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Michigan Park Ranger Training and Degree Requirements

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation Division offers opportunities for state park and recreation rangers to work seasonally or year-round. Likewise, the National Park Service employs park rangers in Michigan at its national parks and historic sites.

According to information provided by the Michigan Civil Service Commission, as of 2014 the average yearly salary for an entry-level state park and recreation ranger with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Parks Department ranges from $32,316 to $45,198. While education and experience is not always necessary for state park and recreation ranger jobs in Michigan, having either can place an applicant in the higher salary range.

National park ranger jobs in Michigan require a college education and experience. These jobs pay an average of $44,262 annually as of 2014.

There are 79 state parks found across the state of Michigan. Some of the most popular are:

  • Sterling State Park –the only Michigan state park on the shores of Lake Erie
  • Warren Dunes State Park – on the shores of Lake Michigan near Bridgman
  • Sleepy Hollow State Park – near Laingsburg
  • Mackinac Island State Park – comprising 74% of Mackinac Island
  • Tahquamenon Falls State Park – bordering Lake Superior near Paradise

Becoming a Park Ranger with the National Park Service in Michigan

Michigan is home to seven national parks, heritage areas, historic parks, lakeshores and battlefields under the control of the National Park Service. Federal park rangers in Michigan may work at any one of these locations:

  • Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore – Empire
  • River Raisin National Battlefield Park- near Detroit
  • Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore – Munising
  • Motor Cities National Heritage Area – Detroit
  • Keweenaw National Historical Park – Calumet
  • Isle Royale National Park – Houghton

Becoming a park ranger with the National Park Service in Michigan requires candidates to follow these steps:

Meet General Conditions of Employment – Federal park rangers in Michigan must:

  • Be at least 21 years old and citizens of the U.S.
  • Possess a valid Michigan driver’s license, pass a background check
  • Be able to obtain a NPS Type II Law Enforcement Commission
  • Pass the Physical Efficiency Battery
  • Pass a medical exam and drug screening test

Education and Experience Requirements – All candidates must meet educational and experience requirements consistent with the federal GS7 level or higher:

  • The applicant must have one year of specialized experience in law enforcement duties for the protection, use, conservation and management of natural or cultural resources

OR

  • The applicant must have completed 18 semester hours of graduate education related to the job

OR

  • The applicant may have an equivalent combination of education and experience

Certification Requirements – Additionally, federal park rangers in Michigan who hold the following certifications will receive preference over other applicants:

  • First Responder, EMT-B or higher
  • Motorboat Operator Certification or Motorboat Operator Instructor Certification
  • Firefighter Type II certification

Steps to Becoming a Park and Recreation Ranger with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Meet Conditions of Employment – State park and recreation rangers in Michigan must:

  • Hold a State of Michigan valid driver’s license
  • Be able to obtain a CDL license within 6 months of hire
  • Be a U.S. citizen or legally eligible to work in the country

Experience and Degree Prerequisites – For entry-level park and recreation ranger jobs in Michigan, passing a Civil Service examination is not required. Education beyond the high school/GED level is not necessary for entry-level jobs, nor is experience.

However, candidates with the following education and experience will have an advantage over other candidates in Michigan:

  • One year of experience in leading others in activities or operations,

OR

  • One year of experience in harbor and boat launch operations,

OR

  • Two or more years of experience in any of these areas:
    • Grounds keeping/landscaping
    • Operating large equipment
    • Skilled trades
    • Facility maintenance and construction

OR

  • Completion of 8 semester college credits in outdoor recreation, park management or natural resources (counts as one year of experience),

OR

  • Completion of 15 college credits in outdoor recreation, park management or natural resources (counts as two years of experience)

Training for Michigan Park and Recreation Ranger Jobs – Michigan park and recreation ranger jobs typically start at an entry level, in which new rangers learn much of the duties, skills and knowledge on the job under the tutelage of a mentor.

Skills and duties in which new rangers are instructed include:

  • Grounds keeping and landscaping
  • Recreational points of interest
  • Operating heavy equipment
  • Performing building and grounds maintenance tasks
  • Trapping small nuisance animals and letting them go appropriately
  • Reconciling accounts
  • Budgeting and financing
  • Interactions with the public
  • Handling emergencies
  • Working with law enforcement as required

Michigan Park Ranger Salaries

Park rangers in Michigan are employed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and manage the 101 state parks throughout Michigan. In fact, the work among those involved in the state’s park system is so incredible that in 2011 Michigan State Parks received the National Recreation and Park Association’s Gold Medal Award. Park rangers are absolutely vital to maintaining such excellence.

