Master of Environment and Natural Resources ‘12
Human Dimensions of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Administration ‘08
Park Ranger, Columbus & Franklin County Metro Parks
Neal received an Associate is Natural Resource Law Enforcement from Hocking College in 2006 before coming to SENR. In 2008 he completed an undergraduate major in Human Dimensions of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Administration, and in 2012 he completed the Master in Environment and Natural Resources professional degree program. He has worked as a Park Ranger with Columbus & Franklin County Metro Parks since 2001 after making a career change from his previous position as a mortgage broker.
Read the Interview with Neal:
A Glance at Neal’s Current Work
Each shift is never the same. I never expect anything. Since a lot of my job consists of patrolling, I usually discover things to deal with. Sometimes I respond to calls for service or assistance. Good weather days are busier than bad weather days. Busy days are just that…crazy busy! Quiet days (I call them Ranger days), I might be lucky to have a conversation with anyone. I use those days to complete my administrative responsibilities or enjoy the peace of nature while assessing our trails and backcountry areas. My duties are law enforcement and safety first, then customer experience and educational services, followed by maintenance and security of facilities. There is no real order to those aspects.
Advice to Current Students Interested in Metro Parks
Spend your summers gaining experience in the field. I believe it is easier to obtain a summer internship position as a student than it is to get a position post-graduation without the experience. I have seen so many good, hardworking interns move right into full-time positions after their internship was over or right after graduation. Metro Parks internship programs are like working interviews; proving that you are reliable lands you that hard-to-get, competitive position. Open positions are very competitive to get and there are many applicants.
Getting into the agency is the most difficult part. Once you are in, it is not difficult to transfer into different roles and departments. The more departments you work in, the more well-rounded, experienced seasoned employee you’ll be. The more well-rounded and familiar you are with other departments, the more opportunities you’ll have to move up that professional ladder.
Career Development and Job Searching
Did you have any internships or seasonal positions in college? If so, what were they?
While I was finishing my undergrad, the Deputy Director of Metro Parks, Larry Peck offered me an internship opportunity as his personal assistant. There, I learned the larger scale administrative responsibilities of managing the Agency from the top down. As a field employee (ranger), I gained experience in how to manage an individual park. This internship gave me the experience to focus and manage a public agency’s operations and management of land, personnel, and natural resources at a much larger scale. I was promoted from a part-time to a full-time Ranger immediately after I completed my internship.
"Spend your summers gaining experience in the field. I believe it is easier to obtain a summer internship position as a student than it is to get a position post-graduation without the experience."
What was most important to you in your job search?
I left working as a mortgage broker to become a part-time park ranger. I was craving a change (elimination) of professional stress. I went from a closed, cubical office work environment to thousands of acres of natural setting. My financial health decreased immensely, but my mental health improved beyond words. I quickly found out that money was not everything. I do not stress about work and when I leave at the end of my day, my work stays on my desk in my office.
Frankly, I knew that I was just fortunate to land the job that is so difficult to get. I could not afford to be too picky in that job market. I carried three part-time jobs for many years to build the foundation that my adult life is built upon. I LOVE my job. Not many of my friends can say that. I was very lucky to stay local, raise my family here and remain active in the community where I began my adult life. Location was a most important factor when searching for my jobs.
Graduate School and Pursing Advanced Degrees
If you don’t have an advanced degree, do you feel that that has been limiting for you? Would you consider getting an advanced degree in the future, or are you happy with your current opportunities?
I do have a Master of Environment & Natural Resources (MENR) degree. I obtained it while in my current position. My position does not require this level of education. I have chosen to forego some opportunities for advancement because I enjoy my job so much. Since I have obtained my advanced degree, I have never really had an opportunity to see how marketable it makes me. Sometimes I wish I did because of the cost and effort it took to obtain.
However, I will always value the knowledge, experience and education that I earned while in graduate school at OSU. I loved every minute of it! I have and will always encourage any graduate in my field to pursue the MENR degree. It provided a wealth of knowledge, practicality and experience for the profession that I have chosen.
Post created March 2020