Careers of a Forest Ranger

Park rangers protect the nation's parks.
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Forest rangers protect their state’s and nation's wild lands and wildernesses. In most states, rangers are assigned specific areas, but they assist other areas when emergencies arise. Women have always been a part of forest services. The first female ranger started work at Yellowstone National Park in 1918. At that time, however, the role of females in park services was limited. You have many options if you’re interested in a forest ranger career because women can now work in any area. As of 2010, women make up 38 percent of the national forest workforce.


    To work as a forest ranger you need to be a U.S. citizen. If you're a permanent resident and you're eligible for citizenship, you also can qualify. You also need to have a valid driver’s license. Qualifications for national park rangers depend on your grade level. For example, a GS-2 requires only a high school diploma, while a GS-5 requires a bachelor's degree. Each state has its own qualification requirements, but you generally need to have a bachelor’s degree in any field that helps you with your forest ranger duties. So, a degree in fields such as forestry, forest management, ecology, botany, biology and wildlife and fisheries management is ideal. You also need to have a clean arrest record with no convictions of any kind.

Working With Visitors

    Tourists, campers, hikers and researchers visit the parks all the time. According to the National Park Service, the national parks received 278,939,216 visitors in 2011. That’s a lot of people who you might get to welcome to your park, explain the park’s rules and regulations and tell them about all the cool things they’ll experience at the park. You also need to keep them safe. So you’ll need to make sure that all hiking trails are free of undergrowth and you’ll need to inspect campsites. You’ll be the first to arrive on the scene if there are mishaps, and if your visitors get lost, you’ll lead search-and-rescue operations.

Protecting Forests

    You’re in charge of conserving and managing the wild areas in your care. For example, you’ll work really hard to find and prevent forest fires. Sometimes fires get out of control, but you’ll work to bring the forest back to its natural glory. In 2006, almost 60,000 acres of the Kaibab National Forest near Jacob Lake in Arizona burned. Since that fire, forest service crews have worked to replant the trees and as of 2013 have replanted 470 acres. You’ll also take care of the animals and birds when they are hurt, and you’ll tranquilize and trap those animals that might be a threat to humans.


    You’ll likely begin your career as a Park Ranger Cadet or a Park Ranger I, and you'll work under the supervision of an experienced ranger. Park ranger salaries vary and depend on your state or your grade level if you're a national park ranger. For example, Virginia park rangers make about $23,999 to 31,352 annually. In California, your annual cadet ranger earnings might be between $38,532 and 50,244, and in Texas, your annual entry-level earnings might be between $29,928 and $46,396. Entry-level annual salaries for park rangers with at least a bachelor's degree ranges from $27,431 to 35,657.

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