Time for Your Dream Job - Trailblazer Special Edition

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parks and rec


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April 2022

Our vision is to create unforgettable park, trail and water recreation experiences that inspire people to pass along the love for the outdoors to current and future generations.

A Day in the Life

When you visit Minnesota state parks and trails, you experience the magic that keeps you coming back. It’s not magicians that make it happen, but a group of individuals with a passion to share their love for the outdoors. 

We invite you behind the scenes to learn about a day in the life of parks and trails staff. You could also help create unforgettable experiences for all Minnesotans, working at the places you treasure. We have a wide range of positions open at any given time throughout the state, for a variety of career types (some related to recreation and resource management, and some that are not), and for folks starting out, at mid-career level, or those looking for a post-retirement career.

Apply or sign up for notifications at mndnr.gov/careers and follow us on LinkedIn.

Tina Brandenburg-Cermak, Parks and Trails Associate

I get to help visitors when they are at their happiest! What could be a better job than that?

Iconic Mississipi Headwaters monument with people crossing in the summer.

Established in 1891, Itasca is Minnesota's oldest state park.

I’m usually the first person to interact with visitors when they come to Itasca State Park for a vacation or a day of relaxing in the beautiful outdoors. If you love helping people enjoy their time off and being outdoors, you will feel like you hit the jackpot working at a Minnesota state park.

Woman with glasses and short blond hair shown from the chest up, looking at camera and smiling.

On my way to work I get to drive through one of the most beautiful places on earth; I have seen beauty that can take your breath away. I have met people from every walk of life: babies getting their feet dipped in the headwaters of the Mississippi River, a young couple exchanging vows, and a 95 -year-old woman from England fulfilling the last thing on her bucket list — to walk across the beautiful headwaters. Last but not least, my co-workers are the best of the best. How can they not be when we all get to work in a Minnesota state park?

PHOTO CREDIT: Heather Funk

Look for openings for parks & trails or gift shop associate and customer service specialist positions.

  • Duties: Office operations, park maintenance and customer service. Gift shop associates also assist with stocking and staging merchandise.
  • Must have experience with office equipment, customer service, security and retail operations.
  • Pay range: $16.91 - $22.80/hour


Kao Thao, Naturalist

I teach people about natural resources and how to care for them — for future generations and us.

Hmong man demonstrating the first stage of the maple syruping process for two young BIPOC girls.

I have always loved the outdoors, especially sightseeing. When I was young, I didn’t know I could work outdoors and get paid for it. I didn’t know there was such thing as a “naturalist.” When I learned about the Minnesota DNR in college, I realized there were no People of Color (POC) at the department, and very few POC attended my natural resources courses. Out of 300 students in my fish and wildlife class, only four of us were POC. When I started with the DNR as an intern 24 years ago, I didn’t have a role model who looked like me. That inspired me to stay and help make a change.

I love seeing all people becoming good stewards of our shared resources. I love seeing people having a great time outdoors, respecting each other and their wildlife counterparts. I love representing my Hmong community at the park, and thinking that Hmong kids can be inspired to work in natural resources.

PHOTO: Thao showing maple sap to two young visitors at Ft. Snelling State Park.

We have year-round and seasonal naturalist positions.

  • Duties: Develop, publicize and implement welcoming and inclusive state parks and trails interpretive, environmental education and information services.
  • Required: A bachelor’s degree in relevant field and one year of professional experience.
  • Pay range: $22.38 - $32.49/hour


Katie Hofschulte, Assistant Park Manager

I help visitors enjoy Minnesota’s beauty so they can make great memories that they’ll cherish forever.

Group of red tree trunks, with green leaves in the background.

Hike the Continental Divide at Savanna Portage State Park! Find the spot where water runs east to the St. Louis River and St. Lawrence Seaway on one side and west to the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico on the other.

I started with the DNR when I was in high school as a seasonal natural resources worker at Gooseberry Falls State Park, and interned at several North Shore parks. Through the years, I was also a parks worker, park specialist and office and administrative specialist (OAS). I spent many seasons as a park specialist at Zippel Bay State Park until I recently took the job as assistant park manager at Savanna Portage State Park.

Selfie of blonde woman smiling with husky posing with a sign that reads Zippel Bay and has a silhouette of an angler.

I thank my grandparents for instilling in me a love of the outdoors. I have many fond childhood memories of visiting Minnesota state parks with them, like the coming-of-age tradition, that involved earning your own hiking stick. Having grown up loving these special places, working at state parks is practically a dream-come-true. I love helping others have fun, while caring for parks so future generations can enjoy them too.

Working in the parks system, we’re given some unique opportunities that most jobs don’t offer — like being able to work outside and not in an office all day. A couple of examples: to make sure trails are in great condition for our visitors, we need to hike them ourselves; work at Garden Island State Recreation Area involves traveling 20 miles on Lake of the Woods. It’s hard work, but the experiences you can gain are totally worth it!

Some of my favorite memories include rescuing a red tail hawk and becoming a certified archery instructor (and teaching safe archery practices!). I’m proud of my work helping replace old infrastructure, as I know it will have an impact for years to come.  

