A park ranger can be found working in nature at a public park (this could be a national park or a state park). They provide historical information to visitors about the park and also may give lectures or tours providing education as well. Park rangers can also be called park naturalists, education specialists, park activities coordinators, or interpretive naturalists.
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How to Become a Park Ranger
Though a bachelor’s degree may not be a requirement to gain a position as a park ranger, employers generally look for a blend of education and experience. According to O*NET OnLine, almost 100% of the park naturalists surveyed held a bachelor’s degree with less than 10% gaining their master’s degree.
It’s recommended to gain your bachelor’s degree in a related field and the Bureau of Land Management recommends courses that cover some of the following topics: natural resource management, natural sciences, earth sciences, history, archeology, anthropology, park and recreation management, law enforcement/police science related to the protection of public lands, social sciences, museum sciences, or other closely related subjects pertaining to the management and protection of natural and cultural resources. You can visit the National Park Service website (link opens in a new tab) to learn more about what they look for in candidates and how to apply.
Job Description of a Park Ranger
Park rangers have a variety of duties at a park. Educating the public though is probably one of the most important. These professionals are experts in their park’s history, wildlife, and plants. They often provide tours for the public or give lectures on specific topics. Rangers may also help with other visitor services as well such as giving directions, providing recommendations, and ensuring the public is safe as well as the wildlife in the park.
Free Teacher and Student Resources
The National Park Service has webcams in Yellowstone (link opens in a new tab) as well as virtual tours of Yellowstone (link opens in a new tab) that you can checkout anytime. This is great for teachers that want to bring a National Park to their students.
Park Ranger Job Posting
Let’s look at a job description posted by the Bureau of Land Management. This job announcement is looking for a person to perform the following responsibilities:
Park Rangers support the Bureau of Land Management park and recreation programs. They work with the public to provide information and guidance. Duties may include but are not limited to; participating in evaluating visitor use patterns, preparing and maintaining recreation sites, and monitoring conditions of sites and natural and cultural resources. Park Rangers may develop and conduct interpretive hikes, walks, talks, and demonstrations to a variety of age groups. They conduct patrols, safety inspections, and respond to emergency situations.
Work is mostly performed outdoors in all types of weather on rugged terrain to include; steep, wet, muddy, rough, uneven, or rocky surfaces. Position requires physical exertion such as, but not limited to: driving over unpaved roads, walking over rough terrain, standing for long periods of time, bending, digging, hiking, lifting, or similar activities. Duties may require carrying heavy backpacks, tools, rescue equipment, or other loads. Work may involve early morning hours, daytime hours, or night hours, and may require working holidays.
This position was posted to run 01/20/2019 until 02/02/2019 with a salary range of $29,847 to $53,773 per year on USAjobs.gov (link opens in a new tab). USAjobs.gov is an official website of the United States government and part of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
Park Naturalist Career Video Transcript
Park naturalists establish a connection between parks and the public. They educate park visitors, student groups, and others about the natural bounty, history, scientific opportunities, and ecological diversity of the country’s local, state, and national parks. Park naturalists develop presentations, hands-on demonstrations, and interactive programs that help audiences get familiar with the park, everything from its geological formations and plants to the creatures who make their homes there. Whether by visiting schools to demonstrate how beavers construct their dams and lodges developing an exhibit that allows visitors to explore a model of bird habitats or leading an overnight trip through the park, a park naturalist aims to get people interested in and excited about the natural world.
Naturalists must combine a passion for the environment with the presentation skills and public relations abilities that allow them to make a connection with the public. They answer many questions each day, explain regulations, and respond to emergencies in the park. Many naturalists rely on teaching experience to prepare them. Typically becoming a park naturalist requires a bachelor’s degree in environmental education or biology. Full-time work is not easy to come by and many naturalists start out as volunteers or seasonal workers.
National Center for O*NET Development. 19-1031.03. O*NET OnLine. This page includes information from O*NET OnLine by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (USDOL/ETA). Used under the CC BY 4.0 license. O*NET® is a trademark of USDOL/ETA. RethinkOldSchool, Inc. has modified all or some of this information. USDOL/ETA has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.
The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.
The park ranger image is in the public domain from the National Park Service.