Park and Forest Ranger Salary: What You’ll Earn

Park and forest rangers help secure, protect, and conserve natural areas throughout the United States. They can also earn competitive salaries; according to PayScale, U.S. Forestry Service employees earn an average salary of $62,000 per year. Additionally, forest rangers' salaries tend to increase as they gain experience and assume managerial roles within state or federal agencies.

These professionals often hold an associate, bachelor's, or master's degree in ecology, forestry, conservation, or environmental science. However, many park and forest rangers hold criminal justice or law enforcement degrees -- much of a ranger's job involves enforcing laws and park rules. Some rangers even carry firearms and can arrest violators.

This guide includes information about park and forest ranger salaries; career opportunities; and the college degrees that help professionals enter, advance, and thrive in this field.

How Much Do Park and Forest Rangers Earn?

The earning potential for professionals following a park and forest ranger career depends on several factors. State and federal agencies often pay significantly different salaries based on the size of a park and a ranger's responsibilities and experience level. Some agencies pay higher salaries to professionals with a bachelor's or master's degree in forestry, criminal justice, law enforcement, environmental science, or wildlife ecology.

Additionally, some parks and agencies only employ rangers on a seasonal basis, such as during the summer months. Others hire rangers for year-round work but only offer part-time positions.

Rangers who work for a federal agency receive a park and forest ranger salary based on the law enforcement officer general schedule. This schedule applies to employees who carry firearms and are qualified to place individuals under arrest. These federal employees receive salary increases based on the amount of time they have worked for the government.

Approximate Base Annual Salaries for Park Rangers With the National Park Service by the General Schedule
Experience Base Annual Salary
Entry Level: GS-5 $27,705
Early Career: GS-7 $34,319
Midcareer: GS-9 $41,979
Late Career: GS-11 or Above $50,790+

Source: OPM.gov

What’s My Earning Potential as a Park and Forest Ranger?

The Office of Personnel Management -- a federal agency -- offers an online law enforcement officer salary calculator that allows users to input their locality, GS salary grade, and step to determine their projected salary. You can use the calculator to find the approximate park and forest ranger salary for jobs with the National Park Service.

How Do Park and Forest Ranger Careers Compare to Other Criminal Justice Careers?

Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not currently provide data specific to park and forest ranger salaries or career growth projections, the table below includes information about several similar careers. This table offers an overview of the projected job growth and median salaries for professionals in the fish and game, law enforcement, security, and conservation fields.

Overall, these fields feature healthy projected growth, with high-level professionals earning competitive salaries. Many of these workers secure higher salaries as they gain experience and advance into supervisory roles.

Factors like education and experience can significantly affect a park and forest ranger's salary. Professionals should research various ways to increase their earning potential over the course of their career.

Position Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate
Police and Detectives $62,960 7%
Forest and Conservation Workers $27,650 -2%
Fish and Game Wardens $59,260 4%
Security Guards and Gaming Surveillance Officers $26,960 6%
Private Detectives and Investigators $50,700 11%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Take the Next Step Today

The resources below can help you explore the next steps in pursuing a law enforcement or park and forest ranger career. These articles provide information on the degrees, courses, and professional experience necessary to qualify for positions in the field.