How to Volunteer at a National Park

Special Volunteer Opportunities

As you might expect, with so many thousands of volunteers and projects, managing NPS volunteers is a full-time job. In some cases, it's a full-time volunteer job. Some parks need Volunteer Coordinators, who manage projects and recruit, train and assign volunteer personnel. It helps to have experience in the park's major projects, especially construction and maintenance. It also helps to have certain survival skills, such as CPR certification, first-aid training and basic woodsmanship. But leadership skills and maturity are the most important qualifications you can have -- so it's fortunate that retirees constitute the largest group of NPS volunteers [source: McIntosh]. Obviously, full-time volunteer work asks a lot of a person. Therefore, some Volunteer Coordinators receive reimbursement for their basic living expenses [source: Volunteer].

Volunteers who put in more than 500 hours receive the designation of Master Volunteer Ranger. Those who put in more than 4,000 hours are named to the Presidential Volunteer Ranger Corps. That sounds like the sort of designation that would be relatively rare -- but as of 2004, more than 500 volunteers had already been named to the PVRC [source: McIntosh]. People love their national parks.

The NPS is a giant organization with a diversity of parks, opportunities and programs matched only by its diversity of needs. Nearly every skill can find a home at the NPS. There are even artist-in-residence positions and internship opportunities. Artists-in-residence provide workshops in visual art to park visitors while interns assist with research projects linked to their fields of study. Whether you want to give an hour, a week or a lifetime, you'll be able to volunteer at the NPS.

On the next page, we'll look at the volunteer opportunities available to people who aren't U.S. citizens.