Monday, October 18, 2010

National Park Ranger Training

I have been asked by several people lately about what type of training National Park Rangers receive.  This varies based on the specific position a person is hired for.  Most park ranger positions fall into the categories of interpretation or protection.  Here is an overly simplistic explanation of where most park rangers start their trail of training.

An interpretive park ranger’s focus is the telling of the story of the park they are assigned to.  This is done through formal presentations, working visitor centers, writing, leading walks, designing school programs, and many other skills used to communicate a story and foster an interest in park resources.  Solid base resource knowledge is an essential starting place.  This is supplemented by Park Service training in interpretive skills.  For a first year seasonal most parks provide one to two weeks of basic interpretive training followed by a busy summer of on the job training and audits by more experienced rangers to help improve their performance.  Once in a permanent position interpretive park rangers can improve their abilities through mentoring, formal training, and movement through a certification system where their programs are evaluated by experienced managers.

Those wanting to start as a seasonal protection National Park Ranger are required to complete a law enforcement academy that offers a curriculum approved by the National Park Service.  This must be accomplished on the individual’s own time and expense.  For information on these schools you can go to:

Once one of these schools is completed, most parks will provide onsite training and then a first year seasonal protection park ranger will work with more experienced rangers obtaining vast and fast amounts of on the job experience.

Once a person obtains a permanent protection park ranger position they will attend a basic academy at the Federal Law Enforcement Center (FLETC) near Brunswick, Georgia.  This is then followed by a Field Training assignment at a park other than the one they are working for.  This three month experience places the individual in a high work load environment working with experienced and specially trained park rangers giving them a chance to use all the skills they learned at FLETC.  Once a park ranger completes this challenging program, they return to work in their home park.

Additional training is offered at different levels in search and rescue, emergency medical services, the incident command system, Wildland fire, structural fire, and a wide variety of other public service and safety topics.

In truth a National Park Ranger spends their entire career in training.  Developing new skills, updating old ones, keeping up with changing technology, laws, policies, and the world around us are essential to a park ranger maintaining proficiency in the job.  During my 32 year career I attended and helped instruct thousands of hours of training.  These only served to supplement the experience and knowledge gained by years of working in National Parks.

A Park Ranger's Life is an education in itself.

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