A career in the government can lead to some pretty amazing opportunities. At the Interior Department, our mission is vast and wide ranging. That means we need a diverse team of hardworking, talented employees performing many different types of work in support of that mission. Check out some cool Interior jobs that you probably never knew existed:
Location: Alaska Volcano Observatory in Anchorage, Alaska
Education and other requirements: An advanced degree (M.S. or Ph.D.) in geology
Meet a Geologist: Michelle Coombs
Monitoring Alaska’s volcanoes is important because the skies above are heavily traveled by aircraft, and ash can damage or stall engines in flight. The Alaska Volcano Observatory issues warnings and information about threats from eruptions, which have to be accurate and timely.
“My background is in volcano geology, and my research has taken me to volcanoes in Hawaii and over the entire Aleutian arc of Alaska. As a geologist, I've responded to eruptions at Redoubt and Augustine, among others, and have studied the long term eruptive histories of volcanoes and volcanic rocks to understand the processes that drive eruptions. As the Scientist-in-Charge, I now have the exciting opportunity to guide Alaska Volcano Observatory in new research directions, improve our volcano monitoring capabilities, and strive for the best eruption forecasts that we can provide.” -Michelle Coombs
Location: Channel Islands National Park, California
Education requirements: At least a four-year degree in a science-related field of study, such as biology, environmental science, marine ecology, natural resource management or fisheries science -- as well as advanced SCUBA diving training and a Scientific Diver Certification.
Meet a Diver: Kelly Moore
As a dive ranger, Kelly uses her knowledge of the park’s marine resources and SCUBA diving skills in underwater programs in the kelp forests that are streamed into classrooms around the country. These live, interactive broadcasts are a unique way to educate students on the current state of our ocean and why it is so important for us all to do our part in protecting it.
“I feel fortunate to be able to observe and study the park’s marine resources and share those personal experiences with students who are our future ocean stewards.” -Kelly Moore
Locations: There are nine smokejumper bases across the U.S., two of which two are headed by the Bureau of Land Management and are located in Fairbanks, Alaska, and Boise, Idaho.
Experience requirements: Smokejumpers are experienced firefighters who often have worked on hotshot crews. They must have experience supervising others and operating or managing fire engines and helicopters.
Meet a Jumper: Ian Webb
Not everyone would be willing to jump out of an airplane into a raging wildfire, but it’s not purely a daredevil job. Ian is one of 270 smokejumpers in the program, which began in the late 1930s as a method to rapidly deliver firefighters to remote areas. Smokejumpers parachute over a wildfire, orbiting the fire to assess things like fire behavior, weather, terrain, grasses and trees that can burn and fuel the fire further. They also determine access and egress to the fire.
“It sounds crazy to jump with parachutes to fight fires, but we are constantly undergoing training and we mitigate risks with calculated steps to make fighting wildland fires safe. The training doesn’t just evaluate a person to see if they can be a top tier wildland firefighter and a parachute handler; it assesses whether you have the heart, confidence, capability and sheer determination to do the job.” -Ian Webb
Locations: Bureau of Reclamation field units are located around the country, often near dams, reservoirs and power plants
Education requirements: Rope Access Technicians need a minimum of Level 1 certification from the Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians -- called SPRAT for short. Additional certification is needed as technicians advance.
Meet a SPRAT Rope Access Pro: Benjamin Kalminson
As a Civil Engineering Technician, Benjamin’s day-to-day activities involve managing drawings, acting as storage supervisor and providing IT support at the Elephant Butte Field Division in New Mexico. But as part of the rope access team, Benjamin gets out of the office to rock scale. By removing loose rocks from cliffs, the team is working to keep equipment, buildings, Reclamation employees and the public safe from falling rocks.
“Being able to work on ropes has allowed me to break away from normal everyday duties. It has been a great experience and all team members are true friends. Rope access work is completely different than any work I had ever done in the past. It challenges you every time you get on the ropes in new ways.” -Benjamin Kalminson
Location: USFWS Sea Lamprey Control Program, Marquette Biological Station, Marquette, Michigan
Education requirements: Bachelor of Science in Biology
Meet a Biologist: Matt Symbal
Matt collects and analyzes the larvae of sea lamprey, a parasitic fish from the Atlantic Ocean that is invasive to the Great Lakes, looking for evidence of infestation. The data he collects is used to plan treatment of streams so the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service can reduce the number of parasitic-phase lampreys feeding on native fish.
