National Park Service
US Department of the Interior
National Park Service
Interpretive Development Program


The Interpretation and Education Career Academy is being designed to address the full range of competencies for employees at each level of their position from entry through full performance level. New employees will see the logical progression from NPS Fundamentals into the career academy.  Learning opportunities will be developed around the competencies required to perform specific tasks. The I&E Career Academy will incorporate a wide variety of instructional methods, taking advantage of an expanding array of e-learning technologies, coaching, mentoring, detail opportunities, and face-to-face experiences when that method best serves the desired developmental outcomes.

As part of the academy’s goal of creating an environment of excellence, participants will be able to access the content of other career fields to meet their specific job needs. For instance, when leadership development opportunities are desired, an employee will access the learning opportunities from the suite offered by the leadership development program.  


New & Aspiring Interpreters

The profession of interpretation is often highly competitive with jobs going to those who have many years of experience and a great diversity of knowledge, skills and abilities. For those brand new to interpretation or just getting started in their interpretive careers, there are many ways to get beyond the old conundrum of “it takes experience to get the job and takes the job to get experience.” Some ways to develop and acquire the knowledge and experiences necessary to both get interpretive positions and to advance in your career include:

Training in interpretive skills and related areas is available from a variety of organizations and sources and in a range of formats including on-line, classroom, self-study, field-based and in large groups or individual settings. The “Training” page provides links to a diversity of training sources available through the Interpretive Development Program. The National Association for Interpretation (NAI) offers training and workshops in interpretive skills and management. For those providing curriculum-based programs, the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) is also potential source for training and professional development.

Professional certifications and certificate programs in interpretation and closely related fields are typically acquired through demonstration of competency in specified knowledge, skills and abilities. The National Park Service’s Interpretive Development Program’s professional certification program information is on the “Certificates” page. The National Association for Interpretation and North American Association for Environmental Education also offer professional certification programs. 

Academic training and degrees can both provide the resource knowledge and the delivery skills necessary for successful interpretation. Many colleges and universities offer courses in interpretation with some offering minors and majors in our field. In partnership with the National Park Service, Stephen F. Austin State University has developed the Master of Science in Resource Interpretation program. This unique program is based on the Interpretive Development Program’s ten “benchmark” interpretive competencies and allows interpreters to earn their masters degree via distance education. The National Association for Interpretation maintains a list colleges and universities offering interpretive curricula.

For those new to interpretation or desiring to enter the profession, getting that first position can be a challenge. To acquire the training and first-hand experience to be competitive, many interpreters start as volunteers, college interns, or with a youth organization to build their knowledge, skills and abilities as interpreters. The Student Conservation Association (SCA) and Service and Conservation Corps provide internships and experiential opportunities to help participants develop skills related to public land management & operations. The National Association for Interpretation and North American Association for Environmental Education, along with other environmental job websites and newsletters, list paid and non-paid positions in interpretation. As there is no central clearinghouse for internships or other entry level positions in interpretation, consider contacting the individual parks and interpretive sites to see what opportunities might exist!

Career planning can be a daunting task, especially for new and aspiring interpreters. Determining the knowledge, skills, abilities and behaviors required for a current or future position will guide which competencies should be developed for successful performance and potential career advancement. One of the best methods for matching your current skills and experience set with those required for entry, mid and advanced-level interpretive positions, is to talk to individuals working in those jobs. New interpreters should work with their supervisors to determine the competencies required of the position and the professional development and work experiences that will develop those competencies.  Working with your supervisor to develop an Individual Development Plan can help any employee chart a path for success and prepare for future opportunities. Consider entering into a mentoring relationship with a knowledgeable and experienced professional interpreter.