Through my book appearances and this blog I hear from many people who are interested in becoming National Park Rangers. Historically it has been and in some instances continues to be a challenging objective to meet. Many people dream of being a Park Ranger due to the image of the job and the popular mission of the National Park Service. I know when young I was not encouraged to pursue such a career because so many people wanted these jobs. The quote I heard from many peers and academic mentors was “Forget it; you will never get a job like that.”
There have been few times in the past when a window of opportunity opens and people are hired into the National Park Service due to an availability of positions. For me this opportunity was being in the right place at the right time with the onset of the Bicentennial celebrations of our Nation in 1976. I was first hired at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine as a seasonal in 1975. Interest in the Bicentennial increased visitation so much that by 1977 I was offered a part time permanent position as a Park Technician. This was my foot in the door and true start of my career that ended up spanning more than 32 years.
Such an opportunity for new Park Rangers is looming once again. This time it is not a staffing increase but the aging of the present ranger work force. Law Enforcement and Firefighting Park Rangers are required retire at 57 years of age. Because of this constraint it is estimated that approximately 55% of today’s Park Rangers will retire in the next 5 years. This will result in great opportunities for people wanting to become the National Park Rangers of our next generation.
The National Park Service is starting to become active in recruiting at colleges and universities for young people to be prepared to fill these dwindling ranks. The National Park Service is also looking at this coming time as an opportunity to improve the diversity of its work force by recruiting new employees in urban parks.
One such recruiting effort is being titled “ProRanger.” Through this program Internships are being established to get students experience working in National Park Service areas while still in college.
For more information on one such program check out:
For those of you now working as seasonal Park Rangers or aspiring to such a career, persevere, stay informed of opportunities at the Office of Personnel Management website USAJobs, and contact National Park Service areas near you for volunteer, training, or job opportunities. If you are in school now, contact your career center or related department heads about opportunities through ProRanger or other programs.
For more information on what it is like to be a real National Park Ranger read the book that is already required reading at three universities for those in resource protection programs. "A Park Ranger's Life: Thirty Two Years Protecting Our National Parks" is available on Amazon.com and other online sources.