Similar Titles

Park Superintendent, Park Operations Manager, Park Director, Park Administrator, Park Supervisor, Park Coordinator, Park Facilities Manager, Park Conservation Manager, Park Recreation Manager, Park Services Manager, Theme Park Director

Job Description

When the daily grind starts to stress us out, we seek peace and refuge at our local and national parks. These public spaces can vary greatly in size, with the largest (by far) being Alaska’s 13.2-million-acre Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve. Whether big or small, all parks require regular upkeep to maintain their aesthetic beauty and ensure the safety of visitors as well as wildlife inhabitants. The people charged with these tasks are called Park Managers! 

Of course, Park Managers can’t do it all alone. They oversee employees and volunteers who work to maintain the park grounds and any permanent facilities or structures present on the land. Many parks feature play structures, restrooms, campsites, or even visitor centers that must be staffed and managed. There may also be park access to rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water, which can increase the manager’s scope of responsibilities!

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Getting to spend time outdoors in beautiful settings, working with nature
  • Helping to maintain public spaces where people can come to unwind 
  • Contributing to environmentalism by protecting natural habitats
The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities

Working Schedule

  • Park Managers work at least full-time, with overtime possible when problems arise such as damage or safety concerns. The job entails lots of standing, walking, or kneeling. Expect exposure to various climate conditions, including heat, humidity, dampness, rain, and storms. Park Managers face the risk of encounters with wildlife. Travel may be necessary if assigned to manage multiple parks. 

Typical Duties

  • Oversee maintenance and operations of parks, campgrounds, and facilities for recreational, educational, and professional use
  • Ensure visitor safety, comfort, and enjoyment to include suitable recreational activities and access to walking paths
  • Monitor proper fencing off of restricted areas such as hazardous cliffs or places where animals may dwell
  • Safeguard and preserve natural habitats, landmarks, or archaeological sites in accordance with local, state, or federal mandates. Posts proper signage and warnings
  • Protect wildlife and conservation areas from undue disturbance by visitors. Engage with conservation agencies, wildlife biologists, foresters, and other experts 
  • Manage budgets, establish short and long-term goals, and generate action plans to boost revenue
  • Stay in communication with employees reporting conditions and status updates from other stations
  • Review receipts and vouchers, proposed purchases, inventory lists, and plans for renovations, upgrades, or other construction
  • Collaborate with stakeholders, designers, and engineers on construction planning. Ensure suitable equipment is used and environmental impacts are minimized 
  • Maintain community relations with volunteers groups; serve as the public representative of the park
  • Liaison as needed with appropriate governmental agencies such as the Natural Resource Conservation Service
  • Negotiate and review agreements and contracts with contractors, vendors, concessionaires, and farmers
  • Schedule inspections of campgrounds, boat ramps, picnic areas, and other sites
  • Maintain oversight of equipment and vehicle fleets
  • Ensure adequate utilities such as water, heating, cooling, power, trash collection, and Internet service
  • Review educational and cultural programs and activities offered 

Additional Responsibilities

  • Serve as liaison to law enforcement agencies and emergency first responders. Guide response efforts, as necessary
  • Manage, train, and supervise assigned staff members, seasonal workers, and volunteers. Oversee processes for allowing incarcerated individuals assigned to work details
  • Organize or help with events, tours, and activities
  • Share information with the public via website updates, social media posts, open houses, flyers, and public announcements 
  • Reply to requests from the public via email, phone, or in writing
  • Aid with Geographic Information System (GIS) and Global Positioning System (GPS) results
  • Enforce park policies and issue citations for violations 
Skills Needed on the Job

Soft Skills

  • Analytical
  • Budget-conscious 
  • Coordinating and instructing skills 
  • Detail-oriented
  • Initiative
  • Integrity
  • Leadership and management skills
  • Organizational skills
  • Patience
  • Practicality 
  • Public relations
  • Quality assurance mindset
  • Reliable 
  • Resourcefulness
  • Sound judgment and decision-making
  • Strong communication skills, including active listening and negotiation

