Forest Ranger Career Information and Education Requirements
Forest rangers require some formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and employment statistics to see if this is the right career for you.
A forest ranger's duties include helping conquer forest fires, educating the public about forest safety, controlling wild animals, patrolling the area, and maintaining the environment. A bachelor's degree in forestry or an associate's degree with experience is required for this job.
Forest rangers are responsible for protecting and conserving natural resources, particularly in forests and rangelands. They can work for federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or for state and local government agencies. Their responsibilities may range from the dangerous, such as fighting forest fires, to the administrative, such as managing compliance inspections. An undergraduate degree is typically required for this job.
|Education Requirements||Associate's degree plus professional experience or bachelor's degree|
|Job Growth (2014-2024)*||-2% for forest and conservation technicians; +9-13% for forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists|
|Median Salary (2015)**||$35,430 for forest and conservation technicians; $36,650 for forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists|
Source: *O*Net OnLine, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Rangers are often the first responders to natural or manmade threats to forest areas and rangelands. They help combat forest fires and perform search and rescue missions. They may also work to prevent harm by patrolling forest areas on foot or in vehicles, snowmobiles and ATVs. Additional duties may also include ensuring that individuals are in compliance with state laws in regards to hunting, fishing and camping; they also enforce those state laws.
Another aspect of a forest ranger's job involves educating the public. Rangers may be called upon to speak with groups of adults and kids to teach them how to enjoy the forest without harming it or themselves. They may also speak in schools or with specific youth groups, such as the Boy Scouts of America.
Forest rangers are often required to have completed some type of postsecondary education. Some agencies look for rangers with a 4-year degree in a field such as forestry, while others will accept candidates who have an associate's degree along with professional experience in natural resource management. Coursework in a forestry degree program typically includes forest biology, forest measurement and inventory and renewable resource management.
Aspiring forest rangers can start out in forest technician positions before working their way up in the field. These basic technicians work in the wilderness to plant, analyze and improve timber stands, maintain facilities, repair trails, enforce regulations and suppress forest fires. Forest technicians also administer permits for special uses, deliver community education and collect data as required for environmental impact studies.
Salary and Job Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies forest rangers alongside forest and conservation technicians and forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists (www.bls.gov). Jobs for forest technicians were expected to decline by 2% from 2014-2024, while forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists should see a 9-13% job growth over that same time period (www.onetonline.org). The median salary for technicians in 2015 was $35,430, and forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists made a median of $36,650 in that year, per the BLS. PayScale.com reported that forest rangers earned an annual median wage of $31,302 as of January 2016.
The forest ranger makes certain forests stay secure and healthy. They can work for a number of agencies, and their job potential depends greatly on their experience and educational background in forestry.