District of Columbia Park Ranger Training and Degree Requirements

The District of Columbia provides a unique environment for park ranges in that it has an abundance of national parks and city-run parks. Park ranger jobs in the District of Columbia may be available through either the National Park Service or the District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation.

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The historical areas and monuments located throughout the District make extensive historical and cultural knowledge an important aspect of park ranger jobs in Washington, DC.

Steps to Becoming a Park Ranger with the National Park Service in the District of Columbia

There is an abundance of national parks throughout the District of Columbia, operated by the U.S. National Park Service. Opportunities for employment in Park Ranger jobs may occur from the GS-2 level to the GS-11 level. Requirements for these jobs will be explored below.

Basic Qualifications – Federal park rangers in District of Columbia must meet some common qualifications, regardless of the grade level of the job:

  • Age 21 or older
  • U.S. citizen
  • Valid District of Columbia driver’s license
  • Complete a background investigation

Degree and Experience Requirements – Depending upon the park and the job, qualifications for park ranger jobs in the District of Columbia may span the scale from GS-2 (requires just a high school diploma and six months’ general experience), to GS-11 (requires three years of graduate education or a PhD and a year of specialized experience).

The most common grades for entry-level park ranger jobs in the District of Columbia and their required education or experience are listed below:

  • GS-5 Park Ranger- must have either one of the following (or a combination):
    • Bachelor degree with 24 semester hours of related courses, OR
    • 1 year of specialized experience at the GS-4 level

  • GS-7 Park Ranger- must have either one of the following (or a combination):
    • One year of graduate education related to the job, OR
    • One year of specialized experience at the GS-5 level

  • GS-9 Park Ranger- must have either one of the following (or a combination):
    • Two years of graduate education or a master’s degree related to the job, OR
    • One year of specialized experience at the GS-7 level

Training – New national park rangers in the District of Columbia must complete the NPS Fundamentals Training Program. This program helps new rangers to understand the National Park Service and its policies and values, and includes online and residential courses. New employees must complete these courses in the first two years of employment. Residential courses include one week in D.C. and two weeks in the Grand Canyon, Arizona.

After completion of this program, new employees may develop an Individual Development Plan (IDP) along with their supervisor. This will tailor courses to the employee’s needs and deficiencies. It will define objectives and ways to measure progress. Depending upon the type of park ranger job one holds, training may consist of NPS Career Academy courses in Visitor and Resource Protection, Interpretation and Education, Natural Resources Stewardship, Facility Maintenance and Historic Preservation Training, and Cultural Resources Stewardship.

Becoming a Park Ranger with the District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation

Other parks in the District of Columbia may be operated by the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation. This department employs park rangers both seasonally and year-round. The DPR notes that no matter where a person is in the District of Columbia area, he or she is no farther than two miles from a DPR-operated park or recreation area or facility.

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Types of areas include (but are not limited to):

  • Athletic fields (totaling 116)
  • Aquatic facilities (including indoor and outdoor pools and spray parks)
  • Community gardens (totaling 13, and making up one-fifth of the garden acreage in the District of Columbia)
  • Playgrounds
  • Environmental centers:
    • Lederer Environmental Education Center
    • Twin Oaks Garden
    • Recreation centers for all ages, some of which include pools
    • Tennis courts
    • Senior centers

Qualifications for DPR Park Ranger jobs are similar to those of the NPS, including U.S. citizenship and possession of a driver’s license. Recently, the law enforcement duties of urban park rangers were removed and assigned to DC Special Police Officers. Now, park rangers in DC primarily focus on connecting visitors and residents with the environment through exploratory excursions, ecosystem education, wildlife education, outdoor recreation, and environmental education.

As facilities differ greatly throughout the District, so do experience and education qualifications. Park ranger jobs at various facilities may carry different experience and education requirements. Some jobs require a high school diploma while others mandate college coursework or a bachelor degree. Some jobs accept applicants with no experience, and others require a certain amount and type of work experience. Applicants should consult a specific job listing for a DC DPR Park Ranger position when it becomes available to determine experiential and educational requirements.

National Parks Located in the District of Columbia

The National Park Service is headquartered in the District of Columbia and operates 39 national parks there. Some of the most popular are:

  • Anacostia Park, along the Anacostia River
  • Capitol Hill Parks, east of the U.S. Capitol, including:

    • Eastern Market
    • Marion Park
    • Stanton Park
    • Lincoln Park
    • Folger Park
  • Constitution Gardens, established in 1965 and one of the oldest parkland areas in the National Park System
  • Frederick Douglass National Historic Site
  • Lincoln Memorial
  • National Capital Parks-East
  • National Mall
  • Washington Monument
  • Vietnam Veterans Memorial

District of Columbia Park Ranger Salaries

According to the National Park Service, there are 23 national parks in the District of Columbia which received over 34 million visitors in 2013 and accounted for more than $596 million in economic benefit. Some of these parks include Anacostia Park, Capitol Hill Parks, Constitution Gardens, Fort Dupont Park, Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens, Meridian Hill, Potomac Heritage, Rock Creek Park, and the Washington Monument.

