What Does a Parks Manager Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Image shows a young man and a dog holding a map and looking out over a hilly national park. Text reads:

Image by Elise Degarmo © The Balance 2019

Parks are public spaces with or without additional facilities designed to be used by the public. Anything from a small neighborhood park to Yellowstone National Park qualifies as a park. Parks managers oversee the maintenance and operations of these parks.

Not only do parks vary in size, but they also vary in the governments that administer them. Parks managers are employed at all levels of government. The National Parks Service within the US Department of the Interior runs national parks. The individual in charge of a national park is called the superintendent; however, this article primarily focuses on parks managers at the state and local levels.

States have agencies similar to the National Parks Service that operate state parks. Cities and counties also have parks within their jurisdictions. When a city or county has parks, it usually has a park and recreation department within its organizational structure that is led by a ​parks and recreation director. The parks manager reports to this director.​

Parks Manager Duties & Responsibilities

The parks manager job duties consist of varied responsibilities, such as the following:

  • Directs the overall park operation under full delegated government authority.
  • Provides management direction and oversight for the preservation of cultural and natural resources.
  • Manages the planning, construction, and maintenance of facilities.
  • Oversees visitor and resource protection services and interpretive and educational outreach operations.
  • Manages administrative functions and cooperative relations with local, federal, regional, and tribal governments non-profit partners, local communities, and citizen groups.

A parks manager must provide a long-term vision for the park's preservation and public enjoyment, as well as leadership and motivation to staff, volunteers, partners, and the public.

Parks Manager Salary

National park manager jobs are posted as GS-13 and GS-14 positions in the federal General Schedule (GS) salary table, which is found on the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) website. As of 2019, the base salary range for a GS-13 employee is $76,687 to $99,691. The base salary range at the GS-14 pay grade is $90,621 to $117,810. For areas where the cost of living is higher than the national average, the federal government often offers locality pay to equalize employees’ buying power across geographic locations.

Since parks managers are employed at all levels of government around the country, pinning down an average salary is not easy, but government job postings almost always have a salary range attached to them. For individuals looking for employment in cities, researching salaries of parks and recreation directors in the desired geographical area can be helpful. Parks managers make a little less than their director-level bosses.

Education, Training & Certification

The parks manager position involves fulfilling education and training requirements as follows:

  • Education: Parks managers need a bachelor’s degree in natural sciences, leisure studies, landscape architecture, or a similar field. Those candidates with related experience can get a parks manager job with an unrelated bachelor’s degree.
  • Experience: A parks manager should have considerable experience working with public parks or landscape architecture. Supervisory experience is highly beneficial for parks managers at all levels of government.
  • Other requirements: In certain parts of the country, being bilingual in English and Spanish is very helpful because some of the maintenance staff may not speak English. It is incredibly challenging to supervise someone who does not speak your language. Conversely, it is challenging for such an employee as well.

Parks Manager Skills & Competencies

In addition to education and other requirements, candidates that possess the following skills may be able to perform more successfully in the job:

  • Management skills: A parks manager needs to be able to manage staff, situations, and communicate very well with a team.
  • Physical stamina: A park manager may need to walk long distances in wooded and steep areas, and work in extreme heat and cold weather.
  • Analytical skills: The parks manager must be able to analyze situations and act quickly if and when needed.
  • Critical thinking: The individual must be able to use sound judgment and reasoning to make decisions.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't follow the growth of the parks manager job specifically. However, it does follow the job growth outlook for conservation scientists and foresters. The growth in jobs is expected to be 6% for the period between 2016 and 2026. This growth rate compares to the projected 7% growth for all occupations.

Work Environment

The job is performed mainly indoors in an office setting, with occasional inspections in the field. Individuals may be subject to inclement weather, extreme temperatures, and variances in the terrain.

Work Schedule

The parks manager job is a permanent, full-time position with no eligibility for teleworking. The position may involve travel, of up to two or three nights per month.

How to Get the Job

PREPARE

Brush up your resume to highlight relevant skills and previous experience. Research the job listings on USAJOBS.gov to find out if you have the job requirements. If you have bilingual experience, this can be valuable for certain park locations.

PRACTICE

Sharpen your interviewing skills by role-playing with a family member or friend. The job requires a panel interview, and practicing ahead can help you to not feel overwhelmed.

National parks managers are selected through the normal government hiring process; however, hiring managers often involve other people in the process. In cities, other department heads or parks and recreation commission members may sit in on panel interviews. Using panel interviews helps the director gather other perspectives on the interviewed finalists.

APPLY

Navigate to the job-search resource USAJOBS.gov and search for available positions, then start the application process.

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