How to Become a Park Ranger

Park rangers work for the nearly 400 national parks of the U.S. National Park Service (NPS); the NPS hires approximately 16,000 permanent employees, 10,000 temporary employees, and 125,000 volunteers a year.

Those who flock to this job are those who want to work outdoors. If you share this desire, value conservation, and want to work with both nature and people, being a park ranger might be a perfect fit.

As a park ranger, your job will involve all aspects of preserving the national park for which you work, including:

  • enforcing park laws
  • studying and sharing knowledge of the park’s natural habitat
  • performing searches and rescues
  • aiding in fire-control efforts
  • directing forest management, including the health of trees, plants, and animals

Not all park rangers work in areas of near-total seclusion like Yellowstone and Big Bend. Urban national parks–including Chicago’s Millennium Park; New York’s Central Park; and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park–include thousands of acres in need of great park rangers.

Types of Degrees to Pursue to Become a Park Ranger

There is no one degree all park rangers share, although most have expertise and/or degrees in one of the following fields:

  • forestry
  • biology
  • natural resource management
  • environmental science
  • rangeland management
  • agricultural science

Because the NPS hires so many seasonal employees, students studying in these or related fields are faced with the opportunity to gain on-the-job training that could be helpful when seeking permanent park ranger jobs. Learn more here about starting your training to become a park ranger.

Becoming a Fish and Game Warden

Fish and game wardens enforce fishing and gaming laws. These law enforcement professionals play a major role in keeping nature safe and thriving.

A fish and game warden enforces laws relating to boating, hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation. Fish and game wardens may also be involved in search and rescue. Sometimes this job involves monitoring wildlife and responding to reports of damage to private property or agriculture. As a fish and game warden, you may also become involved in investigations related to accidents, vandalism, and other violations of the law.

Fish and game wardens often work for state or local agencies and are responsible for patrolling public land. Fish and game wardens may also be involved in public education campaigns around water safety, firearms instruction, or survival skills.

How a Justice Degree can Prepare You for a Career as a Fish and Game Warden

Most states require fish and game wardens to have two years of college and must attend specialized training that can last up to 12 months. In the course of enforcing game and fishing laws, this occupation may be called upon to help in the prosecution of law violations in courts of law. Firearms certification is often required as well.

Fish and game wardens patrol diverse natural environments and may spend a lot of time outdoors in all kinds of weather. This time in the outdoors makes a job as a fish and game warden desirable for a lot of people, but also require a certain level of physical fitness and outdoorsmanship.