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  • Any NPS Park rangers? What’s it like?

    I’d like to hear it from a ranger: what’s it like? Do you think it was worth going to school and going through the NPS academy to do what you do now? What are the biggest differences between what a local or city cop would do, compared with what a park ranger does?

  • #2
    Not knowing your background + likes/dislikes, its a tough question to answer whether it is worth it. Also, your definition of Park Ranger could vary greatly from reality....are you talking local, state, fed Park Ranger? LE commissioned Park Ranger or Interpretive Ranger?

    I've done Federal LE Land Management since 2007 with two agencies and I wouldn't do anything else. Ive had the opportunity to jump ship for a higher grade and the awesome 1811 title, but I passed. I have a ton of freedom and ultimately I value that a tremendous amount. Ive certainly left money on the table by not taking the higher grade, but I have no regrets. I care a lot about public land, protecting natural resources and the folks who come out to enjoy those. If you have that same fire, its a career you probably wouldn't regret.

    Differences between city cops and natural resources gets smaller and smaller all the time and varies greatly depending on your location. Lots of bad folks visit the woods. Just in the past 3 days I've arrested five people for violating a protection order, failing to register as a sex offender, criminal trespass, vehicle theft, and possession of meth; extiguished three illegal fires; and wrote nearly twenty cites for traffic, drugs, illegal fires, littering, dogs at large, etc. The job varies so much, but the closer you get to a metro area the busier you will be. To me the biggest different between city cops and us is that I don't have the luxury of clicking my radio mic for help and having five pipe hitters to show up. Its only me out there and the tools on my belt. In this field, I value officers who are confident enough to work alone and can still integrate with a team; someone with an outgoing personality to build relationships with a lot of different people and user groups, but can still handle large groups and unruly folks by themselves.

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    • #3
      My father was a NPS LE ranger for most of my teenage years... from about 10 to 17. He was an interpretive ranger before that. I grew up backpacking in national parks. As a way to raise a child, letting him backpack for weeks on his own around national parks, it can’t be beat. As a 13 year old planning my own route, cooking my own food, etc the responsibility and maturity I developed made me who I am today.

      That said, he started after he had a family and that severely limited his ability to get on full time and advance. Essentially he had to go where the openings were to get on full time, and with a family... and wife who owned her own business... he just didn’t have the flexibility.

      As a kid I’m sure there were many political aspects I missed, but I know he worked with old equipment, on a shoestring budget. He was paid less than other federal law enforcement with similar independence and responsibility. As a sheriff’s deputy my backup was often over an hour away. His backup was often days away. Housing, when available, was substandard and the NPS’s attitude seemed to be: if you don’t like it, leave. We’ll find another guy who wants to get paid to live out in the woods.

      There were a lot of cool things he got to do: he was trained in rope rescue and would go up cliffs to rescue people in over their head, he was trained as a wild land firefighter including helitack insertion, he was trained as a back country paramedic... plus he was a law enforcement officer.

      If you’re willing to jump thru the hoops and have the mobility to succeed, go for it. Even if you just want to do it for a while, it’s a blast. Just understand that you’re working for an organization that prioritized the trees and squirrels first, visitors second and you a distant third... and you will often work for chief rangers who are not career law enforcement officers, and for whom law enforcement isn’t just not a priority, many see it as a waste of resources better spent elsewhere.

      As a sheriff’s deputy I often backed up the state park rangers in our county, and as wildstar says, bad people go to the woods.
      Last edited by tanksoldier; 07-25-2020, 10:44 PM.
      "I am a Soldier. I fight where I'm told and I win where I fight." -- GEN George S. Patton, Jr.

      "With a brother on my left and a sister on my right, we face…. We face what no one should face. We face, so no one else would face. We are in the face of Death." -- Holli Peet

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Seoulfood View Post
        I’d like to hear it from a ranger: what’s it like? Do you think it was worth going to school and going through the NPS academy to do what you do now? What are the biggest differences between what a local or city cop would do, compared with what a park ranger does?
        I have never known a LE park ranger (city, county, state, or Federal) who doesn't like their job.

        Since some people need to be told by notes in crayon .......Don't PM me with without prior permission. If you can't discuss the situation in the open forum ----it must not be that important

        My new word for the day is FOCUS, when someone irritates you tell them to FOCUS

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        • #5
          I will give you a different perspective: Don't do it!

