National Park Service Careers and Job Description

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The National Park Service, a federal government agency organized within the Department of the Interior, is responsible for overseeing the nation’s nearly 400 national parks and the 84 million acres of land that comprise them.

The more than 27,000 employees of the National Park Service are called upon to preserve the natural and cultural resources of the nation’s park system to ensure that our present and future generations can use them for enjoyment, education and inspiration.

The National Park Service, which was established in 1916, works with numerous volunteers, governments, nonprofit organizations, individual citizens, and private businesses to safeguard the nation’s national parks and provide oversight to the more than 275 million people that visit national parks each year.

Careers with the National Park Service

The National Park Service employs about 22,000 professionals, including an additional 221,000 volunteers.

The national park system has preserved and protected locations in every state in the nation, as well as in the District of Columbia, America Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Areas covered by the National Park Service include:

  • Battlefields
  • Historic sites
  • Historical parks
  • Lakeshores
  • Military parks
  • Monuments
  • National parks
  • Recreation areas
  • Scenic rivers and trails
  • Seashores
  • White House

Park rangers and other National Park Service professionals may work at sites ranging from Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska, the largest park site at 13.2 million acres to Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial in Pennsylvania, the smallest park site at just .02 of an acre.

Although park rangers are usually the most high-profile professionals within the national park system, there is actually a wide array of professionals who work throughout the National Park Service’s many sites, including:

  • Carpenters
  • Archeologists
  • Ecologists
  • Botanists
  • Gardeners
  • Geologists
  • Historians
  • Facility managers
  • Forestry technicians
  • Fish biologists
  • Hydrologists
  • Museum professionals
  • Park police

 

Requirements for Rangers in Protective and Cultural Roles

There are more than 3,800 park rangers working in the National Park Service. They may serve in both protective and cultural missions; therefore, job duties and requirements may differ.

Salary expectations for new park rangers range from $15.00 to $18.69 per hour.

Requirements for Law Enforcement Ranger Jobs

Minimum qualifications to become a park ranger serving in a security/protective capacity include:

  • U.S. citizenship
  • The completion of a background/security investigation
  • A state issued driver’s license
  • A pre-employment medical exam and drug test
  • A Physical Efficiency Battery (PEB)

The PEB consists of five fitness components:

  • Agility run
  • Bench press
  • 1.5-mile run
  • Sit and reach (measures flexibility)
  • Body composition (measures body fat)

Park rangers working in a protective detail must also possess (or have the ability to obtain) an NPS Type II Law Enforcement Commission.

Law enforcement rangers, who serve as federal law enforcement officers, perform duties related to the detection and investigation of violations of federal criminal laws, the apprehension and detention of violators, the protection of life and property, and the enforcement of all applicable laws, rules, and regulations.

The job description for a law enforcement ranger clearly outlines the job’s minimum qualifications, which include:

  • They must be at least 21 years old.
  • They must currently hold (or have held) for at least 3 years a National Park Service Seasonal (Level II) or full (Level I) law enforcement commission or the equivalent.
  • They must have successfully completed a Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Program during the last 3 years.
  • They must be able to successfully complete a Seasonal Law Enforcement training program by one of the approved participating academies.
  • They must possess certification/licensure as an Emergency Medical Responder or higher (EMT, paramedic, AEMT, or parkmedic).

Further, candidates for park ranger jobs must meet the requirements of the GS-5 grade level, which includes:

  • One year of specialized experience equivalent to the GS-4 level; specialized experience may include working as a park guide or tour leader or work in enforcement or investigative work; archeological or historical preservation research work; forestry/fire management work; or developing and implementing policy related to the protection, conservation, or management of park areas or similar operations; OR
  • A four-year bachelor’s degree with at least 24 hours of related coursework; OR
  • A combination of education and experience

Related coursework within a bachelor’s degree program includes:

  • Natural resource management
  • Natural sciences
  • Earth sciences
  • History
  • Archeology
  • Anthropology
  • Park and recreation management
  • Law enforcement/police science
  • Social sciences
  • Museum sciences
  • Business administration
  • Public administration
  • Behavioral sciences
  • sociology

Candidates for law enforcement ranger jobs are evaluated in the following competencies: criminal law; use of force and self-defense; oral communication; interpersonal skills, and writing.

Requirements for Cultural Park Ranger Jobs

Minimum qualifications for park ranger jobs in cultural/interpretive work include:

  • U.S. citizenship
  • The completion of a background/security investigation
  • A state issued driver’s license

Cultural park ranges are interpreters who connect people to parks. They are called upon inform visitors about the park experience and ensure that visitors have a meaningful, satisfying, and safe park experience. Interpreter parks ranges are specially trained to engage with the public.

Candidates for cultural park ranger jobs must meet the requirements of the GL-5 grade level, which include:

  • One year of specialized experience equivalent to the GS-4 level; specialized experience may include experience in technical, administrative, or scientific work; in fish and wildlife management; in recreation management; in law enforcement; or in related work; OR
  • A four-year bachelor’s degree with at least 24 hours of related coursework; OR
  • A combination of education and experience

Related coursework in a bachelor’s degree program includes:

  • Natural resource management
  • Natural sciences
  • Earth sciences
  • History
  • Archeology
  • Anthropology
  • Park and recreation management
  • Law enforcement/police science
  • Social sciences
  • Museum sciences
  • Business administration
  • Public administration
  • Behavioral science
  • Sociology

Candidates for cultural park ranger jobs are evaluated in the following competencies: oral communication; written communication; interpreter/visitor education; informal visitor contacts/customer service; and facility operation.

Training Requirements for Park Ranger Careers

The National Park Service’s Learning and Development Center operates three training centers:

  • Horace Albright Training Center at the Grand Canyon
  • Historic Preservation Training Center in Frederick, Maryland
  • Stephen Mather Training Center in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Depending on the National Park Service career and job profile, new park rangers may also obtain training at the:

  • Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, GA
  • Arthur Carhart National Wilderness Training Center in Missoula, MT
  • Bureau of Land Management in Peoria, AZ
  • Conservation Study Institute in Woodstock, VT
  • National Center for Preservation Technology and Training
  • National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, WV
  • National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, ID
  • Olmstead Center for Landscape Preservation in Brookline, MA

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