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Arizona Park Ranger Training and Degree Requirements

Park rangers in Arizona work to protect and preserve 30 state parks and natural areas throughout the state. Arizona state parks include a wide range of natural and historical wonders, from lakes and rivers and other rich natural areas, to historic buildings such as pueblo ruins and adobe homes. Some of Arizona’s unique state parks include:

  • Red Rock State park featuring Cathedral Rock
  • Kartchner Caverns State park featuring a huge limestone cave
  • Tonto Natural Bridge State park featuring the natural Travertine Bridge

Park rangers working for the Arizona State Parks Department work to ensure that visitors at Arizona’s many parks and historic sites have enriching experiences that keep them coming back. Beyond that, Arizona’s park rangers make sure park goers follow rules and regulations that allow everyone to enjoy the parks safely and always fight to preserve the natural beauty for visitors still to come.

Arizona boasts almost as many national parks, with 22 scattered throughout the state. Arizona national parks saw over 9 million visitors in 2012. Among the many national historic and natural landmarks included in Arizona’s national parks is Grand Canyon National Park, home of the stunning Grand Canyon—over 277 river miles long and 18 miles wide.

National park rangers are responsible for guiding visitors through this natural wonder and many others throughout the state.

Becoming a Park Ranger in Arizona’s State Parks

Meeting the Requirements – There are a few minimum requirements for individuals interested in becoming park rangers in the state of Arizona:

  • Ability to retain a current state-issued driver’s license
  • Ability to pass a medical/physical examination, which includes being able to lift 50 lbs

In addition, some park ranger jobs in the state of Arizona require that individuals be eligible for certification as a Peace Officer. The requirements for certification are as follows:

  • U.S. Citizenship
  • Must be a least 21 years of age
  • Must be able to pass background check with no felony convictions
  • Must be able to pass medical examination and meet physical fitness standards
  • Must submit to polygraph examination

Arizona’s park rangers hired in law enforcement roles will also complete a 17-week basic training academy after being hired.

Degree Options – While the state of Arizona does not have minimum education requirements assigned to park ranger positions, post-secondary education at the associate’s or bachelor’s degree level can be very beneficial and give candidates a competitive edge when applying for Park ranger positions. Here are some relevant majors to consider:

  • Natural science
  • Natural resources management
  • Parks and recreation
  • Forestry
  • Forest management

Becoming a Park Ranger with the National Parks Service in Arizona

Individuals interested in park ranger careers might also consider applying for positions with the U.S. National Park Service in Arizona. While specific requirements might vary slightly depending on the positions, most national park rangers are required to meet several key requirements:

  • U.S. citizenship
  • Ability to pass a background and/or security investigation
  • Must possess or be able to obtain a state issued driver’s license
  • Must pass pre-employment medical exam and drug screening

In addition, national park rangers are required to meet specialized education and experience requirements. Most often, they are as follows:

  • Must have at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university; at least one year of graduate work related to work is preferred for some positions. Relevant areas of study include natural sciences, earth sciences, history, archaeology, anthropology, park and recreation management, or law enforcement/police science.

OR

  • Specialized experience demonstrating applicable knowledge and skills, including work as a park guide or educator, program specialist, conservation work, forestry or preservation experience, or work as law enforcement officer

OR

  • A combination of education and experience

Some national park ranger positions also require successful competition of the Physical Efficiency Battery (PEB) test to determine levels of physical fitness. The PEB includes:

  • Agility run
  • Bench press
  • Sit and reach
  • 1.5 mile run
  • Body composition measurement

Park Rangers Serving Arizona’s City and County Parks

Arizona’s unparalleled natural resources have created a need for park rangers, not just on the state and national level, but on the local level as well. In fact, several major cities throughout the state hire park rangers to work for the local government offices and patrol city parks and open spaces.

City of Phoenix park rangers are recognized as one of the most progressive urban park ranger corps in the country. Park rangers oversee 35,000 acres of desert mountain parks and preserves in areas of conservation and resource management. They also provide supervision and law enforcement assistance.

City of Phoenix park rangers have a variety of unique and shifting duties, including:

  • Natural resource management and protection
  • Enforcement of Phoenix City Codes
  • Hiking patrol
  • Mountain bike patrol
  • General maintenance
  • Trail building
  • Supervising volunteers
  • Environmental education
  • Special events

Arizona Park Ranger Salaries

According to the National Park Service, Arizona is home to 22 national parks which accommodate more than 10,000,000 visitors every year. Working for the Arizona State Parks gives park rangers the opportunity to work in some of the most serene places of the state like Alamo Lake, Buckskin Mountain, Lake Havasu, San Rafael Ranch, and Patagonia Lake.