          The NPS is not an LE agency or a good agency to work for. Yes, there are commissioned LE rangers who have LE powers but the agency at a whole is at odds with LE. For example, it took years just for NPS to approve the words law enforcement on the side of LE ranger vehicles. NPS management thought the words law enforcement would scare away visitors. That is the mentality of NPS. Also, NPS LE at a park reports to the Park Superintendent. A lot of Supts. do not like LE and tell their rangers to just give warnings and visitor education, even for serious violations.

          In order to get a seasonal LE job with the NPS, you are going to have to fork out your own money (unless you are a vet and have your GI Bill) and go through the 17 week seasoanl academy ( now called the parks LE academy). After that you will go on USAJOBS and compete for seasonal jobs. Some parks want you to already have your EMT or Wildland Firefighter Cert. That will be extra money you have to fork out...

          It may seem cool to possibly work a few months at parks around the country and then collect unemployment during the winter but it gets old. Also, seasonals do not have any "rights" in terms of adverse employment actions and they are generally treated like garbage by park management. I have seen a lot of shady practices by management in regards to seasonals pay, benefits, etc. If you call them out on it, then they will retaliate and give you a bad reference, etc.

          If you stick it around long enough to become a permanent LE (most seasonals only do 1-3 seasons before leaving the NPS) you will then wait 2+ years to go to FLETC LMPT. Yes, I said that correctly 2 YEARS TO WAIT BEFORE YOU HAVE TO GO THROUGH THE SAME 17 WEEK ACADEMY YOU DID FOR SEASONAL WORK. The only difference is you will do it at FLETC. It is literally the same PowerPoints. While at FLETC some of your instructors will shake their head about how silly the NPS is. What other federal agency does it like that?

          It gets better: After FLETC you will wait another 4-12 months to go to FTEP. Unless your park has an FTEP program.

          So to recap you will go to your park after becoming permanent, get into a rhythm and then have to go back to being a trainee 2-3 years later and then go back to your park and then uproot your life again to go to FTEP. What a joke! And if you don't pass FLETC or FTEP you will be terminated.

          If you want to get into federal land management, look at USFS, BLM, USFWS or DOD Base Game Warden. All of those will send you to FLETC within months of being hired not years like NPS. Or better yet, look into State natural resource LE jobs. Florida FWC is always hiring.

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          • #6
            My advise,

            Go BLM Law Enforcement Ranger. I think they top out at GS12 and have opportunities for BLM LE Ranger Investigator (1811) and are GS12's and GS13's. All of the Rangers I have met seem to like their jobs. You go to LMPT at FLETC for like four months and there is opportunities all over.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by hangman View Post
              I will give you a different perspective: Don't do it!

              The NPS is not an LE agency or a good agency to work for. Yes, there are commissioned LE rangers who have LE powers but the agency at a whole is at odds with LE. For example, it took years just for NPS to approve the words law enforcement on the side of LE ranger vehicles. NPS management thought the words law enforcement would scare away visitors. That is the mentality of NPS. Also, NPS LE at a park reports to the Park Superintendent. A lot of Supts. do not like LE and tell their rangers to just give warnings and visitor education, even for serious violations.

              In order to get a seasonal LE job with the NPS, you are going to have to fork out your own money (unless you are a vet and have your GI Bill) and go through the 17 week seasoanl academy ( now called the parks LE academy). After that you will go on USAJOBS and compete for seasonal jobs. Some parks want you to already have your EMT or Wildland Firefighter Cert. That will be extra money you have to fork out...

              It may seem cool to possibly work a few months at parks around the country and then collect unemployment during the winter but it gets old. Also, seasonals do not have any "rights" in terms of adverse employment actions and they are generally treated like garbage by park management. I have seen a lot of shady practices by management in regards to seasonals pay, benefits, etc. If you call them out on it, then they will retaliate and give you a bad reference, etc.

              If you stick it around long enough to become a permanent LE (most seasonals only do 1-3 seasons before leaving the NPS) you will then wait 2+ years to go to FLETC LMPT. Yes, I said that correctly 2 YEARS TO WAIT BEFORE YOU HAVE TO GO THROUGH THE SAME 17 WEEK ACADEMY YOU DID FOR SEASONAL WORK. The only difference is you will do it at FLETC. It is literally the same PowerPoints. While at FLETC some of your instructors will shake their head about how silly the NPS is. What other federal agency does it like that?

