CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become a park ranger.
Is becoming a park ranger right for me?
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Seasonal & Voluntary Work
Seasonal and voluntary work exposes aspiring park rangers to the profession and offers them opportunities to experience some aspects of the career first hand.
To explore a variety of such opportunities, visit:
• National Park Service (NPS) Work with Us page,
• [National Park Service (NPS) Volunteer with Us]](https://www.nps.gov/getinvolved/volunteer.htm) page
• Sierra Club
• [Student Conservation Association
While an internship, seasonal position, or volunteer post with the above agencies and associations is highly sought after, valid experience can also be gained by working or volunteering at museums, historical sites, monuments, or municipal parks.
Most park ranger positions require at least a Bachelor’s Degree.
Many prospective park rangers pursue a degree related to conservation, biology, botany, ecology, forestry, earth science, anthropology, or law enforcement. Some of the most relevant academic majors are:
• Park and recreation management
• Environmental studies
• Environmental science
• Environmental management
• Wildlife and forestry
• Wildlife management
• Police science/criminal justice
• Natural resources management
• Biological sciences
• Fisheries and wildlife law enforcement
The National Park Service does not stipulate that its rangers complete a specific major. It does, however, require NPS applicants to have a minimum of 24 credit hours in one or more of the following:
• Natural resource management
• Natural sciences
• Earth sciences
• Park and recreation management
• Law enforcement/police science
• Social sciences
• Museum sciences
• Business administration
• Public administration
• Behavioral science
In addition to completing the appropriate education, to work in the United States prospective park rangers must:
• Be at least 21 years of age
• Possess a valid U.S. driver’s license
• Undergo a background investigation
• Take and pass the Physical Efficiency Battery (PEB)
• Take and pass a medical exam
• Take and pass a drug test
In-Service Training & Qualification
There is considerable in-service or on-the-job training required to become a full-fledged, qualified park ranger. In Maryland, for example, mandatory training includes the following:
• Completion of the Maryland Office of Tourism Development Welcome Center National Certification Training Program, which provides knowledge of the geography and history of the state
• Work for six months under the mentorship of a ranger mentor/trainer and go through at least one performance cycle before being promoted to the title of Maryland Park Ranger
• Pass an in-service test on Maryland Park Service and Park Ranger History
• Complete a two-day Introduction to Search and Rescue course
• Become certified in CPR and First Responder through attendance at a 40-hour entry level in-service training
• Complete two online Incident Command courses
• Attend Seasonal Interpretation School, interpretive in-service classes, Scales & Tales or other related training in natural, cultural and historical interpretation
• Complete the NAI Certified Interpretive Host training in hospitality and visitor service skills
• Complete Ranger School, Stewardship School or Operations School
• Complete three Professional Maintenance Workshops
• Complete a six-hour Voluntary Compliance Course
• Elective trainings required (must demonstrate proficiency in at least five areas; examples include EMT certification, wildlife fire training, fundamentals of search and rescue, Red Cross Lifeguard Management Certification, pesticide applicator license, heavy equipment operator license)
For detailed information specific to each U.S. state, visit the Careers section of the Park Ranger Education website.
Rangers who wish to work as a law enforcement park ranger need to complete the Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Program.
How to become a Park Ranger
Park rangers usually hold a Bachelor of Science Degree in one or more of the following areas: forestry, environmental science, natural resources management, park and recreation management, wildlife management, botany or geology. For some roles in the field, a two-year Associate’s level degree may be sufficient. Specific requirements vary depending on whether the job in question is under federal, state, or local/county jurisdiction.
One of the degrees described above typically prepares prospective rangers to work as Interpretive and Cultural Park Rangers, whose primary role is to educate visitors and to help them understand all that the park has to offer.
In addition to earning an undergraduate degree, individuals wishing to become Law Enforcement Rangers, who perform search-and-rescue operations, investigate crimes, and are empowered to make arrests, must complete the Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Program. This program is designed specifically for the U.S. National Park Service and is offered at only seven colleges throughout the country.
Aspiring rangers interested in the law enforcement aspect of the profession may opt to complete their undergraduate degree in a more closely related discipline such as law, criminal justice, or criminology.
Before they can officially be hired, all park rangers must pass the Group VI Law Enforcement and Investigation examination.