Science Internship, Volunteer, and Career Opportunities

scientist in swamp collecting sediment sample with a dip pole

Resource Management, Interpretation, and Education

Geoscientists-in-the-Parks

go.nps.gov/gip

The Geoscientists-in-the-Parks (GIP) program is an AmeriCorps program for college students and recent graduates age 18 - 35 years old that offers paid, geoscience and other natural resource science internships with the National Park Service. Participants may assist with research, synthesis of scientific literature, natural resource mapping, GIS analysis, site evaluations, resource inventorying and monitoring, impact mitigation, developing brochures and informative media presentations, and educating park staff and park visitors about natural resource science topics. GIP positions can last from 3 months to one-year.

Application website: www.geosociety.org/gip

Mosaics in Science

go.nps.gov/mosaics

The Mosaics in Science Diversity Internship Program provides youth that are under-represented in natural resource science career fields with on-the-ground, science-based, work experience in the National Park System. This multidisciplinary program provides opportunities for college students and recent graduates to work on inventorying and monitoring, research, GIS and other technologies, and interpretation and education projects. The 11-week summer internship in a national park is followed by a 4-day career workshop held either in Colorado or Washington DC.

Partner’s website: http://mosaicsinscience.org

Future Park Leaders of Emerging Change

http://futureparkleaders.org/

The Future Park Leaders of Emerging Change (FPL) provides opportunities for young people to work on novel park management issues resulting from one or more global drivers of change. FPL supports paid internships in which highly accomplished graduate and upper-level undergraduate students (current juniors and seniors) work for approximately 12 weeks on projects in research, interpretation, park operations, policy development, or other fields.

Latino Heritage Internship Program

http://www.latinoheritageintern.com

The Latino Heritage Internship Program (LHIP) is a component of an overarching service-wide strategy to address and correct the lack of Latino employment opportunities in the National Park Service. The LHIP provides college and graduate students and recent graduates 18 - 35 years old that are typically underrepresented in NPS career fields with meaningful, on-the-ground, work experience in the National Park Service. Disciplines covered include cultural resources, integrated resource management, interpretation, education, and outreach.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities Internship

http://hbcui.gyfoundation.org/

The Historically Black Colleges and Universities Internship Program (HBCUI) is designed to link program participants to NPS sites with a focus on African-American history and culture. The program is also designed to instill in participants enhanced understanding and appreciation of the important contributions of African-Americans in the development and progress of the United States, while gaining exposure to the gamut of career opportunities in the NPS related to public land management.

AmeriCorps

http://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps

AmeriCorps is a network of local, state, and national service programs that connect more than 80,000 Americans each year to meet our country’s critical environmental, educational, health, and public safety needs. Positions are full or part time. Upon completion of service, members receive a AmeriCorps Education Award to pay for college, graduate school, or to pay back qualified student loans. Participants receive training, student loan deferment, and may also receive a living allowance and health insurance while working for AmeriCorps.

Student Conservation Association

http://www.thesca.org/

The Student Conservation Association is a nonprofit organization that engages high school, undergraduate and graduate school students through internships, conservation jobs, and crew experiences in resource management, historic preservation, cultural resources, and conservation activities for the purpose of training, career development, and education. There are a wide range of positions with specific expertise requirements. Three to 12-month internship opportunities are available. Living and travel expenses, insurance, housing, and AmeriCorps education awards are provided to interns.

Volunteer in Parks

https://www.nps.gov/getinvolved/volunteer.htm

There are a wide range of volunteer positions available for U.S. citizens with specific expertise. Volunteers may receive reimbursement for expenses such as food, mileage, gas, and training. Parks may provide housing. Often a minimum of 8 weeks work is required.

International Volunteers in Parks

https://www.nps.gov/subjects/internationalcooperation/ivip.htm

Program is for non-U.S. citizens who are interested in volunteering for a national park. Positions are open for college students, persons who work for another country's park agency, or have a background in environmental or cultural related fields. NPS selects candidates who meet visa and immigration requirements, have the needed educational and professional background, and have the best potential to share his/her experiences with colleagues and scholars when they return to their home countries.

Other National Park Service internship opportunities
are available at:

https://www.nps.gov/aboutus/jobsforstudents.htm

Research Opportunities

NPS Research Permit and Reporting System

https://irma.nps.gov/rprs/

Online system that manages the research application and reporting process for the National Park Service.

Research Learning Centers

https://www.nps.gov/rlc/index.htm

Research Learning Centers (RLC) are public/private partnerships created to facilitate research efforts and provide educational opportunities. RLCs involve a wide range of people and organizations including researchers, universities, educators, and community groups. Since 2001, the RLCs have been helping researchers work in national parks and integrating research into the visitor experience, park resource management, and educational outreach programs. The 18 RLCs collaborate with universities, K–12 schools, professional societies, and diverse research and education groups.

