Parks and trails specialists

DNR employees

If you love being outdoors in nature or spending time on the water, and have a passion for outdoor recreation and natural resources management, a position in our Parks and Trails Division might be right for you.

Parks and trails specialist positions provide professional, park, trail, water access, and recreational area work.

Why do we need parks and trails specialists?

Parks and trails specialists assist in the management and operations of state parks, trails, recreation areas, water access, outdoor recreation and natural resources management programs.

What do parks and trails specialists do?

Parks and trails specialists perform a variety of work functions. Some of their primary job duties are:

  • Managing natural resources through invasive species control and prescribed burning; conducting resource inventories; and preparing environmental impact assessments.
  • Directing the work of staff, contractors and volunteers on assigned resource management projects.
  • Assisting in implementing development, maintenance, operational, real estate, and rehabilitation programs, projects or activities in collaboration with the on-site supervisor.
  • Conducting enforcement, emergency, visitor, and public relations services and activities.
  • Providing professional assistance for planning, policy development, grant administration, and fiscal management activities.

What are the working conditions?

These positions generally work in an office setting, but the job also requires outdoor work on a daily basis. The job of a parks and trails specialist can be physically demanding. They perform resource management activities that sometimes requires heavy lifting, operating tools and equipment, and working in all types of weather conditions. 

How should I prepare while I am in high school?

If you would like to do professional-level parks and trails work, you will need a college degree (associates or bachelor’s). To prepare for college, take challenging coursework in high school and begin exploring the requirements of schools offering natural resource degrees. 

Natural resource careers such as parks and trails specialists require interdisciplinary skills and a background in the following:

  • Math: Ensure you gain important math skills in high school such as algebra, geometry, pre-calculus and statistics, because the job requires data analysis skills.
  • Sciences: Have a good understanding of cultural and natural sciences in high school, which will provide you with a strong background to explore more specialized subjects such as outdoor recreation or resource management. In addition to biology, ecology, botany and zoology, environmental science classes are also useful.
  • Language arts: Communication and language are key to success in any career, including natural resources. In high school, take courses in English, intensive writing and public speaking.

It is also helpful to get hands-on experience so that you know what the job is really like before you pursue a degree in the area. High school students can contact local parks and trails offices about doing a volunteer job shadow to see firsthand what the work is like.

What do I need to do in college?

In order to be a parks and trails specialist, you will need either an associate’s degree in natural resource management or parks and recreation, or a bachelor's degree in natural or cultural resource management, parks and recreation, natural science, communication, education, public relations, business management, political science, public administration, social science or a closely-related field. 

In addition to coursework, you can gain valuable experience by applying for an internship at the Minnesota DNR or another natural resource organization, and by volunteering with Minnesota state parks and outdoor recreation areas.

The DNR expects that parks and trails specialists will:

  • Understand resource management.
  • Have knowledge, skills and abilities related to cultural and natural resources planning and processes.
    • Some positions might require some knowledge or working knowledge of forestry, geology, prairie, wetland and forest ecology, biology, botany and zoology, risk management, economics, and the legislative process.

What if I am not pursuing a four-year degree?

The DNR has jobs that do not require a college degree such as natural resource workers, buildings and grounds workers, parks and trails associates, and laborer, trades and equipment operators. If you are interested in a technical position, the DNR has park and trails jobs that do not require a college degree.

Career advancement

At the Minnesota DNR, parks and trails specialist positions are entry-level jobs that can lead to more intermediate or senior-level positions. Examples include positions in park management and supervisors of staff in a geographic region. The titles of some of these positions are below:

DNR parks and trails classifications

When you are applying for a position you will see both a classification or pay grade and a more descriptive working title.  Here are some examples of what you will want to look for:

  • NR (natural resources) specialist parks and trails
  • NR specialist intermediate parks and trails
  • NR specialist senior parks and trails
  • NR supervisor 1-parks and trails
  • NR supervisor 2-parks and trails
  • NR supervisor 3-parks and trails
  • NR supervisor 4-parks and trails

Example working titles

  • Parks and trails specialist
  • Resource management specialist
  • Assistant park supervisor
  • Assistant area supervisor
  • Park supervisor
  • Area supervisor

Positions in other industries

With similar education and background, there are other industries you can work in such as federal agencies, American Indian tribes, local and metropolitan government, and natural resource agencies in other states. 

To learn more, email our Human Resources Department, reach out to one of the DNR’s area offices or stop by your nearest Minnesota state park.


The salary for entry-level parks and trails specialist positions will vary depending on qualifications and experience, but the range is:

  • $20.91 to $30.24 hourly

  • $43,660 to $63,141 annually

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