Park rangers perform a wide variety of challenging tasks, and there is perhaps no other job that offers such ample opportunities to work outdoors, teach important skills, protect our forests and rivers, save lives and preserve the environment. The picturesque settings and the ever-changing seasons keep the job fresh and exciting. For many rangers, the intrinsic rewards outweigh the benefits of a higher salary in another field.
The National Park Service has been in operation since 1916. It maintains a work force of 28,000 paid employees and over two million volunteers as of 2011. In addition to preserving 84 million acres of land and over four million acres of oceans, lakes and reservoirs, rangers protect archeological sites, historic urban landmarks and museum collections. They work overtime whenever the numbers of visitors burgeon, such as in summer. Park Rangers may also use recreational vehicles to patrol the shorelines and off-road areas.
When an emergency occurs in a wilderness area, park rangers are often the first to respond. They register visitors and assess the routes that hikers plan to take. When those visitors fail to return, the ranger combines the information previously received with his knowledge of local conditions and terrain. He coordinates with other officials to help in search and rescue operations.
Park rangers also warn visitors of local hazards in order to prevent disasters before they occur. Their first aid skills serve to minimize minor emergencies. All of these duties offer non-tangible but very real rewards, in the knowledge that a ranger's job matters.
Park rangers not only preserve the environment, but they teach others and extend their sphere of influence. One of the most satisfying aspects of being a ranger is in teaching others about the wonders of nature. Rangers develop activities and programs to help others learn about the wildlife, culture and history of a local area. Rangers also provide maps and point out local features, give advice on the best scenery, and assist visitors with any questions. Park rangers may even act as botanists, identifying plants and providing other information.
Park rangers not only enjoy the roles of teacher, first responder and wilderness preserver, but they also act as police officers. For those who have thought about a career in law enforcement, the ranger program offers the chance to fulfill that dream while enjoying the natural wonders of our land. Rangers enforce fire codes, direct traffic and arrest or evict those who harm the environment or disturb the peace.
Other Job Incentives:
In 2006, a newly-hired ranger with the National Park Service earned between $18,687 and $31,680 annually, depending upon whether they were permanent or "summer" employees, and the extent of their previous education and experience. Rangers frequently work overtime in the summer and on weekends. They also receive paid vacations and most federal employee perks, such as retirement benefits and medical insurance.