The federal government’s official job website, which is USAjobs.com, reports that the park ranger salary in District of Columbia for a supervisory park ranger begins at $62,467. The maximum salary allotted for this position is $81,204.

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 Washington, DC

Area name
Annual mean wage
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV

Tour Guides and Escorts Salaries in Washington, DC

Area name
Annual mean wage
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV

Recreational Protective Service Workers Salaries in Washington, DC

Area name
Annual mean wage
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV

Lincoln Memorial

Located along the west point of National Mall is Lincoln Memorial, a national monument that was built as a tribute to the United States’ 16th president. The memorial building itself is made from white stone and features 36 towering columns in front. The memorial is not only one of the most popular examples of Neoclassical architecture in modern times but also one of the most prominent landmarks in the US, drawing approximately 6 million visitors per year.

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Inside the building is a statue of Abraham Lincoln, designed by Daniel Chester French. Also made of white stone, the 19-foot statue depicts Lincoln sitting on his chair in deep contemplation.

Park Ranger Responsibilities and Job Duties at the Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial is open to the public 24 hours a day. However, the memorial’s operating hours are between 9:30 a.m to 11:30 p.m. EST.  During this time, park rangers are on duty and are expected to answer visitors’ questions. Aside from this, park rangers at Lincoln Memorial also lead interpretive programs. Visitors can participate in a ranger-led program every hour on the hour, from 10 a.m. through 11 p.m.

Like most national parks and memorials, Lincoln Memorial requires permits when it comes to special events and other similar activities. Park rangers maintain peace and order in the memorial by ensuring that visitors have proper permits for filming, demonstrations, photo shoots and other events.

Visitors come to Lincoln Memorial to learn about American history, particularly the period under one of the most important presidents of the country. Activities that visitors can engage in when visiting Lincoln Memorial include:

  • The Memorials of the National Mall – This walking tour not only explores Lincoln Memorial, but also other memorials and monuments around the National Mall. Park rangers serve as guides for this walking tour and also provide visitors with important information about each site.
  • Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool – Located at the bottom of Lincoln Memorial’s steps is the famous Reflecting Pool. This pool also reflects the Washington Monument. The pool is surrounded by trees and pathways. Park rangers patrol the area to protect the pool and surrounding grounds from littering and other prohibited activities.

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

Located in West Potomac Park on the northwest end of the Tidal Basin is the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. The four-acre memorial is a tribute to the influential African-American civil rights leader and activist who worked to end social injustice using non-violent means. Although he is best known for fighting racial discrimination, Martin Luther King Jr. also worked to end poverty and put a stop to the Vietnamn war.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is the first memorial along the National Mall to honor a person of color. It is also the first memorial to honor a non-president. The memorial opened in 2011 and was made possible through the fund-raising activities of the Washington, D.C. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation.

Federal Park Ranger Duties in Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

Federal park rangers at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial perform both protective and interpretative job functions. The memorial is open to the public 24 hours a day, but park rangers are only on duty between 9:30 am to 11 pm. During this time, park rangers provide information to visitors and answer questions they may have. Ranger-led interpretive programs are also available on an hourly basis from 10 in the morning until 11 in the evening.

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial requires no fees or reservations, but special permits are necessary for specific activities and gatherings. Park rangers make sure that these activities have been approved and that all posted regulations are adhered to during the events themselves.

The centerpiece of the memorial is none other than the 30-foot sculpture of Martin Luther King, also known as the “Stone of Hope.” There is also a memorial wall that commemorates Dr. King’s oratory prowess: the wall stretches to about 450 feet and features 14 quotations from his speeches and writings. Vandalizing, defacing and otherwise damaging the sculpture, wall and other memorial resources are strictly prohibited, and park rangers regularly patrol the memorial to ensure that visitors are complying with guidelines.

The memorial also features a bookstore that carries literature on Martin Luther King, as well as other items that visitors can take home to commemorate their visit.

National World War II Memorial

Located between Independence and Constitution Avenues, the National World War II Memorial stands as a tribute to the sixteen million heroic Armed Forces members who fought in the war, and the more than 400,000 who sacrificed their lives. The memorial also honors those who supported the war effort from the home front.

The memorial was opened to the public in 2004, coinciding with a four-day veterans’ grand reunion. Aside from the landscape of towering trees and rolling lawns, the memorial features battle names carved into stone, a wall containing gold stars representing Americans who lost their lives in the war and a celebratory water fountain that serves as the memorial’s centerpiece.

Park Ranger Job Duties at the National World War II Memorial

The National World War II Memorial is one of the most historically significant sites in the country and park rangers are responsible for ensuring that it is protected at all times. Aside from performing general law enforcement duties, federal park rangers are also expected to provide security services and enforce traffic rules.

