Types of Jobs

fixed wing flight

Aviation Management in the National Park Service covers a wide range of programs and disciplines. Expertise in aircraft capabilities and limitations, management of large aviation programs, instruction of specialized aviation training and hands on operational and logistical support of aircraft use are just a few of the skills needed to support the aviation use in the National Park Service.

How to Obtain a Job

Available Jobs

Other Student Opportunities

Pre-flight water voyageurs

NPS pilot at Voyageurs National Park preparing for a law enforcement flight.

Aviation Jobs with the National Park Service

The NPS has approximately 16,000 permanent employees and hires up to 10,000 temporary and seasonal employees each year. The National Park Service fills jobs in many fields, including interpretation, maintenance, administration, resources management, education, dispatch communications, and law enforcement.

Entry and/or seasonal positions utilizing aviation include park rangers in law enforcement, EMS, SAR, “ologists” (e.g. biologists, hydrologists, archeologists, etc) in natural resource based work, and wildland/prescribed fire jobs such as helitack crewmembers.

Seasonal Positions (can also be fulltime)

So you really want to work for the NPS? Many people have started their aviation-related careers in other agencies before migrating to work for the NPS. Their skills and experiences have proven invaluable to National Park Service programs. Experience can also be gained in the private and military sector that would be applicable to NPS positions.

Park Ranger

Rangers can do a variety of specialized tasks including K-9 handlers, intelligence officers, rescue specialists, firefighters, and medics. Some parks have boats, aircraft, and horses all of which require special skills to operate or work around.

Helitack Crew

Serves as a Firefighter on a highly mobile aerial delivered firefighting team that utilizes helicopters to rapidly attack wildfires in varied terrain and fuels. NPS helitack crews are also often trained in shorthaul to support search and rescue (SAR) missions. Rappel from helicopters is another tool used to support many missions, including both SAR and wildland fire.

Natural Resource

Technical work in any of the fields of science concerned with living organisms, their distribution, characteristics, life processes, and adaptations and relations to the environment.

Dispatcher

Duties can vary from Park to Park, but an aircraft dispatcher is responsible for tracking all aviation resources assigned to Park incidents. Besides fire, this includes search and rescue operations, and any special incidents such as Presidential visits, large law enforcement operations, and special events. A dispatcher is also responsible for flight following with aircraft in the Park. This consists of maintaining regular check-ins and location of the numerous research flights, the contract helicopter, search and rescue aircraft, and project aircraft.

Flight Managers

The NPS hires helicopter managers and air tanker base managers.

Fulltime Positions

Pilots

The National Park Service has flight operations with permanent NPS pilots in fifteen of its larger park areas in the Lower 48 and Alaska. These pilots primarily provide transportation of personnel and equipment at parks with very active aviation programs. Flight operations occupy the majority of the incumbent's time, though additional duties may occur. The second group of NPS pilots is the dual function pilots. These are law enforcement (LE), pilots, who utilize an aircraft as a flying patrol vehicle while performing the law enforcement patrols, and biologist pilots, who utilize the aircraft for aerial survey work.

To be a NPS Pilot, first you must be a FAA certified pilot; Become a Pilot. Then, a pilot must meet minimum Department of Interior qualifications before becoming a NPS pilot; Aircraft Pilot Positions with the National Park Service. For current NPS employees with piloting experience, there may be opportunities for pilot training, OPM-22.

Aviation Manager

Provides effective technical assistance, support and advice regarding NPS aviation management, program policies and safety concerns, procedures and options to Park personnel, Park Superintendents and Regional Office staff. These include such positions as Unit Aviation Officers, Regional and National Aviation Program Managers and Helicopter and Fixed-Wing Specialists.

Additionally, there are many jobs within the National Park Service, both seasonal and fulltime, which have elements of aviation within them.

For example, a researcher who has hired a seasonal employee may need to have that person trained as an “aircrew member” to fly onboard an airplane to reach a field research station. Follow this link to read about various aviation position descriptions and the training modules that are required: Interagency Aviation Training Guide.

Another example is NPS employees engaged in all-hazard incidents that use aviation.

aerial damage assesment Gulf islands

Aerial survey to assess hurricane damage at Gulf Islands National Seashore

In the early 1980’s the National Park Service began using the Incident Command System (ICS) to manage fires. Subsequently, many parks began using ICS to mange other types of incidents. Since the 1990’s, the National Park Service has been a nationwide leader in the use of the ICS for all-hazard applications—hurricane recovery operations, law enforcement incidents, special events, and many other complex tasks requiring resources beyond those available to local managers.

The NPS incident management program has evolved to include all-hazard ICS training and qualifications for employees in any career field. Many of these all-hazard positions mirror wildland fire positions and training.

The National Wildland Coordinating Group (NWCG) provides a formalized system to agree upon standards of training, equipment, qualifications, and other operational functions. Follow this link to learn more about the training and qualifications needed for aviation positions within the: Wildland Fire Qualification System.