As a high school student, you can test your appetite for outdoor work by applying for summer jobs on ranches or farms. Other ways of exploring this occupation include a field trip to a ranch or interviews with or lectures by range managers, ranchers, or conservationists. Any volunteer work with conservation organizations—large or small—will give you an idea of what range managers do and will help you when you apply to colleges and for employment.
As a college student, you can get more direct experience by applying for summer jobs in range management with such federal agencies as the Forest Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Bureau of Land Management. This experience may better qualify you for jobs when you graduate.
Range managers are sometimes known as range scientists, range ecologists, and range conservationists. Their goal is to maximize range resources without damaging the environment. They accomplish this in a number of ways.
To help ranchers attain optimum production of livestock, range managers study the rangelands to determine the number and kind of livestock that can be most profitably grazed, the grazing system to use, and the best seasons for grazing. The system they recommend must be designed to conserve the soil and vegetation for other uses, such as wildlife habitats, outdoor recreation, and timber.
Grazing lands must continually be restored and improved. Range managers study plants to determine which varieties are best suited to a particular range and to develop improved methods for reseeding. They devise biological, chemical, or mechanical ways of controlling undesirable and poisonous plants, and they design methods of protecting the range from grazing damage.
Range managers also develop and help carry out plans for water facilities, structures for erosion control, and soil treatments. They are responsible for the construction and maintenance of such improvements as fencing, corrals, and reservoirs for stock watering. Following drastic events such as wildfires, floods, droughts, and mineral, oil, and gas extractions, range managers assess and implement rehabilitation and land reclamation techniques.
Although range managers spend a great deal of time outdoors, they also work in offices, consulting with other conservation specialists, preparing written reports, and doing administrative work.
Rangelands have more than one use, so range managers often work in such closely related fields as wildlife and watershed management, forest management, and recreation. Soil conservationists and naturalists are concerned with maintaining ecological balance both on the range and in the forest preserves.