Currently eight colleges and universities nationwide offer park ranger certificate curriculums. These academic programs are approved by the National Park Service to qualify graduates to serve as seasonal interpretive and law enforcement park rangers. Many of the park rangers that visitors encounter during summer seasons are graduates of these programs working between semesters of college.
Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania has one of the more established and successful ranger training programs in the country. I had the pleasure of hiring and working with a number of graduates of Slippery Rock. One such graduate, Lewis Rogers, worked with me as a park ranger on the Blue Ridge Parkway in the mid nineties and has moved on to several positions of higher responsibility including two Chief Ranger jobs. Lew has just been named the Superintendent of Petersburg National Military Park in Virginia. He serves as just one example of the exemplary students who have graduated from Slippery Rock’s program.
The current financial stresses on academic institutions at all levels are now affecting the park ranger training programs. Slippery Rock, which is a state college, has announced that after this year they will discontinue their park ranger training program. This decision is based on budgetary constraints and the small number of students in the park ranger program compared to other fields. There may be plans put in place to continue the training during summer months, but this would be difficult to accomplish with these months being the busiest time of year for parks and the period when students could be employed rather than in the classroom.
It will be a loss to the diverse opportunities for students at Slippery Rock University and a shortfall for the National Park Service in its search for qualified and experienced seasonal employees. These are the same seasonal park rangers that become the core of the eventual permanent staff.
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