Minnesota Park Ranger Training and Degree Requirements

In Minnesota, state park rangers are called naturalist interpreters, where they work for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. They work year-round in Minnesota’s state parks educating visitors through interpretation of the culturally and historically significant destinations there, as well as the state’s many natural landmarks. They serve as educators and stewards of the environment in the parks to which they are assigned.

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National park rangers in Minnesota work for the National Park Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior serving both interpretive and law enforcement functions in Minnesota’s national parks and recreational and historical sites.

There are 76 state parks in Minnesota to which park rangers may be assigned. Some of the most popular among them include:

  • Fort Snelling State Park in Minneapolis-St. Paul
  • William O’Brien State Park in Stillwater
  • Centennial Lakes Park in Edina
  • Whitewater State Park near Rochester
  • Carley State Park near Rochester

Steps to Becoming a Park Ranger with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Satisfy Qualifications – In order to apply for a park ranger job with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to work for a State Park, applicants must:

  • Possess U.S. citizenship or legal alien/resident status
  • Possess a valid, current Minnesota Class D driver’s license
  • Be able to pass a thorough criminal background check
  • Be able to pass a drug test

Experience and Degree Requirements – Prospective park rangers who wish to work for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources must meet each of the following requirements:

  • Hold a minimum of a bachelor degree in a major of study such as one of the following which are available at accredited Minnesota colleges and universities  (or another closely related major):
    • Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies
    • Bachelor of Science in Environmental Sciences, Policy and Management
    • Bachelor of Science in Forest and Natural Resource Management
    • Bachelor of Arts in Recreation Resource Management
    • Bachelor of Science in Plant Science
    • Bachelor of Arts in History
    • Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology
  • Possess at least one year of work experience that meets the following criteria:
    • It is professional, full-time work experience
    • It occurred within the recent past (the past five years)
    • It involved development and conducting natural and/or cultural resource interpretive programs and services

Training for Minnesota Park Ranger Jobs – On the job training is usually the norm for park rangers at the state level working for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Much experience has usually already been acquired through working in a volunteer capacity, a seasonal ranger job or other assistant naturalist position. New interpret naturalists in Minnesota must learn about the state park to which they are assigned. They may also take classes offered by the Minnesota Naturalists Association.

Becoming a Park Ranger with the National Park Service in Minnesota

There are six national parks in Minnesota in which federal park rangers may be assigned:

  • Voyageurs National Park – encompassing International Falls, Kabetogama, Ash River and Crane Lake
  • Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway – Saint Croix Falls in Wisconsin and Minnesota
  • Pipestone National Monument – an American Indian area in Pipestone
  • North Country National Scenic Trail – spanning seven states, including Minnesota, New York, Michigan, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin
  • Mississippi National River and Recreation Area – a 72 mile river park in the Twin Cities metropolitan area
  • Grand Portage National Monument – honors the Ojibwe people and the North American fur trade in Grand Portage
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Fundamental requirements that federal park rangers in Minnesota must meet include:

  • Age 21 or older
  • Hold a valid Minnesota driver’s license
  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Pass a background/security investigation
  • Pass the Physical Efficiency Battery test
  • Pass a medical exam and drug test
  • Be able to obtain a National Park Service Type II Law Enforcement Commission

For GS-5 level park ranger jobs in Minnesota, the applicant must possess one of the following:

  • One year of specialized (GS4 level) experience in parks, recreation, law enforcement, fire prevention, historical preservation, forestry or fire management,


  • A bachelor degree with 24 semester hours of related course work,


  • An equivalent of education and experience

Minnesota Park Ranger Salaries

In Minnesota, park rangers work for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on a seasonal basis. Actually, according to the Minnesota Management & Budget Office, their official title is Parks Worker. For this, the park ranger salary in Minnesota begins at $29,462 and maxes out, depending on experience, at $39,254.

There are also additional career opportunities to consider within the parks system in Minnesota, particularly at the management level. Here is a look at those options and associated salaries:

NR Parks Specialist

  • Minimum: $35,997
  • Maximum: $52,075

NR Supervisor 1 Parks

  • Minimum: $44,057
  • Maximum: $63,976

NR Supervisor 2 Parks

  • Minimum: $47,523
  • Maximum: $68,946

NR Supervisor 3 Parks

  • Minimum: $51,198
  • Maximum: $74,145

NR Supervisor 4 Parks

  • Minimum: $55,019
  • Maximum: $79,615

Because park rangers often have a variety of occupational roles, this table is provided with additional general salary information:

Recreation Workers Salaries in Minnesota

Area name
Annual mean wage
Duluth MN-WI
Fargo ND-MN
Grand Forks ND-MN
La Crosse WI-MN
Mankato-North Mankato MN
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington MN-WI
Rochester MN
St. Cloud MN
Northwest Minnesota nonmetropolitan area
Northeast Minnesota nonmetropolitan area
Southwest Minnesota nonmetropolitan area
Southeast Minnesota nonmetropolitan area

Tour Guides and Escorts Salaries in Minnesota

Area name
Annual mean wage
Duluth MN-WI
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington MN-WI

Recreational Protective Service Workers Salaries in Minnesota

Area name
Annual mean wage
Duluth MN-WI
Fargo ND-MN
Estimate Not Released
La Crosse WI-MN
Mankato-North Mankato MN
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington MN-WI
Rochester MN
St. Cloud MN
Northwest Minnesota nonmetropolitan area
Northeast Minnesota nonmetropolitan area
Estimate Not Released
Southwest Minnesota nonmetropolitan area
Southeast Minnesota nonmetropolitan area

Itasca State Park

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Itasca State Park, which is in Park Rapids, received 550,599 visitors in 2011, including 107,200 overnight visits.  These numbers make Itasca State Park Minnesota’s third most visited state park. The park was voted the best in the state for camping and Facebook photos, as it was the first federal or state park in Minnesota to acquire wireless internet service in 2008.