Michigan park ranger salaries vary as there are 4 ranks among them. Here, we take a look at the salary schedule on which park rangers in Michigan are paid:

Park and Recreation Ranger – E, Grade 6

  • Minimum: $32,136
  • Maximum: $40,872

Park and Recreation Ranger – E, Grade 7

  • Minimum: $33,134
  • Maximum: $42,536

Park and Recreation Ranger – E, Grade E8

  • Minimum: $35,859
  • Maximum: $45,198

Park and Recreation Ranger – A, Grade 9

  • Minimum: $39,249
  • Maximum: $50,460

Of course, there are always advancement positions to consider as well:

Park and Recreation Manager 1

  • Minimum: $44,969
  • Maximum: $65,748

Park and Recreation Manager 2

  • Minimum: $48,068
  • Maximum: $71,718

Park and Recreation Manager 3

  • Minimum: $53,040
  • Maximum: $79,040

Additional entry-level salary data is shown in the table below, in particular the various roles which park rangers are sometimes assigned:

Recreation Workers Salaries in Michigan

Area name
Employment
Annual mean wage
Ann Arbor MI
890
21080
Battle Creek MI
270
19510
Bay City MI
60
24920
Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn MI Metropolitan Division
1850
23910
Detroit-Warren-Livonia MI
4620
23640
Flint MI
300
22750
Grand Rapids-Wyoming MI
1070
24100
Holland-Grand Haven MI
200
25390
Jackson MI
70
22910
Kalamazoo-Portage MI
300
23040
Lansing-East Lansing MI
610
22800
Monroe MI
110
22610
Muskegon-Norton Shores MI
100
25540
Niles-Benton Harbor MI
40
27080
Saginaw-Saginaw Township North MI
100
21800
South Bend-Mishawaka IN-MI
Estimate Not Released
23870
Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills MI Metropolitan Division
2770
23470
Upper Peninsula of Michigan nonmetropolitan area
180
26230
Northeast Lower Peninsula of Michigan nonmetropolitan area
170
23470
Northwest Lower Peninsula of Michigan nonmetropolitan area
260
24340
Balance of Lower Peninsula of Michigan nonmetropolitan area
490
24870

Tour Guides and Escorts Salaries in Michigan

Area name
Employment
Annual mean wage
Ann Arbor MI
200
22340
Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn MI Metropolitan Division
150
31870
Detroit-Warren-Livonia MI
250
30770
Grand Rapids-Wyoming MI
Estimate Not Released
20500
Lansing-East Lansing MI
50
30990
Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills MI Metropolitan Division
100
29110
Upper Peninsula of Michigan nonmetropolitan area
Estimate Not Released
21300
Balance of Lower Peninsula of Michigan nonmetropolitan area
50
20890

Recreational Protective Service Workers Salaries in Michigan

Area name
Employment
Annual mean wage
Ann Arbor MI
Estimate Not Released
18440
Bay City MI
40
19850
Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn MI Metropolitan Division
860
20200
Detroit-Warren-Livonia MI
1740
20460
Grand Rapids-Wyoming MI
360
18420
Holland-Grand Haven MI
100
20050
Kalamazoo-Portage MI
Estimate Not Released
19900
Lansing-East Lansing MI
110
18270
South Bend-Mishawaka IN-MI
Estimate Not Released
17300
Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills MI Metropolitan Division
890
20720
Upper Peninsula of Michigan nonmetropolitan area
40
18420
Northeast Lower Peninsula of Michigan nonmetropolitan area
50
22480
Northwest Lower Peninsula of Michigan nonmetropolitan area
80
20220
Balance of Lower Peninsula of Michigan nonmetropolitan area
170
25170

Mackinac Island State Park

Mackinac Island State Park in Michigan consists of over 1,773 acres of land on Mackinac Island State Park. It is known as the United States’ second park, established three years after Yellowstone. The park is under the control of the Mackinac Island State Park Commission, under the jurisdiction of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation Division. The park contains 144 miles of roads and trails, the Governor’s summer home, a Class C airport, and over 60 buildings, some of which have historical significance.

Park ranger career opportunities in Mackinac Island State Park begin at the entry level, but many cadets ultimately work their way up through the ranks to become park and recreation rangers, and eventually park and recreation Managers.

Natural and Historical Features of Mackinac Island State Park

As vehicles have been banned in the park since 1898, Mackinac Island State Park is known for representing a peaceful, serene way of life far from the cities.  Eighty percent of Mackinac Island is contained within Mackinac Island State Park. The park is open year-round and entrance is free for all visitors.

