Park Ranger

Park Ranger and Wildlife Management

Working as a Park Ranger can be a very rewarding and inspiring career choice. Park rangers help protect our parklands and cultural heritage in urban, rural and wilderness settings. Park rangers supervise national, state, and regional parks, historical sites, nature reserves, and recreation areas. They develop recreational activities, conservation programs and lead tours to help visitors learn about the natural, cultural, and historical significance of the area.

Rangers also help with habitat restoration, and ecology efforts. Although wildlife management may be part of a ranger’s role it can also be a specialist field. Wildlife managers are not only involved in conserving threatened mammals, birds, reptiles, frogs and fishes, and their habitats; they also work to control the populations of wildlife 'pests’ such as rodents, or feral pigs, cats or goats (vary in different countries), and manage populations of wildlife that are being harvested.


Job opportunities:

  • Wildlife Officer
  • Park Ranger
  • Conservation Officer
  • Research Assistant
  • Flora and Fauna Survey Consultants


Where could you work

  • Government Agencies - National Parks, Marine Parks, State Forests, Departments of Agriculture.
  • University or Government Research Centres.
  • Wildlife Parks and Sanctuaries, Game Parks.


Remuneration and Advancement Opportunities

Remuneration as a Ranger can vary but most full-time positions earn an average salary. Managers or specialised positions (i.e. wildlife manager, research program coordinator) within a wildlife team can earn a more comfortable salary but it may take some time and experience for advancement. NGOs and Wildlife Organizations may pay more or less, depending on funding. There is some scope for advancement within government agencies as higher-level roles do open up from time to time. These higher-level roles generally require several years’ experience, therefore already being employed in the agency is an advantage. Experience with other organisations such as landcare groups, wildlife reserves, conservation funds, or a land trust is also valuable in order to gain employment within government departments in future.


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How to distinguish yourself from the competition

There is always strong competition within the natural sciences and conservation sector. They are popular jobs and many people want to work in such a diverse role (i.e. working outdoors, in a laboratory or an office, running community education programs, doing scientific research). A lot of jobs that do become available are advertised in major newspapers. However it is worth getting to know the organisations that offer these kinds of jobs by sending your CV and networking with the appropriate people. Sometimes casual or short-term assignments become available without advertising and if you are in the right place at the right time you have a good chance of getting the role. Hands-on experience goes a long way in gaining the role you seek and can put you ahead of other applicants. This may be from previous employment in a similar role, volunteering and work experience. A lot of jobs tend to arise internally and if you are involved in the organisation you will be the first to find out about these roles.

There is a lot of scope for people with specialist skills to branch out into specific divisions. For example, someone with a history of experience working with marine mammals will be a more favourable applicant for a role working on species recovery plans in a marine national park. There are many directions one may chose to go once you have gained some experience in the industry. However, this strong focus on one group of animals can sometimes limit the roles you apply for.

The jobs listed above generally require a Diploma or Degree level qualification, but with the right experience and attitude a shorter course may also suffice. Select a course that will give you practical skills and experience as well as theoretical knowledge. If you have a goal in mind then try to find a course that caters to your aspirations and consider volunteering while you study. Employers look for people with initiative and skills specific to the job, not just qualifications.


Stress Rating and risks

There are risks associated with every career, but some are particularly pertinent to rangers and wildlife managers, including the following:

  • Some jobs require you to deal with hazardous materials (e.g. toxic chemicals, animal faeces).
  • The bureaucracy involved in Government funded institutions can be stressful and can limit what is achieved for conservation of species.
  • Whilst handling animals there is a risk of being bitten or the transfer of parasites and disease.
  • Another risk may involve working in remote areas undertaking surveys or habitat restoration.


Professional Bodies

Membership in relevant professional bodies is a great way to network. It shows that you are serious and focused on a career in this industry and can also help you gain skills and knowledge in a different arena - participation in conferences and workshops, and seminars, and various field trips organised by wildlife groups. Some examples are listed below:

  • Herpetological Societies, Mammal Societies, Avian and Bird Watching groups or Organisations.
  • Wildlife Trusts, Conservation Volunteers, WWF.

Most of these simply require an annual fee. Included is usually a newsletter or publication, opportunities to be involved in seminars and conferences, field excursions and practical activities. You can gain a great deal of experience by being involved in some of these groups expanding your employment opportunities.


Insurance

To work as a contractor in this field, you should consider personal indemnity insurance. A Professional Indemnity policy aims to shield the professional's assets in the event of a claim, therefore ensuring that he/she is able to carry on their business. Most of the roles mentioned above are not filled by contractors and are more commonly recruited as casual or permanent positions. To minimise risk of liability, you must investigate and learn about the legal and professional requirements for practicing in this field.


Assessment Systems

To work as a Ranger or Wildlife Manager you do not require a licence. However, if you are working on pest eradication programs you will need licences to handle some substances and possibly a firearms licence. You may also need a licence for using chainsaws or heavy equipment. The requirement differs depending on the role. It is worth doing a little research into the role you are interested in.


Recommended Courses

In most employment situations the knowledge is far more important than the qualification. In practice however, most people who work in the industry do hold a formal qualification in Natural Resource Management, Biological Science, Environmental or Wildlife Management, or Environmental Science. ACS has some fantastic courses for people looking at becoming involved in work as a ranger or in wildlife management. These courses are not  Bachelors degree or Masters degree level but will provide articulation to a Bachelors Degree or other higher degree.

ACS Advanced Diploma in Environmental Studies

An exciting qualification for anyone working in the field, wishing to work with the environment or just for interest. This course provides great flexibilty by offer 6 core modules and a diverse range of 25 electives of which students get to select 18. Electives include Marine Studies, Nature Park Mangement I and II, Earth Science, Digital Photography, Plant Ecology, Soil Management, Vertebrate Zoology, Reafforestation (Landcare), Conservation and Environmental Management, Weed Control, Wildlife Management and many more.


ACS Certificate in Wildlife Management

This is a foundation entry-level course to develop skills that would be valued for working in wildlife parks, zoos, refuges or wilderness management. This course incorporates some key studies, which are in demand for employees in such establishments. Subjects include Environmental Assessment, Marine Studies, Ornithology, Wildlife Management, Vertebrate Zoology and Introduction to Ecology.

 

ACS Advanced Diploma in Horticulture (Parks and Recreation)

This course provides training for people to work in the management and development of recreation and park facilities and services. It is relevant to all types of situations including municipal parks, national parks, tourist parks, commercial landscapes, resorts, etc.

 

ACS Certificate in Horticulture (Nature Park Management)

A certificate for people working or intending to work in nature parks such as zoos, wildlife parks, national parks, forests and reserves. Six modules must be completed including Nature Park Management I and II.

 

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