How to Become a Park Ranger

Across state and national parks, a park ranger performs a wide range of duties. They are an essential aspect of preserving and maintaining wilderness parks across the country. Park rangers are often trained as peace officers and in their jurisdiction are responsible for law enforcement, policing their park, and ensuring that tourists obey all relevant laws and regulations.

Park rangers can provide first aid for park visitors who have been wounded, perform criminal investigations, and engage in search and rescue operations within their park. Park rangers may also be responsible within their park for educational programming, resource protection, animal control, and trail maintenance. They are, in effect, the guide and governing force for their territory.

The park rangers have several roles ranging from visitor facilities to compliance code and environmental stewardship. Such duties may include collecting and preserving cultural, environmental, and scientific records, as well as protecting park property from theft or damage caused by forest fires. Park rangers are commonly found to interact with the public, for example in leading park tours and other locations.

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Park managers also need to have a strong knowledge of the state’s geography and the park they work in. Photo credits: citizensclimatelobby.org

Training to Become a Park Ranger

Most states and the National Park Service mandate prospective park rangers to complete at least two years of college coursework, many requiring a degree of four years. Candidates have some flexibility in selecting majors, but in particular, they choose majors in natural sciences, social sciences, park management, asset security, and law enforcement.

Prospective park rangers may need to have some work experience in a park management area, including forestry work, preservation, wildlife management, recreation management, or law enforcement. Since park rangers are considered peace officers, it is required that new hires for law enforcement officers in many states must complete a peace officer qualifications and training program (POST). Applicants must also pass a physical fitness test, a background check on criminal history, and a medical examination to qualify for a POST program. In addition, they must meet the requirements regarding citizenship and age.

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Skills to Become a Park Ranger

Park rangers have to be physically fit. Communication skills are also highly important because, while park rangers often live and work in remote areas, they still need to communicate effectively with others and work well. Park managers also need to have a strong knowledge of the state’s geography and the park they work in. They also have to be able to work well under pressure and have to be able to work long hours.

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Average Salary of a Park Ranger

According to Payscale, the average salary for a park ranger starts at $39, 665 per year. However, according to US Office of Personnel Management, park rangers earn a reported average annual wage of $57,710 as of 2018. Payment will largely depend on the state or territory you work in as a Park Ranger.

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Where to Apply as a Park Ranger

Job openings for park rangers are posted on the websites for state and federal employment. Parks can only hire and train new park rangers at certain times of the year, so periodically visit these sites to make sure you don’t miss any chances. For college students who are interested in becoming park rangers, most states, and the National Park Service run internship programs. Students in these programs spend several weeks each summer with a mentoring park ranger acquiring the necessary knowledge and skills to qualify for the position of a park ranger. 

You can then search for positions on these websites:

  • Indeed – Indeed is a leading job search platform.
  • GovernmentJobs – GovernmentJobs is a job search engine for federal, state, and city jobs.
  • ZipRecruiter – ZipRecruiter is a well-regarded job search engine.

Conclusion

Park rangers are government workers who play a major role in federal and state land security. The position requires and a very specific set of skills and particular knowledge. However, with the right training, you could hold one of the most important jobs in America’s natural areas.  For more park-related jobs, click here.

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