ranger

Of all the things I’ve done, the one I get asked about most is my job as a Park Ranger.  I’ve met dozens of people who want to do it.  And I’m here to tell you how!

If you’re a Renaissance Soul like me, you don’t want to do it forever.  You just want to try it out.  And lucky for you there are oodles of positions for Seasonal Park Guides.  If you get one of these positions, you get allotted 1039 hours to work for the National Park Service (NPS) in that position.  Those hours equate to about 6 months of full-time work.  However, I know of parks that will take you if you can only work a few months, and some that will even hire you for part-time work.

For example, in 1995 I worked as a Seasonal Park Guide during a summer I was home from college.  It was full-time from June through August.  In 2006, I worked two days a week for a park.  I worked part-time for them from April until the following April as they needed me.  So you can work those 1039 hours in any way the park wants over the course of a year.  Or bundle them all up and do them full-time.

These are seasonal positions.  They don’t include any benefits except paid time off and sick time (which you earn based on the number of hours you work).  But the experience is priceless:)

If you want to become a bonafide ranger wearing that grey and green uniform, with the gold badge, and that lovely straw hat, the place to find your job is at usajobs.com.  Unfortunately, gone are the days of just walking into your local National Park and seeing if there are openings.  Openings for all federal government positions are posted on this site.

Unless you’re a student.  If that’s the case, you CAN walk into a park and see if they’ll hire you.  Students can get hired without the park having to put out an official announcement of an open position.

When you go to usajobs.com, you want to do a search for “Park Guide” positions.  When the list comes up, you want the ones that have an Appointment Term listed as “Temporary” or “Seasonal.”

Now remember, this is a government operation.  So there’s lots of paperwork and forms and backlog.  So if  you work in a school and want to work in a park for the summer, start looking at usajobs.com in November.  You can set up a search engine to send you an e-mail when a job in your radius gets posted.

Make sure you follow all the directions and send everything that’s asked of you.  If you don’t, you don’t make the cut.

Now, if you just want to work in a park, but not necessarily as a Park Guide, those positions are out there too.  The concessions in many parks are run by an outside operation.   For example, if you want to work at the lodges in the Grand Canyon, they’re operated by Xanterra (xanterra.com).  So you’d go to their website for more info.

I’ll write another post about my specific Park Ranger experiences:)

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