Maryland Park Ranger Training and Degree Requirements

Maryland’s park rangers have primarily been known as law enforcement professionals and have served in the state’s parks for the past 30 years. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources Park Service is currently re-defining the role of the Maryland state park ranger, making on-the-job training more of a focus than past experience. As stated in a recent document on the DNR website, “No longer will someone walk into work on their first day and become a member of our full time ranger force.”

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To be called a Maryland Park Ranger and wear the trademark Stetson hat, candidates must display ability, achievements and skills. Maryland’s park rangers will be professionally responsible for protecting the historical and natural resources of the state; and using education, management, enforcement, and conservation in regular interactions with the public.

Once designated as a Maryland Park Ranger, annual salaries range from a low of $39,772 to a high of $129,896, according to the DNR’s 2014 figures.

Steps to Becoming a Park Ranger with the Maryland Park Service

Fulfill Basic Requirements – Fundamental requirements that must be fulfilled by all applicants for Maryland park ranger jobs include:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or legal alien
  • Possess a valid Maryland driver’s license
  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Willingness to work all hours, including evenings, weekends and holidays, and on-call status

Experience and Degree Requirements – Seasonal park ranger jobs in Maryland are plentiful over the spring and summer months and require no specialized education or experience. Seasonal positions are a way for Maryland residents interested in full-time park ranger jobs to gain necessary experience at the entry-level. However, full-time, regular Maryland state park ranger jobs do require experience and education. As mentioned in the introduction, Maryland state park rangers cannot attain this position without working their way through the ranks, i.e. working as an assistant park manager (or similar job) first.

All park jobs at the managerial operational level require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in parks and recreation, education, history, natural science, business management, natural resources management, forest management, forestry or a related field.

They also require three years of experience in supervisory park or forest operational work. However, additional experience may be substituted for the educational requirement, at the rate of one year of experience to one year of education. Therefore, a candidate with seven years of experience need not hold a bachelor’s degree. Candidates who hold a master’s degree in one of the above-mentioned fields may substitute this to meet one year of the experience requirement.

Training for Maryland Park Ranger Jobs – There is much training required before a park ranger candidate may be called a full-fledged Maryland Park Ranger.

Mandatory training includes:

    • Completion of the Maryland Office of Tourism Development Welcome Center National Certification Training Program, which provides knowledge of the geography and history of the state
    • Work for six months under the mentorship of a ranger mentor/trainer and go through at least one performance cycle before being promoted to the title of Maryland Park Ranger
    • Pass an in-service test on Maryland Park Service and Park Ranger History
    • Complete a two-day Introduction to Search and Rescue course
    • Become certified in CPR and First Responder through attendance at a 40-hour entry level in-service training
    • Complete two online Incident Command courses
    • Attend Seasonal Interpretation School, interpretive in-service classes, Scales & Tales or other related training in natural, cultural and historical interpretation
    • Complete the NAI Certified Interpretive Host training in hospitality and visitor service skills
    • Complete Ranger School, Stewardship School or Operations School
    • Complete three Professional Maintenance Workshops
    • Complete a six-hour Voluntary Compliance Course
    • Elective trainings required (must demonstrate proficiency in at least five areas):
      • EMT certification
      • Wildland Fire Training course
      • ACA Canoe Certification course
      • Boundary Management expertise
      •  Certified Interpretive Guide/Trainer course of the National Interpretive Certification
      •  resource management related course
      •  Leave NO Trace course
      •  hour Red Cross Lifeguard Management Certification course
      •  the Hunter Safety Instructor course and teach one class per year
      • the Boating Safety Instructor course and teach one class per year
      •  Maryland Park Service Living History Course and participate in one historical program per year
      •  Leadership Development Training
      •  Fundamentals of Search and Rescue leadership level course
      • Pesticide Applicator course and maintain license
      •  Water Treatment Technician course and maintain license
      •  Heavy Equipment Operator licensure course and maintain license

In-service trainings are offered across the state in various parks including (but not limited to):

  • Deep Creek Discovery Center, Swanton
  • Elk Neck State Park, North East
  • North Point State Park, Edgmere
  • Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary, Upper Marlboro
  • Soldier’s Delight, Owings Mills
  • Greenbrier State Park, Boonsboro

Becoming a Park Ranger with the National Park Service in Maryland

The National Park Service operates 28 national park areas throughout the state of Maryland that employ federal park rangers.

