Park Rangers are most accurately defined as an individual whose work is centered on the protection and conservation of natural resources at the state or federal level. The specific job responsibilities of each ranger will depend on level of their job and the specific agency that employed them.
Those that work for the National Park Service will be hired on as either cultural/interpretive park rangers or 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 specific classifications of jobs that include:
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Park Ranger Cadet
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:
- Resource management training programs
- Basic law enforcement
- Visitor services
In order to become a park ranger, park ranger cadets will need to successfully complete all of the requirements for performance through the state parks agency.
If a park ranger isn’t working under another title, they are typically going to be conducting the duties of general park ranger, including:
- Visitor services
- Resource management
- Operating procedures
- Interpretive services
- Visitor protection
There are varying sizes and needs of parks, and 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 all general park ranger duties, but will also have the ability to perform activities that are law enforcement related.
Peace officers will usually be responsible for:
- Ensuring visitors understand and abide by park rules and regulations
- Providing general park information
- Community outreach programs and activities
- Law enforcement services
- Medical aid/emergency medical response
- Working and preserving emergency medical equipment
- Interpretive programs
- Junior ranger programs
- Conservation of the parks’ resources
Law Enforcement Park Ranger
The law enforcement ranger is a park ranger that has been commissioned fully as a law enforcement official; they are able to investigate crimes, make arrests, as well as hold/carry a gun. The law enforcement ranger is tasked with protecting the park and its guests, as well as performing emergency services.
- 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 snowmobile, bicycle, ATV, boat, and even horseback. 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 Ranger
The Interpretive/cultural park ranger has a relatively specific job and focus. 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 sundry activities having to do with protecting and conserving national resources. Activities include the following:
- Wildlife Conservation
- Resource Management
- Visitor Recreational Programs
The Cultural/interpretive park ranger will be mainly be located in/at an information desk, entrance station visitor center, or entrance stations. This is where they will interact with park guests and answer any questions they may have regarding the park or wildlife. In addition, these park rangers also conduct tours and give lectures regarding similar information.
Park Managers and Supervisor
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.
The Park manager is responsible for directing and controlling all park activities, which can include supervising the following:
- Park Staff
- Safety and Rule Enforcement
- Resource Protection
- Activity Management
- Visitor Facility Operations
Park Ranger Programs and Educational Opportunities
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Choose your area of study and receive free information about programs you are interested in. Park rangers are responsible for protecting our parks and wilderness areas as well as guiding and educating the public. These duties are the same across the local, state, and national levels. Park rangers pursue degrees related to parks and recreation, environmental science, as well as law enforcement and criminal justice.