Monday, February 22, 2010

Response: Getting a Job with the NPS

In my last post, while introducing you to the blog "In The Service Of Clio," I talked about how hard it is to get a job teaching history at the college level. If I failed to make the point, it's very competitive in other areas of history as well. A lot of people want to get paid for "doin' history." My friend John, who I talked about last post, responded in an email. I wanted to share with you his comments (with his permission) on applying for a job with the National Park Service (NPS):

It is just as hard getting a job with the NPS as it is teaching. During the summer we employ about maybe six graduate students as seasonal rangers and another four as interns. Many of them would love to work for the NPS once they graduate from school but for every position, (when they become available) there is usually over one hundred applicants. Some are only open to permanent, (as opposed to seasonal) NPS employees. For all positions, the Park Service considers KSAs (knowledge, skills, abilities), education, experience, and assigns a certain point value. I don't know how this works exactly but there is a system. Veterans and applicants with disabilities get an additional 5-10 points. That means that usually a recent college graduate with a bachelor’s degree, or even a master’s degree, usually isn't going to make the cut.

All hope isn't lost though. There are a couple of other ways to get in. One way is through the STEP program, where a student can work full time for the Park Service while they are going to school. While you may work the entire year through STEP, you still aren't considered a permanent, full time employee. There are no benefits except a paycheck and once school is finished you are still out of a job, but I have known a few people who have managed to stretch their time in STEP over several years and in one case, it did lead to a permanent position.

Another way to get in is through what are known as "gateway parks.” These are parks that see a lot of turnover. They are usually very popular with visitors, but are somewhat stressful and exhausting to work at. Examples of "gateway parks" are the Mall in Washington D.C., Independence Hall in Philadelphia, and Boston National Historic Park. Because they have high turnover it is a little bit easier to get a job at these parks. [Then hope to transfer to another park at a later date] However, it may be years before a position at the park that the applicant really wants to work at opens up.

While these are permanent, full time jobs with benefits, it doesn't necessarily mean you will be working the entire year. Some of these jobs are subject to furlough, which means you may only work six or nine months out of the year. Also, these are entry level GS-4/5 jobs which means you aren't making a lot of money. Unless you have a [working] spouse or some other additional income, you might not be able to get by on just an NPS paycheck. If I didn't have an Army retirement paycheck I probably couldn't do this. Considering my experience and education, I'm making a lot less than most people my age with similar backgrounds, but this is one of the best jobs in the world.

Thanks for the input, John!

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