South Carolina’s diverse landscapes set the scene for stunning destinations and an abundance of cultural and recreational sites. From the peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the powder white sand dunes along the Atlantic Coast, South Carolina is home to more than 80,000 acres of protected land, including 47 scenic state parks where visitors engage in everything from hiking and boating to fishing and horseback riding.
South Carolina’s park rangers, under the guidance of the South Carolina State Park Service, embody the state’s message of stewardship and service by conserving, protecting and interpreting the state’s natural and cultural resources. Within the State Park Service, park rangers may work in a number of specialized areas, such as the search and rescue team, while others serve as certified law enforcement professionals.
Park rangers with the South Carolina State Park Service are responsible for:
- Assisting with the operation, administration, and maintenance of state parks
- Assisting with park administrative duties
- Collecting and accounting for revenue
- Instructing, supervising and performing routine and preventative maintenance
- Performing law enforcement activities according to Park Service policy
How to Become a Park Ranger in South Carolina by Meeting the Degree and Application Requirements
To qualify for a park ranger job in South Carolina, applicants must either possess one year of experience in a related field or an associate’s degree in park management or a related field.
Just a few of the degree programs commonly pursued by individuals interested in learning how to become a park ranger include:
- Environmental science
- Criminal justice
- Public administration
- Environmental engineering
- Natural resource management
Job openings for South Carolina park rangers are posted on the South Carolina Budget and Control Board Human Resources site. Once a job opening is posted, applicants can apply using the online system.
Specializations within the South Carolina State Park Service
Some of the most well loved parks under the management of the South Carolina State Park Service include:
- Hickory Knob State Resort Park
- Devils Fork State Park
- Croft State Park
- Calhoun Falls State Park
- Aiken State Park
- Croft State Park
- Jones Gap State Park
At these parks, park rangers may serve in a number of capacities (called special function teams):
The South Carolina State Park Service employs a team of about 25 bike-mounted rangers, all of whom are highly trained cyclists who are equipped with some of the latest gear. The bike-mounted program was started more than 10 years ago to easily travel throughout the parks and leave their motorized vehicles parked, thereby providing a green alternative to the park ranger program. Two members of the team are certified instructors through the Law Enforcement Bicycle Association (LEBA), and all members must become LEBA certified. All bike-mounted rangers must complete a basic training course that culminates with a test and annual certification training.
The State Park Service’s Ceremonial Corps was created in 2002 to recognize the people who devoted their lives to South Carolina State Parks. The Ceremonial Corps consists of 4 team leaders and 21 rangers who volunteer their time to go beyond normal park duties. The team is trained in marching and formation, flag folding, and funeral detail.
Some park rangers in South Carolina use ATVs to make their way around the parks. Park rangers on ATV detail may spend from 8 to 12 hours riding over a variety of terrain. As such, they must prepare for this type of patrol duty by participating in operating instruction and a riding course. The ATV consists of four hours of classroom instruction, as well as a five-hour riding instruction course, where rangers learn to maneuver through a variety of obstacles, terrain, and weather conditions.
The goal of law enforcement park rangers is to protect lives and resources. As such, they have a responsibility for safeguarding the parks and resources in South Carolina and protect the public.
The law enforcement officers in the State Park Service are commissioned as State Constables by the Governor through the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED).
Emergency Response Personnel (ERP) is a special function team designed to support SLED during a Governor-declared State of Emergency. Park rangers serving in a law enforcement capacity must be trained and certified in order to hold commission, and they must complete annual, in-service, which includes topics such as:
- Legal updates
- Defensive tactics
National Park Service Federal Park Ranger Jobs in South Carolina
In addition to state park rangers, federal park rangers, through the National Park Service, also serve in the State of South Carolina by working at one of the national parks or cultural, historic or recreational areas. National sites in South Carolina overseen by the National Park Service include:
- Fort Sumter National Monument
- Ninety Six National Historic Site
- Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail
- Kings Mountain National Military Park
- Cowpens National Battlefield
- Congaree National Park
- Charles Pinckney National Historic Site
Park ranger jobs with the National Park Service are filled at the minimum federal level, which requires candidates to have either a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, along with at least 24 semester hours of related coursework, or at least one year of specialized experience at the GS-4 level.
National Park Service park rangers must also meet the minimum requirements of the agency, which include being at least 21 years old, being a United States citizen, and possessing a valid driver’s license.