              It gets better: After FLETC you will wait another 4-12 months to go to FTEP. Unless your park has an FTEP program.

              So to recap you will go to your park after becoming permanent, get into a rhythm and then have to go back to being a trainee 2-3 years later and then go back to your park and then uproot your life again to go to FTEP. What a joke! And if you don't pass FLETC or FTEP you will be terminated.

              If you want to get into federal land management, look at USFS, BLM, USFWS or DOD Base Game Warden. All of those will send you to FLETC within months of being hired not years like NPS. Or better yet, look into State natural resource LE jobs. Florida FWC is always hiring.

              Thank you, hangman. It's always a breath of fresh air to see some truths penetrate the O.com sludge of rose colored memories and wishful ponderings. Like how NPS ranger is the best job in the world, except maybe for Nascar racer.

              As far as a post-college lark- you know, that age gap of about 21 to 26, the easy years before the collective weight of job and family attach like a millstone around the neck- yes NPS is a great gig. You show up at a park every May, they give you a gun and badge and a CVB violation notice booklet, and off you go until Labor Day, traipsing the trail to the waterfall, patrolling the scenic drive, scourge of illegal campfire starters and beer can litterers. The real beauty of the job is the ability to ditch parks like spider monkey girlfriends; if you're not digging the heat and pythons at Everglades, no biggie next summer put in for Gates of The Artic. With 419 national park locations to choose from, the options are practically endless.

              As far as a career for life, oh hell no. Lousy mandatory housing, low pay (compared to most other federal le jobs), and an agency that could not care less about it's workforce. I could tell several stories along these lines, but for the sake of brevity I'm only going to share one:

              Seasonal Ranger Larry pulled over a speeding driver. As Ranger Larry was walking to the passenger side window, the driver (later determined to be drunk) attempted to pin Larry between the car and the metal side rail, forcing Larry to jump over the rail and fall down a rocky slope. Larry broke his arm in several places and was placed on leave without pay for the rest of the summer.

              When Larry filed a workman's comp claim for the injury (and associated medical costs), NPS responded they would not pay a cent, as the injury was caused by the drunk driver not the agency, and if Larry wanted compensation he would have to file a civil suit against the driver (who of course didn't have two nickels to rub together).

              So sure, go play danger ranger for a few years, travel the country and enjoy the pretty sunsets and glorious vistas. But have a realistic life plan, as in 'this is fun but this isn't going to be fun forever.'
              What does not kill you will likely try again.

              Comment


              • #8
                Wait? No Unicorns? They TOLD me there’d be Unicorns..
                Now go home and get your shine box!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by hangman View Post
                  I will give you a different perspective: Don't do it!

                  If you stick it around long enough to become a permanent LE (most seasonals only do 1-3 seasons before leaving the NPS) you will then wait 2+ years to go to FLETC LMPT. Yes, I said that correctly 2 YEARS TO WAIT BEFORE YOU HAVE TO GO THROUGH THE SAME 17 WEEK ACADEMY YOU DID FOR SEASONAL WORK. The only difference is you will do it at FLETC. It is literally the same PowerPoints. While at FLETC some of your instructors will shake their head about how silly the NPS is. What other federal agency does it like that?

                  It gets better: After FLETC you will wait another 4-12 months to go to FTEP. Unless your park has an FTEP program.

                  So to recap you will go to your park after becoming permanent, get into a rhythm and then have to go back to being a trainee 2-3 years later and then go back to your park and then uproot your life again to go to FTEP. What a joke! And if you don't pass FLETC or FTEP you will be terminated.

                  If you want to get into federal land management, look at USFS, BLM, USFWS or DOD Base Game Warden. All of those will send you to FLETC within months of being hired not years like NPS. Or better yet, look into State natural resource LE jobs. Florida FWC is always hiring.
                  This man speaks the truth.