Some of the most spectacular visuals around Mackinac Island State Park are its limestone bluffs, forests, trails and vistas over beautiful waters. Activities for visitors within Mackinac Island State Park include hiking, horseback riding, biking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

Visitors to Mackinac Island State Park may enjoy visiting its many historical sites, where park and recreation rangers instruct the public on the significance of each site. They include the following forts from the American Revolution:

  • Fort Holmes
  • Fort Mackinac
  • British Landing

As well as these museums:

  • The Tower Museum
  • Stuart House Museum
  • St. Anne’s Church
  • Surrey Hills Carriage Museum
  • The Richard and Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is the first lakeshore in the United States that was designated by Congress as a “national lakeshore” in 1966. It is one of only four lakeshores in the nation that is maintained by the National Park Service. Situated between Munising and Grand Marias, Michigan, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore spans 42 miles and 73,236 acres along the shores of Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Park rangers within Pictured Rocks National Seashore offer guided tours of many of the attractions there, as well as interpretive programs. Rangers offer tours of Au Sable Light Station, an 1874 lighthouse located within the National Lakeshore. U.S. Coast Guard lifeboat stations are available to explore, as is a Civil War era iron blast furnace site and old farmsteads.

Interpretive programs and cruises are run by park rangers, and in the past have included forest discovery walks, cruises, experiencing the true colors of pictured rocks, invasive species programs, black bears programs, arctic disjunct plants within the park, stargazing programs, and guided hikes.

Working as a Park Ranger in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

The park is approximately the size of five Manhattan Islands put together. Its name comes from the 15 miles of colorful sandstone cliffs colored by mineral strains. These cliffs rise up to 200 feet above sea level and are found within the National Lakeshore area. The colors are formed by copper (green), limonite (white), manganese (black), and iron (red and orange).  These cliffs have been sculptured by the natural elements into formations, arches, caves and profiles. Pictured Rocks National Seashore also provides a great view of Grand Island from the Munising area.

There are more than just cliffs to entertain visitors who come to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, however. The area contains more than 100 miles of hiking trails, 14 backcountry campsites and the northern hardwood forest. The park is open year-round and entrance is free of charge. Visitors in the winter enjoy ice fishing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, ice climbing and cross-country skiing.  Warmer weather sees visitors to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore kayaking, hiking, canoeing, bird watching, fishing on remote trout streams, sightseeing, camping both backcountry and vehicle-based, and much more.

Tahquamenon Falls State Park

Tahquamenon Falls State Park is Michigan’s second largest park, at almost 50,000 acres spanning 13 square miles. Located in Paradise, Michigan, Tahquamenon Falls State Park receives half a million visitors annually, per the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation Division.

The main attraction of the park is Tahquamenon Falls, created when the 90-foot long Tahquamenon River drops off 50 feet at the Upper Tahquamenon Falls, the second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi River. The Lower Tahquamenon Falls can be found about four miles downstream, where there are five smaller drop-offs. The mouth of the Tahquamenon River empties into Whitefish Bay, which leads directly into Lake Superior.

Serving the Public as a Park Ranger in Tahquamenon Falls State Park

In addition to the spectacular falls within the park, there are many other activities to keep visitors busy. They include bicycling, hiking, skiing and snowshoeing along the 40 miles of trails found within Tahquamenon Falls State Park. Trails vary in length and difficulty, from the 7.4-mile long Wilderness Loop to the shortest trail, the .5-mile Nature Trail.

Additionally, Tahquamenon Falls State Park contains 13 inland lakes and 20,000 acres of natural area. Visitors enjoy fishing, canoeing, camping and photography within the park. Park and recreation rangers within Tahquamenon Falls State Park lead educational programs that instruct visitors on the many types of trees, fish and wildlife found within the park, among other topics. Trees within the areas of the Upper Falls include yellow birch, Eastern hemlock, sugar maple and American beech. Fish include perch, rock bass, smallmouth bass, pike, trout and walleye.

Tahquamenon Falls State Park is open year-round. Although a DNR Recreation Passport ($11, and allows visitors to access 100 parks and recreation areas within Michigan) is required for entrance to the park, educational programs and other exhibits usually carry no additional fees. Examples of educational programs that park and recreation rangers in Tahquamenon Falls State Park have conducted include:

  • Maple Sugaring Days – March
  • Harvest Festival – October
  • Trail Run – August
  • Hike Between Da Falls – September
  • Guided snowshoe hikes
  • Dog sled rides
  • Snowshoe races

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