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People don’t realize how much free spirited-ness goes into pursuing a National Park Ranger job. Our lives happen in 6-month intervals, never quite sure where we’re going next.
Do you love to hike? Marvel in natural wonders, learn about their flora and fauna, while meeting other outdoorsy people? Dream of Denali? Admire Arches? Yearn for Yellowstone? (Okay, I’m done, I’M DONE).
Then the lifestyle of a Park Ranger may be for you!
I never imagined it would be the career for me, but turns out this is exactly what I want to be doing with my life, for now. I get to spend half the year (the April-September summer season, though could be the winter season depending on the park) earning income in some of the most breathtaking protected lands in the country. And the rest of the year, I get to travel the world! It’s a win-win.
Do you like history more than hiking? Or technology more than trees? That’s chill, too. There are so many different types of National Park Service sites. There are battlefields, historic homes, you name it. You can return to the same park every year or mix it up.
There are a lot of different lines of work in National Parks, like interpretation (what I do), which involves guided hikes and campground programs and talking to visitors in visitor centers. There’s maintenance (what my boyfriend does), if you’re handy like that. If you’re a science geek who wants to tag bears or find fossils, try resource management. If the last thing you wanna do is get your hands dirty, work in headquarters in administration. Every park is different.
Of course, basically any other seasonal jobs foster the travel lifestyle in a similarly convenient way, but National Parks are just the best offices. And I can’t help but feel like I’m a part of something bigger than myself, protecting our public lands for future generations. This is a sentiment other rangers seem to share. So while a season at a National Park is certainly full of the typical fun seasonal job, summer-camp-for-grown-up antics like drunken nights and hookups, it’s deeper than that. I need a purpose/goal/mission; NPS work gives me that*.
*Some people also do it for the hat. It is a cool hat. But. I kind of despise all uniforms–especially militaristic government ones, ewww–with a vitriolic passion that eats away at my very core, so that is not a motivator so much as a bitter, bitter sacrifice. So it goes.
Being a Park Ranger is awesome. When you’re ready to settle down, you can try for a non-seasonal position, and that could very well be the direction my life goes in. But until then, here’s to living by the seasons!