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Hey, I'm pretty new to the forums, but I had a question about seasonal work @ national parks. From what I've been able to gather, most seasonal jobs for private resorts pay about 7-9 dollars an hour (feel free to correct me!). But looking around at job offers through the government, the pay seems better (even if the uniform does look a little corny, it's still pretty cool). While I would obviously imagine that there are MANY more jobs working at private resorts & concessions, can anyone tell me why more people don't work as rangers, visitor use assistants, etc for the government? Is there anyone who HAS had a job working for the park service that would care to share some information about the work, compensation, housing, application process, etc with me?

Also, on a some-what related note, how much do most people earn during a 12-14 week summer season? I understand that it's probably difficult to generalize and that individual earnings are highly circumstantial, but I'm just trying to get a ballpark figure. I'll be a college second-year, and need to raise at least $1500 in a summer, after taxes, housing, and transportation .... is this possible or am I dreaming?

Thanks for the time!

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no u not dreaming u can make that much
National Park Service jobs aren't all that easy to get and there is a long list of people that want them. We have a friend that is doing his third (unpaid) internship with the Park Service in hopes that eventually he will get an actual paid job with them. Obviously it is not impossible, but it is the government, so it can take a long time to get one of those jobs. I would think that saving $1500 in a summer should be very possible, and depending on where you go and what you do, the potential is there for a lot more. We know a lot of servers that don't work winters.
First, $1500 is not too difficult to have in your bank account at the end of the season. I've known people that have left with a lot more. But...I've also met a lot of people that are broke a few days after payday. It all depends on how much you spend in the miscellaneous category.

Second, since you seem to be interested in working for the NPS later, here's a current link to an opening for an Interpretive Ranger they are looking for to work in the Everglades NP: USAjobs Park Ranger

Is your college major somewhat appropriate for the work? I'm not sure if there are many opportunities without at least the BA/BS.

Third, Bill Berg recently blogged about his wife's, Collette's, job as a ranger at Yellowstone: Berg's Blog Post You might want to give it a read. If I remember right, she's on the law enforcement side for the most part...rangers are multi-taskers.

Fourth, if you do get a job at one of the parks, go to as many ranger-lead activities and talks as you can fit into your schedule. They are quite informative and many are entertaining.
Thanks for the advice so far, it's really encouraging.

I'd also like to know (approximately) how many hours you typically work per week. Running the numbers with 40 hours a week, I come up a bit short, but have no problem working 50 + hours a week (or so I think now!) seasonal employees qualify for overtime?

Secondly, how does room/board work....I understand that at most places they provide housing, is dining usually included as well? or are you better off trying to cook for yourself? I'm sure it varies significantly place to place, but I'm just looking for some insight from others' past experiences. In general, how much do they take off for housing? Is it before or after taxes?

Thirdly, many of the positions I've seen advertised focus on customer service work (hotels, restaurants, gift shops, etc). While I'd be glad to do any work that I get paid for, I'd really love to work as a naturalist/environmental educator/interpreter-type teach classes about the park & that type of stuff. Are there any private jobs like that available, because all of the positions that match that description that I've seen so far are either with the government or require a teaching degree. I have a solid background in the education field, but I'm not really pursuing a degree in it. Any suggestions?

Thanks again for everything, you guys are great!
Lots of questions...that's good. I'll try to get to most. Each specific company will have different rules. I'll try to be in general, but you'll have to check each one out.

40 hr/weeks are rare, but happen. In general expect to work 6-day weeks, 40-48/hrs. There are sometimes opportunities to pick up extra work. Overtime varies a lot, especially if we're talking within the borders of a national park or outside. There are many companies that are set up just outside the park's boundaries. If they're outside it depends on the various state laws. Inside can vary also. National Park concessionaires, I think, are not required to pay overtime until 55, but many companies choose to go with 48, and others go with whatever the state law is at.

Room and board can vary a lot. There are places that include both, but not usually. There are some places that have housing free but charge for the rest. There are some that charge for both. Those that are free of charge, don't expect to be living palatially...but expect it to be safe and generally keep the worse part of mother nature outside. Food varies, and that's why if you're here long, you'll see the more regulars asking about that area first. Some make a pay-period charge, some have a pay-as-you-eat system. Some places the quality and choices seems to be a bit more enjoyable. I'm going to give you a rough estimate of $50-80/week for a total of both as an average. Before or after taxes will vary. In many cases you will not have the choice. There may be no individual cooking facilities, or storage capability, and in many cases the remote locations make grocery shopping somewhat difficult.

I think I recall seeing one of the summer Alaskan opportunities doing something with nature education. But I do not know the details, I'm guessing they'll show up again sometime Dec/Jan. The guide positions sometime get to do some with their work. But there are few positions with many applicants.

I'm not sure what kind of work, or the pay levels with any of the camp counselor might want to check them out. They wouldn't be in a national park for the most part, but they probably would be in the naturalist/environmental areas.
i've couldnt said it better
This is my fifth season as a Visitor Use Assistant with the National Park Service. I am currently in a GS-5 position at Acadia National Park. I make $15.31 an hour and I pay $400 monthly for housing (3 bedroom/1 bath, two roommates). Housing varies from park to park.

I'm in my 5th season as a Visitor Use Assistant; 1 year at Denali NP, and 4 years at Mesa Verde NP.  I love being a Park Ranger :)  I feel the pay is better, the housing is better, and most importantly the management is better.  I think I'll be a Park Ranger until my health gives out .... hopefully a long time from now :)  I am a GS4, make about $13.12/hr and pay $610/month for a singles apartment inside the Park.  In my case I am simply trying to break even....if I was trying to "make money" I'd find housing with roommates to bring the cost down.  Until this year my income has been limited due to Social Security rules....I will likely try to find a GS5 or higher VUA position in the future to enhance my income.  But making lots of money is not why I do this.  I work a 5-4-9 schedule which means every other weekend I get 3 days off which is great for site seeing and camping.  I love my life at the moment.  Ranger Rich

Are you working the 5-4-9's right now at Mesa Verde? I stopped by there last fall and asked the VUA that was at the gate and he said 5-8's. I'd almost trade you my GS-5 for your schedule ;)

Yep...the entry gate works 5-8's .... the VRC staff works the 5-4-9's which is perfect for extended trips to places like The Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountain and elsewhere :) it has been great the last 3 years and a big reason I keep coming back.

Hahahaha....I failed to notice the original post is 2008 vintage :) Better late than never I suppose.


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