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Working as a Park Ranger in Itasca State Park

Itasca State Park is Minnesota’s oldest state park, established in 1891. Its 33,235 red and white pine-filled acres sit at the headwaters of the Mississippi River, where the river begins its 2552-mile journey to  the Gulf of Mexico. The park was originally established to preserve the virgin pine trees still found there today and to protect the Mississippi River basin.

Today, Itasca State Park is designated as a National Register Historic District and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The park contains many sites of historical value, including rustic style log buildings that are unique to Itasca State Park. They include the Forest Inn, the Old Timer’s Cabin, the Clubhouse and Douglas Lodge. Additionally, Itasca State park contains over 30 known cemetery and archaeological sites. Some of them include the Headwaters Site, the Itasca Bison Kill Site, the Pioneer Cemetery, and the Headwater’s West Terrace Site. All of these sites contain human and animal remains, some dating back 8000 years.

Campgrounds at Itasca State Park are also handicap-accessible. Campers enjoy the comfort amenities found at Itasca State park, including paved trails, public telephones, showers and toilets that flush.

Activities abound in this park, which is open year-round. In warm weather, visitors enjoy picnicking, hiking on the summer trails, boating, boat tours, interpretive educational programs, fishing and swimming. In the wintertime, visitors enjoy snowshoeing, snowmobiling, interpretive educational programs and cross-country skiing.

Voyageurs National Park

Situated in the North Woods of Minnesota, Voyageurs National Park, established in 1975 is located near International Falls and the Canadian border. Its name is derived from the French-Canadian fur traders who first settled the area. The park consists of 218,054 acres, over one- third of which is water. Although the idea of Voyageurs National Park was proposed in 1891 by Minnesota’s legislature, it was not established as a national park until eighty years later in 1971.

The Natural Beauty and Historical Significance of Voyageurs National Park

There are four major lakes within Voyageurs National Park: Rainy Lake, Sandy Point Lake, Namakan Lake and Kabetogama Lake. Voyageurs National Park consists of over 344 square miles of water along with these four major lakes and many smaller lakes.

Many popular attractions within Voyageurs National Park are only accessible by boat. These include Kettle Falls, Ellsworth Rock Gardens, and Grassy Bay. Other points of interest within the park include the Ingersoll Lodge, built by Illinois philanthropist William Ingersoll in 1928; Moose River Indian Village, dating from the 1760s to the 1930s; and Hacksaw Pass, where visitors can see wetlands and other sites relating to Ojibwe Indian history.

Voyageurs National Park is open year-round and offers plenty of activities for visitors in all four seasons. Park rangers at Voyageurs National park lead ranger-guided tours and walks year-round. In warm weather, visitors enjoy camping at the park’s more than 270 campsites. Hiking is a favorite pastime year-round, with hiking trails that are accessible by boat or car. In the wintertime, visitors enjoy snowmobiling, ice-fishing, winter trail hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.

Voyageurs National Park Rangers lead a variety of interpretive and educational programs for visitors. In the past, programs have focused on wetlands, snowshoeing, birds, animals within the park (including white-tailed deer, over 240 species of neo-tropical song birds, eagles, wolves, moose, black bears, otters, foxes, muskrats, weasels and snowshoe hares), fish species in the park (including northern pike and yellow perch), and the forest within which the park lies, the Northern Boreal Forest, comprised of conifers and hardwoods.

Whitewater State Park

Although Whitewater State Park is open year-round, some of its attractions (like the beach) are seasonal. Interpreter naturalists, also known as park rangers, lead many programs within the park to interpret its natural beauty and educate visitors.

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Some of the programs focus on the abundance of wildlife in the park, including 250 kinds of birds and 50 kinds of mammals. Bald eagles, wild turkeys, and the Louisiana water thrush are just a few of the types of birds visible within Whitewater State Park. Other naturalist programs in the past at Whitewater State park have focused on topics ranging from rattlesnakes to fossils to caves. These programs are offered all year for interested visitors.

Serving the Public as a Park Ranger in Whitewater State Park

Located in southeastern Minnesota near Altura, Whitewater State Park is famous for its limestone bluffs and ravines. Relatively small, the park is just 2700 acres, but it packed with activities for visitors. One of the most popular pastimes at Whitewater State Park is trout fishing in the Whitewater River and Trout Run Creek.  Each year, the park sees over 250,000 visitors, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, many of whom likely enjoy the spectacular vistas from the park’s six scenic overlooks.

Whitewater State Park was created in the 1920s to protect parts of the beautiful Whitewater River Valley, some of which was lost due to flooding related to land use by settlers in 1900. The Whitewater River Valley was revived in the early 1940s following more flooding. The Minnesota DNR (then called the Minnesota Department of Conservation) planted trees, shrubs and grasses on the slopes of the river valley, contoured terraces and fields, built dikes to form ponds, and created a healthy future for Whitewater State Park and the people living in the Whitewater watershed.

Camping is a popular pastime at Whitewater State Park, largely because of the notable lack of mosquitoes within the park. There are 104 drive-in campsites, five pull-through campsites, 47 campsites with electricity, two wheelchair accessible campsites, six walk-in campsites, and three primitive group camp sites, accommodating from 20 to 50 people each.

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