And for those in school: Issue 4
Are you interested in wading through streams, catching fish, and knowing all about what’s in the water? If you like spending your days thinking about ways to protect fish, water quality, and healthy ecosystems in the National Parks, here are some suggestions about how to do just that as a career:
In high school: Take biology, chemistry, earth science, geology, ecology, geography, and math courses geared for college-bound students, because these will prepare you for challenging college courses. Ask parks if they have high school summer internships, as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park does. You can also gain valuable experience as a summer or after-school volunteer.
In college and/or graduate school: Here’s where you’ll dive in (get it?) to your subject matter. As with many careers in the National Parks, a B.A. or B.S. in a related field (biology, fisheries biology, chemistry, hydrology, geology, and ecology) helps you find opportunities and know what you're doing. A master’s degree and independent research in fisheries biology, hydrology, and/or chemistry, along with at least some time wading in the water, are helpful if you want to be a subject expert in the field. Many of the water quality chemists get into the field (literally) during their PhD research, and continue to study long-term trends in public lands.
Gaining other experience: Showing that you are interested and have field experience is vital. You can gain experience for a career through internships and seasonal jobs.
Find jobs during the summers while you are a college or graduate student through the STEP (Student Temporary Employment Program), which offers you non-competitive positions. Call or write parks directly for information about this program. Also, check out the Federal Jobs website for current, competitive job openings: search for the fisheries tech or biotech positions that have your level of education as a qualification. If you’re interested in pursuing the water chemistry side of things, find a job as a lab assistant or with a local water department. These jobs will help you gain entry level jobs or a spot in a college, Master’s, or PhD program.
Good luck, and have fun!
Return to Dispatches from the Field: Issue 4.