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Park Naturalists

At a Glance

  • Develop a variety of educational programs
  • Study the animals and plants in parks
  • Work outdoors and indoors
  • Typically work a standard work week
  • Have a bachelor's degree
  • Work for government agencies

Career summary

Park naturalists develop programs to teach park visitors about natural areas.

#No alternate titles to add CJ

Park naturalists research park environments and develop educational programs. These programs teach visitors about the historical, cultural, or environmental history of parks. Naturalists use several methods to deliver information to the public. They lead park programs such as nature walks, outdoor skills, or nature crafts. They visit school classrooms to teach children about plants and animals. They write articles, newsletters, and press releases.

Naturalists may take pictures or videos of places in the park to create audio-visual displays. They create interactive visual displays for visitor centers. They also create handouts so visitors can take self-guided tours. All of these programs help people understand the park and its habitat.

Park naturalists study the animals and plants in parks. They keep track of the types of animals that live in parks and where they live. Naturalists also consult specialists to learn about birds or animals that may be in danger. Through these conversations, park naturalists may develop ideas that they want to use for their educational programs.

Park naturalists perform routine maintenance on park structures. At larger parks, naturalists may supervise staff during the busy summer season. At smaller parks, they may use volunteers to help lead programs. Some naturalists work at private agencies writing grants to raise money for parks.

Related careers

This career is part of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to park naturalists.

Common work activities

Park naturalists perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, park naturalists:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Park naturalists frequently:

It is important for park naturalists to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for park naturalists to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Park naturalists need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a park naturalist, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Most park naturalists have a bachelor's degree. Several fields of study provide a good background for this occupation. These include biology, forestry, and wildlife management. You can also choose history, environmental science, anthropology, or natural resource management. Some students major in education and minor in a life science program, or vice versa.

Work experience

Experience working in a park is very helpful in this field. You may need one to two years of work experience. While in college or high school, you might volunteer at a park, work for the forest service, or complete an internship.

On-the-job training

Park naturalists spend up to one month learning about their place of employment. This means you may spend time learning about specifics, such as administrative duties and park procedures.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum (external link) may be different from your state's graduation requirements (external link).

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups (PDF file) that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Employers prefer to hire park naturalists who have a bachelor's degree. Some employers may accept experience as a substitute for education. They may also accept a combination of education and experience. Employers look for people who have experience interpreting and presenting cultural, environmental, and natural history. They prefer applicants who know the plants and animals of the park. Employers look for applicants who can organize and plan special events.

Park naturalists must get along well with all types of people. They work with people of all age groups. They also need to answer visitors' questions and speak to large groups. Park naturalists need good writing skills. They must write interesting and educational handouts, as well as newsletters that spur people's interest in getting involved. Some employers may require experience working with the media.

Good physical condition and normal vision, hearing, and color perception are also required.


There is a better chance of being hired on a year-round basis if you have worked seasonally at a park and have a good work record. This is a good way to gain experience, as is volunteer or paid seasonal jobs in related fields. Competition for seasonal positions in national parks is less keen for smaller, lesser-known parks and for jobs in the winter. Be willing to relocate, since federal park naturalists may be assigned to different parks throughout the country. Maintenance skills are helpful for some positions. Gain as much experience as possible in related job fields such as a student volunteer or student conservation aide. Look for seasonal positions in fire fighting or fee collection to gain experience.

Costs to workers

Some park naturalists are required to join a union and pay an initiation fee and monthly dues.


Federal park naturalists, who also have park ranger duties, must have law enforcement training and carry a firearm.

#Called WA State Parks and Recreation Commission 4/16/03 and spoke to George Price. He said the state has a job classification for park ranger and one for park interpretive specialist. He felt the latter may be the closest match to this WOIS description. An interpretive specialist is not a commissioned officer and is not required to have law enforcement training and carry a gun.cj