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Some of the most popular include:

  • Baltimore-Washington Parkway – this 29 miles of scenic highway that runs from Baltimore to Washington, D.C. is part of a parkway system that welcomes visitors and is patrolled by the National Park Service
  • Antietam National Battlefield – located in Sharpsburg, this is the site of the Battle of Antietam which took place during the Civil War on September 17, 1862, after which 23,000 soldiers were missing, wounded or killed
  • Greenbelt Park – located in Greenbelt, 12 miles from Washington, D.C., this part includes nine miles of trails, a campground and three picnic areas
  • Piscataway Park – located in Accokeek, the park is home to National Colonial Farm and much wildlife including ospreys, foxes, deer, beavers and bald eagles
  • Fort McHenry – located in Baltimore, this national monument run by the National Park Service inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star Spangled Banner” after witnessing the Battle of Baltimore and the red, white and blue colors over the star-shaped fort in September 1814

Prospective federal park rangers in Maryland must fulfill requirements like those of state park rangers, including holding a valid Maryland driver’s license and being a U.S. citizen.

Educational and experiential requirements to become a federal park ranger in Maryland are able to be satisfied through one of these routes:

  • Complete one year of specialized experience at the GS-4 level related to natural science education, parks and recreation, conservation management, environmental education, or like disciplines along with two years of post-secondary education


  • Complete a bachelor’s degree in a field related to parks and recreation or conservation management

Maryland Park Ranger Salaries

Park rangers in Maryland hold employment through the Maryland Park Service, although the Maryland Park Service is actually a subdivision of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. There are a variety of ranks among park rangers, the starting point being Park Ranger Sergeant. Of course, Maryland park ranger salaries vary by rank, but the average is $63,961.

Shown below are the ranks and salaries of park rangers in Maryland:

Park Ranger Sergeant

  • Minimum: $52,738
  • Maximum: $93,367

Park Ranger Second Lieutenant

  • Minimum: $57,030
  • Maximum: $93,854

Park Ranger First Lieutenant

  • Minimum: $61,245
  • Maximum: $100,747

Park Ranger Captain

  • Minimum: $63,343
  • Maximum: $112,816

Park Ranger Major

  • Minimum: $68,060
  • Maximum: $121,063

Park Ranger Colonel

  • Minimum: $72,168
  • Maximum: $115,879

Park Ranger Lieutenant Colonel

  • Minimum: $73,145
  • Maximum: $129,896

Below is some additional salary information. It includes the various roles of park rangers and respective salaries:

Recreation Workers Salaries in Maryland

Area name
Annual mean wage
Baltimore-Towson MD
Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick MD Metropolitan Division
Cumberland MD-WV
Hagerstown-Martinsburg MD-WV
Salisbury MD
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division
Wilmington DE-MD-NJ Metropolitan Division
Upper Eastern Shore nonmetropolitan area

Tour Guides and Escorts Salaries in Maryland

Area name
Annual mean wage
Baltimore-Towson MD
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division
Wilmington DE-MD-NJ Metropolitan Division
Estimate Not Released
Upper Eastern Shore nonmetropolitan area
Estimate Not Released

Recreational Protective Service Workers Salaries in Maryland

Area name
Annual mean wage
Baltimore-Towson MD
Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick MD Metropolitan Division
Hagerstown-Martinsburg MD-WV
Estimate Not Released
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division
Wilmington DE-MD-NJ Metropolitan Division
Estimate Not Released
Upper Eastern Shore nonmetropolitan area

Assateague State Park

Assateague State Park near Berlin is known as Maryland’s only ocean front park. The park is unique in that it is encompasses Assateague Island, a barrier island bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Sinepuxent Bay. Chosen by National Geographic Travel Magazine in 1994 as one of the United States’ 10 best state parks, Assateague is unlike other parks in the state, as it not only provides visitors with two miles of beaches, but also offers the opportunity to see native wildlife including feral horses, deer and waterfowl.

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Assateague State Park lies eight miles from the historic small town of Berlin and nine miles from Maryland’s premier ocean resort area, Ocean City.

Training for Assateague State Park Ranger Jobs 

Assateague State Park Rangers must participate in much training before they can work. Training includes (but is not limited to):

  • CPR and First Responder Training
  • Maryland Office of Tourism Development Welcome Center National Certification Program
  • Introduction to Search and Rescue
  • NAI Certified Interpretive Host training
  • Trail stewardship

Additionally, as Assateague is unique among Maryland’s state parks, park rangers must also be trained in the wildlife of the area, including:

  • Red fox
  • Horseshoe crab
  • Sika deer
  • Brown pelican
  • Merlin
  • Wild horses

Volunteer Rangers Program at Assateague State Park

One good way for prospective park rangers at Assateague State Park to gain needed experience is to participate in the Volunteer Ranger program. Assateague State Park runs a Volunteer Ranger program for those ages 18 and over. These members of the public participate in 40 hours of volunteer service and training at the park and may then help the full-time park staff with public service, educational programs and operations. Training for this program includes CPR and first aid, search and rescue and trail stewardship.

