Parks require thousands on staff to serve

When asked what kind of job is brought to mind as the word “parks” is mentioned, Laura Alonso, student at the University of Miami answers, “Rangers, of course.”

That is the concept most people have about parks. It is usually believed that rangers would be the main and sometimes only job thought of when a job at a national park is mentioned.

That is a misconception however.

A National Park Service ranger assists a child visitor to one of our national parks (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service).

There are numerous professional, volunteer and trade opportunities across the country.From parks to regional offices, the park service employs more than 20,000 individuals (either permanent or temporary) and NPS receives additional support from 90,000 volunteers, according to the National Park Service Web site.

“We’re an agency of 20,000 people, making us a huge, huge system,” said Jeffrey Olson, Public Affairs Officer for the Washington Office.

Hiring is not an issue for the national park system. The actual process of hiring is easy once the job
has been announced. “The selecting official receives a list of qualified candidates from which to
select and then conducts interviews, background checks, reference checks, etc,” Kathy Kupper,
Public Affairs Officer for the Washington NPS office, said.

“We usually don’t have any problems hiring,” Diane Westfaul, Human Resources Officer for the Great Smoky Mountains said. “Our park is very popular and we get numerous applications for all our openings.”

Children visiting a park learn from a park ranger (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service).

With about 264 permanent positions and 100 to 200 temporary positions every summer, the Great Smoky Mountains is more than complete with employees.

It is clear that national parks nearly always have openings. Whether the job opening is for an
archeologist, a police officer, a soil conservation technician or even a ranger— as cliché as it may
seem— about 70 to 85 announcements are put up each year for each particular job. The job
announcement lists the opening and closing dates for every post. It depends on the job as to
how long the announcement is out.

All of the park service job openings are listed on and can also be linked to through
In this website, jobs are searched either detailed or briefly for the exact or broad opportunity one is seeking.

“A couple thousand applications a year are processed through USAJOBS,” Westfaul said, “and employees are well paid compared to other people in their county.”

Salaries for park personnel may be more generous than imagined.

Salaries are determined by what the government likes to call a salary scale or wage scale. Employees working for a park in a more expensive state such as New York may get a higher wage than say someone working for a more affordable state like North Carolina.

Earnings are also made according to position and duration of an employee. A number of the park employees might be classified as temporaries. As temporaries, these employees are not paid as much as a person working there permanently.

A visitor is helped with directions and a park map by a park staff member (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service).

National parks also hire seasonal personnel. Parks way down south need more staff during the fall, winter and spring as opposed to parks more north or in the western mountains. These seasonal jobs may be temporary or as what happened to Jeffrey Olson may then become permanent.

“We encourage all interested and qualified persons to apply for jobs. We want a workforce that reflects the diversity of America.”

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