My husband and I spent a summer managing a store in Grand Teton National Park and loved it!
We dreamed about living and working in a national park but never imagined we would get our choice of park and job. I spent tons of time researching and learning first hand how to get a job in a national park and what it was like living there.
Luckily for you, I have already done the work and will show you how to find a job in a National Park.
Requirements to work in a national park
- Age: 18 & older
- Nationality: Any! But must have a work visa for the U.S.
Who should work in a National Park?
- Those who like nature and the outdoors
- Those with a sense of adventure
- Those who value living in the park over the paycheck
- Those who like working with the public (keep in mind that most people are happy here as they are on vacation)
There are many benefits to working in a national park. But the number one is getting to live in the park! Being surrounded by nature and living in that environment is a unique experience.
This is job is also perfect for those who already live the nomad lifestyle in a van or RV.
Getting paid is the bonus. In general, the pay is less than what you would make doing the same job outside of the park. But there are usually other perks like discounts, free or reduced lodging, and free activities. All in all, we felt like it was worth it to have the experience of living in a national park. Plus, we were able to save money.
Another great and unique seasonal job is to work as a Spring Break Representative. This job allows you to enjoy Spring Break for an entire month, all while getting paid.
You may be wondering what types of jobs there are in a national park.
My answer is lots!!!
There are jobs in hotels, campgrounds, restaurants, gas stations, gift shops, coffee shops, and grocery stores. You can work in reservations, catering, sales and marketing, security, trail maintenance, or housekeeping. They need carpenters, painters, tour guides, boat captains, bus drivers, cashiers, people at park entrances to collect fees, mechanics, river guides, horse wranglers, and more.
There really is something for everyone.
Most of these jobs are low paying and do not offer any travel or moving expenses. But they do offer training so don’t be afraid to apply for something new.
How to Apply
If you have decided you want to get a job in a national park the first thing you need to do is decide which National Parks you want to work in. Keep in mind, the smaller parks or less visited parks will have less services which means fewer jobs. If you are not sure if a park is small, just take a look on the National Park Website to find out more information about the park.
If they have restaurants, gift shops, lodging, campgrounds, etc. then they have lots of job opportunities. If not, just know that there will be more competition for fewer jobs. But if that is where you want to work then you should go for it! I recommend deciding on three parks you would like to work at. We narrowed it down to Grand Tetons, Yellowstone and Glacier.
Now that you have decided on your top three national parks you want to work in lets discuss the three main types of park employers:
1. Nonprofit / Associations
Almost every park has a nonprofit that raises funds to support it. Many of these operate the gift shops located in park visitor centers. Most hire couples in RV’s, but not all. Some also have volunteer opportunities. There are usually not many jobs offered as they are only staffing a gift shop or two.
2. National Park Service
These are jobs working for the park service. These jobs tend to pay more than the other two options but there are fewer jobs and it’s very competitive.
Many of the services in the national parks are operated by concessionaires. Lodging, Campgrounds, Restaurants, boat rides, horseback riding, float trips, and more. Chances are it is operated by a concessionaire who is looking to hire lots of people, both individuals and couples, with or without an RV.
To find out information on the nonprofit that operates in the parks you are interested you need to do an online search. Search for “park name” nonprofit association. From there you will go to the park's website and look for employment opportunities.
To find a job with the National Park Service you need to do a search on www.usajobs.gov. Be sure and select jobs open to the public as some jobs are only for veterans or those already employed by the government. Most jobs are not listed by park but by type of job.
To find a job with a concessionaire you will want to do one of three things. Either do an online search for “name of park” jobs or visit www.coolworks.com. You can also search on these top employers websites: Vail Resorts, Xanterra or AraMark.
Ready for a lifestyle change?
It can definitely be scary but there is so much to be gained from making a big lifestyle change!
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Another great job idea, especially for people who enjoy time outdoors, is to become an Overland Tour Guide. These contracts last longer, usually 6 months to 1 year but allow you to travel entire continents via land all while leading tours.
Do note that most jobs are for the summer and are posted in November and December.
I highly recommend applying for as many jobs as you are willing to do with as many employers as you can find in all three of your top national parks. The more opportunities you apply for, the more choices you will have when it comes time to pick a job.
I also recommend taking all interviews. I actually interviewed for a different job at Grand Teton and that person told someone else about me. In the end we were offered a management job that we didn’t even apply for.
All of the interviews we had were conducted by phone and ask the standard interview questions. These seemed to be with someone in Human Resources. Then we would have an interview with a supervisor. It all went pretty fast. We applied in December and had a job lined up by the middle of January.
If you apply for as many jobs as you are willing to do (think 25 or more with your top three national parks), then you should get at least one job offer. We got four offers, one with each park we applied to. In the end we went with our top choice, Grand Teton National Park!
So start dreaming of your top three national parks that you want to get a job in and you could be working there next summer!