Most places of employment require prospective park rangers to have a minimum of a Bachelor of Science degree. For more advanced positions in the field, you will need to have higher qualifications such as a master’s degree or a Ph.D.
If you are interested in learning more about becoming a park ranger as a profession, read on to learn more and find out what qualifications you need to have to enter this profession.
What is a Park Ranger?
Park rangers are individuals who are charged with the protection and preservation of parklands at the local, provincial, state, and national levels. They do so by carrying out patrols and ensuring regulations are adhered to and enforced.
There are typically two different career paths that you can take in this profession:
Education – This aspect of the profession focuses more on teaching visitors to parks about the natural features and attributes of that specific area. Park rangers who are educators will typically lead tours of parks and provide visitors with all the information they need concerning the park.
Enforcement/Protection – This aspect of the profession focuses more on the protection of parks and ensuring that the park is well maintained and that all regulations are being enforced. It is considerably more strenuous and may involve having to carry out investigations and apprehending individuals who are being disruptive or destructive inside the park.
Some of the job duties of a park ranger include:
Provide visitors to the park with information about the park
Carry out field trips or guided tours of the park
Create educational material for distribution and display at the information center of the park
Ensure that all structures and facilities in the park are properly maintained
Ensure that all trails in the park are properly maintained
Collect all park fees
Manage budgets and supplies
Carry out search and rescue operations if need be
Investigate accidents, illegal activities, and complaints
Help in the management of public events held at the park
Carry out surveillance at the park
Train other park rangers and volunteers
How do you pursue a career as a park ranger?
In order to become a park ranger, you will need to satisfy certain requirements. Due to the fact that park rangers are professionals who are highly trained, most employers require individuals to hold a minimum of a Bachelor of Science degree. This can be in areas as diverse as conservation, wildlife management, forestry, etc.
If you’re looking to take on more advanced positions in the field, especially in management, you may require a Master of Science degree or a Ph.D.
In general, here are some of the steps you can follow to pursue a career as a park ranger.
Steps to pursuing a career as a park ranger
1. Get a Bachelor of Science degree|
2. Get Master of Science Degree|
3. Gain relevant in-field experiences in the field |
Bachelor of Science Degree
Most entry level positions in this field will require candidates to have at least a bachelor’s degree in science. The major you choose for your degree will depend upon where you want to work. For instance, majors in wildlife biology, natural resource management, conservation, biology, forestry, or ecology will give you the foundational knowledge you need in order to educate park visitors on the natural and scientific elements of the park.
If you’re working in a park which is historically significant, it may also be advisable to take courses in history.
Some of the courses offered
Bachelor of Science
- Environmental science
- Social sciences
- Tourism management
- Natural resources management
- Master of Science Degree
If you are interested in taking on more advanced positions in the field, especially in an administrative or management capacity, you will be required to have at least a Master of Science degree.
A Master of Science degree will equip you with advanced, specialized scientific knowledge which could be useful for certain positions, such as in administration or management. When choosing a major, you will have to have an idea of what prospective jobs you will be applying for. For instance, if you’re interested in going into the enforcement aspect of the profession, it may be helpful to take courses in law enforcement.
Some of the courses offered
Master of Science Degree
- Natural science research methods
- Earth Science
- Administrative policy
- Forest dynamics
- Environmental law and policy
- Soil science
- Policy and management
- Career prospects and salary
If you’re interested in becoming a park ranger and you are curious to know what a career profile for this profession looks like, you can look at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics or O*NET OnLine. According to O*NET OnLine, Park Naturalists earned an annual median salary of $61,810 in 2016. That translates to about $29.72 per hour. In 2014, there were roughly 21,000 employees in this profession. It is projected that there will be a 5% to 8% growth in employment leading to around 10,600 new jobs.
Park rangers can work at a number of different levels including local, state, and national parks as well as with the government.
The work can sometimes be very physically demanding and in some cases, dangerous. Park rangers may have to confront dangerous people and animals in their line of work.