National Park Service

  www.nps.gov
  www.nps.gov
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National Park Service Reviews

Updated September 8, 2014
Updated September 8, 2014
105 Reviews
3.5
105 Reviews
Rating Trends

Recommend to a friend
Approve of CEO
National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis
Jonathan B. Jarvis
43 Ratings

Review Highlights

Pros
  • Getting to work in beautiful places, historic places (in 10 reviews)

  • If you want to make a difference in preserving cultural and natural resources, then this maybe the place for you (in 4 reviews)


Cons
  • Low pay, too many desk jockeys and not enough people on the front lines (in 8 reviews)

  • The majority of jobs are temporary, and will not be extended, despite promises to the contrary (in 4 reviews)

More Highlights

Employee Reviews

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  1.  

    As a Business Plan Initiative Intern, my experience at the National Park Service was extremely satsifying.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Business Plan Initiative  in  Paicines, CA
    Former Employee - Business Plan Initiative in Paicines, CA

    I worked at National Park Service as an intern for less than a year

    Pros

    This position gave me a chance to apply my business skills gained at NYU with a mission driven organization. My project was thoroughly scoped before I arrived at the park, and I had completely support from park management and project managers throughout the summer. We were given real opportunity to have an impact on park operations and planning at a level that most interns do not experience.

    Cons

    The compensation is minimal, but most universities offer funds that students can apply for to offset living costs. Data can be very challenging to work with, but it's rewarding once you can identify solutions. You must have a sense of adventure in terms of the job requirements and the living situation - where I was located, we had no cell phone service and poor internet access, but it was beautiful!

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  2.  

    Fantastic Organization

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Consultant
    Current Employee - Consultant

    I have been working at National Park Service as an intern for less than a year

    Pros

    The National Park Service has the best mission on the planet, and it truly guides the everyday work of it's fantastic employees.

    Cons

    Finding a balance between being the premiere service organization for the enjoyment of the public, and finding ways to do so with constrained funding is the principle challenge.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
  3.  

    Keep your heart

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I have been working at National Park Service as a contractor for more than 3 years

    Pros

    Great views, great places- America's treasures and some of the most fulfilling work I have ever done.

    Cons

    governmental red tape makes it difficult to get headway. It is so difficult to get your foot in the door unless you have a special hiring authority.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
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  5.  

    Fantastic place to work (but can't stay long)

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Seasonal Interpretor  in  Berlin, MD
    Former Employee - Seasonal Interpretor in Berlin, MD

    I worked at National Park Service full-time for more than a year

    Pros

    Generally great coworkers, excellent training, opportunity to work in a beautiful place and do interesting, varied things everyday, generally pays better than naturalist/environmental education jobs in the non-profit sector, there's plenty of hiring paperwork, yes, but you are free to develop and present your own curriculum and even design new programs (once you prove your ability)

    Cons

    90% of jobs are six-month seasonal or less, come with no benefits, and leave you job searching again in no time

    Recommends
    Approves of CEO
  6.  

    6 years and no movement

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Maintenance Worker  in  Staten Island, NY
    Current Employee - Maintenance Worker in Staten Island, NY

    I have been working at National Park Service full-time for more than 5 years

    Pros

    job security. Decent pay, outdoors work.,

    Cons

    Management hires only outsiders. doesnt take care of maintenance

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Help maintenance workers with the passion to move up...move.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  7.  

    Worst job I've ever had....

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Visitor Services Assistant, National Park Service  in  Boston, MA
    Current Employee - Visitor Services Assistant, National Park Service in Boston, MA

    I have been working at National Park Service full-time for less than a year

    Pros

    Easy job with 1hr lunch.

    Cons

    Incompetent management. Morale is virtually non-existant. If you stay here, you'll be waiting for whatever crumbs the park service throws at you.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Incresae pay, promote compt=etent people into management. Change the awful culture of teh place and maybe you won't be losing a ton of people.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
  8. 2 people found this helpful  

    I feel like we're helping to accomplish something, but some days I'm not so sure...

