How do I get a job as a Park Ranger?
It depends on whether you’re looking in to a state park or a national park. If you’re exploring a job with the Florida State Park system you go to https://peoplefirst.myflorida.com. From here you can narrow down your search criteria and see what’s open. To search for open positions within the National Park System go to http://www.nps.gov/aboutus/workwithus.htm . From there you can look by region or field of interest.
What do you actually do during the day?
The intricacies of your day will depend on which park you work at and the position you hold. As a ranger you will be working a rotating shift that will include nights, weekends and holidays. The hours of each shift will vary by park but since your Florida State Parks open at 8am expect to start by 7:30am or so. Generally there’s a meeting every morning to go over any maintenance needs of the park. During that time your supervisor will tell you about any special events that are going on in the park for the day or hand out assignments. One of the great things about being a ranger is the diversity of experiences you’ll have every day. On any given day you could be doing anything from removing exotic nonnative plants in the picnic area to mowing the day use areas or replacing back flow preventers on campsites. Most days you’ll have multiple assignments. Expect to get a lunch break. Usually it’s about 30 minutes.
Another huge part of your job is going to be to provide great customer service to the people who visit your park. Your visitors are the backbone of your park. They are a gift; like kittens. They can be hilarious to watch but require a lot of cleaning up afterwards. They can be ornery or sweet depending on their mood or what they want but there’s nothing more fun than showing off your park to your guests!
Being a ranger is moderately independent work. Unless a specific job dictates it you’re going to be on your own. Most parks will assign you a radio so you can call or be called as needed.
How much do you make?
Well this is the slightly depressing part. If you expect to get rich in this career you’re going to be sorely disappointed. You’ll be rich in happiness but poor in everything else. The starting pay for a state park ranger is about $25,000. Positions with in-park housing are few and far between with fierce competition from the inside so don’t bank on that happening right away. The starting salary for a National Park Ranger is about $30,000.
Can they move you at will?
The state park system won’t move you at their whimsy. If you’re working at a park and decide you want to switch parks there has to be a position open. You can’t just move where you want to move. Conversely you won’t be forced to move. The national park service is a little different. You may be asked or required to move to another park that may or may not be in the same state.
I’ve applied to 57 different rangers jobs and haven’t even gotten an interview. What gives?
There are number of factors at play here. The most important is that the positions don’t come open too often. When they do there’s fierce competition for them. Not to mention you’re competing against other rangers already in the system who may want to move. Some positions can have hundreds of applicants. Unless you have a goodly amount of experience in basic plumbing, electrical work, plant ID and customer service you’re going to find it neigh on impossible to get an interview. You can increase your changes greatly by volunteering at a local park to get your foot in the door. If you’re an accountant, banker, psychologist or anything else that has absolutely no bearing on the environment or maintenance don’t bother applying.
Do you carry guns and/or can you arrest people?
No we don’t (nor are we allowed to even with a concealed weapons permit) carry firearms. You will be given some good training on something called voluntary compliance which will help you be able to more effectively communicate with visitors. As rangers we don’t have any powers of arrest and we can’t enforce state laws. We also can’t write tickets or take someone to jail. If the visitor is doing something heinous we can ask them to leave the park and that’s about it.
What’s the mission statement?
According to the National Park website here’s their mission statement: ” The National park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. The Park Service cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world.” The mission statement of the Florida Park Service is to provide resource based recreation while preserving, interpreting and restoring [Florida’s] natural and cultural resources.
Have a question you think needs to be on the FAQ’s? Add it in the comments section and I’ll do what I can to answer it and put it up!