Do you dream of waking up in a cabin in the forest surrounded by beautiful green forest all around you? Or maybe watching the sunset just over the ocean listening to the sound of the waves crashing around you? This can all be a reality by working a seasonal job in a National Park, and I recently had the chance to do it.
After I first heard about this opportunity, I immediately knew I wanted a job serving cocktails in a picturesque lodge surrounded by snowcapped mountains or guiding visitors on rafting or kayaking trips. The only problem was that I had no idea where to begin. Luckily after spending hours trying to figure out how to find a seasonal job and properly apply, I came across CoolWorks.com and was hired to work in Olympic National Park in Washington.
Now that I have experienced working in National Parks, I have received many questions about how others can do it and where to begin. This guide will help take you through each step to finding your ideal National Park job whether in hospitality, tourism or becoming a park ranger.
Where should I look for one of these jobs?
CoolWorks.com is a site dedicated to finding you the perfect job in nature. They offer job opportunities in National Parks, Ski Resorts, Dude Ranches, Retreat Centers, Cruise Ships and more. The goal the company is to connect each individual with a job that will change your life as well as connect you with other likeminded people. The team that runs the company have also worked in National Parks and all have a similar desire for adventure and want to spread it with others.
If you are wanting to become a park ranger, usajobs.gov is the place to apply. There are openings all around the USA and will show the location and provide you with all the info you will need before applying.
What types of jobs are available?
There are a variety of jobs you will be able to apply for and many new ones get added every day. Some of them will require experience while others may not. Even if you’ve never done a specific job before, definitely apply for it because chances are they can train you when you get there.
Here is a list of types of jobs in and around National Parks:
- Restaurant Food & Beverage (ex. host, busser, server, bartender, cook)
- Hospitality (ex. Front desk, housekeeping, reservations)
- Grounds Crew / Maintenence
- Retail Operations
- Guides (ex. Sea kayaking, rafting, hiking)
- Vessel Jobs (Deckhand, Captains, Dock Support)
- Pool Staff (Lifeguards)
Keep in mind that parks have a different set of jobs based on the location they are in. For example, jobs you see in Denali in Alaska may be different than those in Yellowstone NP in Wyoming. If you see something you don’t know a lot about but are interested in, there may be websites attached for you to gain a better understanding of the position you seek.
How to decide where to work
This is honestly the hardest part because you have to figure where exactly you would like to work. Near the ocean? Mountains? Remote wilderness? Desert? By active volcanoes? Pacific Northwest? East coast? West Coast? Far away or close to home?
All of these are great questions to ask yourself before applying and accepting a job that you could potentially not enjoy due to certain circumstances. If you don’t want to be really far from home and this would be your first seasonal job experience, maybe start by applying for whats near or closer to you instead of working halfway across the country. If that isn’t an issue, then make sure you research the area where you will potentially be going so you know what to expect.
List of National Parks in the USA
With 58 National Parks in the United States, it may be hard to narrow it down to just one. Here I have highlighted each state that has a National Park in teal for you to get a better idea of where you are thinking to go. This is a great way for you to chose what environment you’re interested in and compare each park to narrow down the search.
- Gates of the Arctic
- Glacier Bay
- Kenai Fjords
- Kobuk Valley
- Lake Clark
- Wrangell – St. Elias
- American Samoa
- Grand Canyon
- Petrified Forest
- Hot Springs
- Channel Islands
- Death Valley
- Joshua Tree
- Kings Canyon
- Lassen Volcanic
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison
- Great Sand Dunes
- Mesa Verde
- Rocky Mountain
- Dry Tortuga’s
- Hawaii Volcanoes
- Yellowstone (on the border with Montana
- and Wyoming)
- Mammoth Cave
- Isle Royale
- Great Basin
- Carlsbad Caverns
- Great Smoky Mountains
- Theodore Roosevelt
- Cuyahoga Valley
- Crater Lake
- Wind Cave
- Great Smoky Mountains
- Big Bend
- Guadeloupe Mountains
U.S. Virgin Islands
- Virgin Islands
- Bryce Canyon
- Capitol Reef
- Mount Rainer
- North Cascades
- Grand Teton
It can be very challenging to chose a park to work in and if you do not know where to begin, I have a few favorite parks you could start with. My all time favorites are Olympic, Grand Teton, Zion, Yosemite and Yellowstone. These are places known to have a busy season, great opportunity for tips, large staff and a variety of adventures to go on during your off days. Working at these parks would be a great first seasonal job to see if its for you or not.
What do you make working a seasonal job?
Every job and state will be different so make sure and research what the minimum wage is so you have an idea about the range. Many times you will be paid anywhere between $8 to $15 an hour and some jobs have the opportunity to make tips on top of your wage.
If you are a returner and are working another season, chances are they will give you a higher wage. You can also work your way up from being a server to food and beverage manager if you show you are dedicated and good at your job. It also depends on how much experience you have and what positions they need filled at the time.
How long is a seasonal job?
Some of the seasonal jobs can be year round, while many others just have winter, spring or summer terms. Many college students (like myself) will come out for the summer season as soon as school gets out in May and will return for school in August. While most companies do not have an issue with that, there will be the occasional one who would need you to be there from March-September for example which isn’t realistic for most students. Those with more free time will be able to work the winter season which is typically late November to the first week of April. If there are open year round jobs available and you are interested in staying longer at that park, definitely speak to management because that is a great way to work your way up the chain.
What to look for when applying
This is the most important step you should take before applying. On the right side of each job opportunity you look at, there will be a box on the right called The Scoop. It is important to look at because it will tell you how large the staff is, if housing is paid for and if meals will be provided. This will help you add up how much you will end up spending on that and help prepare you before you get there. It will also tell you if there will be any cell reception or internet as well. Some locations will even pay for your transportation to get there so be on the lookout for that. I definitely recommend making a list of the opportunities that those amenities will be provided so you can choose which jobs to apply for.
What should I apply for?
After you have gone through and selected some options of places you would like to work, I suggest applying for all of them! When I applied, I think I sent out 5-10 applications around the US and heard back from three of them that I was seriously interested in. This will help give you options and see which place you should go too!
It is also important to create your resume if you haven’t already, as well as add a cover page explaining why you want this job and send it to the employer along with the application. The more professional its put together, the higher the employer will think of you and the better chance you have for getting hired.
When should I expect to hear back?
For summer jobs, I applied in December and heard back in late March. Im assuming for other seasons they will call you a 2-3 months before the season start to let you know if you got the job.
You’re all set!
Good luck on getting your first seasonal job!
Have any other questions?
Make sure and contact me or leave a comment below! 🙂