PARK RANGER CAREERS, JOB OUTLOOK AND SALARY
You’ll help protect the nation’s parks, visitors and wildlife as a park ranger.
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 may 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
- Criminal justice
Park Ranger Salary and Job Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ current Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median national annual salary for park rangers, as part of the larger category of police and detectives, is $61,600. The annual salary for conservation scientists and foresters is $60,610. 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.
Overall job growth for police and detectives will be on par with the national average. But employment of conservation scientists and foresters is expected to be 6 percent though 2026, adding another 2,100 jobs in that time frame. The BLS predicts state-owned forests will likely see the most growth in employment.