What's a ranger?

Well, depends on what agency you work for.  If you work for the National Park Service chances are the word "ranger" will be in your job title.  They employ Park Rangers of all sorts, interpretive (which is what I was when I started my career), law enforcement, etc. 

If you work for the US Forest Service chances are you won't have the word "ranger" in your job title, though you may be doing very similar types of work.  The Forest Service just gets more creative with its job titles and what you may think of as a "ranger" may actually be a Recreation Technician, Information Assistant, Law Enforcement Officer, etc.

In the Forest Service there is only one "ranger" per Ranger District, and that is the District Ranger.  There are several Ranger Districts in each National Forest.  The head of a National Forest is called the Forest Supervisor.

The head of a National Park is called the Park Superintendent.  Large parks may also be broken down into districts that have lead law enforcement and other types of rangers.

As an aside, if you want to wear the classic ranger flat hat, then work for the Park Service.  Forest Service employees may wear them occasionally when wearing the historic uniform, and of course Smokey Bear wears one, but the modern interpretation that many Forest Service employees wear is more of a cowboy hat style.

Getting Started...

Student Conservation Association (SCA) is the nation's leading provider of conservation service opportunities, outdoor skills and leadership training for young women and men.  It's how I got my start.  I participated in three SCA internships and they definitely helped me get my foot in the door!  Park Ranger jobs are highly competitive and I highly recommend doing an internship or volunteer work first before you even start applying.

Finding a Job...


USA Jobs is the main website that contains all job announcements and information about working for the US Forest Service, National Park Service, Fish & Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management.  Below are these agencies' individual links for finding out more.


There are also state park and county park rangers and the hiring processes for these jobs vary greatly.  I recommend looking up your state or county's website for more info.  Here is the
California State Park Job Site.

It is often times much easier to find a seasonal job than it is a permanent.  In the National Park Service this is especially true and many people I know who work for this agency spend years if not decades trying to get on permanently.  In the Forest Service, BLM, and FWS it doesn't seem to be as hard for most people.

If you are trying to get a permanent job or be promoted often you must move.  So if you are flexible as to where you want to work you can build yourself a career.  If you are not flexible then it is going to be a lot harder.  This is why you'll find a lot of young single people working for the Park Service!  It's not impossible to be married and have a family but it can be difficult.  Oftentimes park housing can only be provided for you only, no family members or pets, and the nearest towns with schools are hours away.  Whereas the Forest Service tends to have its offices in larger communities and tends to be more family friendly.  Just something to think about as you're considering your career path. 

I've worked for both the Park Service and the Forest Service and have had some amazing experiences.  Where else can you get paid to hike?  To tell people about trees and birds and bears?  To help plan someone's camping trip?  To talk to people about fishing?  To stand atop a granite monolith and tell people about the view?  I've loved every minute of it :)

Goodness knows why?
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