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What Courses Are Needed for a Park Ranger?

by Jana Sosnowski

Park rangers at both national and state parks work directly with visitors to make visits safe and enjoyable. The park ranger's responsibilities include keeping visitors apprised of park rules regarding pets, camping and use of boats. Park rangers may also have a role in running nature centers or leading informational hikes.

Responsibilities Beyond Visitor Information

The park ranger's responsibilities may include duties as both a law enforcement officer and a nature expert. Specific duties include dealing with visitor complaints, upholding laws within the park and assisting with search and rescue operations and fire control protocol. Nature experts work leading guided tours or developing content for brochures about the park. Park rangers may be full-time employees of the state or federal park system or seasonal employees or volunteers.

College Course Requirements

State park rangers are required to complete a minimum of two years of undergraduate study, which must include completion of the general education curriculum. General education courses should include natural and social sciences, language, humanities and mathematics. Additionally, a bachelor's degree may be earned in park administration, natural sciences, social sciences or law enforcement. Courses for the bachelor's degree may include foundation of park management, technology and leadership in parks, recreation and tourism. For example, courses offered at San Francisco State University include organization and administration of parks and recreation and planning and evaluation of parks and recreation.

Peace Officer Standards and Training

Employment as a park ranger also requires completion of basic training as a peace officer, a program that includes 664 hours of study. The program can be completed in either an intensive or extended format, which offers the opportunity to complete full-time or part-time courses on weekends. The curriculum includes general courses in the criminal justice system, policing the community, and professionalism and ethics. Topics regarding crime include study of property crimes, crimes against persons, juvenile law, controlled substances and crimes against children. Procedural topics include arrest law, search and seizure, presentation of evidence and investigative report writing. Additionally, study of hazardous materials, weapons, firearms and emergency management is required to receive a certificate of training as a peace officer.

First Aid and Safety Course Requirements

Park rangers are required to obtain certification in first aid or as a first responder and in cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The American Red Cross offers certification in emergency medical response, which includes classes in assessment of injury, airway and ventilation issues, CPR, use of an automated external defibrillator, AED, and training for both medical and trauma emergencies. The program run by the Red Cross requires 51 hours of study and issues two-year certificates in Emergency Medical Response, CPR and administration of emergency oxygen.

About the Author

Based in Los Angeles, Jana Sosnowski holds Master of Science in educational psychology and instructional technology, She has spent the past 11 years in education, primarily in the secondary classroom teaching English and journalism. Sosnowski has also worked as a curriculum writer for a math remediation program. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in print journalism from the University of Southern California.

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