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How to Become a Park Ranger in Pennsylvania

Park rangers in Pennsylvania work for the Pennsylvania Department of Natural Resources (DCNR). DCNR rangers are responsible for public safety, law enforcement and public relations in state parks and forests. As law enforcement officers, DCNR rangers are authorized to enforce the Pennsylvania Commonwealth’s Crime Codes and issue citations. As of 2011, DCNR ranger trainee salaries start at $32,700 per year, and DCNR ranger salaries range from $34,100 to $57,300 per year, depending on years of service. Becoming a Pennsylvania park ranger involves fulfilling some prerequisite requirements, completing an official application and exam and completing a ranger trainee program.

Get your driver’s license. You must have a valid class “C” Pennsylvania driver’s license to be a DCNR ranger.

Get first aid and CPR certification. You must get certification in first aid and infant, child and adult cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) for professional rescuers or health care professionals. You can find CPR and first aid training through the American Heart Association, American Red Cross and a number of community colleges.

Complete your education requirement. You must have at least 15 college-level credits in courses related to environmental science, outdoor recreation or forestry. Acceptable credits include courses in ecology, wildlife management, natural resources, park management and environmental education.

Apply for a position as a DCNR ranger trainee. Go to the Pennsylvania State Civil Service Commission website to apply (see Resources). You must register and create a user name and password before you begin the application process. You can apply directly through the website or download, print and submit a paper application. You must include copies of your education transcripts along with your application.

Complete your civil service exam. Once the Civil Service Commission receives your application, they will give you information on how to take your exam. You can take the exam at locations throughout Pennsylvania. The exam consists of 105 multiple choice questions on natural resources and outdoor recreation as well as interpersonal skills, problem solving, reading and writing. You have two-and-a-half hours to take the exam. Once you complete the exam, you will be placed in a pool of eligible candidates. If the DCNR requires ranger trainees, they will contact you for an interview.

Complete the DCNR ranger trainee program. As a ranger trainee, you will accompany other rangers on patrol, assist in law enforcement and prepare written reports. You must also undergo formal law enforcement training.

Apply as a DCNR ranger. Once you have completed DCNR ranger and law enforcement training, you can apply to be a DCNR ranger. If you have already completed a state-recognized law enforcement training program, you can apply to be a ranger without first working as a DCNR trainee. After you submit your application to the Civil Service Commission, you will receive information on when and where you can take your DCNR ranger exam. The exam consists of 150 questions regarding law, natural resources and investigation techniques. You have three hours to complete the exam.


Richard Long is an English teacher in Toronto, Canada and has been writing for over five years. He has had work published in "Geist" and "Speak2Me" magazines and is currently completing a certificate in technical communication from George Brown College.