Park-Ranger.org Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Park Ranger?
A park ranger, park warden, or forest ranger is a person who is trusted with defending and conserving parklands such as national, state, provincial, or local parks. The term “parks” is broadly defined by a few systems in this context, and is comprised of protected culturally or historically built environments, and is not limited to the natural environment.
What are the responsibilities of a Park Ranger?
The primary responsibility of a park ranger is to protect and oversee their designated outdoor areas. Park rangers will patrol the grounds, making sure visitors and campers follow the parks rules, and that they are not disrupting any other visitor’s experience. They will have the responsibility of giving guided tours or presentations of the park. Park rangers will also work to distribute park maps to guests, pointing out the park’s interesting features, while letting them know about areas that are forbidden. They could be called on to conduct search-and-rescue missions, initiate conservation efforts, help fight fires and enforce the law.
What are some other names for Park Ranger?
The position is called different names in different countries. For instance, warden is the popular name in Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. In the United States, the National Park Service calls the position “park ranger.” The U.S. Forest Service refers to the position as a “forest ranger.” In other countries throughout the world, the name “park warden” or “game warden” is used to describe this occupation.
How are Park Rangers different from Game Wardens?
Similar to game wardens, park rangers are in the business of protection and education, but unlike game wardens, park rangers are more concerned about the land than the wildlife. In some cases, rangers can be called naturalists or conservation scientists and are usually not out to enforce the law. Although they may make sure that park visitors follow the rules, rangers are there to provide services to visitors, conduct field trips, and talk about the park’s natural features.
What are the general requirements to become a Park Ranger?
While some park ranger positions only require high school diplomas, most require a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree. Even on a state level, more than one type of park ranger might work at the same park. Some park rangers are law enforcement officers and some serve as guides and interpreters. Usually, the minimum educational requirement is two years of college, but some agencies will require at least a Bachelor’s degree.
Park rangers typically need degrees, experience or courses in at least one of the following relevant fields:
• museum science
• earth science
• natural resource conservation
For applicants seeking employment as law enforcement rangers, a degree in criminal justice is also allowed. Some agencies will be open to studies in sociology, public administration or behavioral science.
What are the educational requirements for Park Rangers?
Every state establishes its own criteria for hiring park rangers. Some states will require a Bachelor’s degree and will not consider experience in place of formal education. Some states are more flexible than others. California is a state that requires 60 credit hours, with at least 21 of those hours needing to be in a relevant field. Applicants do not need Associate’s degrees in California. Some states will require applicants to obtain a two-year degree in a relevant field. In some states, there are no minimum education requirements for park rangers, but in order to gain promotion to park manager, one will need to acquire a Bachelor’s degree. Check your particular state to understand its exact requirements.
How do certain degrees help you become a Park Ranger?
Environmental Management: A degree in environmental management will prepare an individual to properly maintain the world’s precious natural resources. The management focus of the environmental management degree involves the business and managerial aspects of natural resources. Your role as an environmental manager involves making informed decisions that are based on business and economics, but also a solid background in natural science.
Wildlife Science: A Wildlife Science degree is based on biology. This dynamic program offers students a wide and well-rounded education concerning the management of wildlife resources through the analysis of wildlife species. This includes species needs, habitat manipulation, ecology, and the role of wildlife in our society.
Wildlife Ecology and Management: A Bachelor Degree in Wildlife Ecology and Management (for Park Ranger) will offer you the opportunity to develop a firm foundation in basic science that will include biology and chemistry, while enhancing your knowledge of such critical areas as management, restoration, and conservation of wildlife. A Wildlife Ecology and Management Degree serves as a logical starting point for your career as a Park Ranger.
Criminal Justice: A Criminal Justice degree program can provide the student with a comprehensive educational background in law enforcement, corrections, and the judicial system in a way that can greatly benefit the student when later working in the field as a Park Ranger.
What does a Park Ranger earn per year?
The Park Ranger occupation goes by a General Schedule or GS pay scale, with each GS level having its own pay scale:
GS-5: $27,705 – $36,021
GS-7: $34,319 – $44,615
GS-9: $41,979 – $54,570
GS-11: $50,790 – $66,027