The National Park Service has both cultural/interpretive and protective park rangers. Because protective park rangers serve as law enforcement officials, they must meet a number of additional requirements, including possessing at least three years in a law enforcement capacity, among others.
South Carolina Park Ranger Salaries
According to the South Carolina Budget and Control Board, the minimum park ranger salary in South Carolina is $21,063. The South Carolina State Park Service is responsible for employing park rangers, although there is general oversight by the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.
The full salary scale of park rangers in South Carolina looks like this:
- Minimum: $21,063
- Midpoint: $30,019
- Maximum: $38,975
Senior Park Ranger
- Minimum: $25,627
- Midpoint: $36,520
- Maximum: $47,413
Of course, there are also park management positions which are sometimes of interest to park rangers:
Park Manager I
- Minimum: $25,627
- Midpoint: $36,520
- Maximum: $47,413
Park Manager II
- Minimum: $31,182
- Midpoint: $44,438
- Maximum: $57,695
Park Manager III
- Minimum: $37,945
- Midpoint: $54,074
- Maximum: $70,204
It’s also worth mentioning that the City of Columbia independently employs its own park rangers for parks within the city’s limits:
Park Ranger I
- Minimum: $24,784
- Maximum: $32,219
Park Ranger II
- Minimum: $29,500
- Maximum: $38,350
Park Ranger III
- Minimum: $34,218
- Maximum: $44,483
Further park ranger salary data is provided in the tables below:
Recreation Workers Salaries in South Carolina
Tour Guides and Escorts Salaries in South Carolina
Recreational Protective Service Workers Salaries in South Carolina
Congaree National Park
Congaree National Park is the site of one of the largest intact expanses of old-growth hardwood forest in the southeastern United States. This national park is a beautiful, dynamic ecosystem that is nourished when waters from the Congaree and Wateree Rivers sweep in through the floodplain, thereby carrying nutrients that support the growth of the spectacular, towering trees that grow here.
Congaree National Park is located in Hopkins, South Carolina, just 20 miles southeast of Columbia, South Carolina. It is overseen by the National Park Service (NPS), which works to ensure that the beauty of this national park is preserved for today’s visitors, as well as future generations.
Preserving, Protecting, and Interpreting Congaree National Park
Congaree National Park encompasses about 26,000 acres, throughout which visitors can view some of the tallest trees in Eastern North America and one of the highest canopies in the world. Recognized as an International Biosphere Reserve, a Globally Important Bird Area, and a federally designated Wilderness Area, Congaree National Park is an ecologically significant region that is under the protection of the NPS’ team of park rangers, who are called upon to ensure that this park’s environment remains intact.
The park rangers of South Carolina’s nationally renowned Congaree National Park are responsible for the oversight of all recreational activities enjoyed at this park, including primitive camping, hiking, bird watching, canoeing, and kayaking. But perhaps the most important aspect of NPS park ranger jobs in Congaree National Park is interpretation.
Park rangers at Congaree National Park can be found conducting interpretive walks and talks throughout the year, thereby introducing visitors to this magnificence example of biodiversity.
Just some of the park ranger-guided programs of Congaree National Park include:
- Big Tree Hike: Rangers take visitors on a 6-mile hike to view some of the largest trees of Congaree National Park.
- Christmas Bird Count: Park rangers allow visitors to become a citizen scientist while birding in various habitats throughout the park. Visitors help park rangers assess the health of bird populations.
- Guided Canoe Tour: Park rangers take visitors on a unique tour throughout the park, paddling in a canoe under some of the park’s Bald Cypress and Tupelo trees.
- Owl Prowl: Park rangers help visitors explore the world of owls on a night hike through the forest.
- Tree Trek: Park rangers help visitors discover the forested floodplain in Congaree National Park.
The Story of Congaree National Park
Congaree National Park used to be called Congaree Swamp National Monument before it achieved a national park status in November 2003. With images of swampy, mosquito-infested land, visitors were not exactly flocking to this national park. However, the NPS quickly renamed the park, dropping the word “swamp” from its name, and visitation began to increase.
Congaree was named after the Native American tribe that lived here hundreds of years ago. Toward the end of the 19th century, after a smallpox epidemic decimated the tribe, the nation’s lumber industry began moving in, taking down a portion of Congaree’s towering trees.
