What Does a U.S. Park Police Officer Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Image shows a man in uniform on a horse outside the washington monument. Text reads:

Image by Brianna Gilmartin © The Balance 2019

The United States is home to some of the most recognizable natural and man-made landmarks in the world. In order to ensure the enjoyment of these landmarks for ages to come and to keep the millions of visitors they receive each year safe, someone must be tasked with their protection. That's where U.S. Park Police Officers come in.

The U.S. Park Police is among the oldest federal law enforcement agencies in the country, having been established shortly after the U.S. Marshals Service. The park police were created by President George Washington, and have been working to keep federal lands safe for more than 200 years.

U.S. Park Police Officer Duties & Responsibilities

The job of a U.S. park police officer often includes:

  • Patrolling parks, recreation and monument areas
  • Providing security services at national monuments and memorials
  • Providing general law and traffic enforcement
  • Gathering and reporting intelligence and investigating possible crimes
  • Protecting dignitaries
  • Writing reports
  • Preparing warrants
  • Arresting suspects
  • Providing courtroom testimony

U.S. Park Police Officers are tasked with protecting the nation's parks and national monuments. They enforce state, local, and federal laws within areas controlled by the U.S. National Park Service. These services include criminal investigation, traffic enforcement, aviation support, criminal intelligence, and icon protection.

Many U.S. Parks Police Officers are assigned to work in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco and the Gateway National Recreation Area in New York City. Officers are also detailed throughout the country and may work in any area falling under the jurisdiction of the National Parks Service.

U.S. Park Police Officer Salary

A U.S. Park Police Officer's salary can vary depending on location, rank, and time served. The starting salary of a U.S. Park Police Officer in Washington, D.C., is $52,541 in 2019, according to the National Park Service.

Education, Training, & Certification

To become a U.S. park police officer, you must be at least 21 years old. Most applicants must not be older than 37 upon appointment as a park police officer. Exceptions include military veterans and those currently working in federal law enforcement careers. Veteran's preference points are also applied to military veterans.

  • Education and Experience: Applicants must have either 60 hours of college credit or two years of relevant work history. Prior law enforcement employment, military experience or a job in which you progressed in responsibility and authority may be considered as relevant work history.​
  • Background Check: A thorough background check is completed on all applicants. Common background check disqualifiers include past drug use and previous arrests and convictions, especially felony arrests.
  • Training: Members of the U.S. Park Police force are fully sworn police officers. Candidates who are selected are sent to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Brunswick, Georgia for an 18-week police academy.

    U.S. Park Police Officer Skills & Competencies

    To be successful in this role, you’ll generally need the following skills and qualities: 

    • Observation skills: Officers must be able to pick up on possible threatening situations when on patrol.
    • Analytical skills: These are needed for gathering and reporting intelligence and investigating possible crimes.
    • Physical strength and stamina: Candidates need to be able to pass all of the physical requirements to get the job and maintain that fitness and strength to meet the demands of the job.

    Job Outlook

    The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment for police in general will grow 7 percent through 2026, which is the same as the rate of overall employment growth for all occupations in the country. Due to the mandatory retirement age of 57, attrition and turnover should continue to create vacancies within the department.

    Work Environment

    Officers may work in a variety of different capacities and settings, including outdoor patrol, in an office, or even in the air. The U.S. Park Police employs motorcycle squads, marine patrol units, and investigators.

    The National Parks Service says that candidates "must be able to work under a great deal of pressure while maintaining a clear head, a strong demeanor, a positive attitude, and good work ethic."

    Work Schedule

    U.S. Parks Police Officers usually work full time, and paid overtime is common. They must be willing to work shifts that may include nights, weekends, and holidays.

    How to Get the Job

    Apply

    You can search and apply for a job with the U.S. Park Police can found at USAJobs.gov. In order to apply, you must meet the minimum requirements:

    • Be a U.S. citizen
    • Be between 21 and 37 years old
    • Have 20/100 vision or better that's correctable to 20/20 with lenses
    • Have a valid driver's license with a good record
    • Earn a high school diploma or equivalent
    • Have a minimum of 60 college credits or two years of experience related to the job

    Complete the Hiring Process

    You must successfully complete the following steps to be considered for a job offer:

    • Physical Efficiency Battery (PEB)
    • Comprehensive written test
    • Job compatibility analysis
    • Forms screening review
    • Background check
    • Review panel
    • Medical review
    • One-week mandatory orientation

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