Career Profile: Park Ranger

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The primary job of a park ranger is to make sure that visitors comply with the rules and regulations of the national or state park the ranger has been assigned to oversee. Because rangers enforce laws, they sometimes carry firearms and investigate suspected illegal activity within the park. For this reason, some but not all park rangers, are required to earn a police certification, depending on where they work.

What Do Park Rangers Do?

Park rangers supervise, manage, and perform work in the conservation and use of resources in national parks and other federally managed areas. They perform tasks to prevent forest fires and structural fires, in addition to protecting property, gathering and dispensing information, investigating violations of the law and accidents, and performing search and rescue operations.

Where Do Park Rangers Work?

More than half of the park rangers in the United States work east of the Mississippi River. They are assigned to work in urban, suburban, and rural areas. Entry-level rangers perform most of their work outdoors, but may be assigned to office or clerical positions. Rangers who are promoted to managerial positions tend to work indoors. Most rangers are assigned to different parts of the country over the course of their careers. Candidates should be aware that they may be asked to move from one side of the country to the other.

Requirements

Because the position of park ranger is eagerly sought by many qualified individuals, the competition is robust. Applicants need to have a bachelor’s degree if they want to have a chance at being hired. Preferred majors are science, history, forestry, management, criminal justice, sociology, business, and public administration. Applicants who have a master’s degree will have an advantage.

Park rangers should be able to communicate well with others, be in good physical condition, and enjoy working outdoors. Also, because rangers usually give presentations to various groups, public speaking skills are necessary.

Applicants who are accepted attend formal training courses in one of three locations: West Virginia, Arizona, or Georgia. After the formal training is completed, rangers are assigned to a park, where they receive further orientation and on-the-job training.

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Outlook

Annual salaries for park rangers range vary greatly from $18,000 to $70,000 per year, depending upon education and experience. The average salary for a park ranger is $57,420 a year. The employment outlook for park rangers is below average. This is because more people want to be park rangers than there are jobs. Applicants who are willing to start with part-time or seasonal employment at the state and local parks have a better chance of being hired.

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