Park Naturalist Jobs and Training Programs

Park naturalists perform a variety of tasks at national and state parks; many focus on cultural and educational events. Learn the typical duties of a park naturalist as well as education requirements and employment information. Schools offering Sports Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

Park naturalists combine environmental science with communications, and working in the field requires some teaching, writing and researching skills. Prospective candidates can choose a combination of formal and informal education to prepare them for a career as a park naturalist.

Degrees Bachelor's degree in recreation management, environmental studies or parks and recreation
Training Internships, certificate programs, volunteering
Job Outlook 6% increase from 2016 to 2026 for conservation scientists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Exactly Is a Park Naturalist?

A park naturalist is a person who works at a state or federal park in a flexible capacity; common job duties may include reading to school children, clearing pathways and writing visitor guides. As a park naturalist, you may also lead tour groups or prepare historical information for visitors. Some park naturalists spend a considerable amount of time talking to groups of people or hiking with groups of visitors; you'll need to be in good physical shape in order to work as a park naturalist.

What Training Programs are Available?

Bachelor's degree programs in parks and recreation management may provide professional contacts or regular volunteer opportunities for students. Some programs are available online. Common coursework includes:

  • Travel and tourism
  • Communications
  • Parks and recreation finance
  • Business and marketing
  • Reading, writing and public speaking

A bachelor's degree in a related field, such as environmental studies or parks and recreation, can also be a good foundation for a career as a park naturalist. Hands-on experience through internship and volunteer training programs may be available at several national parks during the summer and fall seasons. Some of these programs are offered independently of an academic program, while others may be offered as part of a bachelor's degree program.

What About Certificate Programs?

Certificate programs are offered both online and in person. These programs provide several weeks of training in parks and recreation topics and can be taken on a credit or non-credit basis. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), park naturalists and conservation scientists usually need a bachelor's degree (www.bls.gov). However, certificate programs can provide academic training for students who have a bachelor's degree in a field other than parks and recreation management.

What Are My Career Prospects?

With a 4-year college degree in a relevant field and extensive hands-on experience as either a volunteer, intern or summer ranger, you might be a strong applicant for jobs at state and federal parks. The BLS notes that as of 2017, the median annual wages for conservation scientists - of which park naturalists are a subset - was $61,480.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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