Working in Yellowstone
The NPS and its contractors hire thousands of people to work in Yellowstone every year. Some work for just a few weeks and leave, some go to work there and never leave.
The National Park Service hires permanent and seasonal positions through the standard federal hiring process. You can find job openings listed at USAJOBS.GOV. Keep in mind that full-time federal positions in YNP (and GTNP) are very tough to come by in most cases. Positions in Grand Teton National Park can also be located through this site. If you’re interested in seasonal work for the NPS, you can visit their Seasonal Employment Information Page.
Xanterra, operator of the hotels, lodges, campgrounds, several restaurants and stores, corrals, and several other concessions within the park hires around 4,000 people over the course of the summer to fill spots in dozens of different types of positions. You can find out more about Xanterra opportunities by visiting their Yellowstone Jobs web site.
Yellowstone Park Service Stations operates seven convenience service stations and four auto maintenance facilities throughout the park, and hires approximately 100 people each summer. You can find their job listings HERE.
The Yellowstone Association hires approximately 100 staff members for their 10 bookstores, and a number of instructors and tour guides each year. You can find their job opportunities HERE.
Medcor operates the three medical clinics in Yellowstone. They hire physicians assistants and nurse practitioners each year. You can find their current opportunities listed HERE.
There is a lightly used forum for those who work in, have worked in, or are interested in working in Yellowstone. You can find it HERE.
Bear in mind that a great many employees return each year, and they generally have first crack at positions within the park. So while a particular concessioner may hire 100 people in the summer, perhaps as many as 90 of those positions will be filled by returning previous employees.
Working Conditions in Yellowstone
Housing and Meals
Most concessioners provide some form of housing for their itinerant or seasonal employees. These typically consist of dormitories, with rooms shared by two or three people. Some dorms have rooms with incorporated bathroom facilities, while some (mostly older) have communal shower and bathroom facilities. Many of the dorms have a community room with a television, microwave, etc. There is no cooking in individual rooms, and all housing is non-smoking. Most dorms now have Wi-Fi Internet access, and most have laundry facilities. There is a limited amount of rooms/cabins available for married couples as well. The only exception to these are for those who work in the Roosevelt area – housing for this area is in rustic cabins that, while they have electricity, lack running water (bathroom and shower facilities are located a short walk away).
You can find out more about the dorms and what they look like HERE.
All concession employees have a pay deduction for housing costs (about $2 a day, and includes the cost of utilities and use of the laundry facilities) and those living in dorms must participate in the meal ticket program (with a fee of about $7 – $10 a day deducted from your paycheck). In return, you’re eligible for three meals a day at one of the employee dining rooms. Keep in mind that you cannot bring family (including a spouse if s/he doesn’t work for the concessioner) or keep pets in concession housing.
In many areas of the park there are trailer parks where employees can lease space for the duration of their employment for a small daily fee (typically between $75 and $125 per two-week pay period, plus a small utilities fee in some locations). These are very limited, especially for larger motorhomes, and preference is often given to those who work for longer periods of time. If you live in your own RV, your spouse or partner may stay with you.
All concession employees are required by the National Park Service to subscribe to a medical plan that costs 60 cents per day. In exchange you get discounted medical services at the park’s clinics (though your private insurance will be expected to pick up the tab if you have it).
With respect to NPS/federal employees, some are “required occupants” (ROP) and must live within the park in NPS-provided housing (which may be a dorm, single-family residence, or multi-family residence, and for which you’ll pay a housing fee). Most seasonal employees are housed in dorms. Non-ROP federal employees (permanent and seasonal) must find their own housing (it’s not uncommon to have to live as far away as Livingston, MT).
Most employee housing areas have recreation halls, pubs, and/or other facilities for recreation, in addition to the vast expanse of Yellowstone itself, of course. Weightlifting and workout equipment are often available, as are ping pong and/or pool tables in some dorms. Many locations have basketball courts (some indoors), volleyball courts, and softball fields.
