4. National/State/Community Parks
The nitty-gritty: Each year, the National Park Service hires about 10,000 temporary and seasonal employees. Potential jobs: collecting fees, fielding visitor queries, and passing out maps and brochures. Guides or rangers give short educational programs. More strenuous work might involve keeping hiking trails in good shape or gathering field samples. Parks with lodges hire part-time employees to accept reservations, provide concierge-type information and check-in guests and other booking functions. Park attendant responsibilities may include maintenance and office work, equipment rental, housekeeping assistance, food and merchandise sales, fee collection, and other general support services. These types of positions are usually available at most parks and forests and wildlife management areas.
There are also guest service and hospitality jobs at park stores and restaurants via Aramark, a national firm that provides facility and concession management under authorization of the National Park Service. State parks, too, pump up rosters during the tourist months. Each year, for example, the New Jersey State Park Service hires approximately 600 people to fill seasonal jobs from May through September. These jobs include collecting fees, issuing permits and passes, and directing traffic. There may also be jobs at touristy gift shops and restaurants near the parks. Community parks also need help with managing recreational activities such as softball, volleyball, craft programs and summer day camps.
The hours: From Memorial Day through Labor Day, hiring ramps up. Specific times will vary.
Median pay range: National Parks: $14 to $18 an hour; State parks: $8 to $15 an hour for most positions. You can work as a National Park Service volunteer, too, where your only pay is free housing or a pad for your RV.
Qualifications: Training is provided for most jobs. A knack for working smoothly with park visitors of all ages may be the most important criteria. Competition can be stiff at some popular destinations. Travel-related jobs are often sought after by students and overseas visitors who come to the United States on special work visas each summer. Keep in mind that if you actually work for the National Park Service, and not one of the outside vendors, you will be applying for a federal government job. You may be subject to a security background check. A teaching résumé or public speaking skills help. Expertise in a particular field — such as history or geology — can get you in the gate. If you're interested in pursuing a nature guide job, then flora and fauna identification skills are a must. The best way to find a job at a national park is to go to each park's individual website and click on "Employment Opportunities." State park job postings can be found at job board CoolWorks park section or with your state's division of parks and recreation. For example, you would go here for West Virginia's website. Hear the call of the wild.