The memorial’s World War II registry features names of Americans who supported the war efforts, both on the battlefront and from home. In cases where visitors wish to add names to the registry, the monument’s staff and park rangers are expected to assist in the process.

Park rangers also lead daily in-depth bike and walking tours around the memorial, which means extensive knowledge about the memorial’s history and other pertinent information is required.

The National World War II Memorial in Washington DC is a noteworthy destination for anyone who is interested in American history and heroic tales of war. The park offers a variety of programs, tours and ranger walks to enhance visitors’ experience and understanding of the memorial. Most of these activities are led by the park’s knowledgeable rangers.

  • 1944: Visit the World War II Memorial. 1944 was a significant year in the World War II timeline. Visitors can learn more about the events that unfolded in this year by attending this Living History Program where park rangers, employees and volunteers dress in clothing reminiscent of the area.
  • Wartime Medicine. As one of the popular ranger talks in the park, Wartime Medicine educates visitors about the development of medical care during the World War II era and how these medical advances enhanced the survival of servicemen and servicewomen.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial honors more than 58,000 Americans who lost their lives or went missing during the Vietnam conflict. The memorial’s centerpiece is a black granite wall where 58,209 names are engraved. The names are listed in chronological order, based on the time of fatality, but an alphabetical directory is available to help visitors more easily locate names.

The memorial also features a bronze statue of “The Three Servicemen,” and a “Vietnam Women’s Memorial” sculpture that depicts three women caring for a wounded soldier. Aside from the monument itself and these magnificent works of art, the memorial also features regular programs led by park rangers and volunteers.

Serving as a Park Ranger at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Park rangers at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial perform a variety of tasks for the protection of the memorials resources and its visitors. Park rangers patrol the memorial’s monument and recreational areas to ensure that visitors are complying with the rules and regulations. Park rangers also provide protection for visiting dignitaries, write reports and perform traffic enforcement in some cases.

At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, park rangers assist visitors who wish to look for names on the memorial wall. An alphabetical catalog is available to make the search easier and park rangers instruct visitors regarding the use of this catalog, as well as how to locate a name using panel and row numbers.

Park rangers are also expected to lead talks and educational walks, which requires them to have a deep knowledge of the memorial’s historical and cultural significance. For example, “Vietnam and the 1968 Presidential Election” discusses the controversy behind the Vietnam War in 1968 and how this controversy affected the elections that year.

A majority of the visitors to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial come to the park to pay their respects to those who lost their lives during the Vietnam War. These visitors do so by offering flowers, candles and other gifts to the memorial. Some visitors wish to add name to the wall and park rangers are always standing by to provide assistance in this process.

Park rangers are also prepared to provide visitors with information about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, which continues to spearhead programs and other projects that honor the heroes of this era. Amongst these projects is the ongoing building of the Virtual Wall of Faces, which will feature pictures of the brave people men and women whose names are on the wall.

Washington Monument

The Washington Monument is the tallest landmark in Washington DC and the most prominent and recognizable structure in the DC-Metro area. Built as a memorial to first American President George Washington, the monument soars up to a height of more than 169 meters.

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The magnificent white obelisk is made of granite, marble and bluestone gneiss, making it the tallest stone structure in the world. Fifty flags surround the base of the monument representing each of the country’s 50 states. Ticketholders can take an elevator to the top of the monument for an unparalleled view of the country’s capital.

National Service as a Park Ranger at the Washington Monument

As one of the country’s most significant monuments, the Washington Monument demands round-the-clock security to prevent things like vandalism. Providing these security services is one of the primary duties of a park ranger. They patrol the monument and surrounding park area, as well as perform surveillance to ensure there is no suspicious or criminal activity. In criminal cases, park rangers are expected to perform investigations, prepare arrest warrants and bring suspects to custody.

Park rangers are also committed to the protection of Washington Monument’s visitors, from visiting dignitaries to busloads of children visiting on a school field trip. Park rangers are tasked with directing visitors to the security screening area where each visitor is searched for prohibited items, including strollers, weapons and any large items. The waiting areas can get crowded and park rangers are also expected to maintain order amongst visitors.

After the screening process, park rangers lead visitors to the elevator. The elevator’s ascension takes approximately 70 seconds and brings visitors 500 feet above ground level. During the elevator ride, park rangers provide facts and other information about the monument itself.

The structure of the Washington Monument itself is a remarkable attraction in terms of its architectural design and historical significance. Aside from the panoramic bird’s eye view from the monument’s top, the park’s outdoor Sylvan Theater is also a popular venue for live theater performances, commemorative ceremonies and rallies.

One of the biggest is the events in the nation’s capital is the annual 4th of July celebration.  Visitors pack the green space surrounding the monument to view one of the most spectacular fireworks shows in the country.  Park rangers work round the cloud leading up to the event to ensure crowds remain under control and that the peace is maintained.

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