As many travel throughout the United States in their RVs, National Parks become a frequent destination. There are so many reasons for many to visit our nation’s parks, whether it is the beautiful landscapes, historical significance, recreation or just to revisit places our families visited so many years ago. Whatever the reason, people flock to our National Parks in ever increasing numbers. 

While visiting our country’s National Parks, many visitors look upon what a wonderful opportunity it would be to live and work in a National Park. Sometimes those views create thoughts of how wonderful it would be to work as a National Park Ranger, or even to fulfill a lifetime dream of becoming a National Park Ranger. It is not unusual to have someone walk up to a Ranger and comment, “I wish I could be a Ranger too!”  

To be honest, one only needs to apply for these seasonal positions, as thousands do every year. Many are successful in their first year of applying.  For others, it takes a few seasons as they learn how the application process works or volunteering in our nation’s various park units, often near where they live. With that work, the networking and connections are created in making the application process easier.

Many of these positions mirror an applicant’s lifelong work history and or education. If one is looking at a complete change as to what positions are available in a park, you can do this too! Many presume an extensive education and advance degrees are necessary to apply, but your work experience will often provide you that start as a replacement for advanced education. 

The best place to start is talking with a Park Ranger in any National Park property on the ins and outs of becoming a Ranger.  The first suggestion is always to volunteer in a park, to learn the ropes of the job and find out if this is really something you wish to pursue. It is also a great way to network and find positions that best fit your skill set and meet people that can assist you in your quest.

Ranger KayakIf you have someone that is working towards a degree in the outdoors and are considering working for the National Parks, there are many avenues available for them, such as a summer internship and/or a government assistance program, such as Pathways.

If you are between the ages of 15 to 18, Youth Conservation Corps is something to consider too. Youth Conservation Corps members work in healthy and beautiful outdoor settings working on a variety of projects. These include building trails, maintaining fences, cleaning up campgrounds, improving wildlife habitat, environmental education planning and teaching, stream restoration, historic building preservation, and more!

If you are unsure where you might work, checking out the National Park Service web site, would be the first place to search.

If you wish to refine your search to something near you, you can search through this link, Park Locator.

Ranger Entry GreetGetting that first step into a “Green and Gray” (color of the uniform and how we in the NPS refer to each other) is to apply to entry level positions. These are positions that are often needed in large numbers for the summer seasons. These positions are often the first Ranger that a visitor meets when entering a park, sometimes the only Ranger too. These are the working positions doing trail work, facility maintenance and greeting the visitor at the entrance stations (VUA – Visitor Use Assistant).

Highly competitive positions are those in Law Enforcement (LE) and Research and Interpretation. Both of these positions will require additional experience and training which will be needed to be included in your application. 

Researching how to accomplish this application process is necessary and you should look into this by first going to the US Government hiring website. At this location you will find jobs throughout the government for all units, whether it is TSA, US Corps of Engineers, US Forest Service and the National Parks.

By creating an account, you will be able to begin to navigate through the USAJobs site. One important aid will be to create a search bot that can send you notifications for positions that are opening within the different park properties across the country. Be aware that some of these job postings are open for only 24 hours and/or limited in numbers of applications accepted and will close once that number is reached.  So, it is inherent for one to be ready when those jobs open up.

Also, you should review the requirements for the job you might be looking for so as to have your skills and resume prepared accordingly. There is a resume building link for helping you in creating that resume that will catch a hiring official’s eye.

If you are familiar with creating resumes, you will be surprised that it is very different for a government resume. In the modern working world, a one to two page maximum is the preference. For a government resume, you need to include EVERYTHING, including certifications, training, education and work history. Use this link for assistance in navigating this important portion of becoming a Park Ranger.

It is important that you don’t include any dates of birth on any of your documents, as well as photos. Scan your documents in a PDF format as you will be limited to the size of files you can submit as well as document quantity submissions. My resume is now at 48 pages as an example.

Applying is much like the retail world in securing inventory and staff. The winter season ordering period is the 4th of July, to secure winter coats, New Years for securing swim suits. So, summer hiring begins in November through January. Winter positions open for posting from July to October. Be prepared to apply!

For a resume to catch the attention of a hiring official, include all required information & supervisors’ names & contact info. No typos, proofread your work. If they don’t see people to call for references, it is often not considered. Do not copy from the assessment questionnaire to your resume. If you’re going to include a cover, it should target a specific job. If your certifications don’t apply to the job you’re seeking, don’t include them. Interpretation is a competitive field.  Experience in different parks are a big advantage if you want to stand out. Get experience in social media, writing, website authoring, using Adobe Creative Suite and other non-personal services. Volunteer work counts; definitely include it, no matter where this was.


Bryan Appleby, Seasonal National Park Ranger

So, do you still want to work that lifelong dream of yours to become a National Park Ranger? Well, it is just a matter of applying. Something I first did 43 years ago and was hired my first year at the park I first applied to. You can too.

Bryan Appleby
Author: Bryan Appleby
From the very beginning, at the age of 13, when Bryan planned and left on a solo bicycle trip around the western half of his native state of Kansas, he has been traveling somewhere, often in remote locations. He is known for his extreme boondocking, often for periods up to 8 weeks away from civilization and any resupplies. Bryan has more than 4,000+ consecutive nights (12 years with only 64 of those nights in campgrounds) while full timing. The outdoors has been an emphasis on this father & grandfather, taking him to occupations as a State Trooper and a National Park Ranger. Now, as a retired State Trooper and again working as a seasonal National Park Ranger, Bryan has been exploring America with his RV, kayaks and motorcycles, recording all of these adventures with pen and his camera.

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