The Arizona Department of Administration, Human Resources, reports that the park ranger salary in Arizona starts at $21,890, which is a minimum hourly wage of $10.52. Here is the rank and file of park rangers in Arizona and their respective salaries:

Park Ranger Specialist

  • Minimum: $21,890
  • Maximum: $37,869

Park Ranger 1

  • Minimum: $25,508
  • Maximum: $44,894

Park Ranger 2

  • Minimum: $27,111
  • Maximum: $48,696

Park Ranger 3

  • Minimum: $29,008
  • Maximum: $52,040

Park Ranger 4

  • Minimum: $31,110
  • Maximum: $55,763

According to USAjobs.gov, a website maintained by the United States Office of Personnel Management, park rangers employed by the National Park Service in Chinle, Arizona, which is in Apache County, receive an hourly wage of $21.28. That is an approximate annual salary of $44,262.

Additional entry-level salary data is shown in the tables below. This includes various titles that park rangers in various roles are recognized:

Recreation Workers Salaries in Arizona

Area name
Employment
Annual mean wage
Flagstaff AZ
290
25320
Lake Havasu City - Kingman AZ
140
22280
Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale AZ
4030
26280
Prescott AZ
120
28730
Tucson AZ
940
22400
North Arizona nonmetropolitan area
340
24020
Southeast Arizona nonmetropolitan area
Estimate Not Released
32670

Tour Guides and Escorts Salaries in Arizona

Area name
Employment
Annual mean wage
Flagstaff AZ
200
24520
Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale AZ
650
33870
Prescott AZ
Estimate Not Released
29620
Tucson AZ
130
23490
Southeast Arizona nonmetropolitan area
50
19500

Recreational Protective Service Workers Salaries in Arizona

Area name
Employment
Annual mean wage
Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale AZ
1420
21110
Tucson AZ
430
21460
North Arizona nonmetropolitan area
Estimate Not Released
19170

Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park is the 15th oldest national park in America, as well as a being a UNESCO World Heritage site. The awe-inspiring Grand Canyon, considered one of the natural wonders of the world, is 227 river miles long, up to 18 miles deep, and a mile wide. The surrounding park takes up over 1 million acres of land. Grand Canyon National Park also has the only K-12 school within a national park, as well as a full service day care center.

People from around the world come to marvel at the Grand Canyon, with the park drawing approximately 4 million visitors in 2011 alone. Due to the worldwide importance and reputation of this natural wonder, Grand Canyon national Park has one of the most intensive protection programs in the National Park Service and park rangers are an integral park of keeping this complex plan in place.

A Park Ranger’s Job Duties in Grand Canyon National Park

Protecting natural resources and visitors within Grand Canyon National Park is of paramount importance for park rangers. In fact, the park’s Division of Resource and Visitor Protection employs 50 park rangers each year with this sole responsibility. Park rangers are stationed at three main visitor areas and nine remote areas throughout the park.

As law enforcement officers, park rangers patrol the areas of the park and it’s outlying wilderness and provides protection to natural areas and cultural sites, as well as wildlife living in the park. Rangers document approximately 10,000 cases of park violations each year. Canyon rangers often patrol on foot and even scale the side of the canyons with extensive climbing knowledge. Park rangers also patrol the Colorado River by boat along the canyon floor.

Park rangers also provide emergency services to visitors throughout the park and have a 24-hour dispatch center. Park rangers are trained in advanced medic and paramedic life support skills, and respond to approximately 1,300 medical incidents each year. Park rangers also provide search and rescue services, going on around 300 such missions annually.

Park rangers in Grand Canyon National Park also work in fire management and prevention. They also respond to around 65 structural fire calls each year. Grand Canyon National Park is also home to one of the only year round helicopter programs in the National Park Service available for park ranger use.

Park rangers also provide a variety of interpretive services throughout Grand Canyon National Park and interact regularly with visitors. Free ranger programs include a variety of presentations and other educational opportunities. There’s also a Junior Ranger program for children. Park rangers also interact with visitors at the Visitor Center or at one of the park’s three museums.