“My love for this position is enjoying the time spent working in a variety of unique streams and lakes, and the satisfaction knowing my work directly benefits the economic and recreational stability of communities surrounding the Great Lakes.”
- Matt Symbal
Locations: Throughout the solar system, though they’re usually based on Earth
Education requirements: Most geologists have a Ph.D. in Geology or Planetary Science, while some have degrees in Astronomy, Physics, Chemistry, Biology or Engineering.
Meet a Geologist: Lauren Edgar, Ph.D.
As a research geologist, Lauren spends most of her time operating two rovers on the surface of Mars. She’s studying sedimentary rocks because they provide clues about past aqueous and atmospheric processes and potential habitability. She uses data from the Mars rovers, orbital remote sensing and terrestrial field analogs to identify past surface processes and potentially habitable environments on Mars.
“I get to work with an incredible team of scientists and engineers, and every day we get to see a new part of a planet that no one has ever seen before.” - Lauren Edgar, Ph.D.
Locations: Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement has three regional offices (Anchorage, Alaska; Camarillo, California; and New Orleans, Louisiana) that oversee oil and gas operations on the outer continental shelf.
Education Requirements: A degree in petroleum engineering, which is heavy on math and science courses. To advance to a section chief, you also need to have some leadership experience.
Meet a Production Engineer: Amy Wilson
Petroleum production engineers design and select the equipment to get oil and gas wells running. At the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, this kind of engineer reviews plans and often travels offshore to actually inspect platforms, approving work permits and ensuring that operators are following the safety and environmental standards set by the Bureau.
“I am from a small town in Louisiana and preferred to stay in Louisiana, so working in this industry suits me. I began my career as a field engineer and later became one of two female Production Engineers in the Houma District, where I approved production safety system permits and trained other field engineers and interns. Now I oversee a group of 12 inspectors who are tasked with inspecting over 700 platforms each year.” -Amy Wilson
Location: Based at Utah’s Arches National Park but with work in 10 amazing park units
Education requirements: A degree in biology, ecology, or natural resources
Meet a field crew leader: Sarah Karinen
For six months of the year, Sarah’s office is outside. She travels from park to park, collecting data on plants in forests, grasslands and shrublands. Analyzing the information gathered in the field helps us to better understand the health of vegetation, water and other natural resources. We share the data with park managers to make sure they have the science needed to preserve America's most special and treasured places.
“Most of the time my job doesn't feel like work, but I guess dream jobs usually don't. I am lucky enough to work in places so breathtaking that they don't always seem real.” -Sarah Karinen
Locations: Where it’s too remote and dangerous to tread.
Education requirements: Flying drones requires good mental and physical skills. Specific aerial flight and ground skill training is required to operate the drones for Interior. Knowledge of sensors and post-processing of the data is often overlooked as a required skill, but is the most important aspect of the job since the main reason for using unmanned aircraft is for the data.
Meet a Drone Pilot: Jeff Sloan
Cutting-edge drone technology fills a vital gap in remote sensing observations, allowing scientists to collect data that wasn’t possible before. Drone operators work with scientists to collect data on everything from emergency responses like tornadoes, earthquakes and volcanoes to remote locations like tight canyons, caves and secluded islands.
“The job of a drone operator is exciting and rewarding. We are often in very remote and beautiful environments that are not easily accessible. The quality and affordability of the acquiring the data coming from these platforms makes it even more rewarding because this level of data acquisition has not been possible before.” -Jeff Sloan
Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Education requirements: Requires at least a bachelor’s degree in geography or a related physical or social science such as geology, meteorology, economics, statistics, or cartography, with coursework in geography
Meet a Geographer: Brianne Cassidy
The National Mine Map Repository, where Brianne works, is a national archive of more than 183,000 records of abandoned mines. Brianne’s job requires reading historical mine maps from the 1790s, some of which use outdated scales and units of measurement, like perches and chains instead of miles. She also ensures that maps of closed mines are georeferenced -- meaning their locations are tracked in relation to other landmarks in case of future industrial and commercial development or highway construction, and to protect public health and safety.
“I love the research aspect. I'm going to hunt for treasure maps -- real gold and diamond mine maps -- in Alaska. How cool is that?!” -Brianne Cassidy
Location: San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, California
Experience requirements: Experience sailing and rigging traditionally-rigged vessels, as well as experience in traditional rigging skills such as splicing rope and wire, tying the dozen basic knots used on sailing vessels, worming/parcelling/serving, and clapping on wire and fiber seizings.