Technical Skills

  • Basic knowledge of budgeting, accounting, bookkeeping, records management, and office applications such as Microsoft Suite 
  • Familiarity with common heavy machinery and equipment used in parks and nature preserves 
  • Familiarity with contracts and agreements
  • First aid, CPR, and emergency management and response
  • Knowledge of animal and plant diseases and pest management
  • Knowledge of human resources, payroll, worker rights, applicable safety standards and regulations, and facilities management
  • Knowledge of irrigation systems, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides (and their safe application), and general horticulture
  • Knowledge of natural science and applicable conservation practices
  • Project management skills 
  • Stamina
Different Types of Organizations
  • Local, state, and national parks
Expectations and Sacrifices

Park Managers are entrusted with both public safety and the preservation of natural habitats. They must ensure visitors have safe, pleasant experiences while minimizing a human impact on local plant and animal species. Many parks feature play areas for children, with structures such as swings, slides, jungle gyms, and other equipment that must be vigilantly maintained to protect users from injury. 

Meanwhile, parks with camping sites bear an inherent risk of wildfires, as many campers are negligent and leave fires unattended or discard burning cigarettes. The National Park Service notes that 85% of wildland fires are caused by humans. These devastating incidents wipe out millions of acres as well as millions of animals every year. From 2021-2022, “wildfires accounted for over $11.2 billion in damage across the United States,” per Bankrate. Park Managers often have limited control over such occurrences, but they must do everything in their power to prevent them. 

Current Trends

You might not realize it, but there’s a lot going on in the world of parks and parks management! In urban areas, rising heat levels are being combated by incorporating parks and other green spaces. Meanwhile, the industry has been impacted by the loss of many part-time staff and other workers leaving crucial positions unfilled. 

More and more, technology is finding its way into parks (as it does with every aspect of our lives!). From wheeled robots delivering food to commercial drones scouting out hard-to-access areas, there’s apparently no escaping tech! 

Two major acts of government are behind many changes in the field—the Great American Outdoors Act in 2020, which “permanently funds the Land and Water Conservation Act at $900 million annually” and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, providing billions of dollars for “land acquisition, park and recreation planning, and infrastructure maintenance, repair, and development.” 

What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were younger…

Park Managers come from all sorts of backgrounds! Many spent their childhoods playing outdoors, often visiting parks and campgrounds with their families. However, some rarely set foot in parks yet has a keen interest in public safety, recreation, environmentalism, plants, and wildlife. 

It takes a broad range of skills to effectively manage a park, especially a very large one or one that features facilities, water access, camping spots, or inherent risks such as dangerous animals living within the vicinity where the public has access. Park Managers must be extremely reliable and responsible individuals, which are traits they likely developed early on at school or at home. 

