Odd jobs » Whale bones

Help wanted behind the scenes

When you think of working for the National Park Service, you probably think of that ranger hat and badge.

But there’s more to parks than rangers helping us navigate, reminding us to lock our garbage cans, and telling us which ivy is poisonous. It turns out that there are only about 250,000 volunteers in America’s national parks. Divide that by ten and you get the number of US National Park staff. And not everyone can wear the fancy hat. An overview of some of the more skilled jobs and volunteer positions that help keep national parks national parks.

Photo of sound equipment in a national park.  Snow-capped mountains are in the background behind a scene of open plains and rivers.

Acoustic biologist

JOB DESCRIPTION: Also known as bioacoustics. Researcher who studies the sounds emitted by or affecting living beings. But some animals don’t make sounds to communicate. Enter the boss level. After having deciphered and understood how and why certain animals emit certain sounds, the job of an acoustic biologist is to contribute to the protection of these species in their natural environment. Talk about bionic hearing.

QUALIFICATIONS: Bachelor’s degree in biology or a related field, along with a few years of experience in your area of ​​specialization. The ability to communicate via echolocation is encouraged, but not required, although it’s the perfect way to beat the boss level.

Field team leader

JOB DESCRIPTION: Your office is outdoors. Beat a cabin any day. As a field team leader, your job is to travel to different national parks and collect data to understand the health of water, vegetation, and other natural resources. You share data with park managers to ensure they have the resources to preserve these precious places.

QUALIFICATIONS: A degree in biology, ecology or natural resources with a fairly strong sense of direction. You can’t lead people well if you don’t know where you’re going. At least six months of leadership experience and knowledge of berries not to eat.


JOB DESCRIPTION: The Grand Canyon’s Astronomer in Residence program allows astronomers of all skill levels to train and gain experience. Stargazing on steroids. Amateur astronomers give informative lectures and telescope demonstrations to guests, astrophotographers provide time lapses and photographs for the park’s social media, and scientists can research and publish articles in the Grand Canyon’s Canyon Views magazine.

QUALIFICATIONS: Bachelor’s degree in astronomy and possibly a master’s degree, depending on your program. Knowledge of zodiac compatibility and birth charts does not qualify you for this job.

Photo of sled dogs running in the show with a pulled musher.

Sled dog driver at Denali National Park

JOB DESCRIPTION: Denali dogs are the only sled dogs in the United States that help protect a national park. As a sled dog handler, you can train and race them, which is known as mushing. Once trained, all you have to do is shout “porridge” and the dogs will start pulling the sled. Like a Jet Ski with fur.

QUALIFICATIONS: Little or none at all. Some mushers actually prefer that you have no experience so they can teach you their specific way of training dogs. Must be good with animals and experienced enough to use basic tools and a four-wheeled vehicle.

Wildlife veterinarian

JOB DESCRIPTION: Physicians of all species, wildlife veterinarians must be prepared for anything and are on call most times of the day, week, and year. These docs deserve some credence considering the animals can’t explain their symptoms. Have you ever treated an antelope with gout?

QUALIFICATIONS: Doctor of Veterinary Medicine or the ability to talk to animals. Automatic rental if your last name is Thornberry.

historic ship rigger

JOB DESCRIPTION: Build, maintain and operate historic sailing ships. It seems easy enough. Except these ships are OG and hundreds of years old. Better to refresh your story, know how and untie the knots and the colorful vocabulary of a sailor. Depending on where you decide to work, you will also be able to browse them.

QUALIFICATIONS: Experience sailing and rigging traditionally rigged ships and/or you were in a past life or are still a pirate.

Two men playing jazz music outside the Washington Monument

jazz musician

JOB DESCRIPTION: When you think of a national park, being a jazz musician is probably one of the last jobs that comes to mind. But music is celebrated in national parks more often than you might think. In places like New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park and Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, musicians keep the culture alive. Tasked with overseeing projects, organizing jam sessions, taking photos and videos of the park, and performing, jazz musicians help combine culture and nature through the power of music.

QUALIFICATIONS: A good voice, a musical instrument and a passion to give back. Singing isn’t everyone’s talent, but if you’re solid on the triangle, you have a chance.


JOB DESCRIPTION: A cartographer creates charts and maps to distinguish between different territories and the geography of a country. You would typically work 40 hours per week, but this could be more or less depending on the workload. Technology has made this process a little easier, taking the act of hand drawing all those cards out of the equation. Not only do cartographers map the land, but also historic sites, structures, and interactive exhibits. Props to the Yellowstone cartographer, one wonders what his work week looks like.

QUALIFICATIONS: Bachelor’s degree in cartography or GIS (geographic information systems) and a bachelor’s degree depending on your field of study (ex. surveyors). If you have difficulty navigating and are dependent on GPS, please apply for the Sled Dog Handler position.

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