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So, You want to be a Park Ranger?

Becoming a Park Ranger for the National Park Service can be quite a chore. There are times when you just want to give up and throw in the towel. The eternal quest to become "permanent" becomes an obsession. What you must know that this is an honorable profession, something you can believe in, and the wait is rewarding.

APPLY ONLINE FOR SEASONAL JOBS Here is a link to the NPS website with information on seasonal employment.

The place to look for National Park Service jobs is The Office of Personnel Management USA Jobs Listing. You can search for jobs for all types of Federal agencies. If you do not have your government status, then there are only certain jobs that you may apply for. Any jobs that are open to "all sources" or "all qualified applicants" then you may apply. If you have your status already, then the number of jobs you may apply for is much greater.


What is a Park Ranger and what do they do? A Park Ranger can be an employee of many different agencies, local, county, state or federal. I work as a Park Ranger for the National Park Service, a federal agency part of the Department of the Interior. Park Rangers perform many different jobs. In the past, Rangers were more generalized, they did a variety of things because staffing was low. A Ranger back then might bust a poacher, go hiking on a park trail, help a stranded motorist and give a nature walk all in one day.

Today, Rangers have become more specialized. There are still places where rangers do a wide variety of jobs. There are rangers that provide interpretaion to park visitors. They give nature walks, work with educational groups, staff park visitor centers, and give walking tours of the park.

Rangers also provide protection for the resources of the park, and to the people who visit the parks. These rangers perform law enforcement, search and rescue, firefighting duties, and emergency medical services.

There are Rangers that work in the park campgrounds, collect fees at park entrance stations, perform research in the park, and so many other jobs. An employee might not have the title "Park Ranger;" but wear the uniform of one. The government has split various jobs into various "series." Biologists, historians, and archaeologists might be others who wear the same uniform.

There are no education requirements for becoming a ranger, except having a high school diploma. Many Rangers have college degrees in a variety of fields. I suggest going to college and getting a degree. If you want to work in natural resources, geology, biology, ecology, wildlife management majors may be useful. For law enforcement, a criminal justice degree might help. My major was in Park Administration, which is a broad degree on park's management. Rangers have communications, law, history, business, and types of other degrees. If you have your heart set on becoming a Ranger, then major in something related to the field.

There are a few categories as a Park Ranger in regards to length of employment and benefits.

Now, how do you get started? That can take a variety of forms. I suggest volunteering as a Volunteer In Parks (VIP) as a starting point. Any National Park Unit will have a VIP coordinator, and they can set you up. Being a volunteer shows you the details of working for the National Park Service. It's easy to get into and you'll be able to decide if this is the career you want to pursue further. I got my start as a Volunteer, and was satisfied enough to go on to the next step....actually becoming a Ranger.

For summer jobs, the number of parks you can apply to is two. This is done so people don't apply over and over to different parks. This year you may put in for summer jobs starting in September 15, 1999 through January 15, 2000. Winter seasonal work is harder to come by because there are lots of parks that don't hire winter seasonals. The southern parks generally have their busy seasons in the winter, so winter seasonals are needed. The open season for the winter jobs for 1999 are June 1, 1999 through July 15.

There are two forms that are generally used for government applications. These are the SF-171(Click here for more information on the SF-171) and OF 612 forms. They can be picked up at any federal building or through the Office of Personnel Management.

I thought the following little story was interesting about one of the most recognizable symbols of the Park Ranger...the Hat! This story was written by Henry Groskinsky.