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How to Become a Park Ranger

Seeing nature, enjoying the beauty of our state and national parks, these are things everyone should get to enjoy. If you want to help everyone enjoy the beauty of our parks while also preserving them, then you should learn how to become a park ranger.

Park rangers protect our public lands and natural resources. Below is our guide on how to become a park ranger in 2020 and how you can help protect state and national parks around us for future generations.

What Is a Park Ranger?

A park ranger protects national and state parks. They look after natural resources, wildlife, and people who visit the park. Park rangers fill various roles, from environmental experts to historians and law enforcement agents.

What Does a Park Ranger Do?

Within the job of protecting state and national parks, park rangers have a long list of responsibilities while they are on the job. Below is a list of some of their duties.

Patrol Park Grounds

Park rangers regularly patrol the grounds of the park to make sure all visitors follow the rules and do not disrupt the environment.

Law Enforcement

While not the primary duty of a park ranger, there are times when they must enforce the law. When individuals break the law, park rangers have the legal authority to apprehend and stop the perpetrator.

Search-and-Rescue Missions

If a situation occurs where someone is lost and injured, park rangers are the first people on the case. They use their knowledge of the park surroundings to perform search-and-rescue operations.

Fight Fires and Conservation

In addition to protecting people, park rangers must also do what they can to protect the environment. Rangers regularly participate in conservation efforts and they also help with fighting fires that occur in the park.

Essential Park Ranger Skills

Strong Communication Skills

Being a park ranger means constantly communicating with visitors and tourists. You may have to show them around, inform them of the rules, or direct them during an emergency situation. Strong communication skills are imperative for a park ranger’s work.

Basic Law Enforcement Skills

Park rangers are trained to use arrest techniques, perform defense driving, patrol, investigate, and use deadly force when necessary. A park ranger must be skilled in self-defense in the event of illegal activity occurring within the park.

Survival Skills

You need survival skills, such as starting a fire safely, foraging for food, and evading wildlife, to become a park ranger. There are times when you’ll have to demonstrate these skills to visitors.

Park Ranger Salaries and Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the job growth for park rangers from 2019 to 2029 is five percent, which is higher than average. Park rangers can earn anywhere from $15 an hour for seasonal work to over $80,000 in a senior position.

Several factors play into how much a park ranger earns, which include the size of the park, the ranger’s responsibilities, education and experience, and the park agency they work under.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Park Ranger?

It takes three to five years to become a park ranger. This includes earning your bachelor’s degree, passing law enforcement training, and earning your certification.

How to Become a Park Ranger: A Step by Step Guide

Becoming a park ranger is no easy task. There are several qualifications you must meet in order to work for your state or national park. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to become a park ranger.

Step 1: Earn Your Bachelor’s Degree

Both seasonal and park rangers need a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. Some of the majors relevant to becoming a park ranger include environmental studies, wildlife and forestry, wildlife management, horticulture, biological sciences, environmental science, and park and recreation management.

An alternative to earning a college degree is having at least one year of specialized experience as a GS-4 park ranger and two years of post-secondary education.

Step 2: Get a Better Understanding of the Position

Visit local state and national parks, communicate with other park rangers, and take advantage of volunteer opportunities to learn more about the position. This will also increase your chances of getting hired.

Step 3: Apply for a Position

After you’ve learned about the position, it’s time to start applying for jobs. The process usually involves an application, testing, interview, and a background check before you’re hired. This process varies based on the department.

Step 4: Pass Your Examination

After you apply for a position as a park ranger, you’ll be asked to take the Group VI Law Enforcement and Investigation Exam. This exam determines whether you’re qualified to become a park ranger.

Step 5: Complete Recruitment Training

Once you’ve passed your examinations and been hired, you’ll start park ranger recruit training. This training is related to your duties and responsibilities in the park. Recruits complete training where they study arrest and restraining techniques, patrolling, hunting and fishing regulations, and firefighting.

Should You Become a Park Ranger in 2020?

Being a park ranger is no easy job. It takes lots of long hours of hard work. You’ll be out in the park, patrolling constantly and interacting with people regularly. Not only is the work hard, but it’s also potentially dangerous. From criminals to wildlife and even park fires, there are a number of things to look out for as a park ranger.

However, if you love the outdoors, being around nature, and you want to help preserve and protect the parks for people to enjoy, then being a park ranger is worth all of the hard work.


What does a park ranger do?
There are several park ranger positions to choose from. Some rangers enforce the law and others protect park resources. Some parks have rangers who specialize in activities you won’t find in any others, such as working with sled dogs.
Do park rangers live in the park?
Yes, many parks have housing for park rangers. The rangers do pay rent and it is taken directly out of their pay. Park rangers are also able to live in the local community.
How much do park rangers earn each year?
Park ranger salary is chosen by their GS pay scale. A GS-5 ranger ears upwards of $36,021. A GS-11 ranger earns upwards of $66,027.
How to apply to be a park ranger?
The only way to apply to become a park ranger is through USA Jobs.
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