What California jobsites hosted more than 78 million visitors last year? Amusement parks? Not even close. State parks entertained more visitors than Disneyland, Disney’s California Adventure, Knott’s Berry Farm, Universal Studios, and Six Flags Magic Mountain combined, which attracted 31.3 million guests, according to the California Travel and Tourism Commission.
State parks include many of the state’s beaches, reservoirs, natural reserves, mountains, museums, and vehicular recreation areas. The Parks Department employs a diverse array of specialists, including land surveyors, archeologists, historians, museum curators, interpreters, restoration specialists, environmental scientists, biologists, graphic designers, engineers, maintenance workers, law enforcement officers, and many others.
"We have 4000 employees, so the hiring is ongoing," reports Sheryl Watson, information officer with the California Parks Dept. "With 278 state parks, a wide variety of occupations and locations are available."
"People come to work for California State Parks for many of the same reasons that people from around the world vacation in California," she says. "We enjoy being a part of the natural, cultural and historical landscape that makes California great. The positions here are so varied that there is something for everyone."
Park rangers, recognizable with their wide-brimmed hats and olive uniforms, safeguard visitors and the parks’ natural resources, as well as providing public education and interpretive walks.
"Our mission statement says it all," notes watson. "The California Department of Parks and Recreation provides for the health, inspiration and education of the people of California by helping to preserve the state’s extraordinary biological diversity, protecting its most valued natural and cultural resources, and creating opportunities for high-quality outdoor recreation."
Watson says some of the things that make the department so attractive include the rich cultural history of our museums and historic parks, a commitment to protecting the environment, and the breadth of recreational activities that are offered among the vistas and valleys, mountains and deserts.
You can find a wide variety of occupations and locations, as well as their requirements, available online at parks.ca.gov (click on ‘Jobs’). These are state employment positions, so examinations are required. Some of the required training is offered at California State Parks training centers.
Recreation folks working in Tracy have the additional job of community services in their wide scope of work.
"We work to provide [activities] in our parks and city services with traditional programs such as aquatics, softball and after-school programs, but there is more," reports recreation supervisor Mark Honberger. "We organize special events such as volunteer parks clean-up, enrichment classes, and working with special services in an effort to reduce gang and youth crimes."
Supervisors require a bachelor’s degree in recreation public administration, business, social work or related fields.
The department hires a part-time staff and instructors on a contract basis. Those positions are available year around. Go to the website ci.tracy.ca.us/jobs and select your field of interest.
"When summer is over, some of the staff moves on, so there are positions that come open toward the start of the school year," he predicts. "In fact, most of the hiring is part-time, so no prior industry experience is mandatory. For many, this is their first job."
Hornberger says initiative is more important than an extensive resume. In interviews, he looks for ways to "pull out" that experience from the applicant. For example, mentioning volunteer activities or times when they took a leadership role."
He suggests jobseekers do research on the website to understand what the job entails. "The second most important aspect of an interview is understanding what it means to create community," he advises. "That’s what it’s all about."
Adolfo Cruz, recreation superintendent with the Stockton Parks and Recreation Department, emphasizes the importance of city parks and those who manage them.
"A nice park in the neighborhood can increase property values, while a rundown facility can do the opposite," he observes.
Stockton’s recreation jobs provide something for everyone. "We have from part-time up to full-time employees who work at the city’s rec centers to coordinate programs for all ages. We have employees who work outdoors creating special events such as after-school youth sports programs, community neighborhood fairs, ‘National Night Out’ barbecues, and concerts."
The same people work with seniors, walking for exercise, special trips and lunch programs, plus various teen-oriented programs in the centers.
Most full-time positions require a bachelor’s degree in recreation or a closely related field such as social work. However, some entry-level jobs do not require a degree. For example, past experience as a volunteer coach or employment in a daycare facility are definitely pluses.
"Applicants have to be personable," Cruz notes. "We look also for professionalism and a desire to provide helpful programs, because they will be dealing with the community.
"We look for people who think outside the box and can generate creative ideas that attract all ages, especially teens."
No Stockton residency is required; however, parks and recreation positions are civil service jobs. The best place to look for job postings is on the California Parks and Recreation Society website (cprs.org). All agencies in the state post their job openings there.
Cruz’s department will be advertising for positions in September, which means prospective applicants should act quickly to get on the civil service list, which stays active for one year.
"I think the best part about working in the department is knowing we have an ability to improve the community," he says. "This is one of the few departments in the city that can affect everybody – from kids who play organized sports or people who just like to walk in the park."