A park ranger is an authority figure in the law enforcement realm that is in charge of protecting the parklands, preserving their natural beauty and helping people who come to visit these parks. This includes national parks, state parks, and local parks. Park rangers are employed by the National Park Service.
Responsibilities & Job Overview
Park rangers are responsible for many important tasks supporting park operations and ensuring safety throughout the national or state park, including:
- Leading park operations, resource management and protection
- Patrolling park premises
- Providing law and safety enforcement
- Assisting in activities and park programs
- Acting as supervisor to seasonal, part time, and other staff
- Patrolling the park on foot, boat, and vehicle
- Issuing citations, writing reports, making arrests for misdemeanors, felonies and warrants
- Conducting criminal and administrative investigations
- Taking command in the event of an emergency
Other duties include performing search and rescue activities, rescuing people and vessels in distress, assisting in fire suppression and fire prevention, providing emergency medical aid, traffic control and radio dispatching, cliff rescue, ski patrol, scuba diving, water rescue, horse patrol, off road vehicle and motorcycle patrol, and canine team handler.
Education & Experience Requirements
One of the most important things one can do to prepare for a potential career as a park ranger is to gain valuable experience. This can be done by volunteering with park services, and working in park services in another capacity. A high school student can work a summer job there or even a part time job in the afternoon and on weekends. In addition to gaining experience, they will know whether or not it is a career path that they want to pursue in the future. A student enrolled in college can work or volunteer during hours that they are not in class.
While in school, a potential future park ranger must concentrate on science classes, especially biological science. They must also accomplish good grades in computer courses, English, and history. A great park ranger candidate must have completed several specific courses in order to have a better chance at getting a position. These college courses include botany, biology, geology, history, archaeology, and over 30 credit hours of science.
In addition to these college courses, if they have a seasonal position under their belt, they may be eligible to work a full time park service job as long as the applicant is 18 and has a driver’s license. Most often, park rangers have a bachelor’s degree in a wildlife field or in an environmental field. If there are still any questions, most managers of park services will be able to recommend some course avenues to future park ranger hopefuls. A program called the Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Program (SLETP) was developed to allow seasonal rangers to work law enforcement jobs administered by the National Park Service.
Medical experience, safety experience, in addition to enforcement experience and outdoor skills like rock climbing, swimming, hiking, and canoeing will help a potential park ranger in their future line of work. Getting experience in these things will greatly benefit one’s career. Other necessary skills to have are experience with boats, tractors, other farm equipment and trucks. The ability to operate equipment such as firefighter equipment and chain saws is also helpful. Park rangers work with people of all cultures and ages, so any experience with different kinds of people is important as well.
It is very important for a person desiring to become a park ranger to get a college education in certain wildlife, environmental and science fields. Park services will also provide candidates with classes and courses specific to that certain park or area of the country. Just as an education is important, experience is just as vital in this line of work. Someone wanting to become a park ranger should attain all of the job opportunities that their time with schooling allows. Summer jobs, volunteering, part time, and full time positions are all equally important to gain experience needed to become a park ranger.