How to Become a Park Ranger

To become a park ranger, you will need at least a four year undergraduate degree as well as relevant work experience in the field.

Education

Park rangers have many different types of educational backgrounds: anthropology, biology, environmental studies, forestry, history, natural history and recreational studies. Some park rangers will have graduate degrees in their fields, increasing the competition for available positions.

There are park rangers that are also involved in law enforcement and these rangers will need to complete a seasonal law enforcement training program. There are nine programs for this certification in the US and you can opt to take your certification in the academy, or train on a semester basis or during weekends and semester breaks. There is more information about this program on the Association of National Park Rangers website.

All park rangers will need CPR and basic First Aid training to qualify for entry-level positions, so you should complete this certification before you apply for your first entry-level position.

Tips and Advice

Since there is no one preferred degree, select the degree program that most interests you and which will offer some transferrable skills. Many park ranger jobs are seasonal, so you will need to be able to apply your degree and experience in the off season in work that will support your life style.

While in college, you need to apply for seasonal, summer positions in the parks while you are in school. The National Park Service website has information about seasonal employment and your college career center may also have resources and advice for you. The summer between your first and second year is not too early for your first position with the National Park Service.

If you are not able to get a job in the summer with the National Park Service, look for related job experiences. Apply for work in summer camps, museums, tree planter or as a wilderness firefighter. If you work in a summer camp or museum, you will have experience working with the public and providing presentations. If you work as a tree planter, you will have to learn how to navigate in the wilderness, work in any weather condition while exerting yourself physically, deal with wildlife and isolation in the area to be reforested. As a wilderness firefighter, you will need to be in excellent physical condition, and you will learn about fire, fire behavior and firefighting in the wilderness, all necessary skills for a park ranger.

Different Jobs

According to the National Park Services website, a park ranger interacts with the public, providing education about the park, its facilities and history and environmental education. The park ranger will also enforce the rules and laws that apply within the park. Park rangers also direct and help guests orient themselves to the facility and its resources. Park rangers will also assist with search and rescue efforts and if necessary helping to combat wild and structural fires. They will also conduct research about the park.

Since there is a great deal of competition for positions in the National Park Services, and even fewer positions in periods of government cutbacks, there are options in urban forestry. Some municipalities and counties may hire park rangers or guides to maintain the parks within the urban area. Some of the duties are the same: provide education, maintain the rules of the park and direct guests as needed.