How Can I Become a Park Ranger?

Explore the career requirements for park rangers. Get the facts about salary, job outlook and degree requirements to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Sports Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Park Ranger?

Park rangers are temporary, seasonal or permanent employees of a local, state or national park. They're responsible for conserving natural resources and maintaining security. They interact with guests, ensure that safety rules are being obeyed and may even lead tours. They may also educate the public and guests to the park about the park's ecosystems and wildlife. Some park rangers may also be in charge of collecting fees, checking permits and helping maintain the grounds. When necessary, park rangers may lead search and rescue teams to locate lost hikers. They are also typically trained in first-aid. The table can tell you about the job duties, education and career options for park rangers.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Forestry, park management, biology
Key Responsibilities Develop plans to preserve resources; discover ways to maximize rangelands without harm to other environments; inventory plants, animals and soil
Licensure/Certification/Registration 16 states have some kind of registration or licensure requirements; certification is voluntary
Job Growth (2014-2024)7% (for all conservation scientists and foresters)*
Median Salary (2015) $58,230 (for all foresters)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Job Duties Will I Have as a Park Ranger?

The primary responsibilities of a park ranger include park security, visitor safety, guest services, land maintenance and resource conservation. As a park ranger, you may work in a variety of park settings that range from city to federal and public to private. Although specific duties may vary depending on setting, size and location, your daily job functions will likely include:

  • Enforcing park rules and regulations
  • Engaging visitors
  • Responding to guests' needs
  • Performing routine maintenance
  • Leading guided tours
  • Participating in administrative tasks

What Education and Training Will I Need?

If you're interested in a career as a park ranger, you should enroll in a bachelor's degree program in park management, environmental sciences, recreation, forestry, biology or a related field. Although some positions may only require a combination of appropriate experience and courses, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that a 4-year degree is most fitting in this competitive field (www.bls.gov). Common courses that may be taken include urban forest management, fire control, forest ecology, conservation biology and dendrology. Additional training may be obtained through relevant part-time and seasonal work, which is critical to landing an entry-level park ranger position.

Search for a Job

Finding a park ranger position may be difficult because the field is extremely competitive. The BLS predicted a 7% employment growth rate for conservation scientists and foresters from 2014 to 2024, which is as fast as average. The BLS also reported that most positions would be available through the local, state or federal government.

The best preparation for finding a park ranger job is to get your degree, take on part-time or seasonal work and network with other professionals. You could also join the Association of National Park Rangers. Members of the organization are privy to a mentoring program, job boards, training opportunities and workshops that may prove useful to finding a position or advancing your career (www.anpr.org).

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A few related careers that require a bachelor's degree include agricultural and food scientists and zoologists and wildlife biologists. Agricultural and food scientists examine the safety and productivity of agricultural institutions, and they look for ways to improve these products. Zoologists and wildlife biologists study various characteristics and aspects of animals, as well as their ecosystems. They may also be involved in conservation efforts.

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