Hi Ranger Dan!My name is Anna. I am thinking about taking classes to become a park ranger. I was wondering if you could tell me what kinds of classes are needed. Also, I would like to have some experience in the field just to see if this is what I really want to do. Do you have any suggestions on how I could get experience? Thank you for your time.
Thank you for writing to me. We've had many EEK visitors asking this same question over the summer. I am glad that so many people are interested in becoming park rangers, I really love working with people and the outdoors. There are many duties that I perform and its hard to find one field of study to cover all the experience you'll need. Some of it you learn on the job. As a park ranger, I am responsible for: maintaining visitor safety and security in the parks and forests; protecting the natural resources by enforcing the laws and regulations related to parks, forest, wildlife and fisheries; providing visitor information and services; maintaining and repairing picnic areas, campgrounds, trails and buildings; registration of campers and fee collection; and directing work crews.
You will want to start by taking biology classes in school to help you get a good background in science and nature studies. If your school offers environmental studies, ornithology (study of birds), botany (study of plants), zoology (study of animals), entomology (study of insects) or wildlife management, these would be useful. In college, I suggest the majors of Wildlife Management, or Biology. These are the majors I graduated with from college. Some colleges offer degrees in Parks and Recreation.
Law enforcement training is also required for becoming a park ranger. I worked as a boating safety patrol officer and a conservation warden before becoming a park ranger. You'll need to get the training either before you apply for the job or the DNR may send you to training once you get hired. This is an important part of working with people and caring for the safety of everyone at the park.
To gain field experience, you would want to volunteer or become an intern at a nature center, outdoor education center, state or national park or forest to get experience in the field and find out which area you like working in best. You may want to contact your local forester, wildlife manager, or naturalist to see if they would like to have you volunteer with them. It sounds like a lot of work, but I really love being in the outdoors and working with the people who enjoy visiting the parks.
Good luck with your career choices,