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Growing up in Los Angeles, Scott Gediman’s family vacations to Yosemite National Park were a dream. He couldn’t wait for the trips and idolized the park rangers. He went to every ranger show and program he could find, and planned his life path to get to that position. Gediman has wanted to be a ranger for Yosemite National Park as long as he can remember—and that’s exactly what he did. Gediman started his career in the park system more than 25 years ago as a seasonal ranger in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and then moved on to the Yosemite National Park shortly after as their public affairs ranger.
“I get a lot of pride and satisfaction out of my job,” Ranger Gediman says. “I love the National Parks and firmly believe in the what they are and what they stand for. I’m still so excited about it after 25 years—for me, it’s being able to combine my personal passions with my profession.”
So how does one become a ranger? Here are Gediman’s top tips:
With so many different positions available in the parks—archeologists, police officers, tour guides—different degrees can work in your favor. Whether it’s a degree in history, biology, or botany, or more along the lines of forestry, parks and recreations, or degrees in interpretation, the parks are very flexible and strive for diversity and different ways of thinking. Gediman chose to major in journalism-public relations with a minor in outdoor recreation.
“If someone wants to be a park ranger and has a specific area of interest within the park ranger profession, having that as major or minor as study certainly helps and provides the background,” he says.
Whether you are starting from university or are looking to change up careers, the best way to get started is to volunteer. Not only does it show that you are passionate and caring for the community, but it also gets you connected. Start with volunteer positions, then looks for seasonal positions which can lead to the coveted permanent positions.
If you are in school, check out the Pathways Progam, which helps find internships and positions for students and recent grads. There is also the Student Conservation Association, which connects students with hands-on environmental work. Other programs include the Youth Conservation Corps, AmeriCorps, and the California Conservation Corps.
Working in the parks isn’t a job for those who just want to get by, day to day. Getting a park job requires persistence, creativity, and flexibility. You need determination to keep applying and volunteering, and know that getting the job you want might not be a direct path—maybe you went to school for the job like Gediman did, or perhaps you are quitting your accounting job and want something more rewarding. Either way, working for the National Parks is an ideal way to enjoy your day job, and get to meet and talk to so many passionate people.
“People should be comfortable working and talking with a lot of different people. You need good communication skills, especially if you are at a big park like Yosemite, with more than four millions visitors each year,” Gediman says. Plus, when your dream job comes true and you get that ranger gear and hat, you better be okay with getting stopped by visitors for a quick selfie.