Odd Jobs

2 people playing jazz music outside

Help Wanted Behind The Sceneries

When you think of working for the National Park Service you probably think of that we-mean-business ranger hat and badge.

But there is far more to the parks than just the rangers who help us with directions, remind us to lock our trash and tell us which ivy is the poisonous one. Turns out, there are just about 250,000 U.S. national park volunteers. Divide that by ten and you get the number of U.S. national park employees. And not all of them can wear the fancy hat. A look into some of the more niche jobs and volunteer positions that help to keep national parks national parks. 

Photo of sound equipment in a national park. Snow covered mountains are in the background behind a scene of open plains and rivers.

Acoustic Biologist

JOB DESCRIPTION: Also known as bioacoustics. A researcher who studies sounds made by or affecting living creatures. But some animals don’t make sounds to communicate. Entering boss level. After deciphering and understanding how and why certain animals make certain sounds, the acoustic biologist’s job is to help protect these species in their natural environment. Talk about bionic hearing. 

QUALIFICATIONS: Bachelor’s degree in biology or related field, along with a few years of experience in your specialized field. Ability to communicate via echolocation is encouraged, but not required, although it is the ideal way to beat the boss level. 

Field Crew Leader

JOB DESCRIPTION: Your office is the great outdoors. Beats a cubicle any day. As a field crew leader, your job is to travel to different national parks and collect data to understand the health of water, vegetation, and other natural resources. You share the data with park managers to make sure they have the resources to preserve these treasured places. 

QUALIFICATIONS: A degree in biology, ecology or natural resources along with a pretty solid sense of direction. Can’t lead people well if you don’t know where you’re going. At least half a year of some sort of leadership experience and knowledge on which berries you shouldn’t eat. 


JOB DESCRIPTION: The Grand Canyon’s Astronomer in Residence program allows astronomers of all levels to practice and gain experience. Stargazing on steroids. Amateur astronomers give informative talks and telescope demonstrations to guests, astrophotographers provide time lapses and photographs for the park’s social media, and scientists can research and publish pieces in the Grand Canyon’s magazine Canyon Views. 

QUALIFICATIONS: Bachelor’s degree in astronomy and maybe a Masters, depending on your program. Knowledge of zodiac compatibility and birth charts does not qualify you for this job. 

Photo of sled dogs running in the show with a musher being pulled.

Sled Dog Handler at Denali National Park

JOB DESCRIPTION: Denali dogs are the only sled dogs in the U.S. that help protect a national park. As the sled dog handler, you get to train and race them, which is known as “mushing.” Once trained, all you have to do is yell “mush,” and the dogs will start pulling the sled. Like a Jet Ski with fur. 

QUALIFICATIONS: Little to none. Some mushers actually prefer that you have no experience so they can teach you their specific way of training the dogs. Must be good with animals and have to be hardcore enough to know how to operate basic tools and a four-wheeler. 

Wildlife Vet

JOB DESCRIPTION: A doctor of all species, wildlife vets have to be prepared for anything and are on call at most times of the day, week and year. These docs deserve some credit considering animals can’t explain their symptoms. Ever treated a pronghorn with gout? 

QUALIFICATIONS: Doctor of Veterinary Medicine or the capability to talk to animals. Automatic hire if your last name is Thornberry. 

Historic Ship Rigger

JOB DESCRIPTION: Build, maintain and operate historical sailing vessels. Sounds easy enough. Except these ships are OG and are hundreds of years old. Better brush up on your history, knowledge of tying and untying knots, and the colorful vocabulary of a sailor. Depending on where you decide to work, you might get to sail them, too. 

QUALIFICATIONS: Experience sailing and rigging traditionally rigged vessels and/or you were in a past life or still are a pirate. 

Two men playing jazz music outside the Washington monument

Jazz Musician

JOB DESCRIPTION: When you think national park, jazz musician is probably one of the last jobs to come to mind. But music is celebrated in national parks more often than you might think. At places like New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park and Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, musicians keep the culture alive. Responsible for overseeing projects, organizing jam sessions, taking photos and videos of the park, and performing, jazz musicians help combine culture and nature through the power of music. 

QUALIFICATIONS: A good voice, a musical instrument and a passion for giving back. Singing isn’t everyone’s talent, but if you’re solid on the triangle, you’ve got a shot. 


JOB DESCRIPTION: A cartographer creates charts and maps to distinguish different territories and a land’s geography. You’d usually work for 40 hours a week, but could be more or less depending on the workload. Technology has made this process a little easier, taking the act of hand-drawing all of these maps out of the equation. Not only do cartographers chart out land, but also historical sites, structures and interactive exhibits. Props to the cartographer of Yellowstone, we wonder what his work week looks like. 

QUALIFICATIONS: Bachelor’s degree in cartography or GIS (geographic information systems) and a license depending on your field of study (i.e. surveyors). If you are directionally challenged and depend on a GPS, please apply to the sled dog handler position.