Conservationists took over in 1976, saving many of this park’s historic hardwoods and establishing the park as a national monument. Since then it has been designated as a national natural landmark, as well as an important bird area and an international biosphere reserve.
Fort Sumter National Monument
Fort Sumter National Monument is a federally managed monument in Charleston, South Carolina. This monument, which is managed by the National Park Service (NPS) and its force of park rangers, actually consists of a number of sites, all of which are significant to the Civil War.
Fort Sumter: Fort Sumter, which encompasses 200 acres, is located in Charleston Harbor and is accessible only by boat. Ferries depart and arrive here daily.
Fort Sumter is the site of the first engagement of the Civil War, which took place on April 12, 1861. It is here that the first shots of the Civil War were fired from Confederate forces upon Federal troops. Fort Sumter also served as a significant site in Charleston throughout the Civil War. It features the original fort, as well as a cannon and a museum. Park rangers lead museum tours several times throughout the day and are always on hand to answer questions about the museum and its history.
Liberty Square Visitor Education Center: Liberty Square Visitor Education Center is located in Charleston at the site of Gadsden’s Wharf, where countless enslaved Africans were brought to the United States. Park rangers here provide interpretive services regarding the catalysts of the Civil War. There are also a number of interpretive exhibits here, and park rangers answer questions as to allow visitors to understand the causes of the Civil War and why it began at Fort Sumter. Tour boats depart from this location.
Fort Moultrie: Fort Moultrie is located on Sullivan’s Island. Fort Moultrie is the site of the patriot victory on June 28, 1766, one of the earliest defeats of the British in the Revolutionary War. Fort Moultrie, along with Sullivan’s Island, reflects more than 170 years of seacoast defense.
The History of Fort Sumter National Monument
Fort Sumter was originally built following the War of 1812. It was built primarily with slave labor and was still under construction when Major Anderson and his troops descended upon it in December 1860. Then, on April 12, 1861, Confederate troops fired the first shot of the American Civil War. Although Major Anderson surrendered after an intense, 34 hours of fighting, the battle itself continued for more than 2 years. Since then Fort Sumter has served as a symbol of Southern resistance.
Upon surrender of Major Anderson, Confederate troops immediately occupied the fort, and its occupation became a source of pride for the Confederacy and South Carolina. Union forces began to attack Fort Sumter in April 1863. Even though the fort was nearly reduced to rubble, the Confederate soldiers held out. On February 17, 1865, Fort Sumter was evacuated as Sherman’s army marched through South Carolina.
A partial rebuilding of Fort Sumter began to take place in 1870. New guns were mounted and living quarters were established. However, work stopped in 1876, and the fort began to deteriorate again, and construction wasn’t complete until after the Spanish-American war had ended. Fort Sumter was transferred to the National Park Service in 1948.
Hunting Island State Park
Hunting Island State Park, which is ideally located just 16 miles from Beaufort, South Carolina, is a picturesque, 5,000-acre park that hosts more than one million visitors each year. Hunting Island is under the management of the South Carolina State Park Service, and is best known for having one of the most beautiful stretches of beach in South Carolina.
The History and Unique Features of Hunting Island State Park
Hunting Island State Park was developed by the Civilian Corps in the 1930s under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Civilian Corps program was designed to provide employment to thousands of men during the Great Depression, while also addressing the nation’s needs for conservation and recreation.
Hunting Island State Park is home to nearly 5 miles of beach, more than 3,000 acres of salt marsh, and a fascinating lagoon, which is home to such unique creatures as barracuda and seahorses. The upland areas of Hunting Island State Park are some of the best examples of semi-tropical maritime forest in the state, along with ancient sand dunes that are home to such vegetation as cabbage palmettos and live oaks.
Loggerhead turtles nest on Hunting Island State Park during the summer months, and everything from eastern diamondback rattlesnakes and alligators can be found in and around the park’s freshwater ponds.
Major Attractions at Hunting Island State Park
Nature Center and Pier: The Hunting Island Nature Center and adjacent fishing pier features live reptiles and interesting exhibits that highlight the park’s natural resources. South Carolina Park Service park rangers are on hand at the Nature Center to answer questions and provide daily tours throughout much of the year. The fishing pier, which is 1,120 feet long, extends into Fripp Inlet, where may species of fish live. It has also become a popular spot at which to watch for dolphins and bird life.