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Conservation scientists (SOC 19-1031)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $21.92 $24.52 $27.73 $35.49 $42.34
Monthly $3,799 $4,249 $4,806 $6,150 $7,338
Yearly $45,590 $51,010 $57,680 $73,810 $88,060
    Bellingham Hourly $21.80 $24.33 $26.83 $28.83 $30.56
Monthly $3,778 $4,216 $4,650 $4,996 $5,296
Yearly $45,347 $50,589 $55,807 $59,977 $63,563
    Longview Hourly $23.13 $24.95 $27.53 $28.21 $36.10
Monthly $4,008 $4,324 $4,771 $4,889 $6,256
Yearly $48,104 $51,892 $57,273 $58,679 $75,093
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly $23.13 $24.95 $27.53 $30.42 $39.84
Monthly $4,008 $4,324 $4,771 $5,272 $6,904
Yearly $48,109 $51,892 $57,274 $63,269 $82,874
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $23.14 $26.83 $32.71 $36.11 $39.84
Monthly $4,010 $4,650 $5,669 $6,258 $6,904
Yearly $48,119 $55,813 $68,042 $75,097 $82,878
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $23.74 $26.99 $35.93 $48.84 $64.10
Monthly $4,114 $4,677 $6,227 $8,464 $11,109
Yearly $49,373 $56,143 $74,755 $101,568 $133,311
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $22.12 $24.32 $28.20 $37.94 $44.27
Monthly $3,833 $4,215 $4,887 $6,575 $7,672
Yearly $46,005 $50,588 $58,669 $78,909 $92,072
    Vancouver Hourly $25.56 $32.13 $41.94 $49.86 $70.89
Monthly $4,430 $5,568 $7,268 $8,641 $12,285
Yearly $53,164 $66,824 $87,221 $103,710 $147,461
    Walla Walla Hourly $25.57 $27.54 $29.95 $32.94 $37.09
Monthly $4,431 $4,773 $5,190 $5,709 $6,428
Yearly $53,183 $57,292 $62,299 $68,523 $77,152
    Wenatchee Hourly $22.60 $27.47 $31.82 $36.94 $45.65
Monthly $3,917 $4,761 $5,514 $6,402 $7,911
Yearly $47,010 $57,129 $66,197 $76,832 $94,945
    Yakima Hourly $22.20 $24.96 $27.54 $30.95 $37.02
Monthly $3,847 $4,326 $4,773 $5,364 $6,416
Yearly $46,184 $51,902 $57,278 $64,371 $77,006
United States Hourly $16.35 $22.22 $29.48 $38.27 $47.33
Monthly $2,833 $3,851 $5,109 $6,632 $8,202
Yearly $34,020 $46,210 $61,310 $79,600 $98,450

Wages tend to be higher in some states than others. This depends on how much money the state or local government puts into their natural resources budget. Private agencies tend to pay higher wages than the government. However, some government agencies also offer housing and transportation as part of their pay.

Park naturalists usually receive benefits. Typical benefits include sick leave, paid vacation, health insurance, and a retirement plan.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Conservation Scientists (SOC 19-1031)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 1,002 9.0% 16.1% 103
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 115 13.0% 13.4% 13
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 59 6.8% 8.6% 5
    Benton and Franklin Counties 14 7.1% 15.0% 1
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 43 2.3% 11.9% 4
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 68 10.3% 15.2% 8
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 332 7.8% 14.1% 33
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 98 9.2% 14.6% 10
    King County 102 11.8% 19.6% 11
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 86 2.3% 13.8% 7
    Pierce County 23 4.3% 15.2% 2
    Snohomish County 25 8.0% 12.4% 2
    Spokane County 34 5.9% 13.9% 3
United States 23,800 3.8% 5.2% 2,600

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation is growing about as fast as average. Nationally, there is an increased interest in preserving the nation's natural areas and parks. Many people are expected to donate money to private agencies that manage natural areas. This may increase the number of jobs. However, park naturalist is one of the first jobs to be cut when government agencies need to reduce their budgets. Thus, the number of job openings for park naturalists may be limited.

Job openings occur as people retire from the occupation.

Other resources

American Historical Association (external link)
777 6th St NW, 11th floor
Washington, DC 20001
American Society of Plant Biologists (external link)
Association for Experiential Education (external link)
PO Box 13246
Denver, CO 80201-4646
Association of National Park Rangers (external link)
PO Box 151432
Alexandria, VA 22315
Botanical Society of America (external link)
4344 Shaw Blvd
St. Louis, MO 63110
Careers in Botany (external link)
(from The Botanical Society of America)
Ecological Society of America (external link)
1990 M Street NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20036
Explore Ecology as a Career (external link)
National Association for Interpretation (external link)
230 Cherry Street, Ste 200
Fort Collins, CO 80521
National Park Service (external link)
Pacific West Region
333 Bush Street, Suite 500
San Francisco, CA 94104
National Recreation and Park Association (external link)
22377 Belmont Ridge Road
Ashburn, VA 20148
National Science Teachers Association (external link)
1840 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22201
The Wildlife Society (external link)
425 Barlow Place, Suite 200
Bethesda, MD 20814
US Fish and Wildlife Service (external link)
USDA Forest Service Research & Development (external link)
Washington Recreation and Park Association (external link)
2150 North 107th Street, Suite 205
Seattle, WA 98133


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupation

Holland occupational cluster