Career Story: Environmental Education Specialist At A National Park

Environmental Education Specialist At A National Park

Job Title: Program Manager For Environmental Education

Type of Company: The United States Forest Service. Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area is one of the properties we manage.

Education: BA, Geography, Humboldt University (Arcata, CA)

Previous Experience: I worked at the Grand Canyon as a maid, volunteered there for the National Park Service then got a seasonal job in resources, fee collection and finally interpretation. After 10 years of seasonal jobs, I got a permanent job in interpretation with the Forest Service.

Job Tasks: I supervise three permanent employees who manage environmental education facilities. I am responsible for the budget and overall program management and for the oversight of all environmental education and interpretive programs and facilities at the park where I am stationed. I help in planning and I develop partnerships. I coordinate the annual customer service training for our front-liners at campgrounds, reception centers, gift shops, etc. I work with our non-profit interpretive association, Friends of LBL, whose employees staff our environmental education facilities. I help run the field trip grant program, reviewing applications and allocating funds to public school teachers. I do a lot of paperwork, conveying our accomplishments to our regional and national offices through reports and database entries.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: Best part is working with excellent staff and contributing to the ongoing effort to enhance public concern for the environment. Helping people discover and value their relationship with nature is a worthwhile accomplishment. Our student programs are excellent opportunities and our family programs are great too.

The worst part is struggling with low budgets. There is never enough money to do what we can dream up.

Still, I have great flexibility in work hours, can work in the office or help out at public events and have excellent support for our program at this site.

Job Tips: Take courses in Environmental Interpretation.

Learn natural and cultural history and polish your communication skills.

Join the National Association for Interpretation and the Environmental Education Association in your state.

Use www.usajobs.gov to find federal jobs.

Take advantage of opportunities to gain leadership skills as well.

Additional Thoughts: If what you love to do is give programs to the public, to children and families, you will spend less and less time doing what you love and more time organizing, managing, supervising, coordinating and reporting. The higher paid jobs move up in scope and responsibility and away from doing the actual programs. It's a bit like the difference between being a principal or a teacher.

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