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Frequently Asked Questions - Ranger/Lifeguard and Cadet

1. Do I have to be a Peace Officer to be a Ranger or Lifeguard? (Answer)

2. I'm interested in serving as a Seasonal Park Ranger in California. What do I need to do? (Answer)

3. Do I have to buy my own uniforms for the academy? How much are uniforms and equipment? (Answer)

4. Where is the academy? (Answer)

5. Do I have to live at the academy? (Answer)

6. During the academy, are there days-off to come home (on weekends, or other days?) (Answer)

7. How long is the academy? What is involved in the academy? (Answer)

8. Do I have to attend State Parks' Academy if I currently hold a POST Basic Certificate? (Answer)

9. What specifically should I do to prepare for the academy? (Answer)

10. Do I get paid while at the academy? (Answer)

11. Do I get to choose the specific park where I will work following the academy? (Answer)

12. What can I do to prepare for a job as a State Park Peace Officer? (Answer)

13. Can I get a ride-along with an officer? (Answer)

14. Can you transfer throughout the State? (Answer)

15. What are the hours? (Answer)

16. What are the opportunities of promotions? (Answer)

17. Do you get your own state vehicle?(Answer)

1. Do I have to be a Peace Officer to be a Ranger or Lifeguard?
Yes. All rangers and lifeguards who work for California State Parks are Peace Officers. All State Park Peace Officer (SPPO) Cadets attend a full P.O.S.T. (Peace Officer Standard Training) certified academy. SPPOs perform patrol duties primarily by vehicle, boat, and foot; issue citations; write reports; make physical arrests for misdemeanors, felonies, and warrants; take command in emergencies; perform search and rescue activities; assist in wild land and structural fire suppression; provide emergency medical aid; and may also perform traffic control. SPPOs are required to use protective equipment which includes various types of firearms, batons, chemical agents, and handcuffs and are regularly trained and tested in physical defensive tactics and firearm use.

2. I am interested in serving as a Seasonal Park Ranger in California. What do I need to do?
California State Parks does not utilize traditionally seasonal ranger positions. Our Ranger positions are full-time.

3. Do I have to buy my own uniforms for the academy? How much are uniforms and equipment?
Cadets are required to show up on the first day of the academy with all the approved basic SPPO uniform items for the academy. A list of approved items is made available prior to starting the academy and the cost of the basic cadet uniform items can be over $600.00.  SPPOs are required to wear P.O.P.E. (Peace Officer Protective Equipment); these items will be issued at no cost to the cadet.

4. Where is the academy?
We utilize several academy sites, including Mott Training Center at Asilomar in Pacific Grove, California, Camp San Luis Obispo, South Bay Regional Public Safety Academy at Ford Ord in Monterey, and the Ben Clark Law Enforcement Training facility in Riverside.  It is at the Department's discretion to determine academy location for each class.

5. Do I have to live at the academy?
Cadets are not required to live at academy housing, however It may be beneficial for focusing on the training and work of a cadet. In the past, cadets who already lived in the area have commuted to the academy facility.  Keep in mind, cadets report early in the morning and may be out late into the evening for certain assignments, as class is not necessarily between 8am and 5pm. 
 
6. During the academy, are there days-off to come home (on weekends, or other days?)
Normally an instructional day begins at 0800 hours and ends at 1700 or 1800 hours. Normally, cadets are out of class on Fridays at 1700 hours and instruction begins the following Monday at 0800 hours. There are limited situations when cadets are required to attend class on weekends. Some state holidays are not "days off" during the academy and cadets will be in class.

7. How long is the academy? What is involved in the academy?
The Basic Visitor Services Academy (BVST) is 28-32 weeks long depending on academy facility. California State Parks follows P.O.S.T. course curriculum of instructional blocks and includes additional Park Operations training. (Example of subject areas: firearms, EMR training, defensive tactics, chemical agents, California penal and vehicle codes, Emergency Vehicle Operations Course, Park Operations and Natural Resources, including the development of campfire program.) Upon completion of the academy, cadets are appointed into State Park Peace Officer classifications.

8. Do I have to attend State Parks' Academy if I currently hold a POST Basic Certificate?
SPPO Candidates who posses a POST Basic certificate, but do not have State Civil Service transfer eligibility must complete the Cadet Selection Process.  During the Background Investigation, all certifications will be verified and if the candidate meets Basic POST requirements, he or she may not be required to attend the POST portion of the academy.  The candidate will need to attend the Park Operations portion which is approximately 6 � 8 weeks. It may be possible for a candidate to begin working in State Park Peace Officer capacity before completing Park Operations, so that they may begin on the job training including, but not limited to: Field Training Program, Emergency Medical Response Training, and Firearms Training.

9. What specifically should I do to prepare for the academy?
Give yourself adequate time prior to the start of the academy, to get into very good physical shape. Cardiovascular and strength training is key to your success. We also encourage potential cadets to prepare your family for you being gone for 6 and one-half months.

10. Do I get paid while at the academy?
Yes. Cadets earn a salary; at this time the salary range is $3,211.00 to $4,187.00. Most Cadets start at the low end of the range unless they are a current State employee with a salary within the range.

11. Do I get to choose the specific park where I will work following the academy?
Work placements within the state are based on needs of the Department although we try to accommodate requests as much as possible. Cadets are assigned their initial work location at the academy. Usually during the first few weeks of the academy, you will be given a list of open assignments from which to list your personal preferences. Priority in choosing your first work location is based on your oral exam score with the highest standing candidate being offered their first choice of available work assignment, followed by the next highest, and so on. For more information on this process you may contact Erin Gayton or Kelly Ahrendt.

12. What can I do to prepare for a job as a State Park Peace Officer?
Visit the parks and talk to SPPOs about what they do; we recommend you contact a Recruiter to schedule a ride-along to experience what State Park Rangers and Lifeguards do on a daily basis. Consider various ride-alongs at one reservoir (high law enforcement), one coastal park, and one park of your choice, or historic park. You may have to contact a different recruiter at each type of park. If possible, consider working as a seasonal Park Aide for a great way to learn about parks and the department. 

Print and complete a Ride-along Waiver Form to be signed by the citizen rider, the SPPO, a Supervisor and District Superintendent prior to the ride-along.

13. Can I get a ride-along with an officer?
Yes. For those competing for a cadet assignment, it is recommended to schedule multiple ride-alongs prior to the oral interview portion of the selection/hiring process.

14. Can you transfer throughout the State?
Yes. However, Cadets are required to remain at their first duty assignment in a park unit for one year, and within the initial Park District for two years. (At the end of the first year, you may request an assignment at another park unit within the district) You can transfer when vacant positions are advertised.

15. What are the hours?
SPPOs work a minimum of 40 hours a week. Shifts are assigned at each location. Typical work weeks are either five - 8 hour days or four - 10 hour days.  Work hours and days (shifts) are based on seniority at the work location and not on the total years of state service. Typically SPPOs bid for a shift assignment twice a year at their work location. Hours of shifts and work days varies from location to location. Many SPPOs work weekends and holidays and depending on enforcement emergencies, may be required to work overtime.

16. What are the opportunities of promotions?
Opportunities to promote are very good. SPPOs are eligible to take the Supervising State Park Peace Officer promotional exam after 2 years of service as a SPPO.

17. Do you get your own state vehicle?
Typically SPPOs drive Code-3 patrol vehicles that are shared between co-workers. There are assignments when a vehicle is assigned and not shared, such as K-9.