Career Tips

Ranger with flat hat talking with children by boulder
Some rangers specialize in teaching people, especially children, about the wonders of nature. Generally these are called "Interpretive Rangers" or Naturalists. Courses in biology, botany, ecology, education and communications will help in this career field.

Work in the outdoors and make a difference!

Positions are usually in government agencies or non-profit organizations. Many people begin with a seasonal position to gain experience and get a feel for the variety of opportunities available. These positions often do not offer the full range of benefits such as insurance and retirement, but they do offer greater flexibility and experience that can lead to a better position later on.

Summer seasonal positions at Ozark National Scenic Riverways, and other national parks across America, are typically are advertised on the USA site in the winter months. Permanent positions open periodically and may also be found on the site. Seasonal positions generally run from early May through Labor Day.


National Park Service
US Forest Service:
US Fish & Wildlife Service:
Bureau of Land Management:
USA Jobs (All Federal Employment)

State of Missouri:
(Use a search engine to investigate opportunities with other states as well as major cities. Usually they will be with a department of Natural Resources, Conservation, Game and Fish, Forestry or State Parks.)

Missouri Department of Conservation:

Missouri Department of Natural Resources:

There are many conservation and environmental organizations that provide both paid positions and volunteer internships. Investigate organizations that work on issues of concern to you. The Nature Conservancy is one non-profit that owns large areas of land within the Current River Watershed. Nature Conservancy:

They say you can't get a job without experience and you can't get experience without a job. Spending a season or two volunteering will help you get that experience. It's an investment in your own future.

Volunteer Organizations and Opportunities:
National Park Service Volunteers: (there are volunteer opportunities in national parks across the US.)
Student Conservation Association: (the SCA offers a program to help pay off student loans with Americorps grants)

Concession Jobs: Sometimes you can get a job in a hotel or even gas station in national park like Yellowstone. Then you can learn about parks, get to know people, maybe volunteer on your days off while still earning a modest income. Check out for ideas.

There are many fields of study that can lead to great outdoor careers. Among them are Conservation, Wildlife Management, Fisheries, Biology, Education, Public Administration, Law Enforcement, Botany, Entomology, Communications and others. Many schools offer these programs. Keep in mind that while "Forestry" sounds good, the National Park Service generally does not harvest timber in the parks. Forestry courses may lead to great jobs in the Forest Service, BLM and state agencies however.

For a list of schools offering 8 week natural resource law enforcement programs click here. Even if you don't think you want to go into Law Enforcement, these programs can give you a great introduction and background, and may be more affordable if a two or four year program is beyond your reach.

For a list of schools offering programs in Interpretation (Naturalist), click here. Some are two year, some four, and some offer one year certification programs.

"Find what you love, then find a way to get paid for it." - Connie Toops, park ranger and freelance writer

Park Ranger standing by his patrol vehicle with mountains is the distance
Law Enforcement Rangers specialize in protecting the parks and the park visitors. In most larger parks they are the "police force" and have full federal police authority. Courses in criminal justice, natural resources and law will help prepare you for a Law Enforcement position.
Rangers attending to a lady laying in the snow with apparent injury
Emergency medial training, such as EMT, Paramedic or First Responder is very helpful. In larger parks, rangers operate ambulances and are the very first to respond to emergencies.

Last updated: December 28, 2017

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