Wilderness Connect, housed on the University of Montana campus, acknowledges that we are on the traditional lands of the Salish and Kalispel peoples, who have stewarded this land throughout many generations and are its past, present, and future caretakers.
Today, there are lots of different job openings in wilderness and many resources for job seekers. Wilderness areas are managed by people who work for one of the four federal wilderness management agencies--Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, and National Park Service. Each of these agencies has both permanent and seasonal wilderness staffs. The agencies rely on assistance from partners, such as non-profit organizations and wilderness friends groups, to steward wilderness areas. So working in wilderness can take the form of either federal or private-sector employment.
The conservation field can be hard to break into, however we strive to provide best practices for job seekers on how and where to find employment. One unique program, the Bridge Project is a public-private partnership to create an inclusive and innovative hiring pathway to close the gap between qualified potential employees and employers in the conservation field.
Although there's no one path to becoming a permanent wilderness worker, first consider making sure you have an adequate educational background by pursuing a degree in natural resources management, enrolling in an advanced certificate program, or taking free online wilderness classes. Next consider seasonal wilderness employment to gather experience before applying for permanent wilderness work. During seasonal employment, be sure to focus on building quality connections with land managers and non-profit staffs to help you transition from seasonal work to a long-term career in wilderness.
All federal wilderness jobs are advertised through USAJobs. Titles for jobs with wilderness responsibility can be diverse but can include titles like:
- Forestry Technician (wilderness/trails), Forestry Technician (wilderness), and Maintenance Worker (trails)
- Forestry Technician (recreation) and Recreation Management Specialist
- Wilderness, District and Park Ranger positions with/without special area emphasis and Field Manager
- and others that generally fall into the 400-499 Biological Sciences job series
Science related field positions are often listed as Biological Science Technician, with varying areas of emphasis (ex. wildlife, owls, fish etc.). While permanent positions can be advertised anytime, seasonal jobs often start being advertised 3-6 months before the beginning of the upcoming field season. In the desert southwest and other warmer areas, job posts can start as early as October, while in colder climates, many job posts start appearing in November through March. In November, federal agencies often conduct job fairs to prepare applicants for numerous job opening occurring that month.
If you are actively seeking work, set up USAJobs search alerts and apply immediately for openings since most job announcements are only open for a short period of time, in some cases as little as five days, and increasing number of announcements have caps on the number of applicants. Watch for and respond to outreach notices since these occur before job application processes open and indicate an upcoming vacancy. Responding to the outreach process is important because hiring managers shape the actual job advertisement based on who is interested in the job. Responses to outreach notices can determine if a job is ultimately advertised publicly or internally and the GS level that the job is advertised at.
When you apply for federal jobs, have all of your required documents--resume, educational transcripts, references etc.--collected before you apply.
General tips for applying for federal jobs include:
- Ensure you are applying for a job that is open to you.
- Fully read and understand the application process and its requirements.
- Include all required eligibility documents. Incomplete documentation is one of the top reasons applications are disqualified.
- In your resume:
- Customize it to the job for which you are applying. Don't submit a generic resume and be careful about cutting and pasting from resumes you submitted for other positions.
- Document the duration (in months or years) of prior employment and include the GS level, or the equivalent for non-federal work experience.
- Consider using a word or verb list to describe your work experience and the tasks that experience entailed in detail.
- Describe your best work to differentiate yourself from other applicants.
- If you're surprised by having not been referred or selected for a position you feel you are fully qualified for, call the hiring specialist to ask why. This will help you determine what gaps you may have in your education, experience, or other qualifications.
Non-profit wilderness employment can also be diverse, including jobs advocating for more wilderness as well as jobs stewarding existing wilderness areas. Similar to federal work, while permanent positions, such as program directors, can be advertised at any time. Seasonal jobs working for non-profit wilderness organizations are often advertised several months before the upcoming field season and can include trail crew positions, wilderness fellows positions, field monitoring positions, volunteer coordinators, and internships.
Lots of different non-profit organizations employ people to work in wilderness directly or through AmeriCorps funded 6-10 month seasonal positions including field crew leaders, youth crew leaders and field crew members. Much of the work done by these types of organizations occurs in wilderness or other wildlands. All AmeriCorps employees receive student loan payment deferment while employed and a $6000 annual education award (pro-rated based on months of service) that can be used to further education in wilderness stewardship.
- Major Federal recruitments for seasonal positions typically take place in November and again in January/February. In November, the Federal agencies often offer online "open houses" to give applicants the opportunity to talk with recruiters and human resources professionals.
- The Bridge Project annual recruitment cycle includes training/hiring events in May.
- Create an account in USAJobs and set up daily searches and email notices for Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service and National Park Service jobs that include the keyword "wilderness."
- Watch for and respond to outreach notices.
- Sign up for email notices from:
- Monitor job postings through:
- National, state or regional Conservation Corps or individual Corps like Montana Conservation Corps, Maine Conservation Corps and Southwest Conservation Corps
- American Conservation Experience (ACE staff and ACE Conservation Corps positions)
- Student Conservation Association
- Latino Outdoors Jobs Board
- High Country News Classifieds