The Yellowstone Co-Operative Employee Recreation Program coordinates recreational programs available to all of the almost 5,000 seasonal employees who work in Yellowstone each summer. They arrange activities including talent shows, movie outings, hikes, fishing and kayaking trips, and a wide variety of other activities for employees. Concession employees enjoy discounts on many activities offered by other organizations within Yellowstone as well. (YCERP hires approximately 15 staff members each summer, by the way. Find out more HERE).
There is no public transportation system in Yellowstone, so if you can afford to do it, bring your own vehicle. It will allow you much more freedom to move about the park and explore on your own without having to rely on others. Some employees also bring a bicycle to help them get around between the dorms and their work sites (and for exploring the park as well).
Living in the Yellowstone Area
Yellowstone is isolated and a good two-hour drive from a city of any size. You’re not going to find a WalMart or a Target store near the park, and because you’ll be living in a tourist area, many things will be higher priced than they would be in cities further away from the park. You should bring your own toiletries and personal care items to prevent paying a premium for them in the gateway cities. There are small grocery stores located in West Yellowstone and Gardiner, but you’ll have to drive to Livingston, Bozeman, Cody, or Jackson Hole to reach larger supermarkets and stores such as K-Mart, WalMart, etc., as well as major medical services.
The weather is somewhat unique in Yellowstone as well. Even though temperatures may reach the upper 90s during the day, at night, it is not uncommon to experience temperatures in the 20s and 30s even during the middle of the summer (it’s not unheard of for it to snow in the middle of July, in fact). As a result, you’ll need to have both cold and warm weather clothing. Mosquito repellent and sunscreen are also a must.
Books, iPods/MP3 players, and personal computers can alleviate any tedium. As outlined above, most of the dorms are equipped with WiFi Internet service,which is free for employee use. Most areas have pay phones and though you should bring your own cell phone, you should be aware that cell coverage may be spotty in many areas of the park, especially away from the developed areas.
You can’t live in Yellowstone and not explore the park through hiking. Bring comfortable hiking gear, including shoes, socks, and rain gear. If you wish to camp out, be sure and bring your sleeping bag and camping gear.
A camera is a must in Yellowstone. You won’t believe how incredible the scenery is in the area, and you’ll likely encounter bears, bison, elk, wolves, and other animals that you’ll want to take photos of.
You’ll make a lot of new friends working in the park as well. The various concession operators hire people from all over the world, and you’ll experience many different cultures during your stay (through tourists in addition to coworkers). You will leave the park with a lifetime of memories.
Working through the Winter
Some NPS permanent employees are assigned to the more remote outposts. During the winter this means no easy way out of the park or to other developed areas in the park itself where you can access basic services. One recent job announcement offers a prime example of what life is like during the winter, to wit:
This position is located at Lake in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, elevation 7,750 feet, 52 miles south of park headquarters at Mammoth. Temperatures vary from an average of less than 70 degrees in the summer to sub-zero in the winter. Temperatures of -20 degrees Fahrenheit are not uncommon in winter. Lake is considered to be an isolated post and few winter employees are stationed there. The road to this location is not plowed after the first weekend in November, and the location is only reachable by snowmobile November through April. A pool of snowmobiles for personal use is available on a reservation system where reservations may be affected by other priorities. Medical services, grocery shopping, banking, entertainment, UPS, and other delivery services are NOT available in the winter in the interior of the park. The US Mail is delivered twice a week or less in winter. No schools exist in the interior. Although this isolation is acceptable to some employees, many soon find it a hardship for themselves and their families. Reassignment to Mammoth or West Yellowstone is not an option. Schools are available only at Mammoth or outside the park. Medical services, a post office, a general store, and service stations are available at Lake in the summer, generally from mid-May to mid-September. Many community services are available at Cody, Wyoming, 80 miles driving distance to the east. We strongly suggest you thoroughly investigate the winter lifestyle characteristics in Yellowstone National Park interior sites.
You can find find out more about working conditions in the park, and details about the dorms and other facilities you’d be working in on the YellowstoneWiki.