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Working for the National Park Service (NPS) (Part1)

— Information Management (GIS), Biologist, Physical Scientist, Cartographer and Technical Information Specialist Jobs 

Where can you find majestic mountains, rushing waterfalls, abundant wildlife, and expansive views? All this can be found at our national parks. This is part 1 of a 3 part series about the National Park Service (NPS). The National Park Service offers exciting jobs for those who appreciate nature.


The NPS is part of the Department of Interior. On March 1, 1872, Congress established Yellowstone National Park in the Territories of Montana and Wyoming. It was considered “as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people” and placed it “under exclusive control of the Secretary of the Interior.”

Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park


In subsequent years after Yellowstone, other national parks and monuments were established. The Department of the Interior administrated the various parks and monuments. On the other hand, the War Department and the Forest Service (part of the Department of Agriculture) had oversight of other monuments, natural and historical areas. The various federal parklands at the time were not under a single unified management.

On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed into law, under the National Park Service Organic Act, the creation of the National Park Service. This formed a new federal bureau within the Department of the Interior, which would manage and protect, at that time 35 national parks and monuments and those yet to be established.

In 1933, Executive Order 1066 transferred 56 national monuments and military sites from both the Forest Service and the War Department to the NPS. There are more than 400 areas, that cover over 84 million acres in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, Saipan, and the Virgin Islands.

Congress has the authority to make additions to NPS. However, the President has the authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to proclaim national monuments or lands already under federal jurisdiction. The Secretary of the Interior, if asked by Congress can suggest additions to the park system.

More than 20,000 NPS employees have the care and oversight of 401 national park units (59 are designated as national parks) alongside communities across the United States to help preserve local history and provide recreational opportunities.

Types of Parks within the NPS

There are both urban parks and the western national parks such as the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone. The urban parks are closer to where people live. Examples of some of the big urban parks include Gateway in New York, Golden Gate in San Francisco, and national park units in the National Capital Region in DC.

Divisions within the NPS

Within each national park, there are various divisions responsible for park operations. Some of these divisions are Visitor & Resource Protection Division, which include law enforcement rangers, EMT, firefighters (wildland and structural) and park dispatch functions. Department of Interpretation facilitates educational services for both adults and children. This department runs the visitor centers and provide guided hike tours, as well as, other park ranger led activities. Another interesting department is the Science and Resource Management Division, where all the biologists and other scientific disciplines that monitor and study wildlife, vegetation, aquatic resources, and other cultural resources of a park.

The larger parks such as Yosemite or Grand Teton really operate like a city. They contain their own teachers, firefighters, and police. These parks also contain facilities such as water systems, sewer systems, roadways, etc. that are like any town. The larger parks have to accommodate millions of visitors every year and this adds to the level of complexity these parks have to handle.

Great Job Opportunities Offered by NPS

For part 1, we will first focus on information management jobs. The NPS has subdivided these jobs into three areas, computer and communications technologies, resources related computer systems (GIS), and technical information storage and retrieval.

Job Categories under Resources Related Computer Systems (GIS)

Job listings for resources related computer systems (GIS) include:

Pay for the the GS-0401/1301/1370 is $48,403.00 to $62,290.00 per year at the GS-09 level.

You must be a U.S. citizen to apply. For each of these job categories you must have at 1 year of specialized experience at a GS-7 level to be able to apply for the GS-09 level.

An applicant must be able to design, develop, and manage GIS databases and database management systems. Use of integrated computer models, along with biological and physical scientific knowledge. Manage and integrate various GIS and database management software. Implements data documentation procedures. Designs and develops GPS data dictionaries, and ensures software and data structure are compatible.

Biologist (GS-401)

You will need a bachelor’s degree relevant to biological sciences, agriculture, natural resource management, chemistry, and other related fields.

Physical Scientist (GS-1301)

A bachelor’s degree is required in any of the following disciplines of physical science, engineering, or mathematics. This includes 24 semester hours in physical science or related engineering sciences such as mechanics, dynamics, properties of materials and electronics.

Cartographer (GS-1370)

An applicant must have a degree in cartography (the making of maps or charts), or a major with at 30 semester hours in cartography or other related sciences or mathematics. The course work should include but is not limited to cartography, astronomy, computer science, land surveying, physical geography, and remote sensing. The 30 semester hours must have at least 6 but no more than 15 hours of college level non-business mathematics or statistics.

Technical Information Specialist (GS-1412)

A technical information specialist is categorized under the technical information storage and retrieval area. You must be a U.S. citizen to apply. A GS-1412 earns $63,722 to $82,840 for a GS-11 grade level. For the GS-11, you must have at least 1 year of specialized experience equivalent to the GS-09 grade level.

A technical information specialist maintains NPS information management systems, databases and information digests. They must have knowledge of practices, principles, and methods of photo research and image acquisition. You must know about copyright laws pertaining to published and unpublished artwork and photographs, original letters, memoirs and official papers. Be able to negotiate with historians, collections managers, photographers, artists, galleries, museums, and print and photography departments.

The NPS will be celebrating their centennial all throughout 2016. In part 2 of this series, we will explore the jobs of the park ranger (GS-025) and forestry technician (GS-460). In part 3 we will look at the jobs of the wildlife manager (management) and fire fighters.

Links to jobs for the following job series that are covered in this article:

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About The Author

A Pennsylvania native, Betty Boyd moved to the Tennessee Valley in 1994. She retired in early 2012 after 30 years of Government service. Boyd was an Acquisition Manager/IT Manager/ Project Manager during her 30-year career. Boyd also served as a supervisor and team leader during her career. In 2012 Boyd founded a consulting firm, Boyd Consulting Services, which offers writing services to clients and companies. For more information about these writing services see the following website: http://www.BettyBoydWriting.com/. Betty attended Athens State University, Athens, AL and received a B.B.A. in Management of Technology in 2000. She received her Masters of Science degree from Syracuse University with a concentration in Information Management in 2007. Boyd is a certified Level III contracting professional and she received a Masters level certificate in Project Management from the National Defense University in 2008.