                  My NPS classmates at FLETC were pretty bitter about having to go through everything again. The only ones who were happy were the ones going from NPS to a different agency.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    It's always been USFS or BLM LEOs, US Fish and Wildlife, then Park guys. It's the same on the fire side. parks is always at the bottom. They seem to do things just different then the rest of the fed resource protection groups.
                    I'd rather be judged by 12 rather carried by 6.

                    It should be noted that any and all post that are made are based on my own thought and opinions. And are not related or implied to represent the department I work for.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      As far as the job goes nothing beats it. I was a city cop, military and a federal cop from a different agency and I love my job but it all depends on which park you are at. Every single park is different!! I latterly transferred so I didn’t have to deal with any of the seasonal academy BS. But that seems to be the biggest complaint I hear going to a seasonal Academy working for years then having to go to fletc and start training all over from the beginning.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        NPS is probably one of the slimiest organizations I have ever worked for. They definitely screw seasonals big time. Permanents also get screwed on a daily basis.

                        It's almost like the cults that Rataataat speaks of at USFWS. It reminds me of a high school popularity contest. Everyone loves to gossip, throw others under the bus and act like they are God. The agency is full of big time "kool-aid" drinkers. If you like to kiss arse, then you will love NPS!

                        Seoulfood, go ahead and rush to your nearest NPS seasonal academy for the adventure of a lifetime. I'm sure a few seasons from now, you will be like, "Those guys on O.com were right". What did I get myself into and why did I waste my time...


                        Comment


                        • #13
                          There is no perfect agency! But I agree seasonal Rangers get **** on all the time! I personally wouldn’t do the job as a seasonal, but for some that’s the only way in the door.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            "Those guys on O.com were right". What did I get myself into and why did I waste my time...
                            I wouldn't call it a waste of time, at least not a total one....

                            The upside is NPS seasonal LE ranger is, for the most part, an easy job to get. Put yourself through a community college academy (easy academies where no one gets sent home) and you're virtually assured employment for summer positions. There's no testing process, no push up test, no psych test, no oral board interview. You apply and a few months later, a district ranger calls and asks if you're still available. Say yes and by Memorial Day, you're on the job.

                            And not just at dinky cornfield parks like Herbert Hoover National Historic Site or Fort Smith. Crown jewels like Glacier, Grand Teton, Olympic, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone. To be 21 or 22 years old and working as a patrol ranger at one of the most magnificent locations on earth is a huge high. Most 21 or 22 year olds are still flipping burgers or mowing lawns.

                            Then September comes and abruptly it ends. A handful of seasonals get hired at busy winter parks like Everglades or Big Thicket but most do do something else, like ski patrol or service industry work. Many file for unemployment and crash on their parents couch until the next summer rolls around.

                            This cycle can repeat itself for years. Some eventually get hired permanently at the St. Louis arch or Liberty Bell and after paying their dues at a miserable postage stamp park, they slide to a park of choice. Others get tired of the playing the seasonal game and use their experience to gain permanent employment with other federal or state and local agencies. There are many people in LE world who got their start as a NPS seasonal....

                            But for a career? Dealing with tourists who ask the same dumb questions day after day? Dealing with the institutional arrogance of the agency and its management? Dealing with a public that doesn't consider you to be real LE? There are better ways to spend 25 to 30 years.

                            I've said it before and I'll say it again: always be thinking about the day you retire and where your life will be. With NPS, the odds are you will be a GS-9 and lived in govt housing for your career. You will have no equity in a home and an annuity of around $28K. Contrast that with an 1811 position, where the annuity will be be double and thanks to the magic of compounding interest, a TSP account which will reflect the contributions of a GS-13 salary. This might not seem like a big deal when you are 21, but trust me, it will be a big deal when you are 50.

                            Go for it, that way you'll not be one of those old people who walk up to rangers and say, "Park ranger, huh? I always wanted to be a park ranger." But have a bigger plan in life or you'll be one of those people who say, "It sure would be nice to own a home now that I'm retired."



                            What does not kill you will likely try again.

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                            • #15
                              As Rat says, do it for the experience but have a plan... eventually you’ll want to go somewhere else.
                              "I am a Soldier. I fight where I'm told and I win where I fight." -- GEN George S. Patton, Jr.

                              "With a brother on my left and a sister on my right, we face…. We face what no one should face. We face, so no one else would face. We are in the face of Death." -- Holli Peet

                              Comment

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