Career Guide: Park and Forest Ranger

The field of criminal justice consists of two arms: legal services, such as attorneys and paralegals, and law enforcement, such as police, and park and forest rangers. Park and forest rangers are tasked with important environmental work: trail and campground maintenance, fire fighting and prevention, and law and regulation enforcement. They also interact with park and forest visitors via educational programs and patrols.

This page contains information on rangers' job duties. It also describes how to become a park or forest ranger, explores potential career paths of the two, and lists resources for aspiring rangers. Continue reading to learn more about this field, and find out if it might be right for you.

What Does a Park and Forest Ranger Do?

Park rangers often work for the National Park Service or state parks. Their jobs include park management and protection, visitor tours, complaint investigations, and search and rescue. They may specialize in certain habitats or settings, for example, serving as backcountry rangers who manage remote areas, interpretive rangers who educate the public, or snow rangers who patrol mountains on a snowmobile or skis.

Forest rangers typically work in national and state forests, primarily in the western United States. Some work in campgrounds or areas with significant visitor traffic, while others are based at remote field stations. Their job duties may include managing trees and shrubs, constructing fire lines, building and improving trails, performing search and rescue, and maintaining agency vehicles.

Most park and forest rangers spend their time outdoors, but they may also be employed in offices, museums, and visitor centers.

Visit the link below for more details about the park and forest ranger jobs.

Park and Forest Ranger Job Description

How to Become a Park and Forest Ranger

Steps For Becoming a Park and Forest Ranger

Step 1: Learn more about the profession to see if it's a good fit for you. The links on this page are a good place to start. Volunteering or working in the summer at a park or forest can also be informative.

Step 2: Earn a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. Other useful degrees and coursework includes biology and other natural sciences, forest studies, geology, and natural resources.

Step 3: Undergo and pass an extensive background investigation.

Step 4: Pass a physical fitness test, medical examination, and drug test.

Step 5: Apply for a job at a park or forest.

If you want to learn more about the degree options for park and forest rangers, you can review the following pages for detailed information: Criminal Justice Degree Page Overview and the Guide to Criminal Justice System.

Park and Forest Ranger Salary and Job Growth

Park and forest rangers' salaries vary by post, such as federal or state government, location, and experience. PayScale reports the average annual park ranger salary around $40,000. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the median annual salary for forest and conservation workers as $27,460, with a -2% decline in employment though 2026.

For more information on park and forest ranger salaries, click on the link below:

Park and Forest Ranger Salary

Take the Next Steps

The following link offers detailed information about various degree programs -- associate and bachelor's degrees in criminal justice and bachelor's degrees in law enforcement -- and jobs available to graduates. It features information to help you take the first step toward an exciting and rewarding career.

Criminal Justice Degree & Career Information

Visit this page for an overview of criminal justice and law enforcement degree programs, listed by degree and by state, and potential career paths.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Aspiring park and forest rangers can find additional information and support through professional organizations, which offer networking opportunities, career development resources, and useful information on current topics in forest and park management.

The organizations below host annual conferences, produce publications, and provide training for park and forest rangers. For example, the Association of National Park Rangers gives scholarships to entry-level staff, volunteers, and students for its annual Ranger Rendezvous event. The Forest Stewards Guild offers internships for college students interested in field experience. Finally, the Park Law Enforcement Association provides various awards and scholarships.

  • Association of National Park Rangers ANPR advocates for and supports national park employees -- including rangers -- via an annual conference, a quarterly magazine, and professional development training and mentoring.
  • Forest Stewards Guild This organization provides publications, education, and training, and it engages in policy analysis, research, and advocacy to support forest conservation and management.
  • Park Law Enforcement Association PLEA offers professional development opportunities and resources to improve law enforcement, park operation services, and visitor protection in local, state, and national parks.