Park ranger jobs involve working in the outdoors in all seasons. The requirements for how to become a park ranger generally include having a bachelor’s degree in an appropriate field, along with love of the outdoors.
The United States has about 400 sites that need the care and attention of National Park Rangers and State Park Rangers. National Park Service Rangers are employed with the National Park Service, which is a Federal agency, whereas State Park Rangers are employed by various state agencies.
National Park Rangers serve to protect the natural environment and primary responsibilities include enforcing park regulations, preventing and helping to contain forest fires, and teaching people to respect the eco-balance of the nation’s forests and parks. They also provide information regarding points of interest, teach campers how to use camping equipment safely, and collect park fees. Park Rangers have extensive knowledge of botany, ecosystems and wildlife and act as tour guides on nature hikes.
National Park Rangers and State Park Rangers may also help rescue stranded or lost hikers, chase away bears or other threatening wildlife. Park rangers with substantial experience may also train and mentor those new to the field.
Park Ranger Salary 2019
As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for all park rangers is about $36,000. Rangers with two or more years experience earn an average of $54,000 to $60,000 1. State park rangers tend to earn less than National park rangers.
Beginning salaries for full time National park rangers or State park rangers depend on the candidate’s level of education and experience.
In addition to base salary, Park Rangers also receive health insurance and other benefits. Many agencies also provide housing on the grounds of the park in which the ranger works. Going further, some listings even stipulate you may be required to live in the housing provided to hold a position at that park.
Park Ranger Job Requirements
Park Ranger candidates must be in excellent physical shape, in good health, with high levels of energy and sharp eyesight to spot any signs of danger before it has time to escalate. Rangers also need to enjoy being outdoors in all seasons and have good people skills, and sound judgment to act quickly under sometimes stressful conditions.
Park Rangers work long hours during the spring and summer months with shorter hours during the winter season. Park Rangers who work for the National Park Service may be required to work in remote areas and travel across the country to work in different parks. National Park Rangers and State Park Rangers are also exposed to such nature-born toxins as poisonous plants, insects, as well as dangerous wildlife and varied weather conditions.
Park Ranger Education and Training
For the most part, Park Rangers need to possess a bachelor’s degree. However, it may be possible for those with a high school diploma or associate’s degree to obtain park ranger jobs after having accrued a minimum of three years of progressively responsible experience in such areas as conservation, park operations/maintenance, or law enforcement.
Appropriate college-level coursework includes biology, botany, mathematics, geology, animal science and forestry, park management and operations, along with some study in the social sciences. Candidates with a master’s degree in any of these areas are preferred for jobs as a National Park Ranger. Candidates will also be required to pass a civil service examination to work as either a National Park Ranger or a State Park Ranger.
Park Ranger Career Opportunities
Park Rangers may be eligible for promotional opportunities after accruing the required experience and education. One possible career path is as park superintendent that is responsible for hiring, training, and managing all park employees. Other park rangers advance by specializing in such areas as resource management and park planning and development. A career as a game warden is also one that park rangers may pursue. Park rangers may also advance by transferring from state to federal parks, by transferring to larger parks within the same state, or by relocation to a different state.
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Footnotes & Sources
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics: National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates
I forgot to mention that one of the biggest rewards of the park ranger job is the abundance of magnificent natural scenery for on-the-job enjoyment.
To me, that’s worth it, even if the median law enforcement officer’s salary is higher than that of park rangers.
If you’ve never been to one of the US National Parks – Yellowstone, Acadia, Grand Canyon, Sequoia, Yosemite, and Everglades (and that’s keeping it short) – and one day decide to go to one, you’ll see why I would take that pay cut.
I’d love to start a career being a Park Ranger, but I do have a few questions about the requirements. What type of degree do you need? What kind of medical and physical tests must you pass and who do you need to talk to about getting a job at a state or national park?
John check with the State Park system in the State(s) you’re interested to work in, as requirements differ. For NPS requirements, you can start at http://www.nps.gov. Good luck!
Is the job of Park Ranger in demand?