Park rangers work in national parks and other federally managed areas, protect wild lands and educate visitors about parks. Women have worked as park rangers since 1918, when Claire Marie Hodges became a park ranger at Yellowstone National Park. Women have also filled seasonal park ranger positions for nearly as long. Harriett Weaver, for example, worked at the California Department of Parks and Recreation during the summers from 1929 to 1950. Most federal parks require rangers to earn certification. Some certification programs focus solely on working as a park ranger, while other programs offer specialized training, such as in commonly used technology and law enforcement.
National Park Service Certification
The National Park Service offers several different types of certification programs for park rangers. The first two parts of its three-part entry-level certification program cover foundational competencies and giving informal talks to park visitors. The third part of the program blends and builds on aspects you cover during the first two parts of the program. After completing the certification program, rangers must submit a class-specific project, such as a videotape of an interpretive talk, which two national parks ranger certifiers will review and evaluate.
Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Program
After earning entry-level park ranger certification, you may want to add to your arsenal of skills and knowledge. The Association of National Park Rangers, or ANPR, offers the gold standard in park ranger certification programs. You can take its Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Program, or SLETP, at nine venues in the United States. Programs include a minimum of 400 class hours, though some programs may ask students to complete more. The program, or academy, requires students to attend at least 40 hours of class a week and complete peace officer standard training. Some colleges offer this training program during a regular semester, while others offer this training on weekends and during regular semester breaks, such as during the summer. Once you earn your SLETP certification, you can carry firearms, make arrests, investigate crimes and help execute warrants.
Most state park rangers are also fully sworn peace officers who can perform a full suite of law-enforcement activities. Certification programs often include components related to this facet of a ranger’s job. For example, the ANPR includes peace officer standard training as part of its certification program, while California offers qualified and eligible rangers additional training as peace officers. Peace officers are trained to use firearms, batons, chemical agents and handcuffs and must pass physical and defensive tactical exams.
Certification and Employment Prerequisites
Prerequisites for enrolling in a park ranger certification program vary. For example, the National Park Service offers its training programs to all park rangers, but suggests they only submit for certification when they “feel ready." To attend an ANPR-certified SLETP program, you must pass a background check, drug test and medical screening. Depending on the park where you work, you may also have to hold a specialized degree. The City of Boston, for example, suggests rangers have a degree in or work experience related to park management, law enforcement or environmental studies.
- Northern Arizona University: Park Ranger Training Program
- The Park Ranger Institute: Professional Ranger Certificate Program
- Association of National Park Rangers: Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Program
- Red Rocks Community College: The Park Ranger Technology Program
- California Department of Parks and Recreation: State Park Ranger Specifications
- California Department of Parks and Recreation: State Park Peace Officer (Ranger)
- City of Boston: Boston Park Rangers
- National Park Service: Entry Level Park Ranger Interpreter
- National Park Service: Foundational Competencies For All Interpreters
William Henderson has been writing for newspapers, magazines and journals for more than 15 years. He served as editor of the "New England Blade" and is a former contributor to "The Advocate." His work has also appeared on The Good Men Project, Life By Me and The Huffington Post.