The responsibilities of a park ranger will vary from law enforcement efforts to conservation initiatives. Those who work for a large national park will end up seeing more specialized responsibilities and training, while those who work for small agencies may receive training for a broader spectrum of duties.
Today, park ranger training can include an emphasis in the following divisions (one or more):
- Enforcement of Law
- Education and Interpretation
- Emergency Services
- Park Maintenance
National Park Service Ranger Training
Training/National Park Service is orchestrated via the NPS Office of Learning and Development. The department has training centers in:
- In Frederick, Maryland: Historic Preservation Training Center
- In Grand Canyon, Arizona: Horace Albright Training Center
- In Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia: Stephen Mather Training Center
Park rangers training is differentiated depending on the position and responsibilities that the ranger will have.
Park Ranger Training in Law Enforcement
Park Rangers training in law enforcement at a seasonal level with the National Park Service will be provided with Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Program (SLETP) training through one of these seven colleges throughout the United States:
- Skagit Valley College (Mount Vernon, WA)
- Southwestern Community College (Franklin, NC)
- Temple University (Philadelphia, PA)
- Vermilion Community College (Ely, MN)
- Colorado Northwestern Community College (Rangely, CO)
- Northern Arizona University (Flagstaff, AZ)
- Santa Rosa Junior College (Windsor, CA
The programs in which the park rangers are training will consist of at least 650 coursework hours that will prepare rangers to conduct such tasks as effectively conducting criminal investigations, facilitating the execution of warrants, and making arrests.
Those looking to apply for Type II (seasonal) park ranger positions will need to not only complete the seasonal training, but also satisfy additional experience and education standards.
Programs in Training for Seasonal Law Enforcement can be utilized as credits used toward the requirements for National Park Service education (post-secondary). These requirements specify the accomplishment of a Bachelor’s degree (for education requirement), or two years of post-secondary education; and one year experience at the GS-4 level, if one qualifies with a combination of education and experience. A few SLETP programs are available as an integral part to a degree program that will satisfy post-secondary (education) NPS requirements.
Peace officers (fully commissioned) are defined as law enforcement park rangers that work year round. In Glynco, Georgia, at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), training for park ranger positions will be conducted.
Training for Park Rangers (Interpretive)
Aspiring park rangers will learn the skills they need to:
- Give lectures to park guests
- Leading tours or hikes
- Teaching student tour groups
- Writing park materials
- Planning park learning events
State Park Ranger Training
State park rangers have the most varied of training programs because the training will depend on the scope of the park ranger’s position.
In states such as Missouri, park rangers are peace officers (commissioned) and will therefore have to complete a certified training program (POST ). The training for POST in most states takes about 600 contact hours to complete. Park rangers in Missouri must complete 400 hours of supplemental training that will empower them for the law enforcement career. Areas of supplemental training include:
- Legal Studies
- Criminal Investigations
- Crisis Intervention
In states such as Maryland, rangers are put through a completely different training program that includes:
- Seasonal Interpretation School to demonstrate expertise in interpretive skills
- NAI Certified Interpretive Host training for demonstration of visitor service and hospitality skills
- 40-hour CPR/First Responder entry-level course
- Incident command courses
- Welcome Center National Certification Training Program Maryland Office of Tourism Development
- Maryland Park Service and Park Ranger History In-service test
- Two-day search and rescue course
- Maryland Park Service Ranger School
- For demonstration of knowledge and skills for maintenance: maintenance workshops
- Voluntary Compliance course for demonstrating skills in the workplace (Six-hour)
In addition, Park Rangers in the state of Missouri are required to complete an extra annual 48 hour training program that includes lessons in 4 areas:
- Technical studies
- Skill development
- Legal studies
- Interpersonal perspectives
For more information regarding specific requirements for your state or region, visit your state’s page on Park-Ranger.org or visit your state wildlife department’s website.