How to Become a National Park Ranger


by Molly McCluskey, SCA alumna

Ever dream of working in the great outdoors for a living? There are many different jobs on public lands throughout the country. The National Park Service hires seasonal and full-time rangers at every park throughout the country and the competition is fierce. Applying for National Park Ranger jobs is like applying for college; you must apply to each park individually, and hope the one you want calls you first.

Rangers fall into a few categories; interpretation, law enforcement, backcountry, trail. Whether you’re a student majoring in environmental education or a mid-level executive looking to make a career change, the steps are surprisingly similar.

1. Volunteer. Being a National Park Ranger isn’t for everyone. To be sure it’s something you’d really be interested in, take some time to volunteer with a local or state park on weekends or during the summer. If you can spare three to six months (or longer) volunteer with The Student Conservation Association, an organization that places people of all ages in public lands to gain hands on experience in conservation work.

2. Think about how your experience is applicable. National Park Rangers come from a variety of backgrounds; actors, teachers, communications specialists, librarians, customer service, just to name a few. If you can show that you have the skills to work with people of all ages, races, backgrounds and ethnicities, be patient while answering questions, and be able to follow important safety instructions, you’ll be ahead of the game.

3. Get certified. Get certified in First Aid and CPR from your local hospital or American Red Cross chapter. Consider getting your Wilderness First Aid certification.

4. Get in shape. Ranger jobs can be physically taxing. Even if you’re not on a trail or doing search and rescue, you’ll be on your feet all day.  Whatever ranger position you choose, in whatever park, you’ll need to maintain high levels of energy.

5.  Apply. Each park manages its own hiring.  Although all National Parks are jointly managed under the National Park Service, you must apply to each one individually. Since the season of each park varies by location, the hiring times don’t necessarily overlap. You may long to work in Yellowstone, but get a call from a smaller park first and have to make a difficult decision. Visit for job openings and application instructions.


Original Post: