Park ranger salaries are as varied as the profession itself. Park rangers may earn as little as $15 an hour for seasonal work at a small state park to as much as $80,000 a year or more for supervisory positions at large state or national parks. Park ranger jobs may be full-time and year-round, or they may be part-time and seasonal, thus affecting salary ranges. And because overtime pay, particularly during the busy summertime months, can be extensive, park rangers may earn significantly more some months than they do others.
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Just a few of the factors that determine starting salaries for park rangers include:
- The park agency (federal or state)
- The size of the park and the scope of the job
- The park ranger position (e.g., cultural park ranger, protective park ranger)
- Education and experience
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Salary Expectations for Park Rangers with the National Park Service
The salaries of federal park rangers (those who work through the National Park Service) are determined using the General Schedule (GS) pay scale. However, within the GS pay scale are a number of steps through which park rangers are classified, with each step featuring a different pay scale.
- NPS park rangers are typically hired at the GS-5 level, which requires, at a minimum, a four-year bachelor’s degree with at least 24 semester hours of related coursework or at least one year of specialized experience equivalent to the GS-4 level.
- Park rangers who qualify at the GS-7 level possess either one full academic year of graduate education or at least one year of specialized experience equivalent to the GS-5 level.
- Park rangers who qualify at the GS-9 level possess either two full academic years of graduate education/master’s degree related to the occupation or at least one year of specialized experience equivalent to the GS-7 level.
- Finally, park rangers at the GS-11 level or above possess either three years of graduate level education or Ph.D. or doctoral degree related to the occupation or at least one year of specialized experience equivalent to the GS-9 (or above) level.
The respective salary ranges for these GS levels are shown here:
- GS-5: $27,705 – $36,021
- GS-7: $34,319 – $44,615
- GS-9: $41,979 – $54,570
- GS-11: $50,790 – $66,027
The GS pay scale is a general indication of salary expectations for federal park rangers, as a number of other factors may influence final salary ranges. A few recent job postings for NPS park rangers throughout the country highlight the variations in salary, which are often dependent upon a number of factors, such as the type of park ranger job (protective or interpretive) and the location of the job:
- GS-5 Park Ranger (protective), Frederick, Maryland: $20.34/hr. or $39,052/yr.
- GS-5 Park Ranger (level two commissioned park ranger), Sharpsburg, Maryland: $24.19/hr. or $46,444/yr.
- GS-5 Park Ranger (Interpretive), Sandy Springs, Georgia: $15.15/hr. or $29,088/yr.
- GS-5 Park Ranger (Interpretive), Ochopee, Florida: $15.15/hr. or $29,088/yr.
- GS-5 Park Ranger (Protective), Atlanta, Georgia: $33,049 to $42,969/yr.
- GS-7 Park Ranger (Interpretive), Empire, Michigan: $39,179 – $50,932/yr.
- GS-5 Park Ranger (Interpretive), Brooklyn, New York: $17.26/hr. or $33,139/yr.
- GS-5/7 Park Ranger (General), Port Alsworth, Alaska: $17.74 – $21.98/hr. or $34,060 – $42,201/yr.
- GS-7 Park Ranger (Protective), Bryce Canyon, Utah: $21.28/hr. or $40,857/yr.
Salary Expectations for Park Rangers with State Park Departments
The salaries of park rangers working through state agencies also vary significantly, depending on the education and experience of the park ranger, the job duties or responsibilities, and the city or region in which the job is located.
To gain an understanding of salary variations for state park rangers, let’s look at two of the largest states:
California – As of 2014, the salary range for park rangers in California, all of whom serve as state peace officers, is as follows:
- Park ranger cadet: $3,211 – $4,313/mo. or $38,532 – $51,756/yr.
- Park Ranger (A): $3,344 – $4,467/mo. or $40,128 – $53,604
- Park Ranger (B): $3,981 – $5,370/mo. or $47,772 – $64,440
- Park Ranger Supervisor: $4,590 – $6,260/mo. or $55,080 – $75,120
In addition to possessing a POST basic certificate (except for park ranger cadets) and at least two years (60 semester units) of study from an accredited college or university, which includes at least 21 semester credits that meet general education curriculum standards, park ranger in California, individuals must possess:
- Park Ranger A and B: At least three years of experience with the Department of Parks and Recreation and the completion of park ranger cadet training program
- Park Ranger Supervisor: Either two years of experience performing the duties of a State park ranger (A or B or lifeguard B) or at least three years of experience in the management, administration, or visitor service of a historical area, public recreational area, or park
Texas – Salary expectations for Texas park rangers may vary significantly based on the salary group in which they qualify (2013-2014):
- Park Ranger I (B14): $20,533 – $46,996
- Park Ranger II (B16): $34,233 – $52,730
- Park Ranger III (B18): $38,746 – $61,644
- Park Ranger IV (B20): $44,273 – $70,577
- Park Ranger V (B22): $50,602 – $80,803
- Park Superintendent I (B20): $44,273 – $70,577
- Park Superintendent II (B21): $47,331 – $75,517
- Park Superintendent III (B22): $50,602 – $80,803
- Park Superintendent IV (B23): $54,102 – $86,459
- Park Superintendent V (B24): $57,847 – $92,511
Park rangers in Texas who meet the requirements of the above salary groups must all possess, at a minimum, a four-year degree with a major course of study in park administration, natural or cultural resource management, or a related field. However, experience requirements vary between salary groups, thus reflecting the difference in pay.
Other Examples of State Park Ranger Salaries – Recent job postings reveal some of the latest salary trends for state park rangers:
- Job posting to fill several park ranger positions throughout North Dakota state parks: $12.00/hr.
- Job posting for a park ranger in New Mexico: $12.26 – $21.79/hr. or $25,500 – $45,323/yr.
- Job posting for seasonal park ranger jobs in Alaska’s national parks (NPS): $20/hr. plus an additional 25 percent cost of living allowance
- Job posting for a forest ranger in New York: $58,407
- Job posting for a Park Ranger I in Oregon’s Valley of the Rogue State Park: $2,702 – $3,707/mo.