Cooperative Ecosystem Study Units

http://www.cesu.psu.edu/

Cooperative Ecosystem Study Units (CESU) are a national consortium of federal agencies, tribes, academic and research institutions, state and local governments, nongovernmental conservation organizations, and other partners that was established to provide research, technical assistance, and education for resource and environmental managers. Natural, cultural, and social sciences are included. There are currently 17 CESUs across the United States.

Pathways Program

The National Park Service and other federal agencies hire students, recent graduates, and those with advanced degrees through the federal Pathways Program (https://www.usajobs.gov/Help/working-in-government/unique-hiring-paths/students/). Upon successful completion of the Pathways Program, agencies may convert the participant to a competitive service position.

There are three components to the Pathways Program:
  • Internship Program – Paid internships that are available for current high school to graduate students. Provides paid opportunities to work in a federal agency and explore federal careers while completing an education.
  • Recent Graduate Program – Career development program that is open to students who have graduated or obtained certificates from a qualifying educational institution or program within the last 2 years (time period is extended to 6 years for veterans).
  • Presidential Management Fellows Program (https://www.pmf.gov/)– Open to current graduate students and recent graduates with an advanced degree that have demonstrated an interest in, and commitment to, leadership in the federal government. Two year paid internship includes formal training and rotational assignments. The application period for PMF is typically in October of each year.

Paid Positions—Seasonal, Temporary, and Permanent Positions

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is the federal office for federal hiring. Each agency's hiring practices may vary. If you need additional information about a position in a particular federal agency, call a personnel specialist in the agency, region, or park/office where you plan to apply.

Other Helpful Information

Federal job application requirements vary from position to position. Be sure to read each job announcement carefully.

  • In many cases, positions are noted as being open to “all sources,” which means that you do not have to be a federal employee to apply for the position.
  • You must be a U.S. citizen to apply for most U.S. government jobs.
  • If the announcement says that it is open for merit promotion only, that means that only current federal employees and those with federal status may apply for the position.
  • Many positions are open to those with special hiring authorities such as persons with Veterans Preference, Pathways, Public Land Corps non-competitive hiring eligibility (PLC), Direct Hire Authority (DHA), Schedule A, etc.
  • If you are applying for a seasonal job, most of those positions are advertised in the fall and early winter for the following spring or summer. Seasonal positions are very competitive, particularly at larger, well-known parks or other popular public lands. The number of applicants is usually far greater than the positions that are available.
  • Opportunities within the National Park Service may be sponsored in whole or in part by a partner organization, which may have job requirements specific to their organization. For these positions you would be considered a “partner” or “contractor”. Opportunities may or may not include park housing. If housing is included it may be in a shared, bunk house, or dorm-type setting. Parks may also have RV sites available for temporary (seasonal) positions.

Tips for Applying for a Federal Job

Your best bet in getting a federal job or a Pathways position is to:

Conduct Research

  • Decide which parks you would like to work in and make a prioritized list.
  • Familiarize yourself with the NPS. at: http://www.nps.gov/aboutus/
  • All national park units are listed at: http://www.nps.gov/findapark/index.htm
  • Information about national parks created for their superlative geologic resources, can be found at: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/geology/geologic-wonders.htm
  • Find out why the park was established.
  • Consider doing research or writing a paper about a park that you are interested in, because this will give you background about the park and perhaps create an opportunity to interview a park specialist or manager and provides a networking opportunity.
  • Decide what type of job(s) you are interested in pursuing. While duties vary from park to park, the following is a rule of thumb regarding management responsibilities in park divisions:
    • Chief of Resource Management – manages natural, and possibly cultural resources, facilitates research and resource management activities in the park
    • Chief of Interpretation – manages all education and outreach activities
    • Chief of Maintenance – manages park infrastructure
    • Chief Ranger – manages all law enforcement, including environmental violations in parks

Contact the Park

  • Visit, call, and/or write to the appropriate person in the park. A personal visit shows the most interest, however a call may create a strong connection. Writing is more distant but demonstrates your writing skills.
  • Call the park. Phone numbers are listed on each park’s website. Go to: https://www.nps.gov/findapark/index.htm, search for a particular park and find the park’s contact information at the bottom of the webpage. Ask for the name, email address and phone number of the person you want to reach (e.g., the park’s Chief of Resource Management).
  • During your conversation with the park:
    • Ask if there are seasonal, internship, or Pathways opportunities in the park.
    • If applicable, let the person you are talking with know that you are interested in a seasonal or part-time position through the Pathways Program, and would like to talk about this.
    • Let the person know whether you are a student and if so, if you will be continuing school after the summer.
    • Emphasize that you are very interested in working for the National Park Service/park.
    • Briefly tell the person what interests you about his/her park.
    • Tell the person about the variety of courses you have taken, including geology, biology, ecology, hydrology, GIS, public speaking, etc.
    • Describe your level of interest in specific projects, whether you have gotten good grades, and note your unique qualifications and ability to work independently or in a team environment.
    • If you are willing to work in any job in the park to get your foot in the door, let the person you are speaking with know that.

