Park rangers play an important role in the conservation and management of national and state parks, natural reserves, and other recreational areas. If you want to pursue a career that enables you to work in the great outdoors, and you are passionate about environmental conservation, then this could be the one!
1. What Do Park Rangers Do?
The day-to-day duties of park rangers include:
- Patrolling the park to ensure visitors comply with relevant conservation laws and regulations
- Helping other conservationists to restore or reclaim various natural habitats
- Capturing stray wild animals and responding to emergencies such as wildfires
- Educating park visitors on environmental and natural resource management issues
- Leading hikes, campfire programs, and other recreational activities
- Giving directions to park visitors
- Performing park maintenance work like erecting fences and pruning overgrown plants
- Reporting major problems to the park manager
- Providing logistical support to researchers conducting research in the park
2. Work Environment
Park rangers spend their time outdoors in forests, range lands or wetlands where they are exposed to various weather conditions. Many rangers work full-time, 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. Weekend work is also common. However, if you find employment in a 24-hour park, expect to work on a shift basis.
The work is physically challenging as it involves patrolling the park on foot.
According to PayScale, park rangers earn an average annual salary of $34,665.
4. Entry Requirements
To qualify for employment as a park ranger, you need to earn a bachelor’s degree in any of the following fields:
- Natural resource conservation
- Wildlife conservation
- Habitat management and conservation
- Conservation law enforcement (suitable for park rangers who wish to work as park police officers)
These programs, which are offered in several colleges and universities across the country, commonly provide training in areas such as habitat reclamation, federal and state conservation laws and regulations, and parks and recreation.
Since emergency response is one of the duties of a park ranger, you can obtain a first aid certification from the American Red Cross to increase your suitability for the job.
It is also important to have a valid driver’s license.
5. Important Qualities
The skills and abilities you need to succeed as a park ranger include:
- Strong quick-thinking and problem-solving skills to respond appropriately during emergencies
- Physical fitness
- Strong outdoor skills to work in all weather conditions
- An interest in natural resource conservation
- Good communication skills
- The ability to work alone in isolated areas
- Good observation skills
- A love for science
6. Career Advancement
To advance your career:
Gain vast work experience as a park ranger
Pursue a master’s degree in park management or natural resources management
Secure membership in a relevant professional organization such as the Association of National Park Rangers
7. Job Opportunities
The employers of park rangers include:
- Federal agencies such as the U.S. National Park Service
- State departments of conservation and recreation
- Private parks
- Conservation organizations
With vast work experience and a degree in park or natural resource management, you can advance to the position of park manager.
Lastly, there are about 6,700 national and state parks in the US, all of which continually hire park rangers. Although you may face some competition for jobs, the good news is that there are several other conservation jobs you can secure with any of the degrees listed above.
But if you have the right skillset, and you love parks and recreation, then you already have plenty of what you need to become a park ranger!