Updated: Jun 22
Many of you know that Wade and I spent a summer working in Grand Teton National Park managing a store. But we have also worked at Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Mount Rainier National Park. We loved having National park jobs! 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. Lucky for you I have done the work for you and will show you how to find a job in the National Park of your dreams! For Park Inspiration check out this list of my favorite books.
You may be wondering what types of jobs there are in a national park. Well there are lots and its not just Camp Hosting!!! 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, and housekeeping. They need carpenters, painters, tour guides, boat captions, bus drivers, cashiers, people at park entrances to collect fees, mechanics, river guides, horse wranglers, and more. There really is something for everyone.
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.
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. We loved all the free things we got to do at Grand Teton thanks to our employer. And are appreciating the generous discounts offered while working at Mount Rainier National Park.
Ready to find 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 parks you are interested in.
If a park has restaurants, gift shops, lodging, campgrounds, etc. then they have lots of job opportunities. If not, just know there will be more competition for fewer jobs. But don’t let that stop you from applying for a job at the national park of your dreams.
I recommend narrowing it down to three parks you would like to work at. We narrowed it down to Grand Tetons, Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks the first time we applied for a national park job. Now that you have decided on your top three national parks you want to work in let's discuss the three main types of park employers.
1) Nonprofit / Associations- Almost every park has a nonprofit that raises funds to support it. And they are looking to hire you! Many of these operate gift shops located in the park visitor centers. My research suggests that many only hire couples in RV’s but not all. Some even offer volunteer opportunities, but you are here to learn about a job.
To find out information on the nonprofit that operates in the parks you are interested you need to do an online search. Look for “park name” nonprofit association. From there you will go to their website and look for employment opportunities.
2) National Park Service- These are jobs working for the park service itself. These jobs tend to pay more but there are fewer jobs and it’s very competitive. They hire individuals instead of couples.
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. So check out any NPS seasonal posting you find.
3) Concessionaires- Many of the services in the national parks are operated by concessionaires. Lodging, campgrounds, restaurants, gas stations, park activities and more are operated by concessionaires in the parks. There are lots of national park jobs with concessionaires from camp hosting to gift shop workers. And they hire singles and couples. Many offer dorms so you don’t need an RV for this type of work.
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, visit www.coolworks.com, or check out these top employers.
Be aware that most jobs are for the summer season and are posted in November and December, although I have seen some last minute postings in the middle of the season. To ensure that you get a job that you want in your dream national park I highly recommend applying for as many jobs as you are willing to do. And you should apply 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 participating in all interviews offered to you, even if you think you don’t want that job. I actually interviewed for a different job at Grand Teton National Park 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 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!
We loved our job in a national park and would like to work in a different park someday. We made friends and memories that will last a lifetime. It is not too early to start dreaming of your top three national parks that you want to get a job in. Follow these tips and you could be working there next summer!
Which National Park are you dreaming of working in? Get Inspired here.
The Penny Pinching Globetrotter