Internships Are A Good Way To Become A Park Ranger

Article, written by Zack Ponce, appears in the Current-Argus News. Published June 27, 2014.

Ever wonder how to pursue a career as a park ranger?

Although park rangers come from many different educational backgrounds, the journey to earn the coveted brown hat and shiny badge is arduous. Many jobs within the National Park Service are seasonal and it takes a lot of grit and dedication to continue the journey toward full-time employment.

The obstacles have not scared away one young man, who after traveling the world, has found that Southeastern New Mexico may just be the perfect place to chase a dream. Mike Gallant, an avid outdoorsman, applied for the Student Conservation Association (SCA) summer internship program with the National Park Service last year after spending nine months as a volunteer high school teacher in the South Pacific and has been working at Carlsbad Caverns ever since.

Gallant works in the education department at the Carlsbad Caverns and has helped out with many of the summer programs the national park hosts. The 23-year-old said the program so far has provided him with invaluable experience.

"If you want to get into working with public lands in the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, or just working outdoors in general, the SCA is a really great opportunity," Gallant said. "It's a great way to start your career, gain some experience, and make some connections and move forward from there."

Gallant grew up in New Hampshire where he enjoyed hiking in the surrounding mountain ranges. He majored in geology and was looking for a way to parlay his passion into a career when he learned about the SCA through a friend.

"Getting outdoors has always been a big part of my life," Gallant said. "I did a five-week field camp in New Zealand and I'd always liked hiking, but that sort of cemented it for me. It made me realize that I sort of want to incorporate the outdoors into whatever I do as a career."

The Student Conservation Association is an environmental organization that trains teenagers and young adults to become community leaders when it comes to environmental stewardship. The SCA partners with the National Park Service to offer internship opportunities to high school graduates and young adults.

Gallant encourages anyone interested to apply for the program. He has no regrets.

"At this park you can expect to be treated fairly," Gallant said. "It's very demanding but it's also very fair. You get a whole lot of support, and a lot of my co-workers began their careers with the National Park Service as SCA interns. It's a wonderful way of getting your foot in the door in the park service because it can be difficult to get that first job."

Aspiring rangers take note: A dream can't be achieved if it isn't first attempted.