Park Rangers are most accurately defined as an individual whose work is centered on the protection and conservation of state or federal natural resources. The specific job responsibilities of each ranger will depend on their job level and the state agency that employed them.
Those that work for the National Park Service will be hired on as either park rangers or cultural/interpretive park rangers. However, on the state level park rangers can be employed in a variety of ways.
Depending on the state, park rangers are referred to as park police or forest rangers. Within those titles come a few major job classifications that include the following:
Park Ranger Cadets
New park ranger recruits, or park ranger cadets, will perform entry level duties under the supervision of a high ranking park ranger. While a cadet, you will learn:
- Basic law enforcement
- Visitor services
- Resource management training programs
In order to become a park ranger, park ranger cadets will need to successfully complete all of the performance requirements of the state parks agency.
If a park ranger isn’t working under another title, they are typically going to be conducting general park ranger duties, which include:
- Interpretive services
- Visitor protection
- Visitor services
- Resource management
- Operating procedures
Depending on the size and needs of the park that the ranger is working for, the responsibilities will vary, sometimes on a weekly basis.
In some cases, park rangers can be patrolling the environment, making sure no one is violating hunting laws, while the next day they could be leading a tour, or conducting a search and rescue mission.
Park Ranger Peace Officer
Park rangers that become fully sworn in peace officers will be required to perform the duties of a general park ranger, but will also have the ability to participate in law enforcement activities as well.
Peace officers will usually be responsible for:
- Law enforcement services
- Medical aid/emergency medical response
- Working and preserving emergency medical equipment
- Ensuring visitors understand and abide by park rules and regulations
- Providing general park information
- Community outreach programs and activities
- Interpretive programs
- Junior ranger programs
- Conservation of the parks’ resources
Law Enforcement Park Rangers
Law enforcement rangers are park rangers who have been fully commissioned as law enforcement officials; they are able to investigate crimes, make arrests, and carry a gun. Law enforcement rangers are meant to protect the park and its guests, as well as perform emergency services.
Law enforcement rangers can perform duties such as:
- Investigate illegal activity
- Perform arrests
- Engage in emergency services such as search and rescues, wild fires, and medical services
Law enforcement park rangers will be able to patrol and operate vehicles such as ATV, boat, horseback, snowmobile, and bicycle. They can also be involved in special missions like search and rescues, K-9 units, and scuba teams.
Keep in mind, in some states law enforcement park rangers will need to complete basic law enforcement training before starting the job.
Interpretive and Cultural Park Rangers
Interpretive/cultural park rangers have a relatively specific job. As interpretive park rangers, they are responsible for giving out information about the park to the guests who visit. In addition, they also focus a lot on a number of activities having to do with protecting and conserving national resources. Activities such as:
- Wildlife Conservation
- Resource Management
- Visitor Recreational Programs
Cultural/interpretive park rangers will be mainly located in visitor centers, entrance stations, and information desks. This is where they will interact with park guests and answer any questions they may have about the park or wildlife. In addition, these park rangers also conduct tours and give lectures regarding similar information.
Park Managers and Supervisors
In state and Federal parks, the park manager is the general manager. The park manager is responsible for directing the personnel, funds, materials and facilities that are needed to conduct park activities.
Park managers are responsible for directing and controlling all park activities, which can include the supervision of:
- Park Staff
- Safety and Rule Enforcement
- Resource Protection
- Activity Management
- Visitor Facility Operations