"NR Supervisor Parks & Trails" is the internal title for the park manager and assistant park manager positions and how you’ll find them listed online

  • Duties: Direct day-to-day operations, programs, activities, budgets, staff and safety at a park.
  • Required: One year experience as assistant park manager OR bachelor’s or advanced degree in relevant field, and one year professional or para-professional level experience in a natural resources setting, including supervisory or lead work responsibilities.
  • Pay range: $27.60 - $40.03/hour


Randy Schoeneck, Technician – Fergus Falls Area

Paved trail with tree canopy

The Central Lakes State Trail is a 55-mile paved multiuse trail for biking, walking, rolling on skates or a wheelchair, and groomed for snowmobiling in the winter. The trail connects Osakis with Fergus Falls, and the communities in between.

I maintain bike, snowmobile, ATV and river trails, as well as fishing piers and boat landings so that visitors can enjoy their experience. I make sure that boaters have easy and enjoyable access to some of our 10,000 lakes. I have always enjoyed the outdoors and really like the hands-on work of taking a piece of dirt and making it into a new landing, or improving sites for boaters so that the on- and off-the-lake parts of their day go smoothly.

Gerry Lipinski, Buildings & Grounds Worker

I love that through my work I can help connect more people to the outdoors and have unforgettable experiences.

Man  in DNR uniform taking a selfie at the office.

My work at Lake Carlos and Glacial Lakes state parks keeps things going smoothly and safe for all. While visiting Yellowstone I had some good interactions with rangers and staff, so I thought working at parks would make a cool career choice. Parks are the gateways for people getting into the outdoors, where they try and learn a new path, or discover a new place, which is very rewarding. There’s something special going on at parks in each of Minnesota’s four seasons. 

Seasonal and year-round positions as natural resources (NR) worker, NR tech parks & trails, building & grounds worker.

  • Duties: Mowing, snow plowing, tree trimming, facility cleaning and maintenance, customer service and night security.
  • Experience with landscaping tools, office equipment, customer service, and retail operations. Year-round positions may require Class A driver’s license, ability to operate heavy equipment, and basic handyman skills.
  • Pay range: $16.43 - $29.85/hour


Dawn Jensen, Office & Administrative Specialist

Camper cabin surrounded by snow and tall pines, snowshoes sent in front.

My position covers everything from budgeting to working the front counter and interpretive programs, to scrubbing toilets and pulling docks. In a few words, my job combines the best of my favorite things — working with numbers, teaching and enjoying nature. Where else but a state park can you find a job like that?

Prior to the creation of Big Bog State Recreation Area in Waskish, Minn. (my hometown), in 2000, I had never even been to a state park! Once I discovered the Passport Club, I was hooked and set out to visit all of the Minnesota state parks with my children to learn about and experience them “first hand.” When a position opened at Big Bog SRA to work in the office, I knew I wanted to be a part of promoting this wonderful experience.

With my college degrees, I was planning on going into international business. Instead, I found a job that has brought the world to me. Working at the park, I’ve been able to meet people from across the United States and around the world and share in their excitement for learning.

Apply for an Office & Administrative Specialist job

  • Duties: Customer service, fiscal operations, record keeping.
  • Must have experience in customer service, fiscal management, point of sales systems. Advanced use of Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook.
  • Pay range: $16.91-$22.15/hour


Mai Neng Moua, Grants Specialist

Hmong woman wearing a lifejacket and holding a paddle.

I give money to cities, towns, and counties to buy land to make it parkland or to develop or redevelop existing parks and park facilities.

Growing up, I didn’t even know this type of job existed or you could get this type of job at the DNR. I’ve been doing grants work since my college days when I started a literary arts journal for the Hmong community and learned to write and manage grants.

The best part of my job is to go on site visits to see (inspect) the completed projects at parks. It’s very rewarding to see all the amazing ways the money is used to improve communities through parks. 

Meg Johnsen – Sign Guru (and Chickadee Whisperer)

I make signs and exhibits to help people learn about our sites and navigate to the coolest places.

Selfie of a woman with a cap and a chickadee on her head.

I’ve always been a bit of an artist, whether performing in theater, making things with my hands or creating visual art through photography and graphic design. Working in our state parks has allowed me to combine all of those skills with my passion for outdoor recreation and conservation of our natural resources.

When I was working as a naturalist, the best parts were meeting visitors’ dogs in the campground, doing hands-on activities like making canoe paddles and catching bugs, and leading canoe trips. I loved inspiring bravery, creativity and wonder in our visitors and being inspired by them in return. Now that I am the exhibit specialist, I love to visit each project site. I get to chat with staff, see some of Minnesota’s most scenic features and take lots of pictures. In the end, I know my work helps people have less stress and more fun while they are with us, and maybe make a change toward sustainability.

PHOTO: Can you spot the chickadee?

From the MCV Archives

Welcome to the Woods

Woman standing by a sign on a hiking trail, with tall trees in the background.

Campground hosts have been keeping campers happy in Minnesota’s parks and forests for decades. Full story.

PHOTO: Campground host Joy Leick at Moose Lake State Park.

Minnesota Conservation Volunteer is a print magazine dedicated to Minnesota’s wild places and creatures. For more stories, visit mnDNR.gov/MCV or subscribe.

Careers Page 101

  1. Create a profile on the Minnesota Careers website.
  2. Select "Natural Resources Dept" in the “Agency” column on the left side of the page.
  3. Search for jobs using the job titles above. 
  4. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, click on “save search” under the job search bar and you can sign up to be notified when there’s a related posting. Nifty or what? 


  • Competitive salary of $15.00 per hour
  • 20-40 hours / week
  • Opportunities throughout Minnesota

Must be receiving academic credit for the experience from your school.