Have you ever thought about becoming a Park Ranger? Anyone that has watched Yogi Bear growing up might be scared off from the role due to possible talking bears. However, it is an admirable role that America needs people to fill all over the country. Yet how much do park rangers make?
The average Park Ranger salary is between $30,000 to $40,000 annually. All 50 states have a different price average. Illinois pays the lowest at slightly over $30,000 annually while the highest paying Park Ranger position is in the state of Washington, which pays a little over $42,000 annually.
This is a breakdown difference per hour of $14.60 compared to $20.32 from Illinois to Washington. This is slightly understandable, however. While Illinois & Washington both have some State Parks, neither have National Parks.
This is why a lot of people find the salaries to be puzzling, but it’s not exactly crazy to think about. It mostly comes down to the number of parks in each state, and how much work is required to run each one.
The state of Washington has 100 State Parks while Illinois has 309. Due to this, they have to employ at least 309 Park Rangers in Illinois to the 100 Washington has to employ. Of course, they employ more than this, but due to that situation….they have to pay less.
You’ll see pay differences all over the country, with many understandable reasons behind each.
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The South Pays The Lowest For Park Rangers On Average
With the exception of South Carolina, Park Rangers make less in the South than anywhere else in the country. This is a bit odd, but it makes some sense in theory.
Florida, for example, has 200 State Parks while they also have 3 National Parks. Their National Parks are managed by the National Park Service, which also pays their Park Rangers. The State Parks have to be run by the state, which is why they pay a little less.
Keep in mind, they have to pay, at minimum, 200 people each year to run each State Park. This is why they pay just under $31,000 annually. This adds up to over six million dollars dedicated to just Park Rangers from Florida’s budget.
Alabama and Georgia pay slightly over $32,000 annually. Yet Alabama only has 22 State Parks while Georgia has 50. Therefore, they can afford to pay this rate. On top of the fact that they have a lower minimum wage rate.
Due to that, paying a little over $14 an hour is a pretty good pay rate compared to a minimum wage of $7.25. Whenever the minimum wage goes up federally, you can expect a huge pay jump for Park Rangers here.
The same trend continues in Arkansas who has 50 State Parks, as well as North Carolina with 41, Tennessee with 56, Mississippi with 24, Louisiana with 19, Kentucky with 49, and Texas with 80 State Parks.
Each pays less due to the lack of need, current minimum wage rates, as well as the number of parks they have in total. Regardless of the reason, this is the area with the lowest-paying Park Ranger jobs.
Do National Park Rangers Make More Than State Park Rangers?
On average, National Park Rangers do make more per year than State Park Rangers due to managing some important places. Of course, there are now 63 main National Parks that have the words “National Park” in their title.
These are the main National Parks protected and completely run by the National Park Service, which is part of the United States Department of Interior. Due to being federal land, they are paid by the federal not state government.
In spite of this, they still have to abide by whatever the state minimum wage happens to be.
That means they cannot pay any less to National Park Rangers than the state with the highest minimum wage. From there, they have to go up usually $5 to $10 per hour from the minimum wage rate. Therefore, they will make more than State Park Rangers typically.
At the last check, National Park Rangers made between $50,000 to $70,000 annually. They have been getting more pay as the years have gone on too. This very well could be due to the United States’ goal on environmental changes.
Moreover, park visitation has increased a lot over the years. That has called for a need in hiring more rangers and even raising the wage for everyone. That is why wage increase spiked when park visitation spiked.
2017 was the highest visitation number in recent memory with over 80 million people. This was the year that led to a rise of over $10,000 in pay for National Park Rangers.
State Parks vs National Parks
Many will question whether or not National Park Rangers should be given a higher wage on average compared to a bulk of State Park Rangers. However, it is slightly understandable due to the situation we referenced earlier.
When you have a lot of them or very few, even lower visitation, the wage will often be lower simply because it must be to sustain things economically. National Parks are often a little harder to run simply because their main job is to preserve the land.
State Parks offer a ton of amenities while National Parks offer large stretches of undeveloped or untouched land. Due to its stance as a National Park, the federal and state government cannot build on it or cut anything down. At least they cannot do the latter without permission.
A lot of scientific excavations are allowed in National Parks, but this is on a case by case basis too. Whereas State Parks tend to allow a lot more and WILL allow things to be built on some of the lands.
The National Parks are often larger than State Parks on average. This is not completely factual as some State Parks are equal in size to some National Parks. Just on average, they tend to be bigger.
The largest park in America is actually the Wrangell–St. Elias National Park in Alaska. It is over 8,000,000 acres large. Several others span across millions of acres too, making them larger and worthy of paying more for Park Rangers to take care of them.
To compare, the largest State Park is the Adirondack Park in New York is a little over 6,000,000 acres. Yet it is bigger than most State Parks. It is also one of the most protected parks in the country, mostly due to its size. New York also pays more for State Park Rangers than most other states.
Another Important Thing About Park Rangers
Unlike other positions that change when new political regimes come into play, it is rare that you’ll ever see Park Rangers removed from their post like others. Other federal positions might change but this is a lot like what you might see with Police or Teachers.
Top-end leaders might be removed but the bulk of these positions are unaffected. The same goes for State Park Rangers. As a result, there is something more concrete about the Park Rangers, knowing the same people will be present at these parks for several years.
It can sort of make people feel good when a Park is well taken care of, especially when you know who’s behind that. While you might like it when it is taken care of anyway, it would be difficult to imagine that the hard work put into protecting these places would be the same if Park Rangers were switched out every 4 to 8 years.
Therefore, these people are often worth paying well. They dedicate their lives to protecting nature. This includes not only some of America’s most known plants and trees but also our animals too. Many are endangered, and a lot of them live in these parks. Without Park Rangers, a lot of these animals may have already gone extinct.