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I have been working at National Park Service full-time

    Pros

    Aside from insurance and a retirement plan (for some), and the vacation and sick leave, the biggest "Pro" of working for the NPS is the opportunity to travel to beautiful places. This is often referred to as being "paid in scenery" or paid in sunsets". The vast majority of jobs are temporary, meaning if you want to make a career of this you'll probably end up living in several different areas before finding a permanent job.

    There are various types of jobs within the NPS, which can allow most anyone the chance to work in a park, regardless of how "outdoorsy" you are. Contrary to popular belief, Park Rangers don't just hike around all day with a big smile on their faces while thoughtfully answering questions from visitors. In fact the vast majority of positions are nothing like this. That being said, you'll find yourself quickly being pigeonholed into one particular field. If you find yourself working a position you don't like, get out. The longer you work at the fee booth, the less experience you'll gain in the botany department, and vice versa. And experience is THE key, if you haven't been paid to do it in the past then the hiring official won't care in the future.

    Cons

    The biggest "Pro" is probably also the biggest "Con", too. Being "paid in scenery" is all well and good for outdoorsy people, but your landlord very likely won't appreciate you paying your rent with "scenery". Federal employees usually wind up being paid far less than similarly qualified individuals in the private sector, so keep this in mind. It's also incredibly difficult to move up the ladder in the NPS. Lateral movement is by far the most common form of "advancement". This can get you some new "scenery" or even a new job title, but it won't often get you a pay raise. And never forget that your funding will be at the mercy of Congress, who very much appear to find Federal employees to be distasteful.

    Remember also that every park is different. They are all in different regions of the country, meaning VERY different climates and ecosystems, different towns and cities, and different employee culture. Popular and famous parks get (way) more money (seriously, some parks have heated pit-toilets, come on...), more employees, and more visitors. This means some parks get the equipment, tools, and resources they need, while others simply don't. Broken down, out-of-date equipment is NOT an uncommon sight at parks, in fact it's likely the norm. So while everyone might be clamoring to get into Yosemite or Yellowstone, bear in mind that the experience will be VERY different from that of working in Great Sand Dunes or Glacier Bay. Not just in terms of the scenery you'll be paid in but also by the workplace culture, the number of co-workers, and the sheer volume of visitors. The park you choose WILL make all the difference. But, by that same token, you'll find it far easier to secure a job by applying to all the openings you like rather than just applying to the parks you like. If you're hoping to get into a place like Rocky Mountains or Yosemite you might wait years just for a position to open.

    In terms of workplace culture, it definitely helps to be outdoorsy. Everyone will talk continuously about working, camping, and hiking. Co-workers will insist on spending essentially all free time "playing" in the park. You will be looked at funny for not having a "healthy" lunch. And fear of GMO's is rampant. Expect to be forced to spend your weekends hiking the same tired trails over and over again. If you don't like health-food eating, EXTREME™ outdoorsman for co-workers, then you might wish to look elsewhere.

    Another big "Con" is the fact this is the Government. There will be red tape, things will take longer and involve far more paperwork than is reasonable. Organization is more complex than necessary, and nepotism is RAMPANT. Please don't be surprised while working at your new park when you begin to realize that all of your co-workers in one department are married to your co-workers in another. When the new Chief of Natural Resources shows up for her first day, it won't be coincidence when her husband starts working there too, 6 months later. You can't earn raises, no matter how hard you work you will never be given a raise for it. In years past you may have gotten a bonus, but those days are long gone.

