Becoming a DOC ranger

Department of Conservation —  23/10/2014

By Emma Neal, Trainee Ranger, New Plymouth

I grew up in Blenheim on a farm, riding dirt bikes and spending lots of time at the beach. I also love animals and enjoy all kinds of outdoor activities—so working for DOC is a dream job.

Emma wading in the mud at at Heathcote Estuary.

Getting stuck in at Heathcote Estuary

I was inspired to make a career change while browsing the internet looking at study options. I knew a career in DOC would suit me perfectly, but I had no idea how I would do it until I saw that the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT) had a trainee ranger course.

The course takes one year to complete and there are only 20 positions available. It’s hotly contested. I decided to apply the following year, to give me time to get some conservation experience to better my chances.

Emma on the shore at Totaranui.

The serenity at Totaranui

First, I enrolled at the Southern Institute of Technology, which offers a free conservation management course. After finishing this course, and doing some volunteer conservation work, I was ready to apply for the Trainee Ranger Program.

I was shortlisted for an interview and a week later got the acceptance call for the course. The course taught us practical skills such as riding quad bikes, using chainsaws, fighting fires, working in the snow and construction.

The trainee ranger students from NMIT at Onetahua marae in Takaka.

The trainee ranger students at NMIT

During the summer I got a job placement with the Christchurch City Council.  A lot of time was spent planting on the dunes, trapping, spraying weeds and track cutting. It was an opportunity to put into practice what I learnt on the course and get conservation work experience.

Emma and other students after a muddy fire training session at NMIT.

Fire training at NMIT

At the end of the course we were all required to apply for a two year Trainee Ranger Program run through DOC. This is the level up from the program we had completed through NMIT. There are only seven positions available and 20 students all keen for the programme.

Emma and friends tramping in forest at Mount Arthur.

Tramping at Mount Arthur

We were all interviewed by a panel of three DOC staff. We all filled in a form with our preference of what office we wanted to apply for.

My first choice was New Plymouth. Three days after the interview I got the call offering me the position in New Plymouth! Obviously I accepted straight away. I chose New Plymouth because it has the most variety.

Emma holding a fire hose during training.

Fire training while working over summer with Christchurch City Council

There were so many different aspects of Taranaki that drew me here. The mountain, a dormant volcano located in the centre of the National Park, the marine reserves and maui dolphins, the blue duck/whio population and other threatened species.

Emma and friends climbing Mount Robert.

Climbing Mount Robert

My first week was packed full of exciting new things like a planting day at Sandy Bay, checking traps, and boating up the Mokau River for the opening day of whitebait season.

Emma being interviewed on the job for Access Radio.

Emma being interviewed on the job for Access Radio.

I have spent most of my time so far working as part of the biodiversity team checking possum traps. I’ve also helped with tracking tunnels, worked with the track team, been out into the marine reserve to check the buoys and helped out with species monitoring.

Emma at Julius Summit, Tasman.

Julius Summit

My first two months with DOC have been awesome. All the hard work I put into getting this job has paid off.

Through working at DOC you can contribute to the prosperity of New Zealanders and our beautiful country. To learn more about a career at DOC check out the careers section on our website.

4 responses to Becoming a DOC ranger


    Nice Emma!! I look forward to the next blog post!

    Mel Williamson 30/10/2014 at 1:13 pm

    Very Awesome Emma!! x


    Awesome article. Well done Emma!


    Great true story and just shows what happens if you are passionate about something and follow your dreams as Emma did