A park ranger could...
|Spot a forest fire and help put it out.||Transport injured animals to wildlife clinics for treatment.|
|Enforce federal laws and park regulations in a park.||Give a guided tour of a national park.|
Key Facts & Information
|Overview||Park rangers are the law enforcement officials of our state and national parks. They protect and preserve parklands, keeping park resources safe from people who might try to damage them, deliberately or through neglect, and keeping people safe from dangers within the park. To achieve this goal, park rangers work in a wide variety of positions, including education and interpretation for park visitors, emergency dispatch, firefighting, maintenance, law enforcement, search and rescue, and administration. There is a large global shortage of park rangers in developing countries.|
|Key Requirements||Love of nature, ability to work well on a team or in remote isolation, excellent physical condition, outstanding communication skills, and an ability to stay calm in an emergency|
|Minimum Degree||Bachelor's degree|
|Subjects to Study in High School||Biology, computer science, algebra, geometry, algebra II, English; if available, environmental science|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||More Slowly than Average (3% to 6%)|
|Interview||Read this article to meet many of the park rangers who work in the South Carolina state park system.|
Education and Training
Park rangers are usually required to have a bachelor's degree; however, high school graduates are sometimes eligible for ranger jobs after three years of progressively responsible experience in conservation work or park operations. Interested individuals should study botany, zoology, geology, and ecology in college. Other useful subjects include park management, forestry, and the social sciences. Candidates with master's degrees in these fields often have an advantage over other applicants who are seeking jobs as park rangers.
Other requirements for park rangers include physical strength, good health, and good eyesight. Rangers should enjoy the outdoors and working with people. They should also be creative, resourceful, responsible, and energetic.
Nature of the Work
Park rangers teach people to respect the delicate natural balance of our national and state parks and forests. They are employed by the National Park Service, which is an agency of the U.S. federal government, and by state agencies. Rangers work throughout the country preserving the natural environment for future generations. They protect these areas by enforcing park rules and regulations, preventing forest fires, helping to maintain an ecological balance, and seeing that visitors plan campsites wisely. Park rangers are skilled campers with a great deal of knowledge about botany and wildlife. Perhaps the greatest danger to our parks is the danger of overuse: rangers watch and regulate the number of visitors to parks. They also provide information regarding park use and points of interest, issue fire permits, and collect fees.
In addition to protecting natural resources, park rangers protect people. They may rescue a rock climber who has fallen or chase away a bear that is threatening campers. In addition, rangers act as educators by teaching campers how to use camping equipment, taking visitors on nature walks, setting up exhibits, and lecturing on historic topics. Park rangers also help to train new rangers.
Some rangers specialize in a certain type of patrol. There are backcountry rangers, who load up their mules with supplies and spend weeks at a time in isolated, undeveloped areas checking on hikers and watching for trails that need repairing. Snow rangers patrol their area on skis and are skilled in first aid, which includes applying splints to injured skiers. Some rangers make their rounds by boat or canoe. Many rangers are assisted by park aides.
Law enforcement is among the many duties of a park ranger. Some national park rangers carry guns. Park rangers sometimes recover stolen cars or quiet rowdy visitors. They are also in charge of investigating any suspected illegal activity committed in national parks.
Most rangers work outdoors in all kinds of weather, and their work is physically strenuous. They generally work long hours during the summer and somewhat shorter hours during the winter. Rangers in the National Park Service may have to spend time alone in isolated areas. They can expect to be assigned to several different parts of the country during their careers and receive no assurance that they will remain in a particular area. Despite these obstacles, most park rangers derive a great deal of satisfaction from their work.
On the Job
- Provide visitor services by explaining regulations; answering visitor requests, needs and complaints; and providing information about the park and surrounding areas.
- Conduct field trips to point out scientific, historic, and natural features of parks, forests, historic sites or other attractions.
- Prepare and present illustrated lectures and interpretive talks about park features.
- Perform emergency duties to protect human life, government property, and natural features of park.
- Confer with park staff to determine subjects and schedules for park programs.
- Assist with operations of general facilities, such as visitor centers.
- Plan, organize and direct activities of seasonal staff members.
- Perform routine maintenance on park structures.
- Prepare brochures and write newspaper articles.
- Construct historical, scientific, and nature visitor-center displays.
- Research stories regarding the area's natural history or environment.
- Interview specialists in desired fields to obtain and develop data for park information programs.
- Compile and maintain official park photographic and information files.
- Take photographs and motion pictures for use in lectures and publications and to develop displays.
- Survey park to determine forest conditions and distribution and abundance of fauna and flora.
- Plan and develop audiovisual devices for public programs.
Companies That Hire Park Rangers
Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...
- Biodiversity Survey
- Bug Vacuums: Sucking up Biodiversity
- Day or Night?
- Fighting Litter in Your Neighborhood
- Here Today, Gone Tomorrow: Saving Migratory Animals
- Invasive Species
- Making Species Maps
- Moss is Boss: Using Plants to Determine Direction
- Where Did All the Stars Go?
- Where, Oh Where, Do the Wild Wolves Wander?
Do you have a specific question about a career as a Park Ranger that isn't answered on this page? Post your question on the Science Buddies Ask an Expert Forum.
- American Forests: www.amercianforests.org
- Association of National Park Rangers: www.anpr.org
- National Park Service: https://www.nps.gov/index.htm
- National Recreation and Park Association: www.nrpa.org
- O*Net Online. (2016). National Center for O*Net Development. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
- Net Industries. 2009. Park Ranger Job Description, Career as a Park Ranger, Salary, Employment - Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job. Retrieved October 2, 2009.
- Voice Of America. (2009, August 26). Urban Naturalist Leads Education Efforts in New York City Parks. Retrieved December 4, 2009.
- South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism. (2019). South Carolina Parks–Ranger Profile. Retrieved March 20, 2019.
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