Complete Your Application and Submit it Before the Due Date

Job announcements have an application deadline. The application period may be open for 1 t o2 weeks and closes at the end of the work day in a certain time zone (e.g. EDT) so make sure to submit your application before the deadline!

Improving your Chances of Getting Hired

Get the Degree(s)

  • With most professional jobs it is likely that a college or advanced degree will increase your chances of getting the job.
  • Are you considering different degree options? Look at what the NPS is doing in resource management and interpretation /education. For example, there is currently a growing emphasis on technical skills (such as GIS), inventory and monitoring, coastal geomorphology, restoration, and landscape scale ecosystem management. The foundation of the NPS is interpretation (informal education), resource management, and recreation.
    • Multiple degrees also increase the range of marketable skills that you have. Depending on the position that you are seeking, this may increase your ability to get and do the job. Having dual degrees such geology / biology, geology / communications, or geology / computer science or GIS, will likely qualify you for a broader range of NPS positions.

Get the Experience

The importance of relevant on-the-job experience cannot be over emphasized. It is recommended that you get experience in your field of expertise and work with the general public, various land-managing agencies, companies, and organizations. If you do not have the necessary experience, you may want to consider volunteering or doing an internship for an agency, company, or organization. Volunteering is an excellent way to network and gain on-the-ground experience. This is also an opportunity to ask permanent employees how they got their position and you’ll likely discover numerous “ways to get your foot in the door.” Include your volunteer experiences and internships on your resume, these experiences indicate that you are willing to go above and beyond standard expectations.

Be Flexible on the Job Title and Location

Read the OPM job standards (see http://www.opm.gov). Check the announcements for common NPS positions. Your ideal job may have a different title than you would expect such as Physical Scientist, Natural Resource Specialist, Environmental Protection Specialist, GIS Specialist, or Ecologist. The title Park Ranger may also interest you, but be aware that this title covers two very different kinds of jobs — interpreters (park guides and education specialists) or protection specialists (law enforcement). While these are usually separate positions, sometimes these are combined in to one position. Read the job announcements and qualifications carefully because they vary from job to job. If you really want to work for the federal government, consider applying for positions that are in an agency, discipline, and/or location that may not be your first choice. Once you have your first federal job and have gained some work experience, you can always apply for positions in your chosen career field and where you have always wanted to work.


Focus on the Application
  • Be as brief as possible, but include all applicable information.
  • For paid positions, describe your past and current positions in your resume or CV – describe each position in one or more paragraphs. Unlike resumes for private industry, most resumes for federal jobs are much longer because they need to include details that substantiate that you have the required experience.
  • Make sure and adequately address all of your experience related to the duties listed in the job announcement in your resume. Besides summarizing your skills and knowledge, your resume is an excellent way for the hiring official see your communication and writing skills. Organizing your resume by the knowledge, skills, and abilities shown in the job announcement is an easy way for the selecting official to determine if you are qualified for the position. Make sure and spell check your application and resume!
  • When filling out the on-line occupational questionnaire consider all of your experience—volunteer, informal, and paid work experience. You are asked to rate your skills and abilities. Be honest and don’t underestimate your skills and experience. If you do not rate high on the questionnaire, your application will not be forwarded to the selecting official. Your ratings must be supported by information in your resume or the score you gave yourself may be changed by the HR Specialist reviewing your application.
  • Don’t limit the list of skills listed in your application to only academic skills. The NPS often needs people with many skills, and experiences including: operating 4-wheel drive vehicles, ATVs, or boats; mountain biking; horseback riding; backpacking; skiing; snowshoeing; swimming; first aid, CPR, SCUBA, EMT, or wild land fire fighting (Red Card certification); expertise in GIS and GPS; teaching or presenting information to all levels of the general public, including experience communicating scientific information to non-scientists, managers, and technical experts, etc. Also list job-related skills on your application (e.g., oral/written foreign language skills, expertise using computer software/hardware, tools, machinery); current job related certifications and licenses; and job related honors, awards, and special accomplishments (e.g., publications, memberships in professional or honor societies, leadership activities, public speaking, and performance awards).
  • You are likely competing with many people for a job that will require a great deal of teamwork. Where applicable, stress that you are a team player on your application.
  • Include exact dates of your previous employment, instead of simply stating the month and year. If you are selected for the job this will help the federal agency give you credit for all of the time that you worked and could even bump you in to a higher pay grade.
  • Ask yourself if your application reflects your knowledge and personality. Emphasize what makes you the person the selecting official wants to hire.

Be Persistent in Your Job Search

Apply for all of the positions that you qualify for and are interested in pursuing. Some positions may have thousands of applicants, while others may only have a few. Be persistent because a career with the federal government is the experience of a lifetime and well worth the effort!


Good luck and we hope to see you in the National Parks!

Last updated: October 20, 2017

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