How Do I Become a Park Naturalist?

Research what it takes to become a park naturalist. Learn about education requirements, job duties and the job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Sports Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Park Naturalist?

Park naturalists interact with people to teach them about nature and the environment. They organize park events, provide information to visitors and develop programs for education. Their other responsibilities include guiding visitors, presenting lectures and maintaining park information files. Park naturalists need to have a good understanding of park features and environmental laws and regulations. The following chart provides an overview of education and training, job duties and employment outlook for this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree preferred
Education Field of StudyForestry, botany, environmental studies
Key Skills Knowledge of environmental law and conservation, leadership skills
Job Growth (2014-2024)7% (for all conservation scientists and foresters)*
Median Salary (2015)$61,110 (for all conservation scientists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Would My Job Duties Be as a Park Naturalist?

As a park naturalist, you'd lead field trips, speak to groups and coordinate activities to teach about nature and protecting the environment. You serve as a guide to park visitors, answering questions, telling them about the area and showing them around the park. You may also develop programs, write educational literature and document findings that you make in the park.

Your job may also be to serve as a consultant when trees are being cut down or planted, trails are added or other changes are made to the park. Your opinions on how the changes will affect the park may help preserve more of the natural area and prevent damage.

Another aspect of your job as a park naturalist is to preserve the history of the park area. You may record stories about the park's past, teach visitors about important historical events which occurred in the park or take pictures to document the park throughout the year. Reporting on the history of the park is often coupled with giving instructions on how to conserve the area.

What Education or Training Do I Need?

You may need a bachelor's degree in an environmental-related area for a job as a park naturalist. You might consider programs in forestry, botany or ornithology. You may take relevant courses in biology, ecology, environmental law, land surveying, wildlife habitats and forest resource management.

Master naturalist training classes or month-long programs may be offered through your local university or environmental conservation department. Such volunteer-run programs might train you how to interpret various ecosystems or provide hands-on experience in conservation biology. Alternatively, in a graduate degree program for field naturalists or environmental conservation educators, you could study theories of environmental education and methods of assessing landscape conservation issues.

Volunteering at a local park or for an environmental group can help you gain experience and first-hand knowledge of park services and related issues. You could also start your career as an assistant to a park ranger or as a nature program coordinator.

What's My Job Outlook?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipated a 7% increase in jobs for conservation scientists and foresters, including park naturalists, from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS predictions were based on the expected retirement of current park naturalists combined with an increase in new government agency jobs. The best job opportunities, according to the BLS, are for those who hold bachelor's degrees.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Fish and game wardens and wildlife biologists are two other careers that require a bachelor's degree. Wildlife biologists are scientists who develop strategies for wildlife conservation and management. Fish and game wardens are responsible for enforcing laws related to hunting, fishing and boating. Those interested in the scientific aspects of a park naturalist career may also want to consider becoming soil scientists, who look into how soil composition affects plant growth for agricultural, environmental or land use purposes. Soil scientists also need a bachelor's degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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