Recreational Opportunities for Visitors to Grand Canyon National Park

While viewing the Grand Canyon is usually a top priority for visitors in Grand Canyon National Park, there are a variety of other recreational activities available in the parks. Park rangers sometimes participate in these activities. Even when not participating directly, due to the high risk for injury or damage to natural resources, park rangers remain vigilant of what visitors are doing throughout the park.

Park Facilities — Due to the immense size of Grand Canyon National Park, there are a number of facilities and programs available to guests, including:

  • 4 visitor centers
  • 3 museums
  • A backcountry information center

Park Activities — The opportunities for adventures in Grand Canyon National Park are limitless. Some of the possibilities for activities include:

  • Walking or day hiking on the Rim Trail and in and around the canyon
  • Backcountry hiking
  • South Rim mule trips
  • Bicycle rentals
  • Bus tours or Hermit Road and Desert View Drive
  • Whitewater and smoothwater rafting on the Colorado River
  • Grand Canyon Field Institute Learning Adventures
  • Guided tours

Camping and Lodging — There are two developed campgrounds at Grand Canyon National Park, one on the South Rim of the canyon and one on the North Rim. There is also one area reserved for RV camping. Reservations are required. Park rangers patrol these campgrounds.

Backcountry camping and overnight backpacking is popular within the park, with more than 40,000 people camping in the backcountry each year. Visitors must obtain a permit in order to do this. Permits allow park rangers to help monitor and protect backcountry visitors. Guided backcountry expeditions are also offered through the Grand Canyon Field Institute.

There are also several lodging options available within the park. Reservations are required.

Kartchner Caverns State Park

Kartchner Caverns State Park is located just south of the town of Benson, Arizona and features a breathtaking limestone cave with over 2 miles of passages. The park has mineral deposits that have been growing for over 5,000 years and are still growing today. It is also home to over 1,000 cave bats. The park was created to protect and preserve the natural cave system throughout the park.

Today, visitors to the caverns can see many natural wonders, including the world’s longest soda straw stalactites, the world’s most extensive brushite moonmilk formation, and a 58-foot tall limestone column.

Kartchner Caverns State Park Ranger Job Duties and Responsibilities

Park rangers in Kartchner Caverns State Park must be comfortable working in an underground environment with high temperatures and humidity. Park rangers also have to spend time in confined, semi-dark spaces for long periods of time.

The most important responsibility for park rangers in Kartchner Caverns State Park is protecting the cave formations from damage. The formations have been growing for thousands of years and can be very fragile. Park rangers work hard to make sure that visitors respect the delicate environment of the caverns. This is also for the safety of visitors as well, as cave formations can cause injury.

Park rangers enforce a variety of other rules and regulations in the caverns and throughout the park, including:

  • No touching or damaging formations—punishable by law
  • No food, gum, or beverages anywhere in the caves
  • No littering or tossing coins
  • No bags or items of any kind allowed in the caves
  • No feeding birds or wildlife
  • No wood or charcoal fires anywhere in the parks
  • Driving is only allowed in designated, paved areas

Park rangers also provide interpretive services to visitors throughout the caverns. This includes providing underground tours throughout the cave system and educating visitors about the natural resources throughout the park. Park rangers also interact with visitors at the park’s Discovery Center through a variety of interpretive and educational activities.

Park rangers also work in areas of park operation and maintenance and provide skilled work throughout the park. This includes maintaining facilities and grounds, as well as vehicles and equipment. Park rangers also perform custodial and housekeeping duties throughout park facilities.

Park rangers are also trained in first aid and emergency response, including skills related to working in the unique conditions of the Kartchner Caverns themselves.

Recreational Opportunities for Visitors to Kartchner Caverns State Park

Cave Tours — The main recreational opportunities at Kartchner Caverns State Park are the cave tours of the caverns themselves. Park rangers lead guests on two separate tours through the Rotunda/Throne Room and the Big Room, sharing the history of the cave’s formation and discovery. A more intensive helmet and headlamp tour is also offered.

Discovery Center — The park also features a Discovery Center with a variety of interpretive and educational offerings for visitors, including presentations and activities often led by park rangers. The Discovery Center also includes:

  • The Tenen-Tufts Theater, which features an ongoing video presentation about the park
  • Park museum with exhibits on cave formations and cave life, hydrology and history
  • Gift shop
  • Food concessions at the Bat Cave Cafe
  • Outdoor amphitheater
  • Scavenger hunt for kids

Picnic Facilities — Picnic tables and shelters can be found around the main entrance to the park. The park also has a group day use area available for rental, which includes 3 covered ramadas that can hold up to 200-250 people. Park rangers often assist with group rentals.