In addition to the Volunteer Ranger program, Assateague State Park also offers the public volunteer opportunities in the Interpretive Program (education), landscaping of the park, maintenance of the park, and the nonprofit organization Friends of Assateague State Park.

The Beauty of Assateague State Park

Visitors come to Assateague State Park for many reasons, including enjoying the beaches, wildlife and for camping. There are 350 campsites throughout the park that can be reserved from April through October. For those who want to spend the day at the beach, Assateague’s beaches are open for swimming from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and year round public access to the beach is provided for those who just wish to walk or experience its natural beauty. Visitors also enjoy fishing on Assateague’s beach and marina. Park rangers at Assateague State Park provide many educational programs for the public on the environment and nature. Junior naturalist and junior beach patrol programs are also available for children.

Recently, Rackliffe House was opened to visitors to Assateague State Park. This restored 18th century coastal plantation house provides visitors with insights into colonial life on the coast. It is open to the public on Thursdays during the summer.

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park

The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park (also known as the C&O Canal National Historical Park) lies within Maryland, the District of Columbia and West Virginia, following the 184.5-mile canal that stretches through the area. The park is unique in that is provides the state with recreation and important natural resources, all in an area with historical significance. The C&O Canal National Historical Park is open year-round, as are the visitor centers in Williamsport, Cumberland and Great Falls.

The C&O Canal National Historical Park honors the tradition and history of the C&O Canal, a waterway that provided jobs for the Potomac River Valley in the 19th and 20th centuries. Park rangers tell visitors of the role the canal played in the history of the American the Civil War, Western expansion, engineering, industry, immigration and transportation.

There are a variety of activities to occupy visitors to the C&O Canal National Historical Park, ranging from bicycling and hiking to bird watching and skiing. Other popular recreational activities at this national park include boating, kayaking, camping, ice-skating, horseback writing, nature walks and ranger programs.

Park rangers at C&O Canal National Historical Park offer Interpretive Ranger Programs to instruct visitors about the area and its history. These include canal boat rides, ranger-led hikes, and “Meet the Mules,” in which visitors view mules who work on the canal pulling a replica Civil War era packet boat.

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park Prepares for 2016

On August 25, 2016, the National Park Service will reach its 100th birthday. The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park is planning to be part of the celebration. The park is adopting a 2016 class to provide education and encourage student-driven discovery.

Additionally, the C&O Canal National Historical Park went digital in 2012, revamping its website and using social media to connect and share information with visitors. The C&O Canal National Historical Park also provided Operational Leadership safety training for its staff in 2012. This training assessed daily risk management and instructed staff on how to maximize safety in daily park operations.

Deep Creek Lake State Park

Western Maryland’s premier recreational area is Deep Creek Lake State Park, a popular year-round attraction. Located west of the Allegheny Front in Swanton, the park’s name comes from the hydroelectric project, Deep Creek Lake, created on Deep Creek in the 1920s by the Youghiogheny Hydroelectric Company. The lake, which is the largest inland body of water in the state at 3900 acres, is now a prime vacation destination in Western Maryland.

The Beauty of Deep Creek Lake State Park

Deep Creek Lake State Park is west of the Eastern Continental Divide and within the Mississippi River watershed. It offers activities for visitors year-round. In the wintertime, visitors to the park enjoy snowmobiling in the park and skiing nearby at Wisp Resort. In the spring, summer and fall, visitors take to Deep Creek Lake for boating, fishing, and swimming. Camping in Deep Creek Lake State Park is also a popular pastime, with 112 campsites in the Meadow Mountain section of the park. The parks’ many hiking trails and picnic areas also provide recreation for visitors.

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Deep Creek Lake State Park is also home to the Brant coalmine and home site. Today, the mine entrance has been restored to preserve a drift mine. When the mine was working, it supplied bituminous coal for local blacksmiths and heating the community.

The Deep Creek Lake Discovery Center is located within Deep Creek Lake State Park and is an interpretive environmental center designed as a hands-on educational experience for visitors of all ages. The natural resources of Western Maryland, including wildlife, flora and fauna, are showcased within this 6000 square foot facility. Educational events are scheduled on a regular basis, led by park rangers, naturalists and volunteers. The Deep Creek Lake Discovery Center is open year round, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily in the summer and in the winter, Fridays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Although winters have seen up to 200 inches of snow in Deep Creek Lake State Park, the park is open year-round. However, the main gate is closed from December 15 to March 15 (snowmobile season). The entrance fee is $3 per in-state person from Memorial Day to Labor Day ($4 per out-of-state person), and $3 per in-state vehicle from Labor Day to Memorial Day ($4 for out-of-state vehicle).

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