Conserving local, state and national parks is the main responsibility of park rangers. But the direct assignment can greatly influence their duties. Some will find themselves working with fire control, while other park rangers will work almost exclusively with protecting wildlife. They may also focus on educating the public, enforcing laws and regulations, controlling traffic and visitor use of park areas, and even taking part in search and rescue. Pay is generally based on grade level.
Entry-Level Salary Ranges
Park rangers work under the general schedule, a civil service classification and pay scale. Within the general schedule, park rangers usually start out at a grade level of GS-3 and earn promotions up to a grade level of GS-13, according to the Office of Personnel Management. In Arkansas, salaries for GS-3 rangers, or entry-level park rangers, range anywhere from $24,933 to $28,758 a year, depending on education and experience. GS-4 rangers, who usually possess more specialized skills, earned $27,990 to $36,384 a year, while GS-5 rangers, who tend to patrol areas and respond to emergencies, earned $31,315 to $40,706.
Midlevel and Senior-Level Salaries
As rangers gain experience, they move into more operational positions with more responsibilities. Midlevel rangers usually fall within the grade levels of GS-7 to GS-9 and earn pay bumps accordingly. As of 2013, GS-7 park rangers in Arkansas brought home anywhere from $38,790 to $50,431, while those at the GS-9 level earned $47,448 to $61,678 a year. Senior-level rangers often find themselves working independently, and they're often considered specialists in their area of the park system, which brings increases in grade and pay. GS-11 park rangers, for example, earned $57,408 to $74,628 annually. Upon reaching GS-13, park rangers earned $81,823 to $106,369 a year.
Variances a Result of Responsibilities
The wide ranges in pay have a lot to do with responsibilities. At the start of their careers, park rangers are often assigned to information desks to answer visitor questions or as lookouts to spot smoke and fires. Midlevel park rangers typically work in a more developmental capacity, such as coordinating group visits, recruiting candidates for volunteer programs, and designing new programs and exhibits. At the senior level, duties involve more leadership, such as heading an agency park program, coordinating staff activities across various parks, and acting as advisers in drafting policies and procedures for the park system.
Requirements for Rangers Vary
Though requirements to become a park ranger vary, candidates generally must complete or be enrolled in a seasonal law enforcement training program. Depending on the grade level and responsibilities of the position, rangers may also need a bachelor's degree in natural resource management, park and recreation management, law enforcement, earth sciences, natural sciences, public administration or a related field. Previous parks experience may be substituted for a degree when applicable. For example, a ranger at the GS-4 level isn't excluded from consideration for a position just because he lacks a degree. His work experience may provide the skill necessary to succeed in the new role.
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