Park Ranger Qualifications: How to Become a Park Ranger
According to NPS job descriptions, park ranger qualifications include experience, education or some combination thereof. An applicant with a background in law enforcement or fire and forestry management may qualify based on experience. In municipal and special parks, it is still possible to move up toward a park ranger position from an unskilled labor position. Permanent federal park ranger jobs require a bachelor’s degree in keeping with management or environmental careers: natural science, museum science, social science, parks and recreation management or business management. An applicant may substitute programs of study that involve management of natural resources. It should also be noted that a master’s degree is helpful if career advancement is desired.
The NPS uses a point system to evaluate candidates. The application process requires submission of an Occupational Questionnaire, a resume and transcript. The applicant’s responses to the questionnaire are matched against the resume, and points are assigned accordingly. County, municipality and special districts use a similar system, but these parks do not always require written test as part of the hiring process.
A park ranger usually receives some form of orientation upon hire. For instance, NPS employees attend training courses in order to demonstrate core competencies in communication, problem-solving and environmental stewardship. Depending on the assignment and the competitive nature of the field, a ranger frequently seeks supplemental training to remain highly qualified. For example, a ranger may be cross-trained in fire and aviation management, medical emergency response, historic preservation or risk management.