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, training for park rangers can include an emphasis in one or more of the following areas:
- Law Enforcement
- Interpretation and Education
- Emergency Services
- Park Maintenance
National Park Service Ranger Training
Training with the National Park Service is organized through the NPS Office of Learning and Development. The department has training centers in:
- Historic Preservation Training Center – Frederick, Maryland
- Horace Albright Training Center – Grand Canyon, Arizona
- Stephen Mather Training Center – Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia
Training that park rangers receive will differ depending on the position and the responsibilities that the ranger will have.
Park Ranger Training in Law Enforcement
Park Rangers training in seasonal law enforcement 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 in Mount Vernon, WA
- Southwestern Community College in Franklin, NC
- Temple University in Philadelphia, PA
- Vermilion Community College in Ely, MN
- Colorado Northwestern Community College in Rangely, CO
- Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ
- Santa Rosa Junior College in Windsor, CA
The programs in which the park rangers are training will consist of at least 650 hours of coursework that will prepare rangers to competently make arrests, perform criminal investigations and assist in executing warrants.
Those looking to apply for Type II seasonal park ranger positions will need to not only complete the seasonal training, but also satisfy additional education and experience requirements.
Seasonal Law Enforcement Training programs can be used as credits that can be used toward National Park Service post-secondary education requirements. These requirements specify the completion of a Bachelor’s degree if qualifying through education, or two years of post-secondary education; and one year of GS-4 level experience, if qualifying through a combination of education and experience. A few SLETP programs are available as an embedded part of a degree program that will satisfy NPS requirements for post-secondary education.
Law enforcement park rangers that work year round are fully commissioned peace officers. Training for these park ranger positions will be conducted at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, Georgia. The FLERC will provide the training needed to enforce state and federal laws on National Park Service Property.
Training for Interpretive Park Rangers
Interpretive park rangers receive a lot of their training through the NPS Interpretation and Education Career Academy’s Interpretive Development Program. Here, aspiring park rangers ill 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 like Missouri, park rangers are commissioned peace officers and will therefore have to complete a POST certified training program. POST training in most states takes about 600 contact hours to complete. In Missouri, park rangers must complete 400 hours of supplemental training that will prepare them for a career in law enforcement. Areas of supplemental training include:
- Legal Studies
- Criminal Investigations
- Crisis Intervention
On the other hand, states like Maryland put their rangers through a completely different training program that includes:
- Seasonal Interpretation School to demonstrate expertise in interpretive skills
- NAI Certified Interpretive Host training to demonstrate visitor service/hospitality skills
- 40-hour CPR/First Responder entry-level course
- Incident command courses
- Maryland Office of Tourism Development Welcome Center National Certification Training Program
- In-service test on Maryland Park Service and Park Ranger History
- Two-day search and rescue course
- Maryland Park Service Ranger School
- Maintenance workshops to demonstrate maintenance knowledge and skills
- Six-hour Voluntary Compliance course to demonstrate skills in the workplace
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:
- Legal studies
- Interpersonal perspectives
- Technical studies
- Skill development
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.