Career Definition for Park Naturalist
The goal of a park naturalist is to generate interest in the environment and natural world. Park naturalists do this by highlighting historical, ecological or scientific features of outdoor surroundings by organizing nature walks, camping trips, crafts or outdoor skills. Many visit local classrooms to introduce children to the outdoors and teach them of its importance.
|Required Education||Bachelor's in environmental education or wildlife biology|
|Job Skills||Ability to communicate with diverse audiences, experience teaching, and passion for environmental issues|
|Median Salary (2017)*||$61,480 (conservation scientists)|
|Job Growth (2016-2026)*||6% (foresters and conservation scientists)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Knowledge of the principles of natural history is required to be an informed park naturalist. Most positions require a bachelor's degree in environmental education or wildlife biology and include coursework such as environmental science, ecology, vegetation and earth science. Typically those hired on a full-time basis begin as a volunteer or seasonal worker according to the Department of Natural Resources.
A love for the environment and the ability to share that passion and knowledge with the public is the main skill required for a career as a park naturalist. It's crucial to feel comfortable making presentations, giving lectures and leading tours. Key to success as a park naturalist is an ability to identify and describe points of interests to groups in a way that will hold their interest, which is why teaching experience is also recommended.
Career and Economic Outlook
Jobs in this field are highly coveted despite their relatively low wages due to the flexibility, diversity, outdoor work environment and constant challenges and rewards. Those holding the position should be prepared to work weekends, evenings and holidays. Most park naturalists pursue this line of work for the love of nature, not money. The job outlook and pay will largely depend on the level of specialized training in environmental science, forestry, or conservation techniques.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that, as of May 2017, trained foresters brought in a median annual income of $60,120, while conservation scientists earned $61,480. There is average job growth of 6% expected for foresters and conservation scientists over the 2016-2026 decade. Much job growth is expected to be centered in state and local government-owned forest lands.
Alternate Career Options
Forest and Conservation Worker
With a high school diploma or its equivalent, in addition to on-the-job training, these workers are supervised by foresters and technicians and work towards maintaining, developing and protecting forests. An average job decline of 2% was predicted by the BLS from 2016-2026, and an annual median salary of $27,650 was reported in 2017.
Those interested in a career as a firefighter should earn a high school diploma and emergency medical technician (EMT) certification. Some locations offer apprenticeships, and extensive on-the-job training is required for all firefighters. Other certifications may also be available, and some individuals start out as volunteer firefighters. In 2017, the BLS revealed a median annual wage of $49,080 for firefighters, but predicted average job growth of 7% from 2016-2026.