Meet a Rigger: Mariah Gardner
Passing on the traditional physical skills to build, use and maintain historic sailing vessels is tough when most people are more interested in computers than ships, but it’s critical to keeping these historic sailing vessels around for future generations to experience. Each of the three large ships at San Francisco Maritime is literally the last of its kind, out of thousands originally built. If we lose the skills to maintain them, we will lose these "critically endangered species.”
“Not only are we preserving West Coast maritime history by keeping these historic ships afloat, but we're doing it in a part of the city that's tied to that history as well, which, for an unapologetic nostalgist, makes being here each day really special. Add to that the camaraderie of a group of people who make me feel useful, necessary, and tremendously capable and there's no question I'll suffer polyester-blend shirts in return. It's hard work and I like it.” -Mariah Gardner
Location: Yosemite National Park, California
Education requirements: Developing a project, analyzing the data, and writing about it requires a Ph.D. in any one of several fields such as civil engineering or geology. Collecting data from steep cliffs also requires a thorough understanding of monitoring instruments and rock climbing techniques.
Meet an Engineer: Brian Collins
For the project in Yosemite, Brian’s team is investigating why rock falls occur in the summer without an obvious trigger such as rain or earthquakes. They install special instruments on rock cliffs, collect the data and develop mathematical analyses to explain how the information collected relates to eventual rock falls. Often public lands with spectacular views have steep cliffs, and this project will help land managers understand the risks visitors face when exploring these special places.
“I love my job because it is the perfect convergence of asking interesting scientific questions, designing new experiments, and having the results make a difference in how we understand and manage our lands. And, of course, being outside and enjoying the scenery from time to time is great.” -Brian Collins
Location: USFWS National Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon
Education and other requirements: A Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, plus additional training in pathology
Meet a Pathologist: Rebecca Kagan
Rebecca’s job is to find out what killed an animal or, if it's still alive, what's making it sick. To do so, she autopsies federally-protected species (such as bald eagles) that are found dead under suspicious circumstances. They may have been shot, attacked by a predator or have just gotten a disease. Rebecca has worked with everything from elephants to pet dogs to minnow. Her favorite species she’s worked on: The electric eel.
“My job is so messy and stinky, I love that about it. But it’s not for everyone. I first determine the cause of death and, if it turns out to be a crime, I may testify in court. What I like most about my job is solving mysteries. Sometimes the cause of death is not what was expected! ” -Rebecca Kagan
Location: On the trail of conflict diamonds in Guinea, West Africa
Education and other requirements: An advanced degree in geology, plus field experience, physical endurance, resourcefulness and flexibility when plans go awry.
Meet a Geographer: Peter Chirico
What’s it like to do field work in West Africa on conflict diamonds and minerals during the Ebola outbreak? The research project -- funded under an interagency agreement with the U.S. State Department -- includes Peter leading dozens of on-the-ground field mapping expeditions to Guinea, the Ivory Coast, the Central African Republic, Mali and Ghana to map and verify alluvial diamond mining sites. The project helps U.S. policy makers and the international monitoring of conflict resources.
“I feel that my work and my experience in mapping and applying geospatial technology in the field is helping to prevent diamonds and other mineral resources from being used to perpetuate conflicts in the developing world.”
- Peter Chirico
Location: The Midwest Region spans Iowa, Michighan, Minnesota and Wisconsin
Education and other requirements: An advanced degree in archaeology
Meet an Archaeologist: Timothy J. Guyah
As the Regional Archaeologist for the Bureau of Indian Affairs - Midwest Region, Timothy works closely with Tribal staff to complete archaeological surveys on Tribal lands. Fieldwork takes him to the four states within the region to lend his expertise to Autumn Forestry projects close to Lake Superior or freshly plowed fields in Southern Minnesota. He works closely with Tribal Historic Preservation Officers during archaeological surveys, using their knowledge and experience to see the landscape differently. Requiring a curious mind, archaeologists must shift their perspectives to weave new information into their projects.
"Perhaps a byproduct of my diverse background, travel experience, undergraduate degree in sociology and graduate work in anthropology is that I often find myself asking different questions from my peers. As a graduate student, I struggled with the decision to choose between archaeology and cultural anthropology, but now I am happy to say that in my current position it takes an understanding of both."