The competition to become a wildlife park ranger is high, as jobs in this industry are few and far between, according to the Princeton Review. To be a wildlife park ranger you must enjoy the outdoors and have the ability to exert yourself physically as the job requires a lot of walking. In addition to protecting wildlife, a park ranger provides information to the public, completes safety inspections, helps keep park visitors safe, maintains recreational sites and responds to emergencies.
Possess wilderness survival skills. According to USAJobs.gov, a wildlife park ranger may need to monitor the condition of a site’s natural and cultural resources in remote environments. As a result, you will need to have “primitive camping and living skills” because you may remain at a remote location for up to two weeks.
Get a college degree. To become a wildlife park ranger, the BLS recommends that you get a degree in biology, forestry, environmental science, range management or natural resource management from a college or university accredited by the Society of American Foresters or the Society of Range Management. Focus on taking courses that teach about measuring forest resources, public policy, forest ecology, managing forest resources taxonomy, soil formation and biology. You will also need to learn about assessing wildlife habitats, forest inventory, forest protection and land surveying.
Gain work experience. To qualify for an entry-level position as a wildlife park ranger at the GS-3 level, you must have at least three months of specialized work experience, according to USAJobs.gov. Such work experience can include working at a visitor center. Higher pay grades require you to have greater amounts of technical work experience, such as serving as a lookout during wildfire season, working at campgrounds, collecting forest samples for testing or experience in law enforcement.
Because it is harder to secure a full-time, permanent job as a wildlife park ranger, it is a good idea to start out as a park volunteer, seasonal worker or with a part-time job so you can gain experience.
Sixteen states in the country require rangers to hold a forestry license. If you live in one the states that have this requirement, the BLS states you will need a four-year degree and work experience in order to sit for the written licensing exam. The amount of work experience required varies by state. The states that require you to have a credential include Maryland, California, Connecticut, Alabama, Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
You must register as a wildlife park ranger in the following states: South Carolina, Arkansas, North Carolina, Mississippi and Georgia.
2016 Salary Information for Conservation Scientists and Foresters
Conservation scientists and foresters earned a median annual salary of $60,700 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, conservation scientists and foresters earned a 25th percentile salary of $47,160, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $75,620, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 34,600 people were employed in the U.S. as conservation scientists and foresters.