Park Ranger Careers, Job Outlook and Salary

You'll help protect the nation's parks, visitors and wildlife as a park ranger. Here's what you can expect.

park ranger approaching animal

Enjoy the great outdoors and get paid for it.

As a park ranger, you'll protect, educate and perform a variety of other nature-related duties. If you love being outside and want to be part of conservation efforts, this law enforcement career could be a perfect fit.

Park Ranger Job Duties

Park rangers are law enforcement officers, nature experts or both. They are charged with protecting parks, visitors and wildlife. They often work in rural and wilderness settings but can be found in city parks, historical sites, nature preserves and recreation areas.

Park rangers share a wealth of knowledge with visitors and their role includes these tasks:

  • Prepare exhibits and informational material about the park
  • Develop conservation programs
  • Lead tours and nature walks
  • Enforcing park regulations

A large part of a park ranger's job is conserving the lands they oversee, including studying wildlife behavior and monitoring air and water quality to determine if an ecosystem is in working order.

In larger parks, rangers may search for lost hikers, rescue stranded mountain climbers, supervise fire-fighting crews and tend to injured park visitors.

Park ranger jobs often require adapting to various situations, some of which are urgent or emergencies. The ability to work independently and in groups is especially important. Leadership skills are also very important, as park rangers often have to manage staff and coordinate groups of people.

Park Ranger Education

A minimum of an associate's degree is generally required of park rangers, but some locations may require a bachelor's degree. You can find associate's forestry technology degree programs at most colleges and technical schools. Your coursework is likely to include:

  • Natural sciences
  • Law enforcement
  • Recreation management

If you're interested in furthering your education even more, you can also find bachelor's and master's degree programs in the following areas:

  • Environmental sciences
  • Botany
  • Geology
  • Criminal justiceĀ 

Park Ranger Salary and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median national annual salary for conservation scientists and foresters is $59,060. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.

While overall job growth for conservation and forestry technicians is expected to decline though 2022, the BLS predicts state-owned forests will likely see the most growth in employment.