How to Volunteer at a National Park

Becoming an NPS VIP Volunteer

If you're interested in becoming a VIP volunteer, you have a few options. You can search for an appropriate opportunity to match your skills and goals on the U.S. national volunteering site [source: Volunteer]. You can choose a national park from the NPS's alphabetical list and inquire directly with the park about volunteer opportunities [source: NPS Volunteer Opportunities]. Or you can find volunteer opportunities at the national parks in your state. In this case, you'll apply through your state's office of national parks.

Depending on the position, you may be subject to a background check, including fingerprinting. Some parks have highly valuable historic artifacts -- or mineral deposits -- and some positions involve working with children or helping get medical assistance to stranded campers, so the background check is in everyone's best interest.

It may help to have some of your own equipment, though it isn't always necessary. Because of the remote locations of some parks, certain opportunities may require you to own a vehicle or have a state driver's license. Being a volunteer ranger may involve owning your own recreational vehicle (RV) or -- depending on the park -- your own all-terrain vehicle (ATV) or snowmobile. Being a volunteer computer programmer, on the other hand, might involve no equipment more demanding than your own laptop.

If you're volunteering for a position that involves specific skills or training (such as programming computers), expect to provide a resume demonstrating your experience and education. Of course, you'll receive some training and orientation from the NPS, but your own years of experience are important.

On the next page, we'll look at some special opportunities for volunteers in the National Parks.