Thursday, June 22, 2006
The harsh realities: rangering
Since I got this great job of being a seasonal ranger, I've had a few acquaintences say to me something like..."Wow man, if I knew it was that easy, I'd have applied myself." or " Heck, I'll apply for that slot (meaning MY job) next year'
The cold fact of the matter, dear ranger wanna-bee friends is, that these jobs are scarce has hens teeth. Me getting this spot was a lucky combination of three things
1. Uncommonly lucky ( story of my life)
2. Very qualified (Very, like exceptionally)
3. I was a known entity at the park through volunteering.
For those of you interested in becoming NPS park rangers you should know that there's two types of rangers:
Seasonal Rangers make up 90% of the ranger force. Seasonal rangers enter at (and stay at ) the GS-5 level which is around $14.25 per hour with no benefits (other than having the coolest job in the world. Seasonal rangers can work at the same park for twenty years and end up no further ahead (pay-wise) than they started out. Even so, these jobs are pretty scarce, and totally cool.
Status Rangers are the other 10%. These are the folks that are doing this for a full-time living. These jobs are nearly impossible to come by. Typically, someone who wants to end up as a status ranger starts out as a voulunteer and then gets a seasonal job, usually at an urban park like Philiadelphia, or Boston, or incredibly remote parks like Alaska or Guam. You've really got to pay your dues for one of these jobs. After up to seven years of working in the hinterlands you can start requesting appointments in more desireable areas and simultaneously applying for those much coveted (and rare) "status" positions. Once status is attained you've got it made - full benefits as a federal employee with the potential for a long career with a pension at the end of it. But finding the rabbit-hole that leads to a status job is like finding...well, that rabbit hole to Wonderland.
So those that think that they'll get a cool job like mine simply because a guy like me got a job like mine may be sorely mistaken. It's a maddening combination of luck, credentials, luck, and good fortune that make even a seasonal job happen.
I guess the common denominator is, once again, VOLUNTEERING!!!
If you want to be a ranger, you'd better be willing to cheerfully volunteer first and let the park get to know you...and love you.
It worked for me.
I'll keep you posted.