It’s sweltering hot, you’ve already hiked a couple miles checking the boundaries of your park for encroachments. A call comes over the radio that a kayaker has overturned at the lake and you must respond to assist. Your truck is a 30-minute hike away, so you jog back, get in your truck, and get to the location. Other rangers have already gotten the victim out of the water, police are taking a statement and a local fire department has responded as well. You help with crowd control and make sure there is trail access for emergency vehicles. This is a regular day in life of a Park ranger. For a park ranger a day can involve any thing from guiding an interpretive hike to rescuing an injured hiker. It takes a certain type of individual to take on the title of ranger, this is why positions are so highly competitive. So the question is, what does it take to be a park ranger?
Love of the outdoors
As a park ranger you are an ambassador to the public on any variety of topics. Being passionate about the flora, fauna and history of the land that your working on is key to creating a lasting impression on the public with which you work. Beyond that, you could be working in some very remote areas, you will need to thrive and keep a positive attitude. The activities that you are able to do outside of work hours may be limited to outdoor recreation. Going to the club or bellying up to bar at the local tavern may be out of the question. Many of the park users will look to you for recommendations for recreation and these questions are much easier answered if you have experience doing them.
The day to day to activities of a ranger largely involve speaking with the public. Whether you work as a law enforcement officer or an interpretive guide you will need to accurately relay information and answer questions. You will be interacting with people from all over the country and possibly the world, so you will need to possess the skills to be competent in all forms of communication.
Knowledge of the outdoors
You will need to field a variety of questions, you may not know the answer to all of them, but you have to at least be able to give them the means to answer the question themselves. This may mean offering to look something up whether that be in a field guide or simply taking a quick google search. The worst thing that you could do is provide false information, only to be called out later.
Desire to Help
Like other government jobs you are there to serve the public. Depending on the nature of your duties as a ranger you are also there to protect the public whether as EMS or law enforcement. You must have the type of personality where you strive to help those in need.
Adaptability is possibly the most important trait that a ranger that can have. Every day is different, every hour is different. In the morning you can be leading a nature hike with a group school children, a few hours later you can be fighting a wildfire. You will be the swiss army knife of the park you work at. It takes a certain type of person to be flexible enough to go into any situation confident, even if its something they have never encountered before.
If you think that you possess these traits here are some ways you can prepare yourself for a career for as a park ranger.
There are a variety of fields of study that pertain to work that a park ranger does here are some of the most common:
Most state parks will have seasonal positions open during the summer that will allow you to get a taste of life as Ranger without having to make a long-term commitment. Local municipalities often have seasonal positions at forest preserves and parks. These positions will give related experience that will make you a better candidate for full time positions.
There are many places to volunteer that will not only boost to your resume but learn whether a career as a ranger is something that you would really like to do. Here are some organizations that you may want to consider volunteering at:
There are a variety of certifications that may aide in your quest in becoming a park ranger some of which can be completely mostly or entirely online at a nominal fee: