How to Become a Park Ranger

If you enjoy nature, are passionate about the environment, and would like a career working in the outdoors, then you might like to consider working as a park ranger.

When you become a park ranger, you not only have an access to a career that is challenging, but you also have the opportunity to protect national parks and natural assets, preserving them for future generations.

A park ranger has many aspects to their work.

They must make sure the park they work in is being properly preserved and protected.

This involves making sure people take care, that animals are protected, and native species of plants are not damaged.

They must also enforce laws that are relevant to the park while also helping to look after the safety of the people that visit.

They may have administrative tasks, like collecting fees, creating data, filing reports, and even keeping records.

Education Requirements to Become a Park Ranger

To become a park ranger, you will need to make good grades at college, especially in areas like geography, history, and science.

At this stage you should join local community groups that are interested in the environment, along with any work experience you can get in national, state, or local parks.

This may be on a volunteer basis.

At a minimum, you will need a four year college degree to get a job as a park ranger.

Your major would need to be in park management, natural science, or a similar area.

Employers will look for evidence that you are interested in the environment, and in natural science, so this should show in your choice of coursework, along with your extracurricular activities.

Further to your qualifications, employers will look for people that have worked within national parks before.

Taking a part-time job in a park while you are at college will make a big difference to your job prospects later on.

You may be able to get a paid or volunteer job on weekends, but you may also like to consider doing seasonal work at a park over your summer vacations.

Working as a park ranger, or even as a seasonal worker, you will need to be qualified in CPR and first aid.

You should get these credentials as early as possible, and keep them current.

Park Ranger Job Description

When you become a park ranger, you will be responsible for a wide range of duties in a national park.

You will be responsible for protecting people’s safety, as well as protecting the integrity of the plants and animals that make the park home.

You may find yourself enforcing local laws, surveying the park and collecting data, nursing injured animals, providing first aid, and a whole range of other duties.

You can be sure that no two days will be the same as a park ranger.

Here are some of the typical duties of a park ranger:

  • Collecting fees
  • Giving visitors directions, information, and advice
  • Running education programs
  • Monitoring plants and animals
  • Nursing injured animals
  • Re-vegetation to damaged areas of parks
  • Enforcing local laws
  • Conducting research
  • Compiling reports
  • Administrative duties

Park Ranger Salary and Career Path

Most park rangers start out working in state or local parks.

Competition for work in national parks is fierce, however many rangers get postgraduate degrees and are successful in gaining these positions later on in their careers.

Working as a park ranger, you will generally work a 40 hour week, however you may need to put in extra time during holidays and other peak times for visitors.

If you want to work in a national park, you will need to be ready to move anywhere in the country.

Some park rangers will move onto work in research, or in other areas concerned with the environment.

Some similar positions include:

  • Environmental researcher
  • Biological scientist
  • Environmental campaigner
  • Veterinarian

The median salary for a park ranger is around $50,000 a year.

Those working in national parks will earn more than those working in state and local parks.

The larger a park is and the more responsibility you have, the larger your salary will be.

If you have a passion for the environment and the outdoors, then becoming a park ranger could be an ideal career choice for you.

It’s a great opportunity to make a positive contribution to the environment, and to the community.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a park ranger do?

A park ranger can also be called a ‘conservation scientist’.

Every park ranger is an environmental specialist whose main aim is to observe and maintain natural landscapes.

The specialists that work with landowners provide recommendations on land conservation issues; park rangers that work for state and provincial authorities combat the threat of wildfires; while the professionals that work for municipal governments may be protecting the land from erosion.

Of course, the main responsibilities of a park ranger might vary.

Some of the most typical ones include protecting the natural resources from different types of pollution; improving the conservation efforts; managing the daily operations of national parks; maintaining the environmental integrity of the natural resources; conducting different tests in order to extrapolate the progression of land erosion, and so on.

How much do park rangers make?

On average, a park ranger can make a little less than $40.000 per year in the United States.

In case you decide to follow this career path, you can expect to earn anywhere between $26.000 and $61.000 annually.

The salary would certainly depend on a variety of factors – your education and experience level, the employer, the location and so on.

An entry-level park ranger can earn $10.50 per hour, while a specialist with plenty of experience will make $18.50 and more.

How much does it cost to become a park ranger?

In a lot of cases, you would need a bachelor’s degree related to biology, conservation, ecology, botany, earth science, anthropology, law enforcement or forestry, in order to become a park ranger.

A year in a university can cost you anywhere between $8.000 and $45.000 (and more); the cost depends on a variety of factors (the books, supplies, and accommodation expenses are not included).

The requirements to become a park ranger will depend on the state.

To become a seasonal park and recreation forest ranger in New York, for example, you would need to possess a valid MTPC Basic Police Officer or Peace Officer training certificate (over $1.300 per semester).

What is the demand for park rangers?

Between 2016 and 2026, the park ranger job market is expected to grow by 6%.

That is pretty much the same as the national average for all occupations in the United States.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that state-owned forests will (most likely) see the largest growth in employment.

How long does it take to become a park ranger?

It will take you 4 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree.

Aspiring park rangers should seek seasonal and voluntary work, in order to have the opportunity to get that on-job experience; you can find an internship that lasts for one season or for a whole year.

To become a park ranger in the United States, you must be at least 21 years old and possess a valid driver’s license.

Some states might require you to complete a Peace Officer training program; it typically lasts for two semesters.

Find a Program