A college education in a forestry-related field can go a long way toward fulfilling your dream of becoming a forest ranger. According to the Princeton Review website, the competition is tough and job openings are few. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shares that you should seek a degree program that’s accredited by the Society of American Foresters.
If you want to work in the woods but don’t want to spend a lot of time in school, it may be sufficient to earn an associate degree in forest technology. The Society of American Foresters states that this degree takes two years to complete and prepares you to work as a type of ranger called a “forest technician.” As you complete the forest technology courses, you’ll learn how to analyze forest resources, measure trees and inspect and monitor new growth on the land, like saplings. The classes teach how to lead regeneration operations, build roads and trails, manage the use of the park grounds and find property lines.
Earning a bachelor’s degree can open more doors in the forest ranger field than an associate degree, and it can help you advance to higher positions within a parks or land management district. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recommends you seek a four-year degree in professional forestry, urban forestry, environmental science or natural resource management from an accredited university. The classes teach about public policies, measuring and analyzing forest resources, taxonomy, soil formation, biology and the management of forest resources. Good classes to take also include those that help you take inventories in a forest setting, conduct land surveys and assess wildlife habitats.
Get a head start in your forestry experience by participating in student forest ranger internships. State and national parks may offer internship opportunities, and you may find an internship opportunity through the Army Pathways Internship Program, which is designed for civilians. As an intern forest ranger, you get to help visitors, encourage the proper use of the facilities provided in a park, collect samples for testing and patrol the lands. The USAJobs.gov website says the Army Corps of Engineers has a civilian ranger program for recent graduates who have a bachelor’s degree, graduate degree or associate degree with relevant work experience. The duties of graduate workers are similar to those of a student intern, but also include the planning of various forest-related projects, recreation management, inspecting recreational facilities and developing planning documents.
At the time of publication, 16 states require forest rangers to obtain a license, and four states have a voluntary registration program. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, to hold a license or register in these states, the requirements may include obtaining a four-year degree in a forestry-related major, passing an exam and possessing relevant work experience.
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