Education and Training Needed
  • Park Managers usually have a bachelor’s degree in park and recreation management, natural resource management, earth sciences, or natural sciences
  • Other common majors include law enforcement, business, management, and accounting
  • Some students are able to land jobs with only an associate’s degree, but they may have ample prior work experience or may have climbed the ladder up from other positions
    • Practical experience from related work history is often necessary. This includes management, human resources, payroll, and supervisory experience 
    • Many Park Managers are also Certified Management Accountants
  • Training in First Aid, CPR, and AED is generally beneficial 
  • Common physical requirements include the ability to stand, walk, bend, and kneel for long periods
  • A current driver’s license is a typical requirement 
  • Certs offered by the National Recreation and Park Association can give you a competitive boost:
    • Aquatic Facility Operator Certification
    • Certified Park and Recreation Executive
    • Certified Park and Recreation Professional
    • Certified Playground Safety Inspector Certification
Things to look for in an University
  • Check out graduation rates and try to find information from alumni. See what they’re up to, post-graduation!
  • Consider the cost of tuition, discounts, and local scholarship opportunities (in addition to federal aid)
  • Think about your schedule and flexibility, when deciding whether to enroll in an on-campus, online, or hybrid program
Things to do in High School and College
  • Park Managers should have a good understanding of natural sciences, including geology, biology, botany, zoology, and microbiology
  • They also need basic math and accounting skills, strong communications skills, and experience with project and personnel management
  • To hone soft skills such as leadership and management, volunteer for extracurricular activities 
  • Learn about finances and budgeting by serving as a treasurer for clubs in school 
  • Read articles and watch videos related to parks, wildlife and plant species, common equipment used, worker and visitor safety standards, and common hazards 
  • Decide what type of park you want to start with. It’s common to begin a career overseeing several small parks before trying to tackle a massive national park!
  • Talk to your local city parks department and request tours or informational interviews with managers or staff 
  • Volunteer or apply for part-time or seasonal work at a wide range of park types and sizes to learn the ropes
    • Managers need to have a good grasp of all the basic tasks being performed by workers, as well as all the activities that visitors may be involved with. Try to get experience in as many areas as possible 
    • If attending a college program, look for internship opportunities!
  • Draft up a working resume to keep track of your work and academic accomplishments
Typical Roadmap
Park Manager Roadmap
How to Land your 1st job
  • Some Park Managers move up from other positions held at the park(s) where they work. Others are hired if they have the right mix of academic credentials and work experience 
  • Having such a bachelor’s can help qualify you to manage larger parks, but many workers get started with an associate’s  
  • Practical park-related work experience is crucial, but leadership, management, business, or accounting roles can also qualify you for certain positions
  • Look for job postings on portals such as and the career pages of America’s State Parks and the National Park Service
  • GovernmentJobs and USAJOBS list many public sector job openings
    • You can also search the web for the name of your town or city’s official parks and recreation website
    • Do a Google Maps search of parks near you. Zoom out to see more, and make a list of them. Then check out their websites to see if they might list job opportunities that aren’t advertised on other sites
  • Ask your college program faculty and career center if they know of openings or have connections in the industry
  • Get permission ahead of time from anyone you plan to list as a personal reference
  • Conduct mock interviews with friends and dress suitably for job interviews
How to Climb the Ladder


  • Park Managers can move up by assuming responsibility over more or larger parks, sometimes while staying with the same employer
    • In some cases, you have to switch employers or move to a different state to advance your career!
  • If you have a bachelor’s, consider doing a master’s or a certificate to specialize further in your field
  • Apply for relevant certifications such as the Institute of Management Accountants’ Certified Management Accountant or certs offered by the National Recreation and Park Association, such as:
    • Aquatic Facility Operator Certification
    • Certified Park and Recreation Executive
    • Certified Park and Recreation Professional
    • Certified Playground Safety Inspector Certification
    • Equity in Practice Certificate Programs
    • Green Stormwater Infrastructure Certificate 
    • Marketing and Communication for Parks and Recreation Certificate 2022
    • NRPA Leadership Certificate 
  • Build strong relationships with local officials and communities, visitors, volunteers, stakeholders, contractors, and vendors
  • Stay on top of changes in the industry including revised regulations, technological advancements, and trends. Read updates from the National Recreation and Park Association and other news sources
  • Take advantage of education and training opportunities through their various schools and programs
  • Join professional organizations, attend events, offer to give lectures, and grow your network!  
Plan B

There are thousands of parks across America in need of highly-trained, enthusiastic Park Managers! But the job comes with a ton of responsibilities, including keeping visitors safe, protecting wildlife and plant species, preserving historic and cultural areas, and maintaining good relations with local communities. If you’re looking for a related career that requires a bit less juggling of duties, consider some of the following! 

  • Agricultural Engineer
  • Agronomist
  • Community Support Specialist 
  • Ecologist
  • Environmental Scientist
  • Fisheries Scientist
  • Horticulturist


Online Courses and Tools