Tennessee is home to more than 40 state parks, encompassing miles of hiking trails, hundreds of lakes, historical sites and a wide variety of terrain, flora and fauna. Keeping the parks clean and safe, while investigating and protecting wildlife, is the job of a park ranger, and Tennessee has hundreds of rangers who educate and serve the public. For those interested in the outdoors, law enforcement and conservation, becoming a park ranger is an ideal career choice, but there are some strict requirements for the job.
At minimum, applicants for a position as a Tennessee park ranger need to be at least 21 years old, a U.S. citizen and hold a valid driver’s license. Tennessee park rangers uphold the rules and regulations on Tennessee public lands, and as such, they need to have a clean criminal background and demonstrate high moral character. All candidates undergo a background investigation, which includes a fingerprint check by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. You must supply the fingerprints, complete a criminal history disclosure form and agree to release all criminal history records. Felony convictions or dishonorable discharges disqualify you from being a park ranger.
Before applying for a position as a Tennessee park ranger, you must hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. A degree in a related major field, such as forestry or criminal justice, will earn you extra rating points, but is not required. If you do not have a degree, but have extensive experience or served in the military, that experience does count toward your qualification rating as well, but does not replace the college degree requirement. Candidates appointed as park rangers must successfully complete a training course at the Tennessee Law Enforcement Academy before receiving a permanent assignment.
Physical and Psychological Requirements
Working as a Tennessee park ranger often requires strenuous physical activity, and candidates need to be in good physical shape to perform their job tasks. Thus, candidates have to pass a physical examination performed by a physician that relates to the functions of the job; in short, you need to be in good physical health and able to walk, run and lift weight. In addition, candidates undergo a thorough psychological evaluation by a licensed mental health professional. The Tennessee Park Ranger Association also recommends working in a state park as a part-time, seasonal or volunteer worker to make contacts, learn policies and procedures and gain experience and insight into how the parks operate.
The competition for positions is fierce, and many positions are filled internally with experienced park rangers. Candidates can only apply online, through the Tennessee Department of Human Resources website, when there is a position open. Human resources reviews all applications for experience and education, and gives a rating point based on how well you meet the criteria. If you receive enough rating points, you move on to the next step in the hiring process. State law requires that one of the top five applicants for any competitive position receive the offer for the job. If you have enough rating points, and do not receive an offer when you initially apply, your application remains on file for consideration to fill other positions.