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Park Ranger Career and Job Description


By University Alliance
MPA and Career Advancement as a National Parks Ranger

With nearly 30,000 employees and close to 2.5 million volunteers, the National Park Service can provide diverse and promising career opportunities for individuals seeking to take an active role in serving and protecting America’s national parks. NPS job titles may include archeologists, landscape architects, park police, small craft operators, geologists, masons, museum professionals, fish biologists, ecologists, facility managers, forestry technicians, human resources specialists and more. 

The NPS employs nearly 4,000 National Park Rangers, far more than any other NPS career. Employees are responsible for preserving and protecting the specific areas in the National Park System as designated by the President of the United States and the U.S. Congress.

National Parks Ranger Functions

The common goal of park rangers is to protect park visitors and preserve the park for future generations. Park rangers are charged with managing, supervising and performing the work necessary to conserve park resources. Below are just a few of the functions a park ranger may have on a list of tasks:

  • Cultural, natural and historical resource management
  • Structural and forest fire control
  • Protecting property from damage and destruction by visitors or natural causes
  • Search and rescue missions
  • Dissemination of historical, scientific or general information to visitors
  • Developing and operating recreational and interpretive programs for the public
  • Enforcing park laws and regulations
  • Investigating complaints, accidents and violations

Parks Ranger Skills and Characteristics

Park rangers possess a number of skills and characteristics, including strong communication, leadership and management skills.  In addition, while it’s possible to gain employment as a park ranger without an advanced degree, the higher level management positions may be easier to secure with a graduate-level degree such as a Master in Public Administration (MPA) degree. 

An MPA degree can provide leadership preparation roles for most public administration jobs in nonprofit, NGOs and government organizations. The curriculum typically combines elements of the Master in Public Policy degree and the Master in Business Administration degree, including an in-depth study of organizational theory, strategic management and ethics.  For individuals with a desire to work outdoors in a leadership role as a National Park Ranger, earning a MPA degree may be the logical educational path to pursue.

MPA graduates can acquire a number of skills and experience during their course of study, including:

  • Public speaking and presentation
  • Knowledge of human resource practices
  • Awareness of policy or political requirements necessary to make meaningful change
  • Knowledge of best practices within the public sector
  • Knowledge of organizational management structures
  • Knowledge of how gender, age, sexuality and diversity affect public workplaces and the ability to foster positive work environments
  • Communication and writing skills
  • Data analysis skills

At first glance, an MPA degree and a National Park Ranger may seem like an unlikely pairing, but it can provide multiple opportunities to grow personally and professionally. The skills and knowledge a MPA degree can provide to graduates may be beneficial preparation for individuals looking to serve as a leader and administrator in America’s National Park System.

Category: Public Administration