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How to Work in a National Park in the US

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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.

Short on time? Here's the cheat sheet:

🐻National parks all across the US look for permanent and seasonal workers to do a wide range of jobs.
🫎You won’t get rich doing these jobs but getting the chance to live in your dream park is really priceless.
👩‍🏫The main requirements to work at a national park in the US are: 

  • You’re at least 18 years old
  • You can legally work in the US

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?

A couple posing in front of a lake and snowy mountains in Grand Teton National Park
My husband and I loving the 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 perk is getting to live in the park! Being surrounded by nature and living in that environment is a unique experience. 

This job is also perfect for those who already live the nomad lifestyle in a van or RV but if you don't have a home on wheels, many jobs offer seasonal housing for their staff. Be sure to ask if that's a requirement for you.

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. 

This is a great job to do if you're on a US Western road trip and really want to slow down and enjoy the sights.

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How to Find Available Jobs

A road side in a national park that reads, "Slow down! Wildlife on Road" placed in front of snowy mountains
A reminder to always be on the lookout for wildlife

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 who wants to work at a national park.

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. 

Do note that most jobs are for the summer and are posted in November and December.‍

Common Park Employers

While you might assume that all national park jobs are through the national park service, it's not always the case.

These are the 3 most common 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.

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. 

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.

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.

Pro Tip: Most jobs are not listed by park but by type of job.‍

3. Concessionaires‍

Many of the services in the national parks are operated by concessionaires. Think lodging, campgrounds, restaurants, boat rides, horseback riding, float trips, and more. Chances are these are operated by a concessionaire who is looking to hire lots of people, both individuals and couples, with or without an RV. 

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:

How to Apply

A happy couple taking a selfie at Grand Teton National Park
We absolutely loved working at the park!

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. There's such a wide variety of amazing parks but out of all the best national parks in the US, Grand Teton National Park is my favorite!

Keep in mind, the smaller parks or less visited parks will have less services which means fewer job opportunities. 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'll have a lot 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!

While some of these jobs might be permanent positions, many you'll find are for seasonal employment when the number of visitors is highest.

I recommend deciding on 3 parks you would like to work at and then job hunting and searching for seasonal jobs only there. We narrowed it down to Grand Tetons, Yellowstone National Park, and Glacier National Park. 

I highly recommend applying for as many jobs as you are willing to do with as many employers as you can find in all 3 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. 

The Interview Process

I recommend taking all the 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. If you pass that round, you'll have an interview with a supervisor.

For us, 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 3 national parks), then you should get at least one job offer. We got 4 offers, one with each park we applied to. In the end we went with our top choice, Grand Teton National Park! 

‍Will You Try Working at a National Park?

Yosemite National Park could be your background

For us, this experience has been a dream come true and figuring out how to work in a national park wasn't actually as complicated as we first thought it'd be.

Although it might be tough to narrow it down to your top 3, doing this will help keep you sane while you search through all the permanent positions and seasonal jobs open.

If you play your cards right, you could be working at your dream park next summer!

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