Hiking — There are several developed hiking trails throughout Kartchner Caverns State Park as well, including:

  • The Hummingbird Garden Walk—a mild path lined with a wider variety of local vegetation, including Agave and Desert Bird of Paradise.
  • The Guindani Trail—a well-marked 4.2 mile trail of moderate difficulty
  • The Foothills Loop—a 2.5 mile trail of moderate to difficult rating that climbs a limestone hill north of the cave

Camping and RVs — Kartchner Caverns State Park features a two-loop campground located just off the main road, near the Discovery Center. All sites have electrical hookups and welcome RVs or tent camping. The campground also features shower/restroom facilities. Site reservations can be made ahead of time and the park entrance gate closes at 10:00pm. Park rangers often provide after-hours assistance in the campground area.

Red Rock State Park

Red Rock State Park near Sedona, Arizona is a 286-acre preserve with breathtaking scenery and ample educational opportunities. The park was founded in order to protect the riparian habitat that surrounds Oak Creek. The park is a mix of lush meadows and red rock hills and features a wide variety of trees, several bird species, and large mammals such as cougar, coyote, and deer.

The main focus of the park is to serve as an environmental education center for a variety of groups and individual visitors. There are also some limited, low impact recreational opportunities available to park goers.

Park Ranger Job Duties in Red Rock State Park

Park rangers at Red Rock State Park focus a good portion of their efforts on the daily upkeep and preservation of the park and it’s facilities. This includes facility/grounds maintenance, housekeeping, and custodial work, as well as some construction work. Park rangers work to keep the park clean and ready for visitors and make sure that visitors leave the park in good condition at the end of each day.

Park rangers also perform law enforcement duties. Park rangers patrol the park grounds for vandalism and other violations of park rules and regulations, including:

  • Visitors must stay on marked roads and trails
  • No removing vegetation, wildlife, rocks, or artifacts—including firewood
  • No rock climbing
  • No swimming or wading in Oak Creek or other bodies of water
  • Trash must be removed from park
  • No fireworks
  • No pets

Park rangers might issue citations and perform other law enforcement duties when necessary.  Park rangers also inspect areas of the park for any kinds of problems that could become a danger to visitors. Park rangers are also available to provide emergency assistance or first aid for visitors in need of medical attention. Park rangers can also assist with search and rescue efforts.

Park rangers also work in areas of customer service, directly interfacing with park goers in a variety of areas. They perform clerical tasks such as collecting fees and issuing permits. They also work in the visitor center to greet park goers and provide information. Some park rangers work in the gift shop and operate the cash register.

Since environmental education is a cornerstone of the mission of Red Rock State Park, park rangers are an integral part or programming and educational opportunities.  Park rangers educate visitors about the historic, cultural and scientific significance of different aspects of the park and also try to teach park goers about the management and protection of natural resources.

Park ranger programs are essential to protecting and preserving the park and to public enjoyment. These activities include nature hikes, presentations, workshops, or educational videos. Park rangers also offer special programs just for kids, including a Junior Ranger program.

Park rangers also oversee volunteers who volunteer through the popular Red Rock State Park Volunteer Program. This includes providing orientation to new volunteers about park history and operating philosophy, as well knowledge about the area.  Volunteers then work in a variety of ways to assist park rangers with programs, maintenance, and other duties throughout the park.

What Red Rock State Park Has to Offer Visitors

Red Rock State Park has a variety of educational and recreational opportunities available for guests. Many of these opportunities directly involve park rangers, while others are just activities that rangers must be aware of, including:

  • A visitor center with classroom, theater, and gift shop
  • Daily and weekly ranger activities including guided hikes and presentations
  • Special programs for school groups and private groups
  • Junior Ranger program
  • 10 developed hiking trails
  • Equestrian trails
  • Wildlife viewing
  • Picnic areas/shelters
  • Group area with ramadas for rent

Archeology Month — Park rangers participate in the park’s Archeology Month each March with a wide array of activities and presentations focused on the Sinagua natives who inhabited the park area over 800 years ago. Activities include demonstrations of prehistoric tools, fire-starting methods, archaeoastronomy, rock art, ceremonial practices, and native plants. Park rangers also lead an archeology hike throughout the month.

There are no camping or overnight activities at Red Rock State Park.

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