Lagoon: The Hunting Island lagoon is home to a unique collection of wildlife, including hundreds of birds. It is common to spot egrets, pelicans, deer, sand pipers, and king fishers here.
Lighthouse: The Hunting Island lighthouse is an historic structure that was originally built in 1859. Visitors can climb the lighthouse’s 167 steps and be rewarded with beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean.
Marsh Boardwalk: The Hunting Island marsh boardwalk is a popular site for wildlife viewing, as it extends across the park’s marshal tidal flats. During the summer months, park rangers provide guided tours of the marsh boardwalk and enlighten visitors on interesting facts about the tidal flats, wildlife, and the salt marsh. It is common to spot fiddler crabs, egrets, great blue herons, ospreys, hawks, and even bald eagles at the marsh boardwalk.
Visitor Center: Park rangers are always available at Hunting Island State Park’s visitor center to answer questions and provide unique insights to the area. The visitor center is also home to a large speaking room, where a number of speaking tours are held.
Trails: In addition to providing interpretive services, including guided hikes and tours, visitors of Hunting Island State Park can find the park rangers of the South Carolina State Park Service patrolling the park’s 8 miles of recently refurbished trails that extend through the maritime forest and lagoon.
Camping: Hunting Island State Park features more than 200 campsites, all of which have water and electric hookups, beach access, and shower and restroom facilities.
Boating: Boat access to Harbor River and Fripp Inlet is available to visitors of Hunting Island State Park.
Myrtle Beach State Park
Myrtle Beach State Park, in the popular Myrtle Beach area of South Carolina, opened in 1936 as the state’s first State Park.
In addition to its beautiful, one-mile stretch of undeveloped beach, Myrtle Beach State Park also encompasses a maritime forest that has been declared a Heritage Trust site.
This maritime forest is home to live oaks, southern magnolias, and an expansive dune system that runs along the beach. It is common to find nesting loggerhead turtles, bald eagles, and a number of neo-tropical migrant birds here.
Myrtle Beach State Park is managed and overseen by the South Carolina State Park Service and its force of park rangers. In addition to providing crucial enforcement and patrol services to ensure the safety of the park’s visitors, park rangers here are often focused on interpretation activities, as well as efforts to conserve the environment of this stunning park. In fact, park rangers here play a major role in preserving and maintaining the natural heritage of South Carolina’s coastline.
The Allure of Myrtle Beach State Park
Myrtle Beach State Park is a haven from the hustle and bustle of Myrtle Beach’s typical, crowded beaches. In addition to its pristine stretch of white-sand beach, Myrtle Beach State Park has become a popular destination for visitors looking to stroll along its picturesque nature trail, partake in a day of lively fishing, or camp underneath South Carolina’s stars.
This South Carolina State park, which measures about 312 acres, is home to no less than 350 campsites, 6 cabins, 30 tent camping sites, 3 playgrounds, 1 fishing pier, and 7 picnic shelters. This park has become quite popular for campers, as it provides guests with pier and shoreline access.
But its interpretive programs are, perhaps, one of the most popular features of this oceanfront park.
South Carolina State park rangers are on hand to provide visitors with a number of programs, the majority of which are designed to educate individuals on this park’s unique environment and stunning array of flora and fauna. Just a few of the programs offered here include:
- Plethora of Plants
- Leaf Your Mark
- A Stroll Back in Time
- Tale of the Whale
- Feeding Time
- Beach Walk and Shell Craft
- Totally Turtles
History and interpretation in Myrtle Beach State Park is accomplished through a number of engaging programs on a wide variety of topics. These programs are offered year-round as to raise awareness of the park’s natural resources.
Myrtle Beach State Park is also a designated Discover Carolina site, which means that park rangers and naturalists here provide curriculum-based science programs for South Carolina school children.
Within Myrtle Beach State Park is a unique education and nature center, which features live reptiles, saltwater aquariums, and a number of natural historical displays. Park rangers here help visitors understand the significance of Myrtle Beach State Park and are on hand to answer questions. An outdoor wildlife habitat, complete with bird baths, a butterfly garden, and bird feeders allow visitors to catch a glimpse of the many types of birds that call Myrtle Beach State Park home.
Park rangers and naturalists at Myrtle Beach State Park also serve visitors by providing guided tours of the nature trail.