    Another big "Con" to be mindful of that has popped up recently is the fact that you most likely will not receive any kind of extra training from the NPS. In years past employees could look forward to attending many useful trainings, classes, and conferences. Not anymore. Thanks to all the budget hawks it is now virtually impossible to be approved for any training. Unless of course you're a supervisor, as they seem to be perpetually attending interesting trainings across the country. Which brings me to my next "Con":

    You WILL be treated differently. Not all positions or departments are created equally. Supervisors will be pampered, given any training opportunity they ask for, and will generally not have to perform anything in the way of actual labor. Fire fighters and law enforcement are similarly babied, receiving basically any and all equipment and funds they ask for, although they do actually get out in the field and work for it. Science-related departments depend on grants for money, they are often forced to buy low-quality equipment and are generally denied opportunities for training or advancement. Seasonal positions usually have it the worst. Aside from not getting the same financial benefits as TERM and Permanent positions, they are also regularly laid-off, denied an NPS badge (as are all maintenance workers, what's up with that subtle mark of inferiority, NPS??), and treated more as rental equipment than human beings.

    At the end of the day most of the work is manual labor. You won't be taking nature hikes, photographing grizzlies, pressing flowers, or confiscating picnic baskets. Instead you'll likely be digging holes, cutting brush, splitting rocks by hand, hauling dirt or water, or any number of laborious tasks. If you went to college for the sciences you may indeed begin to wonder why you bothered. While most Federal jobs pretend like they require degrees, the fact is the vast majority do not, and will not involve work that would actually require that knowledge. You may help in setting up scientific experiments or monitoring stations, but you'll be doing just that: setting up, someone else will get to do the fun parts and take credit in the journal or at the conference. (Usually your supervisor, who despite complaining about being trapped inside all day never seems to make any effort to get to the field)

    Working at the NPS is really no different than any other job, there's a few things to like, lot's of things to dislike, and too much time spent doing things that seem redundant and keep you from engaging in the fun things you signed up for in the first place. If you're truly interested, give it a try, you'll most likely start out as a seasonal (or even more likely as a volunteer) so if you don't like it you won't even have to do it long.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    TRAINING. If you want us to do our jobs better, you have to give us the resources to improve. Let us have a proper work/life balance, not everything is about community outreach, we're tired from working during the week, we don't want to be forced to come out on the weekends to glad-hand visitors too. Pay us a decent wage, we do the same work as those in the private sector, and often people with different pay-grades work together in groups doing the same tasks but being paid different rates. A field-leader, 2 technicians, 2 seasonals, and an intern all breaking the same rocks ought to all be paid the same wages.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  9.  

    If you want an easy job and don't care about workplace satisfaction, sign up. If you have goals, stay away.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I worked at National Park Service full-time for more than 3 years

    Pros

    Nice community, working outside a plus. Benefits are okay but the whole federal benefits thing is overrated.

    Cons

    too much red tape. The ignorant get promoted. Doing a good job is career suicide. You get jerked around a lot if you're a temp hoping for full time. Prepare to hear lots of excuses. Sexist and racist, overtly so, without any real way to complain. Being outside and being able to run away from management is the only thing that makes this toerlate.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    I don't think anything can be done because these problems are so engrained in the system.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  10.  

    Great place for summer

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - IT Intern  in  Tacoma, WA
    Current Employee - IT Intern in Tacoma, WA

    I have been working at National Park Service as an intern for less than a year

    Pros

    Beautiful place to work and people there are so friendly. For summer, a lot of volunteers come to help.

    Cons

    Too far from city. No network access. Sometimes, you need to be careful that you may meet some animals such as the mountain lion.

    Recommends
    No opinion of CEO
  11.  

    Only if you could move up...

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Visitor Use Assistant  in  Bar Harbor, ME
    Current Employee - Visitor Use Assistant in Bar Harbor, ME

    I have been working at National Park Service part-time for less than a year

    Pros

    Living in some of the most beautiful, scenic, wonderful places in the country.

    Cons

    It is really hard to move pass GS 5, and unfortunately that is not a livable wage. In certain regions, you need to be careful disclosing you are a federal park ranger because some locals disapprove of NPS. Another thing is being tied to Congress, for example the government shut down.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO

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