Park rangers work in many different types of parks, including national, state, municipal, and special district parks, as well as historical sites, nature reserves, and recreation parks. They protect the lands and cultural heritage of these special places and ensure the safety of the people who visit them. Rangers design recreational activities, conservation programs, and tours to help educate the public about the significance of an area. They create exhibits and brochures for visitors. They assist with conservation, habitat restoration, and ecology efforts. They attempt to reduce pollution from areas outside the park by monitoring the air and water quality in different sections of the park. They also study wildlife behavior.
Park rangers register vehicles and visitors entering the park. Many rangers are also peace officers who carry firearms and are responsible for law enforcement within the boundaries of the park. They respond to emergency situations that arise within the park, such as lost hikers, stranded climbers, wildfires, and injured visitors. Park rangers also supervise assistant park rangers, seasonal rangers, and concession attendants.
Individuals interested in becoming park rangers should have excellent interpersonal communication skills because they work with so many different types of people. They should be able to work independently. They need to be able to think clearly, especially when faced with an emergency situation.
Salaries for State park rangers range from $26,460 to $32,820 per year. Rangers employed by the Federal government earn salaries between $19,407 and $24,038.
Training and Education
Some agencies require applicants to have a bachelor's degree. For those interested in advancing to supervisory positions, a master's degree can be extremely helpful. Other positions require work experience plus some college course work. Even where it is not a requirement, almost all park rangers hold at least a bachelor's degree. Preferred degrees include park and recreation management, business or public administration, or the natural sciences. For those interested in becoming park rangers who also have peace officer status, completion of a Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) certified police academy course can be a major advantage.
Between 2002 and 2012, employment of park rangers is expected to increase about as fast as the average. While public interest in increased law enforcement in general is expected, budgetary constraints at the State level will result in only modest growth. These are very sought after positions, and competition is expected to remain very high. There will continue to be fewer jobs than there are qualified applicants.
To learn more about becoming a park ranger, please visit our section on schools offering Legal Training for more information.