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A park ranger talking to a child

A park ranger could...

Spot a forest fire and help put it out. Two forest rangers next to burning shrubs in a forest Transport injured animals to wildlife clinics for treatment. A fawn is held as it drinks from a baby bottle
Enforce federal laws and park regulations in a park. A park ranger handing out a citation to a driver in a parked car Give a guided tour of a national park. A park ranger speaking to two children
Find out more...

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
Median Salary
Park Ranger
U.S. Mean Annual Wage
Min Wage
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.
Related Occupations
Source: O*Net

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 Qualifications

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 this video, you will see how urban park ranger Sarah Aucoin tries to educate people in New York City about nature, and give them a sense of connection to their environment.

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.

Work Environment

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.

Source: BLS

Companies That Hire Park Rangers

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