Park Ranger Career Profile

If you love nature and want to help to preserve it for future generations, you might be interested in the following career profile for a park ranger.

Education/Training

In order to become a park ranger, you will probably need a bachelor's degree, even though you can be hired with just a high school diploma if you have at least three years of experience working in park operations or doing conservation work. But since the field is so competitive, you should go ahead and attend college if you can afford to go. While in school you should study science, history, forestry, management, criminal justice, sociology, and either business or public administration. You should also consider going on to get your master's degree since it will give you an advantage over other park ranger candidates.

You can train for the park service at the Training Center in Brunswick, Georgia, the Stephen T. Mather Training Center at Harpers Ferry in West Virginia, or the Horace M. Albright Training Center at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.

Basic tasks

As a park ranger, your main job will be to make sure people comply with the rules and regulations of either the national or state park you have been assigned to oversee. Because you are enforcing laws, you will sometimes need to carry a gun and investigate any suspected illegal activity in your territory. If this happens to be part of your job description, then you will have to earn your certification as a police officer.

One of your obligations as a park ranger will be to make sure visitors are safe. So you may be called upon to rescue a fallen rock climber or chase away a bear from a campsite. You will also be regulating how many people visit the park and collecting any applicable park fees. Often you will be providing information about hiking trails, landmarks, and other points of interest in the park. You may also need to teach campers how to use certain equipment, take visitors on hiking trails, set up various exhibits, and do tours of the area. Since you have the responsibility to try to prevent forest fires, you will be educating people about fire prevention and issuing fire permits when appropriate. Another duty you will have will be to train new rangers and to possibly oversee other park employees. You may also be asked to routine tasks like clean toilets and write reports. Just be aware that your performance will be evaluated on a regular basis in order to make sure that you are completing your duties in a satisfactory way. If you are not, you can expect to be terminated, so it's very important to do your job to the best of your abilities.

Salary/Job Outlook


Annual salaries for this profession range anywhere from $18,000 to $50,000 a year, depending on your education and experience. The median salary for a park ranger is about $30,000 a year, and hourly rates for part time workers range anywhere from $15 to $25 per hour. Usually how much you make depends on your grade level, with those having management or supervisory duties making more.

The career outlook for becoming a park ranger is not particularly good since more people want to become park rangers than there are jobs to accommodate them. As a result, you may have to start with part-time or seasonal work at the state and local levels. You also may have to relocate in order to get a job.

Different Jobs

Park rangers sometime specialize in a certain type of patrol. For example, backcountry rangers often pack up a mule with supplies and spend weeks at a time in isolated and undeveloped areas repairing trails and ensuring the safety of any hikers in the region. On the other hand, snow rangers, who are experts in first aid, patrol on skis, looking to assist injured skiers by applying splints and getting them the help they need. Yet other rangers use a boat or canoe to make their rounds. Some park rangers even work in urban areas, preserving the parks and historical monuments. Really the kind of job you have will greatly depend on the territory you are assigned to patrol.

Tips

Whatever type of park ranger you end up being, you will have to be able to communicate well with others. You also need to be in good physical shape and love nature, science, and working outside. Being a good public speaker is helpful since you will be asked to give presentations to various groups.

To gain experience, consider joining a group like the Sierra Club. You could also volunteer or become an apprentice at a park in your area.

For more information about becoming a park ranger, contact the National Park Service.