Have you ever dreamed of working as a park ranger, and getting to spend your working hours in our country’s magnificent parks? After all, our national parks, state parks, national forests and designated wilderness areas are some of the most pristine and beautiful places on the planet.
Filled with a wide variety of plants, animals, and geological wonders, these parks represent the last unspoiled places in our nation.
And park rangers get to work there, and sometimes live there as well. For many people, being outdoors in a place like Yellowstone or Rocky Mountain National Park is refreshing, relaxing, and a spiritual retreat from the noise and congestion of modern cities.
As a result of an increased awareness of nature and the environment, and the fact that people are looking to spend more time in our parks and wild lands, more and more professionals are needed to help police, protect, and educate the public about these areas. That’s were park rangers come in. Park rangers see to it that visitors to the parks obey the rules, and don’t do harm to these priceless places.
Most park rangers are part police officer, part tour guide, and part wildlife resource manager. They help to lookout for forest fires, protect the wildlife in the parks, give seminars and lectures on the local ecosystem, and make sure that every guest has a safe and enjoyable visit.
As you might imagine, this type of work appeals to a lot of people, and the job of park ranger is a very competitive one. These days it helps to have a college degree to break into this field, although persons with extensive volunteer experience can and do get hired.
Persons interested in becoming park rangers should also be aware that the starting pay is typically low in this career field – although it can be offset somewhat by the fact that many rangers are given free housing as part of their compensation.
But for many people this is not a deterrent to becoming a park ranger. After all, the idea of being able to work outdoors in some of the most beautiful settings on the planet is compensation enough, along with the opportunity to work closely with wild animals.
The knowledge that rangers are helping to preserve and protect these areas, while keeping the public informed about the value of such places, is why many park rangers wouldn’t trade their jobs for anything.
About the job
The duties of a park ranger can be diverse and varied, depending on what type of work the ranger signs up for, and which bureau he or she works for.
For example, a park ranger can specialize in the law enforcement arm of the job, and these individuals concentrate on enforcing laws and regulations inside the park.
Interpretation specialists work to provide information on the park’s environment and wildlife to the visiting public. And “generalists” can do a little bit of everything, from collecting ticket fees at the park gate to working in the visitor’s center.
Park rangers are typically employed by state or federal government agencies. As mentioned earlier, jobs in this area are extremely competitive, and there’s often a long waiting list to be considered for one.
Most entry-level positions are found in parks situated in or near urban areas. As a benefit, housing is often provided to park rangers.
Other duties common to park rangers include:
- Being available to answer the public’s question about the parks wildlife and fauna.
- Patrolling the park, either in a vehicle or on horseback.
- Collecting park fees at the entrance.
- Giving nature talks and walks to the visitors.
- Handling wild animals on occasion, relocating dangerous animals, and dealing with the wildlife in general, including bears, reptiles, large cats, birds, etc.
What the job is really like
The positive working conditions available to park rangers is no doubt the number one reason so many people are drawn to this career field. Rangers spend the bulk of their time outdoors, in beautiful park settings, and surrounded by verdant plant life, wild animals, and geological natural wonders.
The one downside of this, of course, is the fact that park rangers are required to be outdoors when the weather isn’t so nice. Even when the park has few visitors, the rangers are still required to patrol and protect the park as needed, as the animal inhabitants need to be looked after regardless of the weather.
The work of park rangers is also physically demanding at times, as they are expected to negotiate dangerous and difficult terrain in national parks and wilderness areas. If some in the park gets lost in a remote area, for example, the rangers are usually called in to help find them.
Another potential downside is the living conditions. In most cases, the housing that’s provided in or around the area where park rangers work is usually less than luxurious, to say the least.
This is offset of course by the fact that this housing is usually provided at no cost to the ranger. But this can make it hard to have a normal family life, and many people in this career field are single.
Work for park rangers also tends to be seasonal in nature, as only a few rangers have the luxury of staying year-round in the same job. Some rangers only work in the summer months, and work other jobs the rest of the year. Others are given transfers from parks in one part of the country to another, and so they have to be willing to relocate at a moments notice.
Still, this is one of those jobs where almost everyone loves what they do, and almost all would tell you that they wouldn’t change this line of work for anything in the world.