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  • Job Opportunities in the State Parks

    Shenandoah River State Park, Assistant Park Manager Andy DavisPublic service in the local, state or federal government is a special calling that often requires sacrificing private sector earning capacity in exchange for contributing to the well-being of many. Careers in Virginia State Parks are more than just a job; they are a way of life. This is particularly so for career field positions: chief rangers, assistant managers, park managers and district managers. These positions not only work in the parks; they also live there.

    Park positions may not be what you’d expect. In many cases, operating a park is similar to running a small city. The staff performs various duties, including natural resource management, visitor services, law enforcement, water and waste water treatment, facility management and repairs, occupational safety, human resources, financial management and so forth. The old saying “Jack of All Trades and Master of None” comes to mind, but, in our case, staffers must be “Masters of All Trades.” Park management is a challenging career that provides an unmatched work environment in and around some of Virginia’s most spectacular natural and cultural resources.

    If you are a youngster interested in exploring the possibility of a career in our parks, consider a seasonal position in one of our parks. Shendandoah River State Park Park Ranger Lisa Bashford, Chief Ranger Brett Clawson and staff building an accessible trail.There are many such positions, from maintenance to customer service to lifeguarding, which will give you a taste of working in our parks. Seasonal positions are recruited and hired by the parks, so find a nearby park and contact it staff to learn about opportunities and hiring deadlines. These positions are often listed also on our agency’s jobs page.

    We also have the Youth Conservation Corps, which is a three-week summer program for youth aged 14-17 who live and work in a state park.

    Park Ranger Career Development Path

    For college age students interested in a parks career, we offer the Park Ranger Career Development Path program. It’s a two to three-year intern program, held in the summer, which introduces college students to park operations and ensures that applicants are prepared for entry level management positions. Completion of the program makes individuals highly qualified to fill chief ranger positions in state parks.

    Smith Mountain Lake State Park, Assistant Park Manager Nate ClarkThose accepted into the program will spend 10 to 12 weeks each summer at a mentoring park. The student goes to a different mentoring park each summer. Program participants are paid – $12 per hour, at the moment – and park housing is provided.

    Students in this program are trained in all aspects of the Chief Ranger position. Students are evaluated on performance each session. Upon graduation from college, students may apply for a preliminary interview and physical agility test (explained below). Upon successful completion of the interview and agility test, students are entered into the applicant pool. Those who satisfactorily complete the initial summer internship are invited to continue in the program for the following year.

    Our agency has found that students completing this program gain the knowledge, skills and abilities needed for employment as a chief ranger. Those who complete this training learn about interagency functions and competencies in basic job skills. Most importantly, they gain an opportunity for a career with Virginia State Parks.

    Holliday Lake State Park, Chief Ranger Allison Weddle at a Campfire ProgramCandidates who complete the entire program are qualified to apply for a chief ranger position. DCR is not, however, obliged to hire them. Candidates will also find it helpful to develop good writing and interviewing skills for use in the application and interview process.

    Although this intern program was designed with management careers in mind, participants may also apply for other park positions, such as park ranger slots that handle maintenance. Maintenance park rangers have no law enforcement responsibilities. There are, however, park ranger positions with law enforcement responsibilities. Those interested in law enforcement positions will have a preliminary interview and must pass an agility test. The positions are handled through a distinctive pool application process. All law enforcement candidates who are selected are subject to a background check and are required to attend our law enforcement academy. Housing is not provided for park rangers.

    Contact Bryan Anderson, (804) 786-5053, bryan.anderson@dcr.virginia.gov, for more information on the Park Ranger Career Development Path program.

    Other Career Opportunities

    In addition to the career field positions, from park ranger to district manager, Virginia State Parks offers the following opportunities:

    • Chief Ranger, Interpreter (Education Specialist)
    • Office Manager or Office and Administration Specialist
    • Business Manager
    • Resource Specialist
    • Visitor Services Specialist
    • Central Office Management Positions

    And there are many various seasonal and year-round positions in our parks and central office.

    Visit our employment opportunities page for a list of all positions available at DCR.



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