skip to main content
Mark Olson

Mark Olson

National Park Service

Career Roadmap

Mark's work combines: Travel, Environment & Nature, and Upholding a Cause and Belief

See more careers and stories that connect to your interests.

Take Roadmap Quiz

Day In The Life

Backcountry Ranger/Photographer

I use my military skills to help protect my country's natural resources & the people who visit them.

Skills & Education

Here's the path I took:

  • High School

    Ritenour High School

  • Bachelor's Degree

    Environmental/Natural Resource Recreation and Tourism

    University of Missouri-Columbia

  • Certification

    Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

  • Certification

    Critical Incident Response/Special Police Operations

  • Bachelor's Degree

    Natural Resources/Conservation, General

    University of Missouri-Columbia

Here's the path I recommend for someone who wants to be a Park Naturalists:

High School

Bachelor's Degree: Parks, Recreation and Leisure Studies

Bachelor's Degree: Wildlife, Fish and Wildlands Science and Management

Bachelor's Degree: Environmental Science

Vocational: Maritime Law Enforcement

Certification: Emergency Medical Technology/Technician (EMT Paramedic)

Learn more about different paths to this career

Life & Career Milestones

My path in life took a while to figure out

  • 1.

    I grew up in St. Louis, but I knew I had to get out, so I joined the US Army Infantry.

  • 2.

    I spent over 15 months in Mosul Iraq during 2006-2007. Then a 12 month tour 2009-2010 back in Iraq.

  • 3.

    While home between tours, I would go backpacking in Gila, New Mexico; I fostered a love of the wild.

  • 4.

    Those trips helped me realize that some of my military skills would transfer into my civilian life.

  • 5.

    It felt great to be out in the wilderness, to feel alive again and just like I felt in war.

  • 6.

    I was in the military for five years, then was medically retired.

  • 7.

    When I got out, I went back to college, knowing that I wanted to pursue these wilderness skills.

  • 8.

    I now work as a backcountry ranger and simultaneously pursue nature photography as my side hobby.

Defining Moments

How I responded to discouragement


    Messages from Society in general:

    You're just one of those "crazy" veterans who can't get past their PTSD.

  • How I responded:

    There's this weird contrast in how the public views vets: one conception is that we're heroes, that we should get patted on the back, that we should automatically get hired, etc. The other is that we're all damaged and suffering, unable to mentally leave the battlefield and deeply affected by our PTSD. Both of these can be damaging, so don't just accept what others are projecting on to you. Find a career or hobby for yourself, where you can be self-sufficient and utilize your unique skills.

Experiences and challenges that shaped me

Click to expand

  • TBI Traumatic Brain Injury made it incredibly hard for me to retain things I learned I college. I had to be dedicated and vigilant in my studies to ensure that I not only passed my classes but became skilled in what I learned.

  • I was in the Infantry, my body got messed up. Living a healthy lifestyle, physical fitness, and mental health (living stress free) helped me turn my body around and rid myself of the pain.