How to Become a Park Ranger in North Carolina

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How to Become a Park Ranger in North Carolina

Park rangers are deemed the backbone of the North Carolina state park system.

Most recently, over 170 park rangers are accountable for maintaining and overseeing North Carolina’s vast natural attractions and resources and the millions of domestic and international visitors every year.

With mountains to the west, shoreline to the east, and flatlands in the middle, North Carolina park rangers must be multi-specialists with tasks ranging from public safety to resource protection.

If this sounds like a career you are interested in pursuing, keep reading to learn more about the requirements, duties, and North Carolina parks!

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Requirements to Become a Park Ranger in North Carolina

Becoming a park ranger in North Carolina is not an easy task.

After completing high school, candidates must hold a minimum of a two-year degree in a park ranger-related educational field.

Many rangers take this to the next level and earn a bachelor’s degree in tourism management, commercial recreation, park and recreation management, or outdoor experiential management.

Once a degree is earned, new rangers must complete four months of basic law enforcement training and another 400 hours in various topics ranging from safety to education.

Park Ranger Duties in North Carolina

Although park ranger duties vary based on location, the most common include the education and safety of the public, such as search and rescue.

In addition, every park shares a conservation effort to protect the local landscape, flora, and fauna while allowing visitors to enjoy the area.

Also, park rangers must preserve and maintain those attractions with many historical sites.

State Parks in North Carolina

North Carolina has many amazing parks and recreational areas with diverse landscapes.

Some of the most popular include:

Cape Hatteras National Seashore Park

Cape Hatteras National Seashore Park is the best-known park in the state, a whopping 70 miles along the Outer Banks from the Ocracoke Inlet to South Nags Head.

At over 30,000 acres, this park was the first destinated National Seashore in the U.S. and included three historic lighthouses and countless natural sites.

Visitors traveling along the shoreline will see popular surfing spots, pristine beaches, British cemeteries, and charming fishing villages.

Fort Macon State Park

Fort Macon is a 398-acre state park on Atlantic Beach that sees 1.2 million visitors annually.

This endless surf and sand destination is a historic location on Bogue Banks.

Some of the most popular activities at Fort Macon State Park include picnicking, hiking, fishing, surfing, swimming, bird watching, and sightseeing.

The rangers are responsible for overseeing the amenities and sites found across the park while protecting visitors and conserving the ecological features.

Jockey’s Ridge State Park

Nestled in the town of Nags Head along the Outer Banks, Jockey’s Ridge State Park is a destination for millions of tourists yearly.

Known as the living dune, Jockey’s Ridge is managed by the North Carolina Division of Park and Recreation.

Rangers at this highly sought-after location must preserve and protect the endless ecosystems within the borders while guiding, educating, and protecting the 1.3 million visitors to this location every year.

The park boasts hiking trails, including the 1.5-mile Tracks in the Sand trail that brings visitors across the dune environment and the Soundside Nature Trail, which is a 1-mile location focused on the scrub and estuary thicket ecosystem.

Kerr Lake State Recreation Area

Located in Henderson, park rangers stationed at Kerr Lake State Recreation Area oversee the enormous 50,000-acre landscape, 800 miles of beautiful shoreline, and artificial Kerr Lake, home to several wildlife species.

Park rangers at this location are responsible for the conversation and protection of the coastline and the education, health, and enjoyment of all visitors and nearby residents.

Several smaller parks and locations are within the recreation area, including Bullocksville Park, County Line Park, Hibernia Recreation Area, Satterwhite Point, Williamsburg Wayside, Steele Creek Marina, Henderson Point, and Nutbush Creek Recreation Area.

Additionally, the park hosts numerous events throughout the year, including the Governor’s Cup Invitational Regatta, Fourth of July fireworks, Parade of Lights, and Labor Day Boating event.


The annual U.S. park ranger salary ranges from approximately $34,000 to $50,000.

In North Carolina, rangers are slightly higher, ranging from $34,800 to $86,500.

Annual Salary Range:
Annual Salary by Location:
Location Avg. Annual Salary
Charlotte $40,227
Raleigh $39,740
Greensboro $39,246
Durham $39,510
Winston-Salem $39,341
Fayetteville $37,682
Cary $39,740
High Point $39,481
Wilmington $37,456
Asheville $37,749

Regional Salary in North Carolina

Region Employed Avg. Annual Salary Avg. Hourly Pay Top 10% Annual Salary Bottom 10% Annual Salary
Asheville, NC30$80,510$38.71$115,230$46,980
Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC50$63,280$30.42$94,060$42,720
Durham-Chapel Hill, NC40$78,900$37.93$127,670$47,910
Raleigh, NC30$81,910$39.38$135,410$47,440
* Salary information based on the May 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Conservation Scientists, OCC Code 19-1031, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

How large is the North Carolina state park system that rangers must manage?

The over 170 North Carolina park rangers manage over 217,000 acres of land, including protected areas to conserve rare resources and state recreation destinations.

Since 2003, six new state parks have been added to the system!

What on-the-job training requirements must new rangers complete? 

All new North Carolina park rangers must complete four months of basic training to become commissioned officers.

Once complete, they must also finish 200 hours of education and interpretation skills, emergency medical techniques, search and rescue, and wildlife suppression.

Park rangers must also become environmental education certified, which requires another 200 hours of hands-on training, workshops, and research

What are the best schools in the state for a park ranger-related degree?

Some of the top park ranger-related degrees in the state include Southwestern Community College, The Park Ranger Institute, North Carolina State University, and the Park Ranger Law Enforcement Academy.

What educational requirements exist to become a North Carolina park ranger?

Those who wish to pursue a career as a park ranger must possess a two-year degree in a related field, such as resource protection, parks management, outdoor recreation, or law enforcement.

North Carolina boasts many institutions that offer such degrees.

Of these 217,000 acres of parklands, how many parks and recreational areas are in the state? 

North Carolina boasts four recreational areas and 34 state parks within the system.

This impressive number of areas for a medium-sized state is because the system started in 1916 with one group banding together to protect the summit of Mount Mitchell, one of the first state parks in the U.S. and the first in the Southeast.

USA Park Ranger by State

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