Park rangers in the National Park Service (NPS) are employed by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Rangers are also employed by other federal agencies or by state, county, and city agencies in charge of their respective parks.
Many workers enter national park ranger jobs after working as a part time or seasonal employee at different parks. These individuals often work at information desks or in fire control or law enforcement positions. Some help maintain trails, collect trash, or perform forestry activities. If you are interested in applying for a federal park ranger job, visit https://www.usajobs.gov to view open positions and apply.
To find jobs in state, county, or local parks, visit the respective agencies' Web site.
Nearly all rangers start in entry-level positions, which means that nearly all higher level openings are filled by the promotion of current government employees. Many of these entry-level positions are seasonal with no benefits (vacation time, sick leave, medical benefits). Entry-level rangers may move into positions such as district ranger, park manager, or chief ranger, or they may become specialists in resource management. Rangers who show management skills and become park managers may move into administrative positions in the district, regional, or national headquarters.
The orientation and training a ranger receives on the job may be supplemented with formal training courses. Training for job skills unique to the National Park Service is available at the Horace M. Albright Training Center at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona and the Stephen T. Mather Training Center at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. In addition, training is available at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia.
The National Park Service tends to offer more opportunities for advancement, particularly when compared to rangers for county and city lands.
Tips for Entry
Get involved with the Student Conservation Association (SCA), which provides high school-aged members with hands-on experience through internships. To see what projects SCA offers, visit https://www.thesca.org/serve.
If you would like to work for the National Park Service, consider a federal internship. Go to https://www.usajobs.gov/Search/?k=internships to see a list of current openings.
Volunteer at a local park and speak to a ranger about his or her job responsibilities. Most parks use volunteers to manage invasive plants and maintain trails and listing this experience on your resume can help greatly with securing future employment.
Visit a variety of parks to help determine which work environment appeals to you most: dunes, prairie, forest, desolate or high-traffic lands. Consider which roles of being a ranger most interest you; specifically either tasks that are people-oriented (law enforcement, teaching visitors about plants and animals) versus research-related (archeaology, hydrology, etc.).