Frequently Asked Questions - Ranger/Lifeguard and Cadet
The link below will direct you to a video of a question and answer session with two State Park Peace Officers that was originally broadcast live via Periscope on May 16, 2016. The information presented addresses the application process, some of the information found in the FAQs, as well as additional information potential applicants may find useful. It is intended to supplement, not replace, the information found on these pages and in the exam announcement.
1. Do I have to be a Peace Officer to be a Ranger or Lifeguard? (Answer)
2. What are the citizenship requirements to become a Ranger or Lifeguard? (Answer)
3. Are there age restrictions to becoming a Ranger or Lifeguard? (Answer)
4. I do not meet the vision requirement of 20/40 uncorrected vision and 20/20 corrected vision and would like to have vision correction surgery. What is the timeline I have to meet in order to qualify to become a Ranger or Lifeguard? (Answer)
5. I have a driver's license in another state. When do I need to obtain a California driver's license? (Answer)
6. I have not completed two years of college yet. Can I still apply while enrolled in classes? (Answer)
7. I'm interested in serving as a Seasonal Park Ranger in California. Is this an option? (Answer)
8. I completed the PAT and Written exams and received my rank information. Does this mean I am selected to continue in the process? (Answer)
9. Do I have to buy my own uniforms for the academy? How much are uniforms and equipment? (Answer)
10. Where is the academy? (Answer)
11. Do I have to live at the academy? (Answer)
12. During the academy, are there days-off to come home (on weekends, or other days?) (Answer)
13. How long is the academy? What is involved in the academy? (Answer)
14. Do I have to attend State Parks' Academy if I currently hold a POST Basic Certificate? (Answer)
15. What specifically should I do to prepare for the academy? (Answer)
16. Do I get paid while at the academy? (Answer)
17. Do I get to choose the specific park where I will work following the academy? (Answer)
18. What can I do to prepare for a job as a State Park Peace Officer? (Answer)
19. Can I get a ride-along with an officer? (Answer)
20. Can you transfer throughout the State? (Answer)
21. What are the hours? (Answer)
22. What are the opportunities of promotions? (Answer)
23. Do you get your own state vehicle? (Answer)
24. Is housing available at state parks for Rangers or Lifeguards? (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. What are the citizenship requirements to become a Ranger or Lifeguard?
Per Government Code §1031.5, candidates must have applied for U.S. citizenship within three years of being appointed to a Ranger or Lifeguard position.
3. Are there age restrictions to becoming a Ranger or Lifeguard?
Candidates must be at least 18 years of age to become a peace officer in the State of California. Per Government Code Section 21132, State Peace Officer mandatory retirement age is 65 years, but there is no maximum application age.
4. I do not meet the vision requirements and would like to have vision correction surgery. What is the timeline I have to meet in order to qualify to become a Ranger or Lifeguard?
Candidates who have LASIK vision correction surgery must have completed a 6-month stabilization period, and candidates who have RK or PRK vision correction surgery must have completed a 12-month stablization period before being medically eligible for this position.
5. I possess a driver's license from another state. When do I need to obtain a California Driver's License?
Out-of-State candidates must obtain a valid California Driver's License before being appointed to the academy.
6. I have not completed two years of college yet. Can I still apply while I am still taking classes? Do you recommend taking any specific courses?
Candidates may be enrolled in college at the time of application, but must have at least 21 units of general education credits satisfying General Education curriculum standards with courses (which may include courses in Natural Science, Social Science, Mathematics, Language, and Humanities.) By time of appointment, a Candidate must have completed 60 Semester Units of study at a state accredited college or university. A degree in Park Administration, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, Law Enforcement, or related fields is desirable.
7. 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.
8. I completed the Physical Agility Test (PAT) and written exams and received my rank information. Does this mean I am selected to continue in the process?
Attaining a rank on the Eligibility List does not automatically qualify a candidate for selection. While candidates in the first three ranks on the Eligibility List must be given first consideration, the Department has the discretion to select candidates based on qualifications and not simply rank. Only the best qualified candidates will be chosen to continue in the selection process. These candidates will be contacted by an investigator to begin the Background Investigation phase of the selection process.
9. 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 $1000.00. SPPOs are required to wear P.O.P.E. (Peace Officer Protective Equipment).
10. Where is the academy?
Currently, most cadets attend training at Butte College Law Enforcement Academy, however, the Department may utilize several academy sites, including Mott Training Center at Asilomar in Pacific Grove, 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.
11. Do I have to live at the academy?
If the academy is in a location which includes housing, cadets are not required to live at academy housing, 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.
12. During the academy, are there days off to come home (on weekends, or other days?)
Normally an instructional day begins at 0700 hours and ends at 1600 or 1700 hours. Normally, cadets are out of class on Fridays at 1700 hours and instruction begins the following Monday at 0700 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.
13. How long is the academy? What is involved in the academy?
The Basic Visitor Services Academy (BVST) is 30-35 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.
14. Do I have to attend State Parks' Academy if I currently hold a POST Basic Certificate?
Yes. All candidates are required to attend the Department’s academy.
15. 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 to 8 months.
16. Do I get paid while at the academy?
Yes. Cadets are full-time employees and earn a salary; at this time the salary range is $3,578.00 to $4,806.00. Most Cadets start at the low end of the range unless they are a current State employee with a salary within the range. Explore Compensation and Benefits to learn more.
17. 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 written exam score with the highest standing candidate being offered their first choice of available work assignment, followed by the next highest, and so on.
18. What can I do to prepare for a job as a State Park Peace Officer?
Paid or volunteer experience in law enforcement or in the operation, protection and interpretation of a park, forest, public recreational, or historical area is desirable. Additionally, 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. If possible, consider working as a seasonal Park Aide for a great way to learn about parks and the department.
19. Can I get a ride-along with an officer?
Yes. For those competing for a cadet assignment, it is highly recommended to schedule multiple ride-alongs prior to the oral interview portion of the selection/hiring process. Contact the Recruitment Office at Recruiting@parks.ca.gov to schedule a ride-along. Be sure to include your contact information, including your phone number, and the geographic location you are interested in participating.
20. 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.
21. 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 vary from location to location. Many SPPOs work weekends and holidays and depending on enforcement emergencies, may be required to work overtime.
22. 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.
23. 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.
24. Is housing available at state parks for Rangers or Lifeguards?
Some districts provide housing for employees, including SPPO at some state park locations. Depending on availability at the